Well, I am glad that everyone seems to have enjoyed the excessive Death Fest that was the last chapter of Scarlet Letter. Though I guess I've left you all wondering how there could possibly be another chapter to this…
Well, I did say way back that this fic was, in addition to being BxL, also LxB. And yet, thus far, there has been no LxB at all…
Thankyou to: abovethenightsky, Believe Bridesmaid, Hikari Daeron, The Sacred Pandapuff, BakayaroManiac, Intergral8100, Rin Cho, recipe for insanity, Xhadow Kiss, Kaze Kimizu, Neikrider, Sexykill69, The Shock of the Dawn, DoYouFindMeDreadful, Svadilfari, AishiExcel, uncmeister, SasuNaru-yaoi-4evea39, Shadow-L-Chan, The Autumn Effect, ayachan, bunny of death, Lolita Lilyette, Vera-Sama, Scripta Lexicona, phoenix of hell and kitoriwitch613!
Consider this to be not an epilogue to Scarlet Letter—
But a prologue.
VII – Dorian Gray
L had only come back to Wammy's House for A's funeral; a small, respectable service, held in memorial of the first child trained to become L.
The first child to lose his mind and his life to that letter.
B hung about close to L throughout the service and afterwards like a small, ragged ghost intent on haunting him; maybe it was just another way of being defiant, given that the only reason that B was allowed to be here at all was because of both the sadness of the situation and his now-elevated position as first-in-line for L's title.
Roger was at the end of his tether with the boy; he was currently completely grounded, confined to his own quarters for a week. It was only because Roger felt that he should attend the funeral out of respect for A that the punishment had been lifted for a single afternoon.
Whilst L himself either didn't notice or didn't mind B draping himself all over him, Roger did on both counts, and eventually chased B away from him, telling him to go back to his room.
B fixed him with a baleful look, dark sullen eyes glancing above the man's head for a moment or two, before he skulked away in silence.
"Roger, he's just upset," L said mildly after B had left the room. "A's death… has been a shock to all of us."
"I am more concerned about B, to be perfectly honest," Roger replied gravely. "I… I didn't tell you why he's being punished this week, but… well, I suppose you should know, L."
L blinked at the older man.
"Keeping secrets about my heirs, Roger?"
"It's not that, I just… thought it might be rather awkward for you to hear." Roger took a breath. "He… was dressing like you. Well…" He gestured vaguely at the black suit L had worn for the funeral. "Not like that, obviously, but… well, I wouldn't have been so harsh as to punish him for only doing it once, but you must understand—"
"That this isn't the first time he has done it," L finished flatly. "I am aware of this… habit of his, Roger."
L gave a nod.
"Of course," he said, getting down off his chair. "You should have told me earlier. I'll go and talk to him."
B was curled up on his bed in the dark when L pushed the door open; presumably sulking, glaring at the opposite wall.
"It's so dark in here, B," the detective noted, making for the curtains to open them as the door swung shut. "You're going to destroy your eyesight."
"No!" B sat bolt upright, swiping at L's hand. "I don't like light."
L paused, letting his hand fall away from the curtain again; he glanced at B, who looked as though he'd been running his hands through his hair, spikes of it sticking out at odd angles.
"Roger told me why you're being punished," he said at length; he shrugged off his black jacket and loosened his tie.
B glanced at him briefly before averting his gaze, sulkily silent.
"I don't get it!" B burst out aggressively. "They're training me up to be exactly like you, to be L… and then, when I start mirroring you, they yell at me for it!"
"I know it seems confusing, but…" L gave a small sigh. "B, 'L' is only a title. You have to be yourself."
B looked up at the detective.
"Then who are you?" he asked.
"I…" L frowned, sinking onto the bed next to the teenager. "…That's a good question. More than just that letter, though. It is only a letter, B. You mustn't let it destroy you."
"Yeah." L looked up at B's ceiling. "Like A."
B fidgeted for a moment, as though debating whether or not to speak; eventually he looked again at the older man.
"I… knew he was going to die," he murmured, his voice very quiet.
L looked sharply at him.
"You knew?" He took B's shoulders. "Did he tell you he was going to kill himself, B?"
B shook his head.
"No, I… I just… kind of knew." He looked up at L helplessly. "What was I supposed to do? No-one would have believed me… They'd have just thought I was saying it for attention, just like they think everything I do is just for attention." B gave a little snort of disgust. "Like I want their attention…"
"…But you want mine."
"You're different," B muttered, looking at the floor.
"Why is that?"
B didn't answer him this time, shifting on the bedsheets.
"You said you liked it when I dressed like you," B said suddenly, not looking at him.
"I… that was not meant to… encourage you to—"
"Well… why do people say one thing when they mean something completely different?!" B snapped, interrupting him. "Why do they tell me to be like you, and then punish me for it?! Am I meant to be L or not?"
"B, it's not that simple." L unknotted his black tie and slid it out from beneath his shirt collar. "They're… training you to succeed my title, not become my very image. There is no need for you to be a perfect copy of me, a painting or a reflection… That's not the point, and perhaps it's not your fault. It may just be that they don't make it clear enough – after all, it's certain enough that A killed himself because of the pressure of being first in line for my title…"
"Then what is the point, L?" B pressed, grabbing at the detective's cuff.
"So that, if something were to happen to me… there would be someone to take my place."
"You mean… if you died?" B asked softly.
"Well… yes." L gave a small nod.
B was nodding himself.
"Yes, I suppose that makes sense," he muttered, more to himself. "There can't be two Ls at once, only one L… there only needs to be one L…"
"I should return downstairs, B," L said, getting up and picking up his jacket.
"You'll be going away again soon, won't you?"
B's words made L pause as he began to walk away from the bed.
"Tomorrow morning," he replied. "Watari and I came from Ireland for A's funeral. We're working on a case, so we have to get back there as soon as possible."
"Will only death make you come back?" B asked, his voice lulling. "Will only death make you come home, L?"
"B, that's not…" L glanced at him through spikes of hair.
"It's true, isn't it?" B asked, leaning forward. "Nothing makes you come home anymore. You won't even come home to see me." B's eyes narrowed. "You know, maybe if you'd come home more often, A wouldn't have—"
Knowing he'd gone too far, B actually shrank back a little, blinking his large dark eyes.
"No," he said eventually, drawing circles on the bedsheets with his forefinger. "…I think it was just despair and envy, L. He knew you loved me best."
L gave a small, despondent shake of his head and turned away towards the door again, opening it.
"L!" B suddenly called after him. "Can… can I—?"
"If you want," L interrupted expressionlessly, leaving the room. "You know where my room is, but… I will not encourage you."
He closed the door behind him, leaving B by himself in the dark.
Dark was good.
He didn't like light at all.
"I wish you wouldn't do that, B."
B, who had been lazily drawing on L's abdomen with his forefinger, glanced up at him.
"What, touch you?"
"Dress like me."
"I'm not dressed like you."
"…Not right now, no."
"I like how you dress."
"I know you do." L frowned. "…But isn't that why you're in trouble?"
"I don't care what they do to me."
"You won't learn much about succeeding me if you're always being punished. Besides…" L wiped at B's face with the heel of his hand, examining the smear of black that came away on his skin. "…Look at the mess you make of yourself."
B gave a shrug and nuzzled against him.
"No." L sat up in bed, pushing the teenager away. "No getting comfortable. Out you go, Beyond."
"No, you're going away in the morning." B clung to him, refusing to be pushed out. "And then you probably won't come home until someone else dies…"
"B, I'm busy. I can't keep coming back here, you know that…"
"Let me stay." B pawed at his chest. "Just tonight. I'll do anything you want, L…"
"You… must be tired from—"
"No." B kissed L's cheek, then his throat and his collarbone. "I'm not. We can do anything you want. Just let me stay with you, L. I don't know when I'll see you again…"
"Why can't you be so affectionate to everyone, B?" L sighed, massaging the boy's skull. "All the other kids are scared of you…"
"Because you're the only person that matters."
"No, I'm not; and you really have to learn that, B…"
B didn't answer him, straddling his chest instead; reaching up to sink his fingers into L's hair. L grabbed his right wrist, pulling it close to his face.
"Nothing." B snatched his wrist back; rubbing his thumb unconsciously over the 'L' he'd scraped into his skin with a paperclip during one of his lessons. "It's nothing, L."
And it wasn't; not a scarlet letter, anyway, because it wasn't something that B was ashamed of.
Twenty-six letters in the alphabet – and there were twenty-five of them that B just didn't care about at all.
He never would.
L didn't understand B's excessive aggression towards those around him; though that was perhaps because L was the only person that B wasn't aggressive to. It was natural, perhaps, that he would be baffled by such deviant behaviour when the teenager fell at his feet with every word.
Sometimes it didn't even take a word. Later, when B was on his back underneath the older man, clawing at his back, it wasn't because L had ordered him there.
"Beyond… you're hurting… me," the detective murmured breathlessly, pausing to unlatch the teenager from clutching at him.
"Sorry…" B blinked, then closed his eyes and bumped the crown of his head against L's shoulder, like a cat demanding attention from its owner. "…I love you, L."
"Don't say that, B."
B opened his eyes again.
"Aren't I allowed…?"
"Just don't." L ran his fingers through the boy's hair. "Don't say it."
"I don't understand. Does it… make you upset, L?"
"Sshh." L put his fingertips to B's mouth, then kissed him on the forehead.
Truthfully, he'd silenced B because it hurt him to hear the boy say that, knowing as he did that he didn't love B back; but he told himself that it was for Beyond's own good, that he knew that there was only one letter out of twenty-six that B cared about, that he never would care about those other twenty-five, and that it wouldn't do to encourage his love of the one remaining.
He'd thought that silencing B's profession of love for that letter could only do him good; that telling B not to say it would make B not feel it.
Of course, B hadn't listened.
He never would.
I did this to him.
He couldn't blame B for this – the boy was only sixteen, and, well…
It made sense that B wouldn't discourage these kinds of advances. It wasn't clear exactly what B's feelings towards him actually were; love or infatuation or just hero-worship. But whichever of those it was…
…To gain L's attention in this way was obviously not something B was going to shy away from.
But why did L give him that attention in the first place?
L didn't love him. He wasn't even particularly attracted to him. Granted, he wasn't really all that much older than him – only a few years, probably even less than five – but B, all things said and done, was really just a kid.
Just a kid, so fixated on what he must become that he'd already begun to craft himself into that likeness; the natural ebony hair in unkempt spikes framing the pale face, stained with black make-up that had smeared during the night.
L didn't think of himself as a particularly vain person; so what was it about B, about the fact that B seemed to be able to snap his fingers and magically transform himself into his exact likeness that…?
It was vastly unsettling, and L didn't like that B insisted on dressing like him; but at the same time, it was only when B dressed like him that he expressed any real interest in him.
(It was only when B dressed like him that he felt the need to pound him into the mattress.)
He couldn't explain it – and maybe it was the fact that he couldn't explain it that made him keep doing it.
And maybe it was that that made B keep doing it.
It was only his title – that single letter – that had ruined A; but maybe L himself had ruined B.
L wasn't stupid – it was obvious that B wasn't exactly mentally stable. It was just unfortunate that he had never shown any particular traits of any particular mental disorder, so it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what was wrong with him. He couldn't be treated thus, and so everybody merely stood back from him and noted idly that he wasn't exactly mental stable. It was a frustrating state of affairs, but on that note, L could consider that perhaps it wasn't just his influence that made B so neurotic: B had simply been neurotic to begin with, and the whole "L's heir" thing hadn't helped matters.
But that said… it was difficult not to feel guilty about B right now. L was sitting in front of his mirror, the breaking dawnlight streaming in through the crack in the curtains; watching B in the reflection of the glass.
The boy was asleep in the bed, his wrist up on the pillow beside his head and clearly showing L the scratched-in token he'd tried to hide from him.
His very image, bearing that scarlet letter; perhaps a likeness which bore every mark and wound of the original's sins, keeping the original pure and blameless. B was imperfect so that L didn't have to be.
B for Beauty; L's beauty.
B stirred, shifting and sleepily opening his eyes; L turned towards him, rising from his seat. He was dressed in usual jeans and white shirt – the uniform that B had copied, worn here last night, made L need to have him but not know why…
L stepped past him, picking up B's top and throwing it onto the sheets next to him.
"Get dressed," he said flatly; he started towards the en suite bathroom. "I'm going to go take a shower. I want you gone by the time I come back."
The detective didn't wait for a response, going into the bathroom and shutting the door decisively behind him. B sat up and watched him go, then picked up his top and pulled it on, wiping at his face to clean off the make-up he could feel smudged on his cheeks. He gave a yawn and snuggled back under the sheets again, deciding that he could afford another few minutes in L's bed at least before he crept back to his own room.
There was a soft knock at the door; B sat up again, cocking his head towards the bathroom door, wondering if L had heard it. There was no sign of life from the bathroom, and just as B debated what he should do, the bedroom door opened, admitting Watari.
B curled up defensively, glaring at the elderly man from beneath spikes of his ebony hair, willing him go away.
Watari didn't; but nor he did he pay very much attention to B. He was carrying a tray, which he took to the dresser and set down.
"I've brought you some tea, L," he said, "and this morning's newspaper." He turned towards the bed. "Do you want anything else?"
B shook his head speechlessly and Watari gave a small nod.
"Very well. I will see you shortly."
He started out of the room, leaving B to stare after him in shock. Was Watari being deliberately tactful, or…
…could he not tell that he wasn't L?
Watari was almost out of the room completely before B decided to test him; a dangerous pursuit, perhaps, but not the kind of thing that Beyond Birthday would shy away from.
Watari leaned back into the room.
B brushed his hair aside from his face and said nothing, waiting…
"What's the matter?" Watari eventually asked. "Can I bring you anything else?"
B blinked; and then he smiled.
"Actually," he said, leaning forward, "…I would like some jam."
…Just to turn everything on its head again. :D
So… who is the real monster here? B… or L?
Well, we've reached the end of Scarlet Letter, in all its LightxBxL-gayness, excessively-murderous, ripped-off-Gothic-novels glory. Thankyou to everyone who has reviewed and/or read! Whether you left a review or not, I'm happy that you even took the time to read my fic when you could have spent your time doing other things – like stealing hubcaps or reading Laurell K. Hamilton's progressively-more-superb Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series.
Fare thee well, and here's to Beyond Birthday, the lovely little nutjob that he is. :)
…Why do we all love a psychotic/psychopathic/clearly insane serial killer, anyway…?