A/N: I have nothing interesting to say before the chapter. Happy Halloween and enjoy, everyone!
Betas: Voice of the Shadow Realm & SkyTurtle3.
Music: Aqua Harp by Animusic.
Warning: Rated 'M' for very graphic and disturbing imagery, language, psychological trauma and gore, read with caution. Spoilers for both Death Note and Death Note: Another Note.
Disclaimer: Death Note and related characters © Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Death Note: Another Note and related characters © NISIOISIN.
What's My Name?
Part Thirteen, "Farewell"
"Now is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
~ Winston Churchill ~
By the end of the first month in 2004 it was almost becoming common for prisoners in jail and criminals on the street to die of heart attacks when they had shown no previous signs of poor heart health. This wasn't due to an oversight in medications or poor treatment on the part of the prisons. That would suggest that the trend was an isolated event, when in reality the sharp incline in the mortality rate was a worldwide phenomenon. A pandemic of cardiac arrests, very specifically affecting only those who broke the law.
Considering the size and scope of it, it didn't take long for the world at large to realize that something extraordinary was behind the deaths of the guilty; and even more extraordinary, someone. Someone with consciousness and intent was systematically targeting and eliminating the less desirable elements of society.
Once the initial shock and disbelief that such a thing could be real and not some huge, elaborate hoax, people did what they always do when faced with a new situation that impacted their lives. They adapted.
There was, of course, a lot of agitation around the subject, especially at first. There were hot debates on the plausibility, ability, identity, and above all morality of the person who came to be known as 'Kira'. Theories on who he was, what his overall intentions were, and whether he should be worshipped or vilified were as wide ranging as the people who developed them. But for the day to day, everyday routines that were the norm of existence, life continued more or less as it always had. Those not directly involved went about their lives without much change, and those on the front lines who got to see the grisly results of 'Kira's' work quickly got used to it. If they never became comfortable with it was another matter, but it at least lost the power to horrify. It became the new routine, to clear away the bodies of inmates, to notify the families and file the final paperwork.
So when it transpired that an inmate by the name Beyond Birthday, held at the Los Angeles County Penitentiary died of a heart attack on January 21, 2004, there was no alarm, no confusion, not even that much surprise. When the time came to notify his next of kin of his passing and it was discovered there were none, that caused no surprise, either. Many died without either friend or family, leaving no one to mourn them. On Beyond Birthday's file, instead of family listed as his notifying party, was an institution in England. It was unusual, but procedure was followed through.
The following morning a pair of men, both middle-aged and friendly, arrived to collect the body and take it back with them. Both were fully prepared to go through the complicated process of shipping a cadaver overseas.
Within three days of his passing, Beyond Birthday was back in Winchester, perhaps the only place he would have called home in life. Omitting his earliest years, it had been his home for the longest amount of time, and was certainly one of the places to leave the greatest impressions on him. By the next day he had taken his appointed place in the small cemetery a couple of kilometers from the orphanage where he had lived to rest between Any and Cecilia.
By the time Beyond returned for his burial, anyone who might have attended the ceremony had 'graduated' from Wammy's House and moved along to pursue their own careers. None were able - or willing - to make the journey back for a funeral of a boy they had barely known as children. So Beyond's only witnesses as his pine box was lowered into the ground were Roger, a few staff who remembered the red-eyed boy, and one or two curious children who knew of Beyond by word of mouth and were too stubborn to be kept away. Not very many, but more than Beyond would have expected himself if asked.
Noon the next day found a single visitor at Beyond's grave.
The figure was bundled heavily against the January chill, a thick coat falling all to way to his knees and the collar coming so high it hid his face up to his nose from view. A knitted cap was pulled low over his ears, a few stray black wisps of hair managing to peek out from under the edge. In his hand he held a small, plain brown paper bag. He had been standing in place, watching the newly erected stone over Beyond Birthday's grave long enough for the flesh of his cheeks to have gone frozen and red. His feet, even wrapped in unfamiliar and irritating socks within his shoes, were beginning to go numb where he stood, even without being buried in snow. He shifted uncomfortably, wriggling his frozen toes and shrugging so his collar covered a place where icy breezes were sneaking in to chill the nape of his neck. He knew he wouldn't be able to stay much longer. He had already been there for almost an hour without moving more than a few inches. He would need to finish up soon and retreat to warmer surroundings.
The problem was that, once again, he wasn't positive why he was there, what it was he wanted to accomplish.
L stared at the gravestone, already frosted over with its first layer of snow, as though it could give him an answer, some clue as to what to do next. The stone was silent, offering nothing more than a name and set of numbers, and a four word epitaph. It was so little, a very little to sum up a life: four words, a name, and a record of how long you'd managed to last, like some macabre scoreboard.
He looked out over the little hills yet to be filled, but still marked out and waiting for their residents to come to them. The sight felt unreal, yet he had been one of the ones to implement the idea, to have one's final resting place picked out and waiting for you… His own little plot waited for L as well, just atop a slight rise to his left. If he wanted to, he could visit his own grave.
Shaking off the feeling that thought brought with it, L returned his shadowed gaze to B's stone. Staring at the etched granite, he felt as though he had been here before. Of course he had, but the sense of déjà vu washing over him went deeper than that. Here he was again, facing yet another dead child he had though to give something better. Here he was again, visiting his most promising replacement as he sank to new lows. Here he was again, and wasn't even sure why.
Except that that wasn't quite true, L supposed. He knew why he was here in general, why he had taken such precious time from the Kira case to travel all the way back to Winchester for this errand. He was here to say goodbye.
The problem was he wasn't sure how to go about it. How do you say goodbye to someone already dead and buried? He knew the procedure, most of which had already been done. The coffin, the burial, the words spoken - however briefly - over the grave and occupant, and the stone put in place. All of these were the ritualized motions meant to symbolize the final farewell between the living and the dead. There was also the leaving of flowers at the grave, but that had seemed unbearably silly and effeminate, so L had brought something a little more in keeping with B's personality. Now he was here with it in his hand, though, it still felt silly to leave it when he knew the custodian would only clear it away later. Really, what was the point when the one you left the gift for was dead?
The issue may not have been with the practices themselves, L realized, but because he had never participated in any of them. The last rites were not there for the benefit of the departed, but to comfort the living left behind, and none of those who had died around L had required his mourning. He remembered very little of his parents, little more than two vaguely protective presences, and so had been too young to understand what it had meant when they died. Cecilia's funeral had been the first he had attended that he could remember, and then his first priority had been calming and comforting the children left behind. His own grief, such as it was, had been buried in work. With Any's death… again, he had concentrated on the living. He had spent some time at Any's grave later, but that had been more to give himself time to think than to pay last respects.
Now he was here, his attention all on the unprepossessing stone before him, he wanted to give the final farewell, to have it done so he could move on… He just didn't know how to do it.
L sighed, shifted the little bag with its grave offering from one hand to the other.
He wasn't a man given to fanciful notions. Fantasies had no place in his line of work. If you let your imagination run wild with you, you never knew where you would end up. More often than not it wasn't anywhere useful.
Despite that, L could easily imagine B perched atop his own tombstone, one knee drawn close, the other foot left to dangle. He was an adult, as fully grown as the last time L had ever seen him, but his face and body were free of the scars that had clothed him then. L could see him clearly, could see the way the vermillion eyes sparkled, how the lips quirked into a crooked smirk.
"Returning to the scene of the crime?" L could almost hear him lightly jibe, his mischievous smile widening.
"What's the matter, L?" his imaginary prodigy mocked. "Still don't know what you want, why it is you keep coming back?" B chuckled, the sound as natural and unstrained as when he'd been a child.
L shook his head, clearing away the unlooked for vision. Taunts from the real thing were bad enough. Coming from subconscious constructs of his own mind were worse. He knew why he was here, it was just a matter of getting it done.
Catching sight of the stone next to B's, L read it.
Beloved Friend and Brother
L smiled at the epitaph engraved into the stone. It had been one of the last things B had left behind before he'd disappeared for three years. He was the one who had chosen the words to be set over Any's grave. L had known even then how fond of word games B had been, but hadn't given the epitaph a second thought. Since going through the debacle in LA and witnessing the sheer depth of B's word play, he'd looked it over more closely. And he'd found two hidden messages in the stone.
One was fairly obvious, at least after the LA incident, as it followed the same pattern of 90% of his puzzles. With the words 'beloved' and 'brother' as he first and last words, the 'initials' of the phrase were "BB". Simple, especially once the pattern had been established.
The other message had been much tougher to spot, and L had almost given up on it entirely, deciding there was no more to be had in the way of hidden messages before practically tripping over it. It was the word 'beloved' again that held the key. 'Beloved one' was the meaning of an old Welsh name, and L believed it was the name that B was trying to communicate.
Anwyl, Any's real name. Somehow B had discovered Any's true name as well, just as he had said he could, and had put it, in a roundabout manner, on his gravestone.
Abruptly the air was filled with the tolls and echoes of a bell, sounding twelve o'clock. It wasn't the Wammy House tower bell, that was far too far away to be heard in the cemetery, but it still made L flinch. He'd never be able to hear the sound of a bell again without thinking of Any, or B, or the Wammy House and all it contained.
When the last of the echoes died away, L opened his eyes and read what had been etched into B's stone:
The One Who Knew
There hadn't been anyone left at the orphanage who had known B well enough to provide a meaningful epitaph for him, so L had taken the task himself. It really was a tiny thing to leave behind, just four words. There was no complex message woven into it was there was on Any's, only the meaning of the words themselves. Beyond had known L's name, known Any's name, and L suspected he'd known the names of nearly every other child at the orphanage as well.
But more than just the names, B had had a level of insight into L that had bordered on disturbing. He'd seen past the masks L had put in place and done his best to smash them to bits, to become the physical reflection of what he'd seen beneath it all. L would have been lying if he said he didn't think certain aspects were at least near the mark. And B's prediction that L would die as B did, that had a certain feel of truth about it as well. Especially now, with Kira on the scene.
There was no doubt that the Kira case was the strangest and the most dangerous that L had ever taken on. Someone who was able to kill anyone in the world, regardless of distance or protections, so long as their face and name were both known to the killer. Many would say - and many did - that such a thing was impossible, and even if it were possible, then tracking down the perpetrator really would be impossible. How did you find a killer who left no trace, who killed his victims, so far as anyone was able to determine, without even coming near them?
Yet L set himself to the task, had narrowed the number of suspects to a mere handful, and then only one real suspect. Light Yagami, recently accepted into To-Oh University in Japan. L was certain Yagami was Kira, and was working towards gathering the proof of it, and to discovering how he managed his killings. He'd gone so far as to go into the field himself, to reveal his face to the killer who only needed a face and a name. He planned to go even further, to reveal to Yagami that he was at least part of the investigative team, possibly that he was even L. It would shake him up, put pressure on him, and might make him slip up. If Yagami was Kira, then having L suddenly appear on his lap would certainly get things moving.
Four days after showing his face to the most likely Kira suspect, Beyond Birthday died of a sudden heart attack.
L wondered if it was an omen of some sort, that so soon after making himself more vulnerable than ever to Kira, that someone so intimately connected with him died of a heart attack. Had Beyond been killed by Kira, or was it merely a coincidence, a freak chance that he died of the same cause that so many other criminals had? And if it was a message, then how had Yagami known that the oddly sitting boy a few rows behind him had been L? If it was a coincidence, then it begged the question:
How had Kira known Beyond Birthday's real name?
That in a way would make it a message even if it hadn't been intended to be one. That Kira had been able to find something L had not. Worse, it was a piece of information that was critical in their personal duel.
Was it Kira who killed you, B? L wondered, still staring at the stone. Was it the faceless who killed the nameless, and will he be the death of me as well? Will we both die the same way, the way you predicted? Both alone, and both victims of this self-styled god?
If that was another thing that B had known, it was too late to ask him now. Even if it hadn't been too late, there was no guarantee he would have given a straight answer.
L sighed, sending out a tiny cloud into the frosty air and shivered, as though the sight reminded him of the chill slowly seeping into his bones. It was time to leave. Anything left unsaid or unresolved would have to stay that way. Now was far too late to try and repair anything.
Using fingertips gone slightly numb with cold, L took out the item he'd brought with him as a parting gift, crumpling the paper bag and shoving it into a deep pocket. He carefully turned over the object, feeling the familiar and at the same time foreign feel of smooth, molded plastics. It was something B had left behind when he had run, and L had felt the odd compulsion to keep. He wondered now if it was appropriate to leave them here, where the elements would surely damage them. They wouldn't be worn again, but would it be disrespectful to leave them where they could be harmed?
L gave up trying to puzzle out proper graveside etiquette. None of it made much logical sense, in any case.
Wiping away the small drift of snow that had gathered since the night before, L carefully placed a folded pair of sunglasses atop the stone. They were the same pair B used to wear before he had gotten his contact lenses.
Having finally given his gift, L was surprised he didn't feel as ridiculous as he thought he would.
Muscles complaining, L turned away from the graves of his top three heirs-in-training and began the long walk back to the waiting car. There was one thing left to do here, and then he had to return to Japan. There was a student at the Wammy House who reminded him greatly of Beyond, who had the potential to either soar as Beyond had promised to, or to fall as he had. L meant to tell him Beyond's tale - with some judicious editing - as a warning. It wasn't much, but it was something to help prevent a repeat of Beyond. And then it would be back to the Kira case.
As he walked, L let his mind roll out the facts, figures and minutiae of the case, felt his resolve flare to life once again. He would bring down Kira, he would prove Yagami was Kira without doubt, and the worst mass murderer the world had even known would fall. It was an interesting and complex game, but L would win.
If he'd known it, his determination to win was eerily similar to one who had warned him he would become more than the original of a reflection, that he would become a reflection himself. The smirk that crept onto his face and curved his pouting lips was a nearly perfect replica of one that had graced a face sporting garnet eyes that saw only death. He thought of none of this, he was now entirely focused on his newest foe, his newest game. But it, too, was remarkably similar to one that involved a certain devil-eyed boy.
Find Kira, discover and prove his identity before he discovered L's. Because Kira only needed a face and a name to kill, and now he had L's face.
The smirk widened. Snow and gravel crunched underfoot in the garden of death.
What's my name, Kira?
"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster."
~ Nietzsche ~
A/N2: And now, my faithful readers, prepare yourselves, as this is my last chance to be long-winded, and I'm using it. ;D
Final Music (what wouldn't fit to specific chapters, but I still used): In the Shadows by The Rasmus; Just Like You by Three Days Grace; I Stand Alone by Godsmack; Getting Away With Murder by Papa Roach; The Howling by Within Temptation; Numb by Linkin Park; Sugar Cube by Porcelain and the Tramps.
Special Thanks: First and foremost, I thank my unbelievably patient betas, Voice of the Shadow Realm and SkyTurtle2. These two have had to put up with my rambling, my worries, and my nitpicking over the smallest details in the story. They stuck with me and were even awesome enough to ask for more. (They never learn. :D)
And of course the readers, reviewers, and lurkers. You guys are all awesome, and I appreciate every one of you. This thing has taken a little over a year from start to finish, and that's a lot of dedication, even for those who started late. It's humbling to me, everyone. Thank you so much.
Deleted Scenes: While going through the notes I'd gathered (over two years) to find the pieces to the final chapters, I found a couple of sketched scenes that never made it.
-The Nightmare: Originally there was going to be a scene where Beyond had a nightmare that woke him in the middle of the night, Any overhears him and comforts him. This was meant to solidify B's troubled past and the friend/near brother relationship between B and A, and would have taken place between B's beating in the hallway and the cadaver lab. However, when it came to actually fleshing this scene out it felt forced and unnatural, and solidifying the positive side of B and A's relationship at that point would have made the break that was to come either more intense or less believable. So the scene was dumped and we got an Any nightmare instead. ^^
-Romance: I claim temporary insanity for this scene that never was. I had thought to write out an 'insert-able one shot' which could be added to the main story for those who wanted it or totally ignored for those who didn't. It was going to be a… well, a B/L scene. The idea for this came up while I was writing 'It's Dangerous' and 'My Reason', which is my only real excuse why I thought that it would work at all. However, even as a one shot that could be ignored, it changed the focus of the story and altered the dynamics way too much. So it was pushed to the side and hidden. Until now. But it still didn't happen. :P
-B the Villager: Not really a scene, but in the very first sketch of this fic, I had Beyond as coming from a small village (country had yet to be decided) where he and his parents had been feared and all but exiled for Beyond's eye color, which the other villagers believe to be a demon mark. …Yes, this was a terrible idea. I'm glad it was as short lived as it was.
Possible Names: It took some time to settle on the names Any and Beyond eventually wound up with. Here are some of the other possibilities they might have ended up with.
-A: A possible taken name or Wammy-given name would have been Another. For true names he was very nearly Andre, although Arlen, Arnam and Asher were all possibilities as well. I settled on Any first, and then came across Anwyl soon after. They both fit him and fit together so well there was no way to have anything else after that. ^^
-B: Of course, Beyond was always going to be Beyond, no matter what, and the same for his Wammy name Backup. However, he still needed a true name and a false-true name. I'd like to say it took a long time and dozens of possibilities… but both Bartram and Benoni came quickly, and there were no other serious considerations.
Future Beyond Birthday Fics: Just a small idea of what I have planned for more BB stories. No guarantees, but what I have in mind. ;3
-Morality: This one is meant to be a short one shot exploring the particular moral ambiguities Death Note and the shinigami eyes calls up. We're with Beyond just before he takes the final step to put his LA plan into action and listening in to his internal struggle at this particular point.
-Heirloom: Another one shot, this one is going to take place before 'What's My Name?' and set up a few of the particulars seen there. Rather than focusing solely on BB, though, it's going to be mostly about his family and family history and how it later affects him.
-Brothers Contaminated: This is the big one. Planned to be a multiple chapter story (possibly even with a sequel, we'll have to see) with a slightly different take on B's character than seen here. He'll be a little closer to the common model seen, like a half way between that and the Beyond here. In BC, rather than trying to fit into the cannon as seamlessly as possible, we'll be taking a 'what if' tack. The 'what if' being, What if Beyond never ran from Wammy's, and attempted to take L down from the inside? Without giving too much away, the focus will be on Beyond and Near (no pairing) and Mello and Matt will make an appearance as well. I'm also planning on making this story multimedia by taking cosplay photos to depict certain scenes. (My sister plays Near… it's creepy how good she is at it. O.o)
Future Disclaimer: There has been concern expressed by my beta Voice of the Shadow Realm that a fic she is writing about Beyond by the title 'Sacrificial Lambs' will appear to be a copy of 'What's My Name?'. I'm saying it here and now that I've read enough of it and heard her ideas (I'm her beta as well as visa versa) and am satisfied that she is not copying at all. In fact, a lot of what might appear to be duplication she came up with before seeing my fic. So really, I was more worried she would think I was copying her. -.-; But no, neither of us are ripping off the other, so for anyone who ends up reading her fic (I recommend it when it appears) please don't accuse her of plagiarism or feel the need to run to me blowing a whistle. I'm aware of it and it's all good. :)
And here we are. At the end. One year later and we finally reach the conclusion. 81,203 words, 13 chapters, 12 months. How am I feeling about it? Somewhat relieved, because something that had been taking up so much brain space is done. Proud because I actually made it through the entire story without giving up, and because I think it turned out rather well. And more than a little sad. I have personally invested a lot into this story, emotionally and physically, writing it has not only given me unexpected insights into the world of Death Note and writing, but myself as well. And now, for this story at least, it's over.
When I first came up with the idea of this story, it was a one shot, meant to be one of several following the young days of all the Wammy Boys. It quickly spiraled and expanded from a cute tale between B and L into an in-depth look into Beyond Birthday's character. Being first introduced to the character through fanart and short fics, I was drawn to him right away for his twistedness and air of a man gone completely mad, but in the book he came across to me as a man who had that potential for twisted insanity, but just bubbling underneath. On the surface he was quirky, but quirky like L. In control, but barely, and carrying a lot of anger.
I wanted to know why. How had someone gone from Wammy's second best to the angry, scheming character in Another Note? Since there was no official reason, I had to come up with one myself. The problem was that there was so little to go on. Most of the Beyond Birthday 'culture' centers around his being a jam-obsessed, blood-soaked deranged killer… which if you read the book, he's not. Stripping away the various layers given him by the fandom, and just working with facts in the canon, there was another problem: none of the story is told from Beyond's point of view.
The tale is being told by Mello, who got it from L, who - to be fair - wasn't even there for most of it. A lot of what L knew he must have gotten from Naomi Misora's accounts, assuming that he didn't have to get that from her on-file report with the FBI and LAPD. Three, possibly four or more retellings of the same facts. Even trying to remain as true and close to the facts as possible, something somewhere will get changed. And I personally don't believe that L told the whole truth to Mello. Why? Several reasons.
So, tracing backward along the few trustworthy threads of fact, all but completely disregarding whatever didn't fit the criteria, I came to a young B. Then came the task of moving forward again.
Humanizing Beyond Birthday was an interesting experience, and humbling in a lot of ways. Rather than making him 'just' a disturbed boy already feeling a lot of anger and fighting the world, I made him someone who was naturally weak so his character had to develop upwards before it twisted into what is seen in DN:AN. Humanizing him was hard, because it brought him closer, made him more real and sympathetic, but then I had to slowly crush him. I became so involved in his character, in his experiences and traumas and fears, that to deliberately set him up to fall, to twist the knife into him with my own hands and see a sweet, scared boy turn into Beyond Birthday, 'the twisted killer'… it hurt. And it hurt a lot.
In a way I think that that's good. It means that - to me at least - he has become someone who is real and who feels and breathes. He's not just print on a page to me anymore, or paint on a canvas. He's got layers, he's got anger, he's got fears and sentiments. There are things that he believes about himself that are true, and some things that aren't, things that he tells himself about his own character that aren't true, but that he won't let himself see because to do that would shatter the self-image he has of himself. …It's quite possibly the most depth I've given any character I've ever worked on, either in fanfiction or in originals. And that's true for the entire story, actually. This fic here contains the most work and effort I have ever put into any other piece, and I have been telling stories since I was about four, and writing them down since I was six.
All in all, an amazing journey, and I appreciate you all taking it with me. I truly wish you all the best, and thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
(…now I shall go and cry a little bit…)