A/N: So I've started yet another multi-part fic. New to this fandom and writing this pairing, so bear with me!

This is mainly B/Naomi, but will include smatterings of L + Naomi over the course of it, and as always the guaranteed B + L fixation. I mean, it should really be one convoluted triangle, but I'll try to make the best of it.

Read on!


_______________________

If we divided everyone in the world into those who would be better off dead, and those that wouldn't,

there's no doubt in my mind that he'd be the former.

—Naomi Misora, Another Note

Tell me when I'm dead
Is it sleeping on the words th
at you said? (Your life is a lie)
You're better off dead
Is it creeping on the words that I said? (Your life is a lie)
'Cause you want me, and you like me,
Dead

—"You Want", Porcelain and the Tramps

_______________________


The world went up in flames around him.

Just moments earlier, he had deliberated thoughtfully—as he poured gasoline onto his clothes and over his entire body—about whether or not to hold his arms outward in a crucifixion-like-pose as he burned. After all, it was fitting for such a martyr's act, wasn't it? The sacrificial lamb, offered up to the spiteful gods. The heretic, being finally cleansed of his sins. Witch trials, burning flesh, singeing hair—purification by fire. Sweet triumph would be his.

Sweet, sweet triumph…sweet like strawberry jam, strawberry cake, strawberry ice cream with strawberry topping and strawberry-flavored sprinkles. Sweet like the coffee he'd made, gritty and crunching between her teeth. Sweet like he was sure her breath and lips and tongue would have tasted, had he but been just slightly more adventurous. Because surely she wouldn't have resisted…

…no sense in thinking of such things now.

And it's really all for you, L, he sang in his mind, dousing himself gleefully with the kerosene, because you drove this to its inevitable conclusion; you are the reason behind everything I did here. You made me what I am.

And then he struck the match.

Fire is hot, he decided, quite astutely and a bit disdainfully, as it rose to engulf him. He hadn't thought it would be as painful as it was; he'd expected hot, but not this. But it was a necessary evil, this pain, this burning, the feeling of this agonizing scream that wanted to bubble up through his throat and out his mouth—it was worth it, worth the sacrifice. Worth any sacrifice, really.

It meant that he had won; he'd surpassed L. L Lawliet had lost to B, Backup, Beyond Birthday.

The thought of it made him want to laugh, even in the midst of his self-immolation.

But through the flames devouring his body he saw the door kicked open from the outside, saw the hazy figure of the female FBI agent—black leather and raven hair flying, that pouting mouth turned downward in a rictus of horror, shrieking his name as she must have surely, finally, realized who he was and what he was doing in that moment. Naomi shouted to someone behind her for something, and disappeared from his view of the doorway.

She had figured it out, much to his surprise—he'd underestimated her—but she was too late, much too late. Oh Misora, Misora. Goodbye, Misora. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

It was just as well that she left his line of sight, really; the fire was intensifying around him, and he had to shut his eyes against it. The gasoline had vaporized almost immediately, the fire having razed through most of his clothes, and now his skin was burning. He no longer felt fully in control of his limbs, his arms flailing helplessly with the rise and fall of the flames. His skin seared, split and cracked from him in the heat. It was extraordinarily painful, and despite his iron-willed control, a groan escaped his blistering lips.

Suddenly his whole view—the entire room—erupted in a thick, cooling white spray of foam. Naomi had found the fire extinguisher.

"Ryuzaki!"

Seconds that felt like minutes crept by. He barely felt the flames subside, by then burned so badly that he was nearly charred, his skin black and red. Crumpled over, hunched like a dead frog, Beyond was scarcely conscious from his self-inflicted injuries. Even so, he could hear her approach, saw her black leather boots coming into his peripheral view, heard her harsh whisper—was that an undercurrent of concern he detected?—as she knelt down next to him and checked his burnt wrist for a pulse. "Ryuzaki…"

Over and over. If I didn't know any better, Misora, I'd have thought you cared.

He tried to raise his head, but he was in too much pain to do anything of the sort. He most likely had burns over seventy percent of his body, and with such severity of wounds, there was a chance that even now he might still succumb to death, despite every effort she'd made to save his life.

"Hnnghh," he murmured, through swollen and cracked lips. Maybe not.

The bile rose up in his throat, still as hot as the rest of him after his ordeal. It had taken several moments for his brain to process the information, but it was finally made sharply clear. He had failed. What was it, that had led her to figure it out? I'd been so careful. He'd obviously let something slip, some small fraction of a hint, and Naomi Misora had pounced on the clue and stolen his revenge out from under him.

"Rue Ryuzaki," she was saying, with that calmly authoritative tone that he simultaneously adored and despised, "I am placing you under arrest, for the murders of Believe Bridesmaid, Quarter Queen, and Backyard Bottomslash." She snapped the handcuffs onto his burnt wrists gingerly, almost as though she were afraid he might crumble into dust at her touch. "You do not have the right to remain silent, you do not have the right to an attorney, and following medical treatment, you are going straight to jail."

And what was the kicker?

That despite everything, despite the pain, his failure to surpass L with a case he couldn't solve, and the fact that he still lived and he was going to be incarcerated—Beyond was laughing, inwardly, at the absurdity of it all. That he'd been bested by a lowly female FBI agent. That he'd figured her for L's eyes and L's shield, and nothing more.

And, perhaps most disturbing yet, he felt a ridiculous glimmer of something else wash over him—pride.

My little Massacre Misora figured it out, after all.