Disclaimer: I don't own Death Note nor did I write Another Note, or have any claim on this. This is just for the lulz. Lyric lines are from the song Relax, Relapse by Panic! At the Disco. The song has another name too starting with a C, but I can't remember it.
Author's note: We'll be returning to the regular programme, as it was left off in December – that is, Antivillain, Passages, the new stuff I'm starting plus oneshots – within the week with any luck. Anyone patient enough to still be willing to read any updates, thank you, I promise to be quick now. Meanwhile, I give you B. I have not written enough for this guy. This is sort of a set up for a Wammy House fic I hope to write, but it's not really a prologue, so to speak. Well, whatever. Enjoy!
Red Letter Day
this was no accident ...can't take the kid from the fight
this was a theraputic chain of events
take the fight from the kid
...can't take the kid from the fight
Beyond Birthday likes A.
He doesn't, at first. The boy is nervy, and uncurious. He is thin – thinner than B, definitely, who was always the wiriest wherever he went until now – until A, until L, until he learnt what the red letters meant.
That's why he starts liking A, really. Because he learns what the numbers mean. He's seen them his whole life – spindly red figures like a bloody halo over the brow of every single person he sees; through the window of a car, past the door of a hospital, looking down from the thirteenth floor of his mother's workplace at her shrinking form. The numbers over his mother's head had been zero that day, but Beyond had been young – too young to correlate the end of the numbers with the end of a life, beyond a vague, indefinable sense that lay just out of reach –
He has always known A has less numbers than most people. He wonders if it's because he's so skinny. The very old man who comes to visit the two of them when Mr Wammy has gone is skinny, and his numbers are even fewer than A's. Beyond watches in unrestrained fascination as, every time the man comes to visit, the numbers are less, and less, and less. The man notes his stares, fixed and wide, and his smile flickers, and later Beyond sees him speaking in a low voice to Mr Wammy. Both men glance over at Beyond once, and then they don't look at him again.
A tells him the men think he is strange. Beyond tells A that A is stranger, and that he only has a few numbers in his halo. A doesn't know what he means, but he's too nervous about Beyond, about everything, to ask.
One day the old man comes to visit and he has only the number 'three' floating above his head. He is weak, and he coughs a lot. There is blood in his handkerchief. He does not visit anymore. Beyond hears later that he is died, and as one of the housekeepers is tying a short black tie around his neck before the funeral service, he realises what the numbers mean.
All through the service he grins like a Cheshire cat, and everyone looks at him and mutters under their breaths because they know about the two boys who live at the old house, and they've heard the stories – they've heard they are Not Quite Right. Beyond doesn't look at them. He only looks at A, and the numbers over the head, and knows what it means.
After the funeral, he starts to like A a lot more.
A doesn't look sick, like the old man did. No sicker than normal, anyway. Maybe he has been sick for years, since before Beyond knew him. There is not much traffic near the house; there are barely any car accidents near here. And they are never let near the road on their own. It won't be a car accident. And there are no shooters round here, no madmen except the boys in the old house. Beyond wonders how A is going to die.
He wonders if it will be awful. He thinks maybe if it will, it would be better for him to do it instead. At least Beyond would take care to let A sleep, not let him feel it. Cruelty is not Beyond Birthday's style. Oh no, what Beyond likes is finding things out. Beyond is not cruel, he is curious.
One night he has the dream about his mother and the window again. He watches her fall with a kind of detached fascination, and when he wakes up, somewhere beyond the recesses of three in the morning, he looks across at A, breath rising and falling in his fragile chest and his brow creased with night-time terrors, and thinks that he will probably do it to himself.
The next day Beyond watches A even more closely than usual. He watches how he flinches at sounds, how he panics when the answer to a question on his test paper doesn't come to him straight away, how he ducks his head and stutters when the tutor speaks to him. He sees how A crosses his arms over himself more now than he used to – whenever he has nothing to do, whenever his mind has drifted from its task, his arms spring up, throwing a barrier between him and the world.
If anyone else was watching A as closely as Beyond was, he thinks, then they would notice all this, and they would stop A – they would save him. But Beyond knows they won't notice. Beyond knows because the numbers never get higher, only lower, and A will never be saved.
A gets more and more nervous and withdrawn every day. Beyond is delighted. He takes to tormenting the boy, following around and surprising him at corners, putting things in his bed when he leaves the room, changing the answers on his homework and hiding one of his shoes. Before his eyes, A starts to go to pieces.
And then their lessons pick up. They get more challenging. They're being channelled now, not just taught, Beyond can feel it. They both know why they are here – they are here to Be L. The next L, the copy, the test to see if it can be repeated. Well, A is, anyway. A is the Attempt. Beyond, B, he is just the Backup in case something goes wrong with A.
And when it does (and the numbers are lower than ever now, trickling away like sands in a crimson hourglass) Beyond won't be the Backup, Beyond will be First.
The numbers get lower, they drop into single figures – lone red numbers floating under a boringly adequate name – and Beyond's excitement reaches fever pitch.
And then the day comes when there is only the last number left.
Beyond stays up late. He waits for A to come back. He wants to watch – he wants to see how it's going to happen. Curiosity is gnawing at him, burning a hole in the lining of his stomach. A doesn't comes back to the room. Beyond cannot wait anymore, he gets up. He doesn't put his feet into his slippers. Barefoot, he pads towards the door, and creaks it open.
He sneaks through the hallways. How would he kill himself, if it were him? He thinks of the roof, and quietly, quietly, climbs the stairs. There is no way onto the roof from inside, so agile as a spider, he winds his way out of a window and claws himself up the short distance from the top floor to the roof edge. A is nowhere to be seen.
Beyond runs back and forth across the roof, annoyed that A isn't up here. He is about to go back inside and carry on looking when a thought strikes him. He peers over the edge of the roof. There is nothing there – just trees, a stretch of lawn, a low slope tapering off into a shallow lake. Not deep enough for A to drown in, no matter how hard he tried.
Disappointed, and frustrated at the waste of time, Beyond moves back to the front of the house to climb back into the window he came out of. As he leans over, he glances down at the ground.
And there he is.
A looks very small from the rooftop, his thin body crumpled on the ground. Beyond shimmies down the drainpipe, quicker and clumsier than he should be doing something this dangerous, but he doesn't care. If his numbers ended tonight there would be nothing he could do to stop it. It's the first time he thinks it, but it colours the rest of his life with a kind of desperate, reckless abandon that it doesn't matter what he does – if he is going to die he is going to die, and not before, however many drainpipes he scales at midnight.
He reaches the ground and A is lying there, eyes open and mouth just a tiny bit ajar. There is some blood on the ground next to his head, but that is the only red to be seen. The numbers have gone. Beyond was right.
The sight of Death fascinates him. A looks so much the same and just so, so, different. He sits cross legged on the floor and studies him, tilting his head this way and that, poking and prodding A's little body until the sun comes up, and the doors open, and the housekeeper screams.
The process of recovering A's body and the shock from the grown-ups gathered is not nearly as interesting to Beyond as A's lifeless body had been. He grows bored, and tries to move away. But Mr Wammy restrains him, with a firm hand on the shoulder. L isn't there.
The whispers that B killed A run like electricity around the house for the longest time. Beyond doesn't worry because he knows he didn't and he knows that now he is A, Mr Wammy won't get rid of him even if he did, because he wants to carry on his attempt. Beyond starts not minding, though. He sees the staff look at him, hears them whisper, and he gives them a wide, childish grin back. They look away. Beyond keeps looking at the numbers in the air, and starts counting down. A is with him now, looking through his eyes, following the red halos.
For Beyond Birthday, a red letter day means something rather different.