Changeling, chapter 15:

[…] if there's anything that would kill me, it is to wake up in the morning not knowing what to do. - Nelson Mandela

Harry woke up feeling like someone had scraped their nails down the inside of his skull. Groaning softly, he pushed the heels of his hands into his eyes and didn't even realize his arms were bare until he felt sheets slide against them. Eyes slitting open, he saw that the room he was in was unlit and quite bare. It faintly reminded him of the hospital wing at Hogwarts.

"You gave us quite the scare, you know," a female voice said and Harry turned his head and saw that Asian woman, whatever her name was, backlit on the threshold of the door. "May I come in?"

Drawing the sheets up to his chin as he tried to sit up without jostling his head too badly, Harry pursed his lips. "It's not like I can stop you," he said with a shrug more nonchalant than he felt. She must have seen his body. His stupid, damning, suspicious scars. She must have. Panic clawed at him, threatening to show on his face.

"That may be, but I'd still prefer having your permission," she said calmly, still waiting by the door. Harry nodded and only then did she approach him. "I think you took ten years off Matt's life, and considering how many decades Mello has already managed to shave off with his stunts, I daresay I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up with a full head of grey hair in his twenties." She pulled up a chair without waiting for a response, and Harry drew the sheets tighter around himself without commenting.

"I hope you'll be happy to know that your heart-rate, which was quite dangerously elevated, is now back to normal." She looked at him, and the realization of what had actually happened slammed into Harry. Right. The shower- a vision- ah, bloody hell. He felt a shiver creep up his spine. Just remembering the feel of drowning in the vision made his stomach clench. "And the bump on your head will take a few days to heal."

"Oh," Harry said, absently reaching up to feel said bump as he forced his panicked thoughts into a semblance of order. Was that why his head was pounding? He couldn't precisely ask the woman whether his headache was more likely to have been caused by falling on his head or having a nightmareish vision, and so kept the question to himself.

"Yes, oh." She reached out to fiddle with a long tube that Harry only now realized ended in a small square box attached to the top of his hand. Huh. He must be more out of it than he'd thought not to notice an IV, or whatever it was. She sat back, crossed one leg over the other and sighed. "I don't suppose you're going to tell me, if you know, what that was about?" The question came out flavored with a mix of resignation and exasperation, like she already knew he was going to deny her information and was asking just to get the question out there.

Though she was right in her assumption, Harry frowned a little inwardly. That wasn't a very good tack to take if one wanted an honest answer out of a person. Even more so from a child, he imagined.

"Where is Matt?" Harry asked, and watched the woman blow out an explosive breath. She didn't look surprised at the unsubtle evasion though.

"In his room, I hope," she said flatly. "You've been asleep or close to it for two and a half days, so right now you're not the only one abed. Hopefully." She then muttered something inaudible under her breath and ran a hand through her her. A twinge of guilt moved through Harry's chest, because the woman was thoroughly dishevelled. With her clothes wrinkled, bags under her eyes and hair like tumbleweed where he'd previously only seen it perfectly done up, she looked like she'd been up for days.

He cleared his throat. Despite his own feelings about her seeing him like that and the thought of the trouble it would undoubtedly bring him, she'd done nothing but been helpful. "Thank you."

"Yes, well." She made to shrug, a tired movement with slumped shoulders, and then gestured to his bed. "You might as well go back to sleeping. Morning isn't for a few hours yet."

"You're not going to ask me anything else?" Harry inquired, looking at her steadily and trying not to seem too surprised. He'd been expecting a one-woman Spanish inquisition, Madam Pomfrey-style. The woman laughed a short, dry laugh and shook her head.

"As much as I would like to converse more with you, you're not the only one in need of sleep. I had to ascertain that you weren't concussed, or had received any other head injuries that would flare up in any way as you slept." She rolled her shoulders and covered a yawn with her hand. "We have the results from your aptitude test," she said when Harry remained silent, picking up a folder and putting it on the small table by the bed. "You can look at it when you're done resting."

Harry glanced at the folder, but his curiosity was overshadowed by the concern that his scars would have revealed too much to the caretaker. And to Matt. He didn't know what to do, and that was not a pleasant feeling. Nodded briefly, and then settling into the bed more deeply, he kept himself covered to the chin all the while. For all the good that would do now.

The woman's eyes caught on his own for a second, and the flickers of worry about her tired face made him close his eyes. Everything was spinning out of control. She murmured a quiet good-bye and stepped out the door, and Harry squeezed his eyes shut harder.

The room was left in the kind of pale darkness that allowed him to see the outline of the furniture, so when the caretaker's steps had faded, Harry sat back up again and then walked across the room to lean on the door. Something in his thigh tugged and Harry looked down to find the stitches from the Painter's slash re-bandaged with a smaller wrap of gauze.

He shouldn't have gone to the showers. He'd avoided water so assiduously since he realized how out of control the scrying was, so how could he have fooled himself into thinking that he'd make it through a shower session? There was trying to stay unnoticed by not protesting doing 'normal' things unnecessarily, and then there was letting his fear of being discovered run him headlong into- into what had just happened.

And on that note, what had those golden droplets been? Harry's brow furrowed, even as he kept most of his attention on the slim gap between the door and the door frame. Opening it as quietly and carefully as he could, Harry stuck his head out, pursing his lips when he realized that he didn't recognize the room in his view. It was brightly lit, with beds along both walls and a flat TV in one corner. Another infirmary room rather than an exit. And there was a camera in one corner, a small light blinking red as the lens turned slowly to overlook the room.

Harry gently shut the door again before the camera's gaze could reach him and went back to the bed. Should he run? He didn't know what they thought was really going on with him, but sparking their curiosity in this way would never end well for him. It was bad enough Mello already had some vague, thankfully unformed suspicions because of that vase falling; what if he or one of the others started connecting the dots?

A voice that sounded eerily like a young Hermione questioned why they would connect him fainting in the shower with a vase breaking, especially since Mello was the only one to have seen the vase fall. More likely was that they'd be suspicious of his scars, and even if they were, those suspicions couldn't possibly fall in line with the reality of their presence...

Harry slowly dozed off to his mental Hermione's rationality, still cocooned in blankets.

There was a knock on the door, and Harry sat up ramrod straight at the sound. He couldn't actually keep anyone out no matter how badly he wanted to be left alone, not without using his telekineses, so- "Come in," he said and watched as Matt stepped through the door with a tray in his hands. The red-head smiled at him, but the expression didn't do much to lift the shade of darkness hovering about his gaze. Blue-greens and grey-purples' swirled slowly about the teen's form and Harry tried to keep his frown to himself. Worry and dismay were the essence of those colors, and such emotions would definitely mean that the teen wouldn't just leave him alone. As expected, really, as inconvenient as it was.

"How are you feeling?" Matt asked, stepping closer and moving an uncomfortable-looking chair to Harry's bedside.

"Alright," said Harry, running a hand through his hair, trying to seem less tense than he was. Matt placed the tray on top of the folder the caretaker had left behind and pushed it closer to him.

"I brought you tea and fruit." He paused and then moved a small tin to the edge of the tray. "And Huan said to give you these." Matt tipped the tin and a handful of pale yellow pills rolled out. The redhead seemed faintly apologetic and the air about him made it difficult to stay annoyed with him, as much as Harry resented the interference in his life. "Just a vitamin supplement," he explained and Harry could see the sincerity float around his face. He still didn't like it.

"How do I know they're just supplements?" he asked, and tried to tell himself it wasn't just to stall the inevitable questions Matt would have. The teen sighed, a wry smile on his face. Harry eyed him more carefully, and saw dark circles under his eyes. Now that he was looking closer, there was a taint of weariness behind the other colors in the teen's aura.

"You don't, I suppose." Matt gave a small snort. "Mello asked the same thing, once upon a time. Logically though, we have no reason to hurt you-" more worry in his colors and a quick flicker about his fully covered body made Harry's teeth clench - "- which I think you know." He held one of the pills and a glass of water in Harry's direction. "I won't force you, but trust me when I say that if I could convince the 'paranoia on two legs' that is my friend to take these, I'm pretty sure I could convince you. Eventually." He tried for a smile, to lighten the mood a little, Harry assumed. It was a very good attempt.

"Fine," Harry said and took the pill, throwing his head back as he swallowed it. He knew by Matt's aura that it wasn't poison, so why bother delaying it further? Surprise temporarily overwhelmed every other emotion in the red-head's aura, and Harry couldn't help the curl of vindictive pleasure at that. They were cornering him, no matter if they meant to or not, and Harry had never responded well to being cornered. He didn't want to hurt Matt, but acting according to his expectations and being generally cooperative wasn't something he felt like doing either. For a brief moment, he wished for Mello's presence, because then he could have lashed out verbally more without feeling bad about it.

"I was expecting more resistance, but I suppose that's just because I've been dealing with Mello for so long." Harry said nothing, and when Matt handed him an apple, he took it without complaint. It tasted like cardboard in his mouth, and his stomach was so tight with tension it took some real effort to swallow.

"Did you take a look at the results of your test?" Matt asked after a few minutes of silence but for Harry's chewing, moving the tray out of the way. Harry shook his head. "Mello's been quite curious," he added with a half-smile. Harry snorted.

"Curious like a shark is curious about the scent of blood?" Giving Mello information was like bleeding in a Black Lake mermaid's presence; at least that was the feeling Harry was starting to get. He pushed a fist into his stomach and took a discreet but deep breath. This worry wouldn't do him any good, and neither would refusing to eat, since he'd already been asleep for a couple of days. An IV could only sustain you for so long.

"Harsh," Matt said with the half-smile still in place, and picked up the folder. Harry tensed a little, but instead of opening it to read the results for himself, the teen handed it over. "But Mello isn't the only one who's curious, you know," he added with a fuller smile.

Harry made a non-committal sound as he skimmed over the first paper in the pile inside. The heading mentioned that a primary schedule had been included, and that this was a summary of the review of his scores.

Common Knowledge: Two thirds of the questions answered. You have been signed up for this class' accelerated basic course. (May be be tested at your leisure to proceed to next level of this course.)

History: Two thirds of the questions answered. You have been signed up for this class' accelerated basic course. (May be be tested at your leisure to proceed to next level of this course.)

Mathematics: Two thirds of the questions answered. You have been signed up for this class' accelerated basic course. (An examination may be requested at your leisure to proceed to next level of this course.)

Medicine: Less than a fourth of the questions answered. You have been signed up for this class' basic course. (The entire course must be completed. Testing is withheld.)

Computers: A little less than half of the questions answered. You have been signed up for this class' accelerated basic course. (An examination may be requested at your leisure to proceed to next level of this course.)

Psychology: A little more than half of the questions answered. You have been signed up for this class' accelerated basic course. (An examination may be requested at your leisure to proceed to next level of this course.)

Philosophy: Three fourths of the questions answered. You have been signed up for this class' accelerated journeyman course. (An examination may be requested at your leisure to proceed to next level of this course.)

Languages: Results withheld. Further testing required for an accurate gauging of depth of knowledge. Assumed to be at expert level at this point in time.

Astronomy: All questions answered. You have been signed up for this class' accelerated expert course.

Social Intelligence: A little less than half of the questions answered. You have been signed up for this class' accelerated basic course. (An examination may be requested at your leisure to proceed to next level of this course.)

"You're very quiet," Matt said, tilting his head. Harry looked up at him with a questioning frown. "Your results can't have been that bad," he continued, sounding confident. Harry supposed that since the teen was aware of his language ability, he felt he had reason to sound so sure. Or maybe he just meant to be encouraging.

"I don't really know what to compare them to," Harry said with a small shrug. Which was true. Was there anything below the basic level of courses? How well did a Wammy's kid usually do on this test?

"Would you like me to take a look at them?" Matt asked carefully, and the tone of his voice more than his colors told Harry that the teen genuinely didn't want to push. That lack of invasiveness was the only reason he decided to share the paper with the teen.

Matt's eyebrows climbed up his forehead as he read and then he looked over at Harry with a small smile. "These scores are nothing to sneeze at, Harry. Ending up in more than one or two accelerated basic courses is pretty uncommon for a newbie."

"But not unheard of," Harry concluded from the tone of Matt's words. Relief stirred in his stomach, unclenching some of the knot there. He didn't want to be in the spotlight, didn't want to be the very best of the geniuses. It should probably gall him that a bunch of real children apparently had similar scores to his, but all Harry felt was a sense of having dodged a bullet. That frog-man was interested in him enough as it was.

"Nah, not unheard of." The teen grinned a little at him, and Harry got the distinct impression that Matt himself had ended up in more than a couple of accelerated courses. "But this though," he said with bright eyes, flicking his finger at the Astronomy section, "- this is pretty damn rare. An expert score in two subject. Well, I guess I expected that on the language section. Why did you need further testing on it, though?"

Harry's voice was dry when he replied, "The test was for Spanish, Italian, French..."

"And no ancient Greek?" Matt looked like he was trying not to laugh and Harry shook his head at him. "Yeah, I guess they wouldn't have included that." The redhead sat up a bit straighter and looked him more carefully in the eye. "The astronomy, though. You didn't mention your eccentric instructors teaching you astronomy. To the point where you're on an expert level in the subject." His curiosity lacked Mello's sharpness, but Harry still felt himself pull back at that question wrapped as a statement.

"No, I didn't." He barely kept himself from crossing his arms defensively over his chest.

"Ah, keep your secrets. What would a prospective Wammy's heir be without them?" Matt rolled his eyes good-naturedly and Harry let himself relax again, before the words registered.

"What?" Heir? Harry saw Matt's color flicker with quickly smothered panic, and the part of him that wasn't focused on their conversation was impressed at how little of that panic showed in the teen's expression.

"Damn. I've really been up for too long..." Matt muttered, his thumbs tapping a soft rhythm onto the sides of his index fingers. "Nothing." He paused, then amended, "Or more like, I can't tell you."

Harry stared at him and tried to read anything worrisome into his aura, but Matt just seemed resigned and annoyed at himself. "But I'll find out?" He would push, not yet, not since he couldn't sense any threat. But he would remember what Matt had said just now.

"Eventually, yeah." Matt rubbed a hand over his face and sighed. "If you... if you enter the race for the Letters."

"To become the next L." He didn't want to get involved in that. He wanted to focus on those old scripts from the library. And he wanted his freedom.

"Not interested?" Harry threw the redhead a flat look and Matt nodded, looking thoughtful but not altogether surprised. "The competition can be fierce though, especially if the Letters find out about your results. And no, I won't tell them. But there are ways to find these things out," he said and then shrugged, though the spots of brown understanding aura were shaded in blue-green. It sounded seemed to Harry like Matt was already sure that his results would be found out, and with that thought in mind, it might be better to just prepare himself for it. It wasn't like he wasn't used to being resented and envied.

A minute passed in silence. "There was something else I wanted to talk to you about." He breathed out in an explosive sigh and Harry felt the muscles in his back tense up. "You know I've seen what you- what your body looks like."

At that, Harry immediately blanked his expression as much as he could, sliding his Unspeakable training over himself like a sheet of ice. Matt must have noticed the change, because grey-red flecks of wariness rose around his head. The worry was still there too, amplified, and he hurried to continue, "I'm not going to ask, I mean, it's not that I don't want to know- but it's your story to tell. But, uh, L decided that you need someone to talk to. That you need to talk to someone, I mean." He looked remorseful as he spoke and Harry saw a shelf on the other side of the room behind the teen, begin to rattle, faintly.

"L decided," he said slowly, forcing down the emotions that were triggering the tremble in the shelf and the slight flicker in the lamplight above their heads.

"Harry, you can't- You don't have to talk to me, but you know this isn't healthy. You're smart, so you know that you're not at your best right now. I don't know what you've been through, but it's not difficult to tell that it's something bad." Matt looked even more apologetic, though the wariness had increased to the point where Harry could glimpse it in his eyes at well.

"They can't force me to talk." Harry wound his arms around his knees, keeping his eyes locked to the teen's. If there was one thing he'd never reacted well to, it was being pushed around.

Matt nodded. "They can't. You could sit and stare at William and not speak a word."

Harry breathed out slowly. 'William', huh? "I could choose not to meet him at all."

"You could, but L might decide to lock him into your room with you if you refuse completely. Just to get a reaction out of you," he added with a faint but jagged smile, like he didn't approve of what he was saying.

Harry heard the pounding of his heart in his ears like a distant roar. "My past is none of L's business," he bit out and Matt jumped when a painting on the wall to his left crashed down to the floor, breaking the glass that covered the canvas. He turned to stare at it, obviously confused, and Harry almost cursed out loud. For Merlin's sake, he'd been as immovable as a stone statue in the face of Death Eaters and now he was on the verge of exploding at a teenager for being the bearer of bad news. Because you thought this world was going to grant you freedom. A new beginning. No plots to ensnare you, nobody out to get you, a voice in the back of his mind murmured. For some reason, it sounded a bit like the mocking tones of Draco Malfoy.

"He doesn't see things that way," Matt said slowly, eyes still on the painting laying face-down on the floor. "Anything and everything he's curious about is L's business, in his eyes. And you are a curious kind of person, kid."

Harry had a sinking feeling that if he didn't at least go through the motions of meeting with this William fellow, L would just get further involved in his business. Maybe box him in even more. Something in Matt's tone made him believe that it was something the detective had done before.

"And when does the illustrious L want me to meet with this William person?" He tried to keep the sharpest edge of his resentment out of his voice, but from Matt's expression, he didn't quite manage it.

"William is already here. That's actually the reason I'm here. I wanted to let you sleep longer, but your primary schedule has been completed and classes start tomorrow, so there isn't much time. Huan agrees that you should talk to someone, preferably before you step into a classroom with the other kids."

Harry had been able to tell that Huan was sincere in her concern, but having yet another person nosing about his personal life made his teeth clench. It felt like they wanted to rush him into this so he wouldn't have any time to work up a proper refusal, but that might just be his resentment talking.

"Fine. Where is he?" He play pretend with the mind healer. Psychiatrist. It wasn't like he'd be able to tell the truth even if he'd wanted to, so it'd all be a monumental waste of time on all their parts. But if this was the best way to ensure that he wasn't pushed into an even smaller corner with even less choices... well, it wasn't like he'd never been in worse situations.

Matt looked surprised, and rubbed his hands together in a way that looked nervous to Harry. "In an office further down the corridor. I'll leave you to get dressed. Take the time you need, okay? You can come out when you're ready." Harry would bet that that wasn't something L had encouraged the teen to say, but Matt's own feelings about the situation shining though. The teen didn't seem to like the apparent rush-order on his and William's meeting either.

Matt left, and Harry slowly dressed in clothes he imagined Huan had laid at the foot-end of the bed, determined not to hurry just because the bloody psychiatrist was waiting for him. Images of the water, turning into golden droplets in front of his vision-hazy eyes intruded into his bubbling anger at the situation in general, which in turn lead him to look over at the painting he'd rattled off the wall.

He was going to have to start making controlling his powers into a priority, and not only because a vision had knocked him out for days. The thing with the painting had been way too close; he couldn't afford discovery right now. Or ever, preferably. Not on top of everything else. And what had the vision meant to tell him, anyway? All my new abilities were supposed to be boons rather than obstacles, Harry thought. But the vision could still have meant anything. It could have been a message or a warning- a, 'this will be of use to you!' or a, 'mind you keep an eye out for this!' or even a 'stay away from this!'. How was he to know?

Thoughts whirling, Harry made his way out of the room and into the other infirmary area he'd only glimpsed before. It was empty but for one sleeping child with a breathing mask in a bed that looked to big for such a small body. The corridor outside was completely empty and Harry walked towards the only open door in a row of doors to his left, feeling slight flickers of Matt's emotions coupled with someone else's.

William the psychiatrist was not what Harry had been expecting. With enormous glasses perched on a bruised nose in a half-familiar face, like a character from some old muggle show Harry might have watched sometime when he was much younger, and both his hands bandaged down to the last finger, Harry briefly thought that perhaps William should have joined him in the infirmary instead.

"You must be Harry," the man said, brushing the bangs of his glossy pale hair to one side of his face. He must use a lot of that shiny spray stuff Lavender had been so fond of once upon a time, Harry thought even as he nodded. "Nice to meet you. I don't know if Matt mentioned, but I'm William. William West."

So he had a last name he was willing to reveal? Perhaps he wasn't a member of Wammy's. Or else it was a false name.

"I'll leave you two to it then," said Matt with a half-smile in Harry's direction and a wave in William's.

"Indeed. Thank you for escorting me," William said and the smile he gave Matt seemed misplaced on his face. Probably because the bruise on his chin seemed to pull at the flesh, making it a very wobbly expression. Harry was faintly reminded of Snape, who's face had appeared equally strained whenever he attempted an expression not in his usual repertoire.

"I apologize for my startling appearance, young man. I promise I don't usually look like this." His aura was so muddled with different emotions that Harry was starting to wonder if in addition to an infirmary-visit he shouldn't also get a psychiatrist of his own. He could barely read the aura; it was like someone had poured paint in every color of the rainbow into a bucket and now he was trying to separate the different nuances. There was some sharp curiosity, he thought. Orange-red inquisitiveness and tangy red attentiveness. Harry thought some wariness was mixed in there too, but it was hard to tell. Probably worried about setting him off, especially if Matt had told him about how he'd reacted to mention of his scars.

"What happened?" he asked, trying to make his voice as mild as possible. He seated himself opposite West, leaning a little on the table between them.

"Car accident. I was actually supposed to be here quite a while earlier, but I was stuck in the hospital until the day before yesterday." Harry hummed in answer. It seemed more likely to him that William had been out on some errand for L, or maybe a violent errand of his own- because he sincerely doubted that the man was just a psychiatrist. There was something about him that had an edge, like some aurors or even muggles soldiers did.

William continued with a slight smile, "I know that you don't want to be here, and I can't say I blame you, but I hope to make our conversations as comfortable and productive as I possibly can." He poured them both two glasses of water, and as he avoided watching the stream from the decanter, Harry tried not to let his mental scoff sound through his mouth. He wasn't planning on helping with the 'productivity' of these conversations. He was going to try to get himself out of them as quickly as possible, either by stonewalling the man or by giving him only what he'd need to leave Harry alone.

That was the plan. Then William leaned over to place one of the glasses closer to Harry's side of the table, and the thin chain around his neck fell over his collar.

Alone in the middle of the chain hung a large piece of gold, shaped like a drop.

Matt hurried into the corridor, closing the door behind the bandaged doctor and the miserable Harry. That hadn't gone nearly as well as he'd hoped it would, though that wasn't surprising in the slightest. Matt knew that if he headed down to his room Mello would definitely ambush him with questions right away, so he turned towards one of the doors that would lead him down and out into the garden.

The gazebo tucked into a corner of the yard was largely unused, with vines crawling up its side and curling over its roof. Matt plopped down on one of the attached benches, ran a hand through his hair and tried to ignore the strain in his shoulders. Damn, but there was something wrong with that kid. Harry. Hadrian. Something lonely in him that had turned cold and was on its way to becoming dark. Mello had teetered on that edge before, so Matt recognized the signs.

And those scars... Matt didn't even really want to think about where they'd come from. What kind of person would do that to a kid. He wasn't like L or Near - who could look analytically at the most disturbing of situations without bothering to pause for some kind of emotion reaction - or even Mello. Though his friend, at least, had his own special brand of empathy that was as abrasive as the rest of him.

"Fuck," Matt muttered to himself. He should just settle in to play a game for a while, because there was no point lingering on these thoughts. He'd just make himself unhappy.

"Huh, it's not often I hear you cursing," a voice said to his left around a mouthful, and Matt recognized the sound of words spoken through bits of chocolate enough to pinch the bridge of his nose and sigh. So Mello had known that Matt would come here to avoid him.

"The situation warranted it," Matt muttered, wondering if should attempt to get rid of his best friend before Mello invariably started in on his interrogation.

"Damien was ranting about our newest addition, and I couldn't help but be curious." He ignored Matt's snort and sidled into the gazebo, slouching into the bench opposite him and kicking up a heel to its edge. "Something about fainting and you and Huan being 'total heroes'." He swallowed another piece of chocolate and grinned.

Matt knew the blonde was angling for information, but though he had a tendency to cave to Mello's demands, he sincerely didn't want to break Hadrian's confidence when it came to something so serious. That flat look on the boy's face, coming up like a shield when Matt pushed him... No, this wasn't his secret to reveal, especially not to someone as relentless in pursuit of knowledge as Matt's best friend.

"Whatever." Mello rolled his eyes and slumped down even further, eyeing him casually over his chocolate. The other teen had been his friend for too long for that stare to intimidate him, but Matt knew that the look in his eyes meant that Mello was only biding his time until a more advantageous moment to ask his questions popped up.

Matt leaned back, attempting to focus on anything but the mental pictures of a small scarred body. He wouldn't be able to sleep this night either, no matter that a weary headache pounded on the inside of his eyelids like something was trying to push its way out from his eyesockets. "Need to replace that painting," he muttered, mostly to himself and only partly to keep the silence of Mello's regard from bearing down on him too heavily.


"A painting fell from the wall in the infirmary. Broke its frame, I think." Matt rubbed his face absently, reaching a hand into his pocket and closing it around his Gameboy just to feel the solidness of it.

"Why? You punch the wall or something?" Mello's voice sounded like his lips were upturned in a small cat's smile. Sly.

Matt snorted quietly. Mello had punched more than a few walls in their time at Wammy's, especially back during that dark period when he'd been poisoning himself with drugs. "I'm not you, Mello. It just fell down while Harry and I were talking."

There was a pause, and then a creaking in the wood of the bench opposite him as Mello shifted. Matt didn't bother to look at him. "'Just fell down'? What, without provocation?"

Matt rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed. Were was Mello going with this? He was too tired to keep up with cryptic remarks. "Basically, yeah."

Mello hummed, and there was something slick and sharp in the sound. Matt opened an eye to look at his friend, at the way the other teen's eyes were staring intently at nothing as he thought. "Just like the vase, then."

As was usually the case with Mello, Matt somehow found himself drawn into the conversation. "What vase?"

"When the fire alarms went off, you remember?" Now he had the gall to sound annoyed, and Matt almost blew him off just for that. But it wasn't fair to take out the frustration that had been building in him since the shower debacle on Mello, so he bit his tongue instead and nodded. Did he remember it? It felt like ages ago, though Matt knew that wasn't the case. Yeah, somewhere in the supposed genius parts of his mind, a vague idea about a vase falling off a buffet rose to the surface...

"So first a vase falls for no reason, and now a painting. And Hadrian was there both times." Mello sounded like he was just musing casually, but Matt recognized that head tilt as a prelude to one of his crazy theories. Like when he'd decided that Near was a Russian spy back when the two of them first met. Or that time he thought Augusta might be possessed by demons, though perhaps that had just been a remnant of his strict Catholic upbringing. Sometimes Matt was convinced Mello drew these nonsense conclusions just to amuse himself, but then at times he'd be completely correct about something that had at first sounded completely ludicrous. Not often enough for Matt to feel anything but irritated at his friend right now, though.

"So?" he prompted, wondering exactly where Mello was going with this. Spies from the continent? People in the walls that Harry signaled, who then threw things to the ground for him? Force fields?

Mello smiled with all his teeth showing and Matt wanted to clap a hand over his eyes at the expression. "So this means we have some detective work to do."

A/N: It's been a year, I know. And I'm sorry. But I did tell you that none of my fics were abandoned ;) Since I haven't been in these characters' heads for several months, I'd appreciate knowing that the flow of this chapter was alright. And that I haven't written anything that contradicts something in a previous chapter. I have a lot of notes and I've reread the story, but mistakes can still happen.

So. The results of the aptitude test, the entrance of a new character with a mystery around his neck, and a curious Mello... what did you think of it all? Do tell!

Elelith actually accidentally got me writing on this again. I'd already started on this chapter months ago, before life got in the way, and then she mentioned the story in a PM and BAM. Sudden inspiration!