For Snowstorm XD, and the first annual Veritaville Holiday Fic Exchange.

Prompts: swirling snowflakes, wishing on stars, time was all we ever needed

#insert 'stddisclaimer.h'


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Five Murders Never Solved

(and one which was)

by Incendiarist


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i.

Imagine a scene: a young boy, seven or eight and with blonde hair in curls which belie its length, they come to his jawline or thereabouts - straightened, to his shoulders. It gives him an innocent, almost angelic appearance, and his green eyes, playful and amused and carefree, only add to the picture.

He's playing with a football, kicking it into his makeshift goal, a part of the treeline with a net strung between them, with a shout of triumph, and his sister looks up from her laptop and rolls her eyes. She's thirteen and experimental; if she hasn't tried it, she doesn't have an opinion on it either for or against, and she goes through phases - a month ago, she was a hippie, wanting to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and the week before that, she was wearing camouflage and making thermite in the middle-school parking lot. There are only three constants: she's studious (she had tried failing her classes once, and quickly decided that it was far overrated), she's a faithful friend (she didn't even have to try the alternative to know which she preferred), and she likes curry.

Today, she's playing a video game, and her hands must be freezing, because she isn't wearing any gloves, but she doesn't seem to care. Her mum could barely drag her off of the computer long enough yesterday to open gifts, and as soon as they were done, she was back on it. Her fingers are flying on the keyboard in quick explosions, tampered by moments-long silences. If anything, the game has improved the speed of her typing.

Snowflakes land on her hands every so often, and they melt within seconds when they do. It's the first time they've had snow this early in the season, and it mightn't have been a White Christmas by traditional standards, but it was a Christmas With Definite White Bits In, at the curb of the street, the sides of the house protected from the wind which was blowing even now, making the tiny snowflakes swirl aimlessly in the air, Morrisville-Carpenter Rd. hasn't got much traffic, it never does, this time of year, and it isn't all that busy the rest of the time, either, except when the train comes through, every afternoon at 15:40, and all of a sudden, the street is backed up as far as she can see. It's like clockwork, just like the firefighters' schedules - now, Emma is pretty sure they're volunteers, so you can't really blame them, and it's not like there's ever a fire in town, anyway, bu their lunch hour is less a lunch and more a feature film with commute to spare.

The fire station, originally just a regular house, has a wreath hanging on the door, next to the 'Closed Until...' sign with the clock face on. It's not nearly so old as the other houses around, it was only built sixty years ago. The family's own house, on the off-shooting street, Franklin Upchurch, has been there since the Civil War, most of them have. One of their neighbours' fireplaces has the pock-marks from cannonballs, and even kept one of them on the mantle until a few years ago; now it's in the town hall.

The town itself is a study in contradiction: it's at the heart of the RTP, has three brand new subdivisions in it, and even a Walmart Supercentre, but that's sitting beside Civil War trenches, slaves' quarters, houses which have just gotten electricity but still lack Central Air. Her mum works for Lenovo's American base, a mile away, her dad for Quintiles, but go ahead and tell somebody from Cary or Apex or, heaven forbid, Raleigh, that you live in Morrisville. You'll just get blank looks: "Where's that?" "You mean Mooresville?"

Not that that's a bad thing, in fact, it's exactly what they wanted: anonymity. Monsters can't come after you if they can't find your house on MapQuest, it turns out, they only really have incidents once or twice a year, and that's if it's been busy. The incidents still happen, of course, and she wouldn't pretend for a moment that they didn't - there's still a bit of golden dust in the street.

ii.

The blade is three inches of deplorable shinyness which threatens to blind her if she stares at it for too long, and she will stare at it for too long, because she can't take her eyes off of the thing, she must have imagined it, this was probably some weird dream and she's still in detention, that has to be it, because nothing else makes sense. She's just watched Matthew Jackson kill someone, and there was no way that just happened. Matt isn't the sort of person who'd kill somebody, he listened to R. A. Salvatore audiobooks in class, and claimed that his pet hellhound ate his homework, and had gotten all of the water fountains in the school to turn on via remote control for the science fair. That sort of person couldn't just stab some schoolyard bully, not even if that bully had sort of looked like the troll from the first Harry Potter movie and had just tried to kill her. Harry Potter wasn't ruthless, Hermione Granger wasn't failing her history (of magic) class, and Ron Weasley wasn't dead.

Oh, crap, Ron.

Benson's corpse is lying on the floor against the locker, and the metal is dented where he had been thrown against it, and it's splattered with blood and what she assumes is (and desperately hopes isn't) brain matter. A pool of blood is on the linoleum, under and beside his head, and his short brown hair has a sickly, clumped look to it. The morbid curiosity which has her touching it has her vomiting seconds later.

Matt is strangely calm, horrifyingly so. He must be in shock, there's no way the kid she's known since preschool is a sociopath, she'd have realised, wouldn't she have?

(It's a dream, it's a dream, it has to be, this can't be happening, it can't.)

He cleans the knife she had only just watched him slit a monster's throat with in the water fountain, dries it on the outer thigh of his jeans. Pushes the catch on the handle and folds the blade into it. He takes off his backpack and pulls out a Ziploc bag, probably left over from lunch, and he starts to scoop a small pile of golden dust into it.

(She could have sworn that hadn't been there before, and where was the troll?

A dream, definitely.)

Kneels down beside Benson's body, putting his limbs in more natural positions, laying the arm braces next to the corpse, putting a coin in its hand.

All of this was in moments, and then he's standing (his knees are soaked with blood), putting the bag into his backpack and then putting that on, and he's leading her away with a hand on her shoulder, "Come on, Divya, let's go."

(It has to be a dream, it has to be, but she pinches herself and nothing's changed.)

iii.

Her father's a doctor at Duke. He tries to save kids' lives every day, kids just like her. Except that they aren't like her, because she isn't even human.

Divya Bhatnagar sighs, folding her legs beneath her, and tries to pretend she's in a regular high school anatomy class, and taking a test (in English) on the names of the bones in the human body, and not one (in Ancient Greek) with these questions.

What are a Telchine's weak points? Explain your answer.

She looks over at Matt, and he looks like he's having just as much trouble as she is, so at least there's that. He catches her eye, and smiles tiredly. Doesn't this suck?, his expression seems to say. He doesn't have to be here, because his parents have been teaching him and his sister all of this stuff since he could walk. But he's stayed with her since sixth grade, and she's thankful beyond words for it. If she had to go through all of this without knowing anyone? she doesn't think she'd have managed nearly as well as she has.

What are the seven steps in the process a mortal's body go through upon ingesting ambrosia?

Shit.

She's seeing images behind her eyes, she thought she had gotten past this. The little boy, truesighted and caught up in the wrong things, and how was she supposed to know that he was mortal? Except that a part of her knows that she should have. If she did, then he wouldn't have died in front of her eyes, she could have stabilised him, not poisoned him. Her mother was the goddess of healing.

Her mother. She can think about her, and keep her mind off of that little kid.

She's never met Panacea, but the pictures her dad has show her as a beautiful, vibrant woman. But then, beautiful was a given, wasn't it?

Her hair was a light brown, and matched her eyes. Divya looks nothing like her, and she knows that, no matter what her dad says. She's got black hair braided down her back, mud-brown skin, dark eyes. She's two inches too tall and ten pounds too light, and he's just deluding himself that she's anything special. She's not special, she's not good at anything expect fixing what wouldn't have happened in the first place if she had any hand-eye co-ordination, and she can't even keep from screwing that up.

iv.

"Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight,

"I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight."

The words are whispered under her breath, and she slams her weight down on his chest. It's not night quite yet, but she has good vision, and if she squints, she can just see Polaris. She's willing to try anything, technicalities be damned.

"Come on, you can't die on me, Matt, I won't let you."

He's still barely breathing.

"Please!", and the word is drowned out by her sobs, it wasn't supposed to work like this, they were the underdogs, they'd win, no matter how high the odds were, and the hero didn't die along with the villain. They were so much goldfish crap, but they were very determined goldfish crap, and that ought to count for something, dammit.

She pushes again, and he coughs, vomits up water, and she's not thinking anymore, just kissing him.

v.

Yuri. Nice name. Means 'lily'.

"Special Agent Yuri Nakagawa, FBI. Where's the body?"

A skull. She sees it for what it really is immediately, and she has to keep herself from grinning. She's going to make him pay.

Amazing that it hadn't been found earlier, amazing that it had been found at all. It's in a garbage bag, alongside bills and food containers and a dozen other things, and that gives her someone to check in with while they check for dental records which match. She'll have to go through the motions, even if she already knows the killer's identity. She's going to do this properly, and it'll just hit him all the harder. Life can be worse than death, sometimes.

A month later, a confrontation.

"There's no statute of limitations on murder."

The look on their faces fills her with a mixture of pride and joy, and she decides then that there's no reason not to keep using this identity. That was the destruction of a (half-blood's) family's lives, and it was easy. Easy and fun. Like LEGO.