Changeling, chapter 16: The Search for Answers
I don't think anyone has the right to intrude in your life, but they do. - Ingrid Bergman
William the psychiatrist started off their meeting by asking Harry a few questions that were probably meant to put him at ease. It did just the opposite, as all of those questions were about the kind of basic things Harry didn't want to answer. About friends and school and his childhood in general.
Harry felt his expression flatten until every non-answer he bit out was monosyllabic. William's patient expression never changed, and his emotions didn't spike into anger. It teetered on the edge of frustration at times, and then he would lean back and the frustration would fade away.
"I'm making you uncomfortable," William said, faintly apologetic, and Harry itched to hex him. He'd never suspected that the stereotype of the unflappable and irritating psychiatrist was this firmly anchored in reality.
"I'm fine," he answered instead of shouting the incantation of a Stinging Jinx. Not that that would do him any good.
"I can see that you're not much for smalltalk, and that's perfectly alright. I was never very good at it, anyway." William smiled at him, his bandaged hands rubbing together as he thought. "L requested my presence here because he's concerned that you may have been through something traumatic, besides your unfortunate brush with the Red Painter, and that you have yet to discuss it with anyone."
'That was an unexpected straightforwardness out of nowhere', Harry thought and consciously kept his eyebrows from rising. It felt better than the near-condescending compassion the psychiatrist had started with, though.
"I'm not going to discuss my scars with you," Harry said, returning the bluntness in kind, and continued, "I don't understand why you or L would think that something I've obviously tried to keep private would suddenly be up for discussion with a stranger." It felt strangely good to say it like that, straight out. Hopefully it would gall L, if he was somehow eavesdropping on this conversation - a possibility Harry hadn't yet discounted.
The tint in the man's colors changed briefly, like a bloodhound catching a scent. The interest that had already been present amplified and part of the wariness seceded.
"Ah, but sometimes speaking dark truths to a stranger is easier than speaking them to a friend, whose feelings you may want to spare." A glossy lock of hair fell over his forehead and William brushed it behind his ear with an absent gesture. When Harry said nothing, the man's expression gentled. "But perhaps you have nobody that close to you?"
He had, once. And he'd thrown them all away for this life. The thought that that might have been a mistake had been there hiding in the back of his mind ever since Christine's death, but something about William's tone of voice brought it to the fore.
"I had..." His own voice startled him and Harry bit the inside of his cheek to keep more words from escaping. He didn't trust this man, or anyone else, in this world. But he'd never done well so completely isolated. There'd always been someone, at least one person, to bounce ideas off of. 'Self-pity doesn't suit you, Potter', Harry thought with a mental snort, reminding himself that as a veteran of war he should have no problems keeping his secrets to himself, especially when faced with a man he didn't even know.
"Friends?" William prompted. Harry stared through him and tried to keep his mind and face blank. The muggle version of Occlumency still had its uses. "Was Christine Jensen one of them?"
Harry very deliberately did not draw in a breath at that name, or at the soft tone of voice William used to speak it. All that blood, and the Painter's oily, slick insanity clawing at him. He didn't want this unasked-for psychiatrist prodding at a wound that had only barely scabbed over. Harry stood.
"Won't you tell me about her?" said William, tilting his head but making no attempt to stop Harry's trek towards the door. "Just one thing?"
Harry turned in the doorway, mind still firmly blanked. "She was kind." Then he stepped out the door.
L popped the last cookie into his mouth and flicked the empty carton across the desk and down into the bin on the other side. William hadn't yet risen from his seat in the now otherwise empty room, and L stared at the psychiatrist's thoughtful face. That hadn't been nearly as revealing as L had hoped.
"He's very defensive of this Christine," Huan said neutrally. In front of her on one of his desks were a sheaf of high-definition pictures of Harry's scars. It had been a good initiative and also a sign that she knew him too well. Perhaps he should rotate Huan out of his personal circle, at least on a trial period?
L put the thought aside to nod. "Or he's still too broken up over her death." They'd both seen Hadrian's face tighten minutely when the name was brought up, despite the boy's remarkable emotional control. It was a possible pressure point to be examined and potentially utilized in the future. Else it was just good to know that it was a weak spot on Hadrian's part, if only to keep it on record.
"What was your impression of his mental state when you spoke with him?" L asked, making sure to state the question more like a command, and watching as Huan straightened further.
"Defensive. Incurious. Suspicious. Not very forthcoming with information. Though as you ordered I took on a less inquisitive role than I could have." She smiled a little, and L knew she liked being allowed to be comforting. It wasn't often that he called on her to be that, for obvious reasons.
He'd have to tell Augusta to keep an eye on Huan's relationship with the boy. Huan was innately kinder than L preferred in one of his people, but she was a very capable replacement when Roger was indisposed. There was also the fact that people capable of running an organization like Wammy's didn't grow on trees, as a mundane person might have put it. "If he finds William too disagreeable I'll want you to step in and attempt to pry him open."
"I know," said Huan before L had completely finished speaking, and he threw her an irritated glance at the interruption. Her implacable expression didn't change, so L threw a piece of chocolate at her instead. She sidestepped it with the kind of obvious deadpan movement that almost made him send her away, on principle alone. Really, the nerve of some people.
"Hadrian's scars," he said instead, magnanimously deciding to take the high road, "I'll want them looked at by an expert, but I've made my own analysis of these three." Here he spread out a set of photos. One of Hadrian's bony shoulder, with a deep knotted keloid scar that resembled healed acid burns, another of the boy's upper torso where a thin, sharp scar tore over his collarbone and down to his chest, yet another of a gouge in his upper arm and the last one of a round palm-sized scar on his leg, with a form and texture that resembled the marks left by smallpox vaccinations in the 60's.
"With 80% certainty, the one on his shoulder was caused by acid or some other kind of corrosive liquid, and by its shape, was not done with any kind of precision if it was made by another's hand. The second one is with 95% certainty a knife scar, the third made with some type of carving instrument, but the fourth is a burn of some kind." L frowned inwardly, dissatisfied with his inability to give a percentage on the last two. They were too strange - a gouge and a burn, yes, but made by what?
"I'll give the photos to Dr. Jenny, and ask her to contact you when she's looked through them," said Huan and L nodded approvingly. The doctor in question was a dermatologist with a scar removal subspecialty and an alumni of Wammy's.
"How are his stitches coming along?" They'd been administered by a state hospital nurse to be sure, and L didn't trust the skills of anyone not connected to Wammy's.
"Very well. They used dissolvable stitches, and whoever did it was competent enough to ensure the smallest amount of scarring." The last part she said in such a way that L realized that she knew very well what he'd been thinking of with that question. There was a 10% chance that she knew him well enough that her falling into the hands of one of his numerous enemies, or becoming an enemy herself, would pose an actual security risk. Having her replaced was beginning to seem like a serious prospect.
L opened a drawer and picked out a cherry-flavored lollipop, but just as he was about to move away from the subject, there was a knock on the door. He flicked a glance towards one of his monitors and then pressed the button to allow Augusta in. She stepped inside with a frown on her face, short graying hair combed back tight against her head in a way that gave her an even more severe impression.
"You have news?"
Augusta straightened. "Chuma has been confronted with the evidence of his trespassing, and I've spent some time working on him. He's resisted the most common interrogation methods so far. I'm going to treat him with sleep deprivation to soften him a little, then try to coax something out of him again. If that doesn't work I'll rethink my approach."
She sounded like the soldier she'd once been, reporting the facts with as little emotional inflection as ever. For that reason alone Augusta had always been one of L's favorite persons to deal with.
"You're keeping Chuma on the cellar level." Huan's mouth tightened, and a muscle in her neck jumped. She didn't have as much control over her emotions as she should whenever issues like this came up. L chewed on the pad of his thumb, calculating her response and body language and preparing to mitigate her reaction, as he'd done several times before in similar instances. "Under Wammy's. Under this orphanage filled with children."
"The subcellar can't be entered from any of the areas the children have access to. Very few people know the location of its entrance, and even fewer have keys to the three doors one needs to get through to enter. But as you've brought up this point before, I've since installed six new security cameras around the entrance on both sides of the first door, coupled with three alarms that will be alerted if anyone attempts to enter without the keys."
Remind her of the inaccessibility of the cellar, her own previously brought up opinions on the matter, assure her that her thoughts had been given serious consideration, and that he'd acted on them as a consequence. L said it all in one soft breath, and didn't mention that he'd only installed the extra security when he'd realized that he himself could break into the cellar level with a little effort.
Huan deflated, and L silently counted down from ten until she spoke up again. "But interrogation in a house full of children?" She'd said that before, and while L logically understood the sentiment, he didn't agree with it. The children couldn't reach that particular area, therefore there was no issue. The theoretical, emotional idea that certain things should not be done with unknowing children in the vicinity did not hold any weight when one reasoned logically.
"The cellar isn't a part of the house," Augusta said flatly and then looked back at L. "Do I have permission to used enhanced interrogation techniques, should that become a viable option?"
L had never been a big believer in torture, if only because he was very well aware of how easy it was to force false confessions from targets. He'd done that himself countless times, completely without applying any physical discomfort. People lied far more easily when they were in pain, willing to say almost anything to make it stop.
Huan was staring at him, but Augusta was waiting patiently for his decision. "Only if you have exhausted every other option." Huan's lips turned down at his answer, but Augusta nodded. "One question before you leave. What are your impressions of Chuma?"
Augusta looked like she was rolling the thought over in her head, tilting it this way and that. "He's been trained in resistance to interrogation. The methods he uses to try to stay unaffected are very methodical." She paused, and her brows slowly drew together.
"Military?" L asked, irritation welling up at the lack of information he was working with.
"No, but..." She paused again, frowning harder. "He feels like a man on a mission."
Matt sighed. "Mello, I really don't know what you think you're going to find in here."
His friend muttered something incomprehensible, turning over the painting that they'd found lying on the floor of the infirmary. He jumped up and stared, then made a low, interested sound. Matt leaned back on the wall and rubbed his eyes, and when he opened them again, Mello was in his face with a wide grin.
"The painting hung on a hook!" he said triumphantly, and when Matt just stared at him, he let out a frustrated grunt. "A hook is shaped like this," He made a hook with his index finger as Matt looked on, "And yet the painting fell down, while the hook is still attached to the wall!"
Something clicked in Matt's sleep-deprived brain. "If the painting had suddenly gotten too heavy, the hook would have fallen down with it."
"Or at least be less firmly attached to the wall," Mello said, dragging him towards the hook in question to look at it. Matt wasn't quite rude enough to say that he didn't really care, but it was a close thing. What did Mello mean by treating this as a mystery? That Harry had somehow made the painting jump off the hook by itself? That was exactly the kind of crazy theory his friend would come up with, and the headache he knew this was going to become made Matt want some alone-time with his Gameboy. Or even better, sleep. Upon leaving Harry's room after the shower debacle and settling into bed, the image of that scarred body had flashed behind his eyelids. What little rest he'd finally gotten had been uneasy.
Mello had his fair share of scars, and some of those he'd acquired before arriving at Wammy's. Matt still didn't like seeing them, even if the blond didn't seem to care that they were there. It was weird, Matt thought, how religion could be used to justify both cruelty and incredible kindness. How differently people could interpret the same thing-
Mello snapped his fingers in front of Matt's nose. "Earth to redhead!"
"Sorry," he said and smiled a little. This was important to his best friend, the same friend who'd once gotten shot on his behalf, and so Matt would listen to his ramblings. "What are you thinking about this?"
Mello gave him a suspicious look, then narrowed his eyes. "Have you been having trouble sleeping again?"
"No, just. Eh, it's nothing." He'd already decided not to betray Hadrian's trust, no matter how much he felt like he needed to get the pictures out of his head by talking to someone.
Mello put down the painting, crossed his arms and raised a brow. "Talk to me, idiot."
Matt shook his head, and the smile tilting the corner of his mouth was genuine. Mello's particular brand of abrasive, sincere concern could be strangely touching. Not that he'd ever tell his big-headed friend that. "It's nothing you're going to get me to share."
"So it's something to do with the brat," Mello concluded, and Matt sighed. 'Here we go-' he thought, but then the other teen snorted. "It's no fun to prod you when you look like you're about to go crosseyed."
Matt knew that Mello wouldn't hesitate to take advantage of an opening like that when it came to anyone else. Often, he didn't hesitate when it came to Matt either. He must look like utter crap for his friend to back down for once.
"Can't believe I didn't see your slow zombifying out there in the gazebo. Must have been too shadowed." He looked annoyed by his own oversight, and then with no warning kicked the back of Matt's knees. Matt hit the floor with a thump and then glared up at the unrepentant blond.
Mello sank down next to him with a smirk. "You looked like you were about to fall over anyway."
"Tell me about your theories, Mello. Distract me." Matt closed his eyes and put his feet flat to the ground, leaning back on the wall with a sigh. He opened one eye to a slit to stare at the other boy.
Mello ran a hand through his blond locks and then snorted. "Alright, since you asked. Don't complain until I'm done talking."
"I don't complain."
"You always complain about my theories, even when they turn out to be right." Mello shrugged, looked smug and then cursed casually when Matt kicked at him. "Anyway, so the brat looked pretty worried when the fire alarm went off, and then the vase fell. And something obviously happened in the shower, enough to have him get stuck here for a good while, so he was probably shaken up when the painting fell."
Mello threw him a glance, but Matt said nothing. "Aw, c'mon, I just want to know if he was upset when it fell! Not any of his precious fucking secrets."
Matt opened his mouth, closed it, sighed and nodded. He wasn't stupid and as a proud geek he'd watched enough sci-fi, horror and fantasy to recognize where Mello was going with this. Telekinesis, á la Carrie. And as theories went, this wasn't the most out there of his supernatural ones.
"I want to check out the shower stall he was in too," said Mello, to Matt's complete lack of surprise. "If he was upset there too, then it stands to reason..."
"That something could have fallen down in there as well," Matt completed dutifully. It was a completely insane theory to consider seriously, but at least this time he knew how his friend had connected the dots to arrive at this crazy conclusion.
"Come on. Last stop, and then you can sleep." He pulled Matt up by his shoulders, ignoring the attempts to push his hands away.
"Why do I have to come along?" Matt thought that was a very reasonable question, even if it came out sounding more like a whine.
"Two heads are better than one, and all that junk." Mello threw him a sharp grin, and off they were.
Harry stalked off into the corridor with no particular goal in mind. Memories of Christine mingled with memories of his magical friends, and in between there were flashes of the war. The lamp overhead flashed and Harry abruptly stopped and squeezed his eyes shut. He shouldn't let himself be so rattled.
With eyes barely slitted open, he turned towards the closest open door and slipped inside. Then stood with eyes closed and breathed in and out a few times, quietly.
"Do you require assistance?" a voice asked, and Harry almost jumped out of his skin. If he'd been holding a wand, the boy before him would have ended up badly cursed. As it was, a book fell of a shelf to his right before Harry could suppress the instinctive surge of sharp alertness.
"No, I'm fine." Near's large black eyes stared at him in that unblinking way of his for an uncomfortably long time before nodding. To keep from staring back or snap at the boy, Harry glanced about himself. He'd apparently entered a library. Long shelves lined the walls and study tables were placed all over the room.
"You appearance suggests you are about to have a panic attack. Or at least shout." Near had started walking back towards the table he'd apparently been sitting by, voice idle. "Feel free to do so. I'm the only one here."
Harry snorted. There was something calming about the careless way Near spoke that made him feel less trapped. Something about William's manner had brought all bad things to the fore of his mind, and those mental images were never as easy to shake off as they should have been.
He began by curling up in a large comfortable chair by a window and trying to think. When that didn't work, he started wandering around the library, staring up at the shelves and thinking vaguely that he ought to come back here sometime when he was calmer and borrow some of these books. He hadn't read anything for a some time now, and this library seemed to be stocked with a lot of the kind of advanced books he was now able to understand.
"I would ask you not to walk behind me," Near said suddenly, and Harry glanced over to see the boy looking over his shoulder to where Harry now stood. "It makes me uncomfortable," he said blandly, and stared so awkwardly that Harry finally walked around the table until he was just in front of the boy instead. Apparently satisfied, Near went back to what he'd been doing.
Harry found a language section a few bookcases over and was surprised to see Historia Anglorum on a shelf. Both the translation as well as a copy of the original, Latin version. He picked the latter and thumbed through the pages for a moment before continuing to look over the shelf. There was another Historia Anglorum there, the one written by Mattew Paris in the 1200's, a century after Huntingdon's version. He took them both with him and sat down at Near's table, far to the left on the row of chair opposite the boy, and opened the one written by Paris. They hadn't even had a copy of this book in the Hogwarts library.
He reached the page with the inverted illustration of the earl of Arundel, Hugh d'Aubigny's, coat of arms and wondered if the long-dead earl had been like Harry was now, an ESP:er, way back in the mid 1200's. Chief Butler d'Aubigny had been a notable wizard in Harry's world. After his death, his widow Countess Isabel de Warenne had established the first abbey for witches born into the muggle faith in the village of Marham.
If they'd existed here too, did that mean they'd had abilities like Harry now did? Or had they been completely muggle? Harry stared blankly at the illustrated spread, tapping his fingers against the book's side. Were there any others like him here? Harry paused at that thought and then wondered about Martha Seamstress. Was she..? She'd been a witch back home, so in this world, could she possibly be-
"Henrici archidiaconi huntendunensis," said Near suddenly, looking over at him. He was playing with a set of dice, turning them over and placing them on top of each other with exquisite care.
Harry blinked. "What?"
"That book's author." He twined a lock of white hair around his index finger. His black lenses gleamed under the light of the overhead lamp when he darted them towards Huntingdon's version, laying unopened on the table.
"Oh. Yes." He hadn't heard the Latinised version of Henry Huntingdon's name from anyone but Binns. Even Hermione had preferred the English variant. "You like history?"
"No, not particularly." Near looked to be about to turn back toward his own work when he must have caught Harry's surprised expression at the blunt answer. "My interests lie primarily in the hard sciences. And in cryptanalysis. Occasionally medicine and psychology. But Historia Anglorum is a famous book."
"L didn't..." Harry stopped himself before he revealed something he perhaps shouldn't.
"L didn't recognize it?" Near looked thoughtful, then nodded. "He wouldn't have any reason to. Literature from that time period is both obscure and uninteresting, especially when it comes to solving cases. Even if L is well-read."
Harry nodded, and the silence spread between them. 'So he must be one of those heir-people', Harry mused. Near seemed unbothered by the abrupt end to the conversation, turning back to his work.
The silence remained for quite some time before Near, unprompted, asked him about his first day of classes. "Do you know what subjects you'll start with?"
Harry blinked at him, rattled enough to wonder if this was some kind of trap to get him to spill secrets Near could use. Or pass along. "No," he said, which was only the truth. The boy's colors were difficult to read, strangely muted, like he was looking through frosted glass. But there was, strangely enough, not a hint of curiosity in what shaded colors he could see. And Harry didn't get the impression that Near was all that fond of small talk for the sake of abolishing potentially awkward silences, either.
The boy looked up at him flatly. "Beginner courses usually start in the mornings, and if the courses you are at a beginner's level in are one of those that are considered important."
"Who decides what courses are important?" Harry asked with a frown. Near only looked at him, slow and measuring and still with a distinct lack of overt curiosity. Harry didn't need the boy to answer his question, because as soon as the words had left his mouth, he realized the answer himself. The somehow forever ubiquitous, "L."
Near tilted his head, glancing through his fringe. He didn't confirm or deny it, but Harry saw the vague, cool agreement in the boy's aura. The idea that the marionette master behind a computer somewhere would be the one to decide what courses he'd take, or at least start of with, made Harry consider the idea to just refuse going to classes all together.
But then, the lowest score he'd acquired was the one the Medicine section, and he needed that knowledge. His idiotic fit in the showers probably wouldn't be the only time he'd be in need of some kind of medical attention. Harry knew himself by now, and he never went long without becoming caught up in one thing or other that left him with at the very least a few bruises.
"I scored low on Medicine," Harry said out loud, not sure why he was keeping up the stilted conversation. Maybe it was because the vibes Near gave off were like dipping his hands in cool water. Passive. Calming. Unconcerned.
"Medicine is considered one of the most important courses. I expect you'll start the introductory class tomorrow morning."
"But there aren't that many children here," said Harry with a slight internal cringe at labelling himself among those. "And I'm the newest." So how come the introduction class was conveniently tomorrow?
Near answered before Harry even formulated the question. "The youngest students don't start the Medicinal classes until they are deemed ready to handle them, rather than at a set date. Unless your test results said that you would be given a personal instructor, you must have scored high enough to be considered for the basic course, rather than for one-on-one tutoring."
'So that means new students begin a class when they're prepared, whenever that may be?' That would explain why he apparently wouldn't be jumping into the middle of a year of classes, Harry supposed. Every class must be given several times a year, maybe even several times every few months. "The classes must be pretty small, then."
"Small classes facilitate learning," said a woman's voice. Harry turned around to see that blond woman, Anderson, coming out from between the shelves. Harry hadn't noticed her there at all, not even the haze of her aura at the corner of his senses and tried not to tense. Was he really that distracted? "I hope I didn't startle you," she said, walking until she stood several steps in front of him, close enough for conversation but distant enough that she was well out of his personal space.
It was rather conspicuous, and Harry saw Near take a long, blank look at him as his muted colors shifted with the feel of slow oil in water.
"What are you here for?" he said, trying not to come off as too rude even though he had a feeling that she might have been listening to his and Near's conversation.
"I have your schedule for tomorrow." She smiled carefully, and Harry saw something like pity or compassion in the air around her. It wasn't difficult to guess that someone had told her about his fit in the shower, or perhaps what his body looked like. It took several tries before Harry managed to swallow his resentment and look up at her without glaring.
"There's also this- it arrived in the main for you this morning, just in time." She held out a small wooden case. Harry accepted it with a short, confused glance at her aura. Nothing suspicious there, at least.
Inside the case were a set of high-quality quills that Harry immediately recognized as being made of swan feathers. Only the wealthier purebloods had tended to use those, with everyone else back at Hogwarts using the cheaper goose feather quills. Harry held one up to the light for inspection, and wondered if this was some kind of bribe. It was so carefully crafted that it made no sense for an orphanage to just hand them out upon request. 'Then again,' he thought, 'this is an orphanage that apparently hands out computers like they're pieces candy.'
"And here is your schedule for the day," Anderson said with another smile, handing him a folded paper.
Scanning it, Harry noted that Near had been right about the class on medicine. That was apparently how he'd start the day tomorrow, bright and early at eight. Then mathematics, common knowledge and finally history, finishing at three o'clock. 'How does one teach common knowledge?' Harry mused, mostly to distract himself from the irritation at being stuck in classes after already graduating school once. Letting go of the idea of simply not attending now that he knew that L had probably orchestrated his schedule wasn't entirely easy either, even after he thought he'd made up his mind.
"I'm also in the common knowledge class," said Near, apparently looking straight through the paper with the help of the lamp light from behind Harry, and then reading the words backwards. Registering the implication behind what Near said, Harry wondered how long the boy had been at the orphanage. Either he'd not been here for very long, or else he'd started with absolutely abysmal scores on his own aptitude test and only now worked his score up to the accelerated basic course in this class.
A minute later Anderson made her leave with a hand wave and another careful smile in his direction, leaving before Harry could get his hackles all the way up.
Near had long since turned back to his own work. "She means well," he murmured in that blank voice of his, and when Harry turned to look at him, he elaborated, "Ms. Anderson isn't attempting to patronize you. She is often concerned for the children at this orphanage, and sometimes that concern takes the form of pity."
Harry wasn't sure if he'd been projecting so much annoyance that Near had been able to pick up on and pinpoint the origin, or if the boy was just that good at reading people. 'A house of geniuses, huh?' "I know," he admitted. "But I don't like being pitied, even with good intentions."
Near looked up with wide, lens-darkened eyes. "You remind me of Mello."
"Just turn on the fucking lights," Mello whispered when they got far enough into the shower room that they couldn't be spotted from the outside.
"You realize that L probably has cameras in here," Matt said drily. Even without looking Mello could tell that the other teen was clicking his thumbs against the sides of his index fingers in that nervous habit of his. But he'd come with, like he always did when asked. Supportive even in disagreement. Sometimes Mello thought it was a shame that Matt was straight.
"If by 'probably', you mean 'definitely', then yeah." Mello found the light switch and they both blinked as their eyes adjusted. The white tiles reflected the light, making the room twice as bright. "There's no end to his peeping voyeur tendencies," he continued casually and smirked when Matt spluttered at him. Heh, he should be used to the way Mello liked to phrase the truth.
"That one, yeah?" It was an unnecessary question, because it was pretty damn obvious which stall Hadrian had had his mental explosion. It was the only one with the shower curtain pushed aside, for one. And shoe prints went from the door to this stall- Mello recognized those as Huan's.
He approached and then kicked the shower curtain further to the right, letting more light into the space. Noticing a catch in the otherwise smooth way the light hit the tiles, he crouched down. "What's that?"
"Cracks?" said Matt, like it was a stupid question. Mello snorted. Yeah, he could see that, but why were there two sets of outward-spreading cracks in the otherwise flawless stall floor? He didn't say that and didn't have to, because Matt hummed under his breath in a way that told Mello the other teen had noticed it. "That's weird. Pretty sure that wasn't there before..." 'Before Hadrian had his little meltdown', Mello finished in his head and felt his blood flush with excitement.
"I mean, the caretakers would never let something stay cracked or unfixed for any period of time, so it has to be recent." Mello knew that too, of course. This whole damn place was obsessed with perfection in one form or other. That thought always brought resentment as clear as lightning cutting through his focus, so Mello diverted his attention.
He looked up at the tap, didn't see anything wrong and frowned. He just meant to turn to look at Matt when his gaze caught on the stall wall. He hadn't noticed at first because there were no cracks or anything else to break the smoothness of the tiles there, but now that he was really looking at it... Were those tracks?
He stood up and walked into the stall, squinting. It was like when a stream ran over a mountain undisturbed over the decades and centuries, slowly and smoothly carving a path for itself. That's what the wall looked like. Like water had been running from the ceiling and carved the tracks of tiny streams into the tiles. With a slowly drawn breath, Mello moved the tap to the side and turned on the shower to cover the room in the noise of rushing water, then shifted to look at Matt.
"Are you seeing this?" He knew his hushed voice was vibrating with tension, and didn't care. This was- something. Mello didn't know what it was yet. But it was new. And it was a fucking lead. And maybe that theory he'd thrown at his friend, the one that suggested something supernatural, wasn't as out there as it could have been.
"Yes..." Matt came up to stand beside him, frowning at the wall. He reached out to touch the tracks and then frowned harder, looking confused. "This is..."
"Something," said Mello. He felt his lips form a wide grin, felt that odd hunger rushing up, and clutched at the five-petal rose earring in his left ear. Father Antonio used to say Mello was the kind of person that needed an anchor to focus his emotions. Mello had never been very good at taking unasked-for advice, but Father Antonio had been one of the few people he'd trusted, and for such people he made exceptions.
"It really is," Matt agreed, still following the tracks with his fingers. Mello's thoughts were racing, and he wasn't sure where they were taking him. Telekinesis? Truly? It was the thought he'd been entertaining, yeah, but... In movies, that power was usually triggered by emotion, like he'd told Matt before. And then followed carnage, usually.
Mello frowned internally, putting aside the thoughts of movie clichés as logic caught up to emotion. Where did they go from here? From the unfocused lead they were now staring at? First... They'd need a plan to corner Hadrian with. One that would make him want to answer the questions Mello had. But it would have to be done discreetly, to make sure L or that bastard Near weren't tipped off and decided to interfere.
It was fortunate that Matt was here, because Mello himself had never been one for subtlety.
A/N: And so... Harry walks out on the probing psychiatrist and runs into Near. L stages an interrogation. Matt and Mello find more clues. Thoughts on it all? On any specific scene? You know I'm curious.
This story won't contain any pairings- I can't recall if I've already stated that. Just thought you should know, this story is all about mysteries (and odd friendships).
Lastly, this was betaed very late and polished only once, but since I promised I'd get it up 'by the end of February', I'm posting it now. If you spot any mistakes, don't be afraid to speak up.