Title: I Measure Every Grief I Meet
Anime: Death Note
Summary: Aizawa has had it with L and his lies. Now that he thinks he's uncovered one of the great detective's secrets, he's going to try to get some payback. Instead, he learns about an entirely different side of the young genius and a tragic event from his past that helped shape him into who he is.
Pairings: Mentions of past L/OC
Characters: Aizawa, L
Disclaimer: L and Aizawa are the property of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. I'm merely borrowing them for a bit.
Content Warning: Adult language
I Measure Every Grief I Meet
Aizawa stared at L sitting before the wall of monitors, chewing on the tip of his thumb while he reviewed the surveillance footage they 'acquired' earlier that day. L had acted like the information was given to them freely, but he knew how they'd actually come by it L had hired someone to hack into the feeds at nearly every prison in Japan. L had rationalized the action by saying it was the easiest way to keep an eye on things so they knew the exact moment Kira made his next strike. And perhaps that was true. Still, he could have just told them the truth about how he'd gotten access to the security systems instead of lying about it.
Lies. That's all that ever came out of that damn kid's mouth half the time. Maybe not actual lies, but enough misleading statements that were as good as some of the cover stories he'd heard from hardened criminals during his years as a cop to make him question himself about why he'd returned to the task force in the first place. It was becoming increasingly obvious to Aizawa that L thrived on manipulating others and getting them to do exactly what he wanted, no matter how under-handed he had to be to get his way. The more he thought about it, the more he wondered if maybe L was actually Kira all along, playing some sort of twisted game by pretending to try to catch the serial killer when he was actually the one committing the murders.
Now here he was, staring at the younger man once again, trying to figure out what happened to him to change him into... this. This slouching, disheveled, sleep-deprived young man was a far cry from the one he'd seen in the picture on Watari's desk a week ago. Well... Maybe it wasn't really that much of a stretch to see the similarities between L and the teenager in the photo. Same messy dark hair, same slouching posture though it was definitely more pronounced, now and he even had the dark circles under his eyes back then. Which, when he thought about it, made Aizawa wonder if maybe it wasn't actually a symptom of sleep deprivation, but rather some sort of genetic condition. But that smile... That was nothing like the man sitting not ten feet away from him.
Sure, L had smiled before. He'd seen it on a few rare occasions during the case, whenever the young genius brat had some sort of revelation concerning the way Kira worked. It was kinda creepy, really. Every time he smiled, Aizawa couldn't help but think of a certain character from an animated film he'd seen on television a couple of years back a character who just so happened to be a walking, talking skeleton. The smile L had been exhibiting in that picture, however, was an honest-to-god, genuine smile. It actually reached his eyes and made his entire face light up. And, really, that was even more disturbing a sight to Aizawa than the smiles he'd seen on L's face since the start of the Kira case.
L hadn't been alone in the picture, ether. He'd been with a girl about his age, with dark blonde hair and pretty green eyes. She had her arms wrapped around his waist in the picture, hugging him, and his arm was draped sort of awkwardly around her shoulders. Aizawa had asked Watari who the girl in the picture was, but the old man refused to say anything about it. All he'd told Aizawa in the end was that it wasn't his place to discuss it and if he really wanted to know he should ask L though the older man also stated that he sincerely doubted that L would wish to discuss it, either.
Even so, Aizawa was still pissed over how L had handled things once the task force had lost their funding. He'd been forced to give up on a job he enjoyed, on a case he was thoroughly committed to, just because that brat genius decided to play another one of his asinine games to test the loyalty of the remaining members of the team. He ended up going back, but not because he wanted to work with L. He went back because there was still a killer out there taking justice into his own hands, and he hated to leave anything unfinished.
"Are you going to keep staring at me all night?" L asked, his eyes never straying from the monitors in front of him. "Or, should I say, are you ever going to stop glaring at me?"
"I wasn't glaring," Aizawa insisted, crossing his arms over his chest.
"You have been glaring at me every time we are in the same room for almost a week, now," L pointed out to him. "Do not think I haven't noticed."
Aizawa felt the corner of his eye twitch when L ever-so-subtly lauded his own abilities of observation. That was another thing that annoyed him about the kid his damn arrogance. Maybe he didn't come right out and say, 'Hey! Look at me! I'm the smartest guy in the world and I'm so much better than all of you!' But subtle actions and words often said more than obvious statements like that. And Aizawa was especially good at reading subtleties in people he disliked.
"Who's the girl in the picture with you?" he asked, refusing to acknowledge that L had been right about him staring all night.
"Pardon?" L said nonchalantly, switching the feeds displayed on the monitors. Aizawa's jaw tightened. Either he was playing dumb, or he really didn't know what he was talking about. Deciding to give him the benefit of the doubt, he rephrased his question.
"There's a picture of you and a girl on Watari's desk," he clarified. "Who is she?"
"Just an old friend," L replied, and to most observers it would have seemed he didn't miss a beat before answering. Aizawa had noticed his tell, though he'd seen the way L's hand twitched ever so slightly on the trackball. It was an involuntary motion, one he'd seen when questioning suspects who had something to hide.
"Could you do me a favor?" Aizawa asked, going over to the desk L was sitting at an leaning over to look him in the eye, slamming his hands down hard on the polished surface of the wood for emphasis. "Could you cut the shit and tell me the truth, just this once?"
L's dark eyes met his, and the younger man blinked only a single time before replying, his gaze never wavering for a second.
"I am telling the truth. She's an old friend. We were at the same orphanage as children."
He reached up and pushed Aizawa aside, then resumed checking the footage from the various prisons for signs of Kira. Frustrated and knowing that L was never going to give in and tell him the truth, Aizawa decided to bide the rest of his time with a book just so he wouldn't have to look at L's face lest he have a sudden urge to punch him in it several times.
With a sigh, he walked to a table covered in books on criminal psychology and analytical data collection, as well as other topics L had apparently been reading up on lately. He really had no interest in any of the topics the books covered, but since it was merely to distract him he figured it didn't really matter if he gained no actual pleasure from reading one of them. Deciding to just randomly choose a book, he picked one up off the top of the closest pile and blinked in curiosity at what he found lying underneath it.
It was a book, but it was much smaller than the others on the table and it had to dust jacket to identify its subject matter. A part of him knew he should probably just leave it alone after all, it might very well be L's journal, and no matter how much he disliked him Aizawa was not about to go delving into the other man's diary to get back at him.
He set the larger book aside and picked up the small hardcover, and had to keep from laughing out loud when he looked at the spine and discovered it was a book of poetry by Emily Dickinson. The cover was rather worn, but the book itself seemed completely untouched. The binding was perfect, the pages flat and neatly aligned down the opposite side from the spine. A closer examination of the top edge of the book confirmed that someone had been reading it, though. There was a small space between the pages toward the back of the book, signifying that someone had placed a bookmark in it to keep their place.
Aizawa cast a glance over his shoulder at L, only to find him still engrossed in the security footage on the monitors. Turning back to the book, he opened it up to the marked page and began to read, thinking maybe if this was L's favorite poem it might shed some light on why he was such an insufferable, manipulative bastard a lot of the time.
I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.
I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.
I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.
I wonder if when years have piled--
Some thousands--on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;
Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.
Aizawa found himself even more confused about the young detective after reading the poem until he turned over the bookmark and discovered it was actually a strip of pictures taken in a photo booth. The pictures were once more of a teenaged L and the girl from the picture on Watari's desk. The first couple of pictures were much like the one Watari had: the two of them were smiling and she was hugging him while he was awkwardly holding her. The last two pictures in the strip, however, told a much different story... one which exposed L's lie about her being nothing more than 'an old friend.'
Smirking to himself, Aizawa snapped the book shut with one hand, and the sound carried over to L and caused him to turn his head and see what was going on. As soon as his dark eyes fell upon the strip of pictures in the older man's hand, he bolted out of his chair and quickly walked over to him and snatched them away. Aizawa hissed as the photo paper cut into his index finger, stinging horribly, and he brought the finger to his mouth to suck on it in an attempt to dull the pain as blood began to seep from the wound.
"How dare you snoop around in my personal effects!" L growled at him, and Aizawa found himself completely dumbfounded. Even when arguing with someone, he had always kept his cool. Now, however, there was a downright murderous rage in his eyes... along with something else entirely.
Aizawa slowly lowered his hand to his side and let out a heavy sigh. Now the poem made sense. He didn't know how he hadn't been able to see it before. L had flinched when he mentioned the girl and refused to discuss any details about her, and he had dismissed her as nothing more than an old friend even though the two of them had been kissing in those photos. They were classic signs of someone who had been though a relationship that ended badly. And if Aizawa's suspicions were correct, it had ended very badly for the smitten teenagers he'd seen in the pictures L was now holding in his hand.
"She's dead, isn't she?" Aizawa asked, deciding it was best not to beat around the bush. "That's what the marked poem is all about your grief over losing her. You don't strike me as the type to read Emily Dickinson, though, so I'm guessing that was her favorite poet, not yours."
"Mia," L said quietly.
"Her name was Mia," L repeated, a bit louder, his shoulders slumping even more than usual as he wandered back over to his chair and sat down. "Mia Harper. And yes, she's dead. Murdered."
"How old were you?" Aizawa asked, trying to keep his tone neutral so it didn't seem like he was interrogating him. Judging by the fact that the kid seemed like he had gotten ten years older just by seeing those pictures, he was ready to wager he hadn't really talked about what happened with anyone. Besides, he was curious how a guy who seemingly had no emotions and who was just fucking weird had ever managed to land himself a girlfriend.
"We were seventeen," L answered. "And I wasn't lying before. We did really live in the same orphanage as children. At least, we did until Watari took me away. Then she got adopted and eventually we both ended up in London and..."
L's voice trailed off and he continued to stare quietly at the pictures in his hand. Aizawa wasn't sure what to do. They weren't friends far from it, really but he'd seen grief take its toll on people in the past. Sometimes it happened right after their loved one died, and sometimes it took years for it to really set in. That was when it was worst: when the person was in denial or just closed off emotionally for years until it finally all boiled over and came out at once. He knew if he wanted L to continue being of use in tracking down and catching Kira, he was going to have to do his damnedest to keep him from turning into a total basket case, like him or not.
"You said she was murdered?" he asked, grabbing a nearby chair and pulling it over to the desk so he could sit in front of L and have a proper conversation with him.
"I should have seen it coming," L remarked, gently tracing the visage of Mia in the photographs with the tip of one finger. "She was in an abusive relationship before we started dating. I knew he'd hurt her, but I figured once she left him that would be the end of it. Pretty foolish thinking for a detective who had already seen a fair share of murders committed out of jealousy."
"How did it happen?" Aizawa wondered aloud, and immediately wanted to kick himself. The kid was obviously in pain and, instead of being consoling, the cop in him was going into full-on interrogation mode.
"I won't... I can't ever forget that day. I still have nightmares about it," L confided in him, shaking his head ruefully. "I still hear the gunshot, the screams of the other people in the park. I still see her falling to the ground. I still feel her in my arms, shivering and struggling to breathe. I still remember her voice, even though it was almost drowned out by the sirens, telling me to run before he comes back to kill me, too."
"You didn't run, though," Aizawa said, the tone of his voice no longer questioning. He had moved on to the part of the interview where he would be stating facts, now. Laying out the evidence so that the perp had no choice but to cave and admit to their crime.
"No, I didn't," L confirmed, and Aizawa saw the corner of his mouth quirk up ever so slightly into a sad smile. "I told her I couldn't leave the girl I love to die alone. It was... That was the first and only time I told her that I loved her. She died a few seconds after that. And I can't.... I don't really remember what happened after that. I must have been in shock. I remember kissing her one last time and crying, and the cops taking my statement and driving me home. After that, though... it's just a huge blank. The next thing I remember is seeing a report on the news that her ex-boyfriend had turned himself in and confessed to killing her before putting a bullet in his brain in the middle of the police station. And I remember how happy hearing that made me feel.
"Was that wrong of me?" L asked, turning his gaze up to Aizawa, his dark grey eyes full of unshed tears. "To feel happy that he killed himself?"
"Not really," Aizawa assured him. "It was justice."
"The sort of justice Kira stands for, maybe," L remarked, scoffing bitterly. "Does that mean I'm really no better than him? I wished death upon that boy because he killed the girl I loved, rather than have him pay for his crimes the way the courts would deem fit."
"And what would they have done, L?" Aizawa wondered, then continued to answer his own question. "He was a minor. He probably would have gotten away with a minimal sentence, and forget about the death penalty."
"I still can't help but think that it was my fault," L argued. "As if... Somehow, simply by wishing for him to die with all of my heart, I made it happen."
"You didn't pull the trigger," Aizawa pointed out. "He did. He chose to take his own life because he couldn't deal with the guilt of killing another human being. Trust me, I've seen it happen plenty of times before."
"Maybe you're right," L conceded. "Perhaps my guilt is misplaced. Still, I wish I had figured out what he was going to do. Maybe I could have prevented it from happening. Maybe she'd still be alive. Maybe we'd still be together. That's all I have left of her now... maybes and might have beens."
"That's a complete load of bullshit, and you know it," Aizawa retorted. "You have so much more than that. You have those pictures and your memories of her. You want my advice? Stop thinking about what you could have done differently. Yeah, maybe you could have saved her or maybe you could have been killed that day right alongside her. You'll never know. But you know what? It doesn't matter. You can't change it. So stop dwelling on all of these 'what ifs' and instead focus on the happy memories you have of her. I didn't know her, but judging by the way she's smiling at you in those pictures in your hand I'm willing to bet she'd hate seeing you moping like this. Especially since it's been, what? Eight years?"
"Eight years, five months, three weeks, two days, seven hours, and thirteen minutes," L rattled off, and Aizawa couldn't stop the chuckle from rising up out of his throat.
"You know what I mean," he told the younger man, resting a hand on his shoulder and giving it a firm squeeze. "You need to stop thinking about the past and live in the now. After all, none of us know when we'll die and I'm sure you want to catch Kira before your time has come, right?"
L looked up at him, then, and stared at him silently for a moment before the corners of his mouth turned upward in a small smile. Aizawa returned the smile, seeing in that moment a glimpse of the person L had been in those photographs. Then the kid's expression turned serious once more and he spun his chair around to face the monitors again. He propped the photo strip up against the side of the monitor directly in front of him and gently touched the visage of Mia's face smiling at him before returning to the task at hand.
Three years later...
Aizawa shivered and pulled his long coat tighter around himself, mentally cursing the chilly London rain as he made his way through the graveyard. He'd come here to speak to a former colleague of his, a man he had once despised but now respected. His eyes read the names on the tombstones as he passed by each of them, looking for the particular one which would tell him he was in the right place. Finally, he found the one he was looking for.
Daughter, Friend, Beloved
May angels fly you to your rest
He smiled sadly and turned his attention to the headstone next to hers, letting out a heavy sigh as he rested a hand on top of the cold stone and read the inscription upon it.
October 31, 1979 November 5, 2004
He fought for justice until the end
"We got him," Aizawa said, sighing again. "You were right, all along. Light Yagami was Kira. I'm only sorry we weren't able to prove it until after it was too late, for you and for Watari. But I just want you to know that justice was served, in the end."
He knelt down between the two graves, his face drawn from lack of sleep and his shoulders slumping as he thought about how wrong he'd been about the genius detective in the past, and glanced over at Mia's headstone for a moment before he continued speaking.
"I asked that you be buried here, next to her in case you were wondering. I know you loved her, and her parents were actually quite agreeable to the request. Wherever you are, now, I hope you're with her. You deserve some happiness, after everything you've been through."
Aizawa felt a sudden warm breeze blowing around him and straightened his posture at the unusual sensation. He looked back over his shoulder, half-expecting to see some sort of apparition of the two teenagers standing nearby, smiling at him, but there was nothing there. As suddenly as the warmth had washed over him it was gone, leaving him shivering once more in the freezing rain, but Aizawa knew what that warm breeze had been. It was L's way of thanking him and telling him to not dwell on the past and what might have been done differently to change things. He had done his job, which was all L ever asked of him, and he helped uncover the true identity of the serial murderer known as Kira.
He chuckled to himself as he stood up, remembering the conversation he had once had with L about the girl he loved and lost. He'd also told L that he needed to let go of the past and move on, and now he knew that was what he needed to do, as well. The cost of putting an end to Kira's killing spree had been high far too many good people had been lost long the way, in his opinion and ever since it was all over he'd had a hard time finding the old passion he used to have for his work. Now, however, thanks to some sort of phenomenon he couldn't rightly explain, he felt a renewed sense of vigor. He knew his place was back on the force, putting criminals behind bars fighting for the justice that L had held so dearly.
"Thanks, kid," Aizawa said, patting the top of L's headstone with a smile on his face. He then turned pulled up the collar on his coat to help shield the back of his neck from the blustering wind and made his way out of the cemetery.
He had the rest of his life before him. He only hoped he could be half the man L had been.