MIND GAMES [One Direction fanfiction] - 13 and up

Harry Styles was just a normal teenage boy, a normal teenage boy who had a happy life and was quite content to live it the way nature had intended: completely normally, with no weird happenings or crazy adventures. Yet some things, it would seem, are destined to be, and it would appear that Harry’s fate was to be abducted by insane strangers intent on experimenting on him, and their four other hand-picked victims. Harry sometimes feels so alone, even when his best friends are only a few metres away - and he can’t seem to help but be afraid, because there are so very few things left in his life for him to control…

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22. Chapter twentytwo.

They had to eat, of course – Niall would have forced the issue even if nobody else had agreed – and after a few quick excursions (in other words, Harry heading off to the bank and persuading the cashier to allow him to withdraw a large percentage of his own savings without any form of identification) they found the local supermarket and started gathering food supplies. Liam had to go and supervise Niall, in case he bought the whole shop, but otherwise they headed out on their own. Louis began naturally gravitating towards Harry, of course, but Harry quickly melted into the background and vanished, where Louis couldn’t see where he had gone. Shrugging, Louis headed off on his own – and so did Zayn.

He had his own ideas of what sorts of food he wanted, and he had no intention of letting anyone else interfere with his plans. The freezer department was cool – just like him, he thought with a chuckle, and then rolled his eyes because he couldn’t believe he’d just had that thought – and it felt good, bearing in mind that they spent so much time being boiling these days. Even when he wasn’t on fire, Niall’s skin was like an open furnace; even being within a few inches of him caused heat to lick your whole body and sweat to start prickling down your back if it was reasonably warm anyway. The heat didn’t seem to effect Niall, but everyone else certainly noticed it. It was overwhelming! They all loved Niall; it would be pretty much impossible not to, but they certainly didn’t love his ridiculous amount of body heat.

Zayn quickly found the kind of food he wanted; some people would have called it ‘junk food’. He called it ‘heaven’. Just a pizza, but he was seriously contemplating tearing the box open with his teeth and attacking it instantly; he hadn’t eaten a pizza in ages and he was pretty much desperate. Still, if there was one thing he was more fiercely determined about than that he was going to get his pizza, it was that his dignity would remain intact if nothing else did, so he carried on up the aisle and turned onto the next one.

Biscuits were next on his list, but annoyingly, his favourite kind were on the top shelf. Yeah, Zayn was tall, but not that tall. Huffing in irritation, he folded his arms and tapped his foot impatiently on the floor, waiting for an assistant to come along and help him get them down, because he was pretty damn sure he wasn’t wandering around looking for one.

It was annoying that nobody seemed to be coming, and Zayn waited for a couple more minutes, but he wasn’t in a particularly patient mood. All he wanted was biscuits! They should have been on a lower shelf, really. Who could reach them from all the way up there? His eyes scanned the bulging shelves, taking in brightly coloured packaging and cellophane and patterns so colourful and eye-catching that they gave him a mild headache. Zayn scowled and walked around in a little circle, and then he started tapping on the shelves. Still nobody came. He was starting to lose his temper.

As if they were taunting him, the biscuits he wanted stayed maddeningly out of reach; his fingers would just about brush the edge of the shelf they were on if he stood on tiptoe. A frown fixed itself across his forehead as he struggled, feeling pretty embarrassed to be messing around grabbing at shelves like this. To be fair, it was kind of humiliating to be at the mercy of a shelf simply for the sake of a few inches of height. It wasn’t a problem under normal circumstances because he was pretty tall anyway…which only meant that when he came across height-related problems they became all the more annoying.

Zayn couldn’t be bothered waiting any longer. Rolling his eyes, he glanced around to make sure that no one was watching, and then focused intently on the packet of biscuits.

It took a fair bit of precision to slide them off the shelf with only the power of his mind, but Zayn had been practicing, and after a few frowns, grumbles and a lot of twitches of his hand (which he found helped him to direct things more easily, although he wasn’t quite sure why) he managed to guide them into the empty air above the shelf and they slowly began floating downwards and towards his outstretched hands. The whole thing was very careful and calm, and Zayn felt pretty pleased with himself, even allowing himself a smug little nod as they landed in his hands. He grinned at the packet.

He’d thought that he’d checked thoroughly enough that no one was around, but a sharp intake of breath proved him wrong – whirling around, he found himself looking down at a young woman who was a good head shorter than him, and gaping at him in awe. All Zayn saw was white-blonde hair cascading over her shoulders and a pair of bluish-grey eyes before he realized what had just happened and the first survival instinct kicked in. It was fight or flight, and Zayn chose flight. He didn’t even waste time spitting out the stream of swearwords that sprang to mind – he just made a run for it, dashing in the opposite direction and sprinting for the end of the aisle.

Skidding around the corner, Zayn bit down hard on his lip and thought Harry! hoping to God that Harry was listening – he didn’t know how this whole mind thing worked, after all. How did he make Harry hear him if Harry wasn’t in his head already? Like he had any idea! So he continued calling Harry’s name inside his mind, just praying that Harry would hear him.

On the polished floor behind him, he could hear a pair of brand new trainers squeaking as they pounded on the ground – the girl was giving chase. Zayn spared a moment from his mental pleas for Harry’s attention to curse her and her existence on the planet, and then rushed down another aisle, doubled back and sprinted back the way he had come. He could hear her inhaling and exhaling heavily as she rushed forward in pursuit, but she still remained hot on his heels.

Shit, shit, what do I do, what the hell do I do? Zayn thought frantically. Spotting a huge pyramid of cans, he ducked down and squatted behind it, cowering behind the pile of metal cylinders and eyeing them warily in case they fell on him. He was struggling to catch his breath quietly so that the girl wouldn’t hear him. Looking down, he realized that he was still clutching the packet of biscuits that had caused so much havoc in only a couple of seconds, and he almost felt tempted to laugh. How could he have been so stupid as to get caught making a packet of biscuits fly?

Either Harry wasn’t listening, or Zayn was doing something wrong, because no response was coming and he couldn’t sense any kind of mental pressure which suggested that Harry might be trying to communicate with him. It looked like Zayn was on his own, for now at least. Placing the troublesome biscuits on the floor, he took a couple of deep breaths to steady himself in preparation for his next run. Right now, he would have given anything to swap powers with Felix, who could have teleported away ten times over by now – but if he had Felix’s power, he wouldn’t even need to escape. Licking his lips worriedly, Zayn started to stand up, warily bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet as he peered around the tower of bean cans, waiting for the girl’s pale blonde head to appear.

Temporarily, he seemed to have lost her. Breathing a sigh of relief, he skirted around the beans and began jogging down the next aisle to begin his hunt for the boys so he could tell them how stupid he’d been and they could leave quickly, or Harry could do something with the girl’s mind and undo the damage Zayn had done. Unfortunately, the shelves ran on until they reached a wall, and Zayn pulled a face at the dead end. He turned to head back.

The blonde girl ran straight into him, tripped over his feet and yelped as she started to fall over, and Zayn had to hastily reach out and grab hold of her arm to stop her from falling flat on her face.

Moments later, he realized what he’d done and instantly let her go, but by then she had steadied herself and was standing on her own two feet. Her eyes were wide with excitement and shock; he stared with momentary interest at the odd swirls of blue and grey in her irises, and how they worked well with the carefully applied eyeliner she had neatly pencilled in around her eyes. The pale colour of her hair made her skin look delicate, almost like porcelain, and her cheeks were delicately flushed from exertion. Her hair was loose and fell around her shoulders, dishevelled from her run. She wore mismatched clothes; a thick woollen grey jumper and denim dungarees that were too big for her, and dirty black Converse sneakers. There was an overflowing red folder clasped to her chest, and it rose and fell with her breathing.

The girl’s chin was pointed and her face a little round, which looked odd especially as she had very visible cheekbones. She had an unusual combination of features, but when combined, she was actually quite pretty – in a strange sort of way.

Zayn found his mouth curving into an instinctive smile and he smirked down at her; she grinned back at him, and that was when he realized what he was doing and backed into the wall, horrified. He was borderline flirting with a girl who had just witnessed him doing things which were clearly abnormal, and he was allowing her to get a good look at him! Police descriptions! Wide-eyed with panic, Zayn grabbed at her and she gasped a little, stepping back in shock – he took advantage of her surprise by shoving past her and making a run for the end of the aisle which he knew didn’t lead to a dead end.

“Wait!” she called after him.

“Not likely!” Zayn muttered as he sidestepped one of the shop assistants – oh, great, now they were hanging around! – and hurried down the home baking aisle.

“Please!”

He ignored her.

“Please!” she tried again. “I know what you are! I just want to help you!”

That made Zayn stop dead; he paused and turned on her with a dark expression unfurling across his face like a flag, and the girl squeaked and skittered back a few steps like a nervous animal, clinging tightly to the red binder she was holding against her chest. Advancing on her, Zayn’s expression was not the most comforting he’d ever worn, or the most charming, but after that first initial moment of alarm, she stood her ground.

“Excuse me,” Zayn demanded, glaring down at her, “what was that?”

She stammered “I – um –” and blinked like a rabbit caught in the headlights, her mouth falling open in dismay at his obvious display of hostility. Her words had most definitely not been received in the way she had intended.

“You know what I am,” he repeated disgustedly, his fingers forming imaginary quotation marks around the words as he stared down at her. “Do me a favour, then, and enlighten me; what am I, exactly?”

A pointed pink tongue flicked out and wet her lips as she licked them anxiously. “Supernaturally gifted,” she said quietly. “I’m a paranormal researcher. I study this kind of thing. I saw what you did and I want to help you.”

“I don’t need help!” But his curiosity was roused. “How do you plan to ‘help me’?”

That stumped her. Flustered, she blinked at him as she struggled for an answer to his question.

Without even waiting for her to come up with a satisfactory answer, Zayn said “Exactly. Thanks, but we don’t need anyone’s help.” With that, he turned and started to walk away.

“We?” she said quietly.

For the second time that day, Zayn cursed her to the deepest recesses of hell and wished her a very slow and painful death just for being such a bloody good listener.

~*~

Louis was just too damn sexy. That was the problem with him. It just made Harry uncomfortable, having to hang around with someone so gorgeous and feel lots and lots of inappropriate urges towards him and know that doing something about it would be wrong, whereas not doing something about it was slowly but surely driving Harry into the welcoming arms of insanity.

He seemed to exude a kind of aura of attractiveness that poured off him in enormous and irresistible waves, and Harry was helplessly enthralled by even the tiniest movement of his ‘best friend’ – although Harry had begun to secretly refer to Louis as his own personal hell on earth; Satan in sinfully tight trousers and with hair that was just begging to have fingers run through it. Those kind of thoughts were the exact reason why Harry had rushed off so quickly; he needed to clear his head, and having Louis up all close and personal with his usual cheerful disregard for everyone else’s personal space was not exactly going to make matters any better. Or clear some of the mess from Harry’s innermost thoughts. His brain was already clogged up with far too many thoughts of Jesus Christ, he’s hot as it was.

It was so distracting, in fact, that he had no idea what section of the supermarket he’d rushed into. Reaching for a box of highly priced cereal, he examined the nutritional values on the back without really caring about them. Harry wasn’t that bothered about what he was putting into his mouth so long as it tasted all right.

A hand landing on his shoulder made him squeak and he spun around in shock, brandishing the cardboard box like a deadly weapon – Louis smirked and caught hold of it before Harry could whack him over the head with it, and he seemed amused, judging by the look on his face. Gently pushing on the box to lower it so that he wouldn’t get smacked in the nose with it, Louis raised his eyebrows at Harry.

“What on earth are you doing with that? I didn’t think you like muesli. How come you took off so fast, anyway? Anyone would think you were trying to avoid me.” He grinned.

Harry burst into horribly forced laughter, and between fake chuckles he mumbled things like “Trying to avoid you, haha, that’s a good one!” and “you’re such a joker,” and “Oh, you! Hahaha”. It killed him how stupidly guilty he sounded, and he could feel his ears starting to burn. He could only hope that they weren’t visibly turning as red as they felt.

“Harry.”

His awful false laughter cut off immediately and Harry’s face fell as he blinked at Louis, staring right into a pair of deep blue eyes that almost seemed disappointed with his terrible attempt at lying. Blinking stupidly, Harry bit down hard on his lip as he met Louis’ gaze and knew that if he couldn’t hold it, if he looked away first, then Louis would know for sure that he’d just told an extremely unconvincing lie.

Yet just as he was about to blink and convince the older boy of his guilt forever, Harry heard Zayn’s voice chanting a string of profanities that Harry had never heard used in quite such a vicious combination before in his life. Closing his eyes, he pressed his fingers to his temples so he could concentrate more, trying to work out where the noise was coming from. The connection was faint and hazy, Zayn’s voice was quiet and echoed weirdly, bouncing off the inside of his head so that he struggled to pinpoint the source. Frowning, Harry listened intently as he tried to figure out where Zayn was and what could be making him feel the need to swear so unrestrainedly.

“Harry, what –”

“Shhhhh!”

Harry swatted him impatiently away – he didn’t need Louis distracting him right at that second. Switching his perspective to see things through Zayn’s eyes, he started looking around from the viewpoint of his friend in order to get an idea of whereabouts Zayn might be – and the first thing he saw directly in front of Zayn was an unusual but pretty-looking blonde girl, who was looking at him with her head tilted to one side and an odd expression curving her lips upwards into a slightly unnervingly hopeful smile. If Harry had been using his own eyes, he would have rolled them; it took a supreme effort not to send Zayn’s deep brown irises rolling skywards at the sheer predictability of the situation. It simply wasn’t very helpful. He was pretty sure that the supermarket didn’t have a ‘cute blondes to flirt with’ section. This being the case, he flickered Zayn’s eyes quickly from side to side, scanning the shelves for a clue – he barely spared a moment to worry over why the girl had caused such a stream of profanities to cascade so loudly through Zayn’s head. Or to wonder why he had suddenly heard all of it, like Zayn had been trying to contact him somehow and the message had only just gotten through.

The girl seemed a little alarmed at the sight of Zayn’s eyes flickering from side to side, but Harry wasn’t bothered. Let her think Zayn was weird. It wasn’t like she’d be seeing him again anyway. Zayn’s eyes roved up and down, left to right…and then Harry spotted a bulging bag of flour from the corner of his eye, and his heart leapt. Instantly he summoned up a memory of his own local supermarket back home and what section the flour had been in there.

Flour, flour, flour, flour, flour, flour, flour, flour –

“Home baking!”

Harry’s eyes snapped open just in time to see Louis staring at him with a completely bewildered expression on his face.

“What?”

“Come on!” Impatiently, Harry reached out to grab hold of Louis’ wrist and found that he had seized his friend by the hand. Only moments later he realized the full impact of what he’d just done and looked down at his fingers where they were intertwined around Louis’, and was stunned by how right they looked, larger fingers curled around small ones. It did something funny to him, twisting his insides around in his stomach. If he let go now, he would have to go through the whole awful rigmarole of dropping Louis’ hand and uncomfortably explaining what had happened, and there would have to be shuffling and mumbling and horrible awkwardness – and he didn’t want to let go of Louis’ hand! It felt nice. So he simply thought,To hell with it! and with a swift tug, started dragging Louis forwards as they sprinted hand in hand down the shop, Harry’s eyes on the signs dangling from the ceiling as he looked frantically around for the printed lettering that would indicate the Home Baking section of the shop.

“Harry, what the –”

“Come on!” Harry insisted, and as he spotted the sign he was looking for, he hauled Louis down the appropriate aisle.

It was a great testament to Louis’ faith in Harry that he didn’t force the issue or demand to know why they were suddenly rushing down the section of a store dedicated to making cakes when they didn’t even have electricity in the house they were staying in, let alone baking facilities. Harry yanked roughly on Louis’ hand and they sprinted forwards – and then Harry skidded to an abrupt and unexpected halt, running straight into Zayn as he did so.

When Zayn whirled around and realized who had just crashed into him, he relaxed instantly, and he was visibly calmer as he turned to face the blonde who was looking anxiously from Harry to Louis to Zayn and back again, as if she were afraid of them. Her teeth were sinking into her bottom lip as she nibbled it, and the red folder she was crushing against her chest like a lifeline was starting to bend in her grip.

“She knows,” Zayn said grimly, and his relaxed expression was gone. “About what we can do. She saw me levitating something.”

He had expected either Harry or Louis to yell at him, but neither of them did – they just looked at the girl with new eyes, appraising how much of a threat she was likely to be and whether she was going to start shrieking about flying biscuits or leap at them and claw their eyes out from fear.

The girl looked pleadingly at them, and she stepped forwards, one hand outstretched. “I just want to –”

“Whoa! Don’t move an inch! You stay right there.” Louis held up his hands warningly and the girl’s eyes widened as she quickly inched backwards and pressed her back to the wall, leaning away from him. Clearly she was intimidated by the threat of what he could do to her – even though in reality, the worst damage he could do would be to pelt her with force fields that would bounce off her head and would usually be an annoyance at best.

“Okay,” she said diplomatically, “okay, I’m staying here.”

“Good.” Louis checked her up and down. “What do you want? Who do you work for and what do you know about us?”

“I don’t work for anyone! And all I know about you is that one of you can make inanimate objects fly and that another of you would appear to be threatening me.” She said all of this very calmly, but she looked pointedly at Louis’ hands as she did so.

He made no effort to apologize or to lower his outstretched hands. “Why would you be sneaking around supermarkets and watching Zayn if you didn’t know anything about us? Why would you be staring at him?”

The girl reddened a little, but stood her ground. “Maybe I was checking him out.”

Zayn couldn’t help but grin a little bit at that.

“Maybe you were,” Louis conceded, “but I doubt it. You must have had some kind of motive!”

While Louis was carrying out his verbal interrogation, it was an ideal time for Harry to begin extending his mind towards the girl’s and trying to investigate her mind. It was a good distraction, having Louis battle with her using words while Harry probed her inner thoughts for some kind of clue. Disjointed thoughts started drifting towards him, hard to decipher or to grab for too long because they kept scattering, and that which he found was in bits and pieces like shards of a broken mirror. They didn’t cut him, but they made him dizzy when he tried to examine them. He’d never seen a mind like it. Either the girl was mad, and her mind was twisted and didn’t work like other people’s, or she was doing it on purpose – Harry was inclined to believe the latter.

Almost desperately snatching at her confusing menagerie of thoughts, which were flitting around madly inside her head like caged birds trying to escape, Harry fought for information that was determined to elude him. Her name was one of the few scraps he managed to get: Eithne, which he’d never heard before but he was fairly sure was Irish or something. Another was that she was single – a thought which she seemed to associate with thoughts of Zayn. Harry rolled his eyes. Typical.

It wrecked his head trying to make sense of the jumble that was her mind. She seemed almost smug, like she knew exactly what he was doing – or trying to do – and was intentionally stopping him. Harry was annoyed. And that was putting it mildly.

“That’s interesting,” she told Harry, “what you’re trying to do. It won’t work. I spent a couple of years in intensive mental training so I could protect myself against this kind of thing. You’re pretty good, though. For an amateur.”

So outraged was Harry at being patronized by a girl who was shorter and probably younger than him, and at being dismissed so quickly just because she had some fancy training to learn how to block him out, that he decided he might as well play the one card he had and said “So I suppose an amateur is the exact opposite of what you are, isn’t it…Eithne.”

Her face flushed in acknowledgment and he watched her grip the folder even more tightly against her chest, but other than a curt nod she gave no affirmation that he had been right – even though he knew he was. “If you want to stop threatening me, then maybe I’ll explain to you a bit more about how I know about all this kind of stuff, and why I’m not running and screaming right now.”

“You’re not running and screaming because we’re threatening you,” Louis said shortly. He looked at Harry. “You get anything?”

It stung Harry’s pride to admit “Name. Her favourite colour is green. Right now she’s hungry and craving Doritos. That’s about it. I can’t get anything specific; she’s….” He paused, hovering distastefully over the words before he said sourly “…blocking me.”

Louis was shocked, which only made Harry feel worse for disappointing him. “You mean people can do that?”

“Only with a lot of fancy training, apparently,” Harry murmured, “but yes. Zayn had a good go at keeping me out once, but nothing on this scale. I can’t get a fix on anything before it slips away from me.”

“Okay,” acknowledged Louis. He looked at Harry. “What are we going to do with her? She’s seen too much, but if she’s blocking you I don’t suppose there’s any chance of erasing it.”

Ridiculously pleased at having his opinion asked by Louis, Harry struggled not to beam as he said “Chances are I’d end up swiping blindly at her and trying to erase bits and end up removing the wrong thing. God knows what could go wrong if I got rid of something she needed.” He hesitated thoughtfully. “I say we take her somewhere – not where we are. Somewhere else. To keep her until we know more about her.”

Nodding, Louis offered “You want me to contain her?” He flexed his fingers meaningfully.

Harry shook his head quickly. “Not yet. I think we should try and keep our abilities from her for as long as possible. The less she knows about us, the better.”

“Well then,” said Louis, “I suppose we’d better get moving, hadn’t we? I hope you have somewhere in mind for us to take her, Harry.”

“Oh, I do,” Harry promised. “I do.”

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