A/N: …You know, this could have been so easy. This could have been a one-shot request, a little drabble type thing, a one off piece that was all over and done with in about a month, and then I wouldn't have had to think about it again. But no. I had to give it thought and flesh out the characters, think of reasons why they would be put together, really imagine out what it would be like for them to interact as canon characters (or very close) and how that would slowly change over the course of time. I had to go and think of how they would be reacting to each other internally and the kind of inner battles each would be fighting, the similarities they would see in each other, the conflict that would result, the eventual character evolutions and compromises that would be made… In other words, I had to actually like the story and put effort into it.
Anyway, my apologies for this taking so very long. Again. And no, this won't be the final part, even though it was intended to be. This seems to be happening with every chapter, but there's always more. This is swiftly turning into my second Death Note novel, and I'm not at all sure how that happened.
Brainwash and Flesh by Simon Curtis.
Warning: Rated 'M' for disturbing imagery, psychological trauma, gore and sexual situations; read with caution. True name reveals are a possibility.
Disclaimer: Death Note and related characters © Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Death Note: Another Note and related characters © NISIOISIN.
Jihi no Tenshi
It was late, so late that it was crossing over into the very early. Misa Amane, pop idol, second Kira, angel to the new god, and increasingly regretful host to the serial killer Beyond Birthday, couldn't sleep. She had lain in bed for hours, switching between the dark view of the ceiling and the only marginally darker one lurking behind her eyelids. She had never found it difficult to sleep before. However many names she wrote in the notebook or tricks played on the authorities to make sure she and Light stayed free, none of those countless incidents had bothered her a fraction so much as one single death and the prospect of one more did. Whenever she closed her eyes, let her thoughts wander, it was like being transported, she was in the alley all over again…
Misa flung her blankets aside, giving up any pretext of sleep. She seemed to be maintaining it only for the benefit one particularly deep shadow hanging like a bat in the corner, and it wasn't paying any attention. Ryuk had decided to give sleep a try, since humans spent roughly one third of their lives doing it. Anything given that much time was worth a go, he'd reasoned. She wasn't sure how successful the attempt was, but she was more than happy to allow the shinigami his experiments. Better that than to have him awake and staring at her the whole night. Or whatever it was he did while she was unconscious. She decided she'd really rather not know.
The girl swung her feet over the edge to the cold hard floor, shivered as the chill came up through her soles, but grateful for the sense of reality the feel of goose bumps prickling her skin conveyed. She sipped the water on her bedside table, it was tepid.
Tired but unable to sleep, she leaned forward, burying her face in her hands, the muscles at her neck and shoulders stretching, making a network of knots suddenly very obvious. She was going to be a wreck in the morning, and she had a fashion shoot for a magazine early. After so long of just stringing her agents along, it was the bare minimum she could get away with doing to get them off of her back. It would mean leaving B alone in the apartment for the morning and afternoon, but that didn't worry her so much as it once did. At the moment she was more concerned with how she would explain red-rimmed eyes and bags to her makeup team. Sleeplessness in conjunction with a long absence would give rise to some rumors. More rumors than there were already.
But she could hardly tell anyone what the real reason for any of it was, now, could she? That she had been held by a secretive investigative force on suspicion of being Kira, that she was now harboring a known, convicted and escapee murderer in her apartment. That would be an excuse notable in that no one would have used it before – much less also been completely true – and been utterly useless. No one would believe it even if she'd been willing to tell it.
Beyond Birthday… Misa's thoughts, caught in an endless loop that night, came back to her guest with the inevitability of taxes.
It was only the night before they had spent together, huddled in an alley as they watched a young girl raped, murdered and then left slumped by the dumpsters like garbage. She had been guided home by Beyond in a kind of trance, and then flown at the man as soon as the door was shut, the click of the latch like a magician's snapping fingers, bringing her instantly back to herself and full of rage. And fear.
The night before this Beyond had spoken calmly, then fiercely to her, promising that the second part of their 'experiment' would come soon. When next the sun rose he had behaved just as he had every other morning: just as though nothing at all had happened. He'd just set to in the kitchen, then sat for his breakfast, picking distractedly at the newspaper.
It was that afternoon, scant hours before, now, that he had turned to her and in a voice that might be used to tell her what he intended to have for lunch, told her what little he would about the second part of their project.
"You've seen a pointless death," he'd said, staring off into space dreamily. "One full of terror and no small amount of pain. What we will need next is someone else close to death, but this one we will interfere with. We won't save them, but we can alter the circumstances of their demise."
"The circumstances?" Misa had responded, curious even through the dread that had settled over her regarding the exercise.
He'd nodded, still gazing somewhere much farther away than the far wall where his eyes were aimed, unfocused. "The selection will need to be precise," he murmured. "It's very delicate when one intends to meddle…" He'd trailed off, and after that didn't seem inclined to communicate at all, just stared at the wall, muttering occasionally to himself, leaving Misa to a barrage of phone calls that she'd put off as long as possible.
Beyond's words bothered her, the inherent implication of them. It hadn't been until they were past the point of no return in Yufi's case that the full realization of what they were doing had been driven home for her: that they were to witness someone's death but not interfere in any way. Now there was another similar situation set to happen, and she was even less well equipped to anticipate what was to happen than before. What were they going to do?
He called Yufi's death a purposeless one, one that carried no meaning and which only caused suffering. He talked about this future one as though it would be the opposite, that it would serve some end, somehow making it more justifiable. How were they meant to achieve that, exactly? How could a stranger's death be made to serve a purpose for them, or anyone? Beyond talked about circumstances, but what was he including in the term 'circumstances'? It was all so unclear to her, and after the experiences of the night before she was more than a little wary. Yet she couldn't back down from this now, not halfway through, not after what she'd already gone through.
Misa massaged her temples with her fingertips. It did little to relieve her building headache.
Beyond's few hints and her own doubts would have been enough for a sleepless night, but she had nightmares to contend with as well.
Bad enough to feel she'd already relived the scene over a hundred times while awake, the awful memory unrolling like film in her mind's eye, at night her dreams turned it vivid with color, sound, scent and touch. In most cases she remained where she had been that night, witnessing all yet doing nothing, but twice she dreamed she was in Yufi's place. She dreamt it was her back pressed against the bricks. She dreamt that it was her skirt being lifted, her skin that was stroked and patted so admiringly, that it was her throat that was slowly being crushed as she struggled to call or cry or fight. In the dream she could feel her heart beating as erratically as a maddened, caged bird, could hear the desperate pounding of her pulse pounding in her ears, taste of the salt of tears on her tongue. In the dream she could see, over the shoulder of her leering attacker, the shapes of people, just standing and watching as she died. Though she tried to call out to them, reached pleadingly with her hands, they did nothing as her world dimmed around the edges, and then went dark completely.
She woke, every time, heart racing, pulse pounding, panting as though she'd been sprinting and the taste of copper lingering in her mouth.
Only two nights since that scene, yet she'd relived it in full color more than a dozen times. It never seemed to lose any of its sting. The few, brief snatches of sleep she had gotten had all ended abruptly, her hair sticking to her brow and the nape of her neck with sweat. The last attempt had her in Yufi's shoes, watching herself – Misa – watch her be killed, then looking up to see her own name and lifespan flicker and burn out…
Misa shivered, the nightmare sheen of sweat chilling her to more goose bumps.
She was Kira and she knew death. She wasn't some soft, soppy girl whatever her public image might convey, and was familiar enough with horror that she shouldn't be so shaken by a single death, however atrocious. She had sentenced unnumbered people to die with her own hand, including a policeman she'd watched crumple to the ground. Why was this one disturbing her so deeply? Was it really just because she'd been able to see the girl's eyes, to hear her, and watched to see the exact moment she died? Or was it because she was an innocent – a relative innocent? She had not been judged by Kira, was one of those Kira was meant to protect, to avenge. Was that why she was haunting Misa's dreams now?
Whenever she thought of the man, the vile killer that had lured Yufi into the alley to use her body before breaking it, a poisonous fury filled her heart, astonishing her with its virulence. She wanted that man dead, dead by her hand for what he had put young Yufi through. But she had been too preoccupied when she and Beyond had been inside the club to notice his name or even much of his face, and in the alley he had never turned towards them. Besides, it would not bring back Yufi. His death, however deserved it might be, couldn't undo the evil he had done.
It wouldn't change how the teen had died in fear and pain.
Misa thought over what Beyond had said about his victims in LA, how they had been drugged, had felt perhaps a moment or two of disorientation and alarm, and then nothing at all. She wondered if that mightn't be a far preferable option, and a kind of killing that could possibly find approval in Kira's new world. She wondered, guiltily, if she shouldn't have done something herself to end Yufi's life more peacefully.
She looked at her bedside clock. 3:49am. She sighed. If she wasn't going to be getting any more sleep, she might as well get up and attempt to repair some of the damage a sleepless night had wrought on her face before heading out to the studio.
Her gig with the magazine went about as well as expected, which was to say not very well at all. Sleepless nights did not a bright and vivacious model make. Compounding the problem was the simple fact that Misa just couldn't find the same enjoyment she once got out of posing for a camera. She was out of practice and distracted, and couldn't find any value in posing in costumes. Yufi's face hung wraith-like before her eyes, the anticipation of their future excursion weighing heavy in her mind. And Beyond.
Beyond featured greatly in her thoughts. She pondered how he was spending his time while she was out of the apartment working, and tried to convince herself that such was the extent of her musings on the man. She wasn't very successful. She couldn't stop thinking about Beyond Birthday because the man confounded her. She was meant to be judging him, weighing his suitability as a Kira ally. Granted, she was gathering plenty of information about him now… but none of it helped to clear up the mystery of his personality, only knotted it up further.
From what L had told her about B, his actions, motivations and methods, she was more than prepared to condemn him as one of the worst kinds of fiends, a prime candidate for Kira's justice. His own words did as much to confirm her worst opinions as to deny them, and any sort of denial could easily be lies. Their witnessing of Yufi's death the night before and his refusal to act at the time went a long way towards that worst opinion – what sane or caring person could just stand by and do nothing?
And yet… there was something in Beyond, something that spoke to her, something that hinted at deeper waters than a 'madman killer' explanation could satisfy. There was more to him than met the eye, and Misa was intrigued. He still frightened her a little, that was true enough. Those depths she sensed hid something, dark shadows in his personality that sometimes showed through briefly before submerging again, but the vague sense of danger held its attraction as well. Misa was no coward, not one to cringe away from the prospect of peril to herself. She'd gone after Kira on her own, after all, what most would consider a foolhardy proposition at best. Beyond Birthday wouldn't likely to frighten her away.
If anything, she realized, her interest in Beyond and his edge of danger only seemed to grow with each day. She frowned a little at the thought. Her investigation of him would have to conclude soon, before he became too interesting.
The shoot ran long, and by the end everyone's smiles were strained. No one wanted to risk her contract by showing they were displeased with her, but Misa realized that the delay was largely due to her inability to focus, and everyone knew it. Well, fine, if their smiles were forced, then so was hers. It had been a long day made even more so by the constant, low grade anxiety. As soon as she could leave without causing offence she made a beeline back to her apartment, vaguely fearing that the longer-than-expected session had given Beyond enough time to plot the overturning of the world's governments from her couch.
Of course, nothing of the kind had happened in her absence. Ryuk reported on her entering the apartment that he had never left, or even used the phone. He'd gone through his usual routine of watching television, reading the paper or using the computer – mainly for more sources of local news, but a few map sites were also thrown in. When she walked into the living room Beyond was indeed there, curled behind a large paper on the sofa, a few places in the columns picked out in red pen for some reason.
It suddenly occurred to Misa that the paper Beyond was reading without any apparent difficulty was in Japanese, and one of the more prestigious papers available, whose range of kanji could prove difficult even for natives. No one would expect a gaijin to have such mastery of the language; yet here it was. Beyond tore through the printed news like it was a comic book, with no sign of a supplementary dictionary. It was another, if minor mystery about him. Where had he learned Japanese so well, so thoroughly, and why?
Beyond didn't look up when he heard her come in, but spoke from the other side of the print. "Welcome home. Good day at the office?"
Misa bridled a little on principle. His tone was very much like a spouse, and she felt he was mocking her somehow. She curbed any retort that leapt to her tongue, knowing that to call him out on it would only start a long bout of battling it out with words. She'd learned the easiest and quickest way to end an argument with Beyond was to avoid beginning one at all.
So instead of returning his comment with a jibe she sat down on the couch beside him, pulling her feet up onto the cushions and curling into a comfortable position. "Well enough," she said mildly, looking over Beyond's arm to read which columns he'd marked out with marker. They appeared to be random; one or two reports on local, low-end crimes, one person's theory on Kira – wrong – an advertisement for the grand opening of a pastry shop that specialized in Danish savories, another ad for free kittens, a missing notice for a pair of siblings… she shook her head at the choices, giving up on trying to spot any common thread between them. "You seem to have had an uneventful day," she said.
Beyond, who had frozen, his eyes swiveling to watch her curiously the moment she sat beside him, turned back to the paper with a small shrug. "I've learned to appreciate uneventful days. Sometimes they are to be preferred over the alternative."
Misa huffed a little, lifting her arms above her head to stretch. "But so boring…" she complained.
Beyond tilted his head, his lips twitching as his garnet eyes looked her over. "Not necessarily," he said easily, earning a blush from the blonde. "And besides," he continued, turning away again before she could respond to his comment, "'uneventful' is not the same as 'unproductive'. I've had a very productive day even while restricting myself to the apartment."
"Oh?" Misa asked, interested and trying to fight down the damned telltale flush still staining her cheeks. "In what way?"
"I've found our next target."
She looked at him sharply, wondered if Ryuk had, for whatever reason, lied to her when he said B hadn't left the apartment. "What, from here?" she asked incredulously.
Beyond nodded. "From here. It's a wonderful thing, living in the information age."
Misa could agree with that. Certainly living in a time when a thousand esoteric facts were literally at her fingertips had had its advantages. It was hard to imagine not being able to look up whatever information she wanted and have it instantly available. She supposed that this also explained the patchwork pattern of highlighted ads in the paper, that he'd been using it somehow to run down their next, eh, 'target'. She shifted a little in her seat. If Beyond had found them already, then the next stage of their strange study was nearing with unnerving speed. She'd hoped for a long delay, such as all the time it had taken to find Yufi. Apparently such respite was not to be, and the time was fast approaching.
"That was fast," she commented in a monotone. "When will we have to go and find them?"
"Tonight. Well, early this evening, really. I'm making an educated guess on the location, so there will be a little searching involved."
Misa frowned, looked at Beyond searchingly. He did not look at her, nor did he turn his face completely away under the weight of the scrutiny, but acted as though he didn't notice at all, his focus all on the newsprint he held so delicately in his fingers. She was sitting on his left side, the side that was covered in scars – correction, the side that was visibly covered in scars. She still remembered the first day she'd carted the strange man home and got a good look at him, how the licks of ruining heat had spread to the right side of his body by the time they reached his lower ribs. Then after his hips, who knew how much area they covered? Misa assumed everything.
In terms of her comfort with his scars Misa had come a long way since first meeting Beyond. At first she'd been repelled by them, by their appearance and the sympathetic twinges she felt in her own flesh whenever she looked at them, by the uncomfortable sense of contradiction she got when looking at a face that was both twisted and demonic, but then soft and so painfully human. She'd been able to look at him, but not without feeling uneasy. Living in close quarters with the man had blunted the sharp edge of her distaste rather quickly, until she no longer felt it was a struggle to look Beyond in the face. Now… now she was finding herself staring at the scars, not out of horror, but absorption. She wondered what it felt like to have half of your face a relatively immobile mask, or what stretching or walking was like with a waist of twisted flesh. She wondered if those areas still had sensation, or if they were numb, or if they were oversensitive. She wondered what the 'seams' between scar and whole skin were like, or the graphs, those smooth yet foreign islands amid the sea of rippled skin. She wondered what all of this would feel like under her fingers if she happened to reach out and touch him.
Misa blinked, forced her attention back to the now. "What will we be doing, when we find them, I mean? We won't just be watching this time, will we?"
"No," B said, shaking his head, ragged hair swinging over his ravaged features, brushing his shoulders. "I don't know exactly what we will find, but if anything is certain, it's that we will not be passive observers. We will be players in tonight's drama, whatever it happens to be."
"'Changing the circumstances'," Misa recalled aloud, drawing a nod this time.
"Yes. Yufi's death was an example of one that served no purpose. It was pointless for her to die, and worse, by not interfering it was violent as well. Tonight will be different. We will interfere to give purpose."
"What purpose could we possibly give a death that's already due to happen?"
"My hope is that will become evident when the time arises."
The girl frowned again, but subsided. She wasn't happy with the replies she was being given by Beyond, but also had a sneaking suspicion that she was subconsciously trying to find fault in his schemes out of her own sense of unease. That thought annoyed her even more than his roundabout way of speaking. She couldn't afford to be so squeamish.
She was also turning over something else he had said in her mind. That 'by not interfering it was a violent death'. Did that mean her guesses were right, that if they had acted Yufi wouldn't have had to die so horrendously? Beyond said that you couldn't prevent death, the lifespans were immutable, but could they affect the manner of death? All of his hints seemed to point to something like that.
What was his plan for tonight, then? To witness another murder, but this time step in and… what? Kill the victim themselves, quickly and sneakily, so the victim never knew what hit them?
"Who is our new experiment, then?"
The paper rustled as B flipped backwards several pages, then folded it so one in particular faced out, turned it for Misa to examine wordlessly. She squinted at it, wondering which column he meant for her to read, and then saw that there was a photo on this page. Only one of a person's face, their name and lifespan flaring to life for her shinigami eyes at once.
She stared at the photo, barely registering the name as Wakahisa Masahiro as she took in each feature of the face disbelievingly. She was aware of Beyond watching her carefully, but it wasn't until she glanced up that she realized the intensity of the stare. His eyes bored into her as she looked up.
"B… this is a child."
It wasn't that this was a bad part of town, Misa thought to herself as she followed Beyond, slipping furtively from one cluster of deepening shadow to the next. Soon it would be proper night, and it wouldn't be a matter of finding darkness, but avoiding any pools of light; the streetlamps, shop lights and passing headlamps. It was already well into that treacherous stage of the battle between day and night, when colors were bled away and the world became a flat, featureless canvas, the night still too far away to cast the long shadows, giving dimension, depth, or even shape. It made it easy to stumble over stones or miss important signs when one couldn't see properly.
No, it wasn't that it was such a bad part of town – which it was. It was that this wasn't what she would have called a proper part of the city at all. It must have been, she supposed. There were still plenty of buildings about, though shorter and much more run down than those anywhere near her nice, modern apartment complex, and they had not passed from one city to the next on their journey here. It had to be a part of her city, however much she wanted to disbelieve it.
Beyond and Misa were, in this dwindling twilight, making their way along the riverside, ducking in and out of the little choked alleys between the largely abandoned and moldering warehouses. Windows were boarded up on the majority of them, chains and fences put up to keep out the belligerently curious, and heaps of rubbish gone long without collection making small mountains at every corner. The smell from the river, which Misa thought would have made a good respite from the streets, was heavy and rank, permeating everything. There was graffiti on practically every flat surface to be seen, and there had been more than one knot of young men gathered and murmuring lowly to each other since she and B had arrived in the area.
It wouldn't take a genius like Light or L to know that this was a dangerous neighborhood. Though the only individual to come anywhere near them or to notice them at all had been a single homeless woman, pawing through one of the rubbish heaps. Misa had jumped, when she spotted her, she and B nearly walking straight into her. Then when the woman's worn, tired face had turned toward her, she'd felt guilty of everything from her expensively styled hair to her bright new shoes under the penetrating, covetous stare.
That was the only incident even vaguely aggressive, yet Misa was still glad to have the hunting knife Beyond had given her. Tucked into the waistband of the long pair of pants she wore, Misa had at first refused the unfamiliar weapon, but then accepted it dubiously when B had told her where they would be searching. She was Kira, but her victims were the result of writing down names, not of fighting. Even with the six inches of wicked metal in her hand she was vulnerable, but not nearly so vulnerable as she might be empty handed. The precaution was a welcomed one when she had time to consider it.
The sun was beginning to set in earnest when Beyond started showing signs of real agitation. He expected to find the boy in this area for some reason, but so far they'd had no luck. She wasn't at all sure why he thought this area was a probable candidate. Wakahisa Masahiro, according to the news article, was an eight year old son of a businessman and a florist living on the other side of town, nowhere near the river. He'd gone missing on the way to school one morning, his disappearance not discovered until that afternoon when the school had finally gotten through to the florist mother. His backpack had been discovered in a park a mile away – a mile even further from their current location amongst the warehouses – and no ransom note had appeared. There were as yet no witnesses, no description of the abductor or the mode of transportation. It was suspected that Masahiro's kidnapping was but the latest of a recent outbreak of kidnappings, all young boys, none of whom having been found yet. There was very little hope.
Yet B thought that he would be here. Further, he thought they would find the boy alone, the kidnapper nowhere to be found. The knife she carried and whatever weapon he had concealed – she refused to believe he'd left himself defenseless – were for 'in case'. B wanted them to play a more active role, but outright battle wasn't to be that role. Misa tried to figure out what it all meant, if he'd somehow arranged for all of this. But he couldn't have kidnapped Masahiro himself. He'd never left her apartment save in her company – she had Ryuk's word on that – and the boy had been snatched only five days ago, long since Misa had taken the man in. It couldn't be an accomplice, as B didn't even place calls, and after some very specific questions were put to the shinigami she knew he'd neither sent nor received any emails. Any possible outside help would have to be acting entirely without cues, which Misa found hard to credit. How would they know when to put everything into motion, or even what the plan was at all, without some conference with B? She wondered if this wasn't all just some kind of hoax, and Beyond had brought her here to this out of the way place without anyone else having the least idea where she was in order to kill her. But then why give her a knife, why the weeks of living with her beforehand, or this particular 'experiment' as bait? There were much simpler ways of drawing a victim to a suitable place than this.
Misa was mystified, but followed along, minding where she stepped and keeping a sharp eye open for others out in the twilight. Ryuk was drifting along with them, an invisible and silent shadow to all but herself, but she trusted him as an early warning lookout about as much as she trusted him as a doctor.
Shadows were lengthening and joining to form large unbroken pools of darkness when they came to one particular warehouse where, after entering, Beyond stepped aside and swept his arm wide in a welcoming fashion. He grinned a little at her. "Since you have been so good as to have me in your own home, Yukiko," he said blandly, using her chosen alias for the outing, "allow me to welcome you to my own abode." Then he said something short in English, something that sounded like bitter irony, but which she didn't recognize.
Stepping in carefully over broken glass and jumbled detritus, Misa looked around in fascinated repulsion. It was no worse than many other warehouses they'd been inside, but with the idea of someone living in one made it seem much worse. The walls were thin, not meant to keep out the chill, only the worst of the weather, and plenty of that was getting in now due to the large rents in both the walls and the roof. Damp had gotten in, standing water turning to scummy breeding patches for mosquitoes and midges and making the whole place smell. In the failing light it was hard to see, but the ramps and walkways looked largely whole, though Misa wouldn't have trusted them with her weight without testing every step.
"You… lived here?" Misa asked, her voice a whisper.
"In a manner of speaking," he replied in the same low tone, pressing past her. Keeping close to the outside wall he worked his way into the building, keeping his eyes aimed into the shadows should something or someone be concealed there. "There's a roof, most of one, anyway, the neighbors are quite careful to not be curious and the rent's unbeatable."
Misa wrinkled her nose. The revelation that Beyond had once lived here did nothing to alleviate her earlier misgivings over his intentions. Still she followed his crablike progress, reasoning that sticking close to him was safer than waiting by the entrance on her own.
After a few minutes of careful, quiet shuffling in the darkness, Misa asked, "Where are we going? You're not looking for the boy, so what are we doing?"
"Since we're in the neighborhood, I thought I would check if any of my things survived my long absence."
She blinked. Of course, she should have known that B would own something other than the clothes on his back, but had never thought about it before. Though to be fair, he had never mentioned anything, either.
It wasn't until they reached the back of the warehouse, where it was so black that Misa was holding Beyond's arm and taking tiny steps to avoid falling over anything in the darkness that B stopped, disengaged Misa's hand and the sounds of muffled clattering came at about floor level. She wondered if he was somehow able to see in the gloom or if he was operating by pure memory and touch. She couldn't see anything more than dim outlines at this point and doubted whether his perception was any better.
There was a grunt in the darkness near her feet, then a scrape of wood, then a shifting of something that sounded large.
"Well, well. I am impressed."
Misa squinted into the dark, trying to see more than shadows. "Did you find your things?"
"Yes, and doesn't seem to have been meddled with, either." There was the sound of a zipper coming undone, rummaging, then a moment later a small click. In the darkness it was like a small sun coming on, making Misa squint and turn away. In reality it was only a small flashlight, its light mostly dampened by B's cupped hand, but still painfully bright. When she looked back again she saw that Beyond was crouched beside an open panel in the floor, the pulled away section revealing a medium sized hole which held a half-full, grubby backpack. The pack was open and B was picking through it. All Misa could see of the inside was clothing.
There was a sound from behind Misa, somewhere in the cavernous darkness of the warehouse, making her spin and see what she could with the light leaked out from between B's fingers. There was nothing to be seen, and after her heart was no longer in her mouth she decided it was only the building settling that she heard. "Do you think he could be here?" she called softly behind her.
"No." The light went out, and darkness rushed back. It was amazing how much such a small light could do. Behind her the pack's zipper sounded again. There was the sound of the floor panel settling back into place and Beyond coming to his feet, stepping up to stand beside her. He sighed. "I'm starting to think I was mistaken about where the boy is. There's been no sign here…"
"How much time do we have?" By which she meant, how long before the boy dies?
Misa felt B move a little in the dark, a shrug. "A couple of hours. It would have been close even if we'd found him early on. Now there will be even less time to do anything, even if we do find him."
Misa wasn't sure what she felt about that. The thought of not being able to do anything for the missing boy made her feel helpless and depressed, but at the same time she couldn't help the slight relief of not finding an eight year old boy only to watch him die, or to become involved in his death. Which in turn only made her feel cowardly, guilty, much as the stare of the homeless woman on her clean face and good clothes had done.
Another sound of the building settling echoed around the darkness. Misa shivered at the cold, clinging dampness. "Why did you pick here to live, of all places?" The question came out softly, without her meaning to ask it.
"Honestly? Because there are so few respectable people about. It's easier to get away with being a shady character when you're surrounded by many of the same, you instantly become less noticeable. And like I said before, the neighbors aren't very prone to look in on what you're doing. It would just encourage others to return the attention."
"Are the people around here really so blind? They would deliberately not see anything?"
"Well, no," B conceded. "There are limits, even for this 'community.' It would take something considerably worse than any of their own sins to get them to come forward to the authorities, but they would eventually. If someone wanted to do something really despicable than they would have to find somewhere a little more private—"
Beyond suddenly cut himself off. Misa looked over curiously. He was close enough that even in the dim light she could see the sudden, alert look on his features, his eyes staring off to somewhere in the middle distance. She was about to ask what the matter was when he grabbed her hand and tugged her along, back to the entrance. "There's one last place he could be if he is anywhere in the area, but we need to hurry."
The last possible place in the area where Masahiro could be, according to Beyond, was another long abandoned building, but not a warehouse. This was an old set of offices, set two blocks back from the river, and had one advantage over all the empty storage buildings in the eyes of criminals hoping to keep their actions unseen by the curious. It had a basement.
Forced to use B's small flashlight in the pitch darkness in the lower level, the two of them explored the underground complex of rooms. Rather than offices, this area seemed to be all storage and records keeping, boxes and filing cabinets still much in evidence. Ryuk complained about the fast transition made from one boring place to the next, shifting his shoulders so his ruff of crow feather rustled and the metal ornaments clinked, but Misa ignored him. She had to for Beyond's sake, who was still perfectly oblivious to him, but she would have done so even without her scarred companion. Ryuk was always complaining about something, it was best to tune the floating apparition out entirely.
Besides which, it didn't take long to find the boy once they were in the right building.
He was in a small room set aside specifically for the storage of office supplies. Paper, staples, ink, files, here was where one came to restock. The shelves were bare now, and a small nest of blankets was gathered in the center of the floor. The door was closed but not locked. Misa felt her limbs lock as soon as the door opened. She knew, she knew that here was where they would find Masahiro, and now she knew she did not want to be here. Frozen as she was on the threshold, she could still look in.
The boy, a shapeless lump amid the blankets, didn't move when the door opened, even though the hinges squealed horribly when it swung. He couldn't have simply slept through it.
Misa wondered at his inactivity, why he hadn't tried to get away from his makeshift prison when the door wasn't even bolted. She stopped wondering when Beyond turned him over so she could see his face.
Misa turned away, gagging, fighting to keep her stomach down while at the same time trying to blot out what she had just seen from her mind. Even Ryuk had exclaimed at what was left of little Wakahisa Masahiro, missing son of the businessman and the florist.
Misa fervently hoped they never saw him again. Not like this.
When she felt like she could risk another look, Beyond had gathered the sorry scrap of humanity into his lap, was sitting cross-legged in the nest of rags and cradling him like an infant. There was no acknowledgement from the boy, not so much as a stir. The realization that she could still see the boy's name and the confused jumble that made up his lifespan even after what had been done to him, in particular his face, only made her skin crawl even more. And the small, half gurgling, half sobbing sounds he made, proving that he was alive, possibly even aware…
Misa swallowed hard, bunching her hands to fists to concentrate on the pain of her nails sinking into her palms.
Beyond caught her eye, beckoned her over with his head. She didn't want to come near, and for a moment her legs refused to obey her reluctant commands. After a moment, her limbs unlocked and she stumbled, feeling in a dream, into the foul closet. There were scraps of food in the blankets, she realized, sitting down gingerly. Sandwiches, bento boxes, onigiri, juice pouches and soda cans… even candy. While whoever had kidnapped him was doing… this… to him, they still gave him candy. Misa felt fresh nausea sweep over her in a wave.
B waited for her to steady, and then said in a low voice, "You need to hold him for a minute."
Misa panicked. "What, why? You don't expect me to stab him to death, do you?"
"No." The swift, flat denial calmed her more than any number of soothing words could have done. "No, I don't expect you to stab the boy. But look at him." Misa could hardly keep herself from doing so. "He's not so out of it that he can't feel, but his lifespan has him dying within the hour. …I don't think he'll die so soon without help. We will have to kill him, but I intend to do it so it's peaceful."
She didn't understand what he meant, but the sight of Masahiro's face, what remained of it, made anything hard to understand, hard to focus. Numbly she nodded, settled herself and held out her arms for the boy.
He hardly weighed anything, and gasped as he was transferred from one to the other of them; a wet, broken gulp of air. Misa bit her lip until she tasted blood. Holding the boy as gently as she could, his skin was cool where her fingers brushed him. She could feel him breathing weakly, could feel the struggle each breath was for him. Up close, she saw how his features screwed themselves up, trying to form a frown. The smell of blood, sweat, infection and fear clung like spider web to his tiny body. Beyond didn't think he would die on his own within an hour? She would be shocked if he lived more than ten minutes.
Her attention taken up by the boy in her arms, Misa didn't notice what B was up to until a small clink of glass made her look up. What she saw made her already quick heartbeat pick up again. From somewhere, presumably his recovered pack, Beyond had found the makings for and was putting together a small, slender hypodermic needle. When it was finished his hand disappeared into the canvas pack, rummaging around until he found a small glass phial of clear fluid. In the limited light of the flashlight's beam, he peered myopically at the label. While doing so he caught Misa's stare.
"What is that?"
Beyond looked at the vial again, and something flickered over his face, some expression that was quite possibly grief. Or regret. He sighed, jabbed the needle through the lid and drew out a full chamber of the fluid into the hypodermic. "Mercy," he said.
He looked up again, locking Misa's tawny eyes with his hard garnets. "You remember when I told you how all of my victims – Bridesmaid, Queen, Bottomslash – they were all drugged and insensate when I killed them?" Misa nodded. Beyond held up the full hypodermic between thin fingers.
"This is what I used. A mix of my own, a little bonus to having an aptitude for chemistry. This will completely deaden pain while leaving such sensations as pressure intact." He hesitated a moment, licked his lips, and then continued. "Depending on the dose, it can leave the one who takes it conscious but numb, render them unconscious, or kill them. Different degrees of mercy, depending on what is required." The needle turned slowly, glinting in Beyond's fingers. It was full, but so small…
"A dose of this size, on someone Masahiro's age and weight, is a full measure of mercy."
Misa stared at the needle point, gleaming like a star. She hated needles, but she had to admit to a certain fascination for what this particular hypodermic contained, what it had taken for Beyond to concoct it, what sort of motivation had driven him. Why did he call it 'mercy'? When B remained frozen, she realized that he was waiting for a sign from her before injecting the boy. A spasm shook the little body in her arms, something that might have been a whimper whistled through broken teeth.
After the boy was dosed his trembling, a constant shiver she had thought was due to cold, stilled, his breathing steadied and slowed. Beyond offered to take him back from her after putting away the needle safely in his pack, but Misa refused to let him go, now. Letting him go now when he was about to die, making him face it alone or even in B's arms, when he's already been so alone… she couldn't do it.
They sat in the darkness, in the underground storeroom of an abandoned building, the half burned serial killer and the pop idol that held the power of death gods, watching as the boy who hardly had a face slowly died between them.
"I'm sorry," Beyond said eventually, so quietly that for a moment Misa thought she'd imagined it. When he spoke again it was louder, firmer. "I'm sorry we arrived so late. We're achieving some purpose in easing his pain, but if we had been earlier we might have spared him more. We might have spared him," he indicated his mutilated face, the damaged body, "this."
It was hard at times to read B's expressions. He often held his face immobile when he wanted to keep his feelings private, his eyes shuttered. However, Misa felt she'd made some progress in learning some of the subtler signs of his moods. His tone when he spoke, the set of his shoulders and the way he leaned forward, the peculiar intensity of his eyes when he looked at Masahiro… Misa was sure he meant what he said. She shook her head, looking down at Masahiro again. "If it's even only an hour's comfort, I think it's worth it, B. It's an hour not spent in this hell he's been put in."
They fell silent after that, the passing of time kept by Masahiro's breathing. For a while it steadied, seemed to grow stronger, and Misa almost thought he might even be recovering, that B's injection had miraculously healed him… but the breaths only got slower and slower, the pauses between them longer and longer.
Like Yufi, they knew the moment life left Masahiro from the fierce burning of his name and lifespan guttering, and then fading out entirely. Unlike Yufi, however, Misa didn't need to see when life fled – she felt it in the final, powerful all-body shudder, then in how every muscle in the little body went slack.
Neither of them said a word, but laid the boy down in his sad nest of blankets. There didn't seem to be anything that could be said, and Misa was grateful B didn't make the attempt. She wasn't sure she would have been able to match the effort if he had, as her mind was filling up with thoughts of the kidnapper, the monstrosity that had done this to Wakahisa Masahiro. She looked around the closet, at the food and candy, at the boy's face, and rage, rage of a sort she had not felt since her own family had been killed, filled her from her toes to the roots of her hair. She determined that she would find out the identity of the kidnapper, would see the face, and when she wrote down his name in the notebook, it would not be a quick heart attack that carried him off. She would fashion for him the most painful, lingering death she could contrive and that the book could facilitate. That would be justice.
It was while wrapped in such dark thoughts that Ryuk, who had been so silent Misa had almost forgotten about him, suddenly spoke.
"Looks like you two have company…"
Misa, her mind an evil swirl, jerked her head at the sing-songy voice, earning a confused look from B. She didn't care. In the storm of her thoughts, only one shone through that she could understand: it was the kidnapper approaching, come back to check on his toy.
She stood, the rushing blood in her ears turning the little room to a boiling sea. She had the hunting knife in her clenched hand, but couldn't remember how it had got there, or why.
He's coming. He tortured the boy.
Two steps had her at the door. Beyond was asking her a question, but she couldn't understand, didn't listen.
He hurt him, and then gave him candy. Like an apology!
The door jerked open. She couldn't remember later if it was by her hand or the kidnapper on the other side, because he was right there, holding another flashlight, his face rigid with shock at the sight of her. Misa bared her teeth.
He peeled the boy's face away.
Beyond shouted; there might have been words in it. Ryuk laughed. The kidnapper tried to back away, his hand reaching for something. Misa shrieked her fury and the knife flashed forward.
There was a thud, some resistance to her momentum. Her hands were suddenly very warm. The man's eyes widened. A red bubble came from his mouth. He fell down very slowly.
Red on her hands, her jacket, her shoes. Buzzing in her ears. Beyond carefully taking the knife.
Tears burned her cheeks when they started running.
Glass met the floor with an unsteady clinking.
It was dim in the kitchen, but Misa didn't think she could stand having the lights on. At the moment she preferred it dark, it gave the illusion that she could hide, though what she wanted to hide from the most was herself, her memories.
It was late, once again edging into early as the sun crept closer to dawn, and Misa couldn't sleep. She'd barely tried to after getting back to the apartment. She could feel the nightmares waiting for her just on the other side of consciousness. The dim kitchen, a hard floor and new bottle of wine was a far more companionable alternative.
Her memories after Wakahisa Masahiro had died were muddled and confused, but what she did remember was more than she wanted. The kidnapper returning, Misa drawing her hunting knife, stabbing the man as soon as the door opened, not thinking he might be armed or might fight back, only that he deserved to die and she could do that. She could do that much and justice of a kind would be done. She didn't remember if the dead man had screamed, or if Beyond had called out behind her, or even is she had said anything afterwards. She remembered how the flesh resisted the bite of the knife, how her hands had grown warm and slick, how the man's name had flared away into oblivion before she'd had a chance to read it. She remembered the look in his eyes as he died, and she remembered the dark elation swelling in her heart when she saw it.
After that was the seemingly endless memory of running. She thought she remembered the knife being taken gently from her hand, her jacket being wrestled off of her and another jacket – Beyond's it must have been – put over her shoulders. Her jacket and the knife had been left somewhere, hidden where no one would find them. They'd come home, into the apartment, and in her daze she's allowed Beyond to remove her blood spattered clothes, her shoes and the borrowed jacket, and then he'd herded her into the shower.
The words he said at the time floated up in her foggy recollections. "Wash thoroughly, Misa. Everywhere. Between your toes, under your nails, behind you ears. Take off a layer of skin if you have to."
With her mind an empty, echoing hollow at the time, the instructions had rung clear and undeniable. She'd cleaned herself so thoroughly she was red raw when she stepped out, her hands especially. She just couldn't seem to wash away the sticky feeling between her fingers…
She hadn't known where B was, hadn't gone looking for him. Instead she'd wandered into her own bedroom, still wrapped in damp towels, and sat on the edge of her bed as the warmth of the shower slowly seeped away from her and she shivered, staring at nothing, desperately clinging to the nothing that resounded in her skull, dimly aware that when thoughts could form again they would be terrible.
When Beyond came in she remembered looking up without really seeing him. Wrapped in a slipping, sodden towel on her bed, she hadn't even had enough energy to berate him for coming in, nor when he gently encouraged her into a nightgown and then into bed. She'd allowed it all, like a lifeless doll. Laying in the darkness, slowly warming back up again was when her mind also seemed to thaw at last, releasing the poisonous torrents of thought.
And now she was here, sitting in the dark on her kitchen floor, her fingers wrapped around the neck of a newly opened bottle of red wine. She was trying to achieve that same mental numbness that she had coming away from the murder, to forget the sensation of a knife in the flesh, of her hands being washed in a killer's blood… and at the same time she was trying to remember. She was trying to remember how she had gotten to this point, what she had been trying to accomplish that ended up having her killing a man in a Gods forgotten basement. She wanted justice, didn't she? A new world free from sin, that was why she had taken the death note so willingly, had found the new god Kira and become his angel. Then she'd found Beyond Birthday, a demon in man's tattered skins or a man in the guise of a demon, she couldn't be sure, and had taken him in. She'd wanted to find out his true intentions, determine if he was a threat… but something had happened, hadn't it?
The wine was sweet and warm, and stung the back of her throat.
Something had happened while Beyond was living with her. She'd become less certain of her purpose, less certain of everything around her, and had taken his suggestion to put it all to the test. It had been to regain stability, to find that rudder to steer her life and learn all she could. Well, she had, and what had she learned? That people die all the time, that humanity held the keys to hell in their souls, that offering comfort in dying hours was worth the pain to herself? That killing a man had brought her pleasure. Stability was still a teasing siren, her rudder as unreachable as ever.
Misa's head dipped forward until her forehead rested against her raised knees. Muscles in her back ached at the stretch.
What am I doing? What do I really want?
A soft footfall warned her a moment before the familiar voice broke the silence.
"Dreams too loud to sleep?"
Misa raised her head again. It felt heavy and her neck too weak to hold it, and the shape of Beyond standing in the door of the kitchen was slightly blurred. She attempted a small smile. "Loud enough I can hear them from here."
The bleary shape of B wavered, approached and sank down to sit beside her on the floor, resting his back against the cupboards. He didn't turn his head towards her, but stared straight ahead to the hard floor. "I thought they might," he said to the ground. "It's hardest in the beginning. I won't say that it gets better, but it does get less bad."
Misa considered laughing, but wasn't sure she could stop again if she started. She looked over at him, but decided her head was too heavy to hold up and rested it on her knees again, her temple pressed on one leg. His right side was to her, with no scars visible. In the deep shadows, it was hard to even tell who it was. "Do you have nightmares?" she asked softly.
Beyond was silent for a moment; then, "Yes. Every night."
"How do you stand it?"
He chuckled, but it sounded strained. It sounded like the laugh that rattled against the inside of Misa's ribs, wanting to get out. Held back tightly to prevent it from getting away and never returning. "I don't."
She stared at him. She knew, distantly, that she should hate him. She should despise him for what he had done to her life. Before he had arrived it had been far from simple and not at all safe, but she had at least been secure in the knowledge of who she was and what she did. She had known then where her alliances lay and the color of her soul. She hadn't wondered then if she would be a candidate for Kira's justice herself is viewed through another pair of eyes. Now, even more than the night they had stood and watched a teenaged girl be strangled in an alley, she should be striking him in fury, flying at him, clawing out those eyes that only seemed to reflect back death in their glance, red as the blood on her hands.
At yet hate eluded her. She couldn't hate him, as much as she wished she could. She'd seen too much of a gentle man in the time he had been with her to think of him as a monster. He did things for reasons no monster could. He killed, but he also made death kind. He made death a friend. He wasn't like the kidnapper in the basement, or the rapist in the alley. His victims never knew that kind of pain and fear.
He still had nightmares.
The world isn't black and white, she thought. He's making me see in shades of gray.
Misa's eyes drifted, came to rest on the inner flesh of B's elbow. Her smooth brow wrinkled as another memory rose up. She tried to catch it, but exhaustion and wine made it difficult.
"How do you stand it?"
She caught the memory: Track marks.
"Why haven't you started going through withdrawals?" she murmured.
Beyond looked over at her, startled by the suddenness as much as by the question. He raised an eyebrow at her quizzically.
"It's just that you've been here so long," she explained, the words muzzy. "And your needle was in your backpack. I know you haven't been using here, but there's no withdrawal symptoms. Why?"
A corner of B's mouth came up, a humorless half smile. "Because I have a needle, you assume I'm an addict, even after you've seen what I use it for? Very prejudiced, Miss—"
"You have track marks," Misa cut in. He fell silent, and she continued. "When I first brought you here I cleaned you up, remember? I saw scars, and not just your burns. One set was track marks, the sign of a user. Has it just been so long that you don't need to use any more?"
B let out a rueful breath. "Heh. You have good eyes, in more ways than one." He paused, turned to study the floor again. "I have injected myself, many times over," he admitted. "But only with my own mixes. I needed to test them, you see, before I could trust to use them on anyone else, and I was the only volunteer I had."
"You tested… 'mercy' on yourself?"
"As unworthy as I have been for it, yes. If it was too powerful or the dose too high, then I was due to die in any case. No way to change that, so there was no risk in that sense." He shrugged.
Misa shivered, starting to comprehend a little of the horror having shinigami eyes one's whole life would bring. To know without doubt not only when everyone around you would die, but that death itself was inevitable. What would that do to the mind of a child, or a teen? Young people were notorious for their belief that they would live forever, but for Beyond it would have been just the opposite. He knew death awaited him, that escape was impossible. Every person he met or saw on the street, on TV, in magazines, would be a reminder that the Reaper was but the weight of a breath away.
No wonder his laugh was always held tightly on a leash.
She took another small sip from the wine bottle, the alcohol burning down her throat and settling in her belly, where it warmed her like glowing embers. She offered the bottle to B, who took it after a moment's pause, taking a conservative swig.
Misa's wandering mind caught up on another question she'd yet to resolve, and it popped out before she could decide whether it was wise to ask. "Why were you in that alley beside Ichigo Station? What had happened to you?"
Beyond smiled, and she thought she could see humor in this one. "Funnily enough, I was looking for a way to get near Kira. I knew of you, of course, and thought a circuitous route might be the best way to get to you. Either a position at a rival station or just disguised as one, it would be easier to get close to you and make contact at an appropriate time. However, during my skulking I was unfortunate enough to run across an unfriendly acquaintance." Beyond shifted, titling the wine bottle so the red liquid sloshed. "It was just blind luck you happened to be there at the time."
Misa wondered if it was true, if anything so preposterously coincidental could possibly be true. But then, she had to admit that her life had become crowded with such coincidences. One more should hardly surprise her.
The wine came back to her, then back to Beyond, both of them only taking tiny sips, sharing the twin comforts of silence and shadows. Misa felt herself warm from the inside out, her limbs growing heavy more from fatigue finally winning over adrenaline than from wine. She wondered if she would dare to sleep tonight.
"You said you were born with your eyes that way?" she found herself asking. The words were surprisingly clear, though the thoughts guiding them were not. "I just got mine. I think that's why I can't understand the lifespans, even though I can see them."
She felt rather than saw the way B twitched, how his body tensed. "What?"
"I lost them for a while," she said, ignoring the question. "And then I got them back again."
"How… where did you get them?" B asked, sounding incredulous. Perhaps he thought it was the wine doing the talking for her, spouting meaningless nonsense.
Whatever he thought, she still had control over her vocal cords. "Ah-ah," she held up a heavy finger. "Can't tell you everything, now. A girl must keep some secrets; maintain an air of mystery and allure." She meant it jokingly, self-mockingly, but B sounded fervent when he replied.
"You are a mystery to me," he said. Then he stopped abruptly, and Misa suddenly became aware of a tension, a kind of buzzing between them, and it occurred to her that it had been there, building slowly, for some time. She just hadn't paid it any attention. Her heart stuttered and sped, she wondered how she could have overlooked it before.
She jumped when cool fingertips touched her flushed cheek, didn't resist when they turned her so she was looking into the shadowed face of Beyond Birthday. His scars really weren't horrible, she thought to herself, and in the dark they were hardly visible at all. "And however you got them," he said, his voice a low, quiet intensity in the dark, "your eyes are beautiful."
Beyond's face drew nearer, and for a moment Misa forgot how to breathe. The warmth of Beyond's hand, the deep, deep red of his eyes that pierced her and yet absorbed her all at once, it was so unreal, yet undeniably reality that faced her. She could scarce believe it was happening.
And then he stopped. When he was so close she could feel his breath fluttering over her cheeks, against her mouth, Beyond paused, the fingers at her cheek relaxing, his eyes watching her. Waiting.
Misa almost cursed him when she realized what he was doing. He was making it her choice. On its own it was gentlemanly, but it conferred responsibility. Whatever resulted, she could not wholly blame him. Not if she was the one to close the final gap between them. She was drunk, but not so drunk that she couldn't recognize the danger she stood, tottering, on the edge of. He knew she wasn't so very drunk, and she felt even less so now than she had a few minutes before. Here was danger, embodied in him, in his bloody eyes that reflected death, in his face, in the half mask of demonic passions. He was danger, the unknown, musky and heady in his scent.
She wanted it.
A part of her tried to remember all of the reasons she shouldn't, all of the restrictive 'whys' that put this new craving so firmly out of bounds. She reminded herself of her duties as Kira, the delicate game she played, the sacrifices she'd already made, her dedication to Light… It all crumbled away like chalk under Beyond Birthday's garnet stare, the feel of his breath against her lips. She closed that final gap, knowing that it was her choice.
Beyond's kiss was like honey, sweet and smooth and filled her wine-warmed blood with the buzzing of a thousand bees.
Fingers stroked over her cheeks, brushing back strands of hair that were still heavy and damp from her shower, trailed down to her throat, and made her aware of the wild beating of her pulse when they passed over. Misa hesitated, unsure, and then brushed her fingers over B's face. Her left hand felt smooth, soft, warm flesh, while her right met a crazed jigsaw of warped and rigid skin. But it was warm, softer than she had imagined, and at her touch B tilted his head into her palm. He could feel her.
When they broke apart, Misa sucked in a breath, but tugged at Beyond, demanding more of him. "Beyond…"
It was all the encouragement he needed; possibly he was waiting for it.
He closed the distance the second time, his teeth scraping over her lips as he did, making her catch her breath, her fingers tightening where she'd buried them in his hair. It made her pulse quicken even more, made her ache. She parted her lips, bit at Beyond's mouth. His response was just as positive as her own; he made an odd sound, something between a grunt and a groan, and began to press her back and down to the kitchen floor, following her down as he did.
She pushed him back before her spine came to the floor, broke off the furious kiss. "Bedroom," she managed, her voice grown husky and strange in need. "Bedroom, now." Before I come to my senses.
Beyond, his face having clouded at the apparent rejection, didn't hesitate at the command. He rolled himself up to his feet, pulling her up with him with dizzying speed, and then took her by surprise by lifting her off her feet as though she weighed nothing. "Whatever you want, angel of mercy," he rasped, and strode, with her in his arms, to the bedroom.
Misa smiled at the name and thought, as she was laid down on her bed, of how he was such a strange combination of the harsh and the gentle, the terrible and the noble, and how amazing the contrast made the whole.
My gentle killer, she thought with a smile, and lost herself to the night and personal darkness.
A/N2: I did mention that things would be getting dark, didn't I? I'm actually a little embarrassed over the end of this chapter… I have no idea why, either. I've done much more explicit scenes, so I'm baffled on that one. Maybe because it wasn't specifically requested…
Wakahisa Masahiro: As always, I pick background character names based on their meaning. Because that's how I roll. In this case, 'Wakahisa' means 'forever young' – which the poor boy will be, now – and 'Masahiro' means 'justice prospers'. A particularly fitting name for someone in the Death Note world, wouldn't you say?
Bento boxes: To quote Wikipedia: "A traditional bento consists of rice, fish or meat, and one or more pickled or cooked vegetables." Yummy!
Onigiri: An onigiri is a rice ball. But because I like my foreign words, I'm calling them onigiri. :)
Mercy: Okay, this one is a semi-head canon. Beyond Birthday did indeed drug his victims, but we are never told with what or what all the effects of the drugging had on them. In past fics and in RP sessions I've fleshed out the idea a little bit, making it so BB made his own drugs for the purpose. One of them has been termed mercy, and yes, all the effects it has are mentioned here. Yay, chemistry!
Kanji: According to the internet (always a trustworthy source, yes?) there are up to 50,000 kanji. However, no one is expected to actually learn that many. By the end of the ninth grade, Japanese students are expected to have learned the joyo kanji list, which has 2,136 characters and is – supposedly – a level of fluency required to read newspapers or literature. Though I seem to recall reading somewhere that one could get by with about 1,000. Provided they were the right 1,000, of course. I have it in mind that Beyond has about 3,000 memorized.
Sakura / Sakuranbo: It's been pointed out that in Part I when I said that 'sakura' meant 'cherry blossom' I was in error. Apparently 'sakura' means 'cherry' as in the fruit, while 'sakuranbo' is the cherry blossom. Once again I stick my foot in my mouth by trying to be fancy, but my readers are nice enough to point it out without making my feel like a doof. Thank you, Aoharu, for that correction. :)
As always, thank you everyone for your patience and sticking with the story! I'm actually quite surprised how many of you there are for this one, and hope you've enjoyed the new chapter. I shall see you all again once the next has been churned out!