Quid Pro Quo
Pairings: Progressive BBxLight
Japan sends their most promising investigator to dissect the brilliant mind of Beyond Birthday. Every day, for one month, they will speak for one hour.
The claustrophobic hallway exuded an aura of death as madden prisoners jeered, howled and stared from behind staunch bars. A stale, wrenched stench seeped from every crack until the scent was nearly visible with a lingering aftertaste. A small, sturdy wooden oak chair was placed in the end of the hallway; isolated and out of place. The set-up was crude, but it fitted with the classless stone walls and the hospital did not particularly care for the comfort of the invading police force.
Light Yagami headed to the chair, taking care to present himself as confident and ready. A decorated pen gleamed from its place in his breast pocket when the dim light struck it at the right angle. Light reached up to brush back a piece of hair—perhaps it was out of nervousness, or perhaps it was out of place. He highly doubted that his audience was sane enough to differentiate between brown or black hair, or care if the invader was confident, but it was habitual to look his best. When he passed the fourth cell, the contained prisoner suddenly cackled, as if struck by Nitrous oxide.
"Another young rookie sent to the big bad wolf! Oh, I bet you won't last three minutes with your pretty, pretty face," the crooked, toothless grin dripped pity, scorn and mania. He reached up his hands, bringing up grim and jagged nails, as if welcoming a younger relative for a hug. Light pointedly walked past the prisoner. He had set his eyes on the end of the hallway and he refused to take in any of the demented men damned to life-confinement. Despite his discomfort and the obvious lack of tack in the place, Light was sent to do a job, and he would do the job well. A loud rattle told him that the man threw himself at the metal bars. Even the clinically insane didn't like being ignored.
Light glanced at his gold watch when he straightened his shirt and took a seat. It was exactly 5:00, and the next hour of his life would be wasted in this hell hole, attempting a civilized conversation with the most uncivilized maniac Jarreston Hospital for the Criminally Insane had to offer. Across from him, and behind a three-inch-thick reinforced glass wall, Beyond Birthday's still figure crouched on a crass bed with his head down, eyes glued to his knees. All Light could see was the ugly striped prison garb, a shock of wild, black hair and pale fingers that gripped the raised knees. A neatly folded blanket sat next to man. Light noticed that everything in the small cell – toothbrush, small plastic cup, blanket, towel, and a pillow – was neatly arranged and orderly.
Light settled himself, crossed his legs as he pulled out a note pad, and removed the pen from his breast pocket. He took note of the air holes on the glass wall, and a foot-long slot for passing items on the side. The cell was nearly air-tight. When he clicked the pen, the other's head slowly raised. Beyond Birthday still had the looks of a well-groomed civilian; perhaps a little underweight, but clearly passable for a random man in society. Certainly a change from the rest of the hospital's occupants, and Light supposed that a notoriously brilliant murderer had to have some sense of self-maintenance. Light tilted his head lightly, brown hair shifting noiselessly across his pale forehead as he finally met Beyond's black eyes.
It was intense – black, liquid fire meeting his own pretentious, chocolate eyes. Beyond's eyes radiated fierce confidence, sanity, and intelligence despite the foolish outfit and uncombed hair. As Beyond stared, a leer formed on his face, creeping slowly until his mouth was upturned in something that was not a welcoming smile. Light refused to let surprise or annoyance register on his face or body. Instead, he forced the contempt to fuel a calm superiority within him that allowed his smile to grow wider and friendlier. Light crowned himself a master of both noticeable and unnoticeable body language— here, he somehow knew his skills would put to test.
Leaning back slightly so he appeared even more relaxed, Light held the gaze and spoke in English, "Hello, Beyond Birthday. My name is Michael, and I'm here to speak to you, a privilege the hospital kindly extended to one guest in our department."
Light had picked a common American name. In Los Angelos, 'Michael' would be unsuspicious and Light saw no reason to divulge his own name. He had heard rumors that Beyond had an uncanny power to guess the name of anyone in his sight. Whether it was true or not, Light would see—he doubt Beyond would keep the knowledge to himself. When Beyond didn't reply, Light forced himself not to fidget or cast doubt on his ability to speak English. He knew, to a point of arrogance, that his English was nearly flawless. He noticed with his peripheral vision, that Beyond's right index finger jerked slightly, leaving it half an inch from its initial position. To Light, it meant a reaction – Beyond heard him. Beyond's eyes slowly trailed up, staring at a spot above Light's head before returning to capture his gaze. The man still refused to speak, clearly not interested at small-talk.
"This will get boring if you want to play the goody-goody two shoes mute," Light said. He hoped that a strike to the man's pride would entice something vocal from the man. In his idleness, Light wondered what the man would sound like. From the compelling stare and orderly room, Light would place his bet on a clear and low voice.
"Should I melt or should I turn to stone?" Light jibed three minutes later, allowing something akin to a whine slip into his voice. He remained completely still, gazing across the room fixedly, only moving his mouth. The childish, haughty words completely contradicted with his relaxed body posture. Mismatched communication was an unspoken challenge and taunt that tended to irritate even the most controlled stoics. Light knew this would get a verbal reaction. When Beyond spoke, his voice was indeed, clear and low.
"Little boy," the black haired male spoke in perfect, unaccented Japanese. "I speak your language better than you speak mine."
If Light was surprised at the fact that Beyond knew his ethnicity, his body did not betray him. Tension gripped the room as Light simply nodded and conversed, slipping back into his native tongue, "I should thank you for indulging me, then."
"I indulge you, and you indulge me. I speak for you, and you change to the language of my choice like a puppet," Beyond replied immediately, a sheen of unveiled triumph gleaming from his eyes. Here, he sat a little straighter, bringing his thumb to his mouth. His left foot shifted at the movement, creating a new crease in the black and white garment. As Light watched, he bit his thumb lightly and spoke around the digit, malice leaking from his eyes, "I should also thank you for not subjecting me to your horrendous English."
Light had a split-second to respond. In the split-second, he narrowed his choice of response from six possibilities to two equally appealing choices – retort with malignity or play it like a fool. He opted for the latter since he was here for information, not immature banter. Without missing a beat, he held his hands out, palm open, accompanied with a half shrug, "I apologize, but now that we've settled the difference, perhaps we can move on."
"Oh no. We've more differences than that. I envy you, you know. You have the freedom of the outside world, a world of Light and joy," Beyond smiled, an ostentatious display of friendliness.
"Slitting a few less throats tends to grant people a tad more freedom," Light said. An equally false lilt of light-hearted cheer entered Light's voice to mingle with his normally serious voice. Light didn't miss the stress on the word 'Light' and concluded to himself that, Beyond, indeed, was able to guess or know anyone's name. Light refused to allow the fact to make him nervous – it was definitely a question for another day. At the response, Beyond's facial expression shifted slightly. The smile edged into something slightly more genuine, and immensely more amused.
"Light Yagami," he breathed, removing his thumb from his mouth, body rising slightly as if preparing for an attack. "Since I came here four years ago, there have been one-hundred and eighty-six chances for me to escape. I came up with twenty-two methods I could use to attain freedom any day."
Light Yagami did not flinch when the expected name was thrown at him. Ludicrous as it sounded, Light Yagami had no doubt that every word Beyond spoke was true. The man simply did not seem the type to exaggerate his ability – he was too proud. Light also knew that the expected reaction was shock, fear, skepticism, or, to the bravest men, curiosity. He decided not to satisfy Beyond's expectations; it was not as though Beyond would satisfy his curiosity. The statement was meant to be a display of superiority, an attack meant to strike a point, and hope to land his opponent in trepidation. For some reason, Light felt the briefest sense of thrill course through his body. He tilted his head, as if in curiosity, but proceeded to swiftly switch the topic – a clear dismissal at Beyond's impossible accomplishments.
"I think I am supposed to ask if you found your surrounding comfortable," Light said smoothly. This time, Beyond didn't hide his irritation, and Light didn't hide a small smirk tugging at the corner of his lip. Beyond's abyssal-black eyes narrowed in annoyance while Light's own widen slightly in amusement.
"One day," Beyond hissed. Then, suddenly, his demeanor morphed into something calm and relaxed. His voice grew distant, and a hand reached up to swipe at a piece of stray black hair that fell into his eyes. He turned his head up, pale throat fully exposed as he languidly raked his fingers down his face. His thumb resumed its former position at his mouth. "Humans will learn to ask less useless questions, and we'll all have fewer throats torn out."
"Was that your punishment for the inquirers or was that a simple declaration?"
"Let's not play coy. That cheap question was meant to place motive behind some of my actions, right?"
"A few dozen investigators questioned you. You don't have much of a pattern or motive, do you?" Light had thoroughly read the thirty something reports on Beyond. They were equally uninformative, equally useless, and Light had trouble reading some of the shaky handwriting. Light pitied the fools who pitted their feeble mind against Beyond. Despite his iron self-control, he had to admit the man was slightly discerning. The man, in the two years before his capture, had brutally murdered over two hundred people — seemingly without reason. However, Light himself fully accepted entertainment as a possible reason for the psychopath.
"Light, Light, yehiy 'or," Beyond easily slipped into the ancient language before returning to Japanese. Suddenly, he snapped his head forward, his eyes shining with heated mirth. "Let's play a game. Me and you. Quid pro Quo."
The challenge hung unanswered in the air before Light blinked slowly, as if considering the challenge. He uncrossed his legs, and re-crossed them again– reversing the positions his legs were crossed. Once again, something very close to excitement modified his posture, sending jolts of electric adrenaline down his spine. He went with it, leaning forward and slipped his pen and notepad back into his pocket. He never planned to take notes anyway – eidetic memory had its perks.
"Perhaps it would work if you inform me the rules."
"San-gu-is Bi-bi-mus. Cor-pus E-di-mus," once again, it was a challenge, a battle of words, using the language itself.
"Cannibalism is too messy for my taste," Light replied, careful to choose words that implied moral neutrality. He ran his hands down a ceaseless pant leg on the pretense of smoothing it out with excruciating attention. Language was yet another strength of his, and he himself never forgot a single word, in any language, that he heard or saw. Beyond did not reply for nearly three minutes, his whole body perfectly still. He only blinked ten times, Light counted.
Light thought about provoking him again, but he did not want to seem desperate. He was directed to spend a month interrogating the killer, with very little imposed expectations. After all, everyone had expected him to be driven insane within a week; many more seasoned investigators had long given up. The only movement Light made was a glance at his watch. He had forty-five minutes until the hospital demanded his leave.
"I spent the first week plotting my first twelve escape plans. I spent the next four years wondering what to do if I got out. I came up with nothing, so I stayed," Beyond finally said. "Cannibalism may prove to be worth my time."
"I don't think so."
"I'd start with you, Light-chan. You look damn edible."
"Cannibalism won't suit you," Light met Beyond's leer with a slight raise of eyebrow, ignoring the mocking honorific. Light had previously observed that the skin on Beyond's thumb, despite the compulsive biting, was perfectly intact and unscarred. Lowering his gaze until he traced Beyond's lips and thumb with his eyes, Light murmured softly, "You don't bite very hard. I will guess you prefer soft food, and as such, won't enjoy chewing through human skin."
Beyond laughed— sharp metal against stone. His laugh rose and roared in volume until a subtle chill gripped the bottom of Light's neck. It sliced through the air with inhuman strength until it turned into a choppy, choked hack. Beyond fell back, landing on his back on the small bed before ricocheting over to his side. The previously neat blanket rumpled as it met Beyond's jerking body. The pillow fell off the bed. Yet still, he laughed.
Suddenly, he stopped, and the silence caused more strain. The other prisoners were startled, and they both listened to the panicked cries. Light vaguely heard someone hissed 'Beyond'. When the noise died down, Beyond sat up, wiping his hand across his mouth, thumb lifting a trail of saliva that he then flung at the glass wall. It splattered as Beyond took up his previous crouch, legs apart and arms on knees.
"You're right. I'll tell you, my favorite is jam; strawberry jam. But do you know, Light Yagami?" He tilted his head, bangs sweeping across his forehead. He licked his lip as he intentionally raked his eyes over Light's pose. "You look soft enough to be eaten."
"I nearly mistook that for flattery," Light said, false gentleness and soft mockery interlaced with genuine amusement.
"What are little boys made of? Frogs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails," Beyond quoted softly, voice slightly muffled by the thumb in his mouth. He rolled his hips once, causing a movement that resembled a stationed hop. Three new creases formed on his uniform. "I can smell your vanilla soap from here. You'll taste like artificial vanilla, won't you? Bitter, bitter, husky, and nasty. I'll have to clean you well if I want to eat you."
If Light felt disgusted at all, he didn't show it. Beyond's keen sense of observation picked up a slight tense in Light's shoulders before it relaxed. Beyond was…nearly impressed. Never had another human, since his incarnation, been so endurably amusing. Before Light, the longest amount of time it took to crack his interrogator had been exactly twenty-one minute. The shortest was less than 15 second. He merely greeted the man with his given name, and the fool ran away, foot faster than the laughter that followed. And Light still maintained his obviously forged, ridiculously relaxed pose, his eyes as calm and intelligent as they had been when he first went in. Beyond felt exhilarated, the feeling manifested into a hard bite down on his thumb.
"What was the game you proposed previously?" Again, clear dismissal without any spoken reaction.
"Light-chan, we're both liars. Liar, liar, pants on fire," Beyond sang. Light looked at his watch again. Beyond guessed that the hour the hospital usually allowed was more than half over. "If there is a next time, we'll play."
"I never agreed to play. I only inquired the rules."
"A very simple game. Question for question. Answer for answer. Truth for truth. Quid pro Quo." Beyond's eyes glinted a maniacal glee, tongue darting past his lips and thumb to run over his upper lips. "Don't pretend to think, I know you'll agree."
Light agreed, which he conveyed with a slight nod. If anything, it would be interesting, and Light prided himself to be an impeccable liar as well as lie detector. He knew each and every sign of a liar, from the obvious tilts to the more obscure slight facial muscle movements. Not to mention, he knew exactly how to twist any truth, and withheld crucial facts.
"Oh, you're thinking, but you shouldn't bother," Beyond grinned. "Do you know, you always suck your lower lip in slightly when you're thinking but not talking? And, your blinking slows down by roughly half a second when you're thinking and talking. If you lie to me, or toy with the truth, I'd know right away."
"Half-a-second? Did you pull that from your ass?"
"That was my lie. That you didn't detect," Beyond stated it in a tone of voice similar to a teacher lecturing a student.
Light took a deep breath to calm himself down before the irritation got to him, "Praise, that was the most brilliant lie I've heard."
Light paused for a second, observing the lines in the rumbled blanket next to the man serenely. There was 19 minutes left to this session, if he was right, and he was never wrong with his internal clock. The first fact the man stated was a habit he recognized himself; he could feel the pressure as his tongue pressed lightly against the inside of his mouth. Light had not expected Beyond to notice a fact that no other human, not even his perceptive father, ever noticed.
Light gasped slightly as something landed on his lap. In the moments he took his eyes of the black haired man, the man had snatched and threw something at him – the toothbrush. The thin handle sailed through the air-holes in the glass wall smoothly, and Light grudgingly admit that Beyond had a great aim.
"So Light-chan can be caught off guard," Beyond said as Light gingerly picked up the toothbrush.
Light was relieved to find it not coated in a layer of undesirable liquid, "Beyond-san truly likes being the attention, does he not?"
"You're one to speak, Light-chan," Beyond shrugged, and spread his knees until he crouched with his elbows between his legs, one hand sliding down to grip the edge of the bed. "Your presentation – clothes, hair, and everything; how you pay attention to your body language and words. You love standing on a pedestal where everyone could worship you and grovel at your feet."
"I could simply be super-conscious of myself," he argued, more for the entertainment of playing Devil's Advocate than to pose a true argument.
"No, Light-chan. You walk with the air of an arrogant man. You ignored the maniac that warned you of me, didn't you? He was far too low for your attention."
"If you classify every man that chooses to ignore a maniacal fool as arrogant, the world has quite the problem with hubris," Light said.
"Doesn't the world? Every human lay claims to some obscure form of virtues, most without knowledge of the meaning of the word itself."
"Does it bother you?"
"No, and I do not indulge in human morality. I also do not see the point of interrupting another when he is making a mistake. Like you, Light-chan. Speaking to me, will be the greatest mistake of your life." Beyond sounded nearly regretful – as if Light's misfortune would bring him unhappiness. As Light watched, Beyond slid his thumb out of his mouth and down his throat, tilting his head to look at Look through hooded eyes. The thumb stopped to violently cut a horizontal line across the middle, and left a trail of glistening saliva behind. A painless imitation of a knife's mark, before it rose to meet Beyond's mouth again.
"You cannot break me, Beyond," Light followed the movement with interest, but he was not afraid.
"If you break, that will be a pity, and not fun. It will most delightful to watch you struggle with the fact that I will rip your self-control out, drug your sensibility, and violate your soul."
"Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling," Light quoted as reversed his legs again, and crossed one arm to grip the other by the elbow. He knew the move could be seen as defensive, but he didn't care. Thirteen more minutes, and he'd have a whole night to reflect, plan, and deal accordingly. The move caused Beyond's eyes to light up.
"You're finally showing yourself; am I right to say our time is almost up?" Beyond smirked. The thumb he was chewing up left his mouth to join his other hand on the edge of the bed. "I hope your girlfriend cooks you a nice meal when you get home."
"Your tie, Light-chan. You didn't pick it out yourself."
"Even if you're right, anyone else could have done it," Light saw it another opportunity to probe the man—grasp a thin line of thought in the man's mind. He was careful to avoid giving away information about his family.
"When the cost is equivalent to a fur jacket? Not a mother's or older woman's taste. A man usually does not give another a tie. It's a little too fancy to be a friend's gift. So, a girlfriend."
Indeed, his girlfriend gave him the tie. Satisfied with the response, Light rewarded him with a small nod. There was little point in hiding the fact. The arm on his lap rose to hover over the pen in his breast pocket, not quite a touch.
"You don't love the poor girl, do you?" Amusement rang clearly from Beyond's voice. It transversed the distance with a confidence that made Light glare at the man – the first time the shield in his eyes lowered.
"Why would she be my girlfriend, then?" Light winced as he said it. To answer a question with a question was one of the most obvious forms of evasion. The drab surrounding and Beyond seemed to have made his mind a little less sharp.
"No denial," Beyond cackled. He leaned forward, looking ready to propel himself. "See, in this hour, you've touched every single article of clothing on yourself…except your tie. You made a big show of smoothing out none existent lines in your shirt and pants whenever you felt particularly bored. Yet, you didn't do the most common – straightening out your tie."
"I could simply not have the habit," Light's voice was tight. "You are accusing me of not loving my girlfriend because I don't fix my tie when it is still in shape. Watch how silly you sound."
"Light-chan, yet again, you did not deny the claim. You can't just disagree and say that you love her, can you?" Beyond licked his lips, mirth dancing in his ruthless eyes. "People usually touch what gives them the most comfort – most would go for the most expensive piece. You don't want to think about the girl, so you don't touch her gift, right? Poor girl."
"Certain humans also do not like toying with their most valuable possession." It was a fact.
"Out of insecurity of losing or breaking it, but Light-chan is not a very insecure person, is he?"
Light held Beyond's eyes as he fingered his tie lightly, loosened the knot before he pulled it tight again. Then he ran a hand down the silk fabric, and wished that the last ten minutes would pass faster.
"Oh, let's change the topic," Beyond said simply. The unspoken words rang clearly to Light. Beyond was on par with Light in terms of brilliance and reading individuals, and now he proved it. For the third time, Light felt the explicit grip of excitement course through him. Suddenly, he looked forward to this month with daily, hour-long visits to the mass murderer.
"Last time, a young man from Japan interviewed me. I asked him, what is interesting. He told me, a phantom murderer—killed without a trace, very bloody, nasty piece of work. Can Light-chan humor me?"
Light was not sure if he wanted to keep the prisoner up to date with crime news, but he figured it could not prove to be useful. He himself had nothing else to talk about, "It was a matter of giving the victims a medicine that kept their body fresh to throw off the time of death. Case closed."
"You caught her," Beyond stated.
"You're creating a rather bad habit of blind guesses, but why did you say that" Light asked, his head tilting lightly as he blinked slowly. He had, indeed, caught the murderer after accurate deduction of the correct time and location. He did not know how Beyond knew, but he guessed that something in his body language gave a brief shift in pride.
"How old is Light Yagami?" Beyond changed the topic again. Light immediately detected the genuine desire to know, and retorted with an inquiry of his own.
"Tell me about a murder the police don't know about," Light said. As much as he had burning questions of his own, it would be far more impressive to dig out unknown information.
"So quick, Light-chan, so quick. You live to please, don't you? On your knees to please," Beyond drawled, sing-song voice in tune with hands that reached up to grab his own neck. "A little boy. He was very annoying, very loud; kept complaining about being cold."
"I gave him anti-freeze." Beyond gripped his own throat, tightening his hands until his voice strung tight with the lack of oxygen. His eyes laughed as they bugged out. "You can find his body for evidence…if you look deep enough into the Atlantics Ocean."
Then he released his throat, and dropped his arm on his knees until hands dangled harmlessly from his knees. Light felt sick, for the first time. It suddenly occurred to him that, brilliant or not, the man in front of him was a monster in the form of a human with bright, charcoal eyes and tousled ebony hair. Yet, he could not deny that he was amused.
"How many women have complimented Light-chan's looks? How many men?" Beyond asked. It wasn't a question, and Light didn't answer. Beyond trailed his eyes over Light's body, took immense delight in the way the muscle tightened briefly wherever his eyes roamed.
The alarm rang once to indicate that his hour was up, and Light stood to leave. He ran his hand through his hair again. This time, he knew it was for assurance.
"Did Light-chan enjoy his visit?"
"Many wealthy men would pay for ten minutes in my position," Light smiled softly, deliberate sarcasm used to evade the question.
Both men knew, and both knew the answer he did not give.
"Will you return my toothbrush? Will I see you again?" Beyond asked. He stood up, walked to the glass wall, and two fingers slid through two nearby air holes.
Light bended to pick up the toothbrush by the handle. He twirled it once in his hands before he answered; with a single, calm syllable "No."
He walked away, not bothering to inform Beyond Birthday of the month's arrangements. After all, he owed the man one lie.
Quid Pro Quo.
When he walked past the fourth cell, he took a moment to glance at the rabid man, who deliriously spoke to himself. It was hard to believe that the scum and Beyond lived in the same place. He tossed the toothbrush into the cell, through the metal bars, and admired his own aim as the stick directly landed on the man's lap.
By the time the toothless, hairy face turned, Light was out of the shadowy hallway.
Quid Pro Quo: This for that / Tic for Tat / What for what.
Yehiy 'or: Let there be light. Hebrew Bible phrase.
San-gu-is Bi-bi-mus. Cor-pus E-di-mus: Sanguis bibimus. Corpus edimus: We drink the blood. We eat the flesh.
A/N: If anyone is interested, I'll also love a Beta-reader/partner. Feel free to message me.
A/N: Light is arguably, not his 'I HATE HATE HATE criminal' canon, but I believe that if he does not have the Death Note, he would have been much, much more calm about that. He has a job to interview this criminal, and if anything, Light would aim to do the job well.