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.

The sky was the deepest black that Light had ever seen. Even the crescent moon was dull and thin, like the closed eye of a greater being unwilling to look upon the wretched world below him, let alone grant it illumination.

Regardless, the water shone, seeming to glow from beneath the surface rather than reflect the moonlight. The luminance seeped out as pearly fog and clung to the whites of L's eyes and shirt, to the pallor of his skin, making the man appear cadaverous even though his eyes were becoming more animated as their debate dragged on into the night.

"You have no sense for metaphor. A hospital is a place of healing, right?" Light waited for L to nod minutely before continuing, knowing that what he said next would be poorly received at the very least, yet he was firm in his beliefs. "This world is deteriorating. I think we're supposed to fix it."

"Ah, I see. This ocean must represent the need to reflect on one's sins and repent; this sand, the time we have to do so; and as for this oddly shaped rock, I have not yet discerned its deeper meaning, but I am certain it is a key element in this theory. Perhaps Light can 'enlighten' me." L's lips had barely closed around the last vowel of his statement but already the last grains of a fistful of said sand were slipping through Light's fingers, over L's head and down his face and nape and shirt. L made no move to counterattack; he didn't even attempt to shake off the sand. Apparently, 'once is once' was as dead as the detective, his response only a sulky, "Why would you do such a thing? I was merely elaborating on your theory…"

"No, you were mocking me," Light retorted, brushing sand off his hands with the air of a surgeon removing bloodied gloves after surgery. "And I think that's quite enough of your childishness. You're obviously refuting all of my theories just for the sake of it. Why else would this world have a hospital as its center point? My theory is the only possibility, really. I'm right and you're wrong, it's as simple as that. You know, you—" Light stopped dead at the brink of more colorful abuse, because L had become engaged in the most grating of his many irksome behaviors: smirk-smiling. Suspicion was only the tonal and facial coating for his more deep sense of foreboding when he probed, "What?"

"This world isn't based on a hospital, though it is amusing that you think so. Our town is just beyond that hill," L gestured to their right, and now that it was pointed out, Light was surprised he hadn't noticed that the sky was the slightest bit brighter in that direction. "The hospital building acts as a containment facility of sorts for hopeless cases… those who are banished or who do not wish to coexist in a civilization. That is all."

"And you decided to banish Kira himself from your Death Note civilization? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. I should be your leader. I—"

"Ah. Do not misunderstand me." Plucking up a blade of grass, L began to chew on it, muffling his words somewhat as he continued, "You were born in the hospital, not banished to it. It is as you said, I presume… the hospital building has meaning to you because you want to fix things. As for me…"

"…As for you?" Light prompted when it seemed L wouldn't continue. The blade of half-chewed grass had slipped from parted lips unnoticed, leaving a drip of saliva-dew.

"I was born in the theatre." When L's eyes turned from the water, the reflective ripples and blur cleared and his pupils were darker and harder than ever. "Ironic, isn't it, that neither Kira nor L were born into this world's courthouse."

Light chose not to respond to that comment, falling back on old habits of squabbling to avoid difficult matters. "Why didn't you tell me about this 'town' sooner? Every theory I've put forth has been founded on misinformation."

"I thought perhaps you could offer a new perspective without knowing… but truthfully, I didn't expect you to come up with any idea I hadn't. There is only so much scope to theories physical and metaphysical, and I have spent years contemplating both."

"You forgot the cynical: that there really is no way out," Light deadpanned. The frown L gave him was musical, tying two flat notes together. "Luckily, I'm an optimist, or I would have walked out on this partnership hours ago. You're the most insufferable person I've ever known. Truthfully, L, I wish I could kill you all over again."

"…That is nice to know," L answered, equally apathetic. "Optimism will be necessary because I believe our task is virtually impossible. Our solution likely lies in the documents in the library, but I have not been able to do much more than find patterns in the writing. It is a language I do not recognize, modern or ancient. It may be the Shinigami—"

"If it's in the Shinigami language, I can read it." The cocky declaration was with mute skepticism received. "Really. I made Ryuk teach me."

"Ryuk was your Shinigami?" L interrogated.

Light, belatedly realizing his mistake, tried to correct it with a conversational tone. "Yeah. He'd do anything for an apple."

There was a contemplative expression on L's face, but no deeper questions came, and for that Light was grateful. He wanted to disassociate from those days, from his failings, and have a new beginning in this place… but if fragments of his past were waiting for him beyond that hill, could anything really change? Would he be the phoenix rising up from the ashes only to burst into flames again?

Silently still, L arose and wandered in the direction of that vague light in the distance, movement that was slowness, forwardness that was disinclination, a light that consisted of darkness. Maybe it wasn't an invitation, but Light followed.

Molten-cold silver swallowed him whole. It was a liquid that tasted like frost-paned windows and burnt tastebuds all in one, a metamorphosis of shadows that glowed, and he could touch the surface of the shifting sea, but it was solid somehow — oh God, he was going to drown —

L's fingers pincered his shirt cuff and led his hand to the sandbank, and though that was as far as the help extended, Light found that he could pull the rest of his body out without much difficulty. Laid out on his back, gasping for breath, he didn't feel grateful at all — he was fuming. He should have been ruling a New World by now, not struggling to survive in one.

"You are incompetent." L spoke it as a fact, not an attack, which made Light broil all the more.

"Just a few hours ago, it was 'Light Yagami is brilliant'. Insult or praise, I don't trust a damned thing you say." Grimacing more than scowling with the realization that his clothes were drying at an alarming speed, certainly not pleased, Light jerked upright and heard as much as felt the odd crackle and pop of opalescent chalk coming off fabric and skin. It became dust and who knows what, vanishing almost instantly into the sand and air like evidence being whisked away from a crime scene.

This place, more than anything, was his enemy.

Though Light was focusing the full force of his glare on that ocean of unearthly substance, he sensed when L was about to speak and cut him off with a brusque, "Don't waste your breath. I'm thinking."

"That's boring. I want to go now," L prodded.

"Then leave," Light parried carelessly. "I'll come when I'm ready."

"What if you take an eternity?"

That droning voice was impossible for Light to block out, somehow. Even the barely there sound of L's feet shuffling and shifting in the sand, impatiently, hurry, picked at him like a hyena for carrion meat. He kneaded his forehead in an attempt to stir his thoughts, but a viable solution refused to present itself, and what was once a soft swirling motion became an agitated beat, and one shut up, and two go away, and three…

"Let's make a deal."

"No," Light's vocal chords acted of their own accord, though his fingers stilled, sheltering half of his face with a somatic opera mask.

"I will teach you how to move around freely if you will teach me to read Shinigami," L proposed, heedless of the uncivil refusal he had received; but Light was equally stubborn.

"No," he repeated.

"Yes," L countered, and then Light was half on his hands and knees, half on his feet, being dragged through sand that tripped him again and again, trying desperately to regain his balance enough to get a punch or kick in—

He didn't even have a chance to speak before he was shoved in some random dark direction… and suffusing him was light, as if he had suddenly opened his eyes or flicked some switch in his mind. Though it was dim in substance, the night it contradicted had been so utterly starless and black, many disorienting moments of squinting and swiveling passed before he realized that L wasn't with him and this definitely wasn't a library.

"…Fuck," Light muttered, righting himself without leaning on the chair beside him, almost afraid it would crumble to dust if touched. Everything in this room looked strangely out of place, delicate, as if the ruddy candlelight swimming on the surfaces of the dinnerware would leave stains. It was too perfect, like the scene for a movie or a picture from a hotel brochure, the exact opposite of and yet essentially the same as the decrepit hospital building, and Light held no delusions that he was back in the living world, not even for a moment.

Still, it startled him when the shadows themselves seemed to seize him, twisting his arm behind his back and smothering any sound of shock he could have made against the tablecloth. The percussion of his forehead on the tabletop, the dying whine of broken glass, spoke in his stead. Only after the fact did he groan in disorientation and distress, sensing hot candle wax dribbling onto his flesh and blood in his eyes and the sharpness of a knife threatening his throat. Most of all, though, he tasted the betrayal, a thousand needles of expectation like rusty nails and insect claws in his mouth.

"Light Yagami… finally…" A familiar voice behind him, dark and deep, but his attacker wasn't L after all — not directly, at least. The crimson curtain had parted as he blinked rapidly, enough to reveal L standing just across the table, simply staring at him.

"Aren't you going to help me?" Light spoke softly, lest he slit his own throat with an overactive Adam's apple, yet there was still some sibilance slithering along the surface of his words, accusing L as much as coaxing him to take a bite, take a bite now, because I have the Knowledge. The blade nicked his skin and sent a peel of blood shivering downward, but it was only a superficial wound, and wasn't he immortal now, a true god? "I thought we were in this together."

When the only thing L bit into was the flesh of his thumb, openly suppressing a smirk, it was Light who felt naked with realization, not shamed but infuriated. His snarl was a declaration of renewed war, Kira versus L, God versus the Devil himself, and fallen angels would fall again.

"Let him go."

Someday, sometime, L's words registered in his mind, and what finally faltered and fell apart was the fated cycle. L had his eyes focused on something beyond Light, bleak and boreal, but…

"No." There was mania in that voice, murder.

Involuntarily, Light swallowed.

"I will tell you everything I know about Naomi Misora if you promise to leave him alone from now on."

"Na…Naomi?" It was less than speech, the groping sound of a baby trying to form words. "You know her, Ryuzaki?"

"Indeed. Do we have an agreement?"

Light was freed directly, though he scrambled across the room so quickly that it caused a spasmodic visual blackout, accentuating his own heartbeat, his shattered breaths which only seemed to cast the oxygen further from his chest; and L's decree, rising above all, "Light, you may wait outside."

Without missing a beat, he began to argue his case, "Why should I? I want to—" only to be grabbed yet again and tossed aside like disposable waste. Stumbling dizzily through the dark, unsure if it was mental or physical, he latched onto the first thing his outstretched hands came across, a pole of some sorts, and leaning up against it to stabilize himself, he reversed direction and shouted, "When I get my hands on you, L—!"

There was no response.

Light licked his lips and distinguished blood, dripping down from his head wound or perhaps it was from biting himself… but hadn't it been L who bit…? Why was everything spinning like this? He shook his head, as if he could knock out a remnant of that metallic almost-liquid lodged inside his eardrums, some grime still swirling around with his cerebrospinal fluid, and when he settled again his squinted eyes glimpsed a perfect blue sky.

Perfect, until his eyes opened wide enough to discern the clouds that had always been there, blurred into the background. They were neither cumulus nor cirrus, nor were they even monochromatic in shade; they were multidimensional see-through, like soap bubbles that had drifted too high, and even if Light had so desired, it would have been impossible to translate those shapes to the names of earthly objects.

Without a sound, without even a scowl, he slid down the pole to sit on the ground. His expression was a blank slate as he stared out at that grid of divides, where blue sky met green eternity, where overgrown grass suddenly became flat, where white lines marked the boundaries between in and out, because hadn't it always been as simple as choosing sides — as difficult? This wasn't a game anymore, but this wasn't a war either. This was something much more complicated, much more wretched, than ever before: internal affairs.

Light closed his eyes to the colors and questions and waited patiently. Here, on the tennis courts, it was inevitable that L would find him again.

A/N: I torture Light because I love him. Really. I hope you're willing to continue, because there's still a lot of plot to get through, and rejoice! for the next chapter will be more straightforward... probably. Your support has been the most amazing thing. Thank you so much, each and every one of you!

Additional info…

"The internal affairs division of a law enforcement agency investigates incidents and plausible suspicions of lawbreaking and professional misconduct attributed to officers on the force." – Wikipedia. XD;

"It became dust and who knows what" — This line was adapted from something Rem said in the manga: "At that moment, Gelus became sand and rust and who knows what… …and died."

"a perfect blue sky" — I had the film by Satoshi Kon in mind when I wrote this line. I won't give anything away, but I will say that both Perfect Blue and Ad Hominem play with the concept of reality/fantasy. If you've already seen Perfect Blue, hopefully you understand why I associated it with Light and L's relationship and their characters.