Asymptote

AN: Alternate's descent into madness might have looked entirely random to any onlooker, but the secrets behind her fall were numerous and each of them was, inevitably, caused by one person. Warning for language and themes of suicide and depression.

"I hope that this should suffice, Conces—Casey." Alternate, otherwise known as A said, as she handed over her notes from Pyschology class to C, the only other girl in Wammy's House and the proud owner of third place.

A was nice to everybody who talked to her and everybody liked her friendly demeanour, which was why, after Concession had fallen (been pushed) from the tree she'd been climbing a week ago, A was lending C all of her notes so that she wouldn't fall behind the littlies of second generation, which would have been quite a disgrace.

However, A was first, and it wasn't like A had gained her position by being kind or being generous. No, A was ruthless, behind that thin veneer of kindness. Therefore, in the Psychology notes, key facts were omitted and the important topics were only hinted at, rather than outrightly stated, but then again; A was doing C such a great favour, helping out a rival at the ever-competitive Wammy's House, so C could hardly afford to complain about the sub-standard notes, without looking ungrateful.

A would win again. As per usual.

"It should be fine, Alt." said C, looking slightly annoyed by A's near slip. Concession was the name that Wammy's had given C, but C had renamed herself Casey, to humanize her a bit more. A could only pity her and look down on her. "Bye Alt! See you tomorrow!"

The moment that C faded out of sight, A slumped in her chair. Seeming kind and benevolent took up so much energy. More energy than she felt she had anymore, to be honest. Staying on the top of food chain was so much more difficult than it had been before and she was reduced to underhanded tricks like paying off the littlies to shake the tree that Concord was climbing to topple her.

"So, she's finally gone." said a smooth voice from behind A. A smirked a little and turned around to greet her only friend and only rival for the title of L; B. He perched on her bed and looked at her curiously.

"Yeah. Hopefully, I won't see her until tomorrow. She's so annoying." A said, rolling her eyes.

"Does she know that the littlies pushed her from the tree?" asked B, casually, as he pulled at a strand of her long black hair.

"If she does, she isn't letting on or complaining. Which is unusual for C, so I'm assuming that she's clueless. And I intend on it staying that way, so don't ruin it for me, B." A said, smacking his hand away. He barely reacted and went back to tugging at her hair.

"Why would I ruin anything for you, A?" asked B, looking up. There was a little quirk to her best friend B, that only A seemed to have noticed, but every time he looked at someone, he always gazed to the top of their head before looking down at their face. In respect of their little pact to not sabotage the other, A never mentioned it, but she noticed it, and wondered some days.

"Because you're my rival?" asked A, as she ran a finger down his pallid cheek.

He caught her hand in his and looked at her straight in the eye. "Is that really how you think of me, Alt dearest?" he asked, his voice soft and ever so dangerous.

"How else would I think of you?" asked A, with a smirk, as she brought her other hand up to pull at his hair sharply. "We're certainly not friends, are we?"

"Hmm, maybe not." B murmured, before he kissed her sharply. She pushed back against him and they landed on a heap on her bed. She traced a pattern on his cheek before springing off him.

"Let me shut the door first, B. If the adults find out, we'd be doomed." A muttered as she quickly shut the door and locked it.

"Are you looking forward to L's visit, next week?" asked B, sitting up, as A drew the blinds together.

"Who wouldn't? Especially when he's only coming to see the two of us." A said, smirking a little, as she returned to the bed.

"Hmm, funny that. You'd think he'd want to see everybody, yet he only targets the best." B said, as he slipped his fingers into her hair.

"Why would he want to see the worm bait? We both know they're only there to fill space. They certainly aren't competition." A said, as she relaxed into his touch.

"Aren't they? A lot of people are saying that the newcoming littlies, that Mello boy and the other one that always wears goggles, have a tonne of potential." B said, as he kissed her throat.

"Potential. They'll never beat us, though. They may have raw talents, but we have over eight years of experience on them." A said, haughtily.

"Hmm. Still, I find it best to not underestimate the pawns on the gameboard. After all, with enough time and effort, even the pawn can become a queen." said B, letting A go.

"Do you really think so?" asked A, looking somewhat pitiful as she leant back. "You'll never get anything done if you think that everybody is a threat, B. That Matt boy has skills with hacking, it's true and that Mello boy has more determination than any of the other littlies, despite being Fourth Gen, but they won't be able to reach the top while we're still here. Remember, we don't fight fair. Wasn't it you who put Z in the hospital after it looked like he had potential in biology?"

B merely looked smug. "Sure. I'm the best in biology. I'm not letting anyone taking over my spot. But I don't think you're understanding what I'm saying, Alt." His eyes flickered back above her head and A had to resists the urge to see if there was something above her head. There wasn't and there never would be. B was just strange.

"Urgh, I'm tired of this conversation, B." A said, as she moved to kiss him. He didn't resist and they collapsed back on a pile in her bed.

"You shouldn't be tired of this conversation, Alt dearest," B said, huskily after a few minutes, as Alt traced a few circles down his chest. "It's a conversation that will pop up more and more often as they grow older."

"You aren't seriously suggesting that they're better than us, B? We could beat those two in a heartbeat. And anyway, L's coming to see the best. That's us. Not them." A said, fiercely. She didn't want to think about anyone beating her. She was first for a reason.

B didn't respond, merely looked at her, coolly. A growled a little and pushed herself upwards. Smoothing out her hair, she unlocked and walked out of the door, feeling the gaze of B's wide brown eyes follow her as she went.

(X)

"How long have we been waiting, B?" asked A, as she slouched on the desk, her head in her hands.

"Something close to an hour, I think," said B, who wasn't even bothering to do that anymore, but was instead sketching the innards of a zebra body on the whiteboard in preparation for the biology test that was tomorrow.

"Che." A said, standing up. "If it had been 15 to 20 minutes late, I would just say that he was delayed, but this…this is just ridiculous."

"It's obvious that L doesn't care to see us. That he has no respect for us and considers us below him. So far below him that he thinks he can keep us waiting for an hour." B said, looking irritated as he turned around.

"We are below him though, B." A said, sighing a little, as she perched back on the table. "Still, it doesn't excuse this. I have things to be doing. Like studying for Biology and Logic tomorrow. I'm not staying on top by neglecting to study."

B shrugged and erased his sketches. "I'm leaving. I'm fed up of waiting. My patience is running thin."

"I'll come with." A said, jumping off the table and they headed towards the door when it opened. Mr. Wammy stood in the door, a smile on his face, as per usual. "A, B. L will see you now."

A frowned and threw a look towards B. The timing was slightly too coincidental. Had L been waiting until they'd gotten fed up of waiting? B's eyes widened and he pulled a face. A rolled her eyes and sighed. "Let's go, Mr. Wammy."

They were taken down the corridor, close to the offices of the teachers. Mr. Wammy knocked on a door and took them inside. The room was darkened. A squinted a little bit and reached for B's hand as Mr. Wammy nodded and shut the door again.

As A's eyes adjusted to the darkness, she noticed a rather large abundance of sweets scattering the room. There seemed to be sugar cubes in stacks all over the room and a lot of soft sofas and chairs, along with a huge computer system. A exchanged an incredulous look with B and they both turned to the computer system. It seemed completely new and nothing like A had ever seen.

"What is this?" A asked as she ran her fingers over the cool metallic surface.

"I would ask that you not touch any of the equipment in this room. It is rather sensitive." came a monotone voice from behind them. A swung around and B followed suit.

A boy not much older than them was standing there, his form hunched over. He had the messiest black hair that A had ever seen and the beginnings of dark bags under his eyes. His skin was paler than even B's and his eyes were wide. He wore a simple white t-shirt and jeans and he had a finger touched to his lips. He nodded towards them.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, Alternate, Backup. There was a case I simply couldn't abandon. I apologize for any inconvenience." He said, simply, in the same monotone as before. "Please, make yourselves comfortable." He immediately crouched in one of the armchairs and reached for one of the doughnuts on the table in front of him.

A threw another look towards B but B was making that adorable annoyed face that he did whenever someone said his codename and seemed to be ignoring A's glance and discomfiture. It was obvious that L felt no sorrow for his actions and A hated that about him already.

"We prefer A and B. They're less degrading than the codenames." She said, curtly, as she took a seat on the chair, pulling her legs up next to her. B took a seat next to her, in the lazy relaxed way he always did.

"Very well, A and B. Congratulations on all of your hard work. You are the top two people in line to succeed me." Despite the monotone voice and inscrutable face, just by the way he phrased his sentence; A could tell that he seemed rather annoyed by the existence of his successors. She hated that about him too, why go to the trouble of having successors if you didn't even respect them?

"Yes, what of it?" asked A, "Is this just a congratulations session? Because if it is, it's just a waste of my time. I have studying to do."

L's mouth seemed to twitch upwards at the side by A's comment and A hated that too. He had no right to be amused by her question, because it was a legitimate one. She wanted to throw another look towards B, to see what he thought of the strange man, but that would imply that she was dependent on B, which she wasn't. They were friends, or something like that. A wasn't really sure what they were, except close. But she wasn't dependent on him.

"No, I wish to test both of your abilities." L said, between a mouthful of doughnut, as he reached to grab something. That something was five photos. "Here, these are images of five murders. However, one of them isn't. Identify which is not a murder."

B reached out for the photos before A did and spread them out on the table, sweeping off some of the sugar related products. L looked briefly annoyed but any hint of an expression beyond indifference, soon vanished. A turned to the photos, smirking a little. She could see the ulterior motive there. L wanted to see if they were capable of dealing with pictures of death. Hah. If he thought he had wimps for successors, he had another thing coming.

One was of a man with a knife through his chest. The hilt was behind him and the tip out of the front of the chest. Definitely a murder. A reached out behind her. Sure, she could touch her back, but being able to make one clean stab and to die from that would nearly impossible. A turned over the photo and B nodded and turned over one of the other ones.

A trusted him and kept searching. One was of a man with a bullet through his skull. The side of his skull, not the front, where a logical person would shoot. A put her hands together, made a gun with them and pointed at L. Yes, she could only get the front of his head. Getting that kind of angle was difficult, even if she was attacking from the side. No, this looked like the suicide.

A picked up the photograph. "This is the suicide, right B?"

B quickly tilted his head sideways and looked at it. "That's about right. Angle's off for a murder, right?"

"Hmm, it's what I thought. This one." A said, handing the photo to L. L picked it up awkwardly with just two fingers and nodded.

"Yes, that's correct. Now, try this." L placed the doughnut down on one of the remaining plates, and reached for one of the pencils on the desk. Holding the end of the pencil with only three fingers, L quickly wrote something down.

"Solve it. A, you do this one first. I'll give the next one to B." L said, as he handed the paper to her. A took another pencil, avoiding the sugar covered pencil. The code was a series of dots and dashes. Easy, Morse code.

Yet, when the Morse code was deciphered, it read YOZSPWTGXYPIAZQ. Bother. That was tricky. It could be absolutely anything from here. A quickly ran through the simple Caesar shifts in her head of the code, substituting all of the 26 letters into the shift, but nothing seemed to come through. Nothing that made sense, anyway.

Then, the code would be a fairly simple code to compose but difficult to solve….Vigenere code. Damn, she hated that code. It was nearly uncrackable, because depending on what the keyword was, it could be any code. But…L had composed it in a very short amount of time. Ergo, the keyword would definitely be something related to him.

Not L, a single letter wouldn't work as a key code. But, L had fleetingly looked at the door before he'd written the code…Door?

A drew out the vigenere table, quickly and ran the cipher through the word door. Nonsense, both ways. Using column then row or row then column gave her no results. Then what was associated with the door? Hinge? A tried that and still got nonsense, both ways.

Bother, L was smirking a little. A wasn't going to be beaten by him. A didn't lose. A was for achievement, advantage, accomplishment. L was for loser, last, lachrymose, lacking.

Door, doorway. It was a doorway, which meant what? It was inconsequential. It was an object of transit. What were more important were the people who came through the doors.

Alternate. Another failure. Backup. Also gibberish. Watari. Another wasted attempt. A sighed, she was tired of this.

"Hey, could I take one of those cakes?" asked B, suddenly. A looked at him, rolling her eyes. B shrugged and mouthed that he was hungry. Typical.

"Feel free." L said, shrugging. "Are you almost done, A?"

"Not yet. Give me a few more minutes." A said, sighing.

"Take your time." L said, taking another bite from the doughnut. His nonchalance disgusted her.

"This is delicious! Who made it?" asked B as he started into his cake. A sighed and gazed down at the paper again. Another key word. Doorway?

"Watari." said L, laconically.

"Who, Mr. Wammy? He acts as Watari? Isn't he a little old? Surely the stress must get to him?" asked B, as he took another spoonful from his cake. A froze. Wammy?

Yes. Yes, it worked. The column to row translation worked. CONGRATULATIONS. A growled, angrily. Was L trying to make her angry? Hadn't she just said that she had no time for congratulations? This was no coincidence and it made her know that all of this was definitely purposeful. L was one aggravating son of a bitch.

"Done." A said, handing the sheet of paper to L, curtly. "I apologize for being so slow. I merely wanted to double check. Wouldn't want to be wrong, after all."

"An admirable attitude, A." L said, a smile playing at his lips. What was this new game? Was it just a coincidence, or did her next sentence have to consist of only Ls...? She hated playing these word games. She didn't especially mind them with B, but L….gods, how she hated him.

"Now, you next, B. Are you ready?" asked L. A scowled. He was just ignoring her? Ttch. There weren't words for the annoyance and disorientation she felt by his demeanour, Still, A forced a smile onto her face as B quickly surveyed his code. His brow furrowed and he started to scribble away at the paper, biting his lip like he usually did.

A couldn't help her fake smile turning into a soft, real smile. B was the only person she really trusted with anything and she knew him like the back of her hand after eight years together.

B smirked triumphantly and A leant back. B handed the paper to L, wordlessly and slouched back against the sofa, silently brushing his thumb over A's hand. He had been faster than her here, but codes had always been his specialty, as well as biology. She was better at visualizing and memory.

"Well done, B. Both of you are very impressive. Now, I have just one more little test." L said, smiling a little. A lifted her eyebrow.

"What is it, L?" she asked, keeping her voice warm, as it usually was when she was with others other than B. She had been a little lax, having been thrown off by his appearance, but he was harmless, if very annoying.

"Lie to me." said L calmly. A let her eyebrows crinkle in a look that clearly stated that she doubted his sanity.

"Convincingly, I presume?" B said, letting his eyebrow rise. "I suppose that saying that I am a 14 foot giant purple platypus that eats children, wouldn't be what you're getting at."

A snorted and even L looked slightly amused by B's statement. "Yes, you're quite correct. Convincingly."

"The thing is," A said, smirking at his very large logical fallacy, "We can't. By asking us to lie to you, you've ensured that we cannot. You would now know that everything we say is false, therefore, we cannot convincingly lie to you, for you would never believe it."

L leant back in his chair, and this time, the smile was unmistakable. "Nicely identified, A. You are both definitely worthy of being successors. I am impressed. Now the only thing to test is your initiative, and that isn't easily done out of the blue. Very well, I believe that is all."

A stood up and bowed a little. "If you don't mind, we'll be leaving now."

B threw her an annoyed look, she knew, but she ignored him and grabbed his hand and dragged him out of the room. B frowned as they strode down the corridors.

"What was that for, Alt? I wanted to ask him some question about how he does his investigations!" he said, looking slightly annoyed.

A looked left and right for people and checked for cameras. Nothing, She grabbed his shoulders and looked B in the eye. "Doesn't he creep you out, B? He's so freaky and so annoying! Everything you hate, he'll shove straight back in your face, just to see if you'll react!"

B merely raised a single eyebrow. "Isn't that the whole point? He was trying to test us, Alt. We wouldn't be very good successors if we couldn't keep our cool under some mild taunting. And sure, he's weird, but are we any less weird?"

"Yes!" A exclaimed as her grip on his shoulders tightened. "We're not that strange, and you know it, B! We could fit in the normal world, if we really needed to. He never could!"

"Your English is deteriorating in your anger." B said calmly, "And the fact is Alt, that he'll never have to. He's L, the world's greatest detective, shrouded in secrecy. He won't ever have to go into the real world. And when he dies, we'll live in that same luxury, whichever one of us is first at that time."

A frowned and let go of B. She didn't say what she was really feeling; that she wasn't sure that she wanted to be L anymore.

(X)

"Hey Alt, did you hear? That Mello boy came first out of all of the littlies without any effort. They're thinking of moving him into our rankings early." B said, walking into her room. He was almost hunched over and A frowned.

"B, what are you doing?" she asked, as she swiveled around in her chair.

"Me? I'm slouching. It's quite uncomfortable really; I don't know how L does it all day." He said calmly, as he leapt unto her bed and crouched there in the same way that L had sat, before cocking his head sideways, in some kind of weird imitation of an owl. "Well? Had you heard?"

"No, I hadn't, but why are you crouching like that, B?" asked A, as she bit her lip, the way that B usually did.

B threw her a look. "You aren't stupid, Alt dearest. Surely you, with your brilliantly developed intellect can figure it out."

A pulled a face. "Let me rephrase that. I understand what you are doing. What I don't understand, is why. Why would you want to imitate him?"

B tilted his head sideways and pressed a finger to his lips. "He is the best detective in the world. Maybe there's something to the way he acts."

A groaned. "Please don't, B. It scares me, a little. Especially, with how much you resemble each other."

B's eyes sharpened. "We resemble each other?" he asked, his voice soft and pleased.

A felt incredulous. "You couldn't see it? Your noses and the shapes of your eyes are pretty much the same. Trust me; I wasn't happy about the resemblance, myself."

B leapt off the bed and kissed her passionately. A let go, straightened his back with a well-placed elbow before kissing him back, equally fiercely. Gods, even if he had his weird moments, she did love hi—

Wait, where had love come from? She supposed that it summed up the extent of her feelings for B, really, but love was exploitable, vulnerable. A friendship, wasn't.

A didn't lose. She wasn't going to lose her heart. Not yet, anyway.

They broke apart, panting slightly. "Doesn't matter if the littlie is joining us. He won't beat us. He'll never beat us, unless we become complacent." A said, as she pressed a kiss to B's throat.

"And that's unlikely to happen, isn't it, little A?" asked B, smirking, a little, as he bared his throat so she could get better access.

"What are you implying, B? I'm perfect, there's no chance that I'll ever be or ever was, complacent. Don't be stupid." A said, biting down on the skin a little.

"Of course not." B said with a smirk, tugging at her hair, as he always did. A bared her teeth at him, and he laughed lowly. "Oh, and L's coming back in two weeks' time. Won't that be fun, Alt dearest?"

A froze. "What?" she asked, her voice low and cold.

"You heard me. I think he wants to test our initiative, like he said last time." B said, his voice husky, as he pressed a kiss to her ear.

A pulled away and pressed her hand against her mouth. She stood still for a moment, before punching the wall, angrily. B looked almost amused, though there was a definite mix of concern in there. Her hand ached, and she was sure that she had damaged something.

"Dammit." A said, "Dammit all. I don't want to see him again."

"Why, does the big bad L scare little A?" mocked B, his voice filled with mirth.

"No, he pisses me off." A said, scowling. "He has no manners and he's intentionally trying to make me angry. Why would I want to spend more time with him? You know, the ICPO actually spent one entire conference telling everyone about all of their experiences with L and how much they disliked him? I can't say I disagree now that I've met him in person."

B laughed and A scowled. "Get out. Don't you dare play his advocate. I won't allow it. You see it, too. He's a freak."

B's face froze. "That's a little harsh, isn't it, Alt dearest? I do believe that calling him names isn't really the way to go. I've never really believed in that." He said recovering a little. A felt her hands go to her face.

"I'm…I'm sorry, B. If that brought back any memories. I can't say I understand, because my mother wasn't like that. She just ignored me. I…I didn't mean to offend you. I did mean it though. I hate him." A said, feeling her voice go unbelievably shaky and uncoordinated. She also hated feeling out of control, but, if it would make that horribly disgusted look on B's face go away, A would tolerate it.

"Hate is a strong word, A." he said, his face softening into a slight smirk. "Are you sure you're ready to wage war against L?"

"I'm not that stupid. He'd annihilate me if I tried to do that, now. No, I'll bide my time, and I'll strike when he's weak. I presume that you won't be helping me." A said, letting her voice get back to normal.

"I don't think so." B said, smirking a little. "I'll watch you squirm for a bit."

A laughed a little. It wasn't funny, but it seemed to prop up his spirits a little. His eyes flickered above her head again and A suppressed the urge to ask what he found so fascinating about the top of her head. She had just angered him. She wasn't risking it again.

(X)

"Come on B, we're going to be late and Mr. Wammy will give us that lo—B?" A strode into B's room and stopped dead in her tracks at the sight that greeted her. B was hunched over by the mirror, styling his previously mahogany brown, now pitch black hair into bird's nest mess.

"Hullo A." said B, turning around and tilting his head at her. "What's the matter?" he said, seeing her astonished face. "Don't you like it?"

"No. No, I don't B…I understood the mannerism mimicking to an extent, maybe it would actually do something for the mind; but B…what's having the same hair going to do? You're supposed to be a replacement for L, not a fucking carbon copy!" A said, feeling her heart shatter and break. He looked more like L than ever.

B was about to say something when A shook her head and grabbed his arm. "Come on, we're going to be late." She dragged him out of his room and stalked towards the room where they'd met L last time, concealing her emotions beneath the mask of happy politeness.

Mr. Wammy let them in again and B made a beeline for the sofa. A followed him more reluctantly and sat on the opposite side of the sofa.

"What's wrong, little A? Can't even sit next to me now that I look like L?" mocked B quietly, looking slightly hurt.

A rolled her eyes. "It's not that. Do you honestly think that I ever cared about your appearance? I couldn't care less if you'd died your hair bright pink, as long as your personality stayed the same. But you're changing so much everyday. You're not you anymore, B. You're turning into an L clone and that's what I hate. That's why I can barely look at you, anymore."

B looked at her for a while and something in his gaze flickered and then he pulled her into a hug and A leant into it. They weren't usually the sappy type, but at least he seemed to understand her a little bit. Then, he kissed her sharply and A leant into that too. At least he wasn't acting like L on that front.

There was a slight cough from behind them and A sharply pulled away from B, feeling her cheeks grow warm. She had completely forgotten that they were in L's lair. He was carrying a large cup of coffee and some papers in the other hand. Luckily, he didn't comment on what they were doing, instead perched on the sofa opposite them and handed them the papers.

"This is a crime that I solved two days ago. I haven't handed in the report to the police yet. I wish to see if you get the same answer as I do. Any evidence that is lacking, you are welcome to ask for or get." L said, his voice remaining monotone, as he drunk his coffee slowly.

A lifted up the papers and quickly scanned the information. Now that L had seen them kissing, there was no harm in acting like she normally did with B.

"So, 12 people dead in alleyways, all either stabbed or clubbed to death, which would indicate that the murderer either has two different weapons, or that there are two different people killing. Interesting. All of the crime scenes had the word Rache written at the scene of the crime, in blood. What does that suggest?" A summarized.

B sneered. "Ttch. They have no imagination. And they're awful at getting their facts right."

"What do you mean, B?" asked A as she leant back.

"Rache was written at the scene of the two crimes in Sherlock Holmes' first mystery novel, A Study in Scarlet. But this isn't an homage. This is just the killer being sloppy or attempting to allude to something." B said, tapping the paper, "Most homages would have more of a flare. These murders lack that flare that makes them exciting. If you're going to recreate the Sherlock Holmes murders, why only write the word Rache? Why not dress them in red, have the two pills at the scene of the crime, the cigarette ash on the floor? It doesn't make sense!"

"Weren't there other things at the scene of the Sherlock Holmes crimes though? Maybe some of those made it past the cut." A said, smirking.

"I can't remember what those were exactly…" B said, frowning, as he pressed a thumb to his mouth. A noticed out of the corner of his eyes, that L was frowning at B, his eyes slightly narrowed. He was creeped out by B's transformation. The only good thing about the whole affair.

"I think D has a copy of it. Go ask him for it." A said, biting her fingernail.

B rolled his eyes and smirked. "Fine, then Alt dearest, so you don't have to risk your precious energy on walking down two flights of stairs, I'll do it for you."

She shook her head and sat back against the chair, as she scanned over the data again. There didn't seem to be anything else worth noting. The times were utterly random, though distributed mostly through the evening, which indicated the murderer worked during the day. A sighed as she looked up again. The gaze of L staring at her had finally gotten to her.

"Look L," she said, her voice biting, "I don't like you. I'm pretty sure the feeling is mutual from what I've seen."

"That isn't entirely incorrect." L said, as he finished his coffee.

"Look at you, you can't even show emotion at that fact, can you?" asked A, shaking her head. "I'm going to beat you, however long it takes. I won't let you stay first. I won't let you influence B like you're doing now. Just watch me beat you."

L threw her a look before his mouth curved into a smirk. "I look forward to it, Alternate." He said. A merely threw him a cool look of disdain and returned to her papers, but inwardly she was fuming.

It's like he wouldn't even acknowledge her challenge! Didn't she even register on his threat scale? And calling her Alternate, after she'd told him how degrading it felt…she hated him. She hated L with every fibre of her being. It pulsed through her and made her stronger. She would beat him. She had to beat him.

Just watch her.

(X)

A sighed as she flicked over the page in her book and kept scanning through the information. It was around 3 in the morning and tomorrow she had a chemistry exam and she still didn't know all of the isotopes and their half-lives.

This was exhausting. She wasn't even sure what she was doing anymore. A hit her head against the book. She'd probably preemptively killed about a thousand cells, but the action had made her a little more awake.

Beating L was more difficult than she had thought. She'd managed to acquire all of his scores through some hacking and pretending to be friendly with Matt. She was close to his scores, but beating him would be difficult. So she had abandoned that alleyway and went towards L's detective work.

But, A had to admire L in one aspect, at least; getting yourself established as an anonymous detective was harder than it look. No one trusted her information and she didn't have enough contacts to beat L in terms of trustworthiness. She supposed that she would need her own Watari to even get anywhere near close what he was doing worldwide. Fat chance of that happening from the orphanage where she was practically trapped.

A sighed again, she'd lost track of where she'd been on the page and was pretty sure that she'd been rereading the same line for the past two minutes. A had never cried once since she'd come to Wammy's House, but she was dangerously close to breaking down now. A slammed the book shut and breathed heavily.

She was useless. She was barely clinging to first now, and B was looking and acting more and more like L, every day. He was even starting to mimic L's voice from what he remembered and considering B had eidetic memory, it was an almost perfect replica of L following her around.

She was losing in every sense of the word and in every aspect of her life, to L.

It didn't make sense. A was the first letter in the alphabet!

A stood for achievement, ace, adaptable, advantage, adroit, alluring, amazing, audacious, amicable, aloof!

L was for loser, lousy, lachrymose, lackey, lazy, less, lethargic, liar, lifeless, lugubrious, lunatic, least, laggard, lamentable, languid, languishing, lassitude, late, last.

But A also stood for afterwards, already, alternative, awkward, afraid, abysmal, accompanist, adjacent, arrant, asinine, appalling.

She was only an adjective to L's noun, an adverb to his verbs.

She was after L, allocated to fill his role, and not surpass him.

She was alone in her fight against L and filled with anguish.

She was only an analogy for his brilliance.

She was arbitrary in comparison to L's hold upon the law.

A stood for alternate.

A stood for amateur.

A stood for anathema.

A stood for anomaly.

A stood for another.

A stood for anonymous.

A stood for anticlimax.

A stood for anybody.

A stood for atrocity.

A stood for apprentice.

A stood for aspirant.

A stood for assistant.

A stood for auxiliary.

A stood for average.

No. A stood for Asymptote, the line that stretched towards infinity; reaching aimlessly and futilely for the line that it would never touch, no matter how close it got. No matter how much she tried, she was never going to be able to reach that pinnacle of hope and light.

A started laughing and now she'd started she couldn't stop. She was aware that she was really quite loud, but really, she could hardly care about the other inhabitants of the House as she shattered. She was crying with the force of her laughter, but soon, the mirth faded away and she was crying all over her desk.

So now what? Now she had no hope left, no ambition, no desires, no future. Now what?

(X)

"Alt?" asked B as he came in, his usual slouch. A was making paper cranes out of her biology textbook and throwing them at the wall.

"Hi, B." she chirped, with a smile, "How are you feeling? Today's lovely, isn't it?"

B stared at her. "I distinctly recall our roles being reversed a month ago, but I'll say this now. What are you doing?"

"The Japanese say that if you make a thousand paper cranes, you'll get a wish. Guess which book has 1000 pages?" A explained, as she folded a page about lymphocyte tolerance.

"But we haven't finished studying our textbook yet." B said, giving her a very wary look.

"It doesn't matter. Anyway, what did you need?" she asked, as she let her fingers swiftly fold and rip the pages.

B looked uncertain as he perched on the end of her bed. "A…have you seen the rankings yet?"

A shook her head, not letting her gaze slip off the cranes. "No not yet. What are they like?"

"It's… I mean, I can't- I'm first. And you're second." He says, sounding almost apologetic.

She looks up, that's…quite something. "Well done, B!" she said, letting smile warm her face. "That's excellent."

"Yeah, but that's not the whole picture, A." he said, coldly. A was rather confused really. Usually B called her Alt dearest or little A when it was just the two of them. Never…never like this, unless he was angry with her.

"What do you mean?" A asked, as she threw another crane at the wall.

"I thought that this was strange, after all, I hadn't done anything extraordinary this week, nothing that would warrant beating you out, so I went to ask Mr. Farin about why I was first, and do you know what he said?" he said, his voice still cold.

"Mmm?" A asked absently, as she concentrated on ripping the page out.

"He said that you'd failed the Chemistry test. You'd only got about 19 marks out of 200." B said, and this time, B's voice was so sharp, it could have cut through rock.

That…was slightly shocking. But… did it really matter? A shrugged. "Tante pis." She said, using her favourite French saying.

"No A, it's not nothing!" B said, and his voice could have turned a flame into ice. "90% is nothing. 80% is nothing. Even 70% is still regainable. This is 10%! 10 bloody percent! You can't get a score like that unless you're trying to fail! You promised me to try your hardest in everything and I promised you the same! YOU PROMISED THAT YOU'D BE A CHALLENGE TO FIGHT!"

He was shouting now and A hummed noncommitedly. It was nice, that he was coming back to being B. As that weird clone of L, he hadn't ever shouted. He was even sitting upright now, instead of the crouch that she'd almost gotten used to over the past few days. It was nice.

"Stop ignoring me, A!" he snapped, grabbing her hands, which caused her to rip the paper crane she was making straight in half. She stared at the paper and their hands.

"It's…ripped…. How am I going to get a wish now?" she asked him, feeling just a little lost.

His eyes were filled with confusion. Then his expression softened. "What's wrong, A? This isn't like you."

"Nothing's wrong, except my attitude from before." A said, as she attempted to put the crane back together. B gently took the crane from her hands and put his hands in hers.

"A, there was nothing wrong with your attitude from before. You were ambitious, just like the rest of us, and you were first. You know that L wants you as his successor." B said, his voice strangely soft.

At this, A laughed bitterly. "As if. He doesn't want a successor at all, B. He hates both of us and everybody here for existing. He hates to be reminded of his mortality. He thinks that he'll live forever. He wants to live forever. And I don't want to be him. So we're both fine with it."

B looked above her head again and back at her face, his eyebrows furrowed and something akin to despair on his face. "A, come on, let's go to Mr. Farin. We can get the test retaken and you can get back to first."

"B, what's above my head that's so fascinating? Everytime you look at someone, it's always to the space above their heads, not their faces. I didn't ask before, but I am curious." A said, ignoring his previous statement. She didn't want to retake the test.

B looked at her again, completely speechless. His look of bemusement was really quite something to behold. Then he smirked. "I'll tell what I find so fascinating, if you promise to me that you'll start actually trying in class again. And not purposely failing the tests."

A frowned. "That's an unfair trade. You get so much more in return."

B shook his head. "I haven't told anyone what I can see. Not once in my life. They'd think I was crazy. I'll also tell you my name, if you'll promise me that you'll be a challenge to beat again."

A, besides herself, was curious. "Fine. I promise that I'll start trying in class again. And we can go and retake the test."

B relaxed and his trademark smirk returned. "Thank you."

"Now, tell me what you see." A said, gripping his arms.

B ran a finger down her arm."Asami Ukitake. 0,0,7,79,27." He said. "Your real name, if I'm correct?"

A stared at him, her mouth dropped open. She nodded wordlessly. Their real names weren't even in the systems. Only their codenames. There was no way that he was making this up. "You...you see that over people's heads?" she asked, weakly.

B nodded, as he tugged at a strand of her black hair. "That's right. All my life."

"What….what do the numbers stand for?" asked A, feeling very curious.

"I don't know." He said, shrugging. "They're constantly changing through. So there are only really a few things they can be."

A looked at him straight on for the first time since he'd come in the room and B looked away. "You won't be sharing those insights with me, will you, B?"

"No." he agreed. "But I will tell you this. The name I see above my head is Beyond Birthday."

"Beyond…" A said. It sounded like him. Better than B. More personal. A smiled. "It suits you."

"It should, I chose it." Beyond said, rolling his eyes. "Now come on, A, let's go."

(X)

Her promise to B lasted all of a week. Enough to get back into the top rankings and fool people that she was still competition. They'd passed off her lapse as the result of a migraine and a bad cold, that had cleared up after a good night's sleep. Of course, that didn't last, couldn't last. A felt no drive, other than B's encouragement. What good was it all?

What good was she? What was she? Did anybody even like her? Sure, they pretended to like her, but she knew that they resented her place at first. Why? She didn't even want to be first anymore! Why did they dislike her?

A laughed a little as she traced her real name across her wrist. She was a little disappointed if she was honest. She'd kind of wanted to tell B herself, once they'd left the House to do something more worthwhile than chase a goal that would never drop into their laps. It was kind of hurtful that he'd known this all along.

And then of course, the final nail in the box was what had happened today. That mewling infant, that barely out of diapers child, had beaten out B for second place! That Mello had beat her B, was unfathomable. Unbelievable. She had no inspiration, so she could see why Mello might have beaten her, but B? He wanted nothing more than to be L and to be challenged. And now, she was slightly jealous, if she was honest.

She knew that the only reason that she and B had ever made friends was because B had been interested by the fact that she was the only person who had ever challenged him in the mental aspect. But now…this littlie was reaching her level, had beaten B….what if B got interested?

A couldn't fathom that. A…didn't want to think about the consequences of that action. She didn't even want to imagine that.

…But what if he was happier like that? Challenged by someone who actually wanted to win? He'd been so annoyed when A had said that she no longer wanted to win. Maybe…maybe this was for the best. Maybe he would be happier this way. Maybe…maybe everybody would be happier without her. After all, what did she do in the house that was worth anything? She was reluctantly first and before, she'd sabotaged other people's efforts to reach the position that she no longer wanted.

Who would miss her? They would probably have a party after she was gone.

Okay…maybe not outwardly. Even by Wammy's House standards, that was cold. But they would be happy on the inside. Less competition. Or…in the most important person's case…better competition. More competition.

What…what was she worth?

What purpose did she have here? Really?

…What if she removed herself from the equation?

(X)

B slouched as he walked down the corridor. Through the window to the garden, there seemed to be a commotion near the church. Hmm. Probably some idiot had tried to climb the wall again. Ahem, Casey.

A would laugh at the idiots antics once Casey was put in hospital. Probably. She'd been problematically boring lately. No snark, no funny comments, no dastardly amusing plans of sabotage; just staring at the wall in confusion and half-hearted tries at their twisted relationship. Boring.

He hoped that she would recover her raison-d'etre soon, or B would have to actually take her to a psychiatrist. And that would be even more dull than putting up with her in this state.

B knocked on A's door before shoving inwards. The room was empty. Odd. Where would she have gone? The library was closed for maintenance and she didn't have lessons right now. B didn't fancy trooping all over the orphanage to find her. She'd come back here soon enough.

B perched on her bed in L's way of crouching. He'd been slightly confused by L's stance when they'd first met him, but he'd tried it out, and things became a lot clearer when he sat like that. Weird how that worked out, that neatly. B wondered how L had figured out that the posture was better for clearing his neuron synapses.

Speaking of clearing…A's room was a mess. Which was unusual, because A was fairly neat usually. There was paper everywhere. B picked a sheet up and blinked. It was a sheet from their biology textbook… folded up into a paper crane.

B quickly let his gaze fall upon the table. Her craft knife was missing and there were small fibres on the desk. B loped over to her desk and picked up the strands. Rope. What? What would A want with ro—

Shit. B raced out of the door, not bothering to keep his stance as L. It was impossible to run like that anyway. He thundered past some flustered teachers and students, as quickly as he could out of the garden door. He didn't stop to put on shoes and fled through the wet grass towards the church.

Her numbers…her numbers….1 day left from this morning…No, not now! Not now! He wasn't ready for another incident like that day!

He had to hope that he wasn't—too….late….

B stared upwards as some children on the outskirts of the crowd cried. B shoved past them and walked up towards the flagpole that hung out from the church wall. Just taller than A. His height exactly. He slipped the noose rope off the flagpole on his tiptoes and caught her body as it fell.

She was pretty, even in death, even with vivid red rope-burns around her neck. Her pitch-black hair was still immaculate, after all of that. He tugged at her hair. There would never be a response from her. B leant forward, not caring much about the spectators and brushed a kiss to her lips.

Her hand was tightly clutched around a last bit of paper. B tugged it from her hand, despite the clutch of rigor mortis and read the scrawled message.

1000 cranes. Make a wish, B. Become better and stronger, in a way that I will never be.

~Asami Ukitake.

Beyond laughed darkly. Better. B stood for better, didn't it? Better than whom? She was gone. She had been the only person who'd only been able to challenge him.

…No. No, she wasn't the best, was she? That had been L. And she'd burned out chasing after him. After finding out that her efforts to chase after him were in vain. After finding out that he didn't even want or like his successors. After finding out that the one who'd taken away her dreams and desires was slowly seeping into B.

B had never felt any emotion apart from gratefulness and a sense of amusement towards L. Until now. Now…he'd never hated anybody more.

Very well. L. If L was going to take away B's only friend and rival, B would take away everything that made L successful. If L was a genius, B would be an extreme genius. If L was a freak, B would be an extreme freak.

No one could face themselves. No one could defeat themselves. He would beat L at his own game. For A. For Asami.

AN: This is the Alternate of my imaginings. And this is also the Wammy's House of my imaginings before things like mental tests and nicknames that the students got to choose. Like B, I also blame L for his carelessness about the children under his support, if not his care. I believe that entire tragedy was L's fault and I wanted to show that. Of course, L isn't a bad guy either, but he's only two years older than A and B. His mentality isn't quite that of an adult, even if he solves adult-like cases. He says it himself in canon; he's childish and doesn't like to lose.

That combined for the disdain for his successors, I believe that a man with as much pride in his infallibility as L has; L really did cause A's death and B's madness. They were both already slightly instable...but yeah. But, L isn't an idiot and he definitely has feelings. I believe that he would feel guilty for A's death and that would be the reason that no one from the orphanage would ever see him again, except through camera.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed this.