A/N: Heya. This is my first Death Note fic, just a short one-shot that jumped my brain and demanded to be written (and took me a ridiculously long time to hammer out, considering its length).

Credit for the idea goes to xThe Forgotten Uchihax, whose story 'This is What Victory Feels Like' is my inspiration for this; basically I stole the outline. XD But with permission! Ahem.

Disclaimer: Death Note. It is not mine.

Hollow Victory

One moment he was sitting in the chair and the next, he was falling.

The room was swathed in shadow; lit only by the dim red glow of the emergency lights, and the stark glare of the bank of computer screens, bearing their ominous message: ALL DATA DELETION.

The investigation team members were gathered around L in a loose semi-circle; the swirling confusion and near-panic an almost tangible thing amongst them. The detective alone had remained relatively calm, still hunched on the computer chair in his usual manner of sitting; staring intently at the screens as he barked out a terse question.

"Where is the shinigami?"

Light watched him with barely concealed anticipation, ignoring the panicked answers of the others. L was silhouetted by the harsh glow of the screens in front of him and Light could see the lines of tension in his body.

Watari is dead and you know it. You must realise you are next, L. The anticipation abruptly increased to the point it was almost unbearable. Rem has outdone herself. I hadn't predicted she would also take care of Ryuuzaki's right hand man for me. Or rather, forMisa.

Light struggled to keep the smile from creeping onto his face. And Rem didn't even realise what I was doing until it was too late. Which merely made manoeuvring the shinigami into the current situation all the sweeter. L, Watari and Rem all dead – or about to be – in one, devastatingly simple, move. Three dangerous foes wiped out. And to think, all he'd had had to do was ensure that Misa's life was endangered by L's current course of action to make Rem step in.

Light wasn't even aware of clenching his hand into a fist in anticipation, until his fingernails bit painfully deep into the skin of his palm. He forced them to relax slightly. Soon, it must be soon now.

He watched as L's head suddenly snapped up and his intensely focused gaze sharpened, as he came to some realisation.

"Everyone, the shiniga-!"

L choked mid-syllable. His entire body stiffened and the two fingers that delicately clutched his omnipresent desert spoon suddenly slackened.


The silent cry of triumph echoed in Light's mind.

The spoon seemed to take an age to fall. It hit the floor with a silvery clatter, the sound reverberating disproportionately loud in his ears; perhaps because of the way his entire being was so utterly focused upon the tableau in front of him.

L made an odd noise. A sort of choked gasp. Then he tipped sideways. Following the spoon to the floor, the chair skidding out from underneath him, his body collapsed in an oddly graceful way.

Elation flooded Light and fought to escape his throat in a burst of laughter, in a raw scream of victory. He restrained himself with difficultly. Just a little longer; it wouldn't do to give myself away now, when I'm so close to winning. The game isn't quite over yet.

Instead he threw himself forward, barely interposing his arms between L and the floor in time, catching the detective before his head could crack against the tiling.

"Ryuuzaki!" The frantic cry tore from Light's throat as he cradled L in his arms in a twisted parody of a protective embrace.

The detective blinked, looking up at Light. His face was etched in a mixture of shock and pain, eyes wide and almost child-like. It made him look younger – innocent.

Light was unable to stop it this time. A feral grin curled his lips; a vicious, exultant smirk that spread across his face as his feelings finally escaped from behind the normally flawless mask he wore.

L stared at him wordlessly, comprehension sweeping across his features. Then it was followed by a sort of grim satisfaction. I was right about you all along. You are Kira.

Light bared his teeth in a mockery of a smile, his handsome face twisted with savage glee as he read the thoughts clearly visible on Ryuuzaki's face.

Yes. I am. He replied with his eyes, locking gazes with the detective. L stared steadily back, despite the obvious pain he was in. But you're too late. Far too late in gathering proof – far, far too late to do anything about me. In a few seconds, you will die. His smile widened. I win.

L shuddered, his body jerking as his heart sputtered out its last few shaky beats. His eyes slowly began to close but he managed to direct a last look at Light before they lost focus. Still. I was right. Kira.

Then his eyelids slid down for the final time, closing over the black irises so unique to him. The great detective L drew in one last fluttering breath – and died.

Light felt the exact moment when it happened; felt the life leave Ryuuzaki's body, felt it in the hand that dropped limply from his shoulder, in the sense of emptiness and the sudden, absolute stillness that only death could bring.

Exhilaration burst through him, like a tidal wave of white-hot fire. He wanted to howl his victory to the sky, for everyone to hear. L is dead! See this, all of you who would oppose the new world to come, who would defy Kira! Kira has won! I have won!

Swallowing, Light reined in the impulse to let loose his emotions, and instead gazed down at the face of his defeated enemy, still cradled in his arms. He was aware of the bewildered questions of the men gathered around them but he ignored them for a moment longer, lingering over his victory, savouring the result of a long, hard battle of wits and deception - L's defeat.

Now, finally, I can concentrate on building my new world, with no opposition... To his surprise, the thought did not stir the usual mixture of eagerness and longing within him. Instead, Light was astonished to feel something a little like...disappointment?

The unexpected emotion made Light's smile fade a little. Anger followed hard on its heels. What's wrong with me? This is what I wanted!

He stared down at L's body, trying to understand what prompted the irrational feeling. Then, suddenly, he recalled a fragment of a half-forgotten conversation with Ryuk. Almost all the way back when he first met the shinigami – how long ago it seemed now! – Ryuk had commented upon surprisingly large amount of names Light had written down in such a short space of time. And Light had answered –

"I was...bored as well..."

Light stared unseeingly at his surroundings, his sharp mind turned inwards and rushing to put all the pieces together. Of course...he was so good at understanding puzzles and problems and plans but yet, how little he understood himself.

He had been bored. Had been excelling in everything. Was the top student in the whole of Japan. Brilliant and handsome and so utterly, mind-numbingly, bored. Nothing had been a challenge for his intellect anymore...until along came the Death Note. Something to occupy his attention, to push his boundaries, to invoke his boundless curiosity...something completely new.

And even better – a way to rid the world of a problem he had brooded upon his whole life, ever since he was old enough to understand the work his father did. How much better off the world would be without certain people. And a way to rid the world of evil had practically landed in his lap. It was fate. It had to be, even if Ryuk said that he had dropped the notebook near Light purely by chance. He was the right person in the right place.

Then along had come L – and suddenly Light was working harder than he ever had in his life, constantly clashing with the detective in a fierce battle of wits, ingenuity and guile. Plots and counter-plots, circles within circles, each had constantly sought to outsmart the other, to discover their respective identity.

The exhilaration Light had experienced had been incredible; finally meeting his match in a rival, someone who was his complete equal in intellect and cunning, who pushed him to the very limits of his capability. Added to that was the thrill of danger, the knowledge that one misstep would spell his capture and execution... he had never felt more alive than in the moments when he was inches from death.

But now...

Light came back to himself, back to the present, and looked down at the body of L, the empty shell that had housed the most intelligent person he had ever encountered. The man who had not just ensured that his work as Kira was interesting, but had in fact had turned it into the greatest and deadliest challenge of his life. But now... he was gone. And the world suddenly seemed a little emptier.

Irrational fury abruptly surged in Light's chest. You fool! Why couldn't you just have accepted I was right? Together, we could have been a force to be reckoned with, a force for good in this world...

L believed he was a force of good, remember? A discomfiting little voice whispered in the back of his mind; the lingering worry that sometimes crept up upon him in the dead of night, an acidic doubt that ate away at Light's conviction of righteousness.

What happened to you wanting to be a police detective when you became older? How can you accuse L of being wrong, when you could very easily have grown up to be just like him? Would have grown up to be just like him, if not for the fact that you found the Death Note.

No! Light pushed the thought away savagely. He was wrong! And a hypocrite! He tried to torture the information about Kira's identity from Misa! How can he accuse me of having the wrong methods?

The voice seemed to give a raspy chuckle. It sounded disturbingly like Ryuk. He was a hypocrite? Says you, who murdered those FBI agents, who murdered Misora Naomi, just because she happened to know the wrong information? Who was innocent of any crime?

Light's fists clenched. That was different. They...they didn't understand. They were trying to stop me! Stop me from creating a perfect world! That is a crime!

The voice laughed. Sure, kid. Whatever lets you sleep at night. It disappeared, fading back into the recesses of his mind.

Light blinked and breathed out heavily. He shook slightly. I am right. I am. I know that I am, that this is right. Morals must be placed aside in favour of justice. I am killing for a good cause. The end justifies the means.

That's probably what L thought, when he used torture to try and pry Kira's identity from Misa. The doubt was not so easily banished. It remained; a dark, silken caress in the back of his mind.



"Son, are you hurt?"

"What is going on?"

Light was abruptly aware of his surroundings again, of the anxious and afraid investigation team members crowding around him. With a supreme effort of will, he pushed his conflicted thoughts to the side and concentrated on the situation around him.

Now is not the right moment; there will be plenty of time for thinking later. Now is the time for action. I have a part to play. And a Death Note to recover.

But as Light shook L by the shoulders and called his name in a frantic voice, he couldn't help thinking –

Maybe, after all we have been through together, this is not all just an act.

He lowered L's body to the floor – with a piercing cry of sorrow for the benefit of the other men – and stared at the detective for perhaps the last time. A few strands of Ryuuzaki's wild black hair had fallen over his closed eyes. He could have been sleeping.

A pang of something like genuine regret stirred in Light at the sight, and perhaps even a little grief. Maybe...maybe our ideas were not so different after all.

As he rose to his feet, yelling anguished vengeance on the shinigami who had stolen L's life, he thought of every game of wits with the detective, every hard-fought battle, every test of shrewd cunning and resourcefulness, every moment of two great intellects pitted against one another...

And how, despite having won, despite having beaten L, Light didn't feel...satisfied. He would never again have the thrill playing of such deadly games against such a dangerous opponent. Would the rest of his life ever be able to compare? Had he reached the limit? Would the remainder of his days be spent ever seeking a new challenge; never to be content?

Light ran through the darkened corridors of the building, searching for the remains of Rem, and couldn't help but think that – for all that it had cost him to attain it – his triumph over L was something of a hollow victory.

A/N: Hey there again. xD Guess you made it all the way down to the bottom. Since you're already here; leave me a review? Thanks in advance. ;D

Also, I am currently watching the anime and have just finished episode twenty-five (hence my interest in this particular plotline) – so I have no idea whether the way I have written Light in the aftermath of L's death dovetails with how he behaves in future episodes.

In case you're wondering, I also wrote this to try and lift myself from my depression over L dying. The fight between him and Light, the tension and drama was what drove the whole story for me; the threat of L uncovering Light as Kira. I dunno how much I'll enjoy it without that. *sigh*

I also wrote it to try and convince myself that Light isn't a completely heartless bastard, even if he is behaving like one at present. I generally like most characters, and accept them as they are, warts and all. I want to like him, but Light's making it very difficult for me at the moment. -_- So I tried to put myself in his head. I mean, he's got to be pretty messed up psychologically by this point, having killed so many people.

One more thing, then I'll shut up: PLEASE DON'T TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! This viewpoint might or might not exactly fit with what comes after episode 25, but either way, I want to find out for myself. Thank you. Sorry for yelling. xD

Remember: review!