"Are you okay, Dad?" Sayu asks him, her brow knit with undue worry. "You're shaking…are you cold? Can you slide out?" She's barely sixteen, stuck in that awkward place between childhood and adulthood, and it achingly shows in the unsure tone underlying her rapid fire of questions.
He manages a smile that feels unconvincing to him, a thin veil for the weariness saturating his clichéd reply. "I'm all right, don't worry." He's so tired, he can't stand it. He could fight through it when he was still working as chief of the NPA, but nowadays the only work he does is the routine in physical therapy, and even that much leaves him feeling like a crushed juicebox.
She shouldn't need to worry about things like this at her age. Her late 20s, early 30s, maybe, but not before then. Sayu should be concerned about school and boys (and not giving two wits about how he'd rather her put more focus into the former than the latter). She shouldn't be fretting over whether her father can maneuver out of the car and into the wheelchair she and Sachiko have just set up before him.
He musters up whatever control he still has to will away the twitch in his fingers. They're not twitching so much with cold or weakness as they are from a tentative and misplaced craving for a cigarette. As his job had become increasingly stressful, Soichiro had taken up smoking a cigarette, sometimes two at a time, the warm soothing puffs helping to peel off some of the edge. Among other things, it had sparked arguments between him and Sachiko, and he had resolved to sneak off somewhere private to light up whenever he'd get the urge, taking care to take a mint afterwards so as to clean up the smell on his breath.
Oftentimes, he would look at Ryuzaki and his eating habits and ask himself whether that edge was what compelled him to pour sugar onto his tongue from straight out of the bag. With those habits of his, he may not have had too long to live even if Kira didn't kill him...or if he hadn't decided to off himself, as the case turned out to be. The task force had been in the middle of disposing his ashes when it'd happened, a few weeks after Watari's funeral. He doesn't remember much of it; he had been in the middle of giving the eulogy when delirium crashed over him like a wave, knocking the urn out of his hands. The last thing he'd heard was the crash of shattered porcelain at the exact moment he'd hit the ground.
The next thing he knows, his left side is gone from the neck down. With it goes whatever chances he'd had of going back to the police. Maybe this was his punishment...?
"There's still a chance to rehabilitate you," the doctor had assured them. "You might not return to the exact same level of functionality as you'd had before, but we can get you back to something close to that." He had not been too convinced at the time; after the heart attack he'd had months before, it was a fucking miracle he was still alive, never mind capable of understanding. But he'd be damned if he spent the rest of his life as useless as an empty potato sack.
He's been useless for too long, already, even before the wheelchair.
Maybe he's not so out of it after all, if he can still have cravings, he thinks to himself in jest not without bitterness. Not that he's going to get relief from them, in the condition he's in. And a cemetery is hardly a place where he'd do it if he could; that would be disrespectful to the occupants.
But perhaps who they're visiting has something to do with it? Help had come too late for him, and Soichiro can't help but wonder now if he has blame in that.
Sachiko, creases of exhaustion carved deep into her own face, stoops over to catch him when he teeters on the edge of the vinyl, as Sayu shuffles around uneasily, wanting to be of help but unable to decide where she should be. "Are you ready, honey?"
He clings to her and nods against her shoulder, still unused to the fact that he can't feel his own wife's hand gripping his left side, after almost twenty years of enjoying the sensation of her soft, warm hands on every part of his body. He feels literally like half a person, in body and mind.
In one practiced fluid motion, she glides him on his right side into his chair, her quiet, labored grunts making him wish for a moment that she'd have taken up his offer in the beginning to divorce him.
You don't deserve this. Neither of you do. You don't deserve to suffer for our mistakes.
His faith in Light's innocence may not have been as blind as it had come across to the others, or even himself. Ryuzaki had planted the seeds of doubt in his mind when he'd asked that cameras and wiretaps be installed in his house, and from when he'd watched Light search his room as though checking for signs of intrusion with the thoroughness of someone hiding a secret, it only grew from there. There were precious moments when it had looked hopeful, but like a weed with its roots left in the soil, it would just grow back again, thick enough to make Soichiro retreat to a jail cell so he wouldn't hurt anyone. He was torn, between his only son, and a man who would often remind him of his son, the world's greatest detective who was never wrong. Even today, he sits split down the middle, having failed as both a detective and a father.
Really, could there have been anyone else besides Light? There had been Higuchi and Amane, but they'd ultimately been little more than covers, pawns that Light had used to throw the task force off-track. Twisted as they were, neither's ideals had matched Kira's nearly as well as Light's did.
What could've happened to him to have driven him to take up such an awful power as the power to take lives in the name of warped justice? Did something inside him break when he hadn't been looking? Goodness knows that he'd had so few chances to look as Light grew up. Sachiko had warned him time and again that maybe letting Light get involved in detective work would be too much for him; "he's just a boy."
But Light was so mature for his age, he'd reasoned, he'd appreciate the challenge, and the sooner he'd get exposure to the field work of his choice career, the better. Had exposing him to the darker side of humanity caused Light to become cynical and despairing beneath the surface about human nature and the efforts of the law in maintaining peace, willing to become a monster himself in his own attempt to fight the monsters in society?
But he would have had to face it sometime. Had Soichiro waited until he was older before getting him involved, would it have made a difference? Maybe not...or maybe so, if he had just been there more...didn't raise him with such lofty ideals and then proving himself next to powerless under both L's and Kira's influence...
So many wrong turns…Soichiro may never know for sure when or how Kira was conceived, but would it matter if he did? Would it bring Light back to them? No. Kira is gone. He had taken Light with him, and all that's left of them both is the tombstone before him.
It bears only one name, the name of the brother and son that Sayu and Sachiko knew and loved. Sayu places a small vase of flowers underneath the kanji, while Sachiko lays a small plate of cake next to it. The cake is homemade, a tradition that had been abandoned when Light had first started school.
Today is February 28th, nearly four months since his death. Today he would have turned nineteen.
"Remember that one birthday, Mom? When I blew out the candles on his cake?" Sayu says, trying to break the gloomy overcast silence with fond memories.
Sachiko nods. "He'd let you do it. He always had such a good heart…"
Would Light have been willing to off these two, as much as he'd been to off him? Soichiro can't bear the thought. He keeps this to himself, as with everything else. Two thick books sit in his lap, wrinkling in the cool winter air.
Light…I had the chance to kill you myself, but I couldn't do it. I'm not a murderer, and doing so wouldn't have made me any better than you. Maybe if I hadn't wasted so much time telling myself that it wasn't true, we would've had a better chance to save you. For that...for everything, I'm sorry.
When it's his turn to pay his tribute, he leans in to stack the two volumes of The Compendium of Laws onto the grass, one after the other.
You may have been a murderer, but you are still my son. My only son. You always were, and you always will be no matter what. I wish it wasn't so, but when did wishing do anyone any good? Look where it got us both.
He can only lean so far in the wheelchair, so Sayu helps him to stack them before she rises to her feet.
"Thank you, Sayu."
"No problem, Dad," she says, smiling at him in spite of the shine in her eyes that can only be identified as unshed tears.
He musters up enough strength to touch her soft round face (just like her mother's, and Light's before age and an inner darkness carved their angles into it), crumbling inside when he sees that the gesture only seems to encourage the tears rather than soothe them. He himself can't find it in him to cry. It almost seems as though he's run out of tears.
As for me…I have too many reasons not to leave this world, just yet.
Time escapes him, and before long, it's time to go, before the snow falls heavy. As Sachiko wheels him around towards the gates, he reaches with his right hand to place it over hers, squeezing it in what he is unsure of to be genuine reassurance. Even now, he can't speak the word out loud, the one he hadn't gotten to say to him before he'd breathed his last in his arms, crying like the infant he'd held on the day he'd breathed his first.
Good-bye, Light. Happy Birthday.
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