Title: The Mediator
Summary: Most people don't see ghosts; most people just see the result of what a ghost does. Not me, oh no, not Duo. I can see them and talk to them. In fact, it's my destiny to help them move on. Sounds like fun right? Wrong. [shounen-ai, surprise pairings]
Warnings: Supernatural phenomena, various random pairings, crazy authoress, Ozarkers, teen drama and death of a lot of people because they're ghosts
Disclaimer: The characters of Gundam Wing are not mine. The general idea for this story is based on The Mediator series by Meg Cabot. No profit is being made by me for this story. The town and surrounding area this story takes place in is a slightly altered version of several towns in my area. Any resemblance to a place you know/live/drove through is entirely coincidental, unless you know/live/drove through about seven different towns in Southern Missouri.
My first glimpse of my new home town isn't very impressive. There are a lot of little stores, quite a few churches and lots of people wandering about. Sadly, those people don't actually live here. Most of them, I'm told, are tourists, who come for the river, springs and caves of the area. Apparently the place is a beehive during the summer months, but shrinks down to its normal population of three thousand or so during the winter.
Mom is trying to tell me how wonderful this place is going to be. In fact, she's spent the last three hours telling me how great it is to live away from the city, how amazing the school is, how nice the neighbors are and everything in between. Howard keeps backing her up, jumping in with some details about horseback riding or hiking or something appropriately outdoorsy. Marymaia, the only one of my new stepsisters who wanted to make the day trip to the airport to get me, is bouncing up and down and adding her two cents every fifteen seconds. My two cats, Lucy Fur and De'Mon are also letting everyone know their opinions, which are probably very impolite.
"Did you know that we have over a thousand acres of land behind the house? There's plenty of space for a garden. We can grow our own vegetables, even! Can you imagine Duo?"
"Your mother's right. One of our neighbors, Mrs. Hannabrink, grows the best strawberries in the county. I'm sure she'd provide any help you needed."
"In terms you might know, Duo, we own two square miles of land. That's roughly equivalent to eight hundred square city blocks in New York City. Here in the Midwest, however, two square miles would equal five hundred and twelve square city blocks."
I give Marymaia a crooked look. "Did you just do all that in your head?"
"Conversion of round numbers isn't hard, especially with units made to be easily converted from one to the other. I had to look up the conversion factors for city blocks on the Internet, but the actual math is very simple."
"If you say so," I respond. She might be just twelve, but I will gladly admit she's probably several times smarter than me. This kid could be useful to have around, to help with homework and stuff. I'm not too proud to ask a twelve-year-old for help with math homework.
While I'm pondering the uses of my new little sister, Mom and Howard recover from their shock at what Marymaia said. They start talking again, falling into the same pattern. I tune them out. I'm a teenager after all, staring moodily out the window while ignoring my mom and stepfather is expected.
Not that the view is particularly exciting. We seem to be just at the edge of town. There are still quite a few houses; some of them are pretty nice, with lots of space between. I see a couple of horses, plenty of dogs and a pretty little church.
I'm sort of dozing when something Howard says makes me sit bolt upright. He's talking about the new house, which is apparently large enough for all four children to have our own rooms. Apparently I get my own bathroom, too, as I'm a boy and the girls weren't keen on sharing. Mom and Howard have a room downstairs. The kitchen is big; the deck has a gorgeous view-blah, blah, blah. This sounds great, in fact, the place sounds kind of cool.
But, "how old did you say this place was?" I demanded shrilly.
Howard grinned hugely. "Built in the late 1800s and newly renovated by yours truly in the early 21st century."
Apparently he thinks this is exciting. I'm not so sure. "Did people even live in this place at that time? I mean, in something besides a log cabin?" I laughed kind of nervously.
"Oh sure," Howard answers. "The Oller House-that's what the old place is called-was built by James Oller for his young bride. She wanted a place to feel at home. She was from the East Coast, so she wanted a house like the ones she was used to back home. It's quite Victorian; really beautiful."
"Yeah, sure, beautiful."
"Is something wrong Duo?" Howard asked.
Mom answered before I could. "Duo has an odd dislike of old buildings."
I can hear her pursing her lips. Mom doesn't like to be reminded of some of her son's quirks, such as disliking old buildings. I also don't like hospitals, for the same reason. Old buildings are better than hospitals. With a hospital you know lots of people have died there. In a regular building, your chances are slimmer, but they increase with the building's age. Old buildings equal dead people; dead people equal ghosts. Granted, this isn't a normal fear for most people. I don't really fall under the category of 'most people'.
I can see ghosts; not just see them, but touch them and hear them. To me, ghosts are just like living, breathing people.
A few people see one, maybe two, in their entire lives. Many people see what a ghost can do, like moving things, making cold spots, sending electronics on the fritz, that kind of stuff. Most of these kinds of ghosts are annoying, but that's about it. Sometimes they'll have a cool history, but they mostly just like to piss people off. These kinds make up about fifteen percent of the ghost world. The rest of the ghosts no one ever notices, because they're mostly just confused, lost, and in desperate need of help.
That's where I come in. I help ghosts move on to the afterlife, or heaven, or the next life, or whatever. I'm not really concerned with where they go, as long as they leave. I'm a go-between for the living and dead. Want to tell the police who shot you? I'm your guy. Need to let your son know that you don't blame him for the car crash that killed you? Call Duo Maxwell.
It all started when I was really young. I very distinctly remember my first ghost as a sort of sad looking woman on the stoop of our apartment building. She didn't do much but stand there and stare at us as Mom and I went past. I wondered at the time why Mom didn't speak to her. It didn't take long for me to figure out that Mom couldn't see these people like I could. It also didn't take long for me to figure out that I shouldn't talk about people no one else could see.
I don't remember when I realized that these people were dead. There aren't a lot of obvious clues. Ghosts look just like everyone else, except for a nice little glow-or aura-and occasionally out-of-date clothing. That's where most of the movies get it wrong, you know. Ghosts always appear as they looked when at their most vital and alive. I have never seen a ghost carrying around his head or with half his face missing.
Anyway, having this ability gives me some rather odd quirks, dislike of old buildings being just one of them. I also happen to spend an inordinate amount of time in said old buildings, plus churches, mosques, cemeteries, libraries and hospitals. I get drug home by the police occasionally, usually for trespassing, breaking and entering or loitering. Nothing has ever gone on any kind of permanent record-not even that time I was caught performing an exorcism in Central Park.
Otherwise, I'm fairly normal. I'm pretty average when it comes to height, a bit on the skinny side and in pretty good shape. I'm not terribly athletic, but I do ride my bike pretty often and can kick some major ghost-butt when necessary. I inherited my mother's blue-violet eyes and my father's golden-brown hair. I grow my hair really long-about to my waist-as a memorial to my great-grandmother, who kept her hair down to her knees, even at the age of ninety. I dress like any teenager, in jeans and t-shirts for the most part.
I've pretty much decided to sulk for the rest of the drive, which isn't very long. This puts me off even more. I mean, how can I make a point if I only have a few minutes to do it? Not very well, because no one really notices I'm sulking. I guess staring moodily out the window and sulking are too close for an obvious change of attitude.
As we pull up to the house I realize that it is quite pretty, beautiful in fact. I can see why my mother likes it so much.
It's quite the rambling type of place; very Victorian meets Southern Plantation home. From what I can see there is a huge wraparound deck, big bay windows, and quite a lot of little nooks and crannies and even a turret sticking out of the back. Mom and Howard painted it a bright sky blue with cream trim. The yard and landscaping is a bit sad, but they just recently finished the renovations, so I'll let that slide.
Lucrazia and Hilde are standing on the deck, waiting to warmly greet their new stepbrother. I've only met them once before, at our parents' wedding, but my impression of them is still the same. Lucrazia is long and gangly, rather athletic and quite the tomboy. She'll be a senior when the school year starts, which makes her two years older than me. Hilde is exactly the opposite: short, curvy and girly. Hilde is a couple of months younger than me, and is a sophomore as well. Both of them have black hair and blue eyes. Marymaia is the youngest and my favorite so far. She looks nothing like her sisters, all freckles and red hair and sunny smile.
I allow Marymaia to grab my hand and begin my Grand Tour of the Maxwell-Akers Home. We start in the entrance hall, which is just a little room to hang your coat and wipe your shoes. The entrance hall opens up into the grand parlor room-I'm not making this stuff up, the kid is telling me-which, when this house was built, was used to formally entertain guests. We're apparently using it as a family and living room now, since this is where the TV has been located. Next to the grand parlor room is the formal dining room, which will be used for just that. Next to the dining room is the kitchen, which is big enough to contain my mom and all of her culinary experiments, unlike our dinky apartment kitchens in the city. There's a breakfast nook with a big window seat in this huge bay window. I think the nook is part of the round turret in the back of the house. Back through the dining room and into the family room. Attached to family room is a landing area which grants access to two smaller rooms, which have been converted into a library (for Mom's book collection) and an office (for Howard and Mom)a bathroom and the staircase, which curves up and down.
We go downstairs first, which is where Mom and Howard will be making their home. Weirdly enough, the basement actually opens out onto a patio. The house is built on a hill, which gives it the illusion of only two floors and the loft in the front, but there are actually three stories. They have a nice little den downstairs, with Howard's exercise equipment, more of Mom's books and their own TV. They have a huge bedroom, a giant bathroom and a walk in closet. Quite the posh little set up. The basement used to just be storage, but Howard decided to put the master suite downstairs.
Marymaia marches me back upstairs, all the way to the second floor. Here is where we children will be living. Five doors open up off the landing. Two of these doors lead to rooms for Hilde and Marymaia. A third opens to the very narrow staircase which leads to Lucrazia's loft room. The center door is a very large bathroom with two sinks, lots of mirrors, a tub and a shower.
The final door, Marymaia informs me, is my room. It used to be the master bedroom, but Mom and Howard preferred to make their own master suite downstairs. However, because it used to be the master bedroom, it comes complete with the old master bath. Thus I have my own bathroom, which might not be as big as the girls', but I don't have to share it.
During this whole tour I haven't seen a single ghost. I'm beginning to think I'm the luckiest person in the world. Apparently no one ever died and left some sort of unfinished business behind. I mentally start doing a victory dance.
The victory dance is cut short as soon as Marymaia opens the door, because there is a ghost in my room. He's sitting very nonchalantly in my beautiful window seat with its great view of the backyard. I scowl slightly, but I plan on ignoring him until Marymaia goes away.
My room is very nice-despite its former resident still being here. Most of my stuff was still in boxes, but Mom had made up my bed. My Victorian bedroom set-inherited from my grandmother-looks perfect in this room. The walls were painted a fresh cream color; the carpet is a deep blue. The curtains in the bay window are a light blue, as is the cushion on the window seat. Mom even bought new bedding, which is also blue with a hint of purple. Everything looks fresh and new, even the furniture had a new coat of polish on it.
I peer into the bathroom-still ignoring the ghost-and get another pleasant surprise. The size of this bathroom is much bigger than I had anticipated. Instead of a mean little water closet, I have a nice lavatory. There's a nice big tub that looks fully long enough to stretch out in. It's one of those claw foot tubs, and, according to Marymaia, is an original furnishing in the house, though thankfully has modern plumbing added to it. There is a rather small shower stall right next to it, which isn't so small I couldn't shower without smashing my elbows. The sink has plenty of cabinet space for one person and there is a large mirror behind it. The color scheme in here is the same as the bedroom, with blue tiles on the floor and cream colored paint.
I had finished my inspection of the bathroom when Mom came in, followed by Howard, Lucrazia and Hilde. The girls were carrying Lucy Fur and De'Mon. Howard and Mom had the last of my luggage. They set their burdens down, releasing the cats from their cages, and looked at me expectantly.
"Do you like it Duo? I thought about doing red and cream, but it would have been very dark, unless I put pink somewhere. I thought shades of blue would be preferable to pink. I know it's kind of extravagant, but you are the second oldest, and Lucrazia didn't want this room" She trailed off in the middle of the sentence.
"I love it, Mom, its perfect." I blithely lied. What else was I supposed to do? The only thing wrong with this room was that a former resident hadn't moved out yet. I couldn't very well share that little detail with my mother.
I glanced at my cats, pretty sure they wouldn't be too happy about our unwelcome guest either. Cats, and all animals, can sense ghosts and don't particularly like them. Much to my surprise, Lucy and De now sat quite calmly on my bed staring at the ghost. Man, even my cats are weird.
Something must have shown in my face, because the next thing I knew my mom was going on and on about 'new beginnings' and 'moving away from the past'. She continued to ask whether I liked this detail or that. Did I like the shade of the curtains? Was my closet roomy enough? Did I think I needed an extra blanket? Eventually, however, everyone finally decided to leave. The girls went to their rooms, Mom and Howard went to parts unknown and I was left alone.
Well, mostly alone.
"Alright, who are you and what's your glitch?" It's best, when dealing with ghosts, to be straight forward and not beat around the bush. This is usually the fastest and most convenient way to deal with them. Besides, I was tired and a little put out to see an unwelcome guest in my room.
This ghost, however, wasn't terribly talkative. In fact, at first he wasn't even sure I was talking to him. He actually looked behind himself, which only afforded him a fantastic view of some trees, before raising an eyebrow at me. "You can see me?"
"Sure can, buddy, and let me tell you, I'm not happy about it. So what's your glitch?"
"My what?" He looked extremely confused.
Apparently he was an old ghost and not familiar with current lingo. I should have figured that out immediately, considering he was dressed in what appeared to be homespun linen and cotton circa eighteen-eighty. He wasn't wearing anything fancy, just a green shirt and brown trousers with a pair of black boots. There was a floppy hat carelessly tossed on the window seat. Oh yeah, definitely not from this century.
"Your glitch," I explained patiently, "your problem, your reason for not moving on. You're dead, which means you aren't supposed to be still hanging around."
His very intense blue eyes fixated on me. "What if I happen to like 'hanging around'?"
Oh great, a difficult one. "Look, buddy"
"What?" I'm not used to being interrupted by seemingly pointless words. People, I tell you, lose all manners they ever learned as soon as they die. I have yet to meet a polite ghost.
"You called me 'buddy'. I thought you would like to know that I have a name; it's Heero." He remained entirely calm, not at all ruffled by my glare. In fact his attitude was arrogant and quite aloof, which didn't make me any happier.
"Your name is Heero?" I asked, quite disbelieving.
"Your name is Duo."
"Wrong, my name is Duilio. Everyone calls me Duo, because Duilio is too hard to say." I didn't really feel like trying to explain my parents' choice of names. "Look, either you clear out voluntarily or I make you leave. The point is, I want you gone before I come back up here for bed. Understand?" I didn't wait for an answer, but just turned on my heel and stalked out. I didn't want to, it is my room after all, but I had a feeling I'd lose any arguments I started with Heero.
It was midnight before I finally went to bed. I wanted to, you know, give Heero a chance to get out. He wasn't there when I climbed into bed, so I can only assume he found another place to haunt. If he hadn't, well, I'd have pulled some major ghost-ass-kicking moves on him.