A/N: Another Beyond Birthday fiction, because I can't get the creeper out of my head now that he's in there. Good thing I like him. This could be considered a 'lost chapter' for What's My Name?, a multi-chapter BB fiction I recently finished, but you really don't need to read it to understand anything that happens here. It can be taken as a part of WMN? or not, as you like.

Enjoy. :)

Beta: SkyTurtle3

Disclaimer: Death Note and related characters © Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Death Note: Another Note and related characters © NISIOISIN.

Morality

Raven Ehtar

It was nearly time.

In the deepest shadows of the small warehouse in which he hid, Beyond Birthday stirred from uneasy sleep. No alarm woke him, he sensed internally when it was time to wake. Slowly, sluggishly, he untangled himself from the thin sheet that felt like cold, wet pasta and rolled upright. The tiny bed he'd moved into his hideout was hard and slightly damp, and smelled of mildew, it offered no incentive to linger longer than necessary. Neither did his dreams, which with each passing day left him feeling anxious, though he never remembered what they were about. No, he found that it was what awaited him, rather than what he was leaving behind, that made him linger.

Swinging his legs down off the mattress, he hissed as his naked feet struck the cold concrete floor, and hurriedly shoved them into the waiting sneakers without bothering to put on any socks first. He didn't have any to put on, anyway. A click of an old lamp, and light the color of old cigarette stains washed up one wall and across the skinny, disheveled man sitting on the edge of his hard bed. He blinked at the dirty light, his overlarge eyes giving him a faintly owlish appearance. With his shoes on, he awoke from sleep fully dressed, the rest of his attire consisting entirely of a pair of baggy, faded blue jeans and a plain white, long-sleeved shirt. A run of bony fingers through his mass of black hair seemed to complete his morning routine, and for a moment, he simply sat, staring into the middle space.

Over the past few days Beyond Birthday had done a lot of such woolgathering, allowing his attention to twist down the shadowy paths of his mind, and today was likely the best day to let it go wherever it wanted. For today was the first day of his task, which he was less than enthusiastic about carrying out now that the reality of it had arrived.

Today, Beyond Birthday was going to kill someone. To be more specific, he was going to kill the first of several someone's.

To look at him, you wouldn't think of him as someone capable of killing several people. From appearances, he was more of the bookish type, to be forever caught behind desks and shelves, studying the esoteric and obscure until his eyes went bad from the strain, requiring him to wear spectacles to see the words clearly again. He seemed the kind of person who would one day become the knowledgeable curator at a museum, or professor at a university. Not a killer, stalking back alleys in search of human prey.

But the same qualities that could be thought as making him quiet and studious also made him calculating, cold. The impression of harmlessness given by his slight build and calm, smooth face was a false one. Hidden beneath this mask, Beyond Birthday was capable of extreme emotional highs and lows. Combined with his patience and intellect, he was more dangerous than the common roughs who wandered the streets.

Beyond Birthday was a man who held grudges. He held them long and deep, in a place that would not allow him to forget, or to forgive. And for those he held to be responsible, he would turn his keen, conniving mind on how to make them pay for their wrongdoing. He was a man who made plans. He didn't rush headlong into anything; he meticulously plotted his course before committing to it. This plan of his involving murder - and not even the murder of those he bore a grudge towards - was one he had worked on over years of time, constantly tweaking a detail here, changing a nuance there. And then there was the waiting, the waiting and searching until he found just the right set of circumstances to make it all fit together perfectly.

And that's what the plan was now: Perfect. There would never be a better time or place for his particular brand of evil, and without the hallmarks to mark it as his, then there would be no point.

He had his pride, after all.

Now, on the cusp of it all, where one more step forward would signal the end of opportunities to back out, he hesitated. Like a diver who has practiced his jumps for years and honed his technique to an art, when it finally came time to perform, he faltered.

It wasn't that he feared he would fail in his carefully laid out plans. It was a possibility, of course, it always was. Even the best of plans could fall victim to poor luck or a miscalculation. To worry over such possibilities did nothing to lessen the chance they may happen, however, so he didn't think on them. It wasn't even that he feared being caught. That was very nearly the entire purpose of his plan: to be noticed and have his every move scrutinized as closely as possible. No, it was the act of murder in itself that made his feet feel leaden and his breathing difficult.

In the dim and dirty light, Beyond Birthday stared into his palms. Like the rest of him, they were thin and pale, and in defiance of their surroundings, very clean. His fingers were long, the nails well taken care of; small calluses dotted the skin in a subtle sign of manual labor. They were strong hands, despite their appearance. Strong and clever hands that knew more tricks than was entirely appropriate. Picking locks and pockets were only two such talents they had acquired in his time on the streets. The lines of his hands held him for a moment. The lines meant to represent life, head and heart in the art of palmistry, and three most prominent lines in almost any hand. In theory they could tell an experienced reader many things about the person they belonged to, from minutiae of their personalities to their health to small glimpses of their future.

To Beyond, the real mystery of his hands wasn't in what they could tell him about himself, but in their very construction. How they were formed and what they could accomplish with the correct mental impulses sent to them. With nothing but a series of thoughts and the willingness to carry them out, two simple hands could change almost anything.

One hand slowly balled into a fist and uncurled again just as slowly. Muscle visibly bunched and relaxed, tendons stood out clearly and then lay flat again.

What was it that bound a person to their bodies, he wondered? What was it that kept the awareness, the consciousness of a person constrained in their own personal cages of flesh and bone?

What was it that he was set to destroy today, that he was going to sever?

Of all of the misgivings he may have had about his night's work, the thought of taking a life should have been the easiest to overcome. Not because he was a sociopath and insensitive to the concepts of right and wrong, but because he knew beyond a shadow of doubt that he was doing nothing wrong by killing a human being. He couldn't be doing anything wrong by committing murder, because the people he was going to kill were meant to die in any case. On the same day, in the same hour and minute as when his hands would rob them of their lives. His eyes, the eyes of a shinigami, revealed to him the exact time someone would die, as well as their name, so how could there be anything wrong with killing when the one killed was destined to die at that time in any case?

That was the way the numbers worked: they told exactly when you were destined to die, and there was no way to escape them. Beyond Birthday had spent a good amount of time experimenting with that just to make sure. Attempting to murder someone whose time had not yet come inevitably ended in failure. Wounding was possible, pain and suffering were not affected by the numbers, but whenever a killing blow was aimed, it always, always, always failed. The same went for any attempts to save someone whose time was upon them. No matter what measures were taken, the Grim Reaper was always able to slip through and collect what he came for.

They were going to die. They were going to die whether it was by his hand and to fulfill his purposes or whether it was some random accident that sent them into the next world. In a way, it could be said he was being merciful to his 'victims'. He was ending their lives in relatively painless ways and with some overall goal in mind. Their deaths would be furthering his ends, and while that may not be comfort to the victim, it was still better than perishing under the tires of a truck to no purpose. Who was to say that if Beyond didn't end their lives that they wouldn't die in agony, in terror? His way out would be gentler.

The spidery fingers curled and re-curled several times, as though they were seeking something to hold, something to distract the mind behind them from their current thought pattern.

They were already going to die… Logically, nothing he did could be considered 'wrong', and he was determined to reach the goal he'd set himself years before, and the deaths - the very specific deaths of his chosen three people were a key point to achieving it. It was all planned, all ready to be carried out…

Then why was he feeling ill at the very thought of killing? He'd never killed another human being, it was true, but…

No 'buts'. He was afraid to kill, pure and simple. It sickened him. There was no reason to fear killing when he knew what he did as well as he did, but logic did nothing to stem the tide of fear and guilt that washed over him.

It was ridiculous. How could you apply guilt to his soon to be murders? If he wasn't the one to end their lives, then it might very well be a trip down a flight of stairs and a broken neck that killed them. Could you apply that same guilt to the stairs, then, since it would have been them that caused the deaths? No, the stairs were a mere instrument in their demise, and couldn't be held culpable for them. That's all Beyond would be, a means to an end that was already in the big book of 'what was to be'. He could no more be held answerable for their deaths than the flight of stairs.

A small portion of his mind wondered, then, as it often did when he thought of such things, what that meant for the other murderers that wandered the streets. If their victims were all due to die with or without them, then they couldn't technically be held responsible, either. They, like him, were merely the tools, the instruments of the deaths already awaiting them. What did that mean for the legal system set in place to punish these 'murderers'? Or the ones who dedicated themselves to hunting the murderers down? What did it mean in the great, grand scheme of 'justice'?

Beyond wished he could put that conundrum before the one person he felt would be up to answering it. It would infuriate him, but Beyond doubted that it would deviate him from his path in any way. L the Great Detective was too single-minded to let such considerations faze him, as they did Beyond from time to time. To Beyond, if there was no guilt to be attached to the one committing the crime, then there was no crime to be had. To L, crime was crime, and more than the fact that there would be a body with or without a killer to go with it, the one who killed had intended to kill, and that was enough to deserve punishment. Never mind that the victim was destined to die, and that unless their fate dictated so, they wouldn't die, it would be the killer's motivations that branded him as malicious.

But what then? Did you judge someone by their thoughts, then, as well? Did you throw around blame based on someone's feelings, their innermost urges, whether they acted on them or not? It was a slippery slope, thinking that way.

If you found someone who truly did kill… someone who stole the time a person was meant to have, that would be a different matter. To Beyond's way of thinking, such a crime would be one of the worst imaginable, but his was a slightly skewed perspective. It hardly mattered, though, since cheating the floating, dancing numbers that hung above your head was impossible.

Where did it all leave him, then? If it wasn't the act that was reprehensible, but the motive, then where did it leave Beyond Birthday? A murderer for the sake of pride, of ego?

A gentle killer or not, he would still be an abomination.

The scarecrow man with owl eyes stood, his spine remaining stubbornly bent, as though the heavy thoughts in his mind weighed him down. He shuffled to the far end of the warehouse room, where the poor light failed entirely, and the set of metallic drawers he stopped at was sunk in clinging shadows. He didn't need to see to know where to place his fingers, though. He'd gone through these motions too many times to count, and could have done it all with his eyes closed. The top drawer came open with a protesting squeal of metal, and inside were the tools he would need for the night's work.

Hard to see though it was, Beyond could make out the lines and gentle curve of a small carrying case, a little bigger than a case meant for eyeglasses. He picked it up and without checking its contents shoved it into one of his jean's pockets. Inside the little case would be the first and most important implement of his business: a hypodermic needle and his own concoction meant to paralyze and render his victims senseless. Perhaps more than the comfort of those he meant to kill, having this would make the murders more bearable to Beyond Birthday. The second object lying still in the bottom of the drawer was less needful to complete the work at hand, but much more symbolic.

From the depths of the drawer, catching a stray shaft of yellowed light and reflecting it back somehow cleaner, Beyond Birthday drew out a double edged dagger.

It was far too dark in this shadowed corner, but Beyond fancied he could almost see himself reflected in the knife's silver surface, a specter of death staring out from the sharp, cruel edge of his most faithful weapon.

Could he do it? Could he take the life of a human being and walk away, able to repeat the process twice again? Could he be the one to sever those ties that caged one to their bodies, and snuff out the glowing lifespan that hovered above them?

For a moment, Beyond honestly didn't think that he could. Every part of him felt weighted, heavy like he'd showered with his clothes on, and they drug his limbs downward, his hands threatened to begin shaking. Kill to prove a point… was he cold enough, or mad enough to go through with it?

Then Beyond imagined what it would mean if he failed. If all of his plans came to nothing, and the revenge he'd planned for so long never came to be. If L went forever without knowing that his heir was superior to him, if he were to live out his entire life never knowing that he was inferior to Beyond…

The dagger was sheathed and strapped into its hidden place under Beyond's baggy shirt. The lamp and its stained luminescence were extinguished, and Beyond Birthday stepped out into the warm, dark California night.

He was committed to this task. If it meant a tarnishing of his soul or his morals, then so be it. He would have his revenge; he would prove himself the superior logistician. There was no greater consideration than that, and if in the end there proved to be a hell, then he would cross its threshold fulfilled.

Slipping through the deepest shadows, a promise of death incarnate, Beyond Birthday stalked toward his fate.