He had grown accustomed to the SPK. The room felt empty without them, the organization disbanded since the case was closed. Roger—Watari now—had come over from England. The orphanage was left in someone else's care, and Near needed a handler. He never considered that the first Watari wouldn't be the one taking care of him, and it was an awkward situation. The last time Near had seen Roger, he handed him a plane ticket and waited for Commander Rester to pick him up. That wasn't long after they learned L was dead, and Mello had run away, and all of Wammy's children felt a hole in their hearts for one reason or another. Or both.
"L." The garbled voice rang over the speaker. It took a moment to register, Near still unaccustomed to his new identity. "Are you prepared to take on a new case yet?"
Watari had been presenting him cases for a week, but they were all tedious and boring. The general public was still unaware that Kira was dead, and crime rates had yet to increase again. He couldn't care less about the burglaries and petty crimes. Near pressed the button on his headset. "No," was all he said.
"I understand." The connection was cut.
Near lined his finger puppets on the floor, leaving out his own white-haired doll, because he was the only one still alive. He pressed the L puppet on his index finger, staring at its painted face. Ironic, wasn't it, that Kira had met him and Near never had? The man he had been trained to replace. He had only modeled the mask and the puppet after himself, because he was L, wasn't he? He was curious how similar they truly had been, for the task force to recognize this face.
He thought he had seen L, once. He told no one. Late at night at Wammy's, and he was the only one in the playroom. He glanced outside to see two receding figures; one was Mr. Wammy, they had met before. The other was huddled in a coat—it had been cold, right after New Year's—and he could only see a mess of black hair under a knit hat. He had looked back, and Near could swear he stared right at his window. His face had been a shadow in the dark, too far to discern, but he might have been smiling.
Near fitted the Mello puppet on his middle finger, an irony that Mello would have liked. There were days that it felt like he'd stroll in and start ranting, and days it felt like he'd been gone for a lifetime. He almost cried then, if he allowed himself the tears. He stared at his line of puppets, saddened that Matt didn't have representation. All of Wammy's kids deserved representation.
He pressed the button on his headset to summon Watari.
"Is this case something interesting?"
There was a pause, and he heard a shuffle of paper. "More interesting than petty theft. Shall I send it over?"
He crawled to his laptop on the floor, rotating the puppets on his fingers to read the email with him. He smirked. This was more interesting than petty theft. Maybe the world was finally noticing Kira's absence. His thumb mindlessly rubbed the head of L's puppet, Mello bopping on his finger as he read. He had decided to stay in Japan, and already they were counting on him to cover their inadequacies. They probably loved having the world's greatest mind in their proverbial backyard.
"Prepare the van. We have a crime scene to visit."
If Watari was curious about the puppets adorning his fingers, he didn't ask. He started up the van as Near searched for the sneakers under the backseat. Yes, he was the only one left. But he was used to living in solitude; he hadn't exactly had friends at the orphanage. But his number one ranking gave him glory in L's eyes, and there wasn't anything else to live for. Mello had understood that, too. It was his reason for everything, the reason for his death. Near hadn't looked down on him for that. He idly wondered what he would have done, if their positions had been switched. It was impossible to imagine, for it was an impossible situation.
The van came to a stop. "L, we're here."
"Good." He looked up at the decrepit building. Someday, he would recognize these landmarks. He would know the lay of the crime scene before entering the room. Perhaps he, too, would develop a sweet tooth. He slid open the door. "Let's go."