This story takes place a short while after the end of the series. I thought that Near never got enough closure on his part of the tale, so I wanted to give him a little. Makes a few references to some of my other Near stories. Also, I should note that this takes into account the anime's ending, not the manga's. So if there is any confusion, I apologize. Oh, and the photo mentioned is based off of a number of lovely fanart pieces of the Wammy Boys (including the one used as a title image, which, of course, is owned by its creator). Enjoy!
The cemetery was cold and silent, but, thankfully, empty. Halle Bullook (Lidner) moved quietly through the many rows of tombstones, her teensy superior at her side. Near's little legs (for once with a pair of Sneakers attached to their ends) were working furiously to keep up with his much taller companion's long strides. A part of Halle wanted to ask him if he would prefer they slow down; she had read a bit of the kid's file: asthma, allergies, and anemia did not an athlete make. But the youthful agent had been around her boss long enough to know that the question would only be taken as an insult. So they kept walking.
A few minutes later, they reached their destination: a set of shrines at the back of the graveyard. The location had been given to them by the, now disbanded, Task Force. That sweetheart cop Matsuda had been the main provider of the directions. There were three graves here: one that had the slightest bit of weathering, hinting at its half a decade of being there, while the other two were new; the earth still freshly overturned from the burials. Each had a simple black covering and a large, beautiful cross jutting up from the top. They were not the flashy and rather overstated monuments Halle remembered from her own Catholic hometown, but were elegant and lachrymosely lovely. Three angels could not have asked for better graves. Which, she supposed was really who was buried here.
Near stood in front of the tombs, simply staring at them. His face was as impassive as always, but Halle could see microscopic flashes of pain in those big, dark orbs of his. After a moment or two, he removed from his back the small satchel he had brought with him from Headquarters. He returned to his usual crouch, the act of standing up straight perhaps tiring him out, and began rummaging around in the bag. Finally, he found what he was looking for: a box of Panda Cookies. This took Halle a bit by surprise: she had worked with Near for years and never once seen him eat sweets. But instead of opening the treat, the child shuffled over to the middle, obviously older grave, and placed it on the onyx surface.
He looked at the engraving:
A Man Beyond Men.
May He Find Peace."
The man and the message for him were unfamiliar to Halle, but they must have meant something to Near because the tiniest of smiles touches his pale lips. He traced the letters almost reverently with a thin index finger.
"They never did figure out your real name." he whispered. Victory, however miniscule, seemed to shine in his eyes. "Good. Let them always wonder."
He put two digits to his mouth, kissing them, before placing the fingers on the inscription. If he noticed Halle's shocked blinking at this action, he did not show it.
Content with his work, he moved on to the tombstone to the right. This one was one of the newer additions, its cross shining brightly in the winter sunset. From his pack, the diminutive detective dug out a bitty bag filled with batteries. Big ones, the kind used in handheld games.
Just as with the cookies, he set it gently atop the marker. He read the writing, too. Unlike the first epitaph, Halle recognized this one, as she had been there when Near had made the order for it.
The Most Loyal Of Friends.
And The Gentlest Of Souls.
His Love Shall Never Fade."
Near caringly ran a thumb over the word "friend".
"Don't worry, Matty," he said softly. "You will never have to be apart from him, ever." He kissed his fingers again and placed them on his colleague's name.
The boy took a step back from the tomb and picked up his pack. He walked over to the last grave and pulled out the last present. It was a dark chocolate bar, a huge one, the kind only found at superstores. It, like its brethren was laid on the crypt. Halle read the memorial's message and it too, she knew.
The Bravest Of Us All.
Your Sacrifice Led To Victory.
Halle felt her heart give a lurch of remorse. She had rather liked the stubborn blonde who so frequently felt the need to hold her at gunpoint. He had been a real firecracker, a soul that burned brightly with passion.
No, she had not been romantically involved with him, as Rester and Giovanni seemed to think Really, the scrawny thing just had not been her type and he had barely been out of boyhood anyway, but she had admired his courage. "Bravest of us all" indeed.
This last tombstone Near lingered the longest at. He said nothing, no final words of kindness, but perhaps that was for the best. Because wherever Mello was, all he would hear was the voice of the victor from their silly little contest. So the younger boy kept silent, not touching the crypt, and just sort of sadly staring. In the smallest of epiphanies, Halle understood that that was Near's style: the things he gave others were few, but they were always exactly what they wanted. That was the reason behind the gifts: another man would have just brought flowers, but this child made his presents personal for his fallen brothers-in-arms.
Finally, he turned from the tomb, and gestured for Halle to follow. Startled, she trotted long next him. The young woman had been under the impression that they were just visiting the graves of Near's deceased companions, but apparently the boy one more trick up his overlong sleeves.
They walked to the other side of the cemetery and arrived at a secluded spot close to the center. There, two graves stood proudly in evening light. Both seemed fairly new, though the tomb on the left looked just as freshly dug as Mello's or Matt's.
The slightly older one read:
Beloved Husband, Father And Mentor.
His Name Shall Always Live On
In The Fight For Justice."
Halle felt a small chill go down her back. She remembered the Japanese Police Deputy Director who had been killed during the fight with Mello and his mafia goons. Matsuda had talked about him as a kind man who always saw the best in everyone.
So the other crypt had to belong to…
Well Loved Son And Brother.
He Never Gave Up."
"Never giving up" was certainly putting it mildly, Halle mused to herself. But, then again, one could hardly write "crazy mass murder" on a tombstone. Besides, she doubted that his mother and sister had been informed of their family member's true role in the Kira fiasco; they did not need to know.
But what was she, Halle, doing here? And, more importantly, what was Near doing here? She idly wondered if he had come to gloat; perhaps, literally, to dance on the other man's grave…
No, that was not the Near she knew. He was not vindictive; he did what was necessary and nothing more. No, he came here with purpose. So she waited patiently for his orders like usual until, finally, the bitty child spoke.
"Lidner," he said slowly "did you have any nicknames as a child?"
Well, that was unexpected.
"Yes." She answered, confusion clouding her voice. "I had a few."
"Playful ones? Mean ones?"
"What were they?" He pressed.
This was getting weird, even by Near's naturally weird standards.
"Uh, well, let me think." She paused for a moment, remembering. "Well, my friends often called me Blondie, because of my hair…"
He nodded for her to continue.
"Um… a few of the boys in Junior High called me Skyscraper, you know, for my height."
He nodded some more. "And was that one of the mean ones?" he asked.
"Eh, not really." she said. "It was a bit embarrassing to be taller than most of the other kids, but not too bad. Besides, if any of boys got too aggressive about it I would just kick their asses after school."
Near snorted. "That sounds like you." he said. Halle debited whether to take that as a compliment or not. She decided to go ahead and do it; praise from Near was far too rare to waste.
"And the mean ones?"
It seemed her charge had not dropped the subject yet.
"Well, there was this really unpleasant boy who went to my school. Carl was his name. He often called me…" Halle paused, embarrassed. "Uh… Horse Legs." she mumbled.
Near arched a pale eyebrow up at her. "Horse legs?" he asked, bemused.
Halle shuffled her feet, feeling uncomfortable. "Yeah. I worked out a lot, even when I was little. It was fun and I liked feeling strong." Still, do, honestly. She thought. "But it meant that I had pretty big muscles for a young kid. So while the other girls had long, skinny legs, I had big muscly things."
"Hence the name 'Horse Legs'." Near finished for her. She nodded and he twirled an ivory curl, thinking.
"Interesting." he said. "I had a number of nicknames as a child, too."
Halle was tempted to point out that he still was a child, but she did not think that would be wise.
"None as funny as 'Horse Legs', but very diverse. L called me 'little one', which I think was both out of affection and a reference to my stature. The other kids had a whole plethora of names. Robot boy. Ghost kid. Stone heart. Mello was particularly fond of 'that damn albino sheep cripple'."
Halle bit her lip to hold in a laugh. That sounded like something Mello would say. But Near was still talking.
"I did not mind really. Kids often tease each other, so this behavior was normal. Besides, all of the names we had at Wammy's House in themselves were nicknames. Our real names were known only to us. " He glanced up at her with serious eyes. "You are one of a select few that knows mine." The look he gave her was both one of trust and of challenge should she ever be so foolish as to reveal that identity to anyone. She had known him too long to feel offended.
"But there was one other name that was the very worst, one I could not stand at all. Would you like to know what it was?"
Halle nodded, curious.
"The lucky one. That was what they called me behind my back. I hated it. More than anything."
Halle stared at her employer, completely surprised. How on Earth was being called lucky worse than something like stone heart? Having good fortune was a good thing. She blinked at him and he gave her a sad little smile.
"Most kids who come to the orphanage are between the ages of six and ten. I was a rare case, as I was admitted at only two."
Halle started. That young…
"My parents were killed in a car crash." Near continued. "I survived and was sent to Wammy's. I don't remember them, the crash, or the life we had. L was my first memory."
His employee could not help but marvel at the irony. A face nobody knew at it was the only one this boy could call up in his mind when searching for loved ones.
"But I was an exception to the rule. The other kids either had lived with their parents and had lost them or they had been abandoned at hellholes and Mr. Wammy had rescued them. They knew grief, I did not. That is why they called me 'lucky'."
Near give Light Yagami's grave an once-over.
"But all of that changed, didn't it? I lost my family just like they did. L was torn away from all of us at the House. Then later most of the members of my SPK. Last, Mello and Matt."
Near's gaze shifted down to his puny feet.
"I guess grief was always destined to come to me. It just waited to wait until I was older and had no tools to deal with it."
Near looked at the ground and Halle felt the overwhelming, and completely irrational, urge to comfort him. He just seemed so small and in need of someone to love.
But the moment did not last and Near stood up. From within his warm, winter coat, he pulled something out. His caretaker panicked for the slightest moment, thinking it was a gun, but it turned out to only be a photograph. Near just stared at it, an odd mixture of pain and love in his eyes. Halle peered over his shoulder to see.
The picture seemed to be about a decade old and featured a group of boys, three fairly young and in the arms of the fourth, who was a bit older. Halle immediately picked out Near from the collection; his white, button down and porcelain curls were the same on his present self. He appeared to be about eight and had a small, shy smile upon his youthful face. His employee felt a bit of affection stir her heart at that smile.
The other three were a little less familiar, but Halle recognized Mello as one of the kids. He did not look at all like the desperate delinquent she had first met on the streets of Los Angles a few years ago. Instead of the harsh expression she was used to, this ten year old child's big blue orbs were bright and happy, filled with joy. Halle felt a bit heartbroken at seeing the boy who Mello had been before Kira's mad reign. She wondered if this carefree innocence could have persisted if not for the chaos of the last five years. She doubted it; behind that shining expression was a streak of intense competitiveness that could not be changed. Even if Mello had stayed at the orphanage and grown up to be a world renowned detective, his capacity for aggressive behavior would still be there.
The third of the littler boys was a redhead that Halle thought she knew. His smile was sort of goofy, a golden retriever's grin. He was dressed in a striped shirt and a pair of overly large goggles had been pushed into those coppery locks… ah. Now she remembered.
Mello's sidekick and, she suspected, lover. One of the heroes buried on the other side of the graveyard. Halle had encountered him a few times during her meetings with Mello himself. He had playfully flirted with her a bit and mostly seemed to hang around solely for the purpose of driving the get-away-car. A fun-loving spirit if there ever was one. The agent looked at the cheerful ten year old in photo and felt dejected that that warm heart was now forever cold in the ground.
The last person in the picture was someone Halle had never met, but had the sneaking suspicion of who it might be. He was a young man, perhaps twenty, with messy, inky hair and enormous black eyes, lined like a panda's from lack of sleep. He was dressed in a simple, baggy, white shirt and his long thin arms were wrapped around the younger children in an affectionate embrace. His expression rather reminded her of Near's: one of love, but fragile. As if he was too used to seeing the things he cared for taken away from him.
Halle felt very privileged. Not only was she getting to see real face the legendary L, but to see him as a human being, too, with the ones he was fighting for cradled to him? She wondered if anyone else in the world had such a gift.
Near tucked the photo into the crook of his arm and searched around in his backpack again. This surprised Halle a bit; was he leaving a gift for Kira, too? That did not seem right. After a moment of digging, he pulled out two objects: a small bowl and a lighter. Halle just stared.
Near set the bowl on top of the tombstone and removed the photo from his elbow.
His voice was barely above a whisper.
"There is a tradition here in Japan of giving offerings to the dead. It could be anything from flowers to their favorite food. All are acceptable. But if you want something to reach them in the afterlife, it must be burned up so that the remains can float up to Heaven."
Near took out the lighter and placed the photo in the bowl; Halle had a sickening feeling that she knew what he was about to do next.
"I do not know where Light Yagami is now. Whether it is Hell and he is being tortured for his crimes or simply a nameless plane of Nothingness for eternity. I don't know. But wherever he is, I want him to see exactly why I took him down. What it was he took from me."
Near lit the lighter and set the hungry flame to the photograph. It quickly began consuming the picture. There was no doubt in Halle's mind that this was the only copy in existence of that image. Or even any image of those four young people.
Finally, the fire finished the last of the photo and burned itself out. Near looked at his work, satisfied, and spoke again, his voice shaking ever so slightly.
"I did not cry after L died. Not once. I could not let myself. There was too much work to be done and he always said that emotions have no place in this job. Not after Mello and Matt either. You were there, you saw. No tears were shed I had to finish this first."
He looked up at her with broken eyes.
"So I was thinking, now that Kira is gone for good, it might be okay if I…"
The poor child was asking for her permission to cry for the ones he had lost.
Halle said nothing, as it might embarrass him more, and simply gathered this strange, wonderful, beautifully brilliant boy into her arms. He clutched her tightly and sobbed quietly into her shoulder, years and years' worth of grief spilling from him in one tidal wave of agony.
She just hugged him closer and cried with him: for her uncle, for the murdered members of the SPK, for the fallen Wammy Boys, and for all of the lives Kira had destroyed.
Shed tears together as the sun set around them.
The wind picked up a little, lifting up the ashes of a lost family and silently carrying them up to the heavens.