It didn't take Watari half as long to find his young ward as he had thought it would. Usually at this time of night L was either in the library studying, in the media room puzzling through his latest case or else in the kitchen gobbling down all the sugar he could get his hands on. Unfortunately for Watari those rooms were all on opposite ends of Wammy's house, and it was equally likely that he could be in any of the three. However, luckily enough for Watari he happened to hear noises coming from the kitchen before he was forced to go tramping all over the house to investigate all three rooms.
The source of the noise became apparent as soon as Watari stepped through the doorway. L was standing in the open door of the fridge with a plate of scones balanced precariously in one hand and a very frustrated look on his face. His goal was clear- there was a jar of strawberry jam on the top shelf of the fridge which the fingers of L's free hand were desperately reaching for. But L was barley six years old, and no amount of stretching was going to make him grow the extra foot it would take him to be able to get the jam. Realising this, L let out a frustrated little snarl and stomped his feet on the ground indignantly. He then placed the scones carefully on the floor and dove at the fridge, attempting to climb up the shelves to reach his prize.
Watari's silent amusement at comic scene vanished the moment L's foot slipped on one of the shelves, causing him to nearly fall back onto the tiled floor.
"L!" he snapped. L froze in place and snapped his head around to fix Watari with a stare that was even more wide-eyed than usual. Watari strode forward and physically lifted the small boy out of the fridge to rest him safely on the floor. "And just what do you think you are doing?"
L glanced up at Watari before letting his eyes fall down to his feet, which he shuffled guiltily on the floor. "I wanted jam," he mumbled sulkily, "but it's too high."
"Yes, I can see that." Watari crossed his arms over his chest. "However, I would have thought that the superior intellect which you possess would have enabled you to think of a manner of reaching the jam which wouldn't resulting in you falling and braining yourself on the floor."
L was still avoiding Watari's eyes. He stood with his usual bad posture slightly accentuated and his hands stuffed into the pockets of his faded jeans; accepting his mentor's scathing admonishment without reproach. That was unlike him. Usually he would try to argue his position and defend his actions, or else would admit that Watari was right without prompting and argue against him anyway. He was intelligent enough to admit when he was wrong, but stubborn enough to not want to be lectured about it. Watari sighed and rubbed his eyes. It was challenging, to say the least, to be raising a child who was more intelligent than himself by far and yet still too young to be able to fully comprehend the world around him, never mind function in it with any attempt at normality.
"Might I suggest asking for help next time?"
L nodded and continued in a small voice, "Watari, can you please help me get the jam?"
"Of course I can L," Watari replied amicably, retrieving both scones and jam and placed them on the kitchen counter.
"Oh, yay!" L seemed overjoyed, bouncing up onto the balls of his feet and throwing his small arms around Watari's legs in a tight hug. "Thankyouthankyouthankyou!"
Watari didn't have time to respond before L had released him from his embrace and was scrambling up to crouch in his usual position on top of the counter. He was slightly thrown by the young boy's enthusiasm. It was a bit out of character for him and a far cry from his usual stoic demeanour. Watari wondered if he had become so absorbed in his work again that he had neglected to eat anything sugary for a few hours. The only time L truly behaved like any other child of his age would was when he was deprived of sugar. The way in which L pulled the scones apart with abandon and used his fingers to smother them with jam seemed to confirm this theory.
"Is there a reason you are neglecting to use cutlery?" Watari's lips curled slightly as he watched L shovel the first few scones into his mouth, heedless of the trails of jam dribbling down his chin. "Are you perhaps taking a leaf out of B's book?"
L grinned around his food. He looked like he wanted to say something but his mouth was too full and when he tried he ended up nearly choking. Watari rolled his eyes with exasperation before pulling a handkerchief out of his sleeve and using it to carefully wipe away the jam on L's face and neck. L sat still while he did it, and reached for another scone as soon as he moved away. Watari caught his wrist before he was able to coat his mouth with another layer of jam.
"Pace yourself L. Chew and swallow your food properly before talking. We don't want you choking to death when you've haven't even been alive a full decade."
L made a great show of slowing down his frenzied eating, even going so far as to fetch a small cake fork out of the drawer so he could pick his food apart in the manner he usually reserved for his favourite baked goods. When he was sure that L wasn't about to clog his airway shut with gooey scones, Watari finally got around to mentioning the reason he had been attempting to find his young protégé in the first place.
"L, there is something that I would like to discuss with you." L noted Watari's more sombre tone and his eyes shifted up from his food. "Roger and I were just having a conversation about you and B."
L cocked his head on an angle and surveyed Watari. "What about us?"
"Given the past tragedy with A, as well as B's..." Watari hesitated, unsure how to phrase his thoughts "... recent deviation from conventional behaviour-"
"You mean the way he taken to mimicking me?" L interrupted.
"Yes. We know that we've only caught him at it once or twice, but both Roger and I are both becoming concerned. We think it's possible that B might be slightly mentally unstable."
"Oh, I doubt that," L said somewhat dismissively. "He just idolizes me and has a very childish way of showing it. He'll grow out of it."
Sometimes having a conversation with a hyper-intelligent five-year-old could be truly surreal. Especially when said five-year-old was balancing a fork delicately between two chubby fingers and nibbling jam off the end between sentences while calling his heir (who was only six months younger than him) 'childish'.
"Of course that is the hope," Watari continued. "But it's undeniable that the pressure seems to be getting to him, just as it did to A. It's leading Roger and I to believe that the current system we have of determining an heir isn't working."
"So what, you think we should just get rid of B and try again with some other kid?" L actually seemed angry now, and his tone turned accusatory. "If he's no good as an heir then why did you bring him here? Isn't that the sort of thing you are supposed to determine beforehand?"
"L, that's not what we are saying at all," Watari countered soothingly. A miniscule doubt started stirring in his mind. Had L really become so attached to B without Watari noticing? He had always seemed to dislike his eager mimic... it must have just been his strong sense of justice rearing its head. "We just think that perhaps the pressure of becoming the next L is too much for a single child to bear alone. My other orphanages all over the globe are always on the lookout for children with exceptional potential. We've been getting several calls, but so far have only accepted them one at a time. Roger proposed that we should set up Wammy's house as a separate institution, where all of these exceptional children could be raised together. That way, they could all train as a group and support one another. What do you think?"
L's eyes slid over Watari's shoulder to stare blankly into space, as he tended to do when he was mulling over a new idea. "Hmm. It's certainly an interesting concept, Watari. I'll give you that." It was clear that the wheels in his mind were spinning away now. "Have you put any thought into how you would finally determine which of these children would succeed me?"
"Well, Roger and I thought that we would construct a series of tests and the like to give the children a ranking. However, you would always have the final decision."
L seemed pleased with that. His mouth curled into the small smile which he assumed on occasion, before something flickered in his eyes and he began grinning in earnest. "Yesyesyes. A school full of the world's best and brightest, all constantly battling one another for the same prize... it wouldn't be long before they started to rip each other's throats out! And then, we could make them FIGHT TO THE DEATH FOR MY ENTERTAINMENT!" L's voice rose into an excited shriek and he began clapping his hands and laughing to the beat. "Ha-HA, ha-HA, ha-HA, ha-HA!" Before long, he was hysterical, falling out of his crouch and rolling across the counter on his back, legs kicking out as his body was wracked with wild laughter.
Watari was appalled. He started back, gaping at L for a few dumbstruck seconds before what should have been apparent from the start finally clicked into place in his brain.
"B! How dare you impersonate L like that!"
B's hysterics only intensified as Watari realised who he had been talking to this whole time. "What, only just figured it out now?" he cackled gleefully. His real voice was much lower than the lilt he adopted when impersonating L. The change made the child sound infinitely crueller than should have been possible for someone so young. "Poor Watari, you must be getting slow in your old age!" he cried out mockingly.
That he was becoming slightly slower was possible, but Watari was no less strong now then he had been ten years before. Furious, with both himself and with B, he picked the boy up for the second time that night and set him on his feet. This time, however, he dug a clawed hand into his shoulder and began marching him forcibly from the room.
"This behaviour is completely unacceptable B! Roger and I will be having none of it. You are going to your room this instant, and you will be staying there until morning." B opened his mouth to protest, but Watari cut him off. "I do not care in the slightest whether you really are an insomniac or not. You are going to stay put and give L a break from your pestering."
"I'm not pestering him!" B argued. "I'm helping him with his cases! Lawli loves it when I help him, he does!"
"I don't care." Watari said shortly. And at the moment he truly was too angry to care about anything B said or did, regardless of how L may or may not feel about it.
"You're just jealous," B muttered sulkily, "because I'm the only one around here who's on Lawli's level. That's the real reason you wanna flood this place with other kids, isn't it? You're just trying to drive us apart!"
"That's ridiculous," Watari's voice was cold and clipped, letting nothing of his true emotions through any more. B could speculate all he liked, but it wouldn't do anyone any good if he had his suspicions confirmed.
They arrived at the boy's room in record time. Watari gave B an unceremonious shove through the doorway, but the child spun on his heel for one last angry confrontation.
"You're wrong!" he spat. "Both of you! All of you! You don't understand me and Lawli at all! The two of us, we're meant to B!"
It was beyond terrifying for Watari to see the child like this. Eyes wild and crazed, make-up smudged, bottom-lip trembling and young hands clenched into tiny fists. What could have been L's face glared up at him with fury and hatred.
"B," said Watari calmly. "If you continue to breach security by impersonating L and refusing to use his proper alias, then I'll see to it that you don't eat any jam for as long as it takes you to learn to behave."
B's lips curled into a sneer and his eyes flashed with the challenge. "Go ahead. See if it makes any difference."
"... and I'll have you barred from L's presence entirely."
That did it. B looked completely shocked for the split second that Watari saw him before he closed the door smartly in his face and locked it. He paused a second, and sure enough, there was a muted howl on the other side of the door before the resounding thump of a small body throwing itself against the hardwood was heard. B was relentless in his tantrum, beating at the door his feet and fists for a long, long time before Watari finally heard him give up and slide down the door to slump against the floor. He stayed for a while longer; wanting to make sure that B given up voluntarily and not merely knocked himself out. When he began to hear the unmistakable sound of quiet, muffled sobs through the door, he left the boy to be miserable in private and once again started to search for L in the sprawling complex of Wammy's house.