Author's Notes: This fic was inspired by two movies, 'The House on Haunted Hill,' and Stephen King's 'Rose Red.' Of the two, it would bear more in common with Rose Red, since I love a true mystery-turned- movie setting. There will also be other anime characters popping up in some of the 'hauntings' - this is a haunted house fic as much as an angsty romance fic.
Category: Anime, Gundam Wing, Alternate Universe, Yaoi
Warnings: will contain creepiness, hauntings, violence, angst, shonen ai, and adult content
Pairings: 1x2, 3x4, slight D-R
Website / Complete Archive: www.geocities.com / arigatomina
Part 1: Ghosts and Busters
They arrived at the appointed time, different methods of conveyance dropping them off outside the gates of the manor. Dorothy met them there, curious to follow each one from the moment he entered the grounds until he was secure in the foyer. She thought it would be the best way to get a first impression, seeing each one outside the role of 'psychic,' acting normally until the actual interview slash introductions got underway. And she did learn quite a bit about each from just watching to see how they arrived.
The first, nearly a half hour early, was the blonde. Since she'd done the research to find each of them, she recognized him from his picture the moment the dark limousine pulled up to the front gates. The tint on the back window was just light enough to make out blurry but distinct pale hair. Though she already knew he was wealthy, the conveyance would have been a large clue if she hadn't.
Despite the picture she'd seen, she was a little surprised by how small the boy was, his head not going far over the top of the dark car when he stood, just about her height, if that. And while the blue-green eyes were as wide and expressive as they'd been in the picture she had of him, he barely met her gaze before looking away again. It marked him as either shy or timid, something that made her wonder. According to the information she'd dug up on him, he was the heir of a rather large fortune. She'd thought he would be as confident as she was, if not outright bold. That first look as he shook her hand told her she'd miscalculated this one. No matter his wealth, he wouldn't have lasted ten minutes in a confrontation with her.
It was with a little disappointment that she showed him inside the manor, leaving him in the foyer to wait as she returned to her post near the gates, eager to greet the next.
Ten more minutes passed, then a distinctly different type of vehicle pulled up. This one was ragged, cheap looking, and more than a little worn in appearance. The dark gray truck sounded like a diesel engine, the two visible gas tanks telling her that was just what it ran off of. Again she recognized the person before he left the vehicle, though the girl in the passenger seat was new to her. The boy was nearly as young as the blonde, but much taller and not nearly so reed thin. He gave her a slight nod before leaning in to speak with the redhead, the girl having scooted over to the driver's seat. Dorothy wondered briefly if they were siblings or lovers, the soft brush of the girl's hand on the boy's cheek speaking volumes of a very close relationship. Then the boy turned and the truck roared, hopping a bit before pulling away with a low rumble usually associated with semis.
His gaze was direct but not confrontational or intimidated. Her first impression of him was that he was a very sober individual. It made her wonder how he could be working and living with a circus when he looked like he never smiled.
Dorothy led him to the foyer where she'd left the other one, curiosity making her pause in the doorway to see how the two greeted each other. From what she'd read, neither had much experience with other self-proclaimed psychics or mediums or whatever it was they thought of themselves as.
To her surprise, the blonde looked up and started to smile, as if to introduce himself, only to blink a second later and drop his head with a somewhat uncomfortable look. A glance found the taller boy frowning at this, making her wonder if they'd had some sort of telepathic communication. She didn't particularly believe that people could talk without words, but something had obviously taken place. It made her frown in annoyance, watching the taller boy sit in silence, still staring over at the blonde, who continued to avert his eyes to the wall.
This was something she'd have to investigate later, after the other two arrived. With that in mind, she went back out to wait again. And it was a nice short wait.
She had just reached the gates when someone moved outside them. There wasn't a vehicle in sight, but the boy didn't look as if he'd walked, unless he'd started hours ago and had excellent endurance. This one was also about her own height, not very impressive, but he had sharp angry eyes that made her lips curve into a slight smirk. Now this one she was sure could be challenging if she pushed him.
He fit her expectations perfectly, that dangerous look very appropriate for someone who was supposed to have fought in the last war and who'd been honorably discharged after mere months of service. Though how anyone could think the boy, who didn't look a day over seventeen at the very oldest, had been old enough to serve was beyond her. According to his records, he'd been fourteen then, and that was just ridiculous. Whatever act he was putting on, falsifying his information like that, she could at least appreciate that he did look the part.
That sharp glare beneath dark dangling bangs and darker lowered brows fit the bill of a killer nicely. She smiled as she led him into the foyer, looking forward to taking him down a notch or two.
When she entered, Dorothy again found her gaze moving to the blonde, irritation furrowing her brow. The taller one was giving him a very blatant frown, and the blonde seemed to have caught it, because his head was ducked lower, as if that look were berating him verbally. As much as she refused to believe in telepathy, it certainly looked like someone was yelling at him. But that didn't fit what she'd seen in the tall green eyed boy earlier. His formerly sober expression had fallen into something that looked like outrage, all of it seeming to be directed at the silent and almost cringing blonde.
Dorothy scowled, inadvertently blocking the doorway so the newest boy couldn't enter. It was a light push that moved her aside, and she turned to comment on the rudeness. A glance at the dark-haired boy made her pause, his gaze also going directly to the blonde.
What was it with him?
The 'killer' glared sharply, his dark blue eyes seeming to flash, and she shivered. The pale hairs on her arms had stood on end the moment the boy glared, as if a cold breeze washed over her skin. And the two boys in the room flinched, turning to look at them in open surprise. The blonde's eyes shifted around him, as if looking for something, then he flushed a little and gave a weak smile before dropping his gaze. The other one merely gave a slight nod, just like the one he'd given Dorothy earlier, and the newest boy entered the room without a word.
It was with impatience that she went back out to wait for the last one, and Dorothy found herself fuming at how strange the three of them were. Sure, she knew they professed to have all sorts of paranormal abilities, but they didn't know each other. How could they stage something that looked like a prime example of nonverbal communication?
The thought that they'd conspired against her, making it look like they didn't know each other when they really did, was dismissed as quickly as it sprang to mind. No matter how strangely they behaved, she knew her research was as accurate as possible. The blonde came from the north, the tall one from the south, the 'killer' from the east, and the last one from the west, they were the best in their respective areas, but far enough away from each other that the chances of them having met were next to none. She'd set it up that way specifically to prevent such a simple fraud.
The scowl that had formed over her face intensified by the time she came in sight of the gates and she nearly walked right by the shadow, her thoughts back on the foyer, and her gaze on the road beyond the gate where she expected the next car to pull up. Two steps past the spot and she blinked, turning sharply to stare at the dark boy behind her. He'd also turned back to look at her, and he gave a quick smile, matching his picture perfectly.
He'd arrived while she was inside and had let himself in. That bit of information had Dorothy frowning, since she knew very well the gate was locked from the inside. But she didn't dispute it. Now that he was there, they could get on with the meeting.
She turned back to escort him inside and found herself shivering again, this time from a slight drop in the temperature. While she'd never admit it, since it seemed to be a sign of something paranormal, she had a distinct impression that the air around the boy was colder than it was away from him. And something in his seemingly bright violet eyes told her he had seen the shiver and had expected it.
That made her scowl again, walking a bit quicker so he trailed behind her, just far enough away to be out of that strange chill. They were all odd, but she refused to buy into their claims that easily. As quick as Relena was to believe in spirits and psychics, Dorothy had to maintain her scientific skepticism. Otherwise, the next few weeks would be impossible to bear.
She opened the foyer door, intending to leave the last boy there and hurry to get Relena, so they could get things under way. But once again she found herself pausing to take in the strange behavior.
The boy no more than stepped into the room before the other three were on their feet, staring at him in a mixture of disbelief from the wide eyed blonde, intense disapproval and anger from the tall one, and an unusual muddle of panic and livid fury from the 'killer.' Dorothy looked from them to the longhaired boy standing just inside the room.
He looked wary, maybe confused, certainly a little sad at the reaction, but not the least bit surprised. And he made no move to go closer to them, leaving him a few feet away from the doorway. The angry dark-haired one glared, another of those odd electrical currents making Dorothy shiver. But it was his hissed command that really got her.
That chill she'd felt before returned tenfold, as if a frigid wave rushed past and even through her, heading out the open door behind her. She stared with wide eyes and rubbed her suddenly icy arms. The temperature rose seconds later, the dark-eyed boy giving a sharp frown before turning and resuming his seat, back to them. The others copied his motions, though they continued to look back at them.
Dorothy frowned at the lot of them, not bothering to wave the longhaired boy to a seat. With a quick order for them to wait a minute, she turned to get their hostess. All the while her mind griped at her decision to take the will seriously and get involved with a group of weird, conniving teenagers. Psychics, indeed.
Relena had been waiting, rather impatiently if the near groove she'd paced into the carpet said anything, and she nearly jumped Dorothy the moment she walked into the room. Without letting the blonde girl say a word, she grabbed her hand with a bright smile, and rushed off to the foyer in a flurry of her dark blue skirts. One of Dorothy's dark eyebrows twitched as she followed at a much more sedate and respectable pace.
For all her decorum, Relena was just another teenager when she got excited, and she'd been eager to get into the house from the first moment she set eyes on it. Whether they were charlatans or not, the four boys were her key to entrance in a way that wouldn't go against the specifics set down on the will. But Dorothy knew it was more than that to Relena, the girl was actually eager to find out about the ghosts that haunted the place. Gullible, sometimes her friend could be very very gullible.
The boys turned when Relena entered the foyer, the long-haired one still standing quite a ways from the seated ones. She smiled at them before going over to sit in the soft lined chair across from them, waving a hand to her side so Dorothy would take her place in the matching seat to her right. The moment her friend was seated, she sighed and let her gaze shift over the four boys. "I'm so glad all of you could make it. I'm Relena Peacecraft. I know you've met Dorothy, but I'd like you to take a moment to introduce yourselves, share your respective abilities. It should make working together much easier. And when that's done...we can go see the house."
That last bit was given with very bright, almost childish excitement. Dorothy sighed and bit her tongue, doing her best not to say anything to spoil Relena's good mood. As much as she liked seeing the girl so eager, she hated that she was so willing to believe people, even when they were claiming to have inhuman abilities. Her friend had latched onto the angry one Dorothy had mentally dubbed 'killer', and the dark-haired boy returned that happy look with a cold, slightly angry stare.
"Heero Yuy," he said, his low voice almost too soft for the intensity it managed to convey. "I can see the dead," he turned to give a sharp frown at the one standing behind them, "and banish them."
The long-haired boy blinked, whipping his head to the side to see if there was anyone behind him, before frowning in visible confusion. "Why are you looking at me? I'm not dead."
Heero snorted, and Relena looked to the dark-clothed boy who was still quite a few feet away from them, nearly on the other side of the room. She frowned a little, waving him closer. "You can sit down," she said slowly, "make yourself comfortable."
"I'm fine," the boy said quickly, flashing a bright smile that was the mirror image of the one he'd given Dorothy earlier. "Duo Maxwell, telekinetic."
Relena frowned for a second, trying to remember the meaning of that word, then she smiled brightly. "You're the one who can move things, right? We had a little trouble the last time we tried to enter the house - something shoved us right back out and slammed the doors after us. I expect that won't happen with you there." The boy shrugged, still holding his seemingly bright careless smile, and she looked to the next one, the tall sober looking youth.
"Trowa Barton," the green-eyed boy said. "I can communicate with the dead, an afterlife telepathy of sorts."
"And you did work as a medium?" Relena prodded. "One of the specifics on the will said we had to clear the house of those haunting it. Talking them into resting peacefully would really be the best way." Heero snorted again, and she blinked at him, frowning a bit. "They were there first, after all." The boy returned her look with that same cool stare, and she gave an uncertain smile. Then she turned to look at the last boy, the quiet blonde near the wall.
"Quatre Winner," the blonde said, his voice a light tenor. "I'm an empath, meaning I can read people's emotions. And I hear the dead, though I can't communicate back to them." His eyes shifted a bit before settling on Relena again. "It's like listening to a one-way radio that you can't turn off."
Relena nodded at him, her eyes bright once more. "Knowing how the spirits feel would really help. I'm sure they have good reasons for not resting properly. We just need to find out what those reasons are, and how we can help to settle them." She glanced over at Heero, shaking her head at the boy's doubtful face. "Banishing them wouldn't do any good. I need them to rest permanently, not just disappear for a while."
"So," Dorothy sniffed, "about the house."
"Yes," Relena said brightly. "I've done my best to get a history on the place, but there is a lot of time left unaccounted for. And since I couldn't investigate myself, I can't say how much of the rumors are true - about the number of ghosts said to haunt the grounds. I'll just tell you all what is on record."
"The history is really sketchy at best. No one knows exactly when the house was built, or who the original builder was. It was out in the middle of a dense forest - sometime around 1900, nearly thirty years before the town sprang up a few miles away. But it's held up wonderfully. You'd never know to look at it that it was so very old.
"The first rumors about hauntings are from the thirties, that's when the town first started to grow and people were moving around the area." Relena dropped her eyes for a moment and flipped open a little folder so she could glance at the dates.
"In 1932 a teenager stumbled onto the grounds while hunting in the forest there. He came back to town and spread a wild story about having seen a corpse hanging from a very large willow in the middle of the forest. The authorities followed him back but they didn't find any body - or a tree, for that matter. What they did find was the house, surrounded by brush and grass as tall as a man. The hunter was so adamant they entered the house, but there wasn't anything there, either. They were surprised, though, since the inside was in such a good state. They'd later claim it looked like new even though that wasn't possible given the area and the building materials used.
"The house was sitting on public property, and since no owner was found, the state put it up for auction. It was sold a year later, in 1933 to rich recluse who'd been passing through the town. He planned to clear the area and make a road in so it wouldn't be so hard to reach from the town. He did clear the grass, and rumor has it he found a stump right where the hunter had claimed to see that willow tree and the corpse. But what was really strange was that he said he found bones. Dozens of fragmented human bones lying all over the ground, hidden by the grass he'd cut down. He went to the authorities but they didn't find anything when they got there. The grass was cut and they could see the ground just fine, but there weren't any bones. Just a little well that must have gone dry ages ago. The owner covered the well and that was it for a while.
"No one from the town heard anything from him for weeks after he saw the bones, but since he was a stranger to the area, it wasn't that odd. He ran a small add for a hired hand to help him clear back the forest, but otherwise, he was cut off. He never got around to clearing a road so his visits to the town had always been infrequent. A few months after he bought the place some teens popped up with another wild tale for the authorities. They claimed to have seen the owner hanging from a huge willow tree in the front lawn of the house. The authorities scoffed, naturally since it sounded like a repeat of the first story about the place. But since no one had heard from the owner, or the drifter he'd hired to work for him, they had to check it out. They found the house empty of any bodies, but there were bloodstains at the bottom of the cellar. That was the first recorded 'disappearance' in the house. It was rumored that the kids had killed the owner, but I doubt they'd have gone to the authorities if that were the case.
"After that the house sat derelict for about a decade. Drifters and homeless people wandered by, leaving more rumors about the ghosts in the house and on the surrounding land. People started saying that anyone who stayed there was never seen again. But none of that was ever substantiated so eventually they put the place back on the block and sold it to a respected family in the town.
"The Kurosaki family bought the house in 1945, and their friendly neighbors from the town leant a hand so they could finally clear a road to the grounds. They seemed to like it, but no more than a few weeks passed before their young daughter died of a strange, unknown illness. After that they stopped coming to town very often, just showing up now and then for supplies. The funeral was the last time anyone saw the three together since they didn't bring the son with them when they went in to the town. Less than a year of living there and they moved away, a few of their old friends claiming to have seen the parents leave in the dead of night. Rumors spread that they'd poisoned the daughter and that either the son had run away or met the same fate. But once again, there was no proof so people said it was more work of the ghosts haunting the place.
"The last people to actually live in the house was a pair of cousins, two young women with an unheard of amount of money." Relena grinned suddenly, sharing a wry smirk with Dorothy. "They spread rumors before they even moved in, since a few people didn't believe that they were really cousins. But no one wanted to think about that sort of thing, not back then. And they were pretty girls, so they had a lot of callers at first, the visitors going away to spread even more stories about the ghosts residing there. The women disliked the rumors and eventually they started discouraging callers. It wasn't long after they stopped getting visitors that they turned up missing. To this day, no one knows what happened to them. They could very well have left on their own. But, once again, their disappearance was attributed to the ghosts.
"That was the last time anyone lived in the house, but it was bought once more in 1979 by a wealthy landowner. He was hoping to make money off of the ghost stories and offered to give tours to people passing through the town. It might have worked, too, if his first tour hadn't resulted in five people getting separated from the group. Somehow, no one noticed they were gone till the tour got back to the town. And when they went back the next day, they didn't find anything. The landowner gave the place up soon after, though no one - not even on his one and only tour - saw any ghosts.
"Since then no one has lived there. People pass through occasionally and you'll hear more rumors of sightings, but no evidence. If I hadn't been thrown out of the door the first time I visited, I'd never have believed any of it. But now I'm sure there's something out there, something that drives people away. What I want is to see the place, to actually get in there and find out about it. I can't do that unless I'm following the stipulations on the will and clearing the house and land so it's safe for people. Since my grandfather purchased the area, no one in my family has been inside. I want to change that."
Relena took a deep breath, beaming at the boys who were watching her. "That's where the four of you come in. I'm not allowed inside the house until it's been cleared, but there isn't anything in the will about having others go in. I'll supply anything you need, and pay you for your time. All you have to do is guarantee that you won't get scared off by some rumors. Since you've had experiences with ghosts, I'm hoping you don't scare easily."
The girl was smiling very happily. Duo smirked at her and shook his head. "I haven't had any experiences with ghosts. I'm just your borderline schizophrenic teenager who manifests his angst in the form of poltergeist activity. Telekinetic, not ghost buster."
"I know," Relena said quickly. "But I thought having someone who could move things would be a good idea, especially after the door moved on us. If these spirits can affect physical things, you'll need something to counter that so the others can converse with them."
Trowa raised an eyebrow, his face otherwise sober. "If people are disappearing, what makes you think the ghosts would leave willingly? This house sounds like it is inhabited by malicious spirits, if not outright ghouls."
"Oh," Dorothy mocked, rolling her eyes. "Now you're going to say it's possessed by demons, right? You so-called psychics are really something else."
"No one here is a psychic," Heero said, his voice calm. "An empath, maybe, but no psychics. If you're hiring people based on paranormal abilities, at least learn the proper names for those abilities. Psychics predict the future. No one here can do that - unless he failed to admit to it earlier."
"Either way," Dorothy sniffed. "I just want all of you to know from the onset that I don't believe in ghosts or people who talk to ghosts. As far as I'm concerned all of you are charlatans." The blonde boy was staring at her with a surprised look and she frowned over at him.
"Then why did you ask us here?" Quatre asked, his voice very quiet.
"I didn't," Dorothy said.
"I did." Relena's voice was placating and she smiled at Quatre, not the least bit bothered by Dorothy's attitude. "Dorothy is a born skeptic, don't mind her. I'm the one who is hiring you. She'll be seeing to your progress more than I, but I have the final say. And for the record, I may not really believe in ghosts, but I don't disbelieve in them either. I know there's something in that house. I just haven't seen enough to put a name to it yet."
Dorothy sighed and shook her head, rising to stand with a resigned expression. "I'll take you to the house, now. We had some men bring in the supplies for your stay, so if there's more that you need, tell me tomorrow morning."
Turning toward the door, Dorothy was careful not to look back at Relena. "Just keep in mind that if you damage anything during your stay, or if anything ends up missing, then it's coming out of your wages. You'll be unsupervised, but that doesn't mean you can pillage the place."
The girl certainly knew how to be insulting. Duo glowered after her, not moving until the other three had left the room. By habit, he let them get ahead of him a few paces before following. He threw a glance back at Relena as he left the room and waved at the girl's hopeful expression. Though he'd never seen a ghost, he was looking forward to a nice distraction. It gave him a chance to be around people his own age. Even better, he'd be isolated with them in a place where they couldn't easily avoid him. He'd never been too happy with the avoidance. As far as he could see, there was just something about him that bothered people. He was used to it, but that didn't mean he had to like it.
Dorothy didn't say much during the drive, and she stopped the van at the edge of the gravel road. The boys looked at her in evident surprise, and she smirked. "I thought it would be good for you to get an idea of the surrounding area. This place really is isolated. Just follow the road, it leads straight back to the house. It's unlocked, so you should be able to settle fine."
They piled out of the van and she smiled at them, half leaning out the window. "I probably should mention that there's no electricity. Someone installed a water system for the place, but you'll have to use kerosene lamps for light. They're already set up, so it shouldn't be a problem. As for food, there's a nice fire-powered stove in the kitchen. I don't think it's been used in ages, but I'm sure you'll manage."
Heero's eyebrow twitched at her smug smile. Dorothy grinned wider. "Have fun with your ghost hunting. I'll stop by in the morning to see if you're still around. Try not to disappear before you get paid."
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