ad ho·mi·nem

1. appealing to one's prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one's intellect or reason.

2. attacking an opponent's character rather than answering his argument.

An agonized scream wrenched itself from Light's lips and hovered above him, detached from and yet a part of him, like a Shinigami... but Ryuk was gone now. He had deserted Light and left him in the hands of Death. Recalling the twisted smile on the Shinigami's face as he hopelessly begged for more time, Light felt a sickening spasm in his chest and wondered if his heart attack had truly ended.

With another cry, Light shifted onto his side and retched blood onto white tiles so dusty they portrayed soft shades of gray. Everything was pain and blood and open wounds, and Light didn't understand why he was here when he had been told he could neither go to Heaven nor Hell, when he had come to understand that death was equal in its erasure. Had that damned Shinigami lied to him about the nature of the afterlife? He wouldn't be surprised, after Ryuk so callously betrayed him.

Damn it.

Damn it.

Damn it.

Light couldn't suppress the screams from leaving his throat in an endless, bloody, gurgled stream. His chest was seizing up again and again, his breath coming in ragged gasps, and the thought of suffering an eternity for his "sins" made him furious... frightened...

"Oh, it's you." Light froze and fell silent as the voice echoed around him. That monotonous voice cut into him more deeply than his wounds, chilled him more infinitely than this room of snow and slush tones. "I was wondering who could be crying so pitifully."

That familiar, cold, calculating voice. "...L?"

Light's eyes rose slowly from the floor and found, to his bewilderment, an image he thought would remain forever trapped in his nightmares: the bare twitching toes, the worn-out jeans, living and breathing and looking with eyes that see — oh God, no, no, no, it couldn't be —

"Am I in Hell?" he blurted out.

"Of course not," L replied with the faintest hint of amusement; but even as the glimmer surfaced in his pupils, it was suppressed and replaced by an apparent distaste. "I am righteous. Why would I be in Hell?" With that, L turned away, vanishing as quickly as he had appeared.

"Where are you going?" Light called after him, surprising himself with his own desperation.

"I'll be back," the voice whispered to the darkness. Footsteps faded steadily to silence. Light slumped over, collapsed into himself, an admission of his own lifelessness.

And then he waited, at such length and in such great pain, that he began to suspect L had only been a hallucination, a memory… wishful thinking, it dawned on him, when his injured wrist was poured over with pain. His eyes snapped open and his jaw dropped in preparation to turn his reflexive groan into a verbal assault, but he froze when he realized exactly what that acidic feeling was: antiseptic. The mini-bottle was pinched between L's forefinger and thumb, spilling out amber liquid like gold when it caught the light and murky water when it didn't.

L was treating his wounds — or at least attempting to. He didn't seem to know what to do after the antiseptic ran out, simply staring down at the array of white gauze pads and bandages atop his knees with an expression that was almost harmless in its hesitance yet hard around the edges. Somewhere between inaction and resolution, nonexistence and humanness, former and current, lies and truths; between black and white, they lingered, unable to make the next move, for there were no gray squares to be found on a chessboard.

"What are you doing?" It was his fourth question, a slurred and useless thought that seeped out with his blood.

The only answer he received was in the motion of being lifted up almost tenderly by his uninjured shoulder as L inspected the bullet wound in the other, and then L smirked down at him, said, "You might want to close your eyes now."

"Wha—ahhhhh!" Light was screaming. Somehow, he was screaming, even when he fell silent again and stared up at L wide-eyed, lips parted to pant out his pain and his shock, because he recognized this situation for what it was.

"Tell me who shot you." It felt like L's entire hand was inside his shoulder, groping at bone and tendon and pushing the bullet in further.

"Get out. Get out of my head…"

"I am quite real, I assure you, and I can make this situation that much worse for you if I don't get an answer in five, four, three, two—"

"I was caught in the crossfire during a drug bust. I was…"

"Do not lie to me," L droned, maneuvering veins beneath the skin like wires on a switchboard. The feeling was nauseating.

"Matsuda. Matsuda shot me," he admitted, only to have his senses assaulted with the most excruciating pain he had ever experienced. His skin was being torn from the inside out.

"Was it Mello? …Matt?"

"Who—?" Light gasped. "I told you, it was Matsuda. Matsuda."

L's grip loosened, though his eyes were still suspicious. "Why would Matsuda shoot you?"

"Because I'm Kira. I am. L, did you know?"

The bullet was removed so harshly that it was likely more of a hindrance than anything, and after all that, L had the audacity to disinfect, stitch, and bandage his wounds, his gaze somewhat glazed, as if what had just occurred between them was utterly boring and predictable. Maybe L had tortured before.

"…You're sick…" he murmured, half to himself. L averted his eyes then, and if Light didn't know this man better, he would have seen it as a gesture of guilt or submissiveness, but implicitly L was calling him the lowliest of the low — rotten. Against his will, Light flinched.

"Indeed, I am sick of playing games. I have no reason to lie to you any longer, 'first ever friend', and so let me be the first to admit that I despise you. I am sure that, at least in this respect, our feelings are mutual." Abyssal eyes lifted, as if seeking confirmation, only to bypass Light entirely and stare at the cobwebs hanging like nooses from the ceiling. "Regardless… if you are interested… seek me out."

L walked away, and Light let him, without asking for clarification or screaming curses or giving any form of recognition; glaciated by revelation. Before, he had been willing to blame Ryuk and Near and Mello and Mikami and Matsuda and even himself for his downfall… but now… now, he knew. It was L who had defeated him, even from the grave.

Burying his face in the crook of his arm and curling his knees unconsciously to his chest, Light wept.

"I never thought of picking up the Death Note as a misfortune."

A long time passed before Light had the physical strength to move and even longer before he had the motivation to leave his cocoon. It was only when the whiteness of the room began to remind him of a padded cell that he unfurled from the post he had taken up in the corner and stood with a sudden sense of dignity, as if his time hadn't dissolved in fits of furious tears. He made no move to retrieve the suit jacket he had been using as a pillow when it fell to the floor, nor the striped necktie that lay coiled like a shed snake skin, for all that physically and emotionally restrained him was itself to be locked away in his prison of many days.

Mindfucking how, when he left that room he had come to associate with a psychiatric ward, he actually found himself wandering through a dilapidated hospital. Its corridors and rooms were unnumbered, the only indication that he was actually moving onward and downward in that repetitive whitewash coming in the form of debris on the floor. Old needles, smashed vials and pill bottles, canisters of anesthesia with split sides, even stains of blood on the floor acted as landmarks — and then there were the broken-down people. Every so often, Light would cross paths with a shell of a human in the hallway or catch glimpses as he passed doorways of fetal adults staring back at him like stillborn children in their sagging sick bed coffins. They barely acknowledged his existence, never called out to him, and he found he didn't want them to, because he knew exactly what they were.

When he finally reached the lobby and stepped through frozen-open electronic doors into the outside world, his maladjusted eyes were half-blinded by the bloodlust shade of what felt like sunset, and his remaining tunnel vision could only focus on L in the distance. Even against the burning backlight that transformed L into a shadow puppet, he could perceive the crouched position that distinguished him, the languid forefinger and thumb dropping pebbles into a pool of gleaming silver. He could almost hear the sound, almost, almost, now, but though he walked and walked across the field of wild grass, he drew no closer to his destination.

The scenery was looping, somehow. He tried to outwit the system by walking in a zigzag, walking forward and then doubling back and walking forward again, even walking in a completely irrelevant direction and around in circles and hopping, but no matter what he did, he couldn't reach the place L had.

Light was losing to him again.

No sooner had this occurred to him than his fingernails were raking across his scalp in an attempt to snag onto the thought and drag it out of his mental process by force, and he spoke to himself in low dangerous hisses that were curses as much as reassurances.

The sound must have carried across the grassland, because L stood up then, cocking his head slightly, as if inviting Light to sit with him. No smirk could be seen for the shadows, but that only made the derisiveness and dangerousness of the gesture doubly evident. The dark pressure that was L threatened Light's very existence.

"Fuck you! I never want to see you again!" Light exploded, and his U-turn sent him crashing into L, his face burying itself directly in unruly raven tresses. "W-what the—!" he spluttered through a mouthful of hair he had inhaled in his surprise, and reacting on instinctual feelings of alarm and suffocation and disgust, he aimed an uppercut at the static line on L's lips that spoke of neither self-satisfaction nor surprise.

The blow barely landed — the briefest graze of knuckles across L's cheek, more of a caress than anything — as the backward momentum of L's palms against his chest began to overwhelm his own forward momentum, and he found himself on the ground, being looked down upon again. That was going to change.

"You used the Death Note," he accused.


No shame, no hesitation; a simple, undecorated statement, which Light should have expected from L, but still it took him aback. He jolted upright, his own eyes probably wider than L's, whose gaze had become darker and droopier in death, as if the hood of execution had yet to be fully removed.

"Then this world — there's no question — it holds only humans who've written in a Shinigami notebook."


"And you… you want to be partners."

L said nothing, only shuffled to Light's side and lowered himself down to Light's level, folding his arms across his knees and staring out at the silver sea levelly. There was no lack of clarity in L's body language, a sense of finality in the silence that was settling, but even so, a caged bird of a word chose this moment to escape Light's lips: "Why?"

Blended black irises and pupils landed on Light like dice rolling snake eyes, teeth flashed like fangs as lips parted, though the lethal dose of vindication for which Light braced himself never came. The next moment L's mouth had disappeared behind his arms and his eyes were focused on the water again.

"Because Light Yagami is brilliant, innovative, zealous, cunning," L enumerated without an ounce of venom. "Because this is not the time for your or my stubbornness. Six years, and I have yet to discover the secret to escaping this place. Do not be conceited enough to believe that you will have more luck on your own. We must combine our intellect and skill sets to achieve success: that is the conclusion I reached many years ago… many, many years ago, and I… am tired, Light. I just want to see my family again. You can understand that, can't you?"

The silence stretched so long and thin between them that it was becoming difficult for Light to breathe. Opening his mouth in an attempt to speak, his choked vocal chords crackled and croaked pathetically, and worst of all was the complete lack of acknowledgement he received when L murmured, "No, I suppose not. You've never cared about anyone but yourself."

Light said nothing, only brought one leg upward and paused with his hand on his knee, reveling in L's uneasiness perhaps longer than he should have before offering reassurance that he wasn't leaving with an outstretched hand. His peace offering was regarded with open suspicion, if not entirely rejected by the way L's body stiffened, yet the moment he began to pull back, L's hand darted out and firmly clasped his own. From there, all it took was one jerk of the wrist to upset the balance of L's precarious perch and send him tumbling face-first onto the ground.

Light said nothing, but he did laugh himself senseless.

A/N: "Past experience: He who never makes mistakes, never did anything that's worthy." – My lucky fortune cookie. Good luck, Light, on your path back from sociopath land! Moreover, may my Death Note fanfiction debut be a success! I'll post the next chapter of Ad Hominem soon and my other Death Note fanfiction too, so alert me if you're interested. Thank you for reading.