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It’s not like there’s anything that can go wrong with keeping Beyond Birthday.

Or at least, that’s the impression B’s seeing here. The building just looks like a normal, if extravagant, house with glass walls and shiny metal, perched on top of a cliff that’s overlooking water dotted with very, very sharp rocks. It’s ridiculously easy to throw something through the glass and run out.

Although, should he try to escape, he supposes he can also be pushed over the cliff to be skewered below. If he survives, the water will be enough to pulverize him into the rocky side of the cliff.

And there’s also the ankle monitor modified (by Wammy himself, how flattering)  to shock him should he go out of bounds. He’s tried it before and gotten himself a nasty concussion along with the pain when he’d hit his head on the ground and A had just sighed and tutted.

It’s a shot at normality, he supposes, or something along those lines, that he won’t feel as imprisoned, but he’s been feeling imprisoned since the hospital (or maybe before that). He is aware this is significantly better than where he’d been originally headed for after he’d royally fucked up.

“Happy birthday, I guess,” A says, beside him, setting their bag on the ground as they both stare at the door. They giggle and add, “Birthday boy.”

“It’s been years and that’s still not funny.”

“Ah, lighten up.”

His fingers twitch at that. “Crude.”

They laugh a little again, stretching out their arms. Neither of them are made for sixteen hour car rides, and they’d both been lucky the car was spacious enough for them to entertain themselves with a card game, fifteen rounds of chess, and sleep.

B’s got the chessboard under his arm. A’s got sleep still clouding their eyes.

“Whose idea was it? The house?” B asks.

“Wammy’s.”

“Bullshit.”

A snorts. “I asked for living quarters and he gets me this, and we both know why. Don’t act too surprised.”

“Because L’s a bitch, yes. But why a fancy glass house?”

“Crude,” A says.

“You don’t disagree.”

“Not on that topic, no. I suppose it has something to do with the view.”

“Funny that, I didn’t think our sensibilities were the first thing he had in mind when arranging my prison.”

“Hm. It was mine, I think.”

B smiles a little, showing teeth, mildly feral. “Of course.” He drags the ‘s’ out in a hiss.

A picks up their bag again and unlocks the door for him and shows him inside.

The house is spacious, but B thinks it’ll work out nicely for both of them. He knows A has a tendency for huddling in corners and making themself as small as possible while he has a tendency to crowd a room, spread himself out, take up as much space with his presence. Sadly, he doesn’t think A’ll agree to giving him an entire floor to himself (four floors for the entire house, he’d counted while he was outside, possibly a basement, and knowing Wammy, two basements), but since he’ll be allowed to commandeer the kitchen and the living room, finally, he’ll take what he can get.

Everything in the house is white-grey-black-clear. The minimalistic color scheme gives the area a professional feel, and while easy on the eyes, just reminds B of hospitals.

Both he and A stick out of the place like sore thumbs too. He’s wearing pressure garments underneath his clothes. A looks like they need to meet and greet a hairbrush. They are, decidedly, incredibly unprofessional. B blames the sixteen-hour car ride.

The house tour takes about two hours, mostly because both of them silently agree to explore every nook and cranny (for different purposes, obviously), and then he has to drag A out from the solarium because they’re just staring at the sunset and forgetting this isn’t a vacation. Afterwards, they argue on the rooftop as to who takes which floor, which, according to A, floors him for a moment (he'd resisted the urge to punch a wall or something) because he hadn’t expected that.

He gets the penthouse. A still has the access codes to the rooftop anyway, and he’s pretty sure that pretty little AI Wammy’s had made has been monitoring them both since they’d gotten here. It’s impartial, he’d been told.

Once he and A have settled their arrangements, he hears a little beep from his ankle monitor as its parameters are reprogrammed, which just reinforces his idea that they’ve been watched since they got here.

A doesn’t offer him any sympathies for his house arrest. They do, however, go up to his floor and bring him cake and pizza. Which, in his situation, is fair enough.

This is off to a good start, at least.

He doesn’t know how long it’ll last.


 

When Beyond Birthday wakes up in his hospital room, on a fine day in a long, long list of fine days he’s spent here, the first thing he sees is his very dead friend, who looks very content while reading a very colorful pamphlet.

His first thought is: I’m finally dead. Thank god.

His second thought is, upon hearing the heartbeat monitor and seeing A turn and smile at him is: No, I’m not. Shit.

He supposes it’s wishful thinking since he's been admitted here for a while. Much longer than he'd initially thought he’d be, as he’d expected L to just get it over with and throw him in prison to quickly wrap this mess up, but instead he’s getting treatment and surgery and a burn team (he hates his doctor, and his nurse, and his dietitian, and - ), the whole package. He’s been counting on complications, but so far, he’s unfortunately been missing all of those, or if there iare his burn team immediately fixes them.

So he’s here, and he’s alive.

Fuck.

So is A, unless he needs way more sleep than he thinks he does (or is having too much sleep, for that matter). The way the pamphlet’s colors physically pain him tell him otherwise, however, and he mourns the fact that he’s still breathing for a moment, before he turns his attention to the fact that someone else who is supposed to be dead is in the same room as him.

So unless this is Hell, well.

“You’re alive,” he says, deciding to point out the obvious. His voice has seen better days. “How the hell are you alive?”

A flips the page of their pamphlet. “Simple. I didn’t die.”

The little shit.

B narrows his eyes at them. It takes more effort than needed, given that the pamphlet is distracting him. “What the fuck is that?”

“Me being a concerned and supportive friend,” A says. They close the pamphlet and wave it around, a cheerful little beacon that B wishes he can disintegrate on sight. “It’s a burn unit pamphlet.”

“Get rid of it.”

“I’m not done reading it,” A says, immediately reopening it to a random page to prove their point.

“Yes you are,” B says, “You’ve been staring at the same word for a while.”

“And you can tell, how?”

“You were zoned out.”

“Focused.”

“On spacing out. And not turning the page. And not blinking. Now put that fucking thing into the trash bin, it’s offensive.”

“To what?”

“My eyes,” B says, and he just really, really hates that blue background with binary red-green-yellow streaks on the front cover. This hospital is equipped with state-of-the-art-facilities, but not a decent graphic designer who at least made good pixel art on MS Paint.

A just blinks at him, slowly, like he’s a particularly stupid child.

He snatches the pamphlet from their hands – the action slower than he would have preferred it to be, but he still manages it – and then throws it into the trash bin. It misses.

He grits his teeth, but A looks dismayed anyway.

“I was reading that!”

“No you were not,” he says, “And if you were, it was particularly thin enough that you’d have read it over and over while I was asleep.”

“And if I’d just arrived here a few minutes before you woke up?”

“You’re a fast reader.”

“Not if I’m preoccupied with observing your heart monitor to check if you were still breathing.”

He holds his tongue at that. Sympathy – affection as a weapon. Always ingenious.

It works, to his irritation, because he finds there’s nothing he can say to it, and A knows it’s working because they smile, and stand up slowly to go over and pick up the burn pamphlet. They toss it into the trash bin.

“Thirty-seven.”

He blinks. “I beg your pardon?”

“I’ve read it thirty-seven times.”

He runs a rough calculation of the number of pages and A’s reading speed in his head, when A laughs and says, “It’s been three years. My reading speed could have changed.”

“Unlikely. You weren’t a child.”

“Plenty would beg to differ.” A sinks down in their seat and leans back, still looking smug. “For all you know, I could have suffered some terrible malady.”

“Like the lack of a growth spurt, maybe.”

A frowns, and then moves to gently poke his cheek. He manages to grab their hand and – holds it there, too small and too real in his own hand and holy shit, the gravity of everything is sinking into B’s head.

A is alive.

And isn’t making any move to withdraw their hand and is just letting him stare at it. He’s absolutely not awestruck. The shock’s just finally starting to sink into his bones, and he at least has enough dignity to not start yelling about the situation as he starts to actually grasp it.

“Um,” A says.

B squeezes their hand, testing the frailty of their bones. He could probably snap it if he’d been as strong as he was before.

“Do not,” A says in warning.

“I could.”

“Your Hurr Hurr Stabby Stabby act doesn’t scare me, Birthday. Let go.”

He squeezes harder, but not with the intent to break. It’s not like he can, anyway.

A waits, patient.

He slowly lets them go, and they withdraw their hand back, spreading their fingers out in a stretch.

He recalls days spent in the music room, sitting on a bench too big for two children, playing a duet on a little piano that’s no doubt currently in the orphanage attic, or worse, burnt since it was unsalvageable. Then he berates himself for it. No use dwelling on that given…well.

He licks his lips and says, “‘Hurr Hurr Stabby Stabby’. Really?”

“I did read your case file,” A says, and B feels the temperature in the room drop, but A plows through like nothing’s happened and B thinks, Well, they do thrive in the cold. “And seriously? Hiding under the bed? Slurping jam out the jar? You’re not seven, B.”

He has two things to take into account here. One, the easy dismissal of his case like it’s not the culmination of months and months of planning, and the failure of which had been a blow to his pride. Two, the easy dismissal of his case like all he’s done is swat down flies and everyone can go about their days because he’s gotten rid of some pests, and now his best friend’s having tea with him.

Sure, A’s solved cases in the past as tests at Wammy’s and should be jaded to these things, but the fact that they have a personal investment in this particular case should faze them a little.

Apparently not. Maybe something really had died back there in that treehouse three years ago. Like A’s common sense and primal instinct to survive.

And then it hits him – of course. What is he thinking? This is A. Primal instinct to survive isn’t something he should be looking for.

“It did its part,” he says.

A sighs. Sighs. Like he’s just been called to Roger’s office after that time he scared a teacher out of the house. And that was in their favor too, the ungrateful brat.

“It still proves my point,” they say.

“I don’t see you holding anything sharp.”

He’s given a flat look for that, and responds with a raised, challenging eyebrow. “I’m not the one who can’t come up with a good nickname for things.”

“Oh, look who’s talking,” A says.

Hurr Hurr Stabby Stabby isn’t your best work, A.”

“On the contrary, I think that applies to you,” A says, again with the offhandedness.

B grits his teeth at that. If they notice, they ignore it. “I am aware,” he says.

“Good,” A says, “The council has a clear winner then.”

“The council has no room for bias and therefore declares this a stalemate.”

“One reason.” A taps his nose with an index finger and he immediately blinks at the familiarity. “Why is the judgment a stalemate? Give me one good reason that sounds acceptable to both of us and I say you win.”

B has to stop his mind in its tracks, shoving nails underneath the wheels of a van that’s long lost the brakes and is almost careening off the edge. There’s only one thing he’ll accept to himself that A’s said correctly today, and it’s that he’s not seven. Or eleven, or thirteen, or fifteen for that matter. This isn’t Wammy’s, and he’s not the second in line who simpers when everyone’s just fallen prey to whatever mischief he’s cooked up while the first shakes their head fondly and then strikes up an argument as to why he shouldn’t have done that, or at least should have chosen better timing.

No matter if A acts like it is.

Still, he thinks it over, running the past fourteen years in his head and cookie-cutter-editing his memories so he can sift through the important parts and is slightly appalled that he doesn’t have an answer to A’s challenge.

He just watches in horror as A, as if sensing his dilemma, slowly grins and then laughs.


 

It works like this: B makes a case, Naomi Misora solves said case, L throws B in jail without a proper trial or recovery and leaves him there just to rub the defeat in his face.

Or, it should, anyway. B constantly contemplates this as he sits up on his hospital bed, day after day after day, taking medicine and talking to the staff and staring at bland and awful food no better than cardboard. It’s protein, technically, but after a long time, everything just tastes the same. The jello especially is an atrocity and he's thrown it at the windows too many times, but nobody seems to get the message.

Today, A takes pity on him and offers to eat the jello for him. He makes a face. Honestly, the lack of culture of some people. And it’s orange jello too.

"What? I like jello."

"Of course you do," B says, poking the thing with a plastic fork. It jiggles at him menacingly. He stabs it and then lifts it up, half-expecting the fork to snap with its weight. "Your taste buds are dead and you don't have standards."

“Clearly, since I’m in this hospital being your friend,” A says.

His lips twitch up at that and he quickly smoothens out his expression.  “That’s rude, A.”

“Hmm, did you expect me to be polite?”

“Fair. Not to me, no. Not now.”

He pretends not to see how A’s smile falters for a second. For all their talents, they wore their heart on their sleeve, just up for grabs for people to stab into.

Had he been younger, he’d have something to say about that, but he’s not. So he just passes the fork to A so they can swallow up the jello in one gulp while he pushes his tray away. A pushes it back towards him.

He glares.

"Eat," A says.

He very pointedly doesn't. A stabs a slice of carrot with the plastic fork – and he narrows his eyes at it for moment because ew, germs – and lifts it.

"Eat," they repeat.

"It's bland."

"And you'll stay in this god-forsaken hospital longer. Imagine the horror - eye-searing graphic design and orange jello. What nightmares, B."

His bitchface could earn him an Oscar's.

A pushes the carrot onto his closed lips, which decidedly stay closed.

"I will bite your hand off."

"Kinky. Eat your food."

"No."

"I'll sneak in jam if you do."

Damn.  While he knows the jam is a joke, he weighs his options first. A’s most likely to find a loophole both on sneaking in food and not sneaking in food, and depending if he could weasel himself into their good graces (how much sentimentality he could bank on is still up in the air, but he’s guessing he’s got it good so far since they’re not giving him the ‘how could you do this, I feel betrayed’ speech), possibly sneak in other things.

Like a phone (yes, he knows phones aren’t allowed in, but fuck it). Or keys to a car (not that he’s in any shape to drive yet, but he’s coming along well with mobility). Or at least a good book, since it gets dreadfully boring sometimes (it’s not that hard to find a copy of Red Dragon, really, it isn’t).

A pokes his lips with the carrot again.

He opens his mouth and bites the plastic fork along with the food.

"B."

He smiles at them. Their reaction is a comical ‘bleh’ noise, coupled with exaggerated shuddering.

"Fine, chew the plastic along with that and enjoy choking."

“Harsh. And here I thought you cared.”

“Just fucking eat, Birthday.” They drop the cut-off handle in his lap and lean back into their seat, huffing.

B carefully spits out the fork head out, although he’s sensible enough not to spit out the food along with it. He might hate it, but he’s not an idiot enough to neglect nutrition. It wouldn’t do him good to crawl out of here. Best to run for it.

So he eats. A seems more disgruntled seeing him eat with his hands anyway, even if he’s eating cleanly.

“What?”

“I’m just worried about infections,” they say.

“You shouldn’t be,” he says, “And even if something happened, they’re doing a fantastic job dealing with it.”

“You sound disappointed.”

“Ever astute, A.”

A crosses their arms and stares him down, before sighing, absent-mindedly pulling down the sleeves of their sweater. “Yeah, well, you’re not going anywhere, I’m afraid.”

His hands twitch at that, and he curls them into fists slowly, careful not to dig them into his palms. His flesh is still sensitive.

He cleans his plate and then places it on the table beside his bed before trying to stand by himself. A has to help him, and while he’s already used to being assisted around his hospital room by staff, he finds himself steeling his jaw and not saying anything when A comes up to his side.

They wait for him as he washes his hands, and then guide him back to his bed again, although he tries to push them just a bit away a few times. He’s not a child. A says nothing, doesn’t even sigh, but just sends him a look and helps him back on his bed.

He doesn’t look at them when he’s back on the bed; instead he stares at the ceiling and traces the patterns of the minute cracks. He’s long memorized them.

A looks like they’re contemplating picking up one of those burn pamplets just to read again. He sincerely hopes they don’t.

They don’t. Instead they leave the room for a moment and are back sooner than he expects them to be (which is never – he’s never had visitors before) and are back with a book and –he’s like a man in the middle of the desert who’s suddenly seen an oasis. He could jump out of his bed out of relief and joy. He could grab A and kiss them.

As if they sense his excitement for good reading material, A looks at the book in their hand and then back up at him. “You’ve missed Thomas Harris that much?”

“They don’t have anything other than pamphlets here,” he says, and doesn’t mention that no, none of his nurses really care enough to lend him good books. Hell, none of the staff really talk to him outside of their jobs. This is the most conversation he’s had in months.

“Oh,” A says, settling back in their seat. They extend Red Dragon at him. “Do you wanna read it?”

B eyes the book for a moment. It’s old and dog-eared, but he knows that’s not A’s first copy of it. That one, he’s left in his apartment in Pasadena, along with everything else he’s taken from Wammy’s. He doesn’t know if they’ve ever found that apartment, or if L even cared to look after he was caught (he’d wager no and he did keep the location under wraps and a very far flung alias).

Maybe they’d gotten this one after they’d died. Or, faked their death, more accurately.

He doesn’t say anything about him tiring easily these days.

They seem to get it, as they shift and get comfortable in their seat, bringing their knees to their chest and curling up. “Do you want me to read it to you?”

He settles down in his bed. “If you have nothing better to do.”

“I don’t,” A says. He thinks they do, but are rather just procrastinating to sit here with him instead. He doesn’t know why.

He just listens as they read, voice soft, and tries not to be too nostalgic.


 

Being in the hospital affords him too much time to think, and while B doesn’t really like thinking too much these days, having reason to suddenly do so isn’t doing him any favors. The way he’d set things up, he wouldn’t have needed to think much after he’d lit the match, but since he’d made a grievous error, he’s afforded with time anyway. He’d rather do without time, but he supposes his numbers aren’t up yet.

That’s the crux of it, he thinks. He can see the world’s hourglass but not tell when his own sand had run out. He’s thought that maybe he doesn’t really have numbers, and maybe he’s the only one who can choose when and where to end his time – master of my fate, captain of my soul – but the sudden weightlessness that comes with free will and endless possibility just makes him want to throw up. He’d never admit it. There’s a lot of things he wouldn’t admit, really, and especially not in front of other people.

Said ‘other people’ is his one visitor (one month now, wow, they’d lasted longer than he thought they would, putting up with his bullshit, although he’s found himself too tired from PT most days to put up an act, so maybe that helped) currently asleep in their chair, a book open on their lap.

He supposes that’s to be expected. They’d spent the last three days just by his bedside – probably pulled some strings to be able to stay past visiting hours despite not being (despite being the closest thing to him having) family – talking to him when he was awake enough for conversation and reading when he wasn’t.

The nearest reason he can find for their behavior is that they need a bit of a safe space. They’d always been like this when they were younger.

He picks the book up from their lap, carefully, since it’s quite thick, and makes sure to pin his thumb between the pages where A’s stopped reading as he inspects the cover.

Then he snorts softly, because of course they’re still a nerd over The Two Towers. He doesn’t think they’ll appreciate it if he folds a page so he just reopens the book but sets it on the desk beside his bed before sitting down. Therapy had been exhausting, but at least he doesn’t have to be driven to the hospital every time, the reason for which he hasn’t wheedled out of A either.

They’re the reason he’s getting all of this, he thinks. He’s not sure if he faults or thanks them for it. L wouldn’t have cared.

He gets dinner delivered, and A awakes for a moment to steal the jello off his tray and then get themself some food. They only notice their book is on the desk when they return, and they say nothing to him but do nod in thanks.

They return to reading once he’s settled down on his bed, the fatigue of the day already catching up with him. When they brush his hair out his eyes – already grown long enough after months of slow progress – he pretends nothing has happened.

It continues on like that for a while. A month of A visiting turns to two, and then three, and on the fourth, they disappear for three weeks and B finally thinks they’re sick of him, but they return with heartfelt apologies and a shitton of sweets, which is almost worth it. He doesn’t say they’re forgiven but he does accept all their offerings, as it would honestly be a waste not to.

He doesn’t ask why they were away for a while either. The dark circles under their eyes and the half-moon scars on their palms are testament enough.

He gets his surgeries, his medicine, his therapy, and somehow, constant exposure to his burn team makes it less aggravating to talk to them when he has to. He gets better, he supposes, although that’s relative and he can’t really say he’s getting better but he’s too tired to be angry these days, and too annoyed focusing on what’s in front of him to be thinking about what’s past him. He hasn’t given much thought to what’s ahead.

He and A take a walk around the hospital gardens, when he’s able to walk around for longer amounts of time again. They had a garden at Wammy’s once, tended to by someone whom B would describe as a dispassionate gardener, but the old man’s disposition just made it funnier for younger kids to try and run through the bushes of flowers. As much as he would have wanted to, he found that he would rather sit around the garden and just watch everything. It had been quiet there. Peaceful. A had sat around with him sometimes, and they’d used the place as a study area when they’d gotten older and threw themself into their work more.

He misses the garden suddenly, a dull burst of emotion somewhere in him, a place he didn’t really know he had, but it’s inconsequential so he crumples that up and tosses it away. Compartmentalizing reactions. Boxing away pain.

There’s children running around in the hospital gardens too, some with numbers lower than others, but that’s not any surprise. This is a hospital.

He stares at one sitting on a bench. Her mother is beside her, holding her hand. She’s only got six hours left. B stares at her numbers, slowly but surely ticking down, before turning away and following A down the path, neither of them saying anything. If A had noticed him staring at the child, they say nothing.

He only knows the kid’s dead when he wakes up from a loud wail in the dead of the night from a grief-stricken mother. A startles in their seat and turns to the wall, to where the sound is coming from, and looks down, paying respects in their silence and their downcast eyes.

“That won’t bring her back.”

“Pay respect to the dead for they’re all ahead of us,” A says. “Isn’t that what you always used to say?”

I thought you’d been ahead, he thinks. “You wish she shouldn’t have died.”

“Yeah, but it’s not like I can do anything about it,” A says, “I know people die all the time, B. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”

“Not me,” he says, suddenly, and wishes he could take it back but he’s already said it, so he just owns up to it, his drowsiness loosening his tongue. “I couldn’t die right.”

A’s gaze softens, and they’re silent for a moment before they sigh. “I couldn’t die right either.”

And B laughs, mirthless. “Funny that we both got it wrong.”

A doesn’t smile. “Not really.”


 

“Flowers,” he says, when he sees A carrying a bouquet of lilies when they enter the room. Their head peeks past the petals, as the entire bouquet itself looks too big for their arms, and it’s a comical sight B would have laughed at if he hadn’t been too shocked to process it.

“Why?” he asks.

“Just wanted to,” A says. He thinks they do a lot of things just because they want to, these days. It catches him off-guard most times but it’s relieving, somewhat. At least one of them grew out of old habits.

He watches them place the things beside his desk. There’s no vase for it, but they don’t seem bothered, and instead just sit down on their usual seat beside his bed.

“How was PT?” they ask.

“Fine. How was going into the shark pit?”

A purses their lips together.

“I knew it.”

“I know, you didn’t have to say it,” they grit out. “Insufferable as always.”

“Are you going to explain?” he asks. “You know that I’ve always suspected.”

“Yes, and I’m surprised you haven’t throttled me just to get something on him.”

B is silent for a moment, before he licks his lips and says: “I have no quarrel with you.”

A stares at him and then slowly, carefully, raises an eyebrow. The message is clear. You had no quarrel with your victims.

“They were going to die whether I touched them or not.”

“Have you ever thought maybe they were going die because you’d chosen them?”

He has no answer. A crosses their legs and sighs, pinching the bridge of their nose as they lean back into their seat. Regality suits them.

They look up at him after a while, tired.

He shrugs. He finds he doesn’t really care about defending himself, and should his trial come to pass (if it came to pass, seeing as A’s pulling some strings here), he’d immediately plead guilty. So, his chosen quarry were set to die because of him; so what? People die all the time. Death is as unremarkable as life, murder as unoriginal as breathing.

To A’s credit, they don’t even look angry or sad or disappointed. Just…tired. Maybe a little concerned. He’s sure the former points to something else and the latter to him, and while he has suspicions over the exasperation, he doesn’t understand the concern.

“Do you want to go for a walk?” A asks, hand still over their face and looking like they need a good night’s sleep.

“No,” he says, not watching them deflate at the answer, but instead just continues. “Do you need to go for a walk?”

A smiles briefly, mood uplifted by him falling into an old pattern of a joke. “Yes.”

He nods. “Then let’s go.”


 

He spends Halloween in the hospital and jokingly tells A he wouldn’t need a costume if he’d chosen to go trick or treating. A rolls their eyes and tells him he’s almost done with his surgeries, and looks a lot less like a mass of burnt flesh than he thinks he does.

“It doesn’t take a lot to disgust people,” he says, “And I can always – ”

“I will throw you into a ditch first before you can light yourself on fire again, boy,” A says.

B blinks, slow. “That sounds like it would achieve the same result I’m aiming for.”

“I will at least be the one to end all my hard work on this.”

Ah. So it is them pulling the strings. Curious. He wonders if L let them, or as always, if he doesn’t give a shit as long as his assistants are efficient. It’s not like B is in any condition to be walking around in his current state, and he has no doubts that the hospital isn’t free for him to roam around in.

Glass cages.

Then again, has he ever had a doubt?

“I can’t go trick or treating, can I?”

“Unless you want to join the children downstairs, no,” A says.

“Am I allowed to?”

A seems to hesitate. “No.”

“That’s expected,” he says, “I ruined her eyes.”

“To create a shock factor that would distract most people, but would be obvious to anyone who could keep a level head,” A says, “In this case, Misora. And L.”

He shrugs. “Well, credit goes to Misora, even with all my interference,” he says, “She was the one there.”

A snorts, leaning back into their chair. They’d already had their knees pulled up to their chest the second he’d implied setting himself on fire, and with the way they sink into their seat, they just look smaller. “Would he have bothered?”

His first thought is No.

And then he tries to tamp that down, because that usually led to an avalanche of other thoughts that he’s long boxed away. Compartmentalized. A skill he prides himself on, in that humans are such creatures ruled by their emotions.

No, L would not have bothered. He knew that. Knows that. The second he’d decided that yes, he was going through with his plans, he’d known that L wouldn’t have taken the level of personal interest B wanted him to take. And he still did it, despite it all. He wasn’t hoping that against everything, L would actually dive into the case headfirst like it’s a battle between him and B, both of them standing toe to toe like equals.

And B hadn’t wanted to be equals, anyway. So it hadn’t mattered that L sent Naomi Misora. It hadn’t mattered that L hadn’t really solved the case himself like B wanted him to, it hadn’t mattered that the man wouldn’t face him like he should have because he was a mistake born out of a dreamer’s attempt to copy something that could never be replicated or was meant to be replicated.

Because B was going to surpass L.

Only, well.

He’d spent too long looking at the gun he couldn’t see the bullet headed straight for him.

But of course, he wraps all this neatly in yellow tape, and tucks it somewhere deep, deep inside his head, under too many trapdoors, and too many Keep Out signs. This is what he excels in. Let the dead bury their own dead.

“I can get you candy,” A says, when he’s been silent for too long. “If you want me to.”

He thinks it over for a moment. “I would like candy.”

“Okay,” A says, “We’ll get some. For Halloween. For Christmas. For New Year’s. Even Valentine’s if you’re in the mood, Birthday boy.”

“That has never been nor ever will be funny.”

A snickers.


 

“Where did you say we were going?”

It’s been, what? Almost a year since A’s visited? He’s surprised himself with how easily he’s progressed through everything. He looks mostly back to normal, with the addition of pressure garments that he’s going to be wearing for the next two years, hopefully less, and he’s able to move as well as he used to, even if he tires out easier than before. A bit of exercise and normality would help, his therapist had said, and he’s going to be pushing that normality until he can run out and away as fast as he can.

Unfortunately, A has other plans. Or, Wammy, in this case. Not L. Never L.

“Out,” A says, “Both of us.”

“We’re getting moved to a suite?”

“We’re getting moved to a house,” A says, and they look a little…peeved. And considering they’re joining him for the ride, well. B has a few theories. “I just got the news, and I haven’t asked questions yet. I’m just – ” They huff and throw their hands in the air, giving up with words.

B frowns. “When are we leaving?”

“In a fortnight.” When A sits on the edge of his bed, they look like they’re about to collapse from exhaustion. “They’re taking care of the arrangements, we just have to get there.”

“How long is the ride?”

“Sixteen hours.”

He supposes he can do enough in sixteen hours. After all, the way this is going, he has his whole life ahead of him. A small bit of time is nothing compared to that.

He can be patient.