"Mr. Wammy. Mr. Wammy, I-"
"Not now, not now. No time. I have an appointment with the boy."
"But Mr. Wammy-"
"Didn't you just hear what I said? I'm busy at the moment, I have another test for him."
"That's just it, Mr. Wammy," said the other man, an anxious look on his face. "We can't find him."
Quillish Wammy stared at the man, a caretaker at the orphanage, the son of a good friend of Wammy's. Disbelief was written in every old wrinkle. "What?" he asked blankly.
The man looked nervous. "Uh, well, you see...we can't find...L."
There was a long, long silence. The man was started to look very nervous when Wammy finally turned away from him. "Oh, dear Lord," he muttered. "What if he left? What's going to happen if he ran away? That would ruin everything!"
"I don't think he did, sir," offered the man cautiously. "The courtyard gate has been locked since last night, and so have the back doors." A pause. "And would he really do that?"
Wammy was silent for a moment, then he nodded. "You're right," he said. "He's far too smart to run away from here. He's no doubt-"
"God blast it!" roared Wammy, slamming a fist against his desk, shooting a glare towards his window. "I can't stand those wretched bells! What a mistake it was to build the House here, what a mistake it was..."
There was a short silence. Then the young man said, "...Sir?"
Wammy blinked and turned back to the man. "I'll find L," he said. "Go back to your regular duties. But please, tell everyone to keep an eye out for him."
"I will," replied the man, clearly eager to leave. "Thank you, sir."
And he was gone.
Wammy stood in his office for a second, standing at his window, peering out through the rain-streaked glass. He could see the church beside them, the church that was hosting something – a wedding? Surely not a funeral. Not next to a children's home. Some form of religious ceremony? Whatever it was, the bells were ringing nonstop, and it was driving Wammy up the wall. He hadn't had a single uninterrupted conversation all day.
L roomed alone, unlike most of the children his age, on the main floor, beside the dining room. He usually ate his meals by himself in his room, but Wammy thought it best he be on the floor where his social interaction might more than if he was on one of the higher, sparsely-populated floors. Although L's walls were soundproof so he could concentrate fully on the task at hand, he still managed to leave his room once in a while, to see a few children walking to breakfast or lunch or dinner. It did the boy good.
Wammy made his way to L's room. He opened the door; silence. Nothing. Just L's small desk, the bed, and the single dresser. Nothing in the closet, or under the bed, or in the bathroom. Nobody.
He stood there for a few moments, tapping his foot. Now, he thought, if I were a twelve-year-old genius, where would I hide?
The question felt so clichéd that Wammy paused for a moment, disgusted at himself. But then, rationally, he considered it a good question to ask – L wouldn't just be anywhere, he would have chosen somewhere very specific.
Wammy doubted he would be in any of the other children's rooms because L disliked social interactions. As a precaution he went through all the bathrooms in the House and the kitchen too, but he hadn't anticipated finding the boy there either. Then he made all his staff check their offices, and the laundry room, and all those small nooks and crannies around the old, Victorian-style house until he was finally forced to admit he didn't have a clue. Would he have really found a way to leave? No, no. It was cold and rainy outside, L was too smart to try to go too far in this weather.
So Wammy donned his raincoat and checked in the courtyard. As cold and rainy as anywhere, but if L was indeed outside, then he wouldn't have left the House grounds.
Nothing. He was beginning to feel hopeless, and scared. If he lost the boy...well, he didn't want to think about what might happen then.
"Excuse me, Mr. Wammy, sir."
The same one who'd informed him that L was missing.
"What is it."
"Have you checked-"
"Mother Mary of Christ!" growled Wammy, his fear of losing the child augmenting his irritation. "Shut up!"
He turned back to the man, who looked terrified.
"Not you," Wammy reassured him, rubbing his temples. "Please, continue."
"Um, yes. Mr. Wammy. Have you checked the roof?"
A pang of striking panic went through Wammy's heart. "The roof?" he repeated, almost in whispers. The roof. The roof was so high up off the ground. If...if that boy fell...
Wammy turned and, despite being an old man with a bad hip (the doctors said it would be time for a replacement soon), he dashed up the stairs, to the very top of the building, and he flung open the door to the roof, panting. The rain instantly soaked him to the bone. And yet standing there staring up at the sky stood a small boy with black hair, wearing blue jeans and a white shirt. The boy looked at him.
"L," sighed Wammy, relieved. "What are you doing up here?"
L blinked. Shrugged. Pointed to his ears.
Little devil, thought Wammy, grimacing as he limped across the wet roof of the building to stand beside the boy.
The sound of the rain was loud, but even that wouldn't block out the constant, annoying ringing of the bells.
"What are you doing up here?" he repeated.
"I wanted to see why they were ringing the bells."
Silence. Wammy looked out, over to the church. His glasses were wet, obscuring his vision. He couldn't see what it was.
Softly, L said, "It's a funeral."
Wammy said, "Come inside. You must be cold and very wet."
"I've seen funerals before, Mr. Wammy."
"I did not deny this. Now come inside, you're paler than usual."
"I'm pale because I'm scared."
Wammy didn't say anything at first. Then, slowly, he asked, "What are you scared of, L?"
"You've got a long way to go before that happens. Don't bother yourself thinking about such things."
"Oh, but I have to." L glanced at Wammy. "It's my job." Pause. "Or at least the one you've been raising me to do."
"Nobody is forcing you to do anything, L."
"I'm quite aware, thank you. And it's presumptuous to think I would stay if I wasn't interested. But it's also quite arrogant of you to tell me not to think of things like death, when that is my chosen profession and you are supporting me in this endeavour." He paused, glanced at Wammy. "One would have thought you'd already come to terms with this."
L was right, of course. L was very rarely wrong. Wammy sighed.
"Please come inside," he said. "Not because I don't want you dwelling on the idea of death. It's cold, I don't want you getting sick."
L seemed to consider this for a moment, then nodded. "This makes sense." He turned and headed back towards the door that led inside. A few minutes later, they had dried off and Wammy had walked L all the way down to his room. L entered the room and stood still for a moment.
"Come to my office when you're ready," Wammy said. "I have a test for you."
L didn't move.
"All right," said Wammy. "I'll expect you in an hour or so. Don't go to the roof again without permission."
Wammy began to close the door.
"The bells," he said. "Not the funeral."
A pause. "Excuse me?" asked Wammy.
"The bells," repeated L. "The bells. That's what's scaring me. Not the funeral, but the bells."
There was a short silence. Wammy felt a surprising pain deep inside his chest.
He finally said, "There's no reason to be scared by them. Whenever you hear the bells, remember where you are – here at Wammy's House. And as long as you are here, nothing will hurt you."
Wammy paused and readjusted his glasses.
"As long as you can hear the bells, L, you will be safe."
And then, a gentle smile on his face, Wammy closed L's door, returning to his office.
Sitting in the dark on the cold, hard bed, L heard the bells still tolling, but instead of curling up in the closet or under the bed, he laid down and let the muted ringing lull him to sleep, something almost like content appearing on his face.
Thirteen years later, he is standing on a roof once more, eyes closed, desperate to hear the bells.
All he can hear is the pouring rain.
Wow. L is so great to work with. I can write like literally whatever I want. Loooove itttttttt.
Also I felt the need to redeem Wammy after my last fanfic, Jealousy. He's a good man. But their relationship is not simple.
I enjoy humanizing L. And I don't think his fear of the bells tolling is, at the beginning here, anything more than just an irrational fear. But he gets over it. And learns to depend on those bells. Unfortunately, well... you know.