Title: Snowing on the Beach
Rating: PG (May go up later for language/violence)
Author's Note: I was sure that I would never write fanfiction for a T.V. show of all things! I was trying to write something original, and this just sort of popped into my head, so I'd thought I'd see where it went. Any critique would be greatly appreciated, especially about characterization and emotional development! This first chapter doesn't have a whole lot to do with the rest of the plot except to introduce characters. To be perfectly honest, I don't know where this is going. If I get a response, I'll try my best to expand! This is my first crack at T.V. fanfiction, but I'll try my best. The math that I use will be real, but I cannot reach the level of sophistication required for Mr. Epps, so please bear with any vagaries.
Extra Note: I did just post this and then take it down. After reading it online again, I was unhappy with the formatting (it was confusing) and a couple of typographical errors. It's back now! Thank you thank very much to the two reviewers who read it before I took it down. I really appreciate the critique! Also, if anyone is interested, it was brought to my attention (thank you!) that I really need a Beta reader for this, if I'm to continue. Please let me know if you're interested!
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the T.V. show numb3rs, nor do I own any characters, concepts, or anything else relating to the show. I'm simply borrowing some of them because I was too lazy to make up my own. The poem at the beginning of the piece is mine though, but I don't think it's worth stealing…
transition of time between flashbacks and present are denoted by 358976198s because I couldn't figure out a better way...
Snowing on the Beach
Like watching fireflies
In a cracked mirror
Voices and hands
Linger, little more,
Than listless windowpanes
Vision blinks away quiet steps
Only to emerge unwilling,
That sends home into the shadows
And twists streetlights
Into children of metal
And shys away.
A tie comes undone
Coarse rope is unbound
It's cold here
And on the beach,
Eyes half closed, Lily slung her book-bag off of her sore shoulder and let it crash to the ground with a distinct bang. He body followed, albeit slightly more gracefully, into a sitting position. Sighing, the young woman began pulling the zippers on the orchid-colored bag, dragging them open and pulling out notebooks of various colors and sizes. Which one first? She wondered nonchalantly. It didn't matter. It never did. The first book that came into her hand was blue- humanities- so she opened it to where the assignment was written and began the response questions to the latest discussion, this one involving human dependence supernatural explanations in place of scientific, and why they were so popular. It would have been interesting, had the class been comprised of more than seemingly prokaryotic teenagers. Alas, the apathy and apparent complete absence of intelligence from her classmates made actual discussion, as opposed to a piece-by-piece elementary break-down of archetypical themes, impossible.
Lily sighed as she wrote the response, her pen becoming maudlin as she immersed herself in the question, daring for once, to actually think about, and articulate an answer.
"Hi mom!" The older woman had just turned the corner into her daughter's room, her short brown hair falling onto the edge threshold gilding as she leaned against the doorway.
"How was school?"
"It…kind of sucked." Lily replied honestly. "I met a group of tilapia in the biology lab that had a higher IQ then that of the rest of the class combined."
"Tilapia. Freshwater fish that people in Africa raise for food." Her mom raised her eyebrows.
"Lily, remember when you asked me to tell you when you started saying nerdy things, because you wanted to sound more normal?"
"That would be now." Lily smiled slightly as she looked up at the older woman, but it quickly faded in the dullness of her amusement. A year ago, something like that would have sent her into a giggle fit, but now, all she got was vague amusement.
"Sorry. I was looking up something else for the class and the word caught my eye because it matched the name on the tank. I didn't intentionally choose a nerdy word."
"I know, but I'm just…letting you know."
"Thanks." There was a brief pause, and then her mother spoke again, her kind eyes glancing down at her daughter in regret.
"I'm sorry you hate school so much. I really am." Lily looked up in the beautiful brown orbs that matched her own, now observing her slumped-over self.
"I know mom." The older woman lingered for a moment in her restive stance, and then pulled herself up, standing straighter.
"Your appointment with the therapist is today, remember?" Lily looked back down at her scrawled paragraph and continued it, nodding vaguely.
"Yeah, I know. I don't think it's going to help anything."
"I don't know Lily. I really don't. I just want you to be happy." The girl's floundering pen stopped, and she looked up again, her demeanor betraying no expression, not because she was suppressing emotion, but because she was incapable of it.
"I know mom. I really do, and I'm willing to go."
"I know Lily. I-"
"I don't know what happened."
She followed him numbly, the cool colors of the offices curling and blurring through the back of her senses. She was cold. But the feeling was unworldly, far from physical, far from her, and even farther from reality, because reality was so far away from her.
"Nina Rissaya was a federal agent. She was protected. I don't know how someone found out about her." Nina…that…that was my mom. But my mom wasn't a federal agent. She was a chemist. What did they find out? She was just working on particle accelerations research for Calsci. That's all. What is this about a federal agent? What does it have to do with my mom?
"I don't know what to do with her. We can't just…" The words made her feel dirty, a dreaded chore that was being put off because no one wanted to do it.
"Relatives?" The first speaker was leaning on the corner of a desk casually, looking rather harried. She wished she could tell him to forget it, that she could take care of herself, that it didn't really matter anyway.
"Too risky. Whoever planned this wasn't alone. And at the moment, I don't know what the motive was. Could very possibly have been random, could possibly be something for revenge, someone who'd like to take out her daughter too. We just don't know enough!" He was a tall man, several inches over six feet, with short-cropped black hair. His nose and eyes were Italian, but not his skin-tone, which was pale and creamy.
"We could put her into protective custody." The other speaker was a tall, black man who was sitting straight backed and rigidly in a rolling chair. The only out of place aspect of his crisp cut figure in his suit and tie was the dirt stains spread across his knees from taking out a murderer with the gun at his waist. She had seen too many guns lately. One, to be exact.
"The kid just saw her mother die. We can't do that." The first man shot her a meaningful look, which made the black man frown.
"All the more reason to-"
"Well then what do you suggest?"
"I don't know. There's so little. Our only suspect is dead, along with the CIA agent he was after. And you know how much the CIA hates us. It could take weeks for information. They could decide never to give us any if they wanted."
"You could take her home."
"Take her where?" The other man shrugged as the not-quite Italian looked agitated. His work-day should have ended much earlier. I'm a pain, an extra task.
"She'd be as safe as anywhere in your house, I mean with your brother and dad. You could stay there a couple of days, and if something goes bump in the night, you can shoot it for her." Shooting. Everything came back to that.
"I'm not going to-"
"Do you ever dream?"
"Hmm?" Lily glanced up. The therapist was peering at her with something that looked like concern. The idea of a doctor looking worried should have scared her but it didn't.
"Do you have dreams?"
"Uh, yeah, of course." she responded.
"And how do you feel in them?"
"How do I feel in them?" The dark-maroon in the wall paper disturbed her senses, the colors stifling to them. Her eyes felt like choking on the dim light and diploma-covered shelves.
"Do you have emotions in them?" Lily squinted back at the shrink, wondering what had made her agree to the visit. The idea of actually talking to someone who would listen with undivided attention had appealed at first, thinking perhaps that the alienation of keeping everything to herself would be cured in the process, but now she just wanted to leave and go bottle her thoughts somewhere private.
"No, but I never have. I don't ever feel anything in dreams."
"What about nightmares? Surely you've had a nightmare that's scared you."
"Yes, but not until I'd woken up. I'm always detached in dreams, like watching everything happening rather then being in it."
"And is that how you feel now, in reality" Like you're just a spectator?" I'm not schizophrenic, I'm bored, she thought noncommittally.
"No, not really. I just, stopped caring about things. I mean, I function, I walk and talk and do my homework and communicate. Sometimes I laugh. But it doesn't make me happy."
"It doesn't?" Lily shook her head slowly.
"Are you upset a lot?"
"No. I get depressed sometimes when I realize how few things make me happy. But not generally."
"So you just, don't feel anything?"
"I just… exist. I don't care about anything that I used to care about- music, writing, academics, whatever. I don't hate the world, I'm just indifferent to it."
"Does anything ever trigger emotion?"
"I don't know. Not really. Sometimes, now and then I guess." Lily wanted to leave, to go home and hole herself up somewhere and just sit. This was going nowhere.
"You said earlier that you dislike school. Why is that? Is it hard?." She might have laughed, but it wouldn't have been funny. She decided to vent.
"No, that's exactly the problem! It's ridiculously easy…it's useless. The teachers teach the same thing over and over again, at this snail pace that I can't stand. And they assign all this busy-work that takes forever to do, and teaches me absolutely nothing! I cold take a much, much faster pace then the supposed "honor" classes, and I wouldn't consider myself extraordinary. I'm just basically intelligent, I guess. It's stupid! Why can't they teach faster?" The shrink shifted in her chair, looking almost offended, as though the outburst had been directed at her.
"Your parents tell me that you have a tendency to push yourself very hard in school. And your transcript shows that all your classes are APs. Your report-cards are flawless."
"I haven't had to push myself at all intellectually. I mean, I push myself to get all my work done, yes, because there's a lot. But none of it is challenging. I feel like I never have to stretch my mind for anything, like it's getting all slow and useless because I never get a chance to."
"So school bores you." For a shrink, you're not too bright. Lily immediately bereted herself for the uncharitable thought, even though she hadn't mentioned it aloud. The shrink was just trying to help her, just trying to make sure everything was clarified. She was supposed to be trying to be more tolerant of other people to put up with them better. Mentally antagonizing the doctor wasn't productive, anyway.
"Yes. I've been trying to convince my parents to let me start college earlier, or home-school me, but they're reluctant. They think that I'm socially deficient as-is."
"Do you have friends?" Lily hesitated, and then decided that the barren truth would be the most efficient system of response.
"Yeah, there's a lot of people that would be called my friends, but honestly, they just irritate me. They seem really immature a lot of the time, all worried about their petty problems. I put up with them, in school and stuff, but, given a choice, I wouldn't choose to spend time with them if I didn't have to." That definitely sounded anti-social.
"Is there anyone who you do want to spend time with?"
"I like hanging out with my mom."
"Anyone else?" She shook her head. There was nothing to say that wouldn't incriminate her farther in the theoretical world of the physiatrist's mind. She'd be labeled "mentally unstable." She wasn't though. It was just how she liked things- her mind was chaotic without the bedlam of other people. She just preferred the quiet emptiness of solitude, something her mother and no one else seemed to respect. She liked silence.
"You can have this room for now.
Breath, just breath. She took a step forward, then another, then slowly laid the light bag she was carrying onto the oblong cover of the single bed. She couldn't remember where she had gotten it.
The cold green of the walls wrapped themselves around her, chilling the dull ache in her head, her body, her mind. She couldn't remember how many sedatives they had given her. Too many.
"We'll do something for dinner in awhile. I have to go get some things straightened out, so you can settle in, take a shower, if you want to-" He looked at her hands, which were still crusted red-brown.
Not hers. The dark-haired man paused uncertainly and then swallowed, his expression of something that might have been sympathy. "If you want to get cleaned up. There are towels in the closet in the hall. My brother and father live here, but they're not home right now. They'll be fine with you here. My dad's really great," he made an attempt at a smile. "He'll take you in as his own as soon as he lays eyes on you. And my brother...my brother is a few years older then you, but he's a little- advanced. He spends most of his time in his own little world, so he's a bit…well, he probably won't notice you're here until you kick him, and then even then, you've got less then a fighting chance. Don't take it the wrong way if he walks around a corner and doesn't see you. I'll clear things up with them when they get home and do some introductions, but that's just a heads up.
She nodded. Anything to make him go away. She needed…she needed…she didn't know. To close her eyes, to stop thinking, to stop the images that seemed burned into her eyelids.
"You can…look around when you're done, get your bearings if you want." The dark-haired man looked at her again, looking unsure of what to say. There was a softness in his voice that she wouldn't have expected from his apparent demeanor. He cleared his throat, as though there was something caught in it. Then he nodded and left…
"How was it?" Lily thought that her mother's eyes laughed even when she was concerned, never mockingly, but rather tenderly, with compassion. They laughed with a soft lilt that said, there's something beautiful in everything. If there was one thing she could focus her mind on, it was her mother's affection. It was the one thing that always warmed her, always comforted her, even when she came close to panicking for her lack of the ability to do so.
"I don't know. It might have been useless, it's hard to tell."
"It takes time, Lily." She got into her car and started the ignition. The younger woman peered out through the front window.
"Hey mom, we're only about three miles from home. Can I run it? I need the exercise, to get some tension out. Please? I'm all dressed to go to the gym anyway." Her mom glanced at her.
"I don't know. Can't you wait until we get home?"
"Mom, it's only three miles, I run past here sometimes, anyway. I'll watch out for cars, but there's not that many, honestly!" It was true- the professional complex had only one road leading into it, and it was a little-used residential street.
"Mm… alright, but if you're not home in twenty-five minutes, I'm going to be worried and send out the national-guard to look for you." Lily smiled, again rather disappointed by the lack of spark in the expression, and opened the car door, shaking her arms and legs slightly to get ready for the journey home.
"Thanks mom, I'll see you in twenty-five minutes. Bye!" She closed the car door and inhaled the warm, early-evening air. It called to her, the joyful carelessness that it held, whirling around her hair, her eyes, tugging at her clothes. Lily waved as her mother began to drive away and then began the brisk jog home, savoring the lovely freedom of open-air, taking great greedy gasps of the sweet breeze…
The hot water cascaded down her back, but she shivered uncontrollably. She couldn't cry. The tears wouldn't come. She wasn't capable of them, nor could she remember the last time that she had been. The girl hated herself then. Hated herself because her mother had died in her arms and she didn't have the decency to cry. Because I'm so cold. I can't love. I can't even be loved, I'm so cold…
"Mom? Mom, I'm back!" She was sweating a bit from the exertion of her foray, but it had felt good. Not fantastic, but good.
"Mom!" Something wasn't right. She should have been right there, making dinner. Lily wandered into the small kitchen, wondering why the light blue walls suddenly looked so forbidding. Where was she? Don't let your imagi- there was something on the floor.
There was so much blood.
"Mom!" Someone else was there. Someone else with a gun.
There was so much blood.
Screaming. Guns; more then one. Paramedics. Needles. Numb.
Silent. The stillness did nothing to sooth her mind, but the sound of her own ragged breathe taken in by no more than deaf ears was calming. Slowly, she made her way through the empty house, unsure of her steps, not caring where they took her. There was a room at the end of the hall, its door open.
She turned into it, the last gasps of the sun throwing a sharp ray of light into her eyes. The room that she had entered was accented with a large, multi-paned window, offering a dazzling view of the serenity of wildly growing greenery. Darkened emerald leaves were resting on the deep russet of huge tree-trunks. The more vibrant greenery that covered the ground served only to create the effect of an artistically rendered scene, the color darkening as it rose, and then opening and funneling open into the azure sky. The contrast centered on the darkest point, the depths of the beeches, lending them a forbidding fantasy to pace upon the gaze of the scene's beholders. She glanced at it blindly, taking in the chill of the darker colors without noticing it, drawing all the coldness of her surroundings around her like a cloak.
After several moments, the young woman turned away from the cold sunlight and brought her attention to the chamber she had ventured into. The floor was completely covered in papers, hundreds of them, from two by three poster papers to sticky-notes scattered around. There was no method to the mess of color and words, just a chaotic mass of blurring concepts. The lack of order appealed to her, registered to her much like her own thought process, and she knelt down slowly, her mind wandering to the meaning of the like-structure. The first paper to catch her eye was a simple piece of loose-leaf that looked like it had been stolen from a notebook. A legible scrawl covered the page, numbers and letters scattered everywhere. Slowly, her hand reached down and brushed it as she took in the equations and expressions, processing the variables.
There didn't seem to be rhyme, nor reason to the train-of-thought that had created the work, but it made sense to her, the first thing to seem logical since- she couldn't remember.
Someone wanted to calculate the surface-area of a triangle of space, a plane that rose upward over an area from an altitude of three thousand feet to sea-level. The mathmatician had set up several three-by-three matrices, and used the determinant matrix to solve it using three variables. It was a waste of time, she thought, that they didn't simply plug-in the known locations of the corners of the triangular space. But one of the unknowns was I, the imaginary number that couldn't be used as a real number in the solution. How someone could use I when expressing real-surface area was beyond her, but maybe they wanted to suggest negative space. Using imaginaries didn't seem like a very efficient way of going about it, but it created some interesting possibilities in the final solution. Cramer's law covered solutions for the determinant matrix being a real number, or zero, but never an imaginary. It was a possibility that the mathematician had apparently toyed with, trying several different methods to factor out the-
"What are you doing? Don't…don't touch that-" The temporary respite of the numbers pulled away, and she realized that she freezing. Slowly, the girl raised her head slightly from where she was knelt, towards the voice that had tugged her back into reality. The figure wasn't very tall, but taller then her, maybe just reaching six feet. His dark curls framed intelligent eyes and delicate features, matching a slender body and the expression that held more fear then actual anger in it.
"There's…" he shook his head slightly, looking unsure. "There's an order to it, if it gets moved…you wouldn't understand…them…"
"You're using imaginaries in a determinant problem. You're playing with Cramer's law" She didn't know if it was a satisfactory response. It was all she could think of, though.
He looked surprised at her answer, mystified, and even more perplexed with the idea of being perplexed then actually nonplussed at the fact that she knew what she was talking about. It really isn't difficult math until you get into it, she thought. From the volume of paper on the floor, whoever had begun this stash was definitely into it. She slowly stood up from where she had been kneeling, the awkwardness of the situation starting to creep into her mind.
"Charlie?" A voice came from down the hall and interrupted her in mid movement. She straightened slowly, her darkened eyes refusing to meet those of this strange person.
The other man who had brought her here entered the room, followed by another, older one. The three of them bore a strange resemblance to each other.
"Don?" The man with the curls had a soft, lilting voice. He turned towards the two men who had just entered the room, eyes filled with urgency, looking for some sort of guidance as to why there was a stranger wading in his sea of calculations. She got the impression of a helpless animal cub without his mother, worried and lost. She had no idea how close she came in that analogy.
"Charlie. Don't worry, she's with me." The new arrival stepped forward as though to shield the two figures who were staring at each other.
"I've been charged with protecting someone for awhile, and I didn't know what to do instead of bringing her home. She has connection to… a case, and I thought that she'd be safest where I could keep a direct eye on her." It was obvious that there were several unspoken implications in his words.
The man turned towards the young woman, who stood, swaying slightly, wondering when things would stop spinning around her. She couldn't remember when they had started this particular trick, but it seemed to her that the other people and papers were floating a few feet above the ground, moving in dizzying circles.
"Lily, this is Charlie, my brother. Charlie, this is Lily."