Categories > Anime/Manga > Death Note

At the Heart of Justice

by LxNaomi 0 reviews

In an Alternate Universe where the Death Note never comes to the human world, agent Naomi Misora is contacted by L- the world's greatest detective- to work with him on his cases. What begins as a p...

Category: Death Note - Rating: PG - Genres: Romance - Characters: L - Warnings: [!] [V] [?] - Published: 2018-02-07 - 62194 words

Chapter 1: Contact

It was exactly six o'clock in the morning when Naomi Misora's phone began vibrating loudly on the nightstand. She was already awake, though. Sleep had been eluding her lately. Maybe it was because of the stress of her job at the FBI. Maybe it was due to her recent breakup. Or maybe it was something else entirely. Who could say, really? Reasons aside, this was not the first morning she had been lying awake when her alarm went off.

She rolled over and reached out to pick up her phone, which was still buzzing noisily and persistently. She blinked at the brightness of the screen. It was then that she noticed it was not her alarm but a phone call. The source was displayed as "Unknown."

She cleared her throat and answered the call. To her chagrin, her froggy morning voice was not to be concealed.

"Hello?" she croaked.

"Naomi Misora."

The voice on the other end of the line was synthetic and robotic, layered with emotionless tones of varying pitches. Naomi sat straight up. There was no questioning who was on the other end of the line. She held the phone away at arm's length and turned her head to clear her throat again before returning the phone to her ear. She forced her scratchy voice to sound as awake and alert as possible.

"Yes, this is she."

The altered voice replied, the words accompanied by a noise similar to buzzing fluorescent lights.

"This is L."

L. A name the entire world of law enforcement knew. The world's greatest detective. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be contacted by L... and this was Naomi's second time.

It had been two years since Beyond Birthday (or Rue Ryuzaki, as Naomi had known him) had been sentenced to life in a California prison, and Naomi hadn't heard from L since, save a short phone call with a simple but sincere, "Thank you, Naomi Misora. You have done well."

Naomi had been absolutely certain that she would never hear from L again. After all, who was she to be personally contacted by this great man? The first time had been astounding enough and yet, here she was, hearing her very own name spoken once again by his fabricated voice.

Naomi swallowed and willed her voice to sound as alert and professional as possible. She answered, surprising herself with how steady and calm she sounded.

"Yes, good morning."

He did not return the greeting but instead went right to business. Typical L.

"Naomi Misora. I understand that you have returned to your position at the FBI. I have been keeping track of you ever since the Los Angeles BB Murder Case and I have to say... I'm very impressed with your work. I am calling to make you an offer. Please, listen very carefully."

Naomi's head was spinning. Why had he been keeping track of her? Did he keep track of everyone who helped him on cases? And what exactly did "keeping track" mean? She could only conclude from her limited knowledge of L that he had been thorough. Most likely, he had access to her case files, reports, emails- everything, probably.

L's cybernetic voice continued, "It is clear that you work very well independently. This and the fact that you do not engage in a social life lead me to believe that you could be of great help to me. I have, for some time now, considered the possibility of hiring someone to be my eyes and ears at crime scenes and in other such matters. Seeking such a person out for each individual case is becoming rather tiresome. You have proven your worth to me and therefore, I am offering you this position. Are you interested?"

L's speech ended abruptly and Naomi panicked when she realized it was her turn to speak. L was offering her a job? What would this mean for her? Was she to simply be on standby for him, available at a moment's notice? Would she travel with him or just be a pawn for him to move around the map? And he had mentioned her lack of a social life... no argument there. So he was keeping track of her outside of work as well? Naomi suddenly felt like she was alone on a stage with a microphone and a spotlight before her. She had to answer him.

She cleared her throat again. How to begin?

"Well, I must say I'm honored," she said slowly, carefully choosing her words. "I would be interested in more details on the job and I... I would like some time to consider your offer."

What was she saying? L... THE L... was offering her the position of being his eyes and ears and she was actually considering it? Was she the right person for such a grand position? L seemed to think so... but why? Why her? Asking for time to think seemed to be the best option at the moment. To her relief, L agreed.

"Of course," the voice hummed. "Would three days be sufficient?"

"Yes, thank you."

"Good. As for the details, all I can say for now is that you would be working cases with me similarly to the BB case and-"

"So I would go to the crime scene, investigate, and then relay my findings over the phone?"

She suddenly felt embarrassed, realizing that she had interrupted him. But the synthetic voice continued, unfazed.

"No, you would report to me in person. I cannot afford the risks accompanying being on the phone all the time."

Naomi's mouth fell open. In person. It was only then that she realized exactly what L was asking of her.

"Naomi Misora..."

L paused, as if to be absolutely certain she was listening.

"...I am asking you to devote your entire career to me. Your deductive skills and your investigative intuition would be quite beneficial to my work. Please think it over. I will make contact in three days."

He hung up before she had time to respond. Naomi looked at her phone. The call had been less than two minutes. It had felt like so much longer.

Why did L want her? Surely he had worked with much more qualified agents. Had he already offered the job to those individuals and been declined? Was she the only one receiving this offer?

Naomi fell back into the pillows and rubbed her eyes with the base of her palms. This was so much to process.

Three days.

Today was Monday- no, was it Tuesday? Yes, it was Tuesday so L wanted an answer by Friday.


Naomi squeezed her eyes shut. Her head hurt.

It was true that she had already been considering relocating. After things didn't work out with Raye Penber, it seemed like the best option for a fresh start. She had applied for a few positions in various locations, but hadn't received any callbacks, save for an office position that was promptly turned down. The part of the job that she truly enjoyed and excelled at was the investigating. Her mind was sharp and her eyes were keen. Exploring the crime scenes and figuring out the clues were what she loved and a desk job was not an option.

But L... L was offering her a job doing exactly the thing she loved best. Was this opportunity really hers?

The more she thought about it, the more she wondered what there was to consider. She had no close friends, she rarely saw her family as it was... in fact, it actually made sense. The reason why L had chosen her was beyond Naomi's comprehension but suddenly, she knew what her answer would be.

Suddenly, Friday couldn't come soon enough.



Chapter 2: Decision

Naomi jumped when her phone began buzzing, despite the fact that she had been holding it in her hand expecting it to do just that. It was 6am on the dot- just like three days ago- and the call's source was again displayed as "Unknown."

She forced herself to let it ring at least two times before answering.


"Naomi Misora. This is L."

Naomi couldn't help but feel amused. As if he needed to introduce himself each time... as if the cybernetic voice wasn't enough.

"Have you had time to consider my offer?"

Naomi took a deep breath. Despite her initial excitement, the past three days had been filled with apprehension. Pros and cons were weighed and more than once, her mind had changed. But after an all-nighter and a lot of self-evaluation, Naomi had made her decision.

"I have," she spoke evenly and confidently. "I am interested in the position. I would be honored to work with you."

As she spoke the words, she felt a weight lift from her shoulders. She knew she had made the right call. She grinned, glad that L could not see her smiling like a giddy schoolgirl.

"I am pleased to hear that," the strange voice replied, emotionless as ever. "In that case, I will need you to dispose of your phone, your laptop, and any other electronic devices connected to your identity. You will also need to gather all your personal documents such as your birth certificate and passport to be handed over to me for safe keeping. Is that understood?"

Naomi swallowed hard. He was so direct and intimidating. But she had expected these sorts of requests.

"Understood..." she replied, hesitating at the end. She had always used "Sir" when given an order by her superiors. Should she begin addressing L this way? Her head was spinning again. She still couldn't wrap her mind around the fact that L was going to be her boss.

"Good, please do so immediately. I would like this transition to be made quickly. As for your job at the FBI, you need not worry. Things will be taken care of and the necessary personnel will be contacted. Consider yourself no longer an FBI agent as of this moment."

"Yes, Sir." She tested out the formal address and it felt weird. She decided not to do it again- at least until she'd met him.

"Tomorrow evening, at ten o'clock, check in to the Waymont Hotel, suite 900. You will be listed under the name 'Naomi Mika.' Wait there for further contact."

"Understood. Do I need to bring anything other than my documents?"

"Yes, bring all your clothes and personal effects. Your apartment will be up for rent within the next two days. I will be providing a storage facility, if needed, for any larger items you would like to remain in your possession, but a charity organization will be coming for your furniture and the like."

Naomi's face scrunched. Her apartment? Where was she supposed to live? She had no attachment to her furniture or anything sizeable so that was no big deal but it felt awfully strange that she was about to be homeless. Or was she? Was L going to provide her with a new apartment? Yes, that was probably it.

"I don't think I will need a storage facility," she said slowly. "So... anything I leave behind tomorrow will be donated?"


Naomi didn't answer right away but L waited. He seemed to understand that this was going to be a bigger change than she'd anticipated. L had said that he wanted her to devote her entire career to him but it felt more like he was expecting her to devote her entire life to him. But, in truth, Naomi was ready for a change. She was ready to start a new life. Suddenly, excited butterflies filled her stomach.

"Naomi Misora? Are you still alright with this?"

"Yes, sorry! I'm- yes, I am. It's... it's a lot to process but I want to do this. I am looking forward to working with you... S-Sir." That last part just sort of blurted out.

"You do not need to call me Sir."

"Yes, S-... yes. I am sorry."

Naomi cleared her throat. She needed to get it together.

"I will see you tomorrow, then?" Her heart flipped. She was actually going to meet L! It was so exciting.

"If all goes according to plan, yes, I will see you tomorrow. Until then, Naomi Misora."


Naomi sat at her kitchen table for quite some time after hanging up the phone. She was well aware of how much she had to do before 10pm tomorrow but she told herself that she just needed a few minutes to breathe. In reality, it was much longer than a few minutes but finally, Naomi stood to her feet and made her way to her bedroom to begin packing.

She was anxious.

She was excited.

She was nervous.

But she was ready.


The cab pulled up to the Waymont Hotel shortly before ten o'clock on Saturday evening. A bellhop opened the car door and assisted Naomi with her luggage. It wasn't much, considering it was all she owned. Three large suitcases and one smaller one had done the job nicely.

It was a beautiful hotel with a grand lobby, displaying dark stained wood furnishings embroidered in shades of deep blue and scarlet and silver. Naomi had never stayed in such a hotel before. Her heart pounded with excitement.

She approached the front desk and was greeted by a stern woman with gold-rimmed glasses that rested on the very tip of her pointed nose.

"Naomi Mika, please." It wasn't the first time she'd used an alias.

The woman's artificial fingernails clicked away on the keyboard and her narrow eyes peered at the computer screen through her equally narrow lenses.

"Ah, yes, Ms. Mika. Suite 900, our presidential suite. Top floor." She handed Naomi a keycard and pursed her lips together in a polite smile. "Please enjoy your stay with us." Despite the woman's stern appearance, her voice was actually quite pleasant.

Naomi accepted the keycard and she and the bellhop headed into the elevator with her luggage in tow. Her heart was pounding. L had gotten the presidential suite? She felt so... /important/.

The elevator dinged and the doors opened on the ninth floor. Naomi was led down a hallway to large mahogany double doors at the end. She used her keycard and the lock whirred and clicked open. She stepped into a room with soft carpeting and rich furnishings.

The main room was a living area with a plush couch and several comfortable chairs surrounding a coffee table and a television on the opposite wall. Two floor-to-ceiling windows were framed in heavy scarlet drapes and overlooked the night sky and the city lights of Los Angeles. There was a large desk on the left wall and to the right was a small but very nice kitchen area with a little table. There were two doors on each of the left and right walls, totaling four.

Naomi tipped the bellhop and then found herself alone in the big room. It was then that she noticed an envelope taped to the back of the door. She opened it to find a typed note:

Please make yourself comfortable in the bedroom on the right. My representative will arrive at 11:00 to begin the paperwork process. If all goes well, I will arrive shortly after.
P.S.- Please feel free to order room service.

Naomi looked at her watch. She had just under an hour. She wondered who L's representative was and why she had been hired if he already had one. She supposed she'd find out soon enough and resolved not to dwell on all of her questions. She instead decided to spend the first part of the hour exploring.

The note had said that her room was on the right and so she started there. It turned out that the right wall had two bedrooms and so she gathered her luggage and entered the right-most of the two. Her room was painted a soft white and had blue and brown accents. The queen-sized bed was draped in a down comforter of varying shades of blue and there was a large dresser with a mirror and a nightstand with a lamp and a digital clock. She had a bathroom all to herself too with a little elephant fashioned out of a wash cloth on the counter. Naomi smiled and felt a little spoiled.

She decided to do any unpacking later and moved on to the bedroom on the left of hers. She felt strange exploring the room itself since this one would probably be L's, so she stayed in the doorway and just peeked inside. This room was also done in shades of blue but had lots of dark green accents as well. This room did not have its own bathroom, though, and Naomi felt guilty that she had been given the better of the two rooms.

She closed the door quickly, suddenly feeling like she was committing an invasion of privacy.

Naomi crossed to the other side of the room and opened the door on the right. It was another bathroom and again, she felt guilty that she was the one who got to have one all to herself. This one was much larger, though, and so she felt a little better.

The last door was a small storage closet with an ironing board and a coat rack and some shelves.

Naomi moved to the kitchen area and opened the drawers and cupboards one-by-one. The kitchen was very well supplied for its small size. There was a bowl of fresh fruit on the table but Naomi was not at all hungry. She remembered L's offer for room service and just the thought of eating at this hour and with everything going on made her stomach turn. Instead, she helped herself to a glass of water and returned to her room. She spent the rest of the time leading up to 11:00 ironing and laying out her clothes for the next day. It was clear that she would be going to bed quite late tonight.

Naomi was standing in front of the dresser mirror overanalyzing her appearance when there was a knock on the suite door. Her stomach flipped up into her throat. She unnecessarily tugged at the hem of her shirt to straighten it over her black dress pants and made a quick check in the mirror that none of her long, straight hair was sticking up. Everything seemed to be in order. She looked feminine and professional.

She grabbed the folder with all of her documents in it and left her room, closing the door behind her. She heard the whir and click of the lock on the double doors and straightened up with her hands holding the folder in front of her.

The door opened and the bellhop entered first, rolling in a luggage cart with several suitcases and duffel bags on it. Behind him was an elderly gentleman with white hair and a mustache. He was dressed in a long overcoat and was holding a hat and a briefcase in his hands. He exchanged some words with the bellhop who then began unloading the bags. Some were taken into the left bedroom but most were placed in the living room, per the old man's instructions.

Naomi stood awkwardly, wondering what to do with her hands. She fidgeted with the edges of the folder and then stopped herself. It wouldn't do to hand over crumpled documents to L.

The bellhop finished with the bags and the man, who had removed his coat and was wearing a grey suit, tipped him. It was not until the doors had closed that he turned toward Naomi.

"Good evening, Naomi Misora. I am Watari. I represent L." He stepped forward with an outstretched hand.

Naomi took a few quick steps to meet him and shook his hand, smiling.

"Pleased to meet you!" she greeted him warmly.

Watari returned the smile, though the smile was more in his eyes than with his mouth. His mustache twitched. Naomi liked him immediately.

"Shall we begin?" he asked, gesturing toward the little table in the kitchen.

"Yes, of course!" Naomi took a seat and placed the folder on the table, folding her hands on top of it. She waited while Watari moved the bowl of fruit to the counter and began removing several papers from his briefcase.

Watari then took out a small laptop and opened it. He typed something on the keyboard and then placed the laptop on the counter, facing the table. The screen was black but Naomi noticed that the webcam's light was on. Before she could dwell on it, though, Watari sat down and got straight to business.

"Now then, I trust you have destroyed all of your electronic devices, as was asked of you?"

"Yes," Naomi replied, nodding.

"And you have your personal documents?" Watari's eyes moved to the folder under Naomi's hands.

"Yes, they are all right here," she said, handing him the folder.

Watari opened the folder and quietly looked over the documents. When he was satisfied with what he saw, he closed the folder and put it into his briefcase. "These documents are now in the possession of L. Do you object to this?"

"No, I do not."

"Alright then." He handed Naomi a pen and the long process of paper-signing began.

Some of the papers were simple- banking and tax information and insurance were among them. Naomi was pleasantly surprised to learn that her new job came with some amazing benefits, such as all-expenses paid health, eye, and dental insurance.

Many of the papers were pretty intimidating, though, and caused Naomi to take a deep breath before signing on the dotted line. There were two in particular that made her heart pound the most:

One was a contract that bound her law enforcement career to L for the rest of her life. Signing her name meant that if she ceased to work for L, she would never work in any form of law enforcement or government again.

The other one, and definitely the most intimidating of all, was a statement of understanding that she would receive capital punishment under penalty of treason if she were to ever reveal information regarding L's cases or his identity and whereabouts to any unauthorized personnel. She was shocked that one man had this much power. But she signed her name. After all, anyone in the military working covert operations would have to agree to terms no different than these.

It was well past one o'clock in the morning when Naomi finally returned the pen to Watari. He put the papers in his briefcase and clicked it shut, then stood. Naomi stood as well, feeling the cramps in her legs and back. Looking at the clock, she concluded to herself that she would most likely be meeting L tomorrow. She blinked her eyes several times in an attempt to hold back a yawn.

Watari had shut the laptop and dialed a number on his phone and was holding it to his ear. Naomi heard the person on the other end pick up, "Yes?" The voice was low and belonged to a man. Naomi realized she was hearing L's real voice for the first time.

"We are all set," Watari said.

"Good, I'm coming up," L replied and hung up.

Naomi was suddenly very awake. So, she was meeting him tonight! She glanced at her reflection in the microwave over the stove and ran her fingers through her hair a couple times.

Meanwhile, Watari had moved to the side table next to the couch and had picked up the hotel phone. Naomi heard him ordering several items from the room service menu and was astounded that one would want to eat so much so late. She chalked it up to L's constant traveling screwing up his sleep and eating schedule.

The double door lock whirred and clicked and Naomi looked over to see the handle turn.

Her stomach flip-flopped and her heartbeat pulsed like a drum.

The door opened.



Chapter 3:Reality

The door opened but, from where she was standing in the kitchen area, Naomi could not see L. The suspense was killing her. Why wasn't he stepping out from behind the door...?

A tennis shoe suddenly shot into the room, making Naomi jump. It flew low, as if it had been kicked off, and landed with a soft thud on the carpet. A second shoe followed, landing near the first. Naomi was startled. What on earth?

Naomi was staring at the shoes when she heard the door close. She straightened her shoulders, took a deep breath, and turned back toward the door to meet her new employer- the world's greatest detective- face to face.

Her eyes widened. She must have been mistaken. This couldn't be L.

The man standing before her appeared to be about her own age, maybe a little younger. He stood with his thin shoulders hunched and with his hands in the pockets of his faded blue jeans. He wasn't wearing shoes- not anymore, anyway- but he wasn't wearing socks either. He wore a plain, white, long-sleeve t-shirt and he had thick, black hair that stuck out in all different directions. And as if that wild hair wasn't enough, the feature that stood out the most was his eyes. They were large and dark, almost black, and dark circles lined them along the bottom in sharp contrast to his pale face.

No, this wasn't L. It couldn't be.

But then he spoke.

"Naomi Misora. I am L."

Naomi stood frozen in place. Was this a joke? Her mind was suddenly flooded with the serious reality behind the papers she had just signed. This was who she had just pledged her entire future career to?

"Okay, okay, calm down," she told herself. "Appearance isn't everything."

She was desperately grasping for some sort of justification. The greatest detective in the world was only human after all... Maybe it wasn't fair to expect him to look like a superhero. In fact, it was ridiculous to expect that. He lived his life in solitude; the world never saw his face.

But still... this? He looked like a sleep-deprived, disheveled college student the night before finals.

In any case, she still had to say something.

"Yes... L," she said, forcing a small smile. "It's... really an honor to meet you!"

As much as his appearance shocked her, if this was the real L, she really did mean it. He was a legend, after all. She stepped toward him, resolving not to judge solely on a first impression, and extended her hand.

He stepped forward when she did and shook her hand, his left hand still in his pocket. He was taller than Naomi but the way he stood put his eyeline level with hers. He had long, slender fingers and his hands were very cold.

"Thank you," he said, returning his right hand to his pocket. "I'm glad you decided to do this. I think we will work well together."

That stated, he turned toward Watari, who was busy unpacking the duffel bags in the living room. Wires, computer towers, and monitors were scattered all over the floor.

"Did they have it?" L asked.

"No," Watari replied. "They didn't have shortcake but they had regular strawberry cake so I got that."

L's eyes narrowed in annoyance and he made a noise with his throat that was somewhere between a low growl and a "hmmph."

"Whatever," he said. "Thanks, anyway. When is it getting here? I'm starving!" With this last statement he dropped his head back dramatically, taking one hand out of his pocket to grab his apparently very empty stomach. The white shirt nearly halved in width, he was so skinny.

Naomi was completely unsure how to take in the scene before her. Literally nothing about him was anything close to what she had expected.

But something else was bothering her. He looked... familiar.

That hair. Those eyes. She had definitely seen him before. Obviously, at the time, she wouldn't have known it was L. But where? When?

Naomi was so caught up wracking her brain that she didn't notice until too late that L had caught her staring at him. She felt her face grow warm and blinked too many times, clasping her hands stiffly behind her back.

A look of amusement- though, it wasn't quite a smile- passed over L's face. He was standing with his left side to her and with both of his hands on the top of his head, his fingers interlocking with one another and his elbows sticking out to the sides.

"You're trying to figure out where you've seen me before, aren't you?"

Naomi flushed an even deeper red and nodded, feeling too dumb to speak.

This time, it was kind of a smile that twitched the corners of L's mouth. He dropped his arms and his right hand moved to rub the spot between his collarbone and left shoulder. He winced, though it wasn't in pain. It was more... thoughtful. Like he was recalling pain that was once there but had since gone.

"Mmh." It was kind of a chuckle but not really. He was staring at the floor, his fingers still pressed to his shoulder.

"It bothered me for weeks, you know. My shoulder." His head swung over and upright to look Naomi in the eyes. He seemed to be enjoying the little game.

And then it hit her.

The subway!

Naomi instantly recognized him as the very same man she had kicked down a flight of concrete steps in the subway station shortly after the conclusion of the Beyond Birthday case.

That had been L?!

Naomi was horrified. She had no words. She knew she was standing there, mouth agape, but she couldn't help it. This was just too much.

A knock sounded on the door. L lit up like a puppy invited on a walk. He whirled around, placed both hands on the back on the couch, and flipped both his legs over it on one fluid motion. He landed in a strange sitting position with his feet on the couch cushion and his knees pulled up to his chest. And then he just... stayed that way.

Naomi was struck with déjà vu.

"That's how Ryuzaki- I mean, Beyond Birthday- used to sit," she thought to herself.

The door was answered and shut again by Watari, who was now wheeling a room service cart into the living room. On it were several elegant desserts, including a strawberry cake.

L's back was to Naomi but he put his hand in the air, gesturing for her to come over to his location.

"Naomi! Come have some cake!"

Naomi hesitated, then made her way over to the couch, though she had no intention of having any cake.

L was sitting in his strange manner in the very center of the couch so Naomi took a seat in the chair adjoining it. She felt overwhelmed- and suddenly very, very tired.

L plucked a strawberry off the slice of cake he had been handed by Watari and put the whole thing in his mouth.

"I love strawberries," he said with his mouth full. "Do you?"

He didn't look at her but Naomi knew he was talking to her. She shifted awkwardly in her chair.

"Um, y-yes. Yes, I like strawberries." She tried to answer politely but she felt so confused and just wanted sleep. She would have to process everything tomorrow. Right now, she just wanted to excuse herself and go to bed. But was that okay? Did he still plan to discuss her new position of employment tonight?

L had taken a bite of cake and now he was looking at her. He tipped his head toward the room service cart.

"Take whatever you want," he offered.

"No... Thank you, I'm fine."

Naomi put both her hands on her knees and lifted her shoulders, stretching her arms. She had to use every last ounce of willpower to hold back another yawn.

L's fork stopped halfway to his mouth. He looked at her sideways.

"Do you need to go to bed?" he asked.

"Oh, n-no! I mean... I'm so sorry. I'm fine."

L's eyes stayed on her for another moment, then returned to the fork in his hand and the bite of cake on it.

"Omm." He finished the bite of cake, then set the fork down on the plate with a /clink/. He lowered the plate with both hands down to his ankles, his arms circling around his legs.

"You're tired. We can talk after you get some sleep. I have nothing to discuss with you that can't wait until you feel more rested."

He spoke the words with neither annoyance, nor kindness. Like he was just being practical.

Naomi hated to appear so frail on her first day but in truth, she was starting to feel a little sick to her stomach. She stood up. L's eyes followed her.

"You're right. I think I will feel much better after some sleep. Thank you."

"Of course. You've had a big week."

Once again, no emotion was attached to the words. It was simply a statement of fact.

L returned his attention to the cake, bringing the plate back up to his knees. He began, with his mouth full, speaking with Watari regarding the computer equipment that was being set up and Naomi knew that she was dismissed.

Naomi retreated to her room. Her mind felt numb. A weird feeling in the pit of her stomach was causing her to wonder if she had just made a horrible decision. But she was too tired to even care. She'd worry about it tomorrow.

Right now, all she wanted was sleep.



Chapter 4: Beginning

Naomi's eyes fluttered open then closed again. She could sense that she was not at home but her sleepy brain hadn't figured out where she was yet. With her eyes still closed, she lifted both her arms above her head, arched her back in a good stretch, then relaxed back into the soft pillows. It had been a long time since she'd slept this well.

Her mind began to clear as she fought for full wakefulness. Slowly, it all came back to her: the hotel, the papers, the strawberry cake...


Naomi sat straight up. She was completely awake now. She grabbed the clock on the nightstand. It read 10:04am.

"Oh no!" Naomi panicked and sprang from the bed, grabbing the clothes she'd laid out the night before. Her mind was whirling.

"What must he think of me?! This is so unprofessional!"

She fled to the bathroom and, upon quick inspection, she decided that her hair could get away without a shower. She dressed quickly, fluffed her kinked hair with a brush, and freshened herself up. In under ten minutes, she stepped out of her room, thoroughly embarrassed and prepared to apologize.

The living room looked a bit different than when she had left it hours earlier. The television screen was split into six different displays, showing live footage from security cameras in some indoor location. There were wires and cables running here and there, connecting to various electronic devices and outlets.

There were multiple laptops- Naomi counted three- scattered around the room. One was closed on the couch. Another was open on the coffee table displaying a screensaver with a floating calligraphic letter L. The third was also open on the coffee table but it was facing away from Naomi.

L was seated in his odd stance in the swivel chair at the desk on the other side of the room. A desktop computer had been set up there and he was staring intently at it. His hunched back to her, he didn't seem to notice that Naomi had entered the room.

Naomi wondered what time he had gone to bed and how much sleep he had gotten. She chided herself, realizing that he had both gone to bed later than her and gotten up earlier than her. She felt so stupid for not setting an alarm.

She looked around. Watari was nowhere to be seen.

Naomi took a deep breath and crossed the room to stand at L's side.

"Good morning," she greeted, again feeling stupid that a "good afternoon" greeting would have been more appropriate had she slept much longer.

L had one hand on his knee and the other up to his mouth. His thumb rested on his bottom lip and his gaze was fixed on the computer screen. His response was spoken subconsciously, as his attention was entirely devoted to whatever it was he was looking at.


Suddenly, he smacked both of his palms on the desk, startling Naomi.

"That's it, I knew that was it..." he muttered. He typed something vigorously on the keyboard, then moved the mouse slightly and clicked it triumphantly. He used one hand to push against the desk and swivel to face Naomi.

"Did you sleep well?" he asked.

Naomi's face burned.

"Yes, I did, thank you."

"That's good," L said, standing to his bare feet. He was wearing the same clothes as he had been the night before- and at the subway station two years ago, come to think of it.

Naomi then wondered if he had even gone to bed at all. His darkened, bloodshot eyes declared the answer to be a resounding "No."

"Did... you sleep well?" she asked, hoping she wasn't prying. She figured she should know if he was going to get some sleep soon. Maybe then she could get a shower...

L had crossed to the coffee table and was sitting in his frog stance on the floor in front of one of the laptops.

"What? Oh, no, I didn't sleep."

He picked up a headset with a microphone attached to it and placed it on his head. Glancing at Naomi he said, "Please do not say a word."

He typed a password into the laptop and the screen displayed layers of audio distortion with bars that rose and fell with the cadence of L's voice as he spoke.

"Chief? It's L. You can make the arrest. I have forwarded my proof to you."

Naomi could hear a man's voice through the headset thanking L emphatically. She began to feel a little better regarding her concerns from the night before. Clearly, this was the real L and clearly, he knew what he was doing, even if his appearance and behavior were rather odd.

"Justice was served," L replied to the man. "That is what matters. Thank you as well."

He removed the headset and shut the laptop as he stood up again.

"Okay, I need some coffee- oh wait Watari..." His voice trailed off to a mumble. He brought his thumb to his mouth and began chewing on the end of it.

"Oh yes, where is Watari?" Naomi asked.

L climbed onto the couch, bringing his knees to his chest like always, and gestured toward the bedroom to the left of Naomi's.

"He went to get some sleep about... eh I don't know, a bit ago." He drummed his fingers on his knees. "We can have coffee when he gets up."

Naomi looked toward the kitchen and saw a coffee maker sitting right on the counter. Did L not know how to make coffee?

And also, was L planning on sleeping on the couch?

"Um, I could make coffee," Naomi offered. "I'd like some too actually."

She had no intention of acting as L's maid in the future but she really needed some coffee at the moment.

L looked up. "Oh... well alright. That would be good. Thank you."

Naomi smiled and went briskly into the kitchen, pleased to finally have something to do with herself, even if it was just making coffee.

While the coffee was brewing, she looked around for something to eat. She couldn't have dreamed of eating last night but now she was hungry. The refrigerator contained only desserts for some reason and the cupboards had only dishes, spices, and other cooking essentials provided by the hotel. She settled for a peach from the fruit bowl.

When the coffee was done, she filled two mugs and brought them with some spoons over to the coffee table. L was busy with something on the laptop that had been sitting on the couch.

"Do you take cream and sugar?" she asked. She herself took a little of both.

L's words were slurred, as his thumb was tucked under his top lip. "Shhugar," he said distractedly as he stared at the laptop screen.

Naomi returned to the kitchen and located the sugar in a bowl on the counter and a little creamer container in the door of the refrigerator. She brought them both to the coffee table and then sat down in the chair next to the couch.

L's eyes shifted to the coffee cup and his finger left his mouth. He reached with his long arm to open the sugar bowl and proceeded to empty the entire thing into his mug.

Naomi almost choked on her coffee. The only person she'd ever seen use that much sugar was Beyond Birthday. Why were those two so much alike? She tried not to let it creep her out too much, though she was having a hard time of it. BB had thoroughly freaked her out and she had been glad when she didn't have to spend time with his quirks and shenanigans anymore. But L seemed to have all the same peculiarities as BB did... or had it been BB who imitated L? That actually made more sense.

L stirred his coffee, the grains of sugar grinding against the ceramic mug. He took a sip and licked his pale lips. "Mm. Thank you," he said.

He shut the laptop and held the mug with both hands. He turned his attention to Naomi and looked at her with those tired, dark eyes.

"You probably have a lot of questions."

Naomi felt relieved that he was finally allowing time for this. She did have questions. So many questions. Where to begin?

"Ah yes well... I do. But first, ah..." she cleared her throat and continued. "I just want to apologize for sleeping so late. Usually I am up quite early and I won't make this a habit... so, ah... sorry," she finished lamely.

L did not seem at all affected by her apology. "That's quite alright, you obviously needed it," he stated simply.

Naomi was grateful for his understanding. She decided to begin with the question that had been on her mind ever since L had first called her on Tuesday morning.

"I'm curious," she began slowly, "as to why you chose me." She suddenly felt so small.

"We worked well together," L replied plainly. "You don't have a husband or a family to leave behind, your ties to other family and friends are at a minimum, and you're an excellent agent. Exactly what I need."

He said it so unemotionally; none of it was complementary. Simply factual.

"Oh," Naomi said. It was so simple and straightforward.

"Surely you have more questions than that."

"I do, yes."

Naomi could tell that he was giving up this time for her but that he also had many other things he needed to get to (surely one of them was getting some sleep?) and so she moved on to more practical questions about the job itself, what would be expected of her, where she would live, and those kinds of things.

She learned that L simply needed someone to be a presence at crime scenes so that his information was first-hand and with nothing withheld. She would be provided with a phone and a laptop and a debit card- all of them heavily encrypted. Part of the paper signing the night before had included a license to carry firearms under L's jurisdiction and so Naomi would be receiving a handgun as well, to be carried only when the mission called for it.

As for where she would live, it was made clear that the location of "home" would change often. L traveled a lot and therefore was unable to settle down anywhere for any lengthy period of time. However, L explained that, when possible, she would be provided with a space of her own, such as a temporary furnished apartment. She should always have an overnight bag on hand, though, as many cases would require working late into the night.

They talked for nearly an hour and, at length, Naomi felt like all of her biggest questions had been answered. She was beginning to feel excited again.

"Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I am sure you have a lot you need to do today," Naomi said, gratefully.

"Of course," L replied, standing up again and heading to the desk. "Please, let me know if there is any other information I can provide that would be helpful to you."

He hopped up into the swivel chair and spun to face the desktop computer. He opened a drawer and extracted a folder with the word "Confidential" stamped across it in red ink. He held it up using only his thumb and index finger, not bothering to turn around to face Naomi.

"I need you to familiarize yourself with this case I am working on. There's a location I need you to visit this afternoon."

Naomi moved to accept the folder.

"Can I take this to my room?" she asked.


Naomi turned to leave but one thing was still nagging her. She made it to her bedroom door, but curiosity won and she turned to ask L one more question.



"Do you... do you ever sleep?"

L turned his head, but not all the way. Naomi could see his profile from behind his hunched back and shoulders, his wild, ebony hair falling over his face and ears and the back of his neck. He seemed to be considering how to reply. He turned his head back to the computer screen before answering.

"Maybe tomorrow," was all he said.



Chapter 5: Friend

Naomi hurried up the sidewalk toward the large apartment complex that she called home for the time being. She was just returning from a crime scene and was certain that she had found some valuable evidence overlooked by the police. It had been such a tiny detail and she had almost missed it... but it hadn't gotten past her in the end and now, she had photographic evidence for L.

She picked up her pace again in her excitement.

It had been two months since Naomi had begun working for L and he had been right: they did work well together. Both of them valued their independence and solitude. Both of them were very detail-oriented. And both of them were highly passionate towards justice. All in all, they were a great team.

Naomi reached the revolving doors of the apartment building and entered them, heading toward the elevators. Once inside, she had to input a passcode into a keypad which then opened a small hatch revealing fingerprint and retinal scanners. She went through the required layers of security and waited impatiently for the lift to reach the VIP floor. She exited the second the doors opened.

Her apartment was on the right side of this floor but she turned left instead, toward L's wing. She knocked and entered upon hearing his monotone, "It's open."

"I found something!" she said excitedly, pulling up a chair to sit next to him at the computer.

L was eating a jelly-filled doughnut.

"Oh, good. What is it?" he asked.

"It'll be better if I just show you," Naomi replied, looking around for the phone cable that would allow her to upload her photos to L's computer. She then noticed it lying on the other side of the desk and jumped up to reach across L to grab it.

"Wha- hey!" L objected.

Naomi, cable in hand, looked down to see that her abrupt movements had caused L to drop the plate onto himself. His white shirt was now decorated with strawberry jelly.

"...oops." Naomi offered a nervous smile. "I'm sorry!"

L did not look amused. He made that low growl in his throat again.

"What did you find?" L asked, picking up the doughnut from his lap and eating it anyway.

"Err... right, okay!" Naomi didn't bother suggesting that L go change his clothes. She had learned to just let some things slide. He was a strange bird, to be sure.

She uploaded the photos and sure enough, L was very pleased with her findings.

"Naomi Misora, you have done a fine job," he complemented sincerely. "This is exactly the sort of thing I hired you for. Great work."

Naomi smiled at the praise. It felt good to be doing something she loved- and doing it well.

The apartment door opened and Watari entered with a large black bag.

"Is that my laundry?" L asked without turning around.

"Yes, it's all done," Watari answered.

"Oh, good," L muttered.

And then, without warning, he crisscrossed his arms, grabbed the hem of his jelly-stained shirt, and lifted it over his head. He remained in his signature sitting position as he removed the shirt and tossed it across the room.

Naomi was dumbstruck. She slowly leaned away, as she was sitting quite close to him. Awkward.

L didn't seem the least bit fazed. He just sat there, clicking the mouse and examining the photos on the computer screen, his shoulder blades protruding like daggers from his bare back.

Naomi just sat, answering his questions and averting her eyes, though she couldn't help but notice the prominence of his rib cage and spine and wonder how on earth he ate so much sugar and still remained basically a skeleton. A skeleton with giant, sunken eyes and wild, jet-black hair. That literally described L sitting there, hunched in his swivel chair wearing only his jeans.


Naomi shook her head. She had been lost in her thoughts.

"I'm sorry, what was your question?" she asked, blushing.

"I was telling you that I picked up another case today, here in New York," L said patiently, though it was clear he didn't like repeating himself.

"Oh?" Naomi asked, forcing herself to look him in the eyes.

"Yes, it seems that a bank was robbed of over 2 million dollars in cash last night and-"

"Lift your arms, L." Watari was standing behind his chair with a clean white shirt in his hands.

L lifted his arms but kept speaking.

"...and it appears as though the suspect was working alone. Now, from what /I've /gathered..."

The shirt was over his arms now and just his hair was sticking up from the hole.

"...I believe that there must have been a second..."

His voice muffled as the shirt passed over his face and mouth.

"...a second suspect working off-site but nearby..."

He adjusted the shirt to sit comfortably on his thin shoulders.

".. and I need you to go to the buildings surrounding the bank to see if you can find anything to support my theory."

Naomi nodded, relaxing back into a natural upright position. She had witnessed some strange behavior from L, but this one was new. He couldn't even be bothered to change his shirt on his own? What a man child.

"Yes, should I go right away?" she asked, returning her attention to the job.

"Please do," L replied, using his index finger and thumb to hand her some papers he'd just printed.

Naomi took the papers and stood to leave. Watari was leaving the room too and held the door for her as she exited.

He closed the door behind them and Naomi turned to him.


"Yes?" the old man's kind eyes turned toward her.

"Is L... I mean, why does he..."

She had so many questions but her brain just couldn't seem to formulate them.

"Why is L... L?" Watari suggested.

"Well... yes." Naomi supposed that was the best way of putting it.

Watari looked thoughtful. His eyes softened with nostalgia as he told her of his years spent with L, serving not only as his assistant and representative, but as his caretaker and father figure. He told her of the first long nights he spent trying to get the small boy to sleep, but to no avail. He spoke of L's brilliant mind and how he had used it from a very young age to set up his financial future for life. And he told Naomi that L's peculiar habits- sitting like a frog, eating only sugary things, wearing only jeans and white t-shirts- had no particular explanation. They were just part of who he was.

Naomi listened to every word and her heart filled with respect and admiration for Watari. He had put up with a lot, raising L. He was so patient with him and so ready to act at L's command, whether it be for a world-renowned case or for the cravings of his sugar-loving stomach.

"You must really love him," she said softly.

Watari's neatly-trimmed mustache twitched as he smiled proudly. "I do," he said with feeling. "I do love my boy."

And with that, he turned and headed to the common room of the apartment floor, undoubtedly to faithfully continue doing L's constant bidding.

Later that evening, Naomi returned to her own apartment after having briefed L on her mission. She felt thoughtful on this particular night. Her mind kept returning to her conversation with Watari earlier. It seemed as though he and L were all each other had in the world.

She thought back to her own upbringing. It hadn't been anything to brag about, but it had been good. She'd had a mother and a father and two brothers. She'd had friends to play with as a child. Sure, life had happened and everyone in her life had moved on- including herself- but she had the memories.

What were L's memories like?

Did he have friends? Had he ever?

Naomi stared out her window at the evening traffic and the New York City skyline.

A friend didn't sound so bad right now.

Naomi suddenly wanted more than anything in the world to pop some popcorn and watch tv with a friend. As there was no one of acquaintance anywhere near her location, she decided that L would have to do. Maybe Watari could join them too.

After all, if this was her life now, she couldn't be expected to spend every single off-hour by herself in an empty apartment. As much as she appreciated solitude, time spent in another's company was important too. And tonight, she just didn't feel like being alone.

Naomi dressed quickly into her university sweatpants and a plain, long-sleeve black t-shirt. She microwaved some kettle corn and emptied the bag into a bowl and left her apartment. Her fuzzy socked feet made their way to the other end of the hallway to L's door.

Smiling, she knocked.

"It's open."

She opened the door to find him sitting at the computer. No surprise there.

"Are you busy?" she asked.

"Not particularly," he answered without turning around. She could tell that his finger was in his mouth. "There's nothing more I can really do until the lab report comes back," he said.

"Oh. Well... can I hang out in here?"

L turned his head and swiveled in his chair just enough to look at her.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

"Oh, I'm fine!" Naomi assured him. "I just... well, I made some popcorn and... I'm not going to eat it all. And..." she shrugged. "I dunno, it's too early to sleep."

She moved to the couch and sat cross-legged on it.

"Do you want to watch some tv?" she asked brightly.

L looked at her and then back at his computer screen. On it were several case images he had already looked at a hundred times over.

"Umm... sure," he responded, though he seemed unsure.

He climbed up next to her on the couch and assumed his strange way of sitting.

Naomi picked up the bowl of popcorn and held it out to him, shaking it slightly. "Here, have some!"

"No- thank you, though," L turned the offer down. "I've never cared for popcorn."

"Oh, it's kettle corn."


"Kettle corn," Naomi explained. "It's good!" She shook the bowl a little more. "Try it! It's sweet, you'll like it."

L seemed to be considering it, but hesitantly. At length, he took one piece between his thumb and index finger and stared at it intently through narrowed grey eyes before placing it on his tongue. He looked sideways at Naomi, as if to say "this had better be good," before zipping his tongue back into his mouth like a lizard.

Naomi waited. This was kind of fun.

"Hm," he said finally. "That's actually not bad."

Naomi grinned. "Told ya."

She picked up the remote and flipped on the tv.

"What do you like to watch?" she asked.

L lifted his bony shoulders in a shrug. "I watch the news sometimes."

Naomi laughed a little. "Everyone watches the news. What else?"

L had taken another single piece of popcorn and was examining it like it was some sort of specimen.

"I like tennis," he offered simply.

He tipped his head back and flicked the popcorn into the air. It landed directly in his mouth.

"Oh yeah, tennis can be interesting! Let me see if I can find a match in the sports channels..."

Oddly enough, she did find one. Some sort of tournament.

They sat together, eating popcorn and watching tv.

Like friends.

Watari entered the apartment, unnoticed. He observed them there, sitting side by side on the couch, flipping popcorn onto their tongues, and wondered...

He wondered if he'd ever seen L so easily pulled away from his computer just to spend time with another person.

He wondered if he'd ever seen that glint of a smile in the boy's tired eyes the way he did right now as he looked at the pretty Japanese girl in the sweatpants and ponytail.

And he wondered painfully if what he was seeing was one-sided.

Because, although he hadn't known Naomi long enough to tell, he knew his quirky boy better than anyone.

And, looking at him tonight, Watari's father heart knew what even L himself didn't know yet.



Chapter 6: Him

The soft summer sunshine of early morning poured into the living room window, casting a golden glow on the fluffy rug. Naomi stood, sipping her coffee, and watching contentedly as the city of Paris woke up.

It had been nearly six months ago that she had received L's phone call and, as it turned out, they were a dynamic team. Justice prevailed on their watch and dozens of cases had been closed, thanks to their efforts. She had wondered early on if she would regret her decision to devote her career to L, but now she knew it was the best decision she'd ever made. She loved her job.

It had been an adjustment, to be sure. Whereas L's efforts always produced outstanding results, his methods were far from conventional and never by the book. And, his detective work aside, his quirks and lifestyle were something to get used to as well.

Naomi had not realized going into this that she was going to be working for a chronic insomniac. L would stay awake for nearly a hundred hours- sometimes more- and then would sleep for nearly a whole day. And when exactly he would fall asleep was completely unpredictable.

In fact, he was sleeping now and he had been for about 15 hours.

Naomi thought back to the first time he had fallen asleep without warning in front of her. It had happened on her third day of working for L. She had been sitting on the couch reading a police report and he had been perched at the computer...

"L? Something in this report doesn't make sense."

No reply.

"It's just that when you compare it to the- hold on, let me show you." She stood and crossed over to the desk chair. She was about to continue speaking but stopped herself when she saw him.

L sat as he normally did in the chair, his bare feet one on top of the other. His head had dropped, his crazy mop of hair flopped over to one side, and his chin rested on his chest, which was rising and falling slowly and rhythmically. An empty coffee cup was held in both his hands and his swollen, darkened eyes were closed in sleep.


Naomi looked over to the other side of the room to see Watari beckoning. She moved quietly over to him.

"Is he alright?" she asked, her voice low.

"He's fine," Watari answered, "but he likely won't wake up until tomorrow."

Naomi looked at the clock. It was only two-thirty in the afternoon.

"Oh. Is this... normal?"

Watari nodded. "Quite," he answered.

And that's how it always was: spontaneous and without much warning, though Naomi had picked up on a few tell-tale hints. For instance, his breathing would become slower and heavier and he would begin absentmindedly sighing out loud. Also, he would begin rubbing the back of his neck. When he started doing those things, Naomi knew he'd be asleep very soon. She'd started gently suggesting that he move to the couch when she saw those behaviors, figuring he'd wake up with less of a kink in his joints than if he slept for hours in a computer chair.

Naomi's phone buzzed loudly on the end table next to her and she jumped slightly, having been lost in her thoughts. Speak of the devil. It was a text from Watari that L was up.

Naomi slipped her black boots on over her jeans and exited her bedroom. They were staying in a house and she had the second floor to herself.

She descended the stairs to find L positioned on the living room floor in a crow pose, his palms flat on the floor and his knees tucked into the bends of his arms with his feet in the air. L usually did a few minutes of yoga upon waking up to loosen his muscles.

"Morning," she greeted, taking a seat in one of the two chairs at the desk with her coffee.

"Morning," he replied, slowly lifting his feet up over his head. His arms didn't wobble even slightly. His shirt dropped to his chin as he straightened his arms into a handstand.

"Can you do that one-handed?" Naomi asked, just for fun.

L didn't answer, but he shifted his weight to his right side and stuck his left arm out sideways.

"Nice," Naomi said, smiling casually, and took another sip of coffee. Slight as he was, he was strong.

"Did you finish comparing the photographs?" L asked, referring to a case they were working on. His left hand had returned to the floor. He was still upside-down and now, his elbows slightly bent, he was doing a scissor-split in the air. He was quite the contortionist.

"Yes I did and they all match up," Naomi replied. She finished her coffee and stood to take the mug to the kitchen.

Just as she did, though, L, his palms flat on the ground, swung his feet to the floor in a back bend, his bare foot nearly kicking her in the face.

"Woah!" Naomi stopped herself just in time to keep from toppling over him.

"Naomi, watch where you're going," L's voice said calmly from below.

Naomi lowered her eyelids in annoyance. She flippantly gestured toward L in his upward-facing bow pose and sassed back, "Well, thanks for the lovely view!"

She was referring to his scrawny raised torso and her more-than-necessary view of his boxers.

L pushed off of his hands to roll into a standing position and looked at her with dark-rimmed eyes. His normally paper-white face was slightly flushed from being upside-down.

"What?" He genuinely seemed confused by her snark.

Naomi shook her head, smiling. He wasn't good with jokes.

She brushed past him toward the kitchen.

"The photos are on the desk," she said over her shoulder.

L rolled his shoulders a few times and cracked his neck loudly on both sides before heading to the desk to assume his knees-up stance on the chair.

Watari was in the kitchen donned in a black suit and tie and a blue and white apron. He was mixing some sort of batter.

"Good morning, Agent Misora," he greeted pleasantly.

"Good morning!" Naomi replied, smiling. She moved to the sink to wash her mug. "What are you making today?"

Before Watari could answer, L suddenly appeared at the kitchen doorway, seeming to have run the distance.

"It's him!" was all he said quickly before darting away.

But no one in the room needed more information than that. In a hurried frenzy, the three dashed out to the parking deck. L practically dove into the passenger seat and Naomi slid into the backseat as Watari tossed a duffel bag inside with her.

"Drive, Watari!" L shouted, using only his left hand to type an address into the car's GPS.

And drive he did.

Watari peeled out of the parking space and Naomi, who was frantically digging in the duffel bag and not wearing a seatbelt, lost her balance and tipped over. She righted herself and pulled out a men's black dress shirt.

L flung his white shirt back at her and she tossed him the black one.

Naomi was digging through the bag again when his jeans hit her in the face.

"Misora!" he yelled.

"I'm looking! I can't find- oh, here!" She threw him a pair of grey dress pants just as Watari turned a sharp corner, making her tip over again. Her head was spinning with nervousness and excitement, though being excited about what was happening was rather morbid.

But she couldn't help it. It was in her blood. After two months of dead ends trailing a serial killer, it was thrilling to finally have some potential new clues to investigate. Maybe this time, they'd get him.

He was known as The Bishop.

His victims appeared in various abandoned locations. The corpses, their throats neatly slit, were always found lying on their backs and surrounded by lit candles with a crucifix placed ceremoniously in their hands over their heart.

After hitting a brick wall again and again, following the previous murder, L had declared that he would be personally visiting the next crime scene. In order for this to work, however, they would have to go undercover. It was decided that L and Naomi would pose as agents who were working for L.

And in the interest of getting to the scene of the crime as quickly as possible, L had made the decision to make his appearance more professional than he normally did.

L had quite the knack for becoming an entirely different person for the sake of a mission and Naomi had to hold back a snicker looking at him now. He was so out of his element with his black dress shirt tucked in to pin-striped pants and a belt.

He had also put on sunglasses and was holding the end of a flat, red lollipop between his thumb and index finger. Apparently, not even a top-priority undercover mission could separate L from his sweets.

Naomi handed him his dress shoes.

"Are you really not going to wear socks?" she asked, already knowing what the answer would be.

He turned to look at her, his narrowed giant eyes peering over the rims of the sunglasses. The lollipop was tucked in his cheek. The stick flopped up and down and the hard candy knocked against his teeth as he spoke.

"Naomi, I will go to great lengths to solve a crime," he said importantly as he finished buttoning the top buttons of his shirt. "In fact, I've done a lot that would probably surprise you. But!" he said, holding up one finger and turning to shove his bare feet into the shoes, "I will not wear socks."

He said it with such conviction that Naomi wondered what on earth had spawned such hatred toward something as ordinary as socks.

But this was not the time to dwell on this. The car came to a halt in front of a house that looked as though it hadn't been lived in for quite some time. French police cars with their colored lights twirling and yellow caution tape had already been set up to block off the area. Naomi handed L the finishing touches to his ensemble- a grey blazer and a fake ID- and stuffed her own falsified badge into her jacket pocket as she stepped out of the car.

L shoved his arms awkwardly into the suit jacket sleeves and, looking thoroughly uncomfortable, jammed his hands into his pants pockets. His sunglasses and lollipop stick extending from his mouth paired with his flip floppy hair and bad posture to create quite the character.

As they approached the scene, Naomi flashed him a smile and quipped, "You clean up nice, Sir."

"Shut up," L muttered, using his tongue to switch the lollipop to the other cheek.

A scruffy, stout police officer approached them with an outstretched palm, speaking in French. Naomi did not speak the language but knew that he was informing them that the area was off-limits.

L held up his fake ID and began speaking in fluent French. She heard him use his alias "Ryuzaki" and she thought she heard "L" in there somewhere. The police officer took L's badge and Naomi offered hers as well.

The officer studied the badges. His facial expression changed from suspicious to mildly impressed.

"Le célèbre détective, L, hein? Hmm."

He then looked directly at Naomi. He seemed to be checking her out. Smiling, he said something she didn't understand but his tone indicated that he was hitting on her.

"Oh, je ne parle pas Français," she said curtly, with a slight wave of her hand.

The police officer didn't take his eyes off of her as he returned the badges. He rubbed his scratchy face before turning to L and making some sort of suggestive-sounding remark.

Naomi rolled her eyes and looked to L for support.

But L grinned mischievously, his teeth stained red from the candy. It was a little creepy. He made a cocky-sounding reply, gesturing with his lollipop in Naomi's direction.

The two men broke into noisy laughter. The officer clapped L on the back and lifted the yellow tape. The smile on L's face vanished abruptly.

Naomi put her hand on her hip and opened her mouth to ask what in the world was going on but L nudged her back to start walking. They ducked under the tape and proceeded toward the house.

"Okay, Ryuzaki, what was that?" she queried in a bothered tone.

L shrugged, hunched over again with his hands stuffed in his pockets. "Nothing. He... complemented you. I did the same. It got us through quickly."

"/Ew/, what did you say?" Naomi insisted. "And I have a feeling 'complemented' is the wrong word to use, isn't it?"

When he didn't answer again, she stopped walking and reached over to snatch the lollipop out of his mouth.

"Ow!" he complained, putting a hand to his teeth.

Naomi smirked. She stood blocking his path and holding the lollipop up like a mother who had just taken a treat away from her child.

"Tell me what you said to that pervert," she stubbornly demanded.

She could see L's eyes a little from behind his sunglasses. He didn't look pleased.

"Naomi," he began, his voice calm but transparently irritated. "I am not telling you what I said. Do not ask me again. We work together and it would be... uncomfortable. Please understand that I will do and say whatever it takes to get me the information I need in a timely manner, and right now, you are actively preventing me from getting that information. Furthermore, your petty emotional intrigue is currently eliminating whatever time I may have saved us back there, so please, Agent Misora... Step. Aside."

His voice remained low but it was the closest L had ever come to yelling at her.

Naomi swallowed and nodded. She and L had become so candid with one another, what with all the time they spent together, that she had lost sight of the fact that he was still her superior and her boss- not to mention the legendary world's greatest detective.

"I'm sorry, Sir," she apologized, her head dropping and her cheeks burning. She knew L didn't require her to use the formal address but it felt appropriate at the moment. She stepped aside meekly.

As he walked past her, hands in his pockets, he used his mouth to retrieve the lollipop from her hand and stepped into the house. Naomi followed behind him, determined to restore L's faith in her as a professional agent.

As they entered the house and showed their badges to the necessary personnel, Naomi was reminded once again how much respect the mere mention of the name "L" merited. Police men and women stepped aside as L's agents were led upstairs and into a small room with wood flooring. The room was empty, save for the carefully laid out body of a young woman and the few dozen candles surrounding her.

The flames had been put out, but everything else remained untouched and a police officer was placing evidence cards around the scene. He was asked to leave the room by the officer in charge and L and Naomi thereafter found themselves alone with the victim.

Naomi swallowed. Experience never made scenes like the one before her any easier to behold. The woman was young and appeared no older than 25. Her blonde hair had been carefully arranged about her shoulders and her long eyelashes rested gently on her pale, grey face. Her hands were placed over her heart holding a wooden crucifix- just like always. Were it not for the horrific, scarlet gash on her throat, she would've looked like she were only sleeping.

L handed his sunglasses to Naomi and approached the girl's body, crouching down on the floor next to her, his arms folding atop his knees. He chewed on the lollipop stick as his eyes scanned the scene, taking in every detail.

At length, he rolled forward onto his hands and feet and began sniffing the body. He sniffed her shirt and down by her knees and then back up to her shirt. It looked like he was playing a game of "hotter or colder." He seemed to find what he was looking for in the girl's hair.

"Misora," he said, returning to his frog pose. "Come here, please."

Naomi stepped over and knelt down next to L.

L gestured toward the girl's hair. "What do you smell?"

Naomi leaned forward and sniffed.

"It smells like... flowers?"

"Yes, specifically roses. What seems off about that to you?" The lollipop stick was pinched between his thumb and finger and was being vigorously chewed, despite the candy on the end of it being gone.

Naomi looked at what the girl was wearing. Khaki pants and a tucked-in polo shirt indicated that she was dressed for work. The state of the clothes pointed to her having come from a shift rather than her being on her way to one. A ketchup stain on her shirt that appeared quite new confirmed this theory.

"Her hair wouldn't smell so nice after a waitressing shift," Naomi concluded.

"That's exactly what I was thinking," L said thoughtfully, his eyes narrowing. He was trailing the lollipop stick back and forth across his bottom lip.

"Hmm." He stood up and stuffed his hands into his pockets again. He took a slow turn about the room, bending to inspect the candles and pausing a long moment to gaze out the room's single window.

Naomi realized with amusement that, all dressed up, he appeared much more like she had originally pictured him in her head, though she never would have included the lollipop or the wild hair in that mental image.

After several minutes, he turned to Naomi. The stick was tucked under his top lip like a cigarette.

"Misora, I am going to go speak to the head officer. Please give this room a thorough inspection and take photos. I'll be waiting outside when you are through."

He collected his sunglasses and walked past her. But he paused at the top of the stairs, his back curved and his hands pocketed. Without turning around, he spoke quietly.

"Naomi Misora, I should not have spoken about you in that way to the police officer. Please accept my apology."

Naomi was surprised. But she smiled. She was well aware that an apology from L was only made with the utmost sincerity.

"Of course I do, Sir. Thank you."

"Please stop calling me Sir."

And with that, he descended the stairs, leaving Naomi to do what she did best.

As she worked, she wondered for the millionth time in her career what would drive someone to do such horrible things as this. What was The Bishop's motive? What was the connection between the seemingly random choices of victims? There was no discernible pattern when it came to gender, age, race, or personal acquaintances. Was it really just coincidence?

She did her job quickly and met L downstairs when she was through. He was speaking in French with the head officer. Somehow, he had obtained another lollipop. This one was yellow.

He saw Naomi approaching and bid his farewells, turning to leave with her. As they walked toward the car, Naomi noticed a look in his eyes that she recognized. She grinned.

"You're onto something, aren't you?"

L didn't answer but he smiled a little around the lollipop in his mouth. He removed the sunglasses and placed them on top of his head.

Then he turned to face the house and walked backwards, his hands in his pockets. His dark-rimmed eyes were fixed and determined, as if he were challenging a rival. When they reached the car, he pulled the lollipop out of his mouth and pointed forcefully with it toward the house that held The Bishop's latest victim to make a parting declaration:

"Je suis la justice!"

Then he hopped inside the car, promptly kicking off his shoes.



Chapter 7: Closer

By the time they returned to the house, L was already back in his jeans and t-shirt. He went straight to the desk and hopped into the chair, pulling a bag of animal cookies out of the drawer. He opened the bag noisily and used his foot to push off of the desk, sending the swivel chair into a twirl. He stared up at the ceiling, deep in thought, as he spun round and round. His thumb and index finger transported cookies from the bag to his mouth.

Naomi set to work, hooking her phone up to the computer tower to upload the photos.

L just kept spinning beside her, using his foot to continue the momentum each time he started to slow down.

"The photos are up," Naomi said after a minute.

L placed his hand on the desk to stop spinning and rolled over closer to the computer, waving his hand toward her like he was shooing away a fly. Naomi moved over to let him sit in front of the screen.

He wasn't speaking which, in Naomi's experience, meant he just needed to think. This could take a while.

"Well, unless you need me, I'm going on a run," she announced, standing to her feet.

L answered absent-mindedly, "Alright." He flicked a bear cookie into the air and caught it on his tongue. He began typing and clicking the mouse, pausing to read things and then typing some more. He was lost in his work.

Naomi turned to leave, glad she had at least a little time for a workout. Maybe after her run, she could use one of the rooms in the nearby gym to practice her Capoeira. She was skilled in the martial art and she kept up on it. One could never be too prepared in her line of work.

The day had turned out to be a nice one. After all the excitement of that morning, it felt good to just get out and jog. Naomi was reminded again how lucky she was to be able to travel as much as she did. She took in the sights and sounds of Paris as she ran steadily along its streets.

After about an hour and a half, she had circled back to the gym. L still had not called her, so she went inside and rented out one of the rooms designed for the practicing of martial arts and the like.

But just as luck would have it, her phone rang as she was starting to stretch on the mat.

She picked up. "Yes?"

"It's L. Are you in your apartment?"

"No, I'm at the gym."

"Are you almost done?"

"Well, no... I was just about to do some Capoeira, but I can come back if you need me to."

L's voice was immediately intrigued. "Capoeira? You still do that, then?"

Naomi stretched out her leg and leaned in to grab the toe of her sneaker. "Yeah, I try to. It's usually while you're sleeping."

"Oh. Yeah that makes sense. Huh..."

Naomi could picture him running his thumb along his lip as he paused for a moment.

L continued, "Okay well... are you alone right now? I mean, did you pay for your own space?"

"Yeah, I did. It's just me." Naomi switched the phone to her other ear to stretch her other leg.

"Would you mind if I came over there?"

Naomi made a face. That was a weird request. And he had said it so casually.

"Uh... why?" she asked, laughing lightly.

"I've never seen anyone do Capoeira in person before," he said simply. "Well, except the time you kicked me down a flight of stairs. The view is a little different when you're the target."

Naomi rolled her eyes. She still couldn't believe she had done that.

"Ha-ha, very funny. Uhm... I guess? Sure. I'm in room 2. I'll tell them you're coming."

"Alrighty, see you soon." He hung up.

Naomi hung up and looked at her phone, scrunching her nose in a little scowl. L could be so random sometimes.

She finished her stretching and stood, catching the refection of herself in one of the many full-length mirrors in the room. She had ran 6 miles and so she was already a sweaty, gross mess. And she hadn't really planned on L seeing her in her workout leggings and sports tank top.

But whatever. It wasn't as though appearance was anywhere near the top of L's priority list. Still though, she took a quick minute to redo her ponytail.

As promised, she informed the front desk that she'd be joined by someone else- "a friend," she called him.

She had barely gotten started on the large punching bag in the corner of the room when L came in.

"Hey," she said, suddenly feeling awkward and self-conscious.

"Hey." He kicked off his sneakers and crossed the mat, his hands in his pockets.

"How'd you get here so fast?"

"Watari dropped me off."

"Oh, okay.."

Naomi wasn't quite sure what to do next. He was just standing there, staring with unblinking eyes in his curved posture and bare feet.

She decided to just get on with her practicing. She smiled awkwardly at L and then turned her attention to the bag. She twisted her body sideways, jumped up into the air, and lifted her right leg in a large arc, rotating into a spinning kick. The outer side of her foot collided hard with the bag and she landed upright on the other foot. She did this a couple times, each time rotating a full 360 degrees, her leg moving in a circular motion and hitting the bag with perfect accuracy every time.

L just watched, his eyes wide. Then, he spoke up.

"Can I try?"

Naomi looked at him and smiled, slightly out of breath. "Sure." She wiped her mouth with the back if her wrist, stepping aside.

He set his cell phone on the ground and shuffled up to take her position, his hands still in his pockets. He sized up the heavy bag with his eyes and slowly removed his hands.

Naomi stood smiling with her hands on her hips. This had the potential to be rather interesting.

Then, all at once, L leapt into the air, arcing his leg in a perfect spin kick. His foot crashed into the bag, causing it to swing jerkily back and forth on its squeaky metal chain. He landed crouched on his hands and feet, like a cat that had just pounced. He looked up at Naomi, whose mouth was hanging open.

"Wait. How...?" She was dumbstruck.

"I'm a lot stronger than I look," he said simply.

Naomi scoffed and lifted an upward palm toward him. "Okay, that was not the first time you've done that!" she accused.

L stood, hunching his shoulders and returning his hands to his pockets.

"Well, no," he admitted.

"Why didn't you tell me you knew Capoeira?"

He shrugged. "I don't. Well, not really. I've watched videos and I've tried it out a couple times but I don't know it as well as you do."

Naomi laughed, then gestured with both hands like she was giving him the floor. "Well, what else can you do?"

L looked at the bag again. "Well..." he said, turning to face it.

His hands came out of his pockets again and he rolled his shoulders a couple times. Then, he flipped forward onto his palms and both his legs shot up, his knees bent like a scorpion. Both his feet slammed into the bag, pushing him off into a backwards flip that landed him once again in a standing position.

Then he just looked at Naomi and shrugged.

"That's pretty good," she said, nodding. "I'm impressed."

Then she walked backwards onto the mat and put her fists up defensively.

"Try to kick me," she challenged.

L stared at her with dark-rimmed eyes. He hesitated, then walked over to stand in front of her. "Really?"

"Yeah!" Then her eyes narrowed competitively and mischievously. "...if you can."

L's hands slowly came out of their pockets.


He turned sideways, throwing her a strong high kick. She ducked smoothly out of the way, her leg kicking out to the side. She rotated in a complete circle, stopping the momentum of her kick just before it hit him. She grinned, the side of her foot pressed against his chest.

"Okay..." he muttered, nodding as she returned her foot to the floor. They each took a few steps in a counter-clockwise direction. Their eyes were locked.

Quick as a cat, he dropped to the ground and swung his leg out in a sweeping motion. She jumped to avoid the kick, and then threw herself back onto her hands, performing a sweeping kick of her own. She took out his legs and he fell hard on his back. She sprang to her feet again. Grinning, she moved to offer him her hand.

He was lying on his back with his feet on the floor and his knees up. He lifted his head to rub the back of his neck.

"Hmh... I see I have a lot to learn..." he mumbled, more to himself than to Naomi. He took her hand and she pulled him up.

At the same instant, they were both struck with déjà vu. They stood, appearing as though they were shaking hands- just as they had done in the subway a few years earlier. Neither had known then that they had just concluded the first of their many cases together...

Naomi let out her breath in a small laugh, pulling her hand away.

"Um, I can show you a few things, if you'd like," she offered.

"I'd like that." His voice couldn't exactly be described as excited but it certainly held a tone of intrigue.

"Great! Well, here we go then."

The afternoon passed quickly. Naomi discovered that L was a fast learner. Her experience landed him on the mat more often than not, but he did surprise her by knocking her to the floor a few times as well. Each time one got the better of the other, they were there with an outstretched hand to help their opponent up again. By the time the gym personnel informed them their time was up, both of them were completely out of breath with their hair sticking to their necks and foreheads.

"Well," L commented, retrieving his cell phone, "that was not a bad way to spend an afternoon." He shoved his bare feet into his sneakers.

"Yeah," Naomi agreed as they exited the room. "That was actually pretty fun!"

"Yes..." L's voice was thoughtful. "It was."

They stepped out into the fading sunshine of the late summer day.

L flipped open his phone. "Watari can be here in just a few minutes."

"What?" Naomi had started walking but stopped and turned to face him. "It's only a couple blocks. We can just walk!"

L looked at her and then back at his phone. He face looked as though he'd never considered such a thing.

Naomi waited with her hand on her hip.

L sighed and shut the phone reluctantly and returned it to his pocket. "Alright... if it's only a couple blocks."

"There ya go!" Naomi said, as he stepped up to walk beside her. "Besides, you should cool down after a workout or else you will get stiff muscles."

"Yes, I suppose you're right," L answered. Then he added with a bit of a pout, "but I'm very hungry and Watari always has food for me in the car."

Naomi pointed a little ways in front of them. "There's a pastry shop on this corner," she informed him.

L's expression lit up ever so slightly. "Okay, let's go there."

They reached the pastry shop and, as they opened the wooden door, a little bell announced their entry. The shop was a tad crowded but it smelled deliciously of freshly baked French pastries.

L took one look around and leaned in toward Naomi, his voice low. "Order to go. I've already put off talking about the case with you and it's too crowded here."

Naomi nodded in understanding as they stepped up to the counter. The girl behind the register smiled sweetly and greeted them in French. L responded in the same language.

Then, L turned to Naomi. "Do you want anything?" he asked.

"Oh... I got it," she said with a slight wave of her hand.

"It's on me, Naomi," L said, as monotone as ever. "You humored me with some helpful Capoeira tips, so it's the least I can do. Get whatever you like."

Naomi smiled at him. "Well.. alright. Just some coffee, then. Thank you."

L nodded and returned to speaking French to the girl. Using only a thumb and a finger, he pulled a beaten up wallet out of his pocket and handed the girl a debit card. He gestured toward the pastry display. "I got you a pastry," he said. "How you can come in here and not order sweets is beyond me."

Naomi laughed. "Oh, alright! They do look amazing," she admitted.

Naomi was handed a coffee and a small, white paper bag and L got a larger paper bag. He made his way over to the counter designed for customers to cream and sugar their coffee and he extracted a cake pop from the bag. And then he took out another one. He removed one cake pop from its stick and slid it onto the first one. Then, he took out a third cake pop and did the same. He did this six times and ended up with a shish kebob of cake pops, looking rather pleased with himself.

Naomi watched with thorough amusement. People were staring and a couple of them were laughing a little. L couldn't care less. He discarded the paper bag and the empty sticks and he and Naomi stepped outside again.

Naomi motioned toward the cake pop skewer as they began walking down the sidewalk again. "Well, that's... creative."

L already had a mouth full of cake. "Mmm. It's good too," he commented. He tilted his head toward her. "Try yours."

Naomi hadn't even looked in the bag yet. She opened the bag a little awkwardly, trying not to spill her coffee, and reached inside. She pulled out a small, elegant pastry topped with a strawberry glaze and garnished with a delicate mint leaf.

"Aw... thank you, L," she said sincerely.

"You said you liked strawberries," L said plainly, removing a whole cake pop from the stick and shoving it in his mouth.

Naomi was admiring the pretty dessert. "That's right, I did say that!" She took a small bite. It tasted just as good as it looked.

L and Naomi walked the rest of the way together in comfortable silence. Music from a French cafe drifted through the streets as the setting sun's soft golden rays spilled through the tree branches, casting long, lazy shadows.

Naomi found herself thinking back to that first night, meeting L- the night he had asked her if she liked strawberries. She remembered how she had so stiffly answered him and how shocked she had been at his peculiar behaviors and eating habits. And she realized, looking at him now with his cake pop kebob, that those habits no longer fazed her.

Even when he would do something new and odd, Naomi was able to quickly and easily write it off as just L being L. His quirks had come to be a part of her everyday life.

Walking beside him now, she realized how much she genuinely enjoyed spending time with him. She smiled to herself. It was nice to have a friend.

Well, maybe "friend" was the wrong word. In truth, they were employer and employee but, to Naomi at least, they felt a little closer than that. More like... partners. Partners in justice. Except he was still her boss. A boss who felt like a friend.

Naomi shook her head. This was getting too technical. She took a sip of her coffee and decided a title wasn't important.

They made a great team.

And that was enough.



Chapter 8: Recollection

Watari was surprised when he heard the front door open. He checked his phone to make sure he hadn't missed a call from L. He hadn't.

He stuck his head out of the kitchen doorway. L had kicked off his shoes and was already on his way to the desk while Naomi fussed to herself over his shoes lying haphazardly where someone could trip and fall.

"Honestly..." she muttered as she removed her athletic shoes and briskly climbed the steps to her floor. She and L had agreed to discuss the case once she'd had a shower.

Watari emptied the measuring cup of water he was holding into the coffee maker and switched it on. He retrieved a plate of assorted sweets from the refrigerator and moved into the living room to where L was seated in his crouched position at the desk.

"Did you walk home?" he asked.

"Yes," L replied, already surveying the sweets Watari had placed before him.

Watari chuckled. "That was her idea, wasn't it?"

L had selected an eclair with chocolate frosting. He held it delicately, as he always did, and took a big bite. He answered with his mouth full.

"Yes, and now I'm starving." A second bite was all it took to finish off the eclair and he reached for another one immediately.

Watari looked toward the stairs where Naomi had disappeared to, and then back at L. The detective was noisily licking chocolate off his fingers. It would seem as though nothing had changed.

But something was different.

Watari had known L since he was just a little thing. A peculiar child with large, sunken eyes and a tiny mouth that rarely smiled, L had always been most content parked in front of a computer for hours on end. A tray of sweets and the challenge of a difficult puzzle were the only two things in the world that had ever truly made his dark eyes light up. And so he remained into adulthood.

Naturally then, Watari had been surprised to see L slipping his sneakers on that afternoon- especially since they had already gone out that morning. Outings were rare enough for L. But two in one day?

"Watari, would you drive me to the gym down the street?"

"Of course, Ryuzaki, but what for? Is there a new case?"

"No." L had one hand on the wall for balance. He brought his foot up and used his other hand to pull the shoe over his sockless heel. He spoke so casually, as if this was not totally out of the ordinary for him. "Naomi Misora is practicing Capoeira and I'd like to see how it's done in person."

Watari raised his white eyebrows.

L stood upright again and shoved his hands innocently into his pockets. He stared at Watari and wondered why the old man was hesitating.

"So... Can we go?"

Watari stepped forward then to collect the keys. "Of course."

Nothing was atypical about the short drive to the gym. L sat knees-up in the back seat and busied himself with a bag of gummy bears. Watari was quiet, as he usually was.

The car pulled up in front of the gym and L hopped out, using his foot to shut the door behind him. Hands pocketed, he bent down by the driver's side door and Watari pressed the button to lower the window.

"I'll call you," L said simply.


Like a father dropping his boy off at school, Watari watched as the closest thing he had to a son shuffled up the sidewalk and into the large, brick building. He sat for a moment before putting the car in drive and turning it around to return to the apartment.

He had dropped L off at one place or another more times than he could count. But the vast majority of the time, it was for a case. It had been a long time since L had requested a ride to a location simply for his own interest.

Come to think of it, the last time had been about two and a half years ago, at the conclusion of the BB Case, when L had asked Watari to drive him to a particular subway station in Los Angeles...

Watari hadn't been waiting for L for very long when he saw him returning from the entrance of the metro station. During the drive home, he kept noticing L pressing a hand to his shoulder and rolling it a bit, wincing as he did so.

"Are you alright?" Watari asked, glancing in the rear-view mirror.

"Yes," L replied plainly, still rubbing his shoulder. Then he added under his breath, "She kicks harder than I thought..."


"Naomi Misora. She kicked me."

L said it so simply. Like there was nothing whatsoever unusual about that. He dropped his head back onto the backseat but snapped it back up again, putting a hand to the back of his head.

"Ahh-hah, oww!" He looked at his hand. There was blood on his fingertips.

Watari noticed and tried to hide the concern in his voice. "And just how many times did she kick you, exactly?"

"Just once. But I fell down the stairs."

Again, L was casually speaking as though what had just happened was an everyday occurrence. He used his non-bloodied hand to tug at the collar of his shirt, first to one side and then the other, glancing at his shoulders as he did so. Raised red marks in the shapes of size 7 boots were already turning various shades of blue and purple.

Watari said nothing more but was prompt in tending to the injuries when they returned home. L protested but Watari rarely insisted so he reluctantly allowed it.

"She got you pretty good, didn't she?"

L was hunched backwards in a chair with his forehead resting on the back of it while Watari examined the spot on the back of his head that had taken a beating from the concrete steps. Two ice packs rested on his bony shoulders.

"I expected her to." L's voice was muffled as his face was buried in his knees. "But still..." he said, bringing his hands up to hold onto the back of the chair and lifting his chin to rest on them. "I admit it was a little more than I had predicted."

Watari pressed a medicated cloth to L's head. It stung and L's face scrunched.

"I wonder, Watari..." L began thoughtfully. But his voice trailed off, as though his thoughts weren't organized enough yet to say them out loud. "Hmm..." He lifted a hand to his mouth and started biting his thumbnail.

"All done," Watari said after a moment. He removed the ice packs and L stood up. He still seemed deep in thought.

As Watari was leaving the room with the medical supplies, L spoke his name. Watari turned. "Yes?"

L looked at him directly, his elbows bent and his hands resting on his now very sore neck and shoulders.

"I'd like to begin keeping track of Agent Misora. I think I'll be contacting her again in the future."

"Very well."

Watari was lost in this very memory when L returned from the gym with Naomi. After he set him up with his sweets and coffee, he returned to the kitchen to frost the cake that had been cooling on the counter.

Why on earth he was so nostalgic today, he couldn't really say. But, to the only father L had ever known, it was strange to see him setting work aside- even if only for an hour or so- just to do something fun. Especially with another person.

Was Naomi simply someone with just the right interests that L merely enjoyed the same things she did? Or was there something more there? Watari wasn't sure yet how he felt about that possibility. A heartbroken L was not something he ever wanted to deal with. The boy was closed off enough as it was.

Watari continued to frost the cake and tried not to think about it too much. He told himself he was just reading into things. That he was being overprotective.

And that was probably true.

But no one knew L better than he did. It had been sixteen years since Watari- or Quillish Wammy as he had been before the adoption of his alias- had stepped into the British social service office, just as he had done so many times before.

There was another boy for his orphanage, they said. Around eight years old, his name and history were unknown. He was different. Strange. No one wanted him. He'd been handed over from another orphanage. He didn't get along with the other children and it caused problems, they said.

Quillish Wammy just nodded and asked to see him. He was led to a small room with a long table surrounded by several chairs. And crouched in the corner on the floor was a little boy with a full head of untamed black hair and milk-white skin. He didn't appear scared, though. He just sat calmly as if he were simply more comfortable there.

Wammy removed his hat and stepped over to kneel in front of the child.

"Hello," he said, extending his hand. "I'm Mr. Wammy. What's your name?"

The boy didn't answer but, after a brief hesitation, he did shyly reach out to lightly shake the older man's hand. His eyes were wide and yet very tired. So very tired. It was as if the eyes of someone who had already lived a lifetime belonged to this little boy with the bare feet and the plain clothes that were far too big for his tiny frame.

Watari could still see it all so clearly in his mind's eye.

The nameless orphan who had grown up to be the world's greatest detective had come to mean more to him than anything. He was a young man whose deductive abilities surpassed those of all others. He was the mysterious, famous, brilliant L. A part of Wammy would always proudly consider him his greatest invention. A weapon of his own making to wage war on the injustices of the world. But above all, the sugar-loving, bare-footed, quirky, introverted insomniac was his boy.

To the world, he was a covert phenomenon represented by a single letter but to Quillish Wammy- to the only human being who had ever truly known him- he was loved.

And as Watari finished frosting the cake, he heard Naomi coming down the stairs and wondered fleetingly with just the smallest glint of hope if someone else could ever learn to love him too.



Chapter 9: Pursuit

"Is there any coffee left?"

Naomi was running her fingers through her wet hair as she stood in the kitchen doorway.

Watari put down the frosting knife and reached for the coffee pot. "There is," he replied warmly. He proceeded to pour her a mug and added just the right amount of cream and sugar.

Naomi smiled. "Thank you, Watari," she said as she accepted the steaming mug. "I actually had coffee on the way home, but something tells me it could be a late night," she remarked, glancing in the direction of the living room. She took a long sip, the combination of the hot beverage and her cold, wet hair making her shiver.

Watari smiled in response. "I'm glad you had a nice afternoon," he commented.

Naomi tipped her head. "It was nice," she said thoughtfully. "Thanks again for the coffee!"

She turned and made her way into the living room.

L was stacking chocolate sandwich cookies on the desk while looking at something on the computer screen. The tower was about 7 or 8 cookies high and wobbled as he placed another on top of it.

Naomi sat down in the chair next to L and brought her feet up to sit cross-legged. She held the mug with both hands and leaned forward with her elbows on her knees.

"Alright, what have we got?" she asked.

L cast a glance in her direction, his finger and thumb hovering a cookie over the edible tower.

"Well," he began, delicately placing the cookie on the stack, "I believe we may have met The Bishop this morning."

Naomi's eyes widened. "Are you serious? When? Who?"

L leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms atop his bent knees. "When I went outside ahead of you, I noticed that the policeman who had been standing guard at the border of the crime scene was no longer there. And, when I asked about him, no one seemed to know who I was talking about. I requested a list of all the officers who had been sent to the scene this morning and look-" He leaned forward again and used the mouse to scroll down a list of names and photos. "He's not here."

Naomi placed the coffee cup on the desk and rolled the chair closer, looking intently at the computer screen. "Oh my gosh... you're right! So that scruffy, pervy guy is our serial killer? Ugh!" She shivered again but this time, it wasn't from cold. The idea that they had been standing so close to the murderer without knowing it gave her the creeps.

"Yes, it's very likely," L replied, eyeing the vertical pile of sandwich cookies. He reached his long arm out and flicked his index finger, toppling the tower over. He picked up a cookie and put the whole thing in his mouth. With his mouth full, he added, "In fact, I am about 70 percent sure of it."

"Okay, well, who is this guy? How do we find him?" Naomi picked up her mug again and clutched it tightly.

"Well, tomorrow I'd like you to speak with a forensic artist- I assume you got a good look at his face?"

Naomi nodded. "Yes, very."

"Good. But first things first," L said calmly, holding up another cookie like he was examining a coin. "If we can continue researching the victims, details connected to their identities could lead us to the killer. Now that we have a face to work with, we have a useful tool for cross-referencing information."

"Did the most recent victim provide any new information regarding a connection with the others?" Naomi asked.

"Mm." L's mouth was full again. "Her hair."

Naomi thought for a second, then remembered. "It smelled like roses."

"Yes." L swallowed and continued, "Her hair contained an oily substance, some kind of hair perfume. It is likely that the killer added the fragrance himself as a personal touch, perhaps to satisfy a fetish or for sentimental reasons." L draped one arm over the back of the chair and selected another cookie, spinning it like a dreidel on the desktop. He watched as it rotated and toppled and added, "It is only relevant, however, if the other victims have the same substance in their hair, so I have made arrangements for that to be confirmed."

"You're going to... dig up the bodies?" Naomi was aware that sometimes such measures had to be taken. Still though, it was unsettling to disturb those who had already been laid to rest. "So, we just need to wait for consent from the families, then."

The cookie in L's hand stopped halfway to his mouth. "No, that takes too much time. My team should be finished with the extractions and running the tests as we speak." He tipped his head back and dropped the cookie into his mouth. "Omm."

Naomi's eyebrows furrowed uneasily. "But that's... illegal."

L's eyes narrowed and he sighed loudly. "Misora, legality is simply a man-made set of rules. Rules that I, at times, must be above. If I did everything according to the rules, a lot less would be accomplished." He spoke the words, not as though to defend himself, but rather with an air of laid-back importance.

Naomi opened her mouth to protest but then shut it again. There was nothing she could do now. Instead, she cleared her throat and asked, "Did you find anything in the photos I took?"

L had removed the top of one of the sandwich cookies and was licking the icing in the center of it. "Mm... Not upon first inspection but..."


"...I'd like you to compare your photos with the ones sent over from the police report."

Lick. Lick.

Naomi acknowledged the order and stood to move over to the couch where her laptop was sitting. L began working on some algorithms that would provide new methods of cross-referencing the victims and their families. They worked in silence. Every so often, Watari appeared to present a new tray of sweets.

Naomi had a system when it came to comparing photos. She used a program to line up the police photos side by side with the ones she had taken herself. She began with photos of the victim, lining up pictures displaying various angles and close-ups on every little detail. Then, she ordered them by sections of the room. There were wide shots of the entire scene, the view outside the window, and more close-ups on things like the candles. Everything seemed to match up until she came across a particular photo she had taken herself.

It was a close-up photo of the floorboards in the Northwest corner of the room. Although no fingerprints or footprints had been found at the scene, Naomi had discovered three small, circular marks, about the size of an American quarter, in a triangle on the floor. They were spaced evenly, about half a meter apart from each other.

But there was no such photo in the police report. In fact, upon closer inspection, she realized that there were no photographs whatsoever of the Northwest corner of the room.

"I think I've got something," Naomi said slowly, scrolling with her finger on the mousepad to double check if she'd missed anything. She was sitting with her ankles crossed on the coffee table and the laptop settled on her stretched-out legs.

L swiveled to face her, a small plate of cake in his hands. "What is it?"

Naomi turned the laptop so he could see the screen. "I photographed these strange marks on the floor but the police seem to have missed that detail. In fact, they've missed an entire section of the room."

L stuck his neck out and stared at the screen intently. "Well," he said at length, "either someone is slacking on their job or someone is tampering with evidence."

Naomi raised her eyebrows. "Could it be the phony policeman?"

L didn't answer right away. He finished the cake in a single bite and set the plate on the desk before standing and moving to hop up onto the couch next to Naomi.

"Show me the photos again?" he requested.

Naomi scrolled down the page displaying her side-by-side comparisons. L's eyes were fixed on the screen as he chewed on his thumbnail. Finally, he spoke.

"Misora, I'd like you to return to the crime scene. Look for anything that may be different from the way things were this morning. We may be on to something if we can show that someone is removing data from the police reports."

"Right now?" Naomi looked at the clock. It was almost midnight.

"Yes, we cannot afford to lose time. Watari will go with you and take your gun just to be safe. Call me when you're at the scene."

Naomi nodded and stood. L handed her a key to the abandoned house that he had obtained that morning. She retrieved her handgun and a flashlight from her apartment upstairs and she and Watari headed out to the car.

Within a few minutes, they were pulling up in front of the deserted house. Police tape still lined the perimeter but there was no one else around.

Watari remained in the car as Naomi stepped out and shut the door. She fitted the Bluetooth earpiece onto her ear that would connect her to both L and Watari simultaneously. She nodded at Watari who nodded back. He was armed as well and would stand guard outside.

Naomi held the gun and the flashlight up in front of her as she made her way to the front door. The electricity in the house was turned off and so she had only her flashlight to rely on. She took the key out of her jacket pocket and unlocked the door. It opened with a rusty creak.

She stepped into the house and scanned each room on the ground floor, gun and light held out before her. When she was sure that all was clear, she headed upstairs to do the same thing. She shone the light into each room, confirming that she was alone in the house, and made her way to where the young waitress had been found early that morning.

The body and the candles had been removed by the police and the room was completely empty. The faint, blue moonlight beamed in from the window, casting a rectangle on the floor over the tape outlining where the victim had lain.

Naomi dialed L's number and heard the ringing through the earpiece. He picked up.

"Misora. Are you at the crime scene?"

"Yes," Naomi spoke with her voice low, even though there was really no reason to. The eerie darkness seemed to call for it.

"And Watari? Are you in on the call?"

"Yes, I'm here," Watari confirmed.

"Good." L spoke as though he had candy in his mouth. "Agent Misora, tell me what you see."

Naomi knelt down in the corner where she had discovered the strange circular marks and tucked the gun into the back of her jeans. She held the flashlight up by her shoulder, the beam of light pointing down at the floorboards. But there were no markings.

"They're gone," she said, her voice still low.

"What are gone?" L questioned.

"The markings... I photographed them this morning, but..." She reached out and ran her other hand over the rough wood flooring. "...they've been scrubbed away..." She looked at her fingertips and rubbed them together. They were damp.

Suddenly her shoulders straightened and she was all at once very alert. Still in a kneeling position, she turned on the soles of her boots and shone the flashlight in all corners of the room.

"Misora? What is it?"

Naomi swallowed hard. "He's here," she whispered.


"The floor is still wet, I think he's still here."

Slowly, she rose to a standing position and reached back to grab ahold of her gun again. She held it and the flashlight out in front of her as she silently made her way back to the doorway of the small room.

"Misora, please be careful," L's voice advised.

She didn't answer. Standing with her back against the wall adjoining the doorway and the flashlight pointed at the floor, she could see into the room across the hall. The light from a passing vehicle briefly illuminated the tall windows. A shadowy figure was concealed in the curtains.

Naomi's breath caught in her throat. She had no way of knowing if the suspect was armed.

"I have eyes on him." Her voice was so low, it was nearly undetectable.

"I'm sending backup," L responded.

Naomi's heartbeat was pulsing in her ears. She shut her eyes and took a few deep breaths in preparation. Then, she whirled around and stuck just her arms out of the doorway, pointing the light and the Glock toward the window in the next room.

"Come out slowly with your hands up!" she called out.

There was no response.

Naomi was about to repeat herself when she heard the whooshing sound of a sliding glass door. The light from another passing vehicle revealed the silhouette of the person behind the curtains leaping off of the second story balcony.

Dropping the flashlight and holding the gun down with both hands, Misora dashed across the hall into the next room. She stopped herself abruptly when she reached the edge of the balcony and looked down to see the form of a stout man sprinting away down the back alley. Without hesitation, she flipped herself over the cast iron railing. She landed on both feet and broke into a run.

"I'm in pursuit of the suspect!"

The man was a ways ahead of her but Naomi was fast.

"Keep on him, Misora!" L instructed firmly. "Watari, use the GPS in the Bluetooth to head him off!"

Naomi ran hard, her elbows bent like an Olympic racer and her long hair streaming out behind her. She was gaining on him. Just as she was about to catch up, the man sharply turned a corner. Misora followed close behind.

She rounded the corner and instantly, a blinding pain crashed into her jaw. She flew backwards and landed hard on the pavement.

Her head was spinning. The starry night sky above her blurred and swirled like she was looking through a kaleidoscope. She could hear L's voice saying her name through the earpiece, but it sounded hollow and far away. In the distance, she heard police sirens approaching. A shadowy figure appeared in her window of vision and a boot lifted to hover above her head.

And then everything went black.



Chapter 10: Focus

"Agent Misora."

The elderly man's voice was distorted and hollow, like it was coming from the other end of a long, metallic tunnel.

Where am I?

"Watari, how is she?"

That's L's voice.

Naomi's head had the sensation of having been pumped full of helium. Everything felt like it was moving- kind of like when her brothers used to spin her on the merry-go-round at the playground but with the warped perception of a carnival fun house mirror.

Am I dreaming?

"She's pretty beat up, Ryuzaki. She's been hit in the head multiple times. Agent Maki, can you hear me?" Watari switched to using her alias.

The voices were starting to sound clearer, like they were coming towards her in the tunnel. Her eyelids began to flutter and her memory began to return.

He was there. He got away...

"She's coming around."

"Is her earpiece still in?"


"Misora, it's L. Can you hear me?"

I can hear you.

Naomi wanted to answer but all that came out was a small groan... No, it was more like a squeak. She felt dizzy and nauseous and the entire left side of her face throbbed. She slowly forced her eyes to open. The night sky above her blurred and spiraled like a Van Gogh painting and the walls of the buildings on either side of her were bedazzled with red and blue police lights.

Watari spoke softly, "How are you?"

"W- Watari, he-" Naomi started to sit up but the old man placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Don't try to sit up just yet."

It was just as well. Another wave of nausea and a searing pain in her head made Naomi more than happy to lie back down.

L's voice came through the earpiece again. "I've sent a paramedic to the scene. They should arrive within a few minutes."

Naomi was awake now and remembering everything.

She struggled to speak. "He... he got away..." her own voice sounded strange and echoey in her ringing ears.

"We'll talk about it when you come home, Naomi. Try not to talk." There was a hint of concern in L's tone and Naomi felt grateful that she wasn't expected to give a report just yet.

She closed her eyes again and allowed herself to rest while Watari stayed at her side and spoke with the police.

Apparently, it had been a brick that the suspect had used to smack her in the jaw. It was found lying nearby, but he must have been wearing gloves, as fingerprint powder revealed nothing.

"How bad does it look?" she asked, her eyes still closed. Everything was still spinning. She felt seasick.

Watari put a hand reassuredly on her arm. "Not as bad as it feels, I'm sure."

Naomi couldn't tell if he was being honest or just kind. But she didn't press further.

At length, the paramedics arrived and, nearly three hours later, Naomi found herself sitting on the edge of an emergency room cot holding an ice pack to the side of her face. She'd been diagnosed with a concussion and a fractured jaw.

The bottom left side of her face was swollen red and purple and two thin, white steri strips barely did anything to hide the angry little gash beneath them. The rough surface of the brick had left behind some minor scratches as well. There was a large, swelled bruise on the side of her head too, which was causing her left eye to be slightly less open than the other. But the CT scan had come back clean and now, she was just waiting to be discharged.

Naomi heard footsteps approaching and Watari's voice came from the other side of the curtain.

"Agent Maki? Can we come in?"

"Yes, come in." Her answer was mumbled as a result of the ice pack.

Watari opened the curtain with a "Shhnnk" and, to Naomi's surprise, L stepped into the little enclosure.

She lowered the ice pack slowly.

He moved to stand in front of her, his hands pocketed. He tilted his head and his large, dark eyes traveled over her injuries.

"How are you feeling?" he asked.

"Awesome," Naomi replied groggily. She smiled bravely as best she could.

One corner of L's mouth lifted into a small smile in return. "Well, you look terrible," he said frankly.

The look on Watari's face suggested he wanted to smack the boy upside the head.

Naomi took the brutal honesty playfully. She shrugged. "Can you blame me?"

"No..." L responded, not taking his eyes off her. Then, unexpectedly, he stepped forward, reaching his hand out, and placed a finger gently under her chin. Naomi stiffened as he bent down slightly and studied her injured jawline.

She was suddenly very aware that his face was extremely close to hers.

"...yeah, he hit you pretty hard," L commented, taking a step back and returning his hand to his pocket. "Does it hurt much?"

Naomi relaxed again. "It does, but they gave me pain killers that should kick in soon. I just want to sleep now."

Just as she said this, the nurse returned and, shortly thereafter, they were headed out to the car again. The sun was just starting to come up.

The quiet drive home was a sleepy blur. Naomi had never wanted her bed so badly. She told herself over and over, "Just hang on a few more minutes, and then you can sleep..."

When they reached the house, she shuffled in a daze up the sidewalk. She felt a hand take her arm and thought it was Watari until she looked up to see him unlocking the front door ahead of her. She turned to see that it was L at her side. Hunched over as always, he had one hand in his pocket and the other one on her elbow.

"Oh, you don't have to-"

Before she could finish, everything tilted. She stopped walking and shook her head lightly, blinking.

Woah. Those pain meds were kicking in.

"Are you okay?" L asked.

"I'm just so out of it..." Her words were beginning to slur.

L's hand tightened protectively. "I've got you," he said simply.

They made it into the house and up the stairs. By the time they reached her bedroom door, Naomi's head was pounding and the nauseousness had returned. She was thankful for L's support, lest she tumble down the stairs and injure herself further.

L turned to her. "Are you good from here?"

Naomi just nodded. She was hurting pretty badly now, despite the medication.

L's hand stayed on her arm for another minute.

He spoke in a low tone, considerate of her aching head. "Get some rest and sleep as long as you need to."

He slowly let go of her arm, watching her closely. Then his eyes dropped to the floor and his hand moved to scratch the back of his head before returning to his pocket. He hesitated, lifting his thin shoulders awkwardly. Then, he added in an even quieter voice, "I'm glad you're okay."

Naomi smiled weakly. She couldn't keep her eyes open any longer. She responded with a "thank you" that was barely a whisper before entering her room and shutting the door.

The early morning sunshine spilled in through the window, but Naomi shut it out with her room-darkening shades. She managed to remove her boots but didn't bother changing out of her clothes. Thoroughly exhausted and so very sore, she crawled beneath the covers and, almost instantly, sleep claimed her.


L descended the stairs, two at a time, his hands in his jeans pockets like always. He headed straight to the desk and hopped into the chair, swiveling to face the computer. Watari had already set some assorted sweets out for him, but they remained untouched as L stared at the monitor through shadowed eyes. He wrapped his arms around his legs, hugging his knees to his chest, and began biting his thumbnail thoughtfully.

He had some theories regarding the case and he wanted to explore them further. But he felt... distracted. And that annoyed him.

He spun around in the chair again and hopped out of it, dragging his bare feet over to the kitchen. He leaned on his shoulder in the doorway and watched as Watari prepared a pot of coffee.

"Is there something I can do for you, Ryuzaki?" Watari inquired.

L shifted his stance and pressed his toe knuckles into the floor, cracking them loudly.

"I think I just need some coffee."

Watari nodded and switched on the coffee pot.

L shoved off of his shoulder and stood with his back arched and his thumb in his mouth. As much as he didn't want to admit it, he was feeling a little guilty about not letting Naomi wait until morning to investigate the scene.

Watari noticed something was off and so he stepped forward to stand in front of L, who was still chewing on the end of his thumb.

"Is something bothering you, L?" he queried in a fatherly tone.

L's giant, grey eyes lifted to meet those of the old man. He spoke around the thumb in his mouth.

"I'm unusually unfocused," he said ponderingly. "And," he added with a loud sigh, dropping his gaze uncomfortably and returning his hand to his pocket, "I do feel badly that Misora got hurt."

Watari's mustache twitched as the corners of his eyes creased in a small smile. "I don't think she blames you," he said kindly.

L made a low, grumbling noise in his throat, and turned abruptly to shuffle back to the desk.

Hopping up to crouch again in the swivel chair, he compelled himself to focus on the case.

"Alright, so... the markings. They were there yesterday morning, and now they are gone..." he began internally. "Now, looking at the photo..."

He clicked the mouse a couple times and brought up the photograph Naomi had taken of the three little circles spread out in a triangle on the floorboards.

" would appear as though the marks are from a tripod. It certainly isn't unheard of for a killer to photograph his victims..."

He leaned forward with his hands resting on top of his knees and squinted closely at the screen.

"The marks appear greasy...from some kind of oily substance. The hair product? Yes, that must be it."

L's thumb moved to his mouth again and his gaze lowered to stare intently at the desktop.

"Our killer must have accidentally gotten some of the hair fragrance oil on the bottom of his tripod. It must have been on his hands when he was setting it up..."

His gaze shifted to the left- to the tray of sweets. He reached out to claim a macaroon and dropped it in his mouth.

"It follows that he would have realized the mistake when he unpacked the camera equipment... so, he returned to the scene, disguised as a policeman, hoping to discreetly clean it up while posing as an investigator. But, when L's agents arrived, he panicked and fled the scene, planning to delete the photographic evidence and return later that night... it all fits."

Watari came in and served the coffee before taking a seat at a small table against the wall. He began the tedious process of inputting the names of the victims and their acquaintances into the algorithm L had written the previous evening.

L picked up a handful of sugar cubes. He continued his train of thought while watching the cubes drop, one-by-one, from his fingers to the coffee.

"So, he's deleting photographic evidence from the police database... It would be safe, then, to assume one of two things: Either our killer is a skilled computer hacker, or..."

L's hand was held up before him, a sugar cube pinched between his finger and thumb. He paused like this for a moment.

"...or our killer already has access to the police reports. ...could it be someone on the inside?"

He released the sugar cube and watched as it rotated in the air, traveling down its vertical path. It sank into the coffee, which, in turn, splashed onto the saucer. L stared at the concentric circles rippling in the dark liquid as he trailed his thumb along his bottom lip.


He sat like this for several moments before looking up and reaching for another macaroon.


"Yes, Ryuzaki?"

L spoke with his mouth full. "Get me the police officer in charge of The Bishop Case on the phone."

"One moment."

Watari dialed the number on the line that was already set up with voice distortion. He stood and placed the phone onto L's waiting, upturned palm.

L held the phone up to his ear using only a finger and thumb.

It rang a few times before a man's voice answered, speaking in French. "C'est Sergent Rousseau."

"C'est L."

Rousseau sounded surprised but asked to what did he owe this honor. L gave the assumption that he was already aware that L was on the case and the sergeant responded in affirmation.

L then went on to request a report on everyone employed by the Paris Police Department, from the janitor to the chief. The sergeant was happy to comply, and the call ended. L handed the phone back to Watari.

He finally felt like he was getting somewhere. For some strange reason, though, he was more determined than usual to bring this case to closure. It somehow felt more personal now.

The guilty feeling regarding what happened to Naomi returned and L's dark eyes narrowed. He was well aware that vengeance was oftentimes at the heart of justice, though he himself had never truly been driven by that motive. Not until now, anyway. While it certainly wasn't the sole reason for his wanting to catch The Bishop, it did add a level of vindictive passion that the young detective had never quite experienced before.

"An eye for an eye," L muttered bitterly under his breath.

Then he knocked back his coffee like it was a shot of liquor.



Chapter 11: Flutter

It was well past midday by the time Naomi appeared in the doorway of the living room, groggy and sore. In truth, she could have gone right on sleeping, but her aching jaw and empty stomach had eventually driven her from her bed. One hot shower and a change into comfy clothes later, Naomi was ready to find out if her midnight encounter had yielded anything useful to the case.

L was on the couch, hunched over with his knees to his chest and his long toes curled over the couch cushion. Before him were several documents and he was examining them closely, one by one. He held one up in his left hand, the top corner pinched between his thumb and index finger. He speed read down the page before holding up another in the same manner with his right hand, mumbling incoherently to himself as he read.

"Hi," Naomi said as she entered the living room. She still felt the moving sensation of having just stepped off of an amusement park ride.

L turned on his feet, lowering the pages and looking at her with questioning eyes.

"Oh, hi," he said, seemingly surprised that she was up. "How are you feeling?" He set the papers down on the coffee table.

Naomi put a hand gently to the side of her still swollen face. "Sore... but better."

L nodded slowly. "That's good."

His eyes followed her as she sat down next to him, crossing her legs. Biting one thumb, he leaned in to inspect her beaten face. Splotchy red and purple bruises surrounded the swollen area on the lower left side where the two white steri strips held shut the little gash beneath them.

L studied her injuries closely, his head tilting one way and then the other. His other arm hung down by his feet like a monkey. Naomi couldn't help but think of Curious George as she looked sideways at him, once again very aware of the proximity of his face to hers.

"Mhmm..." L grumbled, learning back into his own personal space again. He sighed and folded his arms atop his knees, looking at her through sleep-deprived eyes.

"I'm sorry this happened to you," he said. His voice was low and sincere. "I have to say I do feel somewhat responsible."

Naomi shook her head. "L, I've been hurt before. It comes with the job." She shrugged, then added with a slight smile, "But, thank you."

L nodded. "Mm... yes, well, in any case..." He looked away and began biting his thumb again. He hugged his knees to his chest with his other arm and added quietly, "You're a valuable agent and I'd hate to lose you. I will try to be more careful."

The cadence of L's voice was plain and monotone but something about the soft seriousness with which he spoke gave away that he meant every word.

Naomi offered him a reassuring smile. "Thanks, L. I appreciate that. But really- it's ok. I'm ok."

L nodded again and squirmed a bit, all at once seeming very uncomfortable with the exchange of feelings. He tipped his head toward the kitchen and changed the subject, the end of his thumb still between his teeth.

"Watari went and got some things for you to eat before he went to bed."

"Oh, that was nice of him! Actually I-"

A sharp pain suddenly sparked along Naomi's jawline. She stopped speaking and quickly put a hand to her face.

"Ahh, ow..."

L looked at her again and rested both of his hands on his knees. "Are you sure you should be up?" he asked slowly.

Naomi looked toward the kitchen, her hand still resting on her cheek. She spoke as best as she could, her words a little distorted as she tried to keep her teeth together.

"Well, I should probably try to eat something..." Then she added, looking back at L, "And I do want to hear what you've been up to." She gestured toward the piles of papers and folders.

L looked back at the documents. "Yes, well, if you're sure you're up to it, I can fill you in on my deductions."

Naomi reassured him that she was in fact up for discussing the case and moved to the kitchen to find something soft enough for her fractured jaw to handle. Upon inspection of the cupboards and refrigerator, Naomi was thankful to discover that Watari had supplied her well. After a few minutes, she returned to the couch, a bowl of applesauce in hand.

"Okay, you do the talking," she said, nodding towards L. She settled herself on the couch, facing him with her back against the armrest and her knees up. Her ensemble of a zip-up hoodie and leggings with warm, fuzzy socks certainly did not scream "strong and professional secret agent to the world's greatest detective" but, nonetheless, Naomi was ready to get down to business.

"Alright, well..." L began, plucking a single sheet of paper from one of the stacks before him. "These are reports on everyone who has worked for the Paris P.D. over the last five years. I am going through them to see if our suspect is among them."

"You think he was actually a policeman... not just disguised as one?"

L nodded. "It would appear that way. Someone on the inside would have the easiest access to the police reports."

"Couldn't he just remove his file from the system then?" Naomi questioned. "If he knew L was on the case, he could have done that already."

"Yes, I'd thought of that, too," L replied. He pointed to another stack of papers. "That's why I have these. They are the tax documents for everyone who filed income under the Police Department within the last five years. I am comparing the personnel files with the tax documents to see if there are any discrepancies."

Naomi nodded. That made sense.

"So..." She spooned some applesauce into her mouth and continued talking. "The markings? On the floor. What about them?"

She suddenly realized that she was sitting with her knees up and talking with her mouth full. She looked down into her bowl of applesauce and stirred it slowly. "Oh my god, I'm turning into L..." she mumbled.


"Nothing. The markings?"

"Ah, yes. Well, I am about 85% sure that they are from a tripod... no, more like 90%. The measurements match perfectly and it's not uncommon for a killer to photograph his victims."

Naomi nodded again. She herself had worked cases under such circumstances.

"What about the hair product? And the... the bodies?"

Naomi still wasn't too pleased with L's digging up the victims without the families' consent. "But what's done is done," she thought to herself.

"Oh, umm..." L rose from his crouched position and, with one bare foot still on the couch, he stepped onto the coffee table and stretched his long arm out to reach a paper on the other side. He handed it to Naomi, his feet remaining on the couch and table.

Naomi took the paper and laughed a little. "You look like you're playing The Floor is Lava."

L placed a hand on his knee and looked directly at her. "The what is what?"

"It's a game where you can't touch the floor."

L's face suggested that was the dumbest game he'd ever heard of.

Naomi rolled her eyes. "Didn't you ever play dumb games as a kid? Oh, nevermind." She dismissed the subject with a wave of her hand and turned her attention to the paper L had handed her.

It was a printed email with the results of the lab tests ran on the victims' hair. Sure enough, they all contained the same substance: a rose-scented fragrance oil.

L, back in his frog stance on the couch, gestured toward the paper. "That's what the marks were from. The oil got on the bottom of the tripod somehow."

Naomi nodded. She was trying not to talk too much. But this case was slowly coming together. It was one that she would certainly be relieved to close.

She squeezed her eyes shut and then opened them again, the dull ache in her head reminding her that she also had a concussion. She reached over to set the paper back down on the coffee table and began rubbing her forehead.

"You need your pain killers," L observed.

Naomi just nodded, her eyes closed and her fingers resting on the bridge of her nose. "Where are they?" She opened her eyes and started to sit up.

L waved a hand toward her. "Watari put them in the kitchen. I'm going in there anyway. I'm starving."

Before Naomi could object, he stood up on the couch and stepped over onto the cushion of the adjoining armchair. He placed his foot on the back of the chair and, hands pocketed, he held his balance as the chair tipped over onto its back. From there, his long legs took one big leap into the kitchen.

He turned his head back to Naomi, who was looking at him over the back of the couch, her face scrunched in bewilderment.

"The floor is lava," he said simply.

Naomi's face brightened with the realization and she dropped her head backwards, rolling her eyes and grinning as much as her sore face would allow her.

A smile tugged at the corners of L's mouth as he turned back into the kitchen. He returned shortly with two little round, white pills in one hand and a glass of water in the other. A chocolate cake doughnut was held in his mouth. He outstretched both arms toward Naomi.

"It said to take two every 4 to 6 hours," he said, his words barely coherent around the doughnut.

"Thanks, L." Naomi took the medication from his upturned palm and placed them in her mouth. She accepted the glass of water and made herself drink the whole thing. L stood watching her, one hand pocketed and the other delicately holding the doughnut, which was already half eaten.

He took the glass from her when she was done and set it on the end table next to the empty applesauce bowl.

"I don't think I'm going to be very useful right now," Naomi said slowly. Her voice was all of a sudden very groggy and the merry-go-round had started up again. This whole scenario was already getting old. "I'm sorry."

"It's understandable," L commented. "Why don't you just rest here? I can be very quiet."

Naomi nodded. The stairs leading up to her bedroom may as well have been Mount Everest with how dizzy she was feeling.

"Just for a bit," she agreed.

L shoved the rest of the doughnut in his mouth and reached over to another chair to retrieve a throw blanket. He stepped forward and held it out to Naomi.

Naomi smiled as she took the blanket. He was being so nice.

"Thanks, I'm sure it will wear off soon." She wrapped the soft throw around herself and snuggled down to lay on her side.

The last thing she saw before closing her eyes was L hopping up into one of the chairs to resume his document comparisons.

But she didn't fall asleep right away. She had a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach that she was reluctant to recognize. But it was there. A warm, fluttery feeling that Naomi hadn't felt in a long time.

She didn't quite know what to make of it.

It was at the same time an overwhelming and subtle awareness. Overwhelming because it came as such a surprise. But subtle in that it wasn't fireworks or even butterflies... more like just one little butterfly. And Naomi couldn't decide in her hazy state of mind how she felt about its presence.

All she knew for sure was that, despite the dizziness and the pain, she was perfectly content. Right here and right now.

With him.

At length, Naomi decided to tuck it all away for later contemplation. She drifted off sleepily to the familiar sound of soft, rustling papers and the careful clink of a china cup containing far more sugar than coffee.



Chapter 12: Rose

Naomi wasn't quite sure what woke her. One minute she was sound asleep and the next, she just... wasn't anymore.

She sat up slowly, the blanket falling from her shoulder as she looked around the room. L was nowhere to be seen.

Naomi swung her legs over the side of the couch and stood to her feet. She must have slept for awhile because she was hungry again.

Then again, all she'd eaten in almost 24 hours was a bowl of applesauce...

She made her way to the kitchen and fixed herself some oatmeal and a smoothie.

She was on the couch finishing up when L appeared in the doorway on the other side of the living room. His black hair was wet and he had a fluffy towel draped around his neck. Naomi knew that he was really particular about getting anything on his shirt, even if it was just water.

"Feeling better?" he asked as his bare feet walked into the room, his hands in his jeans pockets.

Naomi nodded. "I really am," she said. "I know I'll be sore for awhile but the dizziness has really gone down."

"Mm," L nodded approvingly as he hopped up into the armchair next to the couch. Little water droplets clung to the ends of his bangs. He peered at her through them and commented, "You do look better."

That said, he removed the towel from around his neck and draped it over his head. He rubbed it over his thick hair thoroughly and vigorously before tossing it carelessly onto the floor. His now damp mane stuck up every which-way in odd little tufts and spikes.

The fact that he had taken the time to shower could only mean one thing: he had solved the case.

"So, who is The Bishop?" Naomi queried.

With one thumbnail in his mouth, L passed Naomi a single sheet of paper.

"Jasper Broussard," he announced triumphantly.

Naomi scanned the document she'd been handed. It contained information on a French man by the name L had given. He was a computer technician who worked in forensics at the police department. This fit the conclusions L had come to, but the real confirmation was the scanned drivers license displaying a photo of the very same man who had lifted the yellow tape at the crime scene.

"Oh yeah, that's him alright!" Naomi said, nodding. "How did you find him?" she asked, handing the paper back to L.

L took the paper back, keeping one thumb between his teeth. "Well, sure enough, his personnel file was not among those sent to me by the police but he was listed as having received income from the Paris P.D. over the last four years."

"Good work," Naomi commended.

"And!" L continued, holding up an index finger and reaching for another sheet of paper, "Look at this."

Naomi accepted the new document and read it over. It was a court case file on a fatal car accident that had occurred almost three years ago. The only victim had been a young woman by the name of Rosella Leveque.

"I don't see how this connects..." Naomi said slowly.

"Do you see the section that lists the case's jurors?" L hinted.

Naomi's eyes moved to the list of names under the word "Jury." She nodded.

L waited, his thumb trailing along his bottom lip. He had every confidence that his agent would figure it out.

And then she saw it.

"Oh!" she exclaimed. "The Bishop's victims! These aren't their names, but most of the last names listed here match the last names of our victims! The Bishop is killing family members of the jurors of this case- that's the connection!" She was so excited, she bounced a little on the couch cushion as she voiced her deductions.

A smile played with the edges of L's mouth. "Yes," he confirmed. "My algorithm found the connection."

Naomi nodded, her eyes wide with intrigue. "Okay, but why? Was Jasper Broussard related to this..." she looked at the paper again. "...Rosella Leveque?"

L nodded. "They were brother and sister."

Suddenly, Naomi had a revelation. "Rosella!" she blurted out.

L made a face likened to lifting an eyebrow, though it was unclear if he even had any under that shaggy hair of his.

"Yes, that's her name..." he said slowly.

Naomi shook her head. "Don't you see? Her name is ROSE-ella?? The hair product smelled like roses?!"

L's eyes all at once widened with understanding. "I hadn't even thought of that..." he said, clearly impressed. "Misora, that is brilliant."

Naomi continued, talking quickly and excitedly. "It makes so much sense! Jasper Broussard's sister was killed in this accident and, from what I read here, the jury declared the driver of the vehicle that hit her to be /not guilty/. So now, Jasper is attempting to avenge his sister by killing family members of the people who he believes to have robbed his sister of justice!"

L added, "And the hair product is his tribute to his sister... Rose."

Naomi nodded. "It's his way of saying, 'This is for her.'"

L and Naomi sat in silence for a moment, taking it all in. It all seemed to fit perfectly.

Finally, Naomi inquired, "So has he been arrested?"

L was staring toward the kitchen, his thumb resting on his bottom lip. "His flat is under surveillance but he hasn't made an appearance at home or at work. But it's only a matter of time. There are cameras all over the city with facial recognition."

With that said, he stood and shuffled into the kitchen. He returned almost immediately with a tray of eclairs. He carried it on all five fingertips like a waiter. He set the tray down and climbed into the chair again to resume his peculiar way of sitting.

The sweets caused Naomi to wonder where Watari was and L informed her that he had taken the laptop to the police department so that L could communicate with the agents assigned to The Bishop Case.

Naomi briefly recalled a time not so very long ago when L was only a cybernetic voice behind a black calligraphic letter on a white screen. She was reminded again that she was one of the few people in the world who knew him as more than that.

The single butterfly in her stomach flitted again and Naomi decided immediately that it was, in fact, unwelcome. This was not the time for anything of the sort. She cleared her throat and asked to see the police report on Rosella Leveque's car accident. L obliged.

The reasons behind The Bishop's methods became even clearer as Naomi read the report. Rose had been driving when the accident occurred. It had been in the wintertime and the man who hit her- Victor Duval- had swerved on ice and collided with her head-on. Her windshield had shattered and a shard of glass had sliced her throat. The long gash along her neck caused the photos from her autopsy to look very much like those of The Bishop's victims.

"Does Rosella have any other surviving family members?" Naomi queried.

L answered with his mouth full. "Her mother is alive- Clarisse Broussard. She manages a thrift store run by a small church. Rosella's father, Arthur, left when she was young. He served in prison for nine months on charges of assault against his wife." L swallowed and took another bite before continuing. "He now operates a fishing boat at Vallon des Auffes in Marseille. He hasn't spoken to his family in years."

"It sounds like they're better off without him," Naomi remarked.

"Yes," L agreed. He licked chocolate noisily from his long, bony fingers and went on. "Rosella's husband, Gerard Leveque, committed suicide. He was at sea serving in the French Navy on a covert mission when her accident occurred. He didn't learn of her death until he returned, a year later."

"Oh, how sad," Naomi murmured. Then, she looked up. "Let me investigate Jasper Broussard's flat," she implored. "I might find something that will tell us where he could be hiding."

L looked at her uneasily, a half-eaten eclair held between his finger and thumb. "I'm not sure that's a good idea right now."

Naomi scoffed. "L, I'm not made of glass. Let me do my job!"

L's eyes narrowed as he considered Naomi's request. "Well," he said slowly. "The police are surveilling the flat... I could let them know that you're coming so they'll be on alert..."

"Yes, do that," Naomi said, standing to her feet again. "I'll go get dressed."

L's keen eyes observed that she started up the stairs quickly but abruptly slowed, no doubt her concussion throwing off her equilibrium. He sighed and reached for another eclair.


Naomi stepped out of the cab in front of a run-down apartment building. Several tenants had clothing hanging from the wooden balconies and the metal fence that surrounded the place leaned forward lazily, as though the ground beneath it had gotten tired of holding it upright. The sunlight was fading steadily as Naomi made her way up the uneven sidewalk and through a door whose green paint was barely holding on for dear life. She reached the apartment leased to one Jasper Broussard and stepped inside, the flat already having been unlocked by the landlord per L's request.

The place was shabby, but somewhat neat. A bachelor pad, for sure. The decor was old-fashioned and quite frankly, just /old/. Like it hadn't been updated in decades. The carpet was thick and shoddy and the frilly curtains hanging from brassy gold rods were faded and thin. The furniture was well-worn and oddly mismatched and the air held a stale smell. Naomi thought the entire place appeared to belong to someone much older than Jasper Broussard, who was only in his mid-thirties.

She set to work, looking through drawers and investigating shelves. A framed photo was placed prominently on an end table and Naomi picked it up gently with gloved hands.

The photo was of a chubby teen boy and a slightly older-looking teenage girl. They were standing in front of a rather dingy-looking Christmas tree, their arms wrapped around each other in a bear hug and both their faces displayed big, cheesy grins.

Jasper and Rosella.

The corner of Naomi's mouth lifted into a sad smile. She set the frame down carefully and continued her search.

The investigation of the little flat did not yield anything particularly useful, but Naomi did learn a few things about its occupant. He was a sentimental man, as there were greeting cards saved in shoeboxes under his bed and knick-knacks displayed on every available shelf. The refrigerator was covered in novelty magnets and more photos. Rosella's obituary hung on the side of the fridge by a magnet shaped like a yellow rose. He was a lonely man who consistently cooked dinner for one. The freezer was stocked with TV dinners and a TV tray was set up in front of an armchair with frayed upholstery in the living room.

The more Naomi explored, the more she felt like this was not at all the kind of man she had pictured as being The Bishop. But revenge was an ugly thing.

She left the flat, disappointed that her search had come up empty, but confident that, sooner than later, justice would be served.


The sunset cast a soft glow over the church cemetery where Jasper Broussard stood over his sister's grave, wringing his hands and trembling.

"I'm sorry," he said softly in French, his voice breaking. "I screwed up. It's only a matter of time before they find me." He looked down and a tear fell into the dirt at his feet. He regained his composure and lifted his round, scruffy face again. "But he won't stop. He's still going to avenge you, Rosie, even if I'm not around to help."

The troubled, stout man looked down again, struggling to speak through the emotion.

"Now, I don't know when- or, or if- I'll be back. So, if this is goodbye, let me just say this..." Tears ran freely from Jasper's swollen, red eyes as he spoke, wringing his hands and swallowing hard. "You deserved better, Rosie. All those nights, when things were bad with Dad... You told me everything was gonna be okay. And I got through 'cause of you. And you were everything to me. I hope... I hope you knew that. I loved ya. I still do and I always will."

Jasper paused and wiped his nose with the back of his finger and brushed away tears from one eye and then the other with his thumb. He sniffed and took a deep breath.

Then, stepping forward and placing a hand on top of the headstone, he spoke with a steady voice.

"You'll rest peacefully very soon."

He took his hand away and kissed his fingertips before touching the headstone one last time.



Chapter 13: Ellipsis

Naomi rolled over in her bed for the hundredth time. Turning in early had seemed like such a good idea, but sleep was not her friend tonight. She was wide awake.

It had been two days since Naomi had investigated Jasper Broussard's flat and the police were still in search of him. Naomi had spent those two days taking it a bit easier than usual and recovering from her injuries. The swelling on her face was nearly gone and the bruising was still present, but faded. Nonetheless, the whole ordeal had managed to screw up her schedule and now, she couldn't sleep.

With a defeated sigh, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and sat up. Maybe some hot tea would do her some good. She pulled a zip-up hoodie on over her tank top and made her way downstairs to the kitchen in her bare feet and blue plaid, cotton pajama pants with a ribbon-tie front.

She could hear L's voice coming from the living room.

"He must be on the phone," she thought.

She went ahead and put enough water in the tea kettle for both L and herself.

L continued speaking and, although she couldn't hear exactly what he was saying, Naomi noticed something different about the way he was talking. It was more... casual than usual. More lighthearted.

Naomi prepared the tea bags and poured the water over them once it boiled. She expertly carried both mugs in one hand by their handles and a sugar bowl in the other. She didn't take sugar in her tea, but she knew full well how much would be added to the second cup.

She walked into the living room and saw that L was sitting at the desk. He appeared to be video chatting with... a bunch of kids?

This was new.

The children on the computer screen sat on the wooden floor of a large room. There were around a dozen of them. One boy- a little older than the rest, about 13 or 14- stood against the wall eating a chocolate bar. He had straight, yellow-blonde hair that hung down past his ears and he was wearing all black. Another boy, a little younger with thick, curly platinum-blonde hair, crouched by himself behind the group of other children and played quietly with tinker toys. L seemed to be telling them all a story.

"...and that's why I'll never eat cauliflower," he finished. His voice held a hint of humor that Naomi was hearing for the first time. The children laughed as he concluded whatever it was he'd been telling them.

Naomi moved to stand beside his chair, careful to stay out of the webcam's frame. L seemed surprised to see her and pressed a button on the desktop microphone stand before him.

"I thought you'd gone to bed," he commented.

Before Naomi could answer, one of the children- a small girl with pigtails- asked, "So, do you like other vegetables?"

L leaned into the mic again and pressed the button.

"Yes I do. A vegetable is, by definition, a plant or a part of a plant used for food. Given that definition, and the fact that chocolate comes from the cocoa bean plant... I can say that I do like other vegetables."

The children laughed together in amusement. Naomi noticed the blonde boy against the wall grin broadly as he bit off another corner of his chocolate bar.

L turned off the microphone again. He looked at her and then at the teas in her hand. "Oh, thank you."

Naomi smiled as she set down the mugs and slid one toward L.

"What's all this?" she asked. Telling stories to children was very near the bottom of her list of things she would have put money on L doing. This was so... bizarre.

"I'll explain in a minute," he replied, adding sugar cubes to his tea by the handful. "They're going to bed soon."

"Hey, is that L?" A voice came from someone off-screen. Then, the upside-down teal eyes of a teenage boy with reddish-brown hair slid down from the top of the screen. He appeared to be standing behind the laptop and leaning down in front of the webcam. "Hi-ya, Pops, how's it goin?"

An older man's hand appeared, shooing the boy away and pointing for him to sit with the others.

Naomi was so confused.

The auburn-haired boy moved to stand against the wall next to the blonde boy with the chocolate bar. He wore a black and white striped shirt with dark red cargo pants and a pair of motorcycle goggles rested on top of his head. He was playing a hand-held video game. The blonde boy whispered something to him and they both snickered.

L gestured for Naomi to have a seat. She looked down at her pajamas and hesitated.

"They can't see us," he explained.

Naomi mouthed the word "Oh" and nodded. She took a seat in the chair next to L.

He leaned in and pressed the button again. "So, does anyone else have any questions?"

A boy sitting on the floor with freckles and glasses raised his hand. "Do you know any jokes?" he asked.

L turned to look at Naomi helplessly. "Umm..."

Naomi grabbed a notepad and scribbled some words onto it, then showed it to L.

L read it to himself, looked at her uneasily, then leaned into the mic again. "Okay... Why did the picture go to jail?"

The kids all murmured among themselves, then said in unison, "I don't know, why did the picture go to jail?"

L looked to Naomi again.

Naomi scribbled some more, then held out the notepad.

L read the answer aloud. "...because it was framed."

The kids burst into gleeful laughter and Naomi saw the two older boys against the wall smile and roll their eyes at each other. The one with the goggles commented snarkily, "Good one!"

L flashed an approving smile toward Naomi, seeming rather pleased with the reaction the joke had received. The stupid butterfly flitted all around inside her stomach.

The voice of the older man off-screen was heard saying, "Alright, everyone say goodnight."

A disapproving "Awww..." resounded from the children. Whoever these kids were, they seemed to really like L. And what was more, they seemed to actually know him. Naomi waited patiently for answers as the children began to noisily stand up and wave goodbye and exit the webcam's frame. L leaned into the mic again.

"Goodnight, everyone."

The two older boys shoved off of their leaning positions and began to walk off camera, too. The blond boy, a corner of the chocolate bar in his mouth, looked directly at the webcam and waved. The auburn boy, without looking up from his video game, raised a hand high into the air and said loudly, "Night, Pops!"

L replied, "Goodnight, boys."

Naomi noticed that the blond boy smiled a little before exiting the frame.

Within a moment, all the kids were gone, save for the platinum-haired boy in the back of the room. He sat with one knee up, surrounded by a small fortress of tinker toys and action figures, and looked directly into the camera.

L leaned forward one more time.

"Goodnight, Near."

The little boy's mouth curved upward into a small smile. Then, he gathered his action figures into his small arms and stood to his bare feet. He stepped over the wall he had built around himself and disappeared without a word.

L closed out of the video chat.

Naomi shifted to sit cross-legged in the chair and cupped her mug of tea in both hands. She looked at L inquisitively.

He took a sip of his well-sugared tea and looked back at her through shadowed eyes.

"Friends of yours?" she asked, tipping her head toward the computer.

"My successors," he answered.

"Your... what?"

"Well, not all of them."

Now, Naomi was really confused. She shook her head. "Start over," she requested.

L picked up a chocolate truffle from a nearby tray. He popped it into his mouth before answering. "That is the orphanage I grew up in. It's in Winchester, England. One of those kids you saw is going to be the next L," he said simply.

"The next L? I don't understand. But... you're L."

"Yes, but if something were to happen to me, one of them would take my place."

Naomi blinked several times. She wasn't quite sure how to respond to that.

L continued, "If I die, one of those children will become L." He looked at Naomi, noisily sucking chocolate from the end of his index finger.

He said it so casually. As if his own life were completely unimportant. Like he was easily replaceable and his title as Greatest Detective in the World was the only thing that mattered about him.

That bothered Naomi.

"Well... I'd rather you didn't die," she said with a small smile.

"Oh, you needn't worry. My death would have no effect on your job. Everything you signed pertains to L, whether it be me or my successor."

Naomi scrunched her face. "Okay, um... thank you? But I'd still rather you not die."

L stared at her, his index finger still in his mouth. "Why's that?"

Naomi squirmed uneasily, her elbows resting on her crossed pajama legs. "Well, because..." She looked down into her tea. "...because you're my... my partner... and kind of my friend."

L's tired, dark eyes widened. "Your friend?"

Naomi hurried to explain herself to avoid sounding disrespectful to the detective for whom she worked. "I mean, I know you're my boss! I- I am not dismissing that. But, um... well, yeah," she finished lamely and shrugged. Inwardly, she wished she had kept her mouth shut. The butterfly had multiplied in the meantime and now, there was definitely more than one fluttering around in there. This was getting out of hand...

L turned his head to stare down into his own cup of tea. "Huh," he said thoughtfully. He didn't seem bothered, but he did seem surprised.

Naomi decided she wanted no more of this completely inappropriate conversation. She stood quickly to her feet, tea in hand. L looked up at her.

"Well!" she said breezily- a little too breezily. "I'm... going back to bed. Goodnight!" She turned on her heel and walked briskly toward the stairs.

"Goodnight," she heard L call from behind her.

She moved with quick steps up the stairs and into her room. She set the mug down and placed both of her palms on the wooden dresser.

"Misora, get ahold of yourself!" she hissed under her breath. She looked up to stare her reflection in the eyes. She shook her head. "What is wrong with you?" she asked herself softly.

For some reason, Raye came to mind. Naomi supposed it was because the last time she felt this way, it had been for him. And that hadn't exactly ended well...

When presented with the cold, hard decision between her fiancé and her job, Naomi had chosen her career. She had pleaded with Raye to let her do both, but he had made it absolutely clear that she could be either an agent or his wife- but not both. It had been the hardest thing she'd ever had to do but, in the end, she knew she would never have been content with the housewife life.

Is that why she was feeling this way? Because L actually valued her as an agent? That seemed a little desperate for affirmation...

But as Naomi stood leaning against the dresser, looking herself in the eyes, she knew that was part of it, at least. Was it so wrong to feel good about the fact that someone admired her work?

But it was more than that and she knew it. She knew how much she enjoyed spending time with him. How much she truly had come to consider him a close friend- probably the closest she had. She had let her guard down and now, she was attached.

She turned around and placed both hands on her forehead. She sat down on the edge of the bed and leaned with her elbows on her knees, staring at the floor.

/Him/, of all people. Her boss. Not to mention the needy man-child who refused to wear socks and couldn't go more than an hour or two without sweets... the 24 year-old genius who had his fingers in his mouth half the time and sat like a toddler playing in the sandbox.

But he was strong and he was brilliant. He was protective without being overbearing. He made her laugh. And he really did respect and value her.

Naomi groaned and covered her eyes with her hands. There was no more denying it.

She had a crush on L.

She decided to be a grown-up about it and just let the crazy thing run its course. Surely, these feelings would wear off. She chalked it up to the fact that she didn't really have a lot of consistent people in her life and him being there for her when she had gotten hurt had just sparked her emotions.

Suddenly, she felt very, very tired. She took off her hoodie and crawled under the covers and, this time, she fell asleep.


The next morning, L and Naomi were in the living room quietly working on a new case when Watari entered.

"Excuse me for interrupting, but I thought you'd like to know that Jasper Broussard has been taken into custody."

Naomi's head lifted from the file she was reading and L swiveled in the computer chair to face Watari. His large eyes sparked with interest as he spoke.


Watari replied, "Just over an hour ago. The interrogation is all set up and will begin when you are ready."

L quickly swiveled back to face the dual-monitor computer. He began typing on the keyboard and Naomi moved from the couch to the chair beside him.

"Please get me another monitor- no, make it two," L requested.

Within a few moments, video feed from several different angles appeared on the four computer monitors. Jasper Broussard sat alone in a small room handcuffed to a wooden table. His head hung and his shoulders drooped. Naomi briefly felt sorry for him and had to remind herself of the horrific things he had done.

It still surprised her what kind of man The Bishop had turned out to be. She had painted in her mind an image of a strong, hateful man with cruelty in his eyes. This job never ceased to provide the unexpected.

L pressed a button on the microphone stand and gave the word to begin the interrogation. His altered voice was transmitted to a com in the police interrogator's ear.

Everything was in French, so Naomi focused on watching Jasper's facial expressions and body language. L listened intently, translating for Naomi now and then when something especially important was asked or said.

Jasper admitted to everything. His eyes were glazed over in stoic defeat as he stared straight ahead. The cadence of his voice was dry and melancholy.

Naomi leaned in toward L, who leaned his ear toward her in response.

"He's not at all how I pictured The Bishop," Naomi commented in a low tone.

L nodded. "Yes, I have to agree."

Naomi continued to watch the screens closely. Jasper's hands were stiffly clasped together on top of the table. Each question was answered promptly. A little too promptly. It felt... rehearsed.

"L, something is off," she said slowly.

L turned to look at her. "What do you mean?"

Naomi shook her head and pursed her lips together. "I don't know, it's just... this case felt... /bigger/, somehow. It feels like there should be more to it."

L thought about what she had said for a moment, but didn't reply. He turned back toward the monitors and wrapped his arms around his knees, bringing one thumb to rest on his lips.

"Ask him about the tripod," Naomi said at length.

L nodded and leaned in to press the button on the mic stand again. He made the request in French.

The police interrogator's face scrunched.

"Did you not tell them about the tripod?" Naomi asked, looking at L inquisitively.

L shook his head. "No, I had solved the case and the evidence I presented was enough to convict."

The policeman asked the question and Naomi watched closely as, for the first time in the interrogation, Jasper's eyes widened and his hands began to fidget. He pretended to be unaware of any tripod.

Naomi sat up and pointed at the screen. Looking at L, she opened her mouth to speak, but he spoke first.

"He wasn't expecting that question..." L said slowly, trailing his thumb along his bottom lip. He narrowed his eyes and stared intently at the monitor displaying a close-up on Jasper's face. The man's behavior had visibly shifted.

But he quickly regained his composure, confessing that he had used a tripod to photograph his victims. When asked about the whereabouts of the photographs, he refused to answer, stating that they were for his eyes only.

"Creep..." Naomi remarked in a disgusted tone.

The interrogation moved on and continued for awhile. It finally concluded with Jasper Broussard being arrested on multiple charges of murder in the first degree, among a few other things- his assault on Naomi included. He was led out of the room and the video feed ended.

L swiveled in the chair and stood to his bare feet, moving to the three-tiered tray of pastries by the couch.

"Well, case closed," he stated, popping a cream puff into his mouth. "I'm glad that one is over."

Naomi nodded, but something still felt off. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but something told her that it wasn't completely over... that there was still something they'd missed.

But all the evidence fit and Jasper had even confessed. Perhaps the nitty-gritty details would simply have to remain a mystery.

She brushed it off and returned her attention to the new case.

But she hadn't been wrong.

As Jasper was led out of the police station, handcuffed and surrounded by armed agents, The Bishop watched from the shadows of a nearby alleyway, a crumpled photo of Rosella Leveque in his clenched fist.



Chapter 14: Encounter

With the closure of The Bishop Case came a trip to Moscow, followed by another one to Rome. Summer gave way to Autumn and the greatest detective in the world and his most trusted agent continued to serve justice well.

Naomi tucked away her feelings for L and, though they hadn't quite disappeared, she felt as though she at least had them under control.

Life was good.

At the end of October, a particular case called them to Los Angeles.

Staring with her chin in her hand out the window of the private jet, Naomi realized that it had been nearly ten months since she had been to the American city she had once called home. Below, she could see the sprawling city of LA and the Santa Monica Pier and the many beaches that lined the California Coast. It had been here that she had helped solve the BB Murder Cases. And, come to think of it, it was where she had first met L- both the first time, when she hadn't known it was him and kicked him down the stairs, and then the second time when he had hired her and they were formally introduced. Naomi smiled to herself. It felt good to be back.

"Alright, that sounds great... thank you." L was speaking on the phone in one of his many disguised voices. This one was obnoxious and loud. "Yup, you too! Mhmm, bye." He hung up and looked at Naomi, his voice returning to normal. "Alright, so, as discussed, an FBI agent will meet us when we land and you will go with them to their headquarters. Watari and I will go straight to the hotel and you will meet us there when you are finished."

Naomi nodded. "Sounds like a plan."

Within a few moments, the plane touched down on a private runway near LAX. Watari, who had been flying the plane, disembarked and instructed the airport personnel to unload the bags and put them in the waiting limousine.

L and Naomi descended the stairs leading off the plane. The day was warm and sunny and Naomi shielded her eyes with her hand as she looked around for the agent who was supposed to meet her. She spotted a black SUV parked nearby and turned to L.

"I'll see you in a bit."

"Yep." L turned toward the limo and Naomi began walking toward the SUV.

The drivers' side door opened and a man stepped out wearing slim-cut navy blue suit.

"Naomi?" the man said in disbelief.

Naomi's steps slowed abruptly and her heart caught in her throat.


She blinked several times. It was really him! Raye Penber, the man she had almost married... standing right in front of her.

She had forgotten how good-looking he was...

Raye stepped forward as if he wanted to greet her with a hug, but he stopped himself. Smiling broadly, he extended his hand instead.

"I- I can't believe it's you!" he stammered.

Naomi shook her head in awe, smiling back and accepting the handshake. "Raye! Oh my god, hi! This is... so unexpected! How have you been?"

The two exchanged greetings and small talk for a few minutes before getting into the vehicle together.

"Watari, that man looks familiar," L commented, standing by the limo and watching the SUV drive away. "And Misora seemed to know him..."

"Perhaps you could call and request the name of the agent that was sent over?" Watari suggested as he shut the trunk of the car.

"Hmm... Perhaps someone she used to work with?" And then suddenly, L's eyes widened. "Wait a minute... that was Raye Penber."

L wasn't quite sure why, but it irked him that Naomi had just gotten into a vehicle with her ex-fiancé. And he had learned from experience to always follow a hunch.

He turned toward Watari. "Change of plans," he said.

"Oh?" Watari asked, raising his eyebrows. "Where are we going, then?"

L climbed into the backseat and stared with lowered eyelids in the direction Raye and Naomi had driven.

"The Los Angeles FBI Building" he grumbled.


Raye glanced over at Naomi, who was sitting in the passenger seat with her hands calmly folded on her lap. She looked so pretty in her dark grey dress pants and matching jacket with her long, raven-black hair cascading softly over her shoulders.

"You look good, Naomi," he said.

Naomi flashed him a bright smile. "Thank you. So do you."

And she meant that- more than she cared to admit. Somehow, her mind had dulled the image of Raye Penber in her memory and she had forgotten how handsome he was... with his dark hair and strong build and steel-blue eyes. He was the type that was charming and attractive without even trying. And, surprisingly, she felt totally comfortable riding next to him. The history between them was actually making it easier and not weirder, she pleasantly realized.

"You're good, then? You're... happy?" Raye inquired.

Naomi tipped her head. "I am," she responded honestly. "Things are good."

Raye nodded. "Good, good..."

It was quiet for a minute and then Raye spoke again.

"So, you left the FBI, then?"

Naomi squirmed a bit. She really couldn't talk about her job. "Um, yes I did."

Raye nodded. "Mm. It's just... Well, I thought you loved it at the FBI. I mean, that's the whole reason we-"

"Raye, can we not do this?"

Now it was starting to feel weird.

"No, no, it's fine, I just- well, I've just been confused ever since then, is all," Raye glanced at her again and then back at the road. He sighed. "Try to see it from my perspective, Naomi. You chose your job at the FBI over marrying me and then, less than two months later, I find out that you quit the FBI and then you just fell off the face of the earth. Don't I deserve... at least a little explanation?"

He looked at her again and for some stupid reason, the only thought Naomi's brain could conjure up was that his eyes were gorgeous.

She lifted both palms and shrugged. "I don't know what to say, Raye. You know that sometimes, in our line of work, things can't be explained. It's... classified."

"So you got another job, then? I mean, obviously... you're here for the case, but... well, they are saying that the famous detective L is on the case. Naomi, are you working for him? Is that why you can't talk about your job?"

Naomi shook her head, flustered. "You know I can't answer that, one way or another."

"No, no, it makes sense. The private jet, the limo..." Raye looked at her, impressed. "You're one of L's agents, aren't you? Naomi, that's amazing!"

Naomi brought her hand up to rest her fingers on the bridge of her nose. "Raye, I don't have to explain to you what will happen if you start spreading rumors like that."

Raye shook his head, still looking shocked. "Hey, I won't say anything. You have my word, it's not leaving this vehicle. And I don't think anyone assigned to this case knows you, so it's all good." Then, he chuckled and added under his breath, "I can't believe you're working for L..." He turned his head to smile at her and said sincerely, "I'm really happy for you. That's quite an honor."

Naomi simply smiled in response. If she said "thank you," she'd be confirming it.

"So, have you met him?"


"Okay, I'll stop." He grinned.

It was quiet again for awhile. Naomi gazed out the window at the passing buildings and palm trees and enjoyed the feeling of the warm sunshine on her face. After a little bit, she turned to ask Raye a question about the case but stopped when she realized he was already looking at her.

One corner of his mouth lifted into a small smile. "I've missed you, Naomi," he said quietly.

Naomi's stomach did a flip. She would have been lying if she said she hadn't missed him. Old feelings were staring to crop up and Naomi wasn't really sure if she wanted to revisit them. She smiled back but made no reply.

They pulled into the parking lot of the FBI building and, to Naomi's surprise, L was there, standing against the limo with his hands in his pockets.

She stepped out of the SUV and turned to Raye. "Um, just give me a minute?"

Raye nodded and she walked briskly over to L.

"What are you doing here?" she asked when she reached him. "Is everything okay?"

"Everything is fine," L answered casually. "I just decided that I wanted to come down and see some of the evidence first-hand."

Naomi made a confused expression. That wasn't like him. Besides, wasn't that what he had hired her to do?

"Well, how'd you get here before us?"

L waved a hand carelessly into the air and shoved off of his leaning stance. "You know how Watari drives... come on." He began walking toward the building with his back arched and Naomi turned to follow him. Raye was waiting by the front door.

"He's with me," Naomi said, gesturing toward L.

"Oh, um...ok." Raye was clearly taken aback by L's appearance. But he extended his hand. "Raye Penber, good to meet you."

L reached out and firmly shook Raye's hand. He made direct eye contact as he spoke. "Ivan Markov. Likewise."

"Okay, so apparently he's a Russian for the time-being?" Naomi thought with amusement. L had more aliases than she could keep track of.

The trio entered the building and met a small handful of other people before getting down to business.

Raye turned to Naomi as they were getting started. "Can I get you a coffee?"

Naomi was leaning forward with her forearms on the room's large conference table and her hands folded. "Oh, um-"

"Yes," L interjected loudly.

Naomi and Raye turned to look at him. He was standing on the other side of Naomi with his thumb in between his teeth. He wasn't breaking eye contact with Raye.

/"What's his problem?" /Naomi wondered. She turned back to look up at Raye. "I'd love a coffee," she said, smiling.

Raye shifted his uneasy gaze from L to Naomi. He relaxed and smiled down at her, having to use every ounce of willpower not to playfully tap the end of her nose like he used to. "Two coffees, coming up!" He turned and left the room.

Naomi swung her head around and up to look at L. "What's with you?" she asked.

"Whaght?" L innocently inquired around the thumb in his mouth.

"You're acting weird."

L returned his hand to his pocket. "Yes, well, I've been told that many times."

Naomi shook her head. "No, /Ivan/, I mean more than usual."

L shrugged and lifted his miffed gaze to stare straight ahead. Naomi saw that his hands were fidgeting inside his jeans pockets. Whatever the reason, he was clearly in a bad mood.

Raye returned with the coffees in a cardboard carrying tray. He set the tray down and held out a box of sugar cubes to Naomi.

"If my memory serves me right, you take two sugars?" he said candidly.

Naomi took a pair of sugar cubes and rolled them around in her palm like they were dice. She nodded, smiling back. "Good memory," she commented.

Then, Raye held the box out to L and spoke politely. "Do you take sugar, Ivan?"

"I do," L responded and swiped the box from Raye's hand. He then proceeded to empty the entire thing into his coffee.

For Naomi's sake, Raye tried not to react too much, though Naomi couldn't help but notice his complete bewilderment toward L's rude behavior. She quickly attempted to break the awkwardness by getting everyone's attention back on the case.

"Right, well why don't we all take a seat?" Raye began, gesturing with both hands toward the table, and everyone did. L stepped backwards up onto a chair and sat as he usually did with his hands resting on his knees. He continued to stare intently at Raye, who was finding it more and more difficult to hide his confused discomfort toward the strange man whom Naomi had claimed to be one of her colleagues.

Naomi noticed that everybody in the room was trying way too hard to avert their eyes from L and his unusual way of sitting. He, on the other hand, acted as though nothing were amiss and casually asked questions about the case, sipped his coffee, and chewed on the end of his thumb. Naomi wanted to crawl into the floor. Everything he did was suddenly just as weird as it was on the day they first met.

/"Why can't he just be normal for two seconds?" /she bemoaned inwardly.

And then L spoke. He spoke in such a way that demanded the attention of the entire room. He calmly and evenly voiced his deductions based on the information he'd been presented and heads began to nod in impressed agreement. Murmurs of, "I hadn't even thought of that!" and "That is brilliant!" were heard from around the table.

Naomi's mouth twitched in an attempt to hide a smile. A sense of pride flitted inside her as he spoke, and all the embarrassment she had been feeling melted away. She chided herself. What did a few quirks matter? He was amazing.

"...but I'll have to double-check with L later," he finished plainly. "I'm sure he'll have more to say on the matter."

With that, L stood and looked toward Naomi.

Naomi took the hint and turned to face Raye. "It was great seeing you," she said with a smile.

"You too, Naomi..." Raye couldn't help himself any longer and he leaned in to hug her.

Naomi was surprised at first, but she lifted onto her tiptoes and hugged him back.

L looked down at the floor and kicked at it with the toe of his beaten sneaker.

"Listen, Naomi..." Raye said, pulling away. "I know we didn't end things all that well... and I have no way of knowing if I'll ever see you again." He reached out to gently touch her elbow. "Let me take you to dinner. It's the least I can do."

L's sneaker scuffed at the wooden floor. He didn't know why he was so mad. And that made him even more mad.

"Oh, um," Naomi stiffened and Raye pulled his hand away, searching her face and waiting for a response.

She looked up into his eyes. She knew that nothing could ever happen between them again, but what was the harm in dinner? It was so good to see a familiar face and it had been so long since she'd had an evening out like a real grown-up. And besides, he was right- it was possible, and even likely, that their paths may never cross again.

"...I'd like that," she finally replied.

L turned, hands pocketed and gaze lowered, and started kicking the baseboard against the wall. His sneaker left little scuff marks. So what? He didn't care.

Raye smiled at Naomi. They agreed on a time and a restaurant near Naomi's hotel and said goodbye.

Naomi turned to leave and Raye looked up at L, lifting a hand. "Nice to meet you, Ivan," he said pleasantly.

L nodded curtly and mumbled, "And you, Raye Penber." He left the FBI building feeling the inexplicable urge to punch a wall.

"Is this okay?" Naomi asked hopefully as they approached the limo. "You didn't need me for anything tonight, did you?" She walked alongside L, an excited lightness to her steps.

L's shadowed eyes were fixed straight ahead as he walked, hunched over with his hands pocketed. "It's fine," he muttered.

Naomi was a bit mystified regarding L's crabby attitude. A new case usually intrigued him. Then again, he was nearing five days without sleep. Maybe he was just moody and tired.

Well, more than usual, anyway.

She determined not to dwell on it. Instead, she turned her thoughts to the evening ahead and her stomach flipped again.

She had a date tonight!

They got into the car and Watari began driving to the hotel. He glanced in the rear-view mirror and what he saw caused his brow to furrow in fatherly concern. He wasn't born yesterday. He knew full well why L had wanted to come to the FBI Building, even if the detective himself didn't know exactly why.

But Watari knew.

He had known for a long time.

And what he saw now in the backseat of the limo was exactly what he had been fearing for quite some time now. He saw a girl with flushed cheeks and an excited smile and, next to her, a dejected boy of a man who was desperately struggling to understand the strange and overwhelming ache he felt deep within his chest.



Chapter 15: Happy

Naomi Misora was, by nature, an organized planner. She followed a simple, orderly morning routine. She made her bed every day. She picked out her outfits the night before. Her space, no matter how big or small, was always neat and tidy.

Which is why it totally stressed her out to have clothes strewn haphazardly all over her bed and several pairs of shoes scattered here and there on the floor.

It had been too long since she'd been on a date and she was currently trying on her seventh outfit. Her dress pants looked too professional, her black dress was too formal, another one was too casual... too summery, too wintery, and "Why do I even have this??"

She zipped up the back of her charcoal-grey, A-line dress with the three-quarter length sleeves and turned to inspect her reflection. The dress was simple and yet very becoming with its high neckline and deep-V back that clasped just below her shoulder blades. It was fitted with a thin, red belt at the waist, showing off her feminine figure, and floated away into a knee-length skirt. She had curled just the very ends of her long, black hair and for the first time in a long time, she had put on makeup.

Satisfied at last with her appearance, she selected a pair of simple black heels and slipped them on before leaving her room.

L was on his way back from the suite's little kitchen with a doughnut pinched between his thumb and index finger. He stopped when he saw her.

Watari, who was washing dishes, looked up.

Naomi smiled self-consciously. She gestured her arms outward dramatically. "What do you think?"

L stared at her. His eyes moved down to her feet and then back up again. Then, he looked down at the floor and shrugged. "Don't ask me," he said plainly as he took a bite of the doughnut. "I'm bad at this."

Naomi tipped her head to the side and pursed her lips together, putting a hand to her hip. Apparently, he was still cranky.

"I think you look lovely," Watari quipped, his eyes narrowing toward L.

Naomi grinned. "Thank you! It's been awhile since I've gotten to dress up."

L shoved the rest of the doughnut into his mouth and brushed past her. Naomi looked toward him and then to Watari, who offered her an apologetic look. She smiled and shrugged.

"Have a nice time," Watari said kindly as she left, closing the door behind her.

Raye was waiting for her in the lobby. He looked really sharp in a deep red dress shirt tucked into dark blue jeans. He smiled broadly when he saw her.

"Wow. You look... amazing," he complimented.

Naomi grinned. Then she looked at his shirt and smiled even bigger, bringing her hand to her mouth.

Raye looked down at himself. "What? Oh god, is there a stain on my shirt or something?"

Naomi shook her head, laughing a little. "No, no... I was just remembering that I got you that shirt for your birthday."

Raye looked up again and relaxed into a smile. "Oh... I completely forgot!"

He gestured for her to step through the hotel's revolving doors before him and they began the short walk to the restaurant. The evening was warm and alive with the sounds of city nightlife. They walked together, chatting easily, his hands in his pockets and hers clasped primly behind her back.

They reached the restaurant and stepped inside. It was an upscale place, but it wasn't stuffy or overly gourmet. The atmosphere was lighthearted with an air of class. It was one big room with tables for two set up in the center and tables for larger parties along the perimeter. The bar lined one wall and the shelves behind it were illuminated by green and yellow lights.

Raye had made a reservation and they were promptly shown to their table.

The evening passed easily. They talked like two old friends, inquiring about each other's families and sharing memories of days that somehow felt like yesterday and a lifetime ago all at once.

When at last dinner was finished and the dishes were cleared away, they ordered coffees, not in a hurry to leave.

Raye leaned forward with his arms crossed on the table. "So. Did I tell you I bought a house?"

Naomi, who was sitting comfortably with one leg crossed over her knee and her coffee cup in both hands, answered, "No, you didn't! Congratulations! What's it like?"

"Thanks," Raye said, taking a sip of his coffee and then setting down the mug. "It's nice. Spacious but not too big. It's a little outside the city, but close enough that commuting isn't a nuisance."

"Oh, that's nice!"

"Yeah, I like it better than living in the city." He looked down into his coffee and started tracing the handle with his finger. "I think you'd like it."

Naomi looked down too. She knew where he was going with this.

Raye went on, talking softly. "It's got a porch swing like you said you always wanted."

A smile played with the edges of Naomi's lips but she didn't look up. She remembered saying that.

"And it's got a laundry chute," Raye chuckled. "Remember how we used to talk to each other through the one at my parents' beach house?"

Naomi laughed a little and nodded, placing her elbow on the back of the chair and resting her head in her hand. Those were happy times.

Then Raye looked up and Naomi lifted her eyes to meet his. She saw what she had expected but hadn't wanted to see. A look of regret. A pleading look, looking for even the tiniest hope of a second chance.

"I miss you so much," he said quietly.

Naomi swallowed the lump in her throat. "Raye, please-"

"I have to say it, Naomi." Raye swallowed hard. "Letting you go was the stupidest thing I've ever done."

"No, it wasn't," she said softly, shaking her head. "We want different things, Raye. You know that."

He looked down again. When he didn't answer, Naomi went on.

"You need to be with someone who wants what you want. Someone who will be happy to keep a home and raise a family." She leaned forward and took one of his hands in both of hers. His sad, blue eyes looked up. Naomi swallowed. "I wouldn't be happy with that life. Not in the long run."

He searched her face for what seemed like a long time. Then he nodded slowly. "Okay."

Naomi smiled and leaned back again, picking up her mug and taking a long sip.

"Just... tell me you're happy," Raye said.

She looked at him sincerely. "I am happy. I promise."

He nodded but looked unconvinced. "It's just... well, it seems like you're working with some real weirdos."

Naomi's brow furrowed. "Weirdos?"

Raye scoffed. "Okay, don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about."

Of course she knew who he was talking about. She just wasn't sure if she was okay with the use of the word "weirdo."

She shook her head and waved a hand casually. "He's just eccentric."

Raye lifted his eyebrows. "Is that what you call it?"

Naomi squirmed in her seat. She didn't like this conversation. "Okay, he's... he's weird, yes. But he's smart- brilliant, actually- and he's very good at his job. In fact," she added, smiling to herself over the irony, "you could say he's the best."

"Is that so..." Raye said slowly.

"Yes, and he's stronger than he looks. He can fight pretty well. And-"



Raye folded his hands on top of the table. "I was going to ask if there was someone else in your life. I'm not sure I need to now."

Naomi's mouth opened to protest but Raye held up a hand.

"I know you," he said quietly.

Naomi lifted her chin stubbornly. "Well, we work together. That is all."

Raye chuckled and shook his head. He motioned toward the waiter to bring the check.

They walked back to the hotel, both of them sensing the nearness of their farewell. They stopped when they reached the hotel's entrance.

Naomi turned to face Raye. "I had a really nice time," she said, smiling up at him.

"Me too," he said. His hands were in his pockets as he looked down at her upturned face.

There was a silence between them. As if each knew that as soon as it was broken, they'd be going their separate ways. Forever.

Naomi swallowed. She saw it in his eyes. He wanted to kiss her. And for a fleeting second, she wanted him to.

But as she searched the face of the man she once loved, she saw only a past full of memories. Good memories, mostly; ones she would always look back upon fondly.

But that was all. There was no future for her with Raye Penber and she knew that. His part in her story had ended.

She looked down at her hands and spoke, breaking the spell.

"Thank you for dinner."

"Of course," he said softly.

Then she looked up at him again. She reached her hand out to take his in a parting handshake.

"I hope you find someone to share that porch swing with," she said fondly.

Raye smiled. His finger lifted to tap the end of her nose one last time. "Goodbye, Naomi Misora."

His arms gathered her into a final hug and then he was gone.

She stood and watched him walk away until he disappeared into the sidewalk of people and the busyness of the city lights. She turned and stepped into the hotel lobby.

She walked past the elevators and through the automatic glass doors that led out to the large patio area. The lights from the in-ground pool cast a blue, watery glow on everything surrounding it and a stone fire pit containing dying embers sat abandoned and surrounded by chairs. Naomi walked over to the railing and crossed her arms on top of it, looking out over the darkness of the Pacific Ocean before her and listening to the gentle crashing of waves. She stood there for awhile, lost in her thoughts and contemplating her life. And despite the sadness that so often accompanies a goodbye, she knew deep down that she truly was content.

Just then, something small plunked her on the head. She looked up into the night sky and then down at the ground to see what had hit her. Lying at her feet was a small cookie, no larger than a silver dollar. She bent to pick it up. It was shaped like a panda.

Another one hit her and bounced to the ground. She turned and looked up- way up- to the penthouse balcony where L stood, looking down at her.

Naomi grinned. "What are you doing?" she called up to him.

L leaned forward and put a hand to his ear.

Naomi repeated herself louder.

He leaned back again and shrugged, popping a panda cookie into his mouth and staring down at her.

Naomi laughed. She cupped her hands over her mouth. "Do you want to take a walk?"

L shrugged and tapped his ear again.

Naomi turned and pointed toward the beach, then looked up again.

L looked to where she was pointing and then back down at her. She motioned for him to come down. When he hesitated, she formed a megaphone with her hands again.

"Come on! You don't even have to wear shoes!"

L's hand traveled from the bright pink bag pinched between his fingers to his mouth. He just stared at her. She beckoned one more time. He flicked another cookie down at her and turned, disappearing into the penthouse suite.

She bent to pick up the scattered pandas and tossed them into a nearby bin. Soon after, the automatic doors slid open and L walked out onto the patio, hands pocketed. He wasn't wearing shoes.

"So you could hear me," Naomi said slyly.

A corner of L's mouth lifted. His toes fidgeted on the top of his other foot. He just stood, looking at her through the shaggy pieces of hair that always fell in his eyes.

His mood didn't seem so bad now.

Naomi turned to open the little metal gate and they stepped off the patio and onto the cool, dry sand. Naomi paused to remove her heels and L bent to roll up the bottoms of his jeans. They walked along the beach quietly for a few moments, keeping a short distance from the icy cold water.

"How was it?" L finally asked.

Naomi looked over at him. His eyes were downcast and his hands were pocketed.

"It was good," she said evenly, lowering her gaze again. "It was nice to catch up."

L nodded but made no reply. He listlessly kicked at the sand as he walked.

Naomi went on. "It was kind of strange, too, though. He..."

Naomi stopped and checked herself. L probably didn't want to hear all about it.

L lifted his head to look at her. "He what?"

Naomi sighed. "Well, I think a part of him was hoping I'd change my mind."

L looked down again.

"But he wants a... a wife, you know... someone who will cook and care for a home and look after his kids. And there was a time I thought I wanted that too..."

Her voice drifted off thoughtfully for a moment before continuing. L just listened, his eyes on the sand.

"And it wasn't until we started looking at houses in the suburbs and talking about baby names that I realized... I didn't really want those things. You know? It was like too much of me was disappearing. I remember feeling sick to my stomach the day I traded my motorcycle in for a more family-friendly vehicle." She laughed slightly. "I know it sounds silly..." She turned her head to look toward the ocean, a gentle wind playing with the curled ends of her hair. "...but, man, I miss that bike." Her voice trailed off again.

Then, she waved a hand in the air, brushing it off. They walked in silence, the sound of the waves rising and falling softly and rhythmically. Sounds of conversation and laughter drifted through the air and lively music was coming from someplace nearby.



"I realized something tonight."

She stopped walking and turned to look out at the water. He did the same.

"I realized that I'm really happy." She turned her head to smile at him. "I love my job and I'm really happy with my life. And I have you to thank for that."

L's wide, insomniac eyes looked at her steadily. "Well, that's good. I'm glad," he said simply.

She turned to look straight ahead again but his gaze dropped. He played lightly in the sand with his toes.

"Um, what I said before..." he began and Naomi looked at him. "It's true. I'm bad at this... I'm not good with... girls. Or... dresses or whatever." He lifted a hand and fluttered it in the air. "But... I do like this on you." He gestured toward her and shrugged. "It's nice."

Naomi smiled at him, the calmness in her voice not at all reflecting the butterflies inside her that were suddenly all out of control again. "Thank you. That's really sweet."

L returned to kicking the sand and his fingers drummed on his thighs from inside his pockets. He looked up at the water. "After you left, Watari told me I may have upset you. Did I?" He spoke plainly and his gaze was fixed on the ocean. He was transparently uncomfortable and Naomi knew how difficult it was for him to talk like this.

"I wasn't upset," she said simply. Then she laughed a little to lighten the mood. "But just some advice... say something next time a girl asks you how she looks!"

L nodded once. "Alright."

They turned and began walking again.

All of a sudden, the sky above the Santa Monica Pier before them burst into color and light and L and Naomi looked up as the night sky illuminated with fireworks.

"There must be something going on tonight," Naomi commented. "It's a bit rowdier at the pier than usual and some people in town were wearing costumes and stuff."

"It's Halloween," L pointed out.

Naomi suddenly felt stupid. "Ohhh! Wow, I completely forgot!" Then she looked at him and wrinkled her nose. "Wait- since when do you pay attention to holidays?"

L kicked at the sand. "It's also my birthday."

Naomi stopped and grabbed his arm. He tensed immediately and looked down at her hand, then at her.

"It's your birthday?? Why didn't you tell me!?" She let go and smacked his arm lightly with the back of her hand.

L had a look of confused shock on his face. "Did you... need to know?" he asked dumbly.

Naomi laughed and put a hand on her hip, smiling. "Happy Birthday," she said, grinning.

L shrugged and went back to tracing the sand with his toes. A warm, salty breeze tugged at the ends of his crazy hair and white shirt. "Actually, I don't know what day I was born," he said. "October 31st is just an estimate." He spoke the words, not as to elicit sympathy, but simply as a statement of fact.

Naomi had never asked L about his past before. She wasn't sure if she ever should. But, caught up in the moment, she carefully ventured, "So... did you know your parents?"

"No, I never knew them."

"Oh. What do you know about them?"

L shrugged. "Nothing. No one knows who they were... or are. I don't know. I've looked for them, but it's nearly impossible without anything to go on. I didn't even have a name until Watari-" He stopped abruptly, surprising himself with how much he had just shared with her. He had never spoken about those things to anyone. He looked uneasily at Naomi, the bursts of color from the fireworks reflecting in his large, almost-black eyes. "We should head back," he said.

He turned and, for the second time that night, Naomi watched a man walk on ahead of her.

But this time was different.

This one turned to look over his shoulder and ask, "Are you coming?"

Naomi was not usually one to read deep into the meaning of things but, given the events that had transpired that evening, his question seemed symbolic, somehow.

She smiled.

"Yes, I'm coming."

And she stepped up to walk beside him.



Chapter 16: Awake

With a sudden intake of breath, L's eyes opened.

He was sitting on the couch with his knees brought to his chest, leaning slightly on the armrest with one bare foot on top of the other.

His head, which had been flopped forward, came up slowly and tilted to one side and then the other, cracking loudly on both sides. He lifted his hands to rub his never fully-rested eyes with the base of his palms and blinked several times.

He stepped off of the couch and shoved his hands into his pockets as he looked around the large hotel suite. Watari was in the kitchen arranging some sweets on a tray. His white mustache twitched in a small smile.

"You slept for almost fourteen hours," he remarked. "It's past three o'clock in the afternoon."

L nodded and squeezed his eyes shut in a yawn. He extended both arms in front of him and rotated them outward, cracking his elbows. Then, rolling his shoulders a few times, he shuffled into the bathroom to freshen up.

One thing L did every day, whether he had slept or not, was shave. Scratchy facial hair drove him up the wall, and the second he started to feel it, he would drop whatever he was doing and take care of it. Teaching teenage L to use a razor and shaving cream had been an utter disaster, so Watari had purchased him a top-of-the-line electric one. Now, it hummed and buzzed for a few minutes every day and L never had so much as a five o'clock shadow.

Another thing L insisted on was using toothpaste meant for children because, although he didn't exactly like it, it was at least better than that awful minty stuff made for adults.

And, despite the fact that he liked being clean, he hated the mundane routines of personal hygiene. It was all so tedious.

Watari had always insisted on those practices associated with his health and well-being, such as brushing his teeth. But young L had put up such a fight over it that Watari had picked his battles, letting other things, such as the use of deodorant, slide.

But when L had announced that he was going to be hiring Naomi Misora, Watari put his foot down once and for all. Reluctantly, L complied.

Then followed the taxing process of finding a scent that L approved of. This led to a few days that neither L nor Watari hoped to ever speak of again. Every possible variation of deodorant in practically every scent imaginable had been scattered all over the suite, each and every one having been tenaciously rejected. The exhausted Watari didn't back down. The frustrated L hurled a stick of deodorant, resulting in a cracked computer monitor. But finally, one that reminded him of how his shirts smelled when they came out of the dryer satisfied him, and Watari promptly ordered a lifetime supply.

And it was never discussed again.

Within a few minutes, L stepped out of the bathroom, smelling freshly of clean linen and children's toothpaste, and moved over to hop up into the computer chair at the desk.

They were still in Los Angeles and had been for about two weeks now. The case that had called them there had closed, but the one that L was working on now did not require him to travel. So, they were staying put for the time-being.

Watari brought a tray of coffee and pastries to the desk.

"Where is Misora?" L asked, wasting no time in sugaring up his coffee.

"She's in her room working on the project you gave her."

L nodded. "Good." Then he looked up at Watari hopefully. "Did you get it?"

The old man's eyes creased into a smile. "I did. I left it where you told me to."

A spark of excitement flitted in L's eyes, though his voice remained steady and monotone. "Thank you, Watari."

He turned his attention to the coffee and pastries... but not fully. He had been doing a lot of thinking over the past two weeks. The sudden appearance of Raye Penber had brought on a jealousy that L had never experienced before. And, being the intellectual that he was, he naturally had to analyze it all.

Watari had helped him work through it some. He had gently approached the subject shortly after Naomi left for her date...

L had been crouched in the computer chair and Watari, who had been watching him pout from the kitchen, finally decided to talk to his boy. He dried his hands on a dish towel and moved to stand beside the desk.


L looked up, his big, sunken eyes a little more sullen than usual. His arms hung lazily down at his sides and his hands draped over the edge of the chair.

Watari spoke slowly. "Are you alright? You seem to be bothered by something."

L turned his head and looked down at the desk in front of him. He didn't answer. He didn't know how to.

Watari continued carefully. "I think I might know..."

L looked up again. His giant eyes pleaded with Watari to explain this to him. To help it all make sense.

Watari sighed. "I think... I think perhaps Misora has come to mean something to you."

There. He finally said it.

L wrapped his arms around his legs and buried his nose and mouth in his knees, staring at the desktop.

"And I think," Watari continued, treading lightly, "that you didn't realize it until he showed up."

At the mention of Raye, L's eyes narrowed. He made a sound like a low growl in his throat.

Watari sighed again. "Well, being rude to her won't help anything."

L looked up. Watari was not usually so blunt. "Was I?" he asked.

"Well, you could have perhaps complimented her appearance when she asked you about it," the old man chuckled. "She did look very nice all dressed up."

L retreated into his knees again with downcast eyes.

When he didn't answer, Watari added, "May I make a suggestion? Say something to her when she gets back. Let her know that she is important to you."

With that, he turned and walked away, leaving L with a lot to think about.

And now, two weeks later, L still wasn't quite sure what to make of himself and the way she made him feel. But Watari had been right. His logic had been sound.

L finished his coffee and shoved a pastry into his mouth as he stood up. He moved to the front door and shoved his bare feet into his worn-out sneakers. He suddenly felt nervous and excited all at once, though his aloof demeanor gave away none of this.

He stood staring at Naomi's door, licking strawberry jelly and bits of pastry flakes from his fingertips.

He had never surprised anyone with anything before. But, something Watari had said had stuck with him:

"Let her know that she is important to you."

L knew he was so bad at words. He had been at a complete loss on how to properly convey such a message.

And then, they took that walk on the beach, and something that she said gave him an idea...

He licked away the last of the strawberry pastry filling from his thumb and stepped forward to knock on her door.



At the sound of L's voice on the other side of her door, Misora looked up from her laptop. She was sitting on her bed with her legs extended before her and the laptop sitting on top of them.


"Do you have a moment?"

Naomi set the laptop aside and stood up. She moved over to the door and opened it. L stood there, nibbling on the end of his thumb.

"Would you come with me please?" He beckoned slightly with one hand.

Naomi noticed almost immediately that he was wearing shoes.

"Where are we going?' she asked.

The corner of L's mouth twitched into what one may or may not call a smile.

"Not far," he said. "But you'll need shoes."

Naomi was suddenly intrigued. This wasn't like L... What was he up to?

She followed him to the front door and he waited while she pulled her boots on over her jeans and slipped into her black leather jacket. Then, he led her down the elevator, outside, and over the crosswalk to the parking deck across the street from the hotel. He didn't say a word; he just walked alongside her, his back and shoulders curved and his hands stuffed in his pockets.

They reached the parking deck and took one more elevator ride up a few stories. Naomi had no idea what was going on. The suspense was driving her crazy.

At last, the elevator doors opened. Naomi had half expected them to open on some secret level of the parking deck and find some sort of covert detective headquarters, but that was not the case. Before her was an average, run-of-the-mill, concrete parking deck level tinted with the yellow glow of florescent light bulbs.

L stepped out of the elevator and made an immediate left turn. Naomi followed and almost ran into him, as he had stopped right after rounding the corner. He turned to look at her, his thumb tucked between his back teeth on one side.

"So... What are we doing here?" Naomi queried.

L said nothing, only tipped his head for her to look in front of them.

Naomi turned her head and instantly, a million butterflies exploded in her stomach. Before her was the most incredible motorcycle she had ever seen. It was sleek and black as night with the electrifying glow of purple LED light strips running along its smooth curves. A full-face helmet and a genuine leather jacket hung from one of the handlebars.

Naomi's head snapped back to L, who hadn't taken his wide, shadowed eyes off her.

"I thought you might like to have one again," he said simply.

Naomi's hands flew to her face to cover her mouth as she whirled back to face the bike.


Naomi had never, ever owned anything even close to this.

"This... This is mine??" she asked in disbelief.

The bike was like nothing she'd ever seen in real life. It looked like something a superhero would drive. It no doubt had an impressive price tag. That leather jacket alone looked like it cost a small fortune. Naomi was completely floored.

L spoke around the thumb between his molars. "Do you like it?"

Both of her hands moved from her mouth to the top of her head. She was well aware that her mouth was hanging open in the biggest, cheesiest grin, but who could blame her? It was gorgeous! And it was /hers/.

Without even giving it a second thought, Naomi squealed with pure joy and turned to fling her arms around L, who staggered backwards in surprise. His whole being instantly went stiff as a rod.

"GAHH, L! Oh my god, I can't believe this! Thank you! Thank you so much!"

Before L even had time to process the bear hug, Naomi let go and practically bounded over to her new motorcycle, leaving L in shock with wide eyes and rigid shoulders. He hadn't been prepared for that.

He quickly regained his composure and relaxed back into his hunched standing position, though the barely detectable pink color in his usually paper-white cheeks remained a few moments more.

Naomi was exclaiming over everything in an uncharacteristically high-pitched, girly voice, which both amused and pleased L. He had spent hours researching on the internet in order to get the best and most suitable bike for his most trusted agent. The fact that she was so tickled by every little detail caused a smile to round the corners of his pale lips.

He scratched the back of his head and gestured toward the motorcycle. "I did some research and this is supposed to be a really good one," he said plainly.

Naomi was running her hands over the cushioned leather handlebars. She shook her head in awe, unable to stop grinning.

"L, this is... so amazing. I love it. Thank you so much." She lifted her gaze and smiled broadly at him, her eyes shining.

Something inside of L fairly leapt and he smiled in return, nodding briefly in acceptance of her thanks.

"I can't wait to take this out!" Naomi exclaimed, returning her attention to the bike.

"Oh, well then, here." L removed his hand from his pocket and tossed her a key ring.

Naomi caught the key and squealed again. She stepped onto the footrest and swung her leg over to sit on the beautiful machine. She unhooked the sleek, black helmet from the handlebar and slid it over her head before putting the key into the ignition and turning it forward. The ebony and violet beast rumbled to life with the powerful, deep-throat snarl of a Bengal tiger.

Naomi leaned forward and lifted the leather jacket off of the handlebar. Then, she turned to look at L, her face completely hidden behind the tinted black visor. She tossed him the jacket and tipped her head behind her.

"Get on."

A look of surprise passed over L's face as he caught the jacket with one hand. He hesitated.

She laughed. "It's just this one time! You'll freeze without it."

L looked at her and then at the jacket in his hand. This was as unexpected as the hug. He shot Naomi an uneasy look, then reluctantly shoved his arms into the sleeves. They slid up to nearly the middle of his forearms. L narrowed his eyes at Naomi, holding both of his long arms out before him.

Naomi snickered. "Sir, you look /dashing/."

L sighed, dropping his arms and stepping forward. He climbed up to sit behind Naomi. The motorcycle purred and trembled beneath them.

"Hang on," Naomi instructed.

"Onto... what?"

"Onto me!"

L rigidly placed his hands on either side of her waist.

Naomi let out an exasperated sigh and reached to grab both of his skinny wrists. She wrapped his arms around her, pulling him in toward her, and clasped his hands together in front of her.

Now, his cheeks were inarguably pink.

Before there was any time to react, though, Naomi was off. She had missed this so much.

They drove for awhile, avoiding the traffic and the stop lights of the city, and traveled along curvy, highway roads. The wind whipped at L's white shirt and jacket as he held on tightly with his head turned to the side, his raven hair as wild as it ever was. He observed as the late afternoon sunlight spilled over the passing scenery, the city of Los Angeles visible through the blur of trees. This was like nothing he'd ever experienced. He tilted his face up toward the warmth of the sun and closed his eyes, allowing himself a brief moment of blissful freedom. For once, the weight of the world was not resting on his shoulders; the crosses of humanity were not his to bear. He wondered fleetingly if he had ever felt this content.

The bike rumbled to a stop at an overlook and L sat back, placing his hands on his knees and looking out over the breathtaking view of the city at sunset.

Naomi opened the visor of her helmet and returned her hands to the handlebars.

"Wow," she breathed. "That's beautiful."


L contemplated her word choice. Beauty was a concept he had never really considered; or rather, he had never fully understood it.

But sitting there in the pink and orange softness of the setting sun, he realized that beauty wasn't about what you were looking at, but about the feeling it gave you when you took it all in.

He turned to look at Naomi, who was completely caught up in the aesthetic before her. A warm breeze played with the ends of her hair under her helmet, through which peered her slender, hazel eyes.

L's gaze didn't leave her. A funny feeling pulsed beneath his plain, white shirt. He swallowed and spoke softly, uttering a single word with complete meaning and understanding for the first time in his life.




Chapter 17: Home

As November drew to a close, and the holiday season settled upon its parts of the world, Naomi began to think of her childhood home in Japan. She had been working for L for almost a year now, and she decided that it was a good time to ask him if she could go home for a visit.

She approached the subject one evening when L seemed to be in a fairly good mood.

"L? Can I ask you a question?"

L didn't turn around from his perch in the computer chair at the desk. He was too busy making a sugar cube pyramid. But he answered with a monotone, "Yes? What is it?"

Naomi cleared her throat and shifted to sit up straighter on the couch. "Well, um- I was wondering if... if maybe I could go see my family for a few days... in Japan."

A sugar cube, pinched between a bony thumb and index finger, paused. It hovered over the pyramid for a moment before it came to rest on the very top.

" Japan..." L mumbled. He picked up another sugar cube. "Yes, I think that can be arranged."

Naomi's heart leapt. "Really?? Oh, that would really mean a lot to me!"

His arched back to her, she didn't see the smile the lifted the corners of his mouth. He liked it when her voice got all high and excited like that. Despite this, he continued with the plainest inflection, "We've got to be in New York by the middle of next week, but I suppose we could go to Japan first."

Naomi furrowed her brow. L had said "we." She had meant to just make the trip herself.

"Oh. You... you don't have to go all the way to Japan with me. I just meant... Well, I thought I just could go and then meet you in New York."

L popped a sugar cube in his mouth and spoke around it. "No, no, I love Japan. Besides, you know I would rather you not use public air travel."

"Oh, right." Naomi hadn't thought of that.

"I'll talk to Watari," L went on. "We'll arrange to go to Japan in two days. You can have the week off to stay with your family and then we will go on to New York." He tossed another sugar cube into his mouth. "How does that sound?"

Naomi's expression brightened into a grin. "That sounds wonderful! Thank you so much." She stood up and moved with quick, excited steps toward her room to call her parents.

The door to the hotel suite opened and Watari stepped inside. As he removed his hat and coat, he asked L if there was anything he needed him to do.

"Yes," L said without hesitation, holding out his arm. An empty coffee cup dangled delicately from his fingertips.

Watari hung his coat on the rack. "I'll make some more right away."

"Oh, and Watari?"


"We're going to Japan in two days."

To anyone else in the world, such an abrupt statement of plans would have brought on, at the very least, a look of surprise, and perhaps a feeling of overwhelmed unpreparedness. But the feathers of Quillish Wammy remained unruffled at the announcement.

He merely nodded and responded calmly and obligingly, "Very well."


As promised, L's private jet touched down in Tokyo two days later.

Naomi took a cab to her parents' home, as she felt that showing up big as life on her luxury motorcycle may raise some questions that she wouldn't be able to answer.

As she stepped out of the cab, a smile spread across her face. The Japanese home she had grown up in hadn't changed a bit.

She gathered her luggage for the week and was only halfway up the sidewalk when the front door opened and everything was all at once a lively blur of hugs and hellos. There to greet her, along with her parents, were her two brothers, Takeo and Tatsuya, and their families. Naomi hadn't seen her three nieces in almost two years and there was a tiny nephew that she was able to hold for the first time.

Naomi was whisked back to the happy days of her upbringing as she settled in for a week off with her family.

She spent the first few days catching up with her siblings and going with her parents to visit friends and other extended family.

On her fourth day in Tokyo, Naomi took a cab to visit the police station where she had worked as an office assistant during the summers between her high school terms. The short, elderly lady whom she had worked under still sat at the front desk at the entrance. She jumped up when Naomi walked in and greeted her with a big hug.

Naomi had loved working here. She had known since she was just a little girl that she wanted to go into law enforcement and Chief Sato, who was a good friend of her father's, had been kind enough to give the eager, bright-eyed teen a summer position. Since then, a Chief Yagami, whom Naomi had never met, had taken his place.

"Oh, everyone will want to say hello!" the elderly receptionist said excitedly. She handed Naomi a lanyard with a visitor's badge and buzzed her in to the office wing of the building.

Naomi spent the afternoon pleasantly, visiting with friendly faces, some familiar and some new. She stopped to get coffee in the break room and remembered fondly doing her summer reading projects at the little table in the corner on her lunch hour.

As she was pouring her coffee, the door opened and a well-dressed young man stepped into the room. He was tall with well-groomed, brown hair and attractive features.

"Oh, hello," he greeted. "I don't believe we have met?"

Naomi smiled. "No, we haven't. I'm just visiting today, but I used to work here." She returned the coffee pot to its base and turned to bow slightly. "Misora Naomi," she introduced herself.

The young man bowed in return. "Yagami Light, nice to meet you! Were you an agent?"

"Oh, no. I mean, yes. I mean-" She laughed and shook her head.

Light grinned as he poured his own cup of coffee. He appeared youthful but he presented himself with a great deal of maturity.

"Let me start over," she said, smiling and waving her hand. "I worked in the office here as a teenager. Then, I worked as an agent in the States."

"Ah," said Light, placing the carafe back in the coffee maker. "So what do you do now?" He stood casually with one hand in his suit pants pocket as he took a sip of his coffee.

"Oh, well, I can't really discuss my job freely," Naomi said apologetically. "Sorry, I don't mean to be rude-"

Light put a hand up. "Say no more, I'm used to it," he laughed.

Naomi smiled. "You said your name is Yagami," she observed. "Are you related to the chief?"

"Mm," Light nodded, lowering the mug of coffee from his lips. "He's my father."

"Oh! So you work with your father, then? That's nice."

"Yeah, I like it!" Light said, nodding. "I'm just doing intern stuff between classes for now, but someday I hope to be on one of his task forces. I'm in my second year at Toho University."

Despite his boyish features, Naomi was surprised to hear that he was, in fact, so young. He certainly carried himself with a sophistication beyond his years.

The door to the break room opened and another young man, appearing a little older than Light, poked his head in.

"What is it, Matsuda?" Light asked.

"Oh, sorry, Light. I don't mean to interrupt, but your father needs those copies made right away!"

The dark-haired young man called Matsuda had such a nervous disposition, but he smiled and bowed to Naomi. "I'm so sorry to be rude!"

Naomi waved her hand. "No, no, it's fine!" She extended her hand to Light. "It was really nice to meet you! Good luck at college and best of luck with getting on that task force someday!"

Light accepted her handshake and smiled warmly. "You too! Good luck with... Well, whatever it is you do!" He laughed pleasantly and they bowed to each other.

He turned to leave, shutting the door behind him. Naomi heard Matsuda's voice saying something to Light about how he always knew how to talk to pretty girls.

She grinned and returned to her coffee.


The week passed all too quickly and the sun came up on Naomi's last day in Tokyo. She sat at the breakfast table with her mother and father, enjoying their last few moments together. Her luggage was all packed and sitting by the door, ready to go whenever Watari arrived.

"It was so wonderful to see you," Naomi's mother said, taking her daughter's hand.

Naomi gave her mother a meaningful look. "I had such a great time."

Her mother glanced over at Naomi's father. She continued slowly. "Dear, we can't let you go without asking... Your father and I just want to know... Are you planning to settle down soon?"

Naomi looked down into her cup of green tea. She had made it almost a whole week without this question coming up. She lifted her gaze to meet her mother's. "Mom, I'm happy. My job is my life and I'm okay with that. I really love it."

Her parents exchanged glances again.

Her father leaned forward onto the table. "Sweetheart, you know we love you. And we love hearing that you are happy. But... don't you think you'll regret this decision down the road?"

Naomi shook her head. "I don't," she said evenly.

"But, your brothers-"

"Dad, Takeo and Tatsuya are happy where they are... and I... Well, I'm happy where I am." She smiled.

And for some strange reason, L came to mind when she said that.

Her mother spoke again. "We just want to make sure you're happy in the life you've chosen." She had a concerned look in her eyes.

"Mom, I'm /fine/." Naomi smiled reassuringly. "But..." She reached out and took both her parents' hands. "I'm going to miss you both so much."

As she spoke the words, the sound of a car pulling up came from outside. Naomi stood and hugged her parents closely. The three of them made their way over to the front door and her father picked up her suitcase to carry it outside.

They stepped onto the front stoop and Naomi looked up to see L standing by the car. An all-too-familiar sensation instantly fluttered inside her. He looked the same as he always did: floppy hair hanging in his sleep-deprived eyes, white t-shirt, loose-fitting blue jeans, beaten sneakers.

His mouth rounded into a small smile when he saw her.

She smiled back.

Her parents, on the other hand, didn't quite know what to make of him.

"Who is that, dear?" Naomi's mother asked, her voice low.

Naomi opened her mouth to answer, but L stepped forward as Watari collected the bags and began loading them into the trunk.

"You must be Misora Naomi's family," he said in a friendly tone. He bowed respectfully. "Rue Ryuzaki."

The Misoras bowed in return.

Naomi's father spoke. "And, ah- how do you know our Naomi?"

"We work together," L said simply. "And, I assure you, she is a valuable agent. She does excellent work, Sir."

Naomi felt her cheeks grow warm. Stupid butterflies.

The Misoras seemed pleased to hear the commendation, though their expressions remained a bit perplexed.

L said nothing more. He just stood with his hands awkwardly at his sides, no doubt refraining from pocketing them in respect for her parents. He looked at Naomi with a look that asked if they could leave now.

Naomi understood and turned to hug her father and mother one more time. They said their final goodbyes and she and L climbed into the back of the car as Watari shut the trunk.

"Well, that was unexpected," Naomi commented.

"What was?" L was already opening a tin of Japanese butter cookies.

"You! Meeting my parents!" Naomi laughed a little.

"Oh. I just wanted to see what they were like," L glanced at her innocently as he bit into a cookie.

Naomi smiled at him. Leaving her childhood home behind was never easy. But she realized, as she looked at L with all of his familiar quirks, that home wasn't necessarily a place.

He looked up again and noticed her watching him.

"What?" Naturally, his mouth was full.

Naomi just smiled. She wanted to say, "I missed you," but she didn't. It didn't quite feel right. Not yet. Instead, she just shrugged playfully, and then turned to wave goodbye one more time.

They drove away and the Misoras stood watching and waving until the car was out of sight.

Naomi's father lowered his arm and sighed. "You know," he remarked, "a few years ago, when Naomi told us that she had worked under the great detective, L, I really thought she would be going places and doing big things. And now... Well, now, she's gone and left the FBI and it seems like she's working with some very strange people." He shook his head .

Naomi's mother nodded. "Yes..." She was quiet for a moment, then added with a hint of optimism, "But as long as she's happy, I suppose."

She smiled hopefully up at her husband, who, in turn, tightened his arm affectionately around her.

Then, they turned and went inside, shutting the door behind them.



Chapter 18: Eve

It was a cold December afternoon in New York City and it had just begun to snow. Naomi stood watching the soft flakes twirl downward lazily, as if they were in no hurry to meet their final resting place. She gazed contentedly outside the frosty window, cupping her hot mug of coffee in both hands, just the very tips of her fingers peeking out from the long sleeves of her sweater.

It was Christmas Eve and the lobby of the grand hotel they were staying in was adorned festively with lights and garland and ornaments.

Naomi couldn't help but think of the lyrics to "Silver Bells" as she looked out the window.

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
/In the air there's a feeling of Christmas /

The song fit the scene before her just perfectly. She loved Christmas.

The suite they were staying in was on the top floor and the view of the city was spectacular. Naomi's gaze shifted to Central Park and the ice skaters going round and round Wollman Rink, looking tiny as ants from her lofty perspective. It had been a long time since she had ice skated, though at one time she had actually been quite good at it. As she watched, she remembered fondly the scrape of the blades against the ice and the feeling of the cold winter air on her cheeks.

Oh, wouldn't it be fun to go...

A wave of spontaneity suddenly caused Naomi to spin around and exclaim, "We should go ice skating!"

L, who was busy with nothing more than a plate of cake, looked up.

"Umm, no," he responded flatly.

Naomi put a hand on her hip. "Come on..." Then she added hopefully, "'s Christmas!"

L shook his head, his mouth full of cake. "No." He swallowed and added, "You can go."

Naomi brought her hand back up to hold her mug with both hands again and sighed. "Okay, well nevermind. Sorry, I just got excited." She turned back to stare out the window.

L hadn't missed the look of obvious disappointment in her face, but /ice skating/? Not really his thing.

Watari cleared his throat loudly and L turned his head to look at him. The old man was staring intently at the detective.

L lifted his bony shoulders in an innocent shrug.

Without breaking eye contact, Watari tipped his head toward Naomi and raised his white eyebrows.

L looked at Naomi, whose back was turned to him, and then back at Watari. He read clearly the message that was being relayed to him. Naomi was more than deserving of a fun day out. And the holiday did seem to be important to her...

But... ice skating//?

With an audible sigh, L stood to his feet. "Alright."

Naomi turned to look at him questioningly.

He stood with his hands in his pockets and cracked his toes into the carpet. "We can go ice skating." He turned to Watari. "Are you coming?"

The old man chuckled. "No, no, but I'd be more than happy to give you two a ride."

Naomi was grinning. "Wait, really? You're going to ice skate?"

L lifted a hand to scratch the side of his head. "Looks like it," he answered uneasily.

"Oh, yay!" Naomi set her mug down and moved with quick, excited steps toward her room. She pointed at L as she did so and told him to find something warm to wear before disappearing into her little wing of the large suite.

Watari rose to his feet and moved with purpose to the coat closet. He brought out a navy blue pea coat with dark brown buttons and a little box full of winter accessories.

L immediately regretted his decision. He hated wearing extra clothing.

In the end, he refused a hat and gloves but reluctantly donned the coat and a grey scarf.

Naomi stepped out of her room wearing a dark purple ski jacket and her jeans. Her long, black hair hung over her shoulders under a white knit beanie and she had on black leather gloves. She smiled excitedly. "You ready?"

L nodded, his hands stuffed into the pockets of the coat. He slid his bare feet into his sneakers, ignoring Naomi's, "Seriously, you are going to freeze."

Watari dropped them off, as promised, and Naomi's heart sang along with the festive music drifting through the bright, frosty air. Her breath made little white puffs appear and disappear and she could feel her nose already turning red as she and L approached the outdoor rink. But the atmosphere was alive and warm with laughter and cheer.

L had his shoulders lifted against the cold and his nose and mouth were tucked into the scarf as he walked. Snow was collecting on his jeans around his ankles and Naomi marveled to herself how on earth this man was so stubborn when it came to his footwear.

They reached the rink and Naomi turned to L to ask his skate size. Hands pocketed, he lifted his foot to read the bottom of his shoes.

"Um, 10 I think?"

Naomi grinned at the fact that he didn't know his own shoe size.

They rented their skates and sat down on a bench. Naomi showed L how to tighten and hook the laces and then turned to do her own.

L finished with his skates and pulled his denim pant legs over them. Without waiting for Naomi, he stood to his feet and took a cautious step onto the ice. His foot slid forward and he swung his arms to regain balance.

Naomi laughed a little. "Careful!"

L looked back at her, his mouth still covered by the scarf. Then, he turned and observed the other people on the rink. He watched their feet and how those who seemed to know what they were doing kicked sideways ever so slightly as they glided smoothly along. It looked easy enough.

He looked down at his own feet and gingerly stepped forward again. Then he took another step, and another. Within a few seconds, he felt like he had the hang of it. He leaned forward and skated away, using his heightened senses of intuition and balance to imitate the movements of those around him, his hands pocketed in his warm coat.

Naomi watched in disbelief. He had picked it up so quickly. She finished with her skates and stood. He was on the other side of the rink now, gliding along expertly. She stepped onto the ice and waited for him to come back around.

But he didn't slow down as he approached her. Instead, he swung over to the edge where she was standing and grabbed her wrist, pulling her alongside him.

"Come on, you're the one who wanted to do this," he said, his voice muffled behind the scarf.

As he began his second lap, L noticed that several people were holding hands with someone else as they went around. He had never really taken part in any kind of social activity like this before and a part of him had always wondered what it would be like to do the things that other humans considered "normal." He looked down at his hand that still held Naomi's wrist. He curiously decided to give it a try. He innocently moved to take her small hand in his much larger one.

Naomi yanked her hand away, startled.

"What- what are you doing?"

A brief look of panic sparked in the young detective's eyes. "Oh. Is that not okay?"

Naomi was confused. Did L just try to hold her hand?

His face retreated deeper into the scarf and his hand returned quickly to his coat pocket. He looked down at the ice beneath his gliding feet and mumbled, "Sorry."

And then Naomi felt bad. She understood that social graces were not among L's strong traits and that he had, perhaps, never even tried to hold a girl's hand before. His gesture had been harmless and sweet. She reached out and tugged at his sleeve. He looked at her and she held her hand out.

"Sorry, I was just taken aback before," she explained.

Now it was L's turn to look surprised. He looked at her hesitantly. She bobbed her arm up and down a little to encourage him that it was really okay and he slowly took his hand out of his pocket. He extended his arm and his long, cold fingers closed around her gloved hand.

Naomi grinned at him. He relaxed a bit and the two of them turned their heads to look forward again, skating along with the flow of the crowd, side-by-side and hand-in-hand.

After a few laps, Naomi spun to face L and reached out to take his other hand.

"Think you can skate backwards?" she challenged.

L looked between his outstretched arms at Naomi's feet. He watched her movements for a moment before lifting his eyes to her smiling face again.

"I can try," he said.

They turned in a half circle so that L was now skating backwards and Naomi forwards. He was doing pretty well. That is, until the rink curved and he tried to turn. He lost his balance and his feet slid out from under him. He landed hard on his back, bringing Naomi down with him.

"Wo-woah!" In a flailing attempt to avoid landing on top of him, Naomi practically performed a split and caught herself on her hands on either side of L's head. Their faces were inches apart as Naomi tried to push herself into an upright position, muttering "Uhh, uh sorry, lemme just- ah! Sorry!" Her rear end was in the air and her feet were sliding all over the place. The faster she tried to stand up, the more unsuccessful her jerky movements were.

Suddenly, L scrunched his eyes shut and just /laughed/. A real, genuine laugh. Naomi stopped her squirming and looked down at him, her long hair hanging down from her knit beanie and falling on either side of his face. She realized she was hearing his real laugh for the first time.

It was a nice laugh. Deep and yet, at the same time, youthful.

L shimmied out from under her and stood clumsily to his feet. Once upright, he offered her his hand and she took it, pulling herself up to stand again. Her cheeks were flushed and her head felt a little light from being upside-down. She exhaled into a laugh, grinning.

"That was sufficiently awkward," she commented.

"That was funny," L replied. Then he spun around and skated off, leaning slightly forward with his hands in his pockets and his scarf trailing along behind him.

Naomi grinned and followed him.

They skated until the winter sky turned a hazy, dark blue and the bright lights surrounding the rink turned on. Naomi could barely feel her toes and couldn't help but think of L and his lack of socks. But he didn't seem the least bit fazed.

At last, they returned their skates and ordered some hot chocolate from a nearby food cart. L asked if they had sugar and received strange looks from both Naomi and the vendor. They moved to sit on a bench, L assuming his frog pose. Naomi had gotten used to it but, being out in public, she was reminded how weird it was that he sat like that. She watched as he tore open several sugar packets all at once with his teeth and emptied them into his hot chocolate. He stuffed the empty packets into his coat pocket and took a sip.

"Mm," he said in approval, licking his lips. "That's good."

Naomi shook her head and lifted her own paper cup to take a sip. The hot drink was rich and chocolatey and delicious, but the idea of adding even more sugar made her want to gag.

"Did you have fun?" she asked.

L turned to look at her. "I did," he answered simply. "Much more than I expected to."

Naomi smiled. "Me too."

They finished their drinks and called Watari to come pick them up. As they waited, it began to snow, the downy flakes drifting gracefully toward the earth. They were especially visible in the light of the lampposts that ran along the sidewalks of the park.

Naomi stood up. "I need to move my legs, I'm freezing," she said.

L stood up also. "I'm pretty cold too."

"Well let's walk over to where Watari dropped us off," Naomi suggested. "Here, I'll take your cup."

L waited with his shoulders lifted and his lower face tucked into the scarf as Naomi went to toss the cups into a trash bin nearby. As she returned, he turned and began walking to where they would be picked up.

The snow continued to fall softly. Somewhere, someone was laughing and Christmas music was coming from the illuminated rink behind them. Naomi was reminded of days long ago when she and her brothers would spend hours playing in the snow, returning at long last to a warm kitchen filled with holiday baking aromas. She smiled wistfully to herself.

L's footsteps crunched in the snow before her, but Naomi stopped to bend down and form a snowball with her gloved hands. She playfully hurled it toward him and it collided in a powdery explosion on the back of his head. He whirled around and she laughed.

"I'm sorry!" she said, still laughing. "It was just too easy!"

L stared at her, the white fluff melting and disappearing into his dampening black hair. He blinked his large, grey eyes. "Naomi,” he began calmly, removing his hands from his coat pockets. “One thing, you must know about me is..." He crouched down and began gathering snow with his red, bare hands. "I'm very childish...” Then, he looked her straight in the eye. “...and I hate to LOSE!"

With the last word, he stood in an instant and flung the snowball directly at her.

Naomi shrieked and turned to avoid the projectile, but it detonated into cold, white fluff with a thwack! on her shoulder.

She immediately retaliated with another snowball that hit him smack in the face.

Naomi lifted both fists into the air in victory. "Ha!"

L had to top that. He leaned forward and charged at her, causing her to turn gleefully and make a run for it. But she hadn't been prepared and his momentum caught up with her in seconds. In one swift motion, he bent down and wrapped one arm behind her knees and the other around her waist, lifting her up off the ground. Naomi kicked and protested, her stomach aching with laughter. And, almost as quickly as he had picked her up, he dropped her again so that she landed with a poof in the soft, frozen powder.

Naomi grabbed her stomach with one hand and her mouth with the other, the giggles convulsing her entire being. She felt like a kid again and she loved it. She looked up and saw L staring mischievously down at her. She grinned and lifted her arm for him to help her up.

He took the bait and, as soon as his hand took hers, she yanked him down into the snow beside her.

"Woah- oof!" He landed face first.

Naomi was grinning but suddenly, she was too spent to laugh anymore. She laid back on the white ground and placed both hands over her stomach, looking up into the falling snow.

L lifted his head to look at her, then he rolled over onto his back. His arms were down by his sides and his un-mittened palms rested in the snow.

They stayed there in contented silence until the sound of a car pulling up announced that their ride had arrived.

L and Naomi sat up, the backs of their heads wet with melting snow. Naomi stood first and reached to help him up. She pulled him to a standing position but she didn't let go of his hand right away.

They stood facing each other in the soft lamplight and the falling snow. The butterflies that she had been ignoring for some time now were back, but for once, she didn't mind. The smooth, baritone voice of Frank Sinatra drifted through the air from the rink behind them.

/Have yourself a merry little Christmas/
Let your heart be light

"Thank you," L said simply.

From now on our troubles will be out of sight

"What for?" Naomi asked.

/Have yourself a merry little Christmas/
Make the Yuletide gay

L looked down at his hand, which was still holding hers.

/From now on our troubles will be miles away/

"For this. For tonight." He shrugged.

/Here we are as in olden days/
Happy golden days of yore

Naomi smiled. "Thank you for coming with me."

/Faithful friends who are dear to us/
Gather near to us once more

His eyes lifted to meet hers. The snow continued to drift down around them.

/Through the years we all will be together/
If the fates allow

"Merry Christmas," Naomi said softly.

/Hang a shining star upon the highest bough/

"Merry Christmas, Naomi."

And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.



Chapter 19: Resurrection

"Excusez moi, mademoiselle? Êtes-vous là?"

The matronly landlady knocked for the third time. This particular young tenant was four days late on rent and, although four days wasn't much, it simply wasn't like the girl to be late. Also, her mail was left uncollected and her car was sitting frosted over in the lot outside.

It was a bright January morning in the little French town just outside of Paris. The streets were lined with grey slush and the sun shone down upon glistening patches of leftover snow, causing the icy cold day to appear deceitfully warm.

With a sigh, the landlady flipped through the keys on her key ring and began unlocking the door. She opened it slowly, calling out to whomever may be inside.

But no one was home.

The neighbors hadn't seen her.

Her family hadn't heard from her.

A phone call to her university revealed that she had missed every one of her classes for about a week.

She was just... /gone/.

The landlady finally alerted the police and, after a more thorough search, the third-year law student was officially declared "Missing."

It took three more days, but they finally found her.

She was in a partially-constructed building whose completion had been put on hold for some irrelevant reason. Her cold, stiff body was surrounded by the melted remains of candles whose wicks had burnt out days ago, and a gruesome, scarlet gash encircled her throat.

An icy chill ran down the spine of the police officer who found her as his eyes came to rest on the wooden crucifix that was held in her hands over her heart.

The officer lifted his walkie-talkie to his mouth and pressed the button, his breath forming little clouds in the frigid air as he spoke.

"Uh... Sergent?"

The voice on the other end crackled through. "Oui, c'est pour quoi?"

The officer swallowed hard as he stared at the terrible and yet all too familiar vision before him. He pressed the button again and spoke with urgency in his voice.

"Appelez le détective, L!"


Directly contacting the detective known as L was no easy task.

To begin with, one would first need a passcode given by L himself. These passcodes were given only to law enforcement officials whom L had worked with on a case and contact was only to be made if said case were to be reopened for some reason. The code was to be memorized and never written down.

A long and complicated URL was also given on three separate cards in sealed envelopes, to be kept in three different, secure locations. When the URL was put together and typed into the search bar of an internet browser, a blank, white page appeared containing a single text box with a blinking cursor. Once the passcode was entered, the text box was replaced with a phone number. The phone number, which was heavily encrypted five times over, sent an alert to Watari containing all of the information connected to the passcode and its related case, and the person calling heard a synthetic voice instructing them to hang up and wait for further contact.

Watari, upon receiving such an alert, would then call the individual back and, using voice distortion, ask them a series of questions to ensure that they were who they claimed to be. Once this was confirmed, the person had sixty seconds to explain their reason for calling. When that minute elapsed, the signal connecting them was automatically scrambled and cut off. The phone number that had connected them was, from that point on, rendered useless.

These alerts were rare, as cases closed by L tended to remain so.

But such was not the case with The Bishop.

Watari shut the phone and stood from the desk in his room. He stepped out into the main living room area of the large suite to deliver the unsettling news.

"L, I just received an alert from Sergent Rousseau at the Paris P.D."

L swiveled in his computer chair, a sheet of paper in each hand and a lollipop stick protruding from his mouth. His large eyes prodded Watari to go on.

Naomi, too, lifted her gaze from her work.

Watari continued gravely, knowing very well that the news would be not well received. "It appears as though The Bishop has returned."

"What??" Naomi instantly shut her laptop and stood to her feet.

L remained frozen, his eyes wide with confusion and disbelief. Watari could almost visualize the gears in that brilliant head of his spinning and whirling, searching desperately for where the mistake could have possibly been made.

"What- But, how?" Naomi looked at L, who still hadn't moved, and then back at Watari.

The old man told them everything, just as it had been relayed to him- the girl, the candles, the crucifix.

L listened, his expansive mind grasping for something- /anything/- to explain this. As soon as Watari finished relaying the details, L stood to his bare feet, discarding the lollipop and extending his hand, palm up.

"Give me the phone. Watari, make arrangements for a place to stay in Paris. Misora, go pack up. We're leaving as soon as possible."

Watari placed the phone in L's hand and he and Naomi left to do their bidding. L made contact with Sergent Rousseau and crouched on the couch, speaking in French and pausing in between to listen to the answers to his questions.

Within a matter of hours, all three of them were on the plane en route to France.

Naomi sat across the aisle from L in one of only four passenger seats on the luxury jet. She was re-reading the files on Jasper Broussard and Rosella Leveque, searching for something they may have missed. She was going over everything with a fine-toothed comb, from the Rosella's car accident trial report to the newspaper article detailing Gerard Leveque's suicide.

L was staring out the window, his long arms wrapped around his bent-up knees. The coffee and biscuits before him sat untouched. His brow was lowered in bitter agitation as he stared down onto the fluffy clouds below.

"Where did I go wrong? What did I miss? We /caught/ him... he confessed... everything fit."

L's thumb moved to rest on his bottom lip and his shoulders hunched into an even tighter curve. He traveled back over every little detail, revisiting every deduction.

"We're missing something... something big... but what?"

His thumb trailed his bottom lip, pushing it to the side. He stared into the abyss below, at nothing in particular, and he stayed this way until the plane touched down.

Watari had bought out an entire floor of a newly constructed apartment building. The apartments were large and only two were on each floor. Naomi piled her things in the one on the right and then moved to help unpack the computer equipment in the one on the left.

Watari then set to work installing security measures inside the elevator to limit access to their floor.

L parked himself at the computer desk, speaking only to himself in low, inaudible half-sentences.

Naomi approached the desk, pulling on her new leather jacket.

"L, I think I should go talk to Jasper Broussard's mother, Clarisse. I think maybe she can answer some of the questions I have about Rosella's father, Arthur."

Naomi had read the case files over again and was reminded that Arthur Broussard had served time in prison for domestic abuse. A part of her wondered if he may be the real Bishop.

"Yes, that's good, please do that." L was completely absorbed in the information displayed over a dozen or so tabs open on the multiple computer monitors before him.

Naomi stopped inside her still unpacked apartment to grab her false ID and her keys. Her bike was parked in a lot across the street. She hurried over to it and climbed on, awakening the onyx beast with a rumbling purr and taking off down the bustling streets of Paris.

She drove to the outskirts of the city, to a little residential area tucked away in such a manner that one may be surprised to learn that an urban metropolis lay only a stone's throw away. Naomi switched off her motorcycle and removed her sleek helmet, hooking it to the handlebar. As she swung her leg over to disembark, she smiled to herself at how out-of-place her "Batmobile" looked nestled against a homey wooden fence with a wildflower trellis.

She made her way up to the little cottage front door and knocked.

The door opened and a small woman in a floral cotton dress and a light grey cardigan smiled warmly. She had soft, blue eyes that sparkled with youthfulness, despite the crow's feet around them that gave away her age. A large barrette held half of her greying blonde hair back and the rest hung down in natural curls to the base of her neck.

"Comment puis-je vous aider?" the woman asked politely.

"Hello... pardon me, but do you speak English?" Naomi was hoping she wouldn't have to use the translator on the laptop she'd brought. Things would be so much easier if they could just speak to each other. To her relief, the woman nodded.

"I do. How can I help you?" she repeated, this time in English. Her French accent was strong but her English was proficient.

Naomi held up her badge, but smiled in a friendly way, so as not to appear too intimidating. "I'm with a private detective organization. If I may... are you Clarisse Broussard?"

The woman's blue eyes clouded and she folded her hands primly in front of her. "I am," she said sadly. "I suppose you're here because... because of the murders."

Naomi tucked her badge away again and nodded. "Yes, ma'am. May I ask you some questions, please? I'll only be a few minutes, if you can spare the time."

Clarisse Broussard nodded and turned, beckoning for Naomi to follow her inside.

Naomi stepped into the little home. It was simple, but clean and well cared for. House plants lined the windowsills and hand-crocheted blankets draped over the comfortable-looking furniture. They moved into the kitchen and Clarisse motioned for Naomi to have a seat at the little wooden breakfast table by the window.

"Can I get you some tea?"

Naomi smiled. "Tea would be lovely!"

Clarisse seemed relived to have something to do with herself. She moved about the little kitchen, putting water into a copper tea kettle.

"Mrs. Broussard, I first want to apologize for intruding. I know this must be difficult for you. Your cooperation is very much appreciated."

The older woman was quiet. She managed a small smile in Naomi's direction, but the pain in her eyes was clear.

"I'll answer anything you'd like," she said softly.

Naomi felt so sorry for the motherly woman. "Thank you," she said sincerely. "Now, when was the last time you heard from your former husband, Arthur?"

"Oh it's been years," Clarisse answered, her French accent mixing with her English words. "And thank God for that."

"Was he close with either of your children?"

"Not at all. He left when they were quite young... Never wanted them in the first place."

"I see..." Naomi had been hoping for something more incriminating. She tapped her pen atop her notepad and thought of what direction to take her line of questioning.

The kettle whistled and Clarisse poured them both a hot cup of herbal tea. She took a seat in the chair across from Naomi's.

"There is one thing..." Clarisse began, holding her teacup with both hands.

"Oh?" Naomi picked up her tea and blew softly into the steaming liquid before taking a small sip.

Clarisse's eyes were fixed on the tabletop but her gaze was thoughtful and far away. "Someone has been leaving roses at my daughter's grave. I visit her every day, since I work at the thrift store next to the church where she's buried. And every Monday morning, there's a new one."

Naomi was intrigued. "Every Monday?"

Clarisse nodded. "Sunday mornings when I go to church, the rose is wilted and dead. But every Monday morning, there's a brand new one lying there, on top of the headstone."

Naomi realized that today was Sunday. Whoever was leaving those roses would be there tonight.

"Who else was close to Rosella?" Naomi asked.

Clarisse lifted thin shoulders in a shrug. "I've asked everyone I can think of. No one knows who puts the roses there. I thought it was Jasper until he got arrested and the roses kept appearing like clockwork."

"Are you close with your son?"

The woman's gentle eyes lifted to meet Naomi's. They were filled with grief and loss. "No," she said softly. "Jasper resented me because I foolishly chose to stay with Arthur for so long." She shook her head. "Looking back, I know I should have left him sooner." She lifted her teacup to her lips and stared at the tabletop again.

Naomi commented slowly, "I'm sure you did what you thought was best."

Clarisse shrugged again and smiled sadly at Naomi.

The two women sat for a moment in silence. Naomi pretended to be looking over her notes but really, she was thinking. She was close to something... She could feel it. Something deep down told her that whoever was leaving those roses had to be The Bishop.

Suddenly her head came up. "Mrs. Broussard... Did the roses start appearing right after Rosella's accident?

Clarisse shook her head. "No... No, it actually wasn't until about a year later."

Naomi's eyes widened with instant clarity. She stood to her feet and extended her hand.

"Thank you so much, you've been very helpful."

Clarisse stood as well and accepted the handshake.

Naomi moved with hurried steps to her bike, her mind whirling. In one swift motion, she swung her leg up to sit on the motorcycle and slid on her helmet. Leaning forward, she turned the key in the ignition and sped off, her long hair streaming out behind her.

She knew.

She knew and she couldn't believe she hadn't thought of it before.

Jasper Broussard had eliminated a vast amount of evidence, but for all of his efforts, there was one thing that he could not simply delete with the press of a button... and that was the printed word.

That very morning on the plane, she had reread the newspaper article that told the sad story of a car that had been pulled from a river. The owner and driver of the vehicle had been one Gerard Leveque, husband to the late Rosella Leveque. He had been away on a military black ops mission at the time of his wife's death and had not learned of the accident until he returned home, a year later. His own demise had been deemed a suicide.

Naomi zoomed along the curvy roads, leaving behind a streak of black and purple. One singular phrase pulsed over and over in her mind:

"His body was never found."



Chapter 20: Impulse


Naomi burst into the apartment, not bothering to knock.

L swung around in the computer chair and shot her a look that could kill. He was on the phone.

Both of Naomi's hands flew up to clamp her mouth shut. Oops.

She waited impatiently, fidgeting with her hands and pacing back and forth.

At last, L hung up the phone and began typing on the computer.

Naomi stepped forward immediately.

"L, I know who The Bishop is!"

"It's Gerard Leveque," L said flatly.

Naomi's mouth fell open. "What- how do you know?"

"There's no time to explain right now." L rolled the computer chair over to another monitor and began typing vigorously.

Naomi suddenly felt irritated. "L, please listen to me... Gerard is going to be at this church tonight and-"

"Misora, /please/, I have this under control!"

Naomi took an instant dislike to being shoved out of the loop. She had valuable information to contribute and he wasn't listening. Her hands lifted to rest on her forehead in aggravation. It was Sunday and she knew where The Bishop would be tonight! If he could only hear her words... She tried one more time.

"L," she spoke firmly, placing a hand on the desk and leaning forward. "I know where he's going to be! If you could just-"

"Misora!" L spun around and yelled, making Naomi jump back. His eyes shot daggers at her as he flung his arm behind him and pointed at the door. "I am working against the clock here and I need every spare second! Please, leave me to my work and I will call you when I am ready for you."


"That's an order, agent!"

Naomi's brow lowered into a scowl and her lips pursed together tightly. She spun on her heel and moved with quick steps out of the apartment, shutting the door a little too loudly behind her. Once inside her apartment, she began unpacking angrily, for lack of anything better to do. Inwardly, she fumed at L, forming her perfectly legitimate argument inside her head. Why was he acting like this? She had valuable information and he didn't even care!

She shoved her clothes into the bureau drawers and slammed them shut, muttering to herself. It would be another whole week before the whereabouts of The Bishop could be almost guaranteed and someone's life could be taken between now and then.

If he would only listen...

And then, something occurred to Naomi. Even if L refused to hear her out and send a police squad to the church,/ she/ could still go... Arresting The Bishop all by herself was out of the question, but she didn't need to do that. All she needed was to snap a quick picture and she'd have photographic evidence that Gerard Leveque was still alive.

She stood in the silence of her apartment thinking it over. Distantly, across the hall, she could hear L's muffled voice talking on the phone.

Stubbornly, she stepped forward and grabbed her keys and her gun, tucking the Glock into the back of her jeans. Then, flinging her door open and slamming it again behind her, she moved with quick, determined steps toward the elevator.


The sun was just starting to go down as the large, stone church came into view. Naomi had parked her bike a few blocks away and was now walking briskly toward where she expected to photograph The Bishop placing a rose on his late wife's grave. She realized that she could potentially be waiting for hours- but what did that matter if it provided the evidence they needed to close this case once and for all?

She made her way around to the back of the church, which was surrounded by a stone wall, creating a courtyard of sorts with the graveyard at the back of it. Naomi began making her way through the little cemetery, and it didn't take long for her eye to catch a headstone with a dark, red rose atop it. The petals were wilted and dying.

"He hasn't been here yet."

She began walking backwards, scanning the courtyard for an out-of-view place to sit and wait. She looked up and saw that the stone wall was wide, with a walkway atop it. That would be perfect if she could find out how to get up there.

She turned to go back the way she came and ran smack into someone standing right behind her.

And immediately, she knew.

Swallowing hard, she looked up into the estranged eyes of Gerard Leveque.

He was more beast than man. Standing easily over 200 cm, his shoulders were broad and his neck was thick. His head was shaved and a nasty scar slashed across one eyebrow. He was huge and, from the looks of it, incredibly strong.

Naomi managed a small smile. "Oh, I'm sorry," she said innocently. "I didn't see you there." She moved to go around him but he grabbed her arm. Her instincts wanted to immediately kick him, but this man was military. He was trained for combat and brute strength was not on Naomi's side here.

"I know who you are," he said calmly, in perfect English. His voice was not as deep and gruff as Naomi had expected it to be, but it still sent a chill down her spine.

She lifted her gaze and looked at him steadily. "I doubt that," she said evenly.

"Oh, I know all I need to know," he said, still not releasing her arm.

Naomi didn't break eye contact as her mind surveyed her surroundings. They were completely walled in and no one seemed to be out on this cold, winter night. The sun had slipped behind the trees and Naomi realized with an instantaneous flutter of fear that she was alone in the darkness with this monster of a man.

But she lifted her chin and spoke bravely. "Well, then I should tell you... I know all I need to know, too."

Slowly, ever so slowly, she was reaching with her other arm behind her to grab her gun.

The Bishop nodded. "I'm sure you do," he said in a low tone. His voice was rough and he smelled of stale cigarettes. "But that's no matter... you're not going anywhere!" His grip tightened in an instant and his other arm moved quick as lightning around her to the back of her waist.

She grasped for the gun blindly, but he knocked it out of her hand and it clattered to the ground. Gerard gave the Glock a swift kick, sending it sliding across the stone floor to the far side of the courtyard.

Naomi elbowed him hard in the abdomen, but it was like punching a brick wall. Gerard didn't even flinch. She tried with all of her might to wring free, but his massive arm encircled her, pinning her back against him with his hand over her mouth. She was about to attempt to kick him below the belt when he hastily extracted a military-grade tactical combat knife and held it in front of her face. Her eyes widened in terror above his gloved hand. She could see her warped reflection in the razor-sharp blade.

"There. I thought that might calm you down," he said slowly, his words soaked in venom. "I know you know my story, so I don't have to explain to you why I have to do this."

Naomi jerked and struggled but his grip only tightened more. He swiftly brought the edge of the knife to her throat and she froze again. She could feel the cold metal against her skin.

Her mind flailed and grasped for a way out of this and, in terrible panic, Naomi came up empty. She wanted to scream. But there was nothing- no way out. One wrong movement and that knife would slice her open and end her life.

"It's nothing personal," The Bishop hissed directly into her ear. "It's only justice." He pressed the flat side of the blade against her neck a little harder.

Naomi squeezed her eyes shut. Her whole body was shaking. She'd never dreamed it would end like this.

He rotated the blade so that the sharpened edge was against her throat.

Gerard's breath was hot against her neck as he whispered bitterly, "I have to avenge her. Can't you see that?"

He spoke the last words with gritted teeth as he sunk just the edge of the knife into the soft skin of her neck. A sharp pain seared through her whole being and her painful cry was muffled by his gloved hand.

She felt the blood trail down into her shirt. A steady stream of tears ran down from her closed eyes as she realized with horrific clarity that she was taking her final breaths.

And in that terrible moment, all she could think of was L.

She saw him then, behind her closed eyes. She saw his slumped, curved posture under his plain, white shirt and faded blue jeans. She saw the way the corner of his mouth lifted ever so slightly when something amused him. She saw his long fingers, his floppy hair, his tired, wide, grey eyes...

Her mind erased everything from existence, save for the sound of her beating heart.

And L...

The crack of a gunshot rang out and blood spattered onto Naomi's face. Her eyes shot open. The knife clanged to the stone floor, the echoes bouncing off the walls of the courtyard.

Gerard roared in pain and Naomi saw instantly that two of his fingers had been blown clean off.

She acted immediately, slamming her heel into his shin bone.

His grip loosened just enough for her to whirl around and uppercut him hard in the chin. His head snapped back, and she ducked out of his hold to make a run for it.

But he was quick, too.

He dove onto the ground and grabbed her ankle. She fell forward, her chest crashing into the stone floor. He flung her into a small alcove, out of view of the mystery gunman.

The wind was knocked out of her just long enough for The Bishop to reclaim the knife. He clamored to his feet and turned to face her, blood dripping from his mangled right hand. His eyes were filled with mad hatred.

Naomi shook her head in an attempt to restore clarity. She rolled onto her back, shot both feet into the air, and flipped herself into a standing position. He came at her full force.

She turned and ran with everything she had. She could see that the alcove lead out of the courtyard and into a back ally. Naomi could feel him getting closer. He was too fast for her. He was right on her heels.

As she exited the alcove, she took a sharp right turn and collided hard with another person. The Bishop rammed into them both, and all three toppled into a heap on the ground with Naomi on the very bottom.

All she could make out in the chaos was a tangled mess of jet-black hair and a white t-shirt...

Naomi's heart caught in her throat.

Before there was time to think, L ducked his head into the ground and his heel slammed into Gerard's face, knocking him hard against the stone wall.

Naomi scrambled to her feet. L's hand forcibly met her lower back as he staggered to a standing position.

"RUN!" he shouted with a volume and intensity she'd never heard from him before.

She ran hard, her heartbeat pulsing in her ears. L was close behind her. Another gunshot rang out and Naomi started to turn to see what had happened.

L's hand slammed into her back again.

"I said, RUN!"

Naomi's vision was blurred and her lungs felt as though they were about to burst. But she kept running.

"Turn left!" L yelled abruptly.

Naomi turned a sharp left and sprinted down the back street. A truck with a large trailer was at the end.

"Do I get in the truck?" she shouted over her shoulder.


She skidded to a stop when she reached the trailer and hoisted herself up. L was close behind her. His hands grabbed her waist with continuous momentum, practically tossing her into the back of the trailer. He jumped up, vocalizing a sound that implied a great amount of effort.

He pulled the doors shut and the truck began to move.

Naomi lay panting on the floor. It was dark inside the trailer, the only light coming from the narrow slit in the doors. Cardboard boxes were stacked along the walls.

L's breathing was heavy as he pressed his back against the wall and slid down it, landing with a thunk in a knees-up sitting position. She heard him groan softly.

"L... I'm so sorry..."

L lifted his index finger.

"Stop," was all he said.

His voice sounded so weak. It echoed against the metal walls.

He dropped his head back to rest on the wall. His breaths were labored. Naomi caught a glimpse of his face in the darkness. It was twisted in pain.

She crawled over to him quickly.

"L? Are you hurt?"

He mumbled something incoherent, his chest rising and falling in short, painful breaths.

Something was wrong.

She knelt before him, placing a hand on his knee.


His head flopped forward onto her shoulder, knocking her backward. She caught her balance and used all her effort to push his dead weight back against the wall. She realized with horror that her right hand was instantly wet.

She shifted her stance to straighten L's legs. He didn't move or speak. Her hands shaking, she reached into his jeans pocket to retrieve his phone. She accessed the flashlight app and the interior of the trailer flooded with light.

Naomi gasped, putting a hand to her mouth.

L sat slouched against the wall, his body limp and his head flopped forward. Just the handle of The Bishop's combat knife protruded from his left shoulder, just above his heart, and the entire side of his cotton shirt was soaked in blood.

"Oh my god, L!" she whispered from behind her hand.

She moved to kneel beside him and set the phone on the floor. Using both hands, she tore open the shirt, completely ripping off the sleeve.

The blade was entirely embedded in his shoulder. It had been pulled downward upon impact and an angry, red gash rose from the entry point of the knife. A thick stream of blood continued to flow mercilessly from the laceration.

Naomi knew she couldn't remove the knife; there was no knowing what further damage that could cause. But she had to try to stop the bleeding. She balled up the already blood-soaked sleeve and, bracing herself, pressed it firmly against L's shoulder. His head shot up and slammed against the metal wall as he cried out in pain. His hand grabbed her wrist so tightly his knuckles immediately turned white, but she didn't budge.

"L, I'm so sorry, I have to do this." Her voice trembled.

His eyes scrunched and his teeth gritted, but he slowly loosened his grip on her wrist, letting his arm fall limp onto his lap.

The blood was still trailing down from the cloth. Naomi's hands were completely red now. She pressed with all her might, causing L to slam his head against the wall again with another painful scream.

Then, his voice silenced abruptly and his eyes fluttered and rolled back. His head flopped forward, and Naomi cried out his name in panic as he lost consciousness.



Chapter 21: Nightmare

"L! L, please hold on, we're almost there!"

L's raven hair hung down over his closed eyes as his head and shoulders swayed unwillingly with the movements of the truck. Naomi was using one hand to continue putting pressure on his lacerated shoulder and the other to call Watari on L's phone. He picked up after just one ring.

"Watari! He's hurt, he's hurt bad, please- " She choked on her words and swallowed a sob in her throat. "Please help him, Watari, I can't stop it!"

"I know, I saw it happen." Watari's voice was steady and strong. "We're almost there, Naomi, hang on."

"Okay... okay, okay, okay..." Naomi repeated over and over to herself as she hung up the phone and returned both hands to the blood-soaked cloth.

"Okay, okay... L? Stay with me... Oh god, please, please stay with me."

Talking out loud seemed to be the only thing keeping her sane at the moment.

Thick, red fluid saturated the once white cotton cloth and ran in streams down L's sleeveless arm. It made a sickening, wet sound as Naomi pressed against it with all of her might, the blood seeping through her fingers and dripping down her hands, collecting in a widening, crimson pool on the metal floor where she knelt.

She kept on talking to him, pleading with him to cling to his life.

What seemed like an eternity was, in reality, a span of just a few minutes. The truck lurched to a stop and, within seconds, the trailer doors flung open. A man in surgical scrubs hopped inside and, after a quick survey of the scene, he scooped L up into his arms, handing Naomi a clean white cloth. He spoke in English, firmly and evenly instructing her to keep up alongside him while maintaining the pressure on L's shoulder.

L's head flopped back as he was picked up and his limbs swung limp as the doctor and Naomi ran into the apartment building that was home for the time-being. Naomi wondered fleetingly why they weren't at a hospital, but this clearly wasn't the time for questions.

Watari and two paramedics joined them and everything was a blur of hurried footsteps and fervent voices. The men were speaking quickly to each other in strings of medical words that Naomi didn't have the energy to follow.

They crowded into the elevator and the paramedics all knelt down, Naomi with them.

"Keep the pressure on!" the one holding L directed to one of the paramedics, and Naomi stepped aside as the uniformed man took over for her.

She stood to her feet and covered her mouth with her bloody hands. Everything warped into echoey slow motion as she took in the horrific nightmare of a scene before her.

L's torn shirt was more red than white. His body was completely limp. He looked so lifeless.

Amid the frantic chaos, Naomi knelt down and gently picked his hand up off the floor.

"Don't leave me," she whispered.

The man taking L's blood pressure removed the stethoscope from his ears and shook his head, looking worried. He took out a small light and used his thumb to lift L's eyelid. He shone the light into it, moving it quickly back and forth.

Suddenly, the elevator dinged and the doors opened. L was lifted off the floor again and his hand slipped from Naomi's grasp. In an instant, the doctor and one of the medics were gone with Watari into L's apartment. The other paramedic held Naomi back as she cried out against being left behind.

"No! You don't understand, please! I need to stay with him!"

"Miss, please calm down, he's in good hands."

"No, but I need to, I need to stay with him!"

Her own voice sounded hollow and distant in her ears.

"Miss!" The paramedic took her by the shoulders and shook her a little.

She stopped fighting and looked at the young man, tears streaming down her dirty, blood-streaked face.

"Please," she pleaded softly.

The paramedic looked kindly into her eyes and spoke in fluent English, albeit with a very strong French accent. "Miss, we are going to do what we do best. Can you let us do that?"

Naomi stared back at him, feeling so helpless. She swallowed and nodded, her breaths coming in quiet little sobs. "Okay."

"Good. Now, can you come over here for me?" He led her to a soft couch in the common area between hers and L's apartments. He handed her a disposable wet cloth for her hands and spoke in a comforting, professional tone. "My name is Alex. What's yours?"

"Naomi," she said softly, her breathing becoming more even. Her head was in a bleary fog.

"Naomi," Alex spoke caringly as he knelt down in front of her. "Are you hurt?" As he spoke, he gently put his fingers to her chin and tilted her head up. "You've got a nice little cut on your neck here."

Naomi had completely forgotten about that. She wanted to argue that it was not important, but she didn't have the energy to fight anymore.

Alex examined the cut carefully. "You don't need stitches," he concluded as he reached into the bag around his shoulder. "You'll want a shower before I put a bandage on it, but I'd like to clean it with antiseptic first. Alright?"

Naomi nodded numbly. She didn't even flinch when the sterilized cotton swab met her throat with a sharp sting.

Everything felt like a dream. A horrible, ugly dream.

"There," Alex said lightly. "Now, follow my finger with your eyes."

Naomi numbly went through the motions as Alex checked her out for any other signs of trauma. After several tests, he concluded that after a hot shower, some Ibuprofen, and a few days of rest, Naomi should be good as new.

He smiled kindly as he helped her to her feet. "I'll be here to patch up that cut once you've cleaned yourself up. Okay?"

Naomi nodded again. She couldn't seem to find her tongue. She turned and made her way to her apartment and let herself in. Nothing seemed real as she moved in a daze, gathering a clean change of clothes and heading into the bathroom.

She flipped on the light and shut the door. She turned around, but stopped abruptly, letting out a small cry as she beheld her reflection in the mirror.

She was literally covered in blood. Her own, The Bishop's, L's... She looked away quickly, biting her lip.

She got into the shower and stood for several minutes with her face turned up toward the stream of warm water, willing herself to awake from this nightmare. She looked down at her red-stained hands. Blood diluted with water ran like a river down at her feet and into the drain.

L's blood.

She couldn't get the image of his lacerated shoulder out of her head. His tortured cries and the clang of the trailer's metal walls echoed in her ears.

Naomi grabbed the bar of soap and began vigorously rubbing her hands, turning the white soap pink. She scrubbed and scrubbed until there wasn't a trace of blood or dirt left anywhere on her and still, she scrubbed some more. Nothing seemed to be able to wash her of the guilt that seemed to cling to her very skin.

After some time, the water began to run cold and she shut it off, hating the silence that followed. She couldn't care less about her appearance as she dressed in soft leggings and a plain shirt and towel-dried her long, black hair. Outwardly, she felt much better, but the terrible sick feeling in her stomach remained.

At last, she rejoined Alex in the common area who, as promised, patched her up neatly with a small square of gauze on her neck. He then disappeared into L's apartment, leaving Naomi alone in the quiet and empty hallway.

The soft, cadenced ticking of a wall clock was the only sound disturbing the otherwise peaceful silence. It seemed so unfitting, Naomi thought as she stared toward the apartment, given that L was fighting for his life on the other side of that door.

She leaned against the wall and slid down it, wrapping her arms around her knees and resting her forehead atop them.

The knife.

The blood.

His face twisted in agony.

The images flashed over and over again in her mind as Naomi waited in the ticking silence.

What seemed like an eternity passed before the door opened again and Watari stepped out.

Naomi stood immediately to her feet. She wanted to run over to him, but she felt frozen. Her stomach twisted into a knot, searching his face for any indication of good news or bad news. But he just looked tired.

He sat down on the couch and patted the seat next to him. Naomi swallowed the lump in her throat and found her feet. She moved over to him, her heart pounding.

She wasn't ready for this. She wasn't ready to hear the awful words.

"Just tell /me/ he's alive."

She sat down wordlessly and feared more than anything what she was about to hear.

Watari's chest rose and fell in a long and tired sigh. Then, he nodded slowly. "He'll be okay," he said quietly.

Naomi's breath caught in her throat. She placed both hands over her heart. "Really? He's... he's okay?"

Watari nodded. "The knife was removed intact and they're stitching him up now. They say the blade narrowly missed his heart. As you know, L has a backup blood supply, so they've given him a transfusion. He'll be hurting for awhile but... he's going to be just fine."

He smiled wearily at Naomi, who was staring with wide eyes and parted lips. He put a fatherly arm around her and repeated, "He's going to be just fine."

And that's when the tears came.

Naomi buried her face in her hands and sobbed, uncontrollably and unashamedly. Watari's arm tightened around her as he moved closer. She turned her head and cried into his shoulder, not even daring to comprehend the awful reality they had so narrowly escaped.

Watari looked upward and blinked back tears of his own. Relief flooded over his entire being as he reassured himself over and over that his boy was going to be okay. As awful as this night had been, it could have been so much worse.

He let her cry and, after several minutes, her sobs slowed and finally ceased. She found herself sitting with her head resting on Watari's shoulder and just staring blankly with red, puffy eyes.

Watari's hand moved up and down on her arm. "You're a good girl," was all he said.

Naomi turned to look at him. She shook her head, her eyes welling up again.

"It was my fault- " she began.

"Maybe," Watari cut in. "But the doctor said if you hadn't done what you did in that trailer, we would have lost him." The lines around his eyes creased as he smiled proudly at her. "You saved him, Naomi."

Naomi shook her head again. "But he never would have gotten hurt if I had just listened! He knew what he was talking about and I didn't trust him!" Her breaths were coming in quiet little sobs again.

Watari squeezed her shoulder. He was quiet for a few minutes, then he chuckled, surprising Naomi. Nothing about the situation seemed the least bit funny to her. She looked at him with a little scowl.

"How is this funny?"

Watari shook his head, smiling. "You're good for him," he said simply.

Naomi wasn't quite sure what that meant, but there was no time to dwell on it. The apartment door opened and the doctor exited with the paramedics behind him, single file. Watari and Naomi stood to their feet.

The one in the scrubs who had carried L spoke to Watari.

"He's going to make a full recovery. We do not foresee any long-term effects, but we've left him something for pain. He'll need it for the next few weeks at least. Have him limit his arm movements and change the bandage every day. We've given him something to help him sleep, and he likely won't wake until tomorrow."

Watari nodded. "Thank you," he said with feeling, and he shook the doctor's hand.

The three medical men stepped into the elevator, Alex smiling and pressing his hand reassuringly on Naomi's arm as he walked by. The doors shut and Naomi turned toward Watari.

"Do they know who he is?" she asked.

Watari shook his head. "No. They believe that I am a government agent and that L is my son. I never gave them a name. They signed papers before leaving."

Naomi nodded. She should have known Watari would have it all figured out.

She looked at L's closed door.

"Can I see him?" she asked softly.

"I don't see why not."

Naomi took a deep breath. She felt so spent but she knew she had to see him. She moved to the door and opened it quietly.

All the monitors in the room had been turned off. The usual hum of the computers was absent and the silence felt strange. The table lamp by the couch was the only source of light in the otherwise dark room.

Naomi walked slowly over to the couch where L was lying and her eyes instantly brimmed with tears again when she saw him.

His head was propped up on a pillow on the armrest. A blanket had been placed over him. His shirt had been discarded and a clean, square bandage was taped over his bare shoulder. It was strange seeing him lying down like that, with his long arms resting on top of the blanket and his head turned ever so slightly toward the back of the couch.

Naomi knelt down on the floor next to him. She could see his face more clearly now in the soft lamplight. As if it were possible, he looked even paler than usual. His slightly parted lips were white- almost grey in color- and the usual dark circles under his closed eyes stood out more than ever.

But his breathing was even and peaceful.

Naomi wiped a tear off her cheek, taking his hand in both of hers. "I'm sorry, L," she whispered.

Then, she reached out, almost instinctively, with one hand and gently brushed his boyish hair out of his eyes. Some of the strands clung to his damp forehead, a small reminder of the trauma he'd just been through.

But it was over now.

Naomi shifted to a sitting position, still holding his hand, and tucked her legs comfortably underneath her. She rested the side of her head on the couch cushion. She didn't want to be anywhere else.

She knew now beyond the shadow of a doubt that she felt something for this man. Deeper than friendship, stronger than butterflies.

She trailed her thumb gently back and forth over his knuckles and listened to his soft, even breathing until, at last, her weary, swollen eyes closed in sleep.



Chapter 22: Throb

The room was tinted with the dim, blue glow of early morning when Naomi opened her eyes. Slowly, she lifted her head from the couch cushion, putting her hand to the back of her stiff neck. She tipped her head one way and then the other, working out the kinks in her muscles.

Her other hand still held L's.

Naomi's gaze rested on their joined hands for a moment, and then traveled slowly up his arm, past the white bandage taped to his shoulder, and to his shadowed, closed eyes. He still slept soundly.

She sat there for a little while before gently letting go of his hand. She stood up gradually, wincing at the cramps in her legs.

As she stood, she was surprised to see Watari sitting at the little table in the kitchen area. She moved with careful, quiet steps over to him.

"Did you get any sleep?" she whispered, still rubbing her sore neck.

Watari shrugged lightly. "Just a little." A smile formed under his white mustache as he added, "But I'm used to it."

Naomi noticed a coffee cup sitting on the table in front of him. She gestured toward it. "Is there any more?"

"Yes," Watari answered, his voice low. He began to stand up, but Naomi waved her hand for him to stay where he was.

Naomi poured the steaming, dark liquid into a mug and moved to take a seat at the table next to Watari. She took a long sip, closing her eyes and letting the strong coffee warm her to the tip of her toes. There was something comforting about a hot drink on a quiet morning. She set the mug down on the table and rested her head in one of her hands.

"It was you, wasn't it?" Naomi said softly.

Watari looked at her questioningly.

"You shot The Bishop."

The old man toyed with the handle of his coffee cup. He nodded.

Naomi nodded too. "I thought so." She was quiet for a moment before lifting her eyes to look at him. "Thank you," she said, with feeling.

Watari met her gaze and simply nodded.

"So... what happened?" Naomi asked.

And then, Watari told her everything. He told her how L had confirmed his deduction that Gerard Leveque was still alive by scouring the city's traffic camera feeds with facial recognition. Jasper Broussard had meddled with these feeds up until his arrest, but L restored the program to once again pick up Gerard's features. Sure enough, he was spotted near the church where his wife was buried every Sunday evening like clockwork. The plan had been to ambush him there and make a clean arrest.

Naomi felt the guilty sick feeling in her stomach again. She stared down into her coffee as Watari continued.

L had been working on setting the plan in place when he suddenly needed Naomi's assistance with something.

"Watari, I need Misora. Tell her to come here, please." L was scrolling and clicking the computer mouse with one hand and lifting a cup of coffee to his lips with the other. The sugar cubes piled in it hadn't even dissolved yet.

Obligingly, Watari stepped into the hall and made his way to Naomi's door. He knocked, but there was no answer. After several attempts, he returned to L.

"She isn't there," he informed the detective.

L spun around in the chair with an aggravated expression. He held the coffee cup and its saucer in both hands.

"What do you mean? Where is she?"

And then, as if to answer his own question, his countenance shifted and he froze. His eyes widened with understanding and, in an instant, he sprang to his feet, the saucer and cup smashing to the floor.

"She's there, Watari, she's there!"

Naomi listened as Watari told the story, her heart pounding with regret.

"I've never seen him look so scared," Watari said quietly. "He had arranged for the truck to be there in the event that a hasty escape was needed, but as soon as he realized that you'd gone, he had me call in a medical team, too. We raced down to the church and, as soon as we got there, I ran up to the top of the wall with a sniper rifle. L just... disappeared. I'm not sure what he was thinking... or if he was even thinking at all. I had a poor view from where I was positioned, but I could see that Gerard had you, and I managed to disarm him. When you ran through the alcove, I looked down the other side of the wall just as all three of you collided. When L stood to his feet, I saw that he was hurt. But, he looked up at me as he began to run and pointed toward where the truck was. I alerted the driver to head to the apartment as soon as you two were inside. As you were running away, I shot The Bishop in the leg, immobilizing him, and then informed the medics to reroute. I got in the car to meet you and L, but kept in contact with the police until they arrived at the church and arrested Gerard Leveque."

Watari ended his long speech, appearing as though it had cost him a great deal of energy. He took a long sip of his coffee.

Naomi turned her head to look into the living room. The murky blueness was slowly being replaced by a soft, golden hue. L slept on, the blanket under his long arms moving gently up and down with his even breathing.

"I'm sorry, Watari," she said, looking down. Her voice was nearly a whisper. "I'll tell him when he wakes up but... I wanted to say it to you, too. I know he's like a son to you... and I know how much you love him."

Watari looked at her for a long time before responding. He spoke softly, but clearly.

"I do love him. And Naomi... I don't think I'm the only one."

Naomi's head came up to look at him. He was smiling, more with his kind eyes than with his mouth.

He knew. He had known all along.

Naomi felt her cheeks flush and she dropped her gaze again. "I... I don't know what it is, Watari," she said honestly. "'Love' may still be a bit... a bit strong." She looked up at him once more and smiled, taking a deep breath. "But it's... it's something. I just don't quite know what to call it yet."

Watari nodded in understanding, beaming with approval. Naomi felt her face grow even warmer, but she really didn't mind. A smile spread across her blushing face as she looked again toward the living room and L. There were no words to describe what she felt as she watched him sleep. Relief. Thankfulness. Nothing seemed to even come close.

At length, they cleared their coffee mugs away. Watari agreed to sit with L so that Naomi could go back to her own apartment and get some more sleep.

The sun nearly made its way all the way up and back down before Naomi finally awoke again. The events of the previous night had completely drained her. She couldn't remember the last time she'd slept this much. But she had needed it. She stretched her limbs, which were still quite sore from being tossed around on the stone floor by The Bishop. Her rib cage felt bruised, too. But none of these things really fazed her. She was thankful to be alive.

Naomi planned on taking a long, hot shower, but she ended up hurrying a bit more in her anxiousness to see L. She wanted more than anything to express her relief, as well as make a sincere apology.

As she exited her apartment, she saw Watari stepping out of the other one.

"Is he awake?" she asked, moving with quick steps toward him.

Watari nodded. "He woke up about an hour ago."

Naomi couldn't hold back a smile as butterflies flitted all around inside her. Her hands fidgeted with each other. "And... how is he?"

"As well as can be expected, I think," Watari said slowly. "But he's..." He hesitated, unable to find the right words.

"What? What's wrong?" Naomi asked worriedly.

"No, no, nothing like that..." Watari sighed. "Naomi, he's... he's not happy with you," he said honestly.

Naomi's chest tightened and she swallowed hard. She fidgeted with her hands even more. Nodding in understanding, she stepped around Watari and over to the apartment door, ready to face the music. She lifted a trembling fist and knocked.

"It's open."

Naomi turned to look at Watari, who offered her an encouraging smile and a nod. Bravely, she turned back toward the door and opened it.

She stepped inside the apartment and turned to shut the door.

Out of nowhere, L's hand slammed the door shut and Naomi jumped, startled. All at once, his face was inches from her own, his palm flat against the door next to her head. Naomi's whole body stiffened with her back against the wall as her wide, unblinking gaze met with the fire in his flashing eyes.

She opened her mouth to speak, her bottom lip trembling. But L spoke first, his voice low.

"Do not speak," he snarled, "unless it is to explain to me why you went against a Direct. Order."

Naomi tried to swallow but her throat was suddenly dry as a bone. "I- I'm so sorry," she managed, in barely a whisper.

L angrily shoved off of the door and turned, his hand instantly moving to his injured shoulder. He was in pain and it was making everything worse.

Naomi relaxed her muscles a bit as he took a few steps away from her. She found her tongue and lifted her shaking hands before her as she spoke. "L, I am so, so sorry. I made a mistake-"

"You," L spat, turning again and pointing at her, "violated your contract! You defied your superior and you compromised the outcome of a case!" He started to go on, but stopped abruptly. His eyes scrunched in obvious agony. He turned away from her, clutching his upper arm.

"L, be careful, your shoulder-"

"I give the orders, agent!"

Naomi's voice trembled, as she spoke gently. "That wasn't an order, I just-"

"STOP!" L whirled to face her again, his fists balled up at his sides. He went on, wincing through gritted teeth. "I have worked alone for years... and I can do it again!"

His words were like daggers and they cut deep. Naomi stared at him, feeling like she'd been slapped.

Her chin lifted in an attempt to hide her quivering lip. "Are you firing me, Sir?" she asked coldly.

L's livid gaze remained locked on her. He was starting to bleed through his shirt. His top lip curled and twitched as he mentally fought off the intense pain. He didn't answer right away.

And she said nothing more. She only stood, meeting his eyes and dreading his reply with a throbbing heart.

At length, he spoke, his voice becoming weak, though no less irate. "No, I am not firing you." His breathing was coming with difficulty, but he went on, speaking with a low growl in his throat. "Just... know your place, Misora. And do not ever defy me again." He staggered a bit and placed his hand on the back of the couch for support.

Naomi could have nodded and left right then and there. L would have been fine with that. But, she was not. An anger of her own rose up inside her and before she could stop herself, the words just spilled out.

"That's it?" she snapped. "I'm to... 'know my place?' And 'my place' is your agent and... and nothing more?"

L's eyes scrunched again. His forehead was dampening with the effort it took just to stand. He was in excruciating pain now and the room was spinning mercilessly. The red spot on his shirt was slowly growing in size. But he swung his head up to look at her, not backing down. "More? What 'more?' You've only ever been my agent. I hired you, Misora! We're not equals."

Naomi knew that. She had always known that. She worked for L and, professionally, he was her superior. She had no argument there. But she also knew that she felt something more for him and she realized, right in that moment, that she had thought he felt something for her, too.

But apparently, she had been wrong.

Once again, she could have just turned and left. But instead, she shot back, "You know what, it's no wonder you've been alone all these years... Does anyone matter to you? Does anything at all... matter to you, besides your work? Besides your... your title?"

L just stared at her, his lips slightly parted and his chest moving up and down in short, jagged breaths. He was leaning on his good arm and the other one hung limp at his side.

But Naomi went on. "Have you ever even considered that you may be more to someone than just 'the world's greatest detective?' Huh? That to Watari, you may be the son he never had? Or... or to me, a friend when I have none!" Hot tears stung the corners of her eyes and rolled down her face, but she kept going with a passion.

"Do you know what was going through my mind when I thought we'd lost you? Not... 'Who will I work for next?' ...or, 'What's going to happen with my job?' No!" The tears were coming unashamedly now as she pointed at L with gritted teeth. "No! All I could think of was how much it would hurt to lose you!"

She stopped for a moment to let that sink in. With a sharp intake of breath, she angrily brushed at her wet face.

L said nothing. His breathing was more even now and he just stared at her blankly.

When the silence endured, Naomi continued with an unsteady voice. "I should have known," she said bitterly, "that all this time it was one-sided. I guess I stupidly tricked myself into thinking that I meant something to you, too." She inhaled deeply and squared her shoulders. "Please forgive me for misunderstanding my place. It won't happen again."

Once again, L made no reply.

She stubbornly refused to break eye contact.

"Is that all... Sir?"

L stared at her for a few moments more. Then, he spoke, plainly and without feeling. "Yes, that's all."

Naomi nodded curtly and turned to leave.

As soon as the door shut, L gave in and collapsed to his knees. He gritted his teeth and clenched his fist, pounding it once, then twice into the carpeted floor. He wanted to scream, to punch something, to smash it into a million pieces. He wanted this hurt to leave him, not only the searing pain in his shoulder, but the overwhelming, burning ache that engulfed his entire being.

He had always hated what he could not understand.

The door opened and Watari entered, moving quickly to kneel at L's side when he saw him crumpled on the floor. He helped him stand and move over to the couch.

For once, L sat with his feet on the ground. He slouched back into the cushions and stared at the ceiling, his arms flopped beside him with upturned palms.

When had his life come crashing down around him? Nothing made sense anymore. The weight of this inexplicable feeling was smothering him.

Watari sat down next to L, telling him to sit up. He did and Watari helped him remove his shirt. L grimaced as he slowly and carefully pulled his left arm out of its sleeve.

"You're supposed to be resting your shoulder," Watari reprimanded as he put on a pair of medical gloves.

L just scowled. He leaned back into the couch cushions again.

Watari began gently peeling away the bloodied bandage. L bit his lip and looked upward to distract himself from the pain. It didn't work. As the bandage slowly came off, he made a fist with his other hand and pressed it to his forehead, squeezing his eyes shut and clenching his jaw.

And it was no wonder.

The skin surrounding the laceration was inflamed and raw, the sinister-looking black stitches holding together the gory, red flesh. Two of the stitches had torn, and thick blood oozed from the opening.

Watari shook his head as he discarded the old bandage. Then, he opened a patch of gauze and applied a liquid medicine to it. He looked at L, who nodded and then looked away. He knew this was going to hurt.

As carefully as he could, Watari pressed the gauze to the mangled shoulder. L's knee shot up and his fist moved to his forehead again as he yelled out. He pounded his fist repeatedly against his forehead until Watari took a hold of his wrist.

"Don't do that," the old man said gently.

L jerked his wrist away, still scowling.

Watari applied several steri strips to the area where the stitches had torn. He cleaned the wound, working slowly and gently.

L just sat, slouched and glowering. He flinched and groaned with gritted teeth as a clean bandage was placed over the swollen, stitched-up gash.

Watari said nothing as he taped the large, white square into place. Then, he stood to discard the used supplies.

L sat shirtless, slumped in the cushions. His dark, shadowed eyes stared into nothingness and his hair stuck to his forehead. He had never felt so exhausted, which was a bold claim for an insomniac.

Watari returned shortly and sat down again next to him.



"There's something I need to tell you."

L looked at the old man. He sat up slowly and brought his knees up to his chest. "Okay."

"Last night... you almost died."

L lifted his good arm to sit atop his knees. He rested his chin on it, staring at the floor.

"And I was scared," Watari went on, slowly. "So scared of losing you... and it hurt."

L shifted to crack his knuckles into his palms, his eyes locked on nothing in particular.

"You see, when someone matters a great deal to you... When you /let /someone matter to you... It hurts sometimes."

L looked over into the eyes of the only father he'd ever known. Watari had never spoken to him like this before. He didn't know how to respond, and so he just stared with dark-rimmed eyes.

Watari continued, "My boy, I don't ever want to lose you. Serving you is an honor I am privileged to call mine. I'm proud of you and I love you."

He spoke clearly and with purpose. It was important that he said this. Last night, when it was unknown whether L would live or die, Watari had wondered with terrible panic if he had ever told his boy that he loved him. And now, he wanted to be absolutely sure that he knew.

The words did not fall on deaf ears. L contemplated them deeply. Human emotions were an enigma to him, and they always had been. He stared for a moment, considering briefly what it would be like to lose Watari. A sharp sting rose up in his chest.

L swallowed. He was beginning to understand. "I love you, too, Wammy" he said simply.

Watari's heart swelled at the mention of his true name. L hadn't called him that for years. His white mustache twitched and his eyes creased into a smile.

L smiled back, a little awkwardly around the thumb he'd brought to his mouth.

Then Watari sighed. "L, I know you're upset that Agent Misora went against you. But I think... I think what really upset you is that you almost lost her."

L said nothing. This was a lot to process. He wasn't used to analyzing himself. He stood to his feet, and, hands pocketed, walked over to stare out of the room's large window. The early evening sky and the city of Paris sprawled out before him. So much of what he was feeling was completely foreign, but he had to acknowledge that what Watari was saying did make sense.

He didn't want to lose her. That much he knew for certain.

"I know you were scared," Watari went on from his place on the couch. "I was too. But I'm afraid that tonight, you may have taken it out on her... a little too harshly, if I may say."

The words were spoken firmly, but with kindness. And as much as he hated to admit it, L couldn't really argue with Watari's logic. He had been scared. In fact, he had never known such a gripping fear existed. He hadn't known what to do with himself, and so he had just ran blindly- straight into The Bishop's knife. Nothing and no one had ever caused him to act so irrationally before.

No one, that is, until her.

L was quiet for a long time. He stood with one hand resting on his stomach, where an aching flutter refused to die. He knew this feeling. Not very well... but he recognized it.

It had been there nearly three years ago, when he was at the subway station and he saw her for the first time.

It was there when he watched her practice capoeira and when she teasingly called him "Sir."

It was there when she had fallen asleep on the couch, all bruised up, and when she had walked with him on the beach in that pretty, grey dress.

He had felt it when her face lit up over her brand new motorcycle, and when she had held his hand on Christmas Eve.

It was there whenever she laughed, or when she would get so excited that her words came out all high-pitched and tumbling over one another.

And it had been there last night, when he looked at her through fading eyes, seconds before losing consciousness. Sitting there, bleeding out in that trailer, L had felt it stronger than ever before.

And now, at long last, he knew what it was. That ache that settled in his stomach, that throb that tightened his chest... it had a name now.

He murmured something softly to himself, testing out the words as he voiced them for the first time.

Watari asked him what he had said.

A smile formed around L's pale lips. A weight lifted from his shoulders and he finally understood.

Like stating a conclusive deduction, he repeated his words, this time clearly and with absolute certainty.

"I love her."



Chapter 23: Words

With a deep breath, Naomi closed the last of her clothes drawers. She had been dreading this moment. At least as long as there were things to be unpacked, there was something for her to concentrate on. But now, everything was out of the suitcases and put away where it belonged.

She stood to her feet and put her hands on her hips. She looked around, desperately trying to think of what to do next, lest she melt into a sorry pool of self-pity.

Strongly feeling the need to get out of the apartment and clear her head, she decided to just take her motorcycle out for a drive. The fresh air would surely do her some good.

She pulled on her old leather jacket, her new one having been sent to the cleaners after the gruesome events of the previous night. A pain twisted in her stomach, though, as thinking of the jacket made her think of the one who had gifted it to her.

But she couldn't think that way anymore. She was stupid enough to have thought that way in the first place.

Grabbing her keys and her purse, she opened her front door to leave.

But she stopped abruptly with a sharp intake of breath.

L stood there, shoulders hunched and one hand behind his back. The other hand was raised in a fist, like he had just been about to knock. His eyes widened, startled at the door opening.

A tense awkwardness hung between them. Naomi took a deep breath.

"Do you need something?" she asked calmly.

Slowly, L lowered his hand. He didn't answer. He just looked at her.

Naomi's way of speaking to him had returned to the way it was when she had first begun working for him. No candid "Hi!" and no cheerful, playful smile. Just a polite, professional tone.

"I was just going out, but if you need me, I can wait."

She stood with one hand casually holding the handle of her purse over her shoulder, and the other down by her side.

Slowly, he brought his hand out from behind his back. Pinched between his thumb and index finger was a long, wooden skewer and stacked on it was a line of bright red strawberries. He extended it out to her, his eyes never leaving hers.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly.

Naomi looked down at the strawberry kebob and then back up at L. She wasn't sure how to respond.

He moved his arm up and down slightly, wanting her to accept his offering.

Meeting his gaze with an aching heart, she lifted a hand and took the skewer. His hand immediately retreated to his pocket.

"Well... thank you," she said, a little uneasily.

"I know you like them." He cracked his toes into the carpet.

Naomi nodded, forcing a small smile. "Yes, I do."

L just kept looking at her.

"Um..." Stiffly, she gestured toward him. "How's your shoulder?"

"It hurts," he said plainly.

Naomi nodded and swallowed.


She looked around awkwardly, twirling the skewer back and forth with the fingers of both hands. "Soo..."

"Can I come in?" He spoke abruptly.

Naomi looked up at him, surprised.

"I have the final case report." He held up a USB drive.

"Oh. Um, sure." She stepped back and to the side. "Come on in."

He nodded, as if to say "thank you," and stepped inside her apartment. Naomi realized that in the whole year they had worked together, L had never once been in one of her apartments. She suddenly felt very self-conscious.

She gestured toward the couch. "Um, please have a seat. I can make coffee... or tea?"

L shrugged. "Either is fine." He walked over to the couch but he didn't sit down. He just turned and looked at her with his back curved and his hands in his pockets.

Naomi returned her coat and purse to the closet and moved to the kitchen. She set the strawberry skewer down on a plate.

"So," she called to him, willing her voice to sound steadier than her pounding heart. "The case is finally closed for good then?"

"Yes. For good this time," L answered from the living room.

Naomi put the water in the kettle and on the stove, thankful for something to do with her hands.

L just watched her moving about the kitchen. His toes fidgeted with the hem of his jeans.

Naomi bustled around the little kitchen, opening and closing cupboards and measuring tea leaves. She moved to collect two mugs and turned to place them on the counter. But she halted, nearly bumping into L.

She hadn't heard him walk over to her.

She looked up at him, holding the mugs in both hands.

L just stood there. Like he had something to say, but he just couldn't find the words. His gaze moved ever so slightly from her face to the little red slash on her neck and his eyes flickered briefly with concern. He tipped his head and lifted his finger gently to her chin.

Naomi didn't stiffen the way she had months before, when he had studied her injured jawline in a similar manner. She just looked at him quizzically, sensing a change in him as he so closely examined the trivial cut on her neck.

Something had shifted. She could feel it as she looked at him. He wasn't angry now. He seemed... different, somehow.

All at once, his eyes met hers. His face was so close. Slowly, he let go of her chin and returned his hand to his pocket. But he didn't step back. He just stood looking at her, searching her face with those wide, grey eyes, his closeness quickening Naomi's heartbeat.

The all-too familiar butterfly awoke inside her, but she stubbornly suppressed it. The past 24 hours had been a roller coaster of emotions and she wasn't sure she could handle much more right now.

She swallowed hard. "I- I forgot the sugar," she murmured. And she brushed past him, setting the mugs down and opening another cupboard.

L stood with his back curved in the middle of the kitchen, watching her. The kettle boiled and Naomi moved with unnecessary urgency to get it. She lifted it from the hot surface and moved to pour the water over the tea leaves.

As she turned to replace the kettle on the stove top, L reached out and set his hand on the counter, blocking her path with his arm.


She pursed her lips together. "L, this is hot. I need to-"

He took the kettle from her, set it on the stove behind him, and turned to face her again.

Naomi's hands fidgeted with each other.

L looked at her steadily. "You are more," he said quietly.

Naomi just looked down.

He dropped his gaze too and sighed heavily, lifting thin shoulders. "I'm so... I'm so bad at this, Naomi." His shoulders dropped and he looked at her again. "But I understand now. You are... much more than just an agent to me."

Naomi swallowed the lump in her throat and her gaze moved to his shoulder. The corner of a taped bandage peeked out from the rounded collar of his t-shirt. The horrors of last night strangely and suddenly seemed so distant. Almost like all of it had just been a bad dream.

But it hadn't. Both of them had stared into the grisly face of death... and both of them had experienced the painful nearness of sudden loss.

She looked at him again. "L, you don't have to-"

"I mean it."

She lifted her chin stubbornly. "Then why did you say that I wasn't?" Then she scrunched her eyes and shook her head. "No- nevermind. Don't answer that. I just- I don't want to talk about this. Please."

L opened his mouth to say something and then shut it again. "Okay," he said finally.

Naomi tapped her thumbs together, her hands clasped in front of her. "Right, so... my laptop is in the living room. Use as much sugar as you want." She gestured toward the sugar bowl, picked up her tea, and moved around him toward the couch.

L stood for a moment, then lifted the sugar bowl halfheartedly, pouring a generous amount into his mug of tea. He listlessly stirred the steaming liquid, now thick with sugar, the metal spoon clinking the sides of the ceramic mug. Then, with one hand pocketed, he picked it up and headed into the living room, dragging his bare feet.

Naomi was seated on the couch, leaning forward with her laptop open on the coffee table.

L stepped backwards onto the couch and brought his knees up to his chest, holding his tea atop them. He pulled the USB drive from his pocket and handed it to Naomi. She plugged it in and opened it.

As he had said before, it was the final police report on The Bishop Case.

"Gerard Leveque," L began with a sigh, "returned from covert military duty at sea one year following his wife's fatal accident. While he was away, he had no contact with the outside world, due to the nature of his mission. When he returned and discovered what had happened, he drove his car into the river to stage a suicide. Since then, he has been hiding out in the catacombs beneath the city. His brother-in-law, Jasper Broussard, acted as his eyes on the surface and as his inside man at the police department."

Naomi nodded as she browsed the files detailing Gerard's interrogation.

L watched her as she read, his thumb resting on his bottom lip.

"How did you know?" he asked after a bit.

Naomi glanced at him. "About Gerard? Oh, Clarisse Broussard told me someone had been leaving roses at Rosella's grave... and I also remembered that Gerard's body was never found." She shrugged. "I just... put two and two together."

L nodded, looking at her intently. "I'm impressed," he murmured.

Naomi squirmed a bit, feeling his eyes on her. "So, did they ever learn anything about the tripod?"

"Yes." L pointed to a folder on the computer screen. "Click on that."

Naomi clicked on it and several images appeared. They were scans of printed photos of all of The Bishop's victims.

"His trophies," Naomi muttered. "That's just sick."

L pointed to the screen again. "Now go back... and click on that image."

Naomi did and a scan of a crumpled, poor-quality, printed photo appeared. It was of Rosella Leveque's body at her funeral. Though covered by makeup, the slash mark from the windshield's shattered glass was visible along her throat and she was holding a rosary with a wooden crucifix on the end. Her casket was surrounded by lit candles.

"This photo was in Gerard Leveque's pocket," L said around the thumb in his mouth. "Jasper took it with his cell phone at his sister's funeral. When he showed it to Gerard, they came up with their plan for revenge together. They truly believed that she was robbed of justice and that doing what they did would make things right."

"That's a pretty messed up view of justice," Naomi said softly.

L nodded. "Yes."

Naomi sighed as she removed the USB drive and returned it to L. She shut the laptop and put it back on the shelf under the coffee table.

"I've never been so happy to close a case," she commented, tucking her leg under her and relaxing into the couch cushions with her mug of tea in both hands.

"Yes, I think I may have to agree with you there," L muttered.

Silence hung between them.

Then, softly, L spoke.



He gave her a long look. "I need you to give me your word..." he said slowly. His jaw was set firmly but his eyes were pleading. "...don't ever scare me like that again. Please."

Naomi's chest tightened. She met his gaze and swallowed once, and then again. She blinked back tears that had suddenly settled in the corners of her eyes and nodded with feeling.

A look of relief passed over his face.

It was quiet again for a moment before Naomi spoke.

"I really am so, so sorry," she said, her voice in a whisper.

He nodded. "I know. I am too."

Silence again.

Both of them took a sip of their tea, neither knowing what to say next.

This time, it was L who broke the silence.

"Watari told me what you did," he said. "How you stayed with me. In the trailer... and all night."

Naomi didn't respond. She traced the edge of her mug with her finger.

"Thank you," he said, not taking his eyes off her.

She swallowed again and nodded, not trusting her voice at the moment.

L sighed loudly. He reached with his long arm to set his tea on the coffee table and shifted, setting one foot on the ground and resting his forearm on the knee that was still bent up. He turned his shoulders to face her.

Naomi looked at him strangely. He never sat like that.

His dark, shadowed eyes look at her with intensity and depth. For some reason, she felt like she couldn't look away even if she tried. She clutched her tea in both hands and waited for him to speak.

"Can I..." he began hesitantly, "...take you to dinner? Or..." He shrugged. "...something?"

Naomi blinked her eyes several times. "What... why? I mean..." She shook her head to restore clarity. "Um..."

L waited, sitting casually with one knee up.

Naomi decided her question had been fair. She looked at him evenly and asked again. "Why do you want to take me to dinner?"

L was using his thumbs to crack his knuckles on the same hand. "Because... I want to," he said simply.

"Oh." Naomi looked down into her tea. That hadn't answered her question.

She tried again.

Clearing her throat, she asked bluntly, "Are you... asking me out?"

L looked confused. "Is this not how you do it?"

Naomi looked away in an attempt to hide her frustration. Mere hours ago, she had melted down in front of him, declaring her feelings as if in neon lights, and he had responded with nothing but dismissive indifference. And now here he was, asking her to dinner with no indication whatsoever of what exactly he meant by it.

True, he had apologized and told her she was "more." But that could mean any number of things. Was it "more" as in, "I like hanging out with you outside of work?" Or "more" in the way she had felt... as in more than friends?

Regardless, he was still waiting for an answer. She looked back up at him again and forced a wobbly smile. Her inner defenses were sending little warning signals to not let herself get hurt again.

Nonetheless, she replied, "Sure."

L's mouth rounded into a little smile. "Okay, well... I've never done this before," he confessed, shrugging. "Where do you want to go?"

"Wait... we're going right now??"

"Oh, would you rather go tomorrow?"

Naomi's head was spinning. So much was happening. Then again, L was not exactly one to be limited by social constructs. Thinking about it, she supposed now was as good a time as any.

"Well, um... I am pretty hungry." Naomi said, lifting her shoulders. "I guess we can go now."

L nodded. "Alright."

They stood from the couch and, after putting on shoes, they moved together into the elevator.

As L and Naomi stepped outside into the chilly air, French music was heard coming from some place down the street. A striped awning adorned the front of a little bistro and strings of lights hung from the trees in front of it.

"Do you want to go there?" Naomi suggested, looking up at him and pointing.

L shrugged. "Okay."

They walked together, her hands clutching her purse and his shoved in his pockets. His large, sleep-deprived eyes stared at the ground as his feet shuffled along the sidewalk.

They reached the entrance and stepped inside the warm, little French restaurant. It smelled like fresh-baked bread and homemade soup.

They were led to a booth in the back of the large room. L, stoic in his ways despite his surroundings, sat with his knees brought up to his chest like always.

He folded his arms atop his knees. "So, uh... what do you do on a date?"

Naomi looked up. He hadn't called it a "date" before. But she shook it off and shrugged in answer to his question. "This," she said. "You get food and talk... spend time together."

"We do that all the time," L said, unimpressed.

Naomi laughed lightly. As brilliant as he was, he could be pretty clueless. "Okay, you're right. But a date..." She stopped.

L just looked at her curiously, waiting for her to go on.

She played self-consciously with the corner of the menu. Finally, she shrugged. "I don't know," she said softly. "It's just... different."

L picked up the dessert menu by its corner, using only his thumb and index finger, and started looking over it.

"Different how?" he asked.

Naomi felt cornered. "It just... it just is."

That sounded ridiculous and she knew it.

L continued studying the desserts. Naomi couldn't help but notice that he was still paler than usual. As he set down the menu, she saw him wince and put a hand to his shoulder.

"You know, most people would be in bed resting right now," she chided. "Not, you know... out on a date."

L shrugged, one hand resting on his shoulder. "It doesn't matter where I am, it still hurts."

The terrible image of him bleeding out in the trailer suddenly flashed in Naomi's memory.

How on earth had that only been last night?

The paramedics fighting to save him in the elevator... the sickening feeling of watching them disappear with L's limp and lifeless body into the apartment and not knowing if he would come back out alive...

That had all been real. And only a day ago.

And now, here he was, on a date with her apparently, nonchalantly trying to decide what kind of sweets to order from the café menu. All of it felt so surreal.

L caught her looking at him. His teeth were clamped down on his thumb. "What?"

Naomi looked down, her heart pounding. "Last night was awful," she managed to say quietly.

L nodded. "Yes. It was."

She looked up at him again, unable to hide the tears that unwillingly brimmed in the corners of her eyes. "You almost /died," /she said in a whisper, her voice breaking.

L lowered his hand to rest on his knee. "So did you."

Naomi nodded.

They looked at each other for a long moment, saying what words never could.

Feeling on the edge of another meltdown, Naomi raised her eyes to the ceiling and blinked several times, trying to get her wobbly emotions under control. "Ughh... I'm sorry," she said with a weepy, shaky voice. "This isn't like me! I'm just... such a mess right now." She sniffed and brushed at her face, annoyed at herself for crying again in front of L.

"It's okay," he said softly. He was watching her closely, wanting to help her but not knowing how to.

Naomi shook her head and sniffed again.

"Naomi." L leaned forward and looked at her intently. "Look at me. I'm here. I'm fine."

She met his gaze and nodded, drying her tears with her thumbs. Then, looking upward, she inhaled deeply and exhaled into a smile. "Well," she breathed, clearing her throat, "I'm really glad you decided to stick around." She shot him a playful look, albeit with red, puffy eyes.

The corner of L's mouth lifted into a grin.

That was the Naomi he knew.

And as the evening passed, the tension between them slowly disappeared. He ordered coffee and cake and she ordered soup and they talked easily, just as they always had.

At last, they stood to leave and, as they stepped out into the cool, night air, Naomi felt a strange knot in her stomach that still wanted to know what exactly was going on in that head of his.

She decided that she wasn't going to wonder any longer.

"Hey." She stopped walking and turned to face him.

"Hmm?" He turned to face her too.

She sighed. "What is this?" she asked softly.

L lifted his shoulders and looked sideways. "What is what?"

Naomi gestured back and forth between them. "This. Us. On a date. I mean..." She looked down again. "I guess... I don't want to assume or wonder anymore. I want to know..." She swallowed and took a deep breath, meeting his eyes. "I just... need to know for sure how you feel about me," she said plainly.

There. She said it. Never in a million years would she have said that to a guy on a first date. But this wasn't just a guy. This was L. And he was as straightforward as they come.

Not at all taken aback, he nodded slowly. "Fair enough..." he said, his voice low. He looked down at the sidewalk and scuffed at it with the toe of his sneaker.

The strings of round, white light bulbs hung from the bare, winter branches of the trees and the night sky glittered above them.

Naomi waited for what seemed like a long time.

Finally, his eyes lifted again. He stood with his shoulders bent and his hands in the pockets of his blue jeans as he looked at her searchingly through strands of jet-black hair.

He lifted his shoulders and shook his head, as if to express a loss for any other words.

"I love you," he said.

Plain and simple.

Naomi's eyes widened in shock. "Wait. You what//?"

L looked at her straight in the eyes. "I love you," he repeated softly. "That's how I feel about you."

Naomi lifted both hands so that her fingers came together at the bridge of her nose. She closed her eyes and willed herself to speak slowly and clearly and not like the complete mess that she felt like at the moment.

"Okay, that is... a big thing to say to someone."

"I know," L said quietly.

Naomi shook her head. "I'm not sure that you do," she said, completely flustered. "You don't just... say that on the first date! It's just- look." She took a deep breath as she straightened her shoulders and held up both palms. "I think I'm starting to understand... And I think maybe you're using the wrong word..." She smiled, feeling the flush of color in her cheeks. "I think," she went on softly, "that you feel something for me." She looked down and added, "I know I do for you."

Then, she reached out and took his hand in her much smaller one, meeting his eyes with her own as she continued.

"But, love, it... it takes more time. And this is all so fast. I mean, it's been less than /a day//." /She shook her head. "Don't you see?"

L nodded as he looked down at their joined hands. His thumb moved gently back and forth. "I do see," he said. He was quiet for a moment before lifting his gaze again. "But you're wrong, Naomi. It's been three years."

Naomi's heart did a flip.

"Three years ago," L went on, a smile playing on the edges of his lips, "you kicked me down a flight of stairs..."

Naomi grinned.

"...a year ago, you became my agent and, over the months we spent together, you became my friend." His words were spoken simply and with confidence.

Naomi listened, hanging onto every word.

He stepped forward then, closing the gap between them. "It did take time, Naomi. And I don't ever choose my words lightly." He searched her face, his dark eyes relaying more than his words ever could. "I love you," he said once more.

Naomi swallowed. This was so much, so fast. She looked at him through glistening eyes.

"I- I don't know what to say to that," she said softly. She lifted a hand to brush at her cheek. "It's just... well, I need to think... to process this." She felt so overwhelmed.

L nodded. "I understand," he said.

And she knew that he did.

They turned to walk back to the apartment building, his long fingers still closed around her hand.



Chapter 24: Heart

Neither L nor Naomi spoke as they walked back to the apartment building.

And Naomi was thankful for that. She had so much to work through and she didn't feel like she had the energy, nor the state of mind to hold a conversation right now.

She shifted her purse on her shoulder with one hand, her other one still held in L's.

It didn't feel weird, holding his hand. It was comforting having him close.

But the practical side of Naomi was putting up a wall. She loved what she had with him. She loved how comfortable they were with each other and how easily they could spend time together. And she didn't want to lose that.

They reached the building and made their way into the elevator. L went through the motions to pass through the layers of security and, a moment later, the doors opened on their floor.

As they stepped into the hallway, Naomi turned to face him.

"Thanks for taking me to dinner," she said sincerely. She slipped her hand out of his and adjusted her purse again.

His hand returned to his pocket. He looked at her steadily and fidgeted with his toes.

"Should I not have said that?" he asked plainly.

Naomi looked up at him, not knowing how to answer. There was a part of her that did wish he hadn't said it. It just seemed so fast and so big all at once.

But, on the other hand, she had asked him point-blank how he felt and he hadn't held back. She couldn't really blame him for answering her question with complete honesty.

"It's okay," she said slowly. "Like I said, I just... need some time."

He nodded. "Okay." The corner of his mouth twitched into something like a smile as he took a few steps backward toward his own apartment. "Goodnight."

Naomi smiled, feeling the familiar sensation of butterflies all inside her. "Night."

He turned and went into his apartment, an unusual lightness to his steps. The door shut behind him.

Naomi moved to unlock her own apartment and stepped inside. As she shut the door behind her, she leaned her back against it. She exhaled as if she'd been holding her breath for a long time and let her purse flop from her shoulder onto the ground. Closing her eyes, she rested her head against the door and placed her hand over the flutters in her stomach.

She stayed there for a few minutes before opening her eyes. Before her was her apartment, the living room to the left and the kitchen to the right. Two tea mugs sat on the coffee table, and sitting on a plate right where she'd left it was a wooden skewer lined with strawberries.

Shoving off of the door, she moved into the kitchen and gingerly picked up the skewer. She leaned forward, resting her elbows on the counter top, and slid off a single strawberry. She looked at it, turning it slowly in her fingers. A smile played with her lips. She lifted the bright red berry to her mouth and took a small bite. It was juicy and sweet.

Naomi set the skewer back down on the plate. With one more bite, she finished the strawberry. Then, turning and placing both palms on the edge of counter, she hopped up to sit on it. She leaned forward with her forearms on her knees and let her legs swing freely back and forth as she stared at the tile floor.

For months now, she'd had feelings for L... and she still did. That much was undeniable.

But L hadn't just told her he had feelings for her...

He had said, "I love you."

Naomi picked up the skewer again and held it in the fingers of both hands. She couldn't help but smile when she looked at it. He was so... childish. So simple and yet so complex.

Did she love him...?

She wanted to say that she did.

She knew for certain that losing him would have shattered her.

So, what was keeping her from saying it? What was this defense made of, this wall that enclosed her heart?

Was it because they worked together? Because he was her employer?

No. This wasn't exactly an everyday workplace... the rules of society didn't really apply here.

Was it his quirks? His lifestyle?


Naomi absentmindedly twirled the strawberry skewer back and forth with her fingertips.

In truth, she felt so... small. So inadequate in his legendary shadow. She was comfortable where she was- as his agent and his friend.

But to step up beside him? To meet him where he stood? To love him and be loved by him, the world's greatest and most brilliant detective?

She didn't want to let him down... but, even more than that, she didn't want to lose him.

Naomi set the strawberries back down and hopped off of the counter. Dragging her feet, she moved to the couch. She flopped onto it and curled up on her side, hugging a throw pillow to her chest.

She stayed there for a long time.

She thought about how far she'd come in a year, from being totally unsure how to handle his peculiarities to finding them familiar and even endearing.

She thought about how easy it was to be with him for hours in comfortable silence.

She thought back to practicing capoeira and The Floor is Lava and ice skating.

She thought about how he'd taken care of her when she'd been hurt.

She thought of her motorcycle and the fact that he felt she deserved such a beautiful thing.

And she thought of last night and how terrifyingly close he had come to dying in her arms.

Naomi closed her eyes and buried her face in the pillow, curling herself up into a tighter ball.

For so long, she had suppressed these feelings, telling herself over and over that he would never see her that way. It was she who had laid the bricks and sealed them shut. This wall inside of her was of her own making and only she could let it fall.

Carefully, she chose her words in her head, laying them out exactly how she wanted to say them to L. She'd tell him how much he meant to her and that she wanted to move forward but take it slowly. She'd explain that she just needed to work through some things and that it would take time. She knew he would understand.

Her phone buzzed in her pocket. She rolled up into a sitting position and blinked at the brightness of the screen. It was a text from L.

Are you awake?

Naomi glanced at the time. It was after two in the morning.

She typed back.

Yes, I'm up.

She sat turning her phone over and over in her hand waiting for his response. It only took a few seconds.

I could use your help with these surveillance tapes.

Naomi read the message, the light from her phone screen illuminating her features. She swallowed hard and decided to talk to L now. She knew herself all too well and that, if she waited, she may forget the nicely organized speech she had so meticulously prepared in her head. Her fingers pressed the buttons with little beeps as she replied to his text.

Be right there.

Taking a deep breath, she stood to her feet and moved to step out into the hallway.

At last, she felt like she had everything under control. She knew exactly what she would say and how she would put it. Reaching his door, she lifted her hand and knocked.

Naomi calmly folded her hands in front of her. The butterflies were there, but they were behaving. She replayed what she wanted to say once more in her head.

But then, the lock clicked, and the door opened.

L stood there, one hand in his pocket and one on the door. One leg was bent with his toes resting on top of the other bare foot as he looked at her through the shadowed eyes of a lifelong insomniac. Untamed, ebony hair... loose, faded blue jeans... a plain, white, long-sleeved t-shirt.

He stepped aside to let her in, but she didn't move. He tipped his head questioningly and stepped up to the door frame again.

"Are... you okay?" he asked.

Naomi just looked at him, meeting his eyes with slightly parted lips. Every single word she had so carefully formulated in her mind had disappeared entirely and what remained was something far stronger than butterflies.


Her hands were clasped in front of her. Her voice was taken from her, as if by a spell. She could do nothing but stand there, looking at him with a throbbing heart.

And it was then that she knew that words would never be enough. She reached out and took a handful of his t-shirt, pulling him to her, and met his lips with her own.

L's hands remained pocketed as he stiffened his back and widened his eyes, crossing them as he looked at her.

"Mhh!" he grunted. She was pulling on his injured shoulder.

Naomi let go and stepped back quickly, her expression almost as surprised as his.

"What was that?!" she rebuked herself.

L's hand immediately went to his shoulder as he gritted his teeth and scrunched his eyes.

Naomi's hands flew to her mouth. "Oh! Oh my god, I'm sorry!"

"It's okay," L said, his jaw clenched. He pressed the base of his palm to the pained area and winced. "Mhh," he voiced again. Then, he returned his hand to his pocket and looked at Naomi, blinking a couple times.

Her hands were clasped in front of her again and were fidgeting with one another. She offered him an apologetic smile.

"Um..." L lifted his hand to scratch the back of his head. "Come on in." He turned and walked into the apartment and Naomi hesitated, then followed.

They moved to the living room in silence.

Naomi wondered if what had just happened had had any effect at all on the detective. He had barely reacted. She had a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach.

She stepped into the dark room, lit only by the dim, blue tint of multiple computer monitors. With downcast eyes, she resolved to let it go. Clearly, she had made him uncomfortable. She sighed, her face warm with embarrassment, and lifted her gaze to approach the desk where she expected L to be seated already.

But she stopped.

He had made it about halfway to the desk and had turned sideways, toward her but not all the way. His eyes were looking at the floor, but at no spot in particular, like he was just being thoughtful. And though one hand was pocketed like always, the other he had brought to his mouth and the back of his hand rested there.

And suddenly, Naomi felt bad. She realized that, in her selfish impulsiveness, she had just stolen L's first kiss. Not that it was a bad thing for it to be with her... but surely, he deserved more than an emotional, headstrong girl flailing herself at him without warning.

And now, she couldn't take it back.

She dropped her head into her hands.

"Ughh, I'm sorry!" she groaned. "That was so stupid! I... I shouldn't have done that. I-"

She lifted her head to continue but her heart caught in her throat.

He was standing right in front of her, his back straightened so that she had to look up to meet his eyes.

She had forgotten how tall he was...

His expression was transfixed. His stood, elbows bent, with his hands in his pockets, his face so close to hers. His giant, dark eyes searched her face, like he was seeing her for the first time.

Naomi dropped her head, her cheeks flushing a soft shade of pink. He was so close to her, her forehead was almost resting on his chest. She could hear his heartbeat beneath his plain cotton shirt, steady and rhythmic.

One hand slowly left his jeans pocket and his index finger and thumb met her chin. She looked up, swallowing the lump in her throat.

His eyes.

They were so close.

Exploring her face as if he was... curious.

Gently, he traced her bottom lip with his thumb. The other hand stayed in his pocket.

Through strands of pitch-black hair, his eyes traveled to meet her own, and then slightly back down again.

The tip of his nose brushed hers.

His breath smelled like vanilla and strawberries.

His head bent ever so slightly, bringing his lips so close to hers, they almost touched.

And then,

all at once,

they did.

It took her breath away.

It was simple and unpracticed. Almost childish in its innocence.

Time was at a standstill and, for just a few perfect seconds, that sweet kiss was all there was in the world.

Her walls crumbled to dust and she knew without question.

She loved him.

So much.

He let go softly, and his eyes met hers again.

Naomi realized that her hands had instinctively moved to his sides. When exactly, she couldn't say. She was spellbound and without words.

L had kissed her. And now he was looking at her with a look she knew so well.

He was thinking. Analyzing everything in his brilliant mind.

He never changed.

His gaze dropped and his hands moved to take both of her hands in his. He seemed to be considering something deeply.

Naomi waited. His thumbs moved in little circles on the backs of her hands.

He looked up again, his tired eyes rimmed in shadow seemingly have come to a decision.


He paused again and swallowed.

Then, taking a deep breath, he smiled at her. A small, boyish smile, almost shy in its vulnerability.

"I'm... Lawliet."

Naomi blinked. "What?" She tipped her head, confused. "You're... 'low light?' I- I don't understand, L."

"It's my name," he said softly. "My name is L Lawliet."

His name.

Naomi's heartbeat quickened as she looked at him through glistening eyes.

"L Lawliet..." she repeated slowly.

He nodded, his mouth curved up in a smile so perfectly content and so completely trusting. He loved her with everything he had, and that included the part of himself that he had kept hidden from the world his entire life.

All doubt finally and wholly erased, Naomi lifted her hands to his face, her fingers in his hair at the base of his neck. His hand lifted to take her wrist, his thumb gently brushing her skin. His eyes didn't leave hers as she shook her head, smiling through tears that made her eyes shine.

"I love you, L Lawliet. I do. I love you so much."

With something between an exhale and a laugh, he grinned.

Naomi lifted her face to his again, but he leaned back.

As though something had just occurred to him, a worried look flickered in his eyes.

"But don't you want a home to live in? Or a family? Or at least... someone to wake up next to every morning?" He shook his head and lifted his shoulders helplessly. "Because I can't give you that." he said frankly. "That's not the life you'll have with me. I can't-"

Naomi's index finger reached up and pressed against his lips. He stopped talking and stared at her, suddenly looking very overwhelmed.

"Shut up," she said coolly.

L pulled his head away. His hand took her wrist and lowered her arm.

"Naomi, please be serious. I want you to really consider this, it's your life-"

"Yes!" Naomi simply retaliated by putting her other hand over his mouth. "It's my life!"

She slowly lowered her hand and placed it gently on his chest. Her eyes looked directly into his.

"It's my life," she repeated softly. "And I want to spend it with you."

He looked at her upturned face and swallowed hard.

L knew he could never live a life outside of his work. He didn't want to give that up. Even more than that, he couldn't. It was ingrained into the very essence of his being.

But Naomi wasn't asking him to give it up. She'd never wanted him to. In fact, this incredible, strong, beautiful girl simply wanted to be a part of it.

She wasn't asking him to leave his world.

She was asking him to let her in.

And with that realization, something inside of L let go.

He released her wrist and his long arms wrapped around her, pulling her to him. He held her tightly, as if he never wanted to let go.

He never dreamed he could love like this. Or be loved like this. He had always considered himself apart from the public, so different from all the rest. To him, love had always been something his genius just didn't have room for. He knew people loved each other and that it was very, very real but this- this was his. His very own.

L felt the weight of the world lift from his shoulders as he held the woman who had won over his cold and closed-off heart.

Pulling back and taking her face in both of his hands, he tilted her head up and kissed her again.

Her fingers held the collar of his t-shirt and her other hand lifted to his jawline.

Alone, he was the world's greatest detective, a single alphabetical letter, a world-renowned legend shrouded in enigmatic darkness.

But with her...

With her, he was more than justice. He was human.

And somehow, through it all, she had found her way to his heart.

He took a deep breath as he pulled away and met her eyes with a smile so genuine, it made her heart explode.

And a little while later, Watari returned to a familiar sight.

L Lawliet sat as he normally did, with his knees brought up to his chest and his bare feet one on top of the other on the couch. Before him were several screens, all of which displayed surveillance footage from various angles. L was watching them intently, his thumbnail between his teeth.

But Watari's white mustache twitched and his eyes shone, for one thing was new.

Beside L was Naomi, curled up and sound asleep with her head against him. Her hand rested on his knee and his arm was wrapped around her shoulder. He looked up when Watari entered.

The old man nodded with approval and pride.

A smile formed around the thumb in L's mouth. His arm tightened affectionately and he turned back to the screens.

His heart was full.

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