Two things you need to know before you read this:
1. This Death Note fic is based on the live-action movies, as I've never seen the anime (working my way through it) and have only just begun reading the manga. I just thought it was fair to mention that :)
2. Despite the impression, this is not intended to be an AU fic. Events up to here have panned out as they did in the two movies (L: Change the World also happened, but closer to the book version than the film). Not wanting to give away any spoilers, I'll just say that I will explain the main events at some point during this fic, so please bear with me ;)
MAY 31 - JUNE 1
Forgive my contacting you like this after the Kira case, but I find myself in urgent need of your services. Please drive to the Hana Cafe in Aomori this Friday and meet me in the third alley on the left (opposite the sakura) at noon. Sorry, I can't offer you any candy kebab this time.
There were three things wrong with this email, Soichiro Yagami thought as he stared at it.
The first was that L never set up face-to-face meetings. A very select few may be permitted to meet with him, but a casual email inviting you to meet up for a quick chat was not L's style.
The second was that Hana was a popular name for cafes in Japan, and the chances were good that there were several in Aomori and Soichiro had no way of knowing which one the writer was referring to.
The third, of course, was that L happened to be dead.
Soichiro studied the email again. It was an imposter, that much was obvious, but while everyone knew about L, very few people knew the alias Ryuzaki and he suspected nobody knew about the candy kebabs, much less the fact that L had once offered him one.
L. That young man was never far from his thoughts for long. A decent family man to the core, Soichiro had felt a kind of paternal pull towards L that had started from the first moment he'd laid eyes on him. He didn't know what the rest of the Task Force had seen during that rather unorthodox introduction, but all he'd seen was a young man. An amazing young man, a young man with a phenomenal mind, but still just a young man for all that. A young man with hopes, thoughts, dreams, feelings...a young man who could have gone on to do so much more. Who could have been so much more.
You should have lived.
Soichiro leaned forward, resting his head on his hand. To his surprise, he'd grieved for L almost as much as he had Light.
You should have lived...and I should have listened.
Had he known that Light was Kira? Deep down, had he known? He wanted to believe that the answer was no, that he'd never suspected his own son of such a thing, but that didn't work. You could be a good father in that situation, or a good police officer, but—no. No, either way he'd been a lousy police officer, because either he'd let his family ties distort his judgment or he'd been too much of a coward to do what had to be done. All he wanted to do was protect his son.
He'd had no idea that in protecting Light, he would sacrifice L.
He'd done it in the end, though, hadn't he? He'd arrested his own son, although it had torn his heart in two to do it. But that, oh, that was nothing to the pain he'd felt when Light had ordered Ryuk to kill everyone in that room, Soichiro included. The sheer casualness with which Light brushed his father's life away still caused Soichiro to wake up in a cold sweat sometimes. He could never get back to sleep on those nights and so he would always slide out of bed, careful not to wake Sachiko, go downstairs and drink coffee until it was time to go to work. He couldn't summon up any kind of enthusiasm lately; even when Sayu came out with top marks in her examinations, not just in her school but in the whole of the Tokyo area, Soichiro's congratulations hadn't been as heartfelt as usual.
At the back of his mind was the vague knowledge that he was depressed. He supposed he should do something about it, but he couldn't seem to summon the energy needed to care.
Soichiro looked up to see Matsuda standing in front of him. He must not have heard the kid knock.
"Yes?" He actually liked Matsuda. Out of the task force – disbanded shortly after Kira's death – Matsuda was the only member who treated Soichiro as though nothing had happened. The older man thought if he had to suffer the commiseration and silent pity from the other members for much longer, he would go mad.
"I...got a letter yesterday. Regarding the Kira case."
Soichiro's attention sharpened. Had this person contacted Matsuda as well?
Matsuda shifted his weight, looking like a man who had just run over his kid's puppy.
"They...they heard about the...well, they heard about my shooting."
Soichiro nodded. That wasn't surprising; he'd mentioned it in his report.
"Go on," he said.
"And they're giving me a medal."
Soichiro was silent. Mistaking his boss' reaction for anger, Matsuda hurried on.
"Of course, I'll write back and tell them I don't want it, that—"
"No." So that was it. Matsuda was embarrassed at having to accept a medal for shooting Soichiro's son. Yet his quick thinking and shooting – and give the kid his due, his marksmanship on that first shot had been nothing short of phenomenal – had saved at least one person's life. Soichiro always tried not to think about whose name Light had been writing on that scrap of Death Note.
"You...did the right thing," Soichiro said, forcing the words out. It would have been the right thing if Kira had been a complete stranger. The fact that Kira had been Soichiro's own son didn't change that. He was a little surprised that it had taken eighteen months for the medal award to be finalized, but that was bureaucracy for you.
"So...may I have the third of November off work, Yagami-bucho? For the ceremony?"
"Yes, that's fine. In the meantime, tell me what you think of this email." Soichiro turned the monitor around. He didn't want to forward it on; Matsuda had a habit of occasionally leaving his email up and running.
He could pinpoint the exact moment when Matsuda finished reading it; the younger man's entire face lit up.
"No, he can't be. But—"
"But this email's signed by him! And he knows about the candy kebabs!"
"Anyone who met Ryuzaki would know about the candy kebabs," Soichiro pointed out. "Whatever this is about, the email is quite specific; it says to wait until—"
"Oh, forget waiting! If he knows there's a third alley on the left at all and it's opposite some sakura or other, then he's there already! Yagami-bucho, you have to go, or if you don't, I will! I haven't used all of my paid vacation time this year, only that week when Tomo-chan and I went up to Sapporo for the snow festival and I can drive up to Aomori—"
Matsuda shut his mouth with a snap.
"Sorry," he said meekly, then his emotions got the better of him and he burst out, "But you have to go! You have to see if it's Ryuzaki and—"
"Matsuda, Ryuzaki is dead."
"Well, someone emailed you using his name and requesting a meeting. Yagami-bucho, you can't ignore this! What if he found a way around it? What if he tricked all of us, not just Kira? And what if it is him and he needs help? How are you going to feel when you find out? You have to go!"
Soichiro got the definite impression that if he had been anyone else, the younger man would have grabbed him and physically bundled him out of the door there and then. Since not even Matsuda would dare such a familiarity towards the head of his department, all he could do was stand there with a beseeching look on his face.
"And Ryuzaki really could be—" Matsuda began again.
"No," Soichiro interrupted as kindly as he could. Better not to give the kid false hope. "He couldn't. I saw him die."
"No you didn't. You left just before it happened, at his request."
"It still happened, Matsuda." Soichiro was quiet for a few seconds, then said, "But I do want to find out who sent this email. None of the Task Force would do this for a joke, so it must be someone who was very close to Ryuzaki."
"There could be more than one L," Matsuda suggested, although not with any conviction.
"That wouldn't explain how this one knew about the candy kebab Ryuzaki offered me. I'll drive up there tomorrow. It's a shame Watari's dead; he might have been able to explain this."
"Yeah, well, I never liked him anyway."
Soichiro blinked rapidly, then looked up at Matsuda, not sure if he'd heard right. Such a condemnatory statement coming from a junior officer to a senior one was rather unprofessional. Such a statement coming from Matsuda was downright alarming.
"Sorry?" he said.
"Watari." Just the thought made the normally cheerful Matsuda's lips tighten into a thin line. "How I got through that investigation without punching that smug face of his, I'll never know."
Surprises were coming thick and fast today. Soichiro had never heard any kind of condemnation come out of Matsuda's mouth before, and now about Watari of all people! He could understand Matsuda not being fond of L – who had found the police officer extremely irritating and not bothered to conceal the fact – but what had Watari ever done to upset him? If there was a quieter, politer, more unobtrusive man than Watari, Soichiro didn't know who it was.
"Did something happen during the investigation that I wasn't aware of?" he asked.
Matsuda shifted his weight. He may have been impulsive, but he wasn't known for gossiping.
"Do you remember the time I left my mobile phone behind?"
"Which time would that be?" Soichiro asked, a little waspishly. Matsuda wasn't known for being well-organized either.
"The first time. After Ryuzaki suggested putting cameras in the houses. I went back to get it, only when I got to the suite, I heard Ryuzaki and Watari having an argument."
It must have been one hell of an argument, Soichiro thought, for Matsuda to hear it through the door.
"What did they say?" he asked.
Matsuda shifted his weight. "I don't think I should repeat it, not all the time Ryuzaki could still be alive."
Wonderful. Now he's not just naïve and overenthusiastic, he's deluded. I should have kept my mouth shut.
"But he's not, and you know that," he reminded Matsuda.
"I'd still like to find out for sure, Yagami-bucho. When you've met with him and you've seen it isn't him, then I'll tell you everything I heard if you still want to hear it. If there's still the slightest chance he could be alive—"
"—which there isn't—"
"I know!" Matsuda exploded, then wilted. "Sorry. I'm sorry. But I'm still not comfortable passing it on until I know for sure."
And that, Soichiro knew, was that. Matsuda had very strong principles and wouldn't compromise them without a good reason. Soichiro suspected that the younger man would rather be suspended than obey an order to do something he perceived as being morally wrong. Besides, he only wanted to know what Matsuda had overheard for the sake of his own curiosity, and that could wait to be satisfied until he'd met this fake L.
"Alright," he said aloud. "Dismissed."
Matsuda bowed and walked toward the door, then hesitated.
"I...about what I overheard. It made me wonder about something, and I think there's one thing you might want to consider before you go."
"And what might that be?" Soichiro didn't bother trying to keep the irritation out of his voice.
"When I heard that argument and some of the things they were yelling, well, I couldn't help wondering about...certain things." Matsuda hesitated, then blurted out, "Yagami-bucho, do you think Ryuzaki wanted to be a detective?"
The question was unexpected enough to startle Soichiro out of his irritation.
"I never really thought about it," he answered.
"No. Me neither." Matsuda was silent for a few seconds, then said very quietly, "Maybe we should have."
Turning, he walked out, closing the door on a puzzled Soichiro.
At five am the next morning, Soichiro left for Aomori, wondering why the hell this mystery person had insisted on his driving up there. What the hell was wrong with the trains, or even a connecting flight?
The drive itself wasn't too bad, all things considered. At any rate, he reached Aomori six and a half hours later and started driving around the city, looking for the cafe mentioned in the email. Matsuda was right; there was no point in waiting until Friday when he could go today, and at least if he found the cafe, he could ask if anyone had seen...well, whoever was pretending to be L.
It took him another forty minutes before he found one cafe that seemed to fit the very limited description he had. Soichiro pulled into a handy parking spot and just sat in the car for a few minutes, massaging the back of his neck. Not used to long drives, he was decidedly stiff and there was an annoying throbbing just behind his eyes. He'd have to find a hotel here; there was no way he could face the drive back to Tokyo on the same day. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to stay until Friday, if he couldn't touch base with whoever wanted to meet him before then. He'd taken the rest of the week off, just in case.
Soichiro opened the door and stepped out, relishing the sensation of being able to stretch his legs again. He wasn't used to long-distance driving and hadn't stopped once on the trip up.
Once he'd worked some feeling back into his legs, he strode into the Hana Cafe, which was mostly empty. When a smiling waitress came towards him, Soichiro showed her his ID as surreptitiously as possible.
"Soichiro Yagami, police. I'm looking for someone; skinny, dark hair, dark eyes, very pale, probably with dark circles under his eyes. I believe he may have been in here or around the area earlier today." He wished he had a photograph of L. Skinny would help, as would pale and dark circles, but dark hair and dark eyes wasn't much help when you were looking for someone in Japan.
The waitress thought for a few moments, then nodded slowly.
"I think I've seen someone around who looks like that, yes."
A curious roaring filled Soichiro's ears.
"You're sure?" he said.
"It might not be the person you're looking for, Yagami-san, but I remember seeing a pale guy with dark circles under his eyes. I've seen him sleeping on steps a few times. I sometimes give him a few yen, when I can spare it."
Well, that couldn't be L. Nobody who could afford the kind of hotel suites he'd had during the Kira case would be out on the streets.
"Do you know where he is now?" Soichiro asked.
"I think he sleeps in one of the alleys. He came in here once about six weeks ago for a meal."
"Really?" Soichiro stared at her, mind spinning. If that were true, then a few questions would clear this up for good. How did this person sit, for example? What kind of foods did he eat?
Soichiro thought of these questions and more, and didn't ask them. He wanted to remain in ignorance for a while longer, wanted to savor this tiny sliver of stupid, pointless hope that had flared inside him ever since he first read that email, hope that would be smothered if he didn't get the answer he wanted to hear.
Stop this. Stop it now. He's dead. You know he's dead. He wrote his own name in the Death Note. No one could have survived that.
But if anyone could, if any one person was smart enough to find a loophole, that person had to be L.
Then why didn't he say so? Soichiro wondered and immediately berated himself for asking such a stupid question. L wouldn't have said anything in case it went wrong.
He had his chance at the very end. Why did he let me think he was going to die?
Then again, just because he'd liked L, that didn't mean L had liked him back...except there had been times, hadn't there? Little things. Things like L offering him a candy kebab. Even that last conversation with him had been less two work colleagues and more father to son, and just before L's final goodbye, there had been that smile. For a split second, L had allowed Soichiro to see beneath the mask the detective always wore. How many people had he trusted that far? And if he was alive—
Enough! You're just trying to rewrite history. L is dead and this person is either an imposter or his replacement. Stop doing this to yourself. You saw him die.
No. No, I didn't. I would have stayed with him, but he asked to be alone. I never saw him die and when I went back that evening he...well, there was no body.
Of course not. Someone cleared it away.
Really? Who? The hotel staff? You don't think one of them might have called the police or at least an ambulance upon finding a dead body? Besides, they wouldn't have gone up there until the next morning; housekeeping doesn't come in the evening and it's not likely L would have ordered room service, is it?
Alright then, how about this? L and Watari weren't exactly freelancers. What if L arranged for his body to be removed shortly after he died? Save causing problems for the hotel?
Soichiro had no real answer for that. It seemed like the kind of thing L would do.
Exactly. This person is not L. He may be someone similar – which would explain how he knows the alias Ryuzaki – but he is not L.
He glanced up at the waitress. "Alright. Thank you for your help."
Without waiting to hear her reply, he turned and walked out of the cafe, mind churning.
Third alley on the left, the email said.
Soichiro reached the entrance to the alley in question, and hesitated. He knew, just knew that he was being stupid, that there was no way this person could be L (at least, not the L that he knew) but he couldn't help it. He wanted to cling to that pointless, irrational hope a little while longer before facing reality.
When he thought he had everything under control, he took a deep breath and stepped into the alley entrance.
A figure with pale skin and messy black hair was sitting on the ground at the end, hunched over in an achingly familiar posture with his legs drawn up to his chest, dressed in a long-sleeved white shirt and jeans.
If it wasn't L (of course it's not; don't be stupid) it was his twin. Except it couldn't be L. It couldn't.
Pulse quickening, Soichiro walked towards him.
So...do you like it? Hate it? Want more? This is my first attempt at a Death Note fic, so reviews would be much appreciated!