Disclaimer! All fictional entities featured/ mentioned in this segment belong to Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata; except several original characters who I made up for the purpose of this fan fiction. You'll know them when you see them.

It was a matter of time before I tried my hand at writing a possible origin story for L. At least, this covers the first few years of his life.

WARNING! In case you didn't see the summary, this story contains violence and dark discomforting themes.

MAMA

It wasn't fair. Why would God deny her the precious gift of children and grant it to others who couldn't even appreciate them? More than a big house or a nice car, Karol had wanted a family, to wake up every morning and go to bed every night to the sound of eager little feet pitter-pattering across their dusty floor. She and Martin tried, over and over again, but for whatever reason when they did manage to conceive, God kept taking their children away before they could see the light of day. She ate the best foods she could afford, stayed as far away from liquor and cigarettes as possible, and she'd still lose the baby, and they couldn't pay for the treatments the doctors had offered to ensure a more successful pregnancy. What would be the point to having a baby if they lacked the money to feed and keep a roof over it? Martin had suggested as gently as he could after the second miscarriage that maybe they just weren't meant to have their own children and they could adopt instead, or failing that, become foster parents.

But the adoption process took too long, too much red tape, too much scrutiny. It wasn't enough in the eyes of the courts that they would love the child with every fiber of their being. And fostering? Maybe they could make more money that way, but that was only a temporary solution. Foster parents passed the children along to someone else. Karol wanted children to call her own. All her own. She wanted children who could call her "Mama" for as long as she lived.

Besides, why would they let a woman who the children on their block were forbidden to see by other parents in the neighborhood, become a foster mother? "Madame Ackart is sick," they said. "It's best not to bother her. Who knows what she'll do when provoked?" They wouldn't even let them approach her stoop on Halloween in their cute costumes asking for treats. She would watch every year from the window with a bowl of candy ready in her lap (only the kinds of candy she knew the little ones would gobble up), and just as a boy or girl started bounding in her direction, bucket or bag bouncing in their tiny hands, their mother or father would grab their wrist and hurry them away.

Despite Martin's weak attempts at comfort and assurance, Karol was a failure in her eyes. What kind of woman couldn't carry and nourish a baby? She was such a good person, or at least she tried to be. She was hard-working, honest, faithful, what had she done to deserve this?

And then there was that rich bitch Adele for whom she worked, who was going along swimmingly with her pregnancy. A tall and dark, foreign-looking debutante, she'd married Monsieur Lawliet who had to be at least sixty years her senior, but only for his money. She didn't love him, and she didn't love the baby growing inside her either. Karol doubted that that baby was even M. Lawliet's; he was so old he probably couldn't get it up anymore. It was more likely one of the boys who tended the grounds, or one of Adele's secret flames from the wrong side of town, maybe some unscrupulous diplomat or politician from some other country while he was passing through France.

It didn't matter. Either way, the rosy glow of pregnancy that Karol envied didn't suit Madame Lawliet in the least. She looked at her growing bump like it was a tumor or parasite rather than a new life, an inconvenience that kept her from sporting her usual expensive dresses and shoes and compelled her to put on something more plus-sized and less elegant, like she was ashamed of it and trying to hide it as much as she could. She'd have surely aborted it if it weren't for the fact that that shrew could use the baby to keep her witless husband wrapped around her finger.

He or she would be born into a lap of luxury, and yet one of the poorest places in the world where love was concerned.

The day before Adele was rushed to the hospital earlier than expected—around the same time Karol and Martin returned from there after yet another miscarriage, just when it started to look like this one would make it (third time's the charm?)—Karol decided at her seat by the window as she watched the children rush by that maybe Martin was right. She should adopt. The doctors had told her, no more getting pregnant. Well, that gold digger didn't want her baby. She wanted one. As soon as she brought him or her home, Karol would take him or her off her hands. She'd save the baby and the Lawliets from a lifetime of misery. It all made near perfect sense.

Halloween, just after midnight, little Lawliet came into the world, wrinkled, bloody and too small, at just 27 weeks. Instead of spending the first moments of his life with his mother like God intended, the first thing he ever saw of the world was a wall of shiny plastic casting back the glare of harsh white lights hanging overhead, a massive blur of a machine humming next to him in a soulless lullaby. Where was he? What'd happened to the warm, quiet darkness he was nestled in before? Who were these giant shadows passing over him, prodding him? This was too much to take in all at once. He wanted to cry, but he could not, not with the strange tube shoved down his throat.

Though she did come to the nursery and watch him Adele never once approached her son. But her husband did, to marvel at the boy he was certain to be his (despite being old enough to be his grandfather) and ask questions such as when he can come out of the incubator and when they could see his hair and eye color and when Adele will be able to breastfeed him and most importantly, whether he would be all right. "He's a fighter," he observed with a grin, broad and foolish, his nose pressed against the plastic. "A revolutionary. He's definitely ours."

"Have you and Mme. Lawliet decided on a name yet?" asked the nurse, guiding him away so he wouldn't potentially contaminate the incubator and make the baby sicker than he already was.

M. Lawliet scratched his head. "Ah, not yet. I really would like to give him a name that starts with L, but there are so many good L-names out there. My name is Lamar so we could name him Lamar, Jr."

The nurse was about to take note of this when M. Lawliet shook his thinning, gray head. "No, wait! Lawrence is also a good name, or Lancelot, or Laurence with a U, or Leonardo like the artist, or Leroy, or Leverett, or Louis like the king, or—"

"L."

The nurse and M. Lawliet turned to look at Adele, who had sat in the corner in silence the whole time. Her unkempt black hair hid her cold blue eyes from view as she stared at the floor with her hands in her lap.

"Dear, if we can't decide on a particular name, why don't we just settle on L?"

"You mean like, Elle or Elliot? Those sound a bit girlish for a boy…"

"I mean the letter L, dear," she said flatly. Not many premature infants survived to go home these days. Why waste so much effort in coming up with a decent name when it looked like the baby would die anyway? He was a lost cause. L. Lost.

M. Lawliet stroked his fuzzy chin in thought, having quite a different perspective on the matter. "The letter L…that is very peculiar for a name. Not an initial, but a name in itself. Has a ring of mystery to it…ah, but the boy has so much potential. We don't know what he'll be when he grows up, do we? He could be an artist, or an athelete, or a scientist, even a king. Yes, he can become anything he sets his mind to. He'll create his own name. Yes! L, it is, then! Let's name him L! Not as an initial, but as a name in itself!" His rusty eyes sparkled and his voice lifted as though he were on the verge of breaking out into a showtune about naming the boy, though he thankfully did no such thing.

The nurse looked at them both. The man clearly had only half his marbles rolling around upstairs, and his wife seemed like she couldn't care less. She worried briefly for the baby's well-being as soon as he could go home with his parents, but kept this to herself. After all, it wasn't against the law to name a child after a letter, was it? Letters by themselves were not offensive. There were many worse names a child could be christened.

And so the boy was named L Lawliet, an anomaly. An anomaly he would continue to be until the day he'd die. But not now. Despite his mother's grim prediction, L toughed it out with unusual strength for a preemie, as though responding to an unspoken challenge, and almost three months later he was finally deemed ready to go home.

Three nights after that, the Lawliets would receive an unexpected visitor from down the street. When the Lawliets had first come home without him, Karol was afraid that something dreadful had happened. She couldn't bear to make her move unless she knew for sure that the baby was all right. The hospital would never let her see a baby that wasn't hers, so she asked around the household on the days when she had her shift as a maid.

"He's fine, thank you for asking," said Adele, too aloof for a new mother and oblivious to the fact that the woman asking her this had practically stalked her ever since the couple had made their big announcement. She didn't find it strange that Karol was asking her so many questions about her son, though she did find it bothersome. Most of the ladies in her circle asked about him and Karol, though not in her circle per se, was a woman, one who absolutely adored children.

A boy. She'd had a boy. Karol felt like crying right then and there. Her breast ached, from both the unfairness of it all and the milk still saturating it.

Biting back her sadness and disgust, she asked, "He came Halloween morning, yes? That's so early. Weren't you expecting him in January?"

"Around that time. But it didn't work out that way. He'll be in the hospital until the doctors deem him well enough to go home."

Because you didn't want him. He had to leave you as soon as possible because he could sense that you didn't want him.

"What's his name? Have you named him?"

"We named him L."

"Elle? That's a girl's name, isn't it?"

"No. The letter L."

"Oh. L? What's that short for? Lawrence? Leo? Louis? Lamar, Jr.?"

"No. Just L. His name is L, and that's that."

Karol had a passing urge to wring the woman's neck, but took it out on the rag in her hands. How dare she? She cared so little about the boy that she would just give him a letter for a name? And M. Lawliet and the hospital had gone with it? Right then, all her hesitation in going through with her plan flew away.

As a maid, she was given her own key to the house, an admittedly foolish thing for a rich family to do, but M. Lawliet was the very trusting type. Karol resisted the pang of guilt creeping through her at the thought of betraying her employer and instead concentrated on the overall good this would do. L would be better off with someone who did love him and had enough wit to take care of him. M. Lawliet wouldn't be burdened with a child that wasn't his, and Mme. Lawliet wouldn't be bothered period.

She just had to stop and gaze at him tucked in his blankets in his crib, having not had a chance to see him before tonight. There wasn't much to him: still fairly small, squishy-looking, and a bit pale for a baby. Babies were supposed to be warm and pink. Weren't these people feeding him? Wasn't Adele breastfeeding him like God intended? No, she had been bottle-feeding him her breast milk, finding something unappealing about a tiny, toothless, drooling mouth latching on to her supple breast but needing to ease the ache somehow.

Whatever hair he had grown was tucked underneath a robin egg blue cap. From underneath the brim, a lock of dark hair sprang out. It looked as soft as a down feather. Karol just had to touch it, to stroke the side of his round little face with her knuckles. His lips looked so soft and pouty. To her, he was the prettiest thing she'd ever seen (which may or may not have had to do with the fact that he looked mostly like his birth mother). As lovely as his nursery was, something about it seemed cold to her. Why was he in a room all by himself? He should be sleeping with his parents. A baby should never be left alone—

"Who's there?"

Karol froze, half-bent over L as she had gathered him up in her arms. The glare of the lights M. Lawliet switched on stirred the little one from his light sleep, pinching his squinty pebble-grey eyes. Not only that, but he was suddenly immersed in the overwhelming scent of a stranger's sweat and something metal.

As he began to whimper, M. Lawliet stepped forward, his own eyes unused to the light. "Wh-what are you doing with my baby?" he demanded, his skinny, near-hairless ankles peeking out from under his robe. "Put him down!" He couldn't recognize her, as she had put on a mask and jacket for the occasion.

The old man had a pistol shaking in his hands, aimed directly at them both.

BANG!

Her reflexes were faster than the old man's, and in one blink, M. Lawliet was on the floor, gasping for air and clutching at his blood-soaked chest where the bullet had struck him.

The sound of the firearm and L's crying woke Adele with a start. She rushed out of their bedroom and into the hallway, her breasts hanging out of her short nightgown and her hair falling out of her curlers.

Her face turned white with horror at the sight of Karol stepping over her dying husband with her wailing son clutched in her arm, his tender ears pierced by the gunshot. "What the—my baby!"

Your baby?

BANG! BANG!

Adele slumped against the door, the white silk of her gown giving a sharp contrast to the life rapidly oozing out of her in spurts of blood staining the fabric. Two bullets to the abdomen. Karol didn't stop to survey the damage as she rushed past her, dodging a last feeble grab at her and sharing the tears with the baby she squeezed tighter against her as she braced him for the bitter winter chill of the night.

The Lawliets would both die in pools of their own blood before the police and paramedics could reach their house. The last thing they'd ever see was their killer racing down the stairs with their infant son like a burglar with the family jewels.

Exertion and the cold dried her insides, her ears ringing with her pulse, the gunshots, and the sound of L's shrieking by her breast. She had only taken Martin's gun with her to defend herself. Murder wasn't part of her plan, she swore to God Almighty, it wasn't. But, they wouldn't let her have L. They would have surely called the police. She'd never get to see her L again. She just couldn't let that happen. He was hers, now. All hers. From the beginning, he had been hers.

They couldn't stay here in their cozy neighborhood anymore. They were on the lam now. Oh God, what would Martin think of what she'd done? He wouldn't be willing to give up his business as a butcher to run away with her, would he? Why not? They were husband and wife. They were one flesh and all that. Whatever came their way, they'd face it together. Right?

"Karol! What in hell have you done?" When he had come home and found both his wife and gun missing, he had feared the worst. Would she shoot herself in despair over losing their last baby? While she had sometimes thought about it, she never had the courage to go through with it.

She had done something much, much worse.

"Oh Martin, I'm so sorry, but I can't take it back! He's ours now, and we must take care of him. They're going to find us, at this rate! We need to leave the city! We need to leave France, entirely!" she squawked over L, squeezing everything that she could into her suitcase. Only the bare necessities.

"You've gone mad! You've shot two innocent people—"

"Shut up, I know that!" she screeched, pointing the gun now at Martin's face as he headed for the phone. He would've made such a lovely father to their son. Why did he have to make this harder than it was already? "But he's not hers! He never was! He's mine!"

Martin froze in fear, his hands held up to his chest. His wife looked to him like a feral dog, her green, bloodshot eyes flashing and her auburn hair fanning out in snarls.

"K-Karol. Karol, put the gun down. Let's be rational about this. He is not our son. We have to ta—"

BLAOW!

The booming chime of the Notre Dame bells that heralded the dawn seemed to carry the shot all across Paris.

God forgive me. It's all for him. Surely you understand?

She had no time for an argument, or to let the impact of what she'd just done sink in. Squeezing her eyes shut at the sight of her dear husband crumbled over himself against the wall with a hole in his chest, she hurried in her packing, taking only her clothes and whatever baby supplies she had hoarded over the years that she could find for L. She had already withdrawn all the money from their joint bank account. All that was left to do was take the keys to Martin's car and drive away to their new life.

Karol didn't stop until she crossed over the outskirts of the city, not once looking back except to switch license plates with an unsuspecting driver at a gas station some miles back. That was sure to throw off the police, at least for a while. In the cold lonely darkness of the highway, she decided to stop to feed her new baby, start properly bonding with him. She crawled into the backseat where L sat strapped in the old car seat and took him into her arms, wrapping Martin's coat around the both of them to keep warm as she lifted her shirt, keeping his soft head supported in the crook of her elbow.

"Hello there. Ssssh, don't cry. I'm here. Mama is here."

Her breast didn't smell like Adele's perfumed ones, she was painfully aware of this, and she was afraid that L might recognize the difference and refuse to nurse. But either he never got a good whiff of Adele or he was too hungry to care who was feeding him, as he latched onto her fairly quickly, his gulps loud for a baby and greedy, almost comical.

"You and I are all we have in this world now, little one," she cooed, offering her finger for him to take into his tiny ones. His grip was strong for someone his size, and she grinned down at him through her tears. Babies were so sweet and innocent; she wondered if he understood what had just happened. "And you and I are all we need."

"I...I love you."

He didn't reply. He just kept sucking. She didn't expect him to answer. He wouldn't understand what love was right now, never mind how to say it back.

She sang to him a bit to help him get used to her voice, a few lullabies her own mother used to sing to her as a child. She was careful to keep her voice soft and quiet, though couldn't help the noticeable breaks in it, suddenly feeling awful that he'd had to listen her screaming and gunshots in their first hours together.

There's nothing a true mother won't do for her baby.

For the next two years, by some miracle, they stayed on the run, eventually making their way to England. Having cut and dyed her hair black to match her son's unruly mane and taken up wearing color contacts, she took up many odd jobs to support them, while still spending as much time with him as she could. L never quite got the chance to play with other children due to their constant moving about, and Karol's sheltering him from the world. He had trouble sleeping, especially in his infancy, so many nights she stayed up late to rock him or rest him on her chest and talk to him, relishing the feel of his soft skin and tiny heart beating next to hers. Whenever he did fall asleep, it wouldn't be for very long.

(And she was right. He didn't look a thing like M. Lawliet. She could've sworn she saw a hint of Japanese in him, and Russian. Italian? Definitely a crooked diplomat.)

When it came time to wean him, she had taken up filling a bottle, then a sipping cup, with formula laced with something sweet like warm instant hot chocolate or even some of her coffee and giving it to him to drink (though she had to stop this, for a while, when she found that it made a mess out of his immature digestion). When he'd started teething, Karol often found him chewing on his fingers or on silverware, or even lollipops. She had to be careful not to let him get lollipops while she wasn't around, because what if he choked on one?

He was quite finicky for a baby at that; the first sensation of his nappy getting soiled, he didn't hesitate to let Karol know about it. No playing in the mud for this one. As soon as he learned that he didn't have to wear nappies and could use the toilet instead, he got started on learning to use that right away. His clothing didn't consist of much, since Karol didn't have the money for very nice clothing. Mostly old long-sleeved shirts and pants from thrift stores. At least they would keep him warm.

At a year and a half, he was rather quiet for a toddler, using his huge grey eyes and mouth and fingers to absorb the world around him. He had an odd walk; in addition to his bowed legs, his back was always inexplicably curved. He didn't like to sit up straight, preferring instead to crouch on the floor or in his seat like a cathedral gargoyle or a housecat. For toys and books, there wasn't much money for either, but she brought home whatever she could, and at night would read to him; it bewitched her to no end to find that he seemed to like the books with more words while most two-year-olds preferred more pictures, though he accepted picture books. In particular, he seemed fond of puzzles, like jigsaws or slide puzzles or Rubik's cubes; Karol even tried to teach him how to write his letters using the crosswords in the paper. She did her best to keep him entertained while keeping him safe, for she loved L so and hated to see him unhappy.

When he was barely four, L began acting strange. While he hadn't exactly been the most affectionate of youngsters like she had hoped he would be, he suddenly wouldn't let her hug him anymore. If she tried, he would kick her. In fact, he wouldn't answer her when she called, or look her way when they were in the same room. He wouldn't go to sleep, instead staying up late to read or eat, and as a result, very slight bags started to form under his eyes. He wouldn't eat anything that wasn't sweet, he despised socks and shoes, and he'd curl into himself when he heard loud noises, such as bells or Karol herself. On Halloween (his birthday), he refused to share their stash with whatever children came knocking on their door, and even pushed a boy down the steps after a brief tug-of-war over the bowl.

Somewhere during the few times she took him out with her (in a coat and scarf, of course), he had taken up pocketing any object that he took a fancy to and could fit in his coat. To say that Karol was horrified when she caught him taking apart a shiny exorbitantly expensive watch she couldn't remember paying for, holding the screwdriver pinched in that odd two- or three-fingered way of his like it was dirty, would be an understatement.

But how was she to discipline him? Children didn't know better; they needed gentle attention. For that matter, why was L acting this way? Was it something she'd done?

"No."

That was his first English word, his first French word being "maman." For "mama." Or so she'd heard when he first said it. But he had never called her Mama. He hadn't called her anything really, like she was air: always around him but never referred to, often ignored.

Just after his fourth birthday she thought about taking him to see a doctor. But who would be willing to see them with what little money she had? Perhaps that man with the bug collection could look him over. She'd done a few jobs for him around his house. What was his name, Roger Ruvie?

"So Ms. Ackers, what seems to be the problem?" asked the bespectacled old man with the pointed nose, curly greying hair and bushy brows.

She cleared her throat. "Well Mister Ruvie, I was hoping you could tell me. He's become so withdrawn and cold lately, I don't know if he's sick or…he won't tell me what the matter is," she explained, her accent thick despite her usage of English. "He won't eat anything except sweet things, and he hates loud noises. He won't even put shoes on his feet."

The boy wouldn't make eye contact with either of them.

"Is there anyone in your family who has exhibited similar symptoms?"

...

Oh no. Besides the fact that L was a preemie, she knew next to nothing about his family history. But Roger couldn't suspect anything just because she had little to report, could he? "No, there isn't."

"What were the circumstances of his birth? Was it a difficult pregnancy?"

"He was born about two months early, the poor thing."

Roger took his notes. "Is he on any medication for anything?"

"No. I can't say I'm fond of the idea of giving little children pills or the like when chicken soup works just as well."

"Have there been any problems as of late, such as with, say, his father?"

...

"...I'm afraid his father is no longer with us."

Roger pulled out a piece of cloth to clean his glasses, trying to hide his astonishment. "Hm-hm. Yes, well, there are a few tests that I would like to try. It could be something emotional or cognitive. Please excuse me while I go get them."

"Yes, do what you must."

Dr. Ruvie hurried out of the office, unbeknownst to Karol, to make a beeline for the telephone.

In the meantime, Karol reached over to try to take L's hand, which rested on his knee, into her own. She had to get through to him somehow. When she felt him tense up, saw his teeth clench around his thumbnail on his other hand, tears of frustration welled up in her eyes.

"Please, love, you have to tell me. What's wrong? I want to help you. I want to make you happy. There's nothing I won't do for you. You know that, don't you? I'm your Mama. Your Maman. Remember?"

The silence between them was thick, enough to slice through it as Karol sliced through lemon cake.

Then he opened his mouth.

"No."

"No? No what, love?"

"No mama. You're not mama."

His soft-spoken words cut like a knife through her chest and down the middle. One of the first complete sentences he'd ever spoken to her, and that was what he told her. "You're not mama."

"Wh—what did you say?"

"You're not mama," he parroted, his affect flat. His understanding of words was greater than most would have believed if they talked to him. "Not mine."

You're not my mama. You never were.

Now her voice was cracking as her grip on L's hand began to tighten, to the point where he started to squirm in protest. "What are you talking about? I am your mama! I fed you, housed you, clothed you, I protected you, I—"

I loved you.

"No. I have no mama. You're not my mama. You're not maman. Not mine."

How long had he known? Had he always known? What could have possibly given him the inkling? He was just a newborn the night she—

God was punishing her again. Punishing her for her crimes. He was rejecting her, like Adele had rejected him years before. She was losing another baby. Her last one. Her last. She could feel herself splitting open as his words stabbed through her, just like all those times before. She lurched over in phantom pain.

For someone so untalkative, the boy was more observant than he let on; with that came a greater capacity for doubt compared to most children his age. He didn't tell her about the pained, guilt-induced ramblings she slurred in her sleep at night when she kept insisting when she was awake that she was his mama as though she wanted so desperately to believe that she was and thought telling him this all the time would make it true, or the fact that unlike the few mothers he'd seen with their children, their noses and chins weren't the same (or, for that matter, their eyes)...

Or remind her of how earnestly she had brushed him off when he had once tried to ask her what "missing" meant when he saw a missing child poster for a boy who looked quite a bit like him.

Are you my mama?

Her anger got away from her, taking on the form of a hand slapping itself across his little face—"How dare you talk to me that way!"—toppling him to the floor in a crumbled, crying heap. Oh, how he cried. He hadn't screamed this loudly or fiercely since infancy.

The crack of her slap rang throughout the office like a gunshot in her ears.

"I am your—"

When it dawned on her what she had just done, she felt herself die a little inside. No. She wasn't his mother. She had hurt him. She'd wanted to put some color back into his face, but not this way. A mother wouldn't slap her defenseless child in the face. Her poor, smart, unique, special, frail, defenseless child.

His cheek was red as a strawberry, and throbbing, from both the slap and the fat tears rolling down it. Swallowing a sob, she leaned in to gather him back into her arms. "L, I-I'm so sorry, sssh, I didn't mean to—"

"No!" He kicked at her, threw his little fists into her chest. "No, no, no, no, no! Go away!"

Right then, Roger burst in through the door on one side of the room, snatching up the boy from Karol and pulling him as far away from her as possible, despite L now turning on him.

"No, wait! Get away from—"

Suddenly, two policemen barged in from the front door, their batons raised and ready. "Karol Ackart, stop where you are!" they bellowed.

She had no choice but to comply. She had no gun on her this time. It was over. She had lost her baby.

"Your charges are murder, kidnapping, and fraud. You'll be escorted back to France where you'll be tried by their courts."

"Wait! What about my baby?"

The policemen scowled at her, having little sympathy for her in light of her crimes. "I wouldn't worry about him. He'll be placed in more capable hands."

"No, you can't just—h-he's mine! He needs me, don't you understand! Please! Don't take him from me, I'm his—"

"Mama," L whispered to himself hoarsely, as if to finish the sentence that Karol could not. He watched Karol lunge at him, sobbing, pleading, only for the constables to hold her back by the arms as they dragged her out the door. For a woman who had passed herself as his mother, she finally looked as helpless and hysterical as she had felt for most of her life.

"Oh my dear boy, my darling, I love you! I'm so sorry! Forgive me, forgive me! Please don't forget me!" she howled, switching back and forth from English to her native French, much to the bewilderment of the neighbors stepping outside to see what the commotion was about as she was hounded into the back of a car. She didn't get to kiss or hug him good-bye. He wouldn't get to play with the new stuffed panda she had gotten him for Christmas (although unbeknownst to her, he had already found the present and, finding no interest in it, unceremoniously dumped it on a girl passing by their window).

L didn't answer. He stayed curled into himself.

With no other known or living relatives to claim custody of him, L would be returned to France to spend the next few years hopping from orphanage to orphanage, across the country and throughout Europe, everyone at a loss as to how to handle the boy as he got older and more restless, his intelligence and vocabulary sharpening with age. He would come back to England, where at eight years old, he would gain the personal acquaintance of a Mr. Quillish Wammy, an old bachelor, a friend of Roger's and a benefactor to many of the institutions he stayed at, and solve the Winchester Mad Bombings, preventing World War III and launching his career as the great detective known as L. Wammy would then go on to establish Wammy's House, a school for gifted children like him.

But Karol would never know of this. They never saw or heard from each other again after her arrest. Wammy—"Watari"—became the closest to a trustworthy parental figure he'd ever have, and her name and face faded from his memory—either because he could not hold onto such an old memory or rather, because he didn't want to—but she would affect him in little ways that even he couldn't explain, if he bothered to try.

The day she read in the paper of a bombing that took dozens of lives, including that of an eight-year-old boy—her eight-year-old boy—she found at last the courage to give in to her despair. He had died alone, deprived of a future, she should've been there to protect him. Borrowing a smuggled razor from an inmate, she cut up her prison garb to make a noose after lights-out. Cutting herself would have given her a chance for survival, and they never gave her enough medication to overdose on. The next morning, the guards would find her slender body dangling topless from the ceiling in her cell.

Her last thoughts were on her baby. On all her babies. L, and two pudgy little girls and a boy who looked just like her and Martin. Karol could see her family lined up at her feet with open arms just before she jumped off her bed to greet them, the noose snapping her neck as soon as her feet left solid ground.

God forgive me. Surely you understand.

There's nothing a true mother, or father, won't do for their baby.

"Listen, try not to tell anyone else this, but Ryuzaki…he told me once that he had no family. Know anything about that?"

"I'm not at liberty to tell you much about Ryuzaki, but…in a way, it's true. He has no known relatives."

"And…he never has?"

"No."

"Everybody comes from a family, Watari. Maybe he does have people out there in this big old universe? Being the great detective that he is, he could probably track 'em down easy, if he wanted to. DNA and all that."

"Perhaps, but such knowledge is of no use to Ryuzaki. It does not matter to him where one comes from, as it does where he is in the present."

"He never had family, or did he just have 'em all rubbed out when he got the job as the world's best detective? You know, to protect his identity and stuff?"

"As I said before, I can't tell you very much, but I can assure you of this much, that was not the case."

"So…you're all he has?"

"That may well be the case."

END