A/N: This is dedicated (heh, pun) to Azeira and ChibiMitzy on deviantART, and inspired by their collaborative work, "Infect Me With Your Love". I admire both of these ladies greatly. They are both crazy talented and moreover, absolute sweethearts (despite the bloodstains). I consistently find myself inspired and reaching for my pen when I view their works. The particular piece that spawned this left me moved for quite some time, seeing not only two characters I loved portrayed so well individually, but brought together in such an eloquent, evocative way. Even if it was done through the magic of Photoshop, these two play off of each other marvelously.
Epic thanks to them both for providing that final push needed to kick forward the Mello / Beyond ideas I've had floating around my head for months. I hope they and everyone else enjoys the crazy. ^^
Music: Prelude 12/21 by AFI, Ride to Suicide by Dead on TV and ET by You and What Army.
Warning: Rated 'M' for disturbing imagery, psychological trauma, violence, and hints of sexual content. Read with caution.
Disclaimer: Death Note and related characters © Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Death Note: Another Note and related characters © NISIOISIN
A condemned building. Of course, it was only fitting to harbor souls as surely condemned as failing infrastructure and rotting insulation. Glassless windows were half boarded up, allowing only bars of light to fall through the shadows hiding within, the brightness becoming fouled and unclean in its passage through the dark. Somewhere the pipes had long ago cracked, water and damp seeped into the walls, the floors above, making the ceilings bow and sag. Clues that the inside had once been sought as shelter by humanity's forgotten detritus were evident everywhere: ragged blankets, abandoned oddments, lurid graffiti along the walls, and signs that the corners had once been used as makeshift latrines. Now only vermin of the four-footed kind scuttled through the place, and only to conduct a half-hearted search for anything edible. Without the humans, who so obligingly littered their living areas with foodstuffs, the building offered nothing other than slightly more protection from the rain that beat down outside than an overpass.
No, no human vermin prowled the disintegrating structure, but something else did. In the deeper gloom of the first basement, where the water pooled into freezing puddles and the air stank of decay and clung to the inside of your lungs like slime, were two boogiemen.
Once they had simply been men, now they were, so far as the rest of the world was concerned, monsters. And dead ones at that. One was crouching in a chair that was more rust than metal, but which somehow supported his weight without collapsing. The light of the single overhead fluorescent that still worked was positioned to illuminate the other once-man more than the first, but it still revealed certain details. He was young, just approaching middle age, with painfully pale skin and black, ragged hair. He wore jeans frayed at the cuffs and a plain cotton shirt, his feet, in defiance of common sense or self-preservation, were bare. He sat with legs drawn close to his body in a curiously child-like posture, but his eyes, barely touched by the yellowed luminescence, were what made this man a fiend at first glance. Sunken deeply into his face, surrounded by dark rings, his eyes were red and shining as garnets. They were locked on his fellow creature.
The second monstrosity in man's shape was much easier to see, as he hung from the ceiling from a chain looped around his wrists, putting him directly under the light. He was bare to the waist, one side of his body covered in red, wet, and very raw burns. His feet, bare as those of his captor, could reach the floor easily, but his legs did nothing to support him. Unconscious, he hung limply as slaughtered meat, knees bent, head bowed forward and drowning his face in a cascade of rough blond hair. Slight as his frame was, his shoulders threatened to dislocate from their sockets under the strain of dead weight. There was nothing on the floor within reach of his feet. Anything that had been had long ago been kicked away in one of the blonde's early fits of rage.
"Let me down from here, you sick fuck! Let me down or I'll kill you myself! I'll rip your goddamned throat out with my bare fucking teeth!"
So passionate he had been, the echoes of his enraged screams could practically still be heard rattling around the basement. So passionate and volatile he had been, in fact, that the red-eyed shadow had been forced to use one of his special concoctions to calm him down.
"No…" The icy fire in his eyes died away almost completely at the sight of a gleaming metal point, weeping a clear fluid. "No, no no no, not that again… please Beyond…" He retreated as far as the chains would allow, the ceiling groaned warningly as he leaned his body away, keeping his flesh as far from the needle as possible. "Beyond…" Blue eyes cold as arctic wind watered in terror.
"…please, Beyond… No more mercy…!"
The needle did not hesitate in its journey towards the blonde. "No, my love…" a dark murmur replied. "This is not mercy." Teeth flashed in a feral leer. "This is ignorance."
Beyond, the garnet-eyed miscreation sitting in darkness, titled his head with the sharp snap of cracking joints. How long had he held this slim, damaged boy captive, now? More than two days, probably not more than seven. It was hard to tell underground, with only the sound of dripping water and one's own bodily cycles as timekeepers. The hanging man's periods of wakefulness and insensibility were almost entirely dependent upon his behavior and Beyond's mood, while Beyond habitually remained awake for a week or more at a time followed by a full day of sleep. The only real way of measuring time was in the change in his … guest's… attitude and condition.
The burns that covered him from head to hips along the left side of his body were still healing. Despite the environment and occasionally being open to the air, as now, they did not fester. Beyond was careful to keep them clean. He was growing thinner as time passed, he refused to eat anything Beyond offered him unless he was too weak to resist having it forced. It seemed a particularly stupid reservation from Beyond's point of view. Why would he poison him with food when he had already shown no hesitation in injecting him directly with whatever he wanted to?
Beyond laid out his precious collection of glass syringe barrels, plungers, hypodermic tips and small vials filled with clear-as-water mixes, each carefully labeled, across the table. He hummed a little to himself as he arranged them to his liking, caressing each one with slender fingers. Piecing one of his syringes together, he spoke over his shoulder conversationally. "Do you know how hard it is to find real glass hypodermics anymore, Mello?"
The faint sounds of struggle quieted, but there was no direct response to his question. Beyond hadn't expected one.
"It's all plastic, disposable rubbish now," he continued. "They only use glass when the fluids are so corrosive they actually erode the plastic ones. It's quite impressive to me that there's anything doctors would be willing to inject into patients that will eat through veins and arteries as easily as plastic." He turned to Mello, holding the complete needle in one hand, one of his tiny vials in the other.
The blonde's eyes locked on the hypodermic as Beyond filled it from the vial, his pupils contracting to pinhead size the only sign of his alarm. "What the hell is that?" The barest of tremors on the final word.
Beyond finished with the vial, set it aside and tapped the needle with a nail to dislodge any bubbles. He smiled at Mello, still bound as he was to a chair, feeling his own scars pulling with the expression. "Mercy," he said. "But not to worry, it's not very much."
Mello's physical body wasn't showing much change, but his psyche was. Beyond stood and stretched, reaching high over his head, going up on bony toes and arching his back. Behind him the rusty chair toppled with a clatter. Mello, hanging as limply as ever, didn't so much as twitch at the noise.
What kind of condition had Mello been in when Beyond had finally found him? Hiding, bandaged, sunk so deeply in self-pity he could only see as far as his own gun and a bottle of booze. Beyond's lips twisted in distaste, he spat to the side.
He knew enough about what went on inside the Wammy House since he'd left to know about the top two heirs. They had been his particular interest, along with L, whenever he managed to hack his way through the security systems surrounding the place. He knew them as the Institution knew them; their placement, relationships within the Wammy hierarchy, their psychological profiles, all of the little observations by the faculty, even the notes left by L himself. Where Near was passive, Mello was passionate. They were both stubborn when given a problem to solve, but Near could detach himself and view everything as simply a puzzle. Mello was driven, and intense. Dedicated, that was the word for him. He was dedicated even unto his own death.
Just as Beyond had been. In his own pursuit of justice, he had been willing, eager even, to die. It had been the final piece of his plan to topple L from his high and mighty perch, to give him one case he couldn't solve, one criminal he couldn't catch, one lost soul he would forever be unable to save… Except he had failed. And he had lived.
Mello also had failed, had very nearly died, but somehow managed to crawl away from the smoking wreckage of his schemes. Incomplete, but alive. The sheer passion in the young man's soul was overawing. He defied everyone, friend or foe, in his mission to prove himself. It seemed he could stand up to anything that was thrown at him.
Save his own failure. That had left the man staring into the mouth of bottle and gun with equal longing. It turned Beyond's stomach to see. Embracing death as a means to an end, that he understood, that was justifiable to his values. But to do so as an escape, because you could no longer face the challenges facing you… cowardly. Unacceptable. Doubly so in a protégé of L.
So came a little kidnapping. So came a little re-education, a little retraining, and a little reminder of the dedication he had once possessed.
"I can see why L was so disappointed in you, Failure."
"At least make up your mind. Don't survive just to blow you brains out later."
"It's all your own fault. And then you go a drag Matt into you shit after you. That trusting, loyal fool? Well done."
"The least you could have done was die cleanly the first time."
The idea had been to make him angry, to get him fighting and to give him something other than himself to fight. The first step was the rage, the defensiveness and the hate. The easiest target, ironically, was Mello himself. And it had worked.
"Shut the fuck up! You're an even bigger failure than I am, Backup!"
"You stay the hell out of my private life, you freak of nature. What I or Matt do is none of your business. Your business is on the underside of a bus."
Yes, he became defensive. He became enraged. But like the flaring of a match, Beyond knew it was temporary. If the flame were to survive, it needed more fuel to feed it. Mello needed something he felt he had to fight against. Beyond walked into the circle of light, coming in close to the dangling figure. He plucked at the rosary still hanging about his neck, held it up in the brightness so it shone. Mello was never one to fight for something, but give him something to fight against…
Beyond leaned back against the table and stretched, smiling as the bound man scowled at him. No doubt he would have enjoyed the freedom of movement that Beyond shamelessly flaunted. "Do you know how you can tell L favored Near over you? All those little signs of favoritism over the years, I'm surprised there was even an issue by the time he died…"
Mello snorted, glaring. "He told me about you. That was something no one else got, not even Near." The way he twisted the boy's name transformed it into a curse.
Beyond grinned condescendingly. "He told you a story. He spun you a tale of events long dead and buried, of things that no longer mattered, while to Near he gave what?" He paused, eyes glittering in the dark. Mello only glowered in return.
"Cases," he purred. "Approval." He chuckled. "Oh, L, such a beautiful liar he was. He could make you believe you were special without ever saying a word, when all he's really given you is a bright toy. A distraction. You were told my story not because you deserved it, but to placate you."
To make him think that even his precious idol L hadn't believed in him…
"He knew. He knew you would fail, and he gave you reason to hope, to think things wouldn't be as bad as they could get because there was already someone sunk lower than you."
To draw the obvious comparison between the blond and him, someone he loathed and would rather die than become…
"It's easier to think that I'm a monster, isn't it? Because then you can say, 'I am not like that and never will be. I am human.'" Ravaged lips pulled up into a grin. "You're well on your way to becoming another 'failed heir'. Runaway. Criminal. Killer."
To make him feel shame in himself …
"Since when have you been the fucking victim?"
It had worked, so far as he could tell. Mello had reached the point of being too furious to give up, and with too much to prove. Beyond could have let him go right then and considered his little undertaking a success.
The silver crucifix in his grip blazed in the dim light, the one spot of purity besieged in a den of corruption.
Except he hadn't. He had kept Mello, had continued the 'retraining' beyond its intended goal. And he wasn't even sure why.
"They want you to be a monster, too…"
With gentle fingers, Beyond brushed back limp bangs from Mello's seared face. Even in induced slumber, his expression was furrowed in pain and defiance. Beyond found it oddly beautiful.
"How much did they teach you about torture at the Institution?"
Mello froze, eyed the other man warily. It wasn't the question itself that warned him, but the tone, the look on Beyond's face. Not trusting himself any longer to not fall into one of Beyond's word traps, he remained silent.
"Not very much, I'll warrant," the elder man continued, turning his back and ignoring his captive's silence. There was a peculiar bubbling to his blood, a rushing in his ears; he doubted whether anything Mello said would have even registered at this point. "The psychology behind it, yes, but not the practicalities. After all," he turned back around. "We're the good guys, right?"
Mello, eyes wide with sudden dread, began to struggle against his bonds anew at the sight of what Beyond now held. A full, fresh needle… and a hammer.
Was it because he reminded Beyond of himself that he had begun to hurt him in body as well as in mind? Beyond suffered no delusions about his own opinions of himself. The Beyond Birthday of the past was a young man the present Beyond loathed past endurance. Given the opportunity to hang the him of the past from the ceiling, there would be no hesitation. Subconsciously, had he accepted Mello as an appropriate proxy, a substitute to act out his seething hatreds?
"Do you know why I killed them? Tell me!"
A fist backhanded Mello across the face, snapping his head to the side and making his whole body sway. He reeled back instantly, eyes blazing blue fire even as his cheek bloomed. "To beat L!" he screamed at his tormentor. "To be better than him!"
Beyond scoffed, abruptly calm. Externally. "Wrong. That's what he told you. He spun the tale, fed it to you like a parent tells difficult children bedtime stories. And you believed it all." He sighed. "He made me the villain in his story to make himself the hero."
Or perhaps it was because he reminded Beyond of L. Yes, his dedication had run deeply enough that it had crossed the boundaries of death, just as it had for Beyond. But that was also true of L. Unlike Beyond, Mello had fought to an end where death had been the last resort, and a failure. Beyond's end had been death, where to die was to succeed. But not L. L's and Mello's commitment ran along similar channels, where success meant still being able to stand at the end of it all.
Beyond ran a pale finger down the line of the young man's jaw. He stirred, barely moving, but it was a reaction.
So maybe that was why he was still here.
Mello's wrists were chaffed raw from the combination of ropes and chain bonds that Beyond had used to restrain him. Even had he possessed the strength, the pain of them twisting in Beyond's grip as he held them pinned over Mello's head would have hindered his struggles. Lowering his mouth close to Mello's ear, ignoring the weak thrashings beneath him, he pitched his voice to a growl. "This is what you wanted, Mello. I was a Backup because that's what the Institution wanted me to be. Now I am a monster, because that's what you expect of me."
Mello hissed as sharp fingernails raked down his ribs, leaving bloody tracks all the way to his hip bones.
"See how generous I am?"
Pale lashes fluttered, a low moan of agony escaped chapped lips. Mello was finally waking. Beyond strode back to the shadows, leaving the man swaying in his shackles to fetch the small kit he had prepared. By the time he returned and set the pot of heated water and bottle of disinfectant down by his feet, Mello was awake enough to open his eyes. If he was also awake enough to be aware or to set his feet beneath himself, he chose not to show it. Silver blue eyes watched Beyond as he wetted a clean washcloth in the steaming water, rung it out, and then lifted it to the burned side of his face. Mello winced at the contact, but Beyond was gentle, daubing carefully at the tortured flesh.
The water was a dull reddish brown, Beyond working at the back of the blonde's shoulder before Mello chose to speak. He cleared his throat three times before the words would cooperate. Beyond reminded himself to get him something to drink. "What are you doing?" he croaked.
Beyond didn't think he meant what he was doing about the boy's wounds. For a moment he didn't reply. There was a conflict within him as to the type of answer he should give, as there always was when it was Mello. In the end he compromised. "Possibly the worst thing you could hope for. I'm keeping you alive."
Mello grunted, the extent of his rejoinder. Beyond took his time cleansing the burns, knowing how easily they could become infected from experience. When the time came to apply the disinfectant Mello cursed and swore, promising payback on Beyond, but his words lacked the strength they once had, the conviction. He may still struggle and spit, but he no longer believed he could escape or deal Beyond any serious harm. His complaints were all for show as bit by bit, he starting giving up.
Beyond smiled behind Mello's back, brushing the skin just alongside the burn with a fingertip. The light fell across his face in just such a way as to catch his eye, making it glow from within.
You'll survive this, Mello. I'm not so merciful as to let you die.
A/N2: My Beta had some trouble reading this. For the first page or so her reaction was 'NO! DIFFERENT BAD!' Apparently this is the darkest thing I've yet written, which surprised me, because I can see all of the dark ideas in my own head… I guess this is the darkest thing that's been written down, but it's still a surprise. (She got over it and says she likes it now. ;D)
I laugh privately because I gave Beyond a brief Jareth, ala Labyrinth moment. Anybody catch it?