Anecdotes from the Story of the Century

Duty

Ever since Light's death, Matsuda, of all people, has undertaken the role of a rock in the task force. He's unsure as to whether this has happened out of guilt, out of obligation, or out of fear of losing the others—and possibly himself—to despair. It could very well be a combination of the three, but he doesn't bother to investigate into it. Some things should be investigated, some things should be left be, especially if the answers are unattainable or useless. The hard part is learning how to tell the difference.

It had begun, not so surprisingly, as an order, issued to him by "Ryuzaki." After they had taken Watari and Light to the morgue, he had returned later to check on Erin, worried that her injury would require a trip to the hospital or worse. He'd been so numb, his vision so sore and blurry with tears that he'd had to take the subway back to headquarters. He knows well enough not to get behind a wheel when he's like this.

Fortunately, almost miraculously, she had only taken the accidental shot to the arm, and contrary to her wailing, the wound had been superficial. The least serious of the casualties in this damn case. So Ryuzaki had reported. But she'd had to be sedated, he'd told him, so it wouldn't have been a good idea to see her, for the time being.

"She will be fine, Mr. Matsuda," Ryuzaki had assured him, his tone distinctly softer and flatter than Matsuda was used to, for reasons both within and beyond his understanding (as though there aren't many things that are beyond it, then and now). "I may ask you to escort her to the airport, so you may see her then. In the meantime, I believe that it's best that you stay with Mr. Yagami. Right now, I'd imagine that he and his family need all the support they can get."

Some things should be questioned, while some should be let go. He has duties to fulfill, even if he doesn't get it right the first time (as is often the case for him). Ryuzaki couldn't have been more right about the Chief. Since the funeral, he's had to go on indefinite leave, and not completely by choice. A policeman in his state simply can't be trusted with a gun.

He's since made it his duty to be there for the Yagami family, and beyond. At times, he wishes he had someone besides himself to lament to about why he almost can't look Sachiko or Sayu in the eyes, red and swollen with grief, without wanting to cry, "I'm sorry I had to shoot your son and brother because he'd tried to kill us." Someone besides himself who bothers to check on Misa-Misa as she continues to wither within the confines of the psychiatric unit, a hollow shell of her former vibrant self without a clue on how she'd even gotten there and only current desire being to go wherever Light and her family have disappeared to. Someone besides himself to ask why things have turned out the way they are today, and whether Light had been right to call them "useless fools."

Then he remembers. He's not alone. Chief, Aizawa, Mogi, Ide…they share this burden together. No one of them must bear the most weight. They're all asking the same questions, but none of them can find answers. All they can do is keep one another together with their bare hands: one hand on each other's shoulders, the other over their mouths as they evade the prodding and poking of the press regarding Kira, whose death has been decided to remain a guarded secret.

Ryuzaki, on the other hand, has no one. He is to die in about two weeks, but must wait alone. With Watari gone, there's no one at headquarters to wait with him. Or, by the looks of the monitor room when he steps inside, clean up after him, either.

He sits in his trademark eagle-perch in front of a computer, as he always has, with disheveled molehills of files and binders on either side of him, the desk littered with empty plates and crumbs. This makes Matsuda wonder briefly if this is the same Ryuzaki they had been working with for almost a year; the Ryuzaki he'd known had crossed him as a sort of neat-freak. Perhaps he's tossing his files around like this when he's finished with them because he's stuck in old habits? He'd had someone to organize for him, and a part of him has not yet accepted that these files are never getting put away for him again. Denial. Or is it acceptance?

It makes Matsuda ill. This entire attitude of Ryuzaki's makes him ill, perhaps even more than the Chief's pained withdrawn gaze, the lonely emptiness in Misa's, or the helpless rage in Erin's. This man has lost everything for this case and yet seems to have skipped over all the stages of grief and carries on like this is business as usual.

Considering the circumstances, maybe he has the right idea? It just doesn't seem proper to him, though. Then again, with all due respect, Ryuzaki is the total antonym for "proper."

"What is it, Mr. Matsuda?" he asks without taking his eyes off of the computer screen. Like he's been coming in here every day to bother him, even though this is his first time back here in this room since the end of the case.

As someone who tends to say the first thing on his mind, especially to combat the silence, Matsuda stammers, "I…I've brought you something to eat." He steps carefully over abandoned papers, the box of strawberry daifuku held out in front of him at slightly less than arm's length. He places the box a suitable distance away from Ryuzaki's elbow, out of the way but easy to reach, before stepping around Ryuzaki as he reaches into it to fish out a pink treat.

"How are Mr. Yagami and the others?" he inquires between bites, as though following up on the order he had given him.

Matsuda wishes he can say "All right," or "fine," or something along those lines, but what a bald-faced lie that would be. It's going to take much more time than a few weeks before any of them can begin to throw around the term "all right" again. Anyone who even remotely knows Ryuzaki would know better than to lie to him. Ryuzaki is a specialist with lies: how to detect them, as well as tell them.

"Barely hanging in there," he answers, voice starting to quiver.

When Ryuzaki does not follow this up with a response, Matsuda loses it. As much as he is allowed to, anyway. He snatches up a document in trembling hands just as Ryuzaki stretches out a lazy hand for it, while the other holds the daifuku to his mouth.

"Y-you really should take better care of yourself, Ryuzaki," he hisses, though he's not generally the type who hisses at anyone, much less Ryuzaki. Actually, he's only vaguely aware for the moment that he's barking out an order. Touta Matsuda, the underdog, barking orders, at the world's greatest detective, no less. What a laugh. He's always been more of the type to follow orders rather than give them.

Not only that, but it's a bit too late to give Ryuzaki advice on how to live better. But he can't stand the idea of his dying with just a big squalor around him for company.

Is this what Erin had worried herself to tears about?

He wants to ask him why he's wasting his last days working, when he could be out living it up. Globe-trotting, even dating! Anything but work. But in a rare show of prudence, he holds his tongue. Ryuzaki is not that kind of person. He wants to die as he lives, doing what he's been living for all this time. What is he missing out on except everything else?

He and Light were so similar in that respect, in many respects.

Ryuzaki gives no dry, snappy comeback as Matsuda is used to. He simply tries to pull the document out of his clenched hands, only to have Matsuda yank it out of his reach. Ryuzaki won't get up from out of his seat, or even give Matsuda much more than lethargic glances. He sucks the powder off the fingers on his other hand as this nonsense of grabbing and yanking continues for a minute more, maybe two.

That's when he notices the broken watch on his wrist.

Light's watch.

So that's what had happened to it. Maybe he is grieving, in his own way. Without tears.

"I just can't see how you can stand to work like this," he chokes, too overcome with emotion to care that he, a grown man, is teetering on the verge of crying, especially in front of someone he looks up to and whose approval he has constantly sought after. He realizes that everyone who'd chosen to get involved in the Kira case was staking their lives, but this doesn't mean that he hadn't wanted to prevent any more deaths, if it could be helped.

Some things matter, in the end. Some things don't.

As though he'd been reading his mind, Ryuzaki mumbles between bites on another daifuku, "If you feel absolutely compelled to clean up, Mr. Matsuda, I won't stop you. You may dispose of all of those files; I won't be needing them anymore. But please don't stay for much longer than that. You are still needed elsewhere…"

Does he honestly want to be alone when his time comes? Or is he messing with him, as he tends to do to his co-workers?

He reaches out to pick up a picture frame to save from Matsuda's impromptu "spring-cleaning." A photo of Watari, in the little picture frame that Erin had made for him not too long ago. He stares into the old gentleman's smiling face, his own expression unchanging as he sucks up more powder off of his fingers.

"…Were there any problems at the airport?"

He's a little surprised that Ryuzaki would ask about something that had happened a while ago, when he's usually the one on top of things. Still, mentioning the airport hashes up images of her holding on to each and every member of the task force as tightly as she could, almost to the point of snapping their backbones—the ones who had accompanied her, anyway. No amount of back-rubbing on his part could stop her sobbing. She had been deathly quiet in the car when they were pulling out of the garage; only at the boarding gate had she exploded for one last time.

He doesn't know what exactly had happened between her and Ryuzaki, whom she had almost never gotten along with, before they'd shown up to get her. She wouldn't tell him much, only that he'd have to come back here to tell Ryuzaki that she was sorry. "You can't just let him live out the rest of his time by himself. You just can't."

"…She boarded her flight without a hitch," he answers slowly. "She was…pretty distraught, though."

He pauses to hope that she is home with her family and making it out of this better than they are here.

"I see," the detective mutters, not taking his eyes off of the picture.

Matsuda bends down and begins to gather whatever files and binders that are on the floor. For the many wrongs he wants to right but can't, there are two that he can at least try to. The first would be to clean up this mess. This would be the second. It's his duty, as a police officer and as a friend.

Hoping to whoever's out there that Ryuzaki would know what he'd be talking about, he echoes her words quietly with slight hesitation, "She's sorry. She—she wanted me to tell you that she's sorry. Oh, and...you're still friends."

The temporary silence that falls between them is almost too much for Matsuda to bear. He fends it off with the shuffling of discarded papers as he anxiously awaits Ryuzaki's reply. He hates silence, a sound he now equates with death and pain and despair and all of those things that he wants to fix but can't and so fuel his sense of uselessness. He can barely follow orders as they were intended. Light had tried to fix the world, and what had happened to him? He wound up losing everything, too, didn't he?

Finally, Ryuzaki replies, "I regret to inform you, Mr. Matsuda, that your coming to tell me that was an unnecessary waste of your time."

He expresses his gratitude for everything—stingy as he is with the sentiment, especially when it comes to Matsuda—in but three simple words: "But thank you."


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