Summary: Maria is a photographer who loves urban exploration. One day, she comes across an amazing find; a newly abandoned mansion hidden in the forest. Walking through the rooms, she gets to know the people who used to live here, and can't help but feel an odd sort of sorrow at the thought that she'll never get to meet them. But the world works in strange ways. One-shot. Slightly AU.

SkyGem: Well, I saw a picture on the front page of dA today, and it really struck a nerve in me for some reason. And I came up with this. I hope you all like it, ne?

Disclaimer: I don't own KHR.

Maria's heart began thudding wildly when she saw it.

It was absolutely gorgeous, and she couldn't get inside the gates fast enough.

She had heard rumors of an abandoned mansion in the woods, and, slightly skeptical, she had decided to pursue them. And she was glad she had.

It was really rare for her to be able to explore such newly abandoned places as this (abandoned ten years at the very most), and it gave her new levels of excitement.

For as long as she could remember, the twenty-five-year-old had loved exploring abandoned places, especially houses, even if there was just something so terribly lonely about it.

One could learn so much about a person from what their house looked like, and by exploring abandoned houses, it made one feel like they had a sort of connection to the past, a kind of intimacy one just couldn't get by reading about something in a newspaper or a textbook.

The moment she laid a hand on the slightly rusted gates, Maria felt a familiar chill crawl down her spine, the same chill she always got when exploring somewhere new.

The gate had obviously, once upon a time, been just as beautiful as the rest of the mansion. Made out of beautifully wrought iron, it had in the middle a design that looked somewhat like a crest.

In the middle of the crest was a shield with a shape that looked suspiciously like a bullet on it, and above and on both sides of the shield were two crossed guns. And above the muzzles of the guns was what appeared to be a winged clam, its wings spread wide.

There were embellishments on the crest, but what really drew Maria's eye was the banner-like shape under the shield with beautiful calligraphy on it, proudly stating the name of the family to which it belonged: the Vongola.

"Clam…" murmured Maria absently under her breath, wondering why exactly the name sounded so familiar, like a half-buried memory.

Then, suddenly, a memory came to her, completely out of the blue.

It had been about nine years ago, when she was still a teenager.

She had seen on the news that a supposedly very wealthy family, Vongola, had just up and pretty much disappeared off the face of the Earth.

No one knew why, but they hadn't been seen again since.

It was a testament to how well-respected they were (and those who didn't respect them were afraid of them) that no one had dared enter it during the nine years they'd been gone.

Everyone seemed to be of the opinion that they would one day return.

Shaking these thoughts out of her mind, Maria almost second-guessed her decision to explore the mansion.

In the end, though, curiosity won out, and she slowly pushed open the gates and stepped onto the driveway leading up to the mansion.

The place didn't look too bad from the outside, with all the windows still intact and looking for all the world like a normal mansion.

The only things that gave away the fact that it was abandoned were the overgrown gardens, and the general air of neglect that enshrouded the entire place like a cloak.

As Maria walked up the beautiful marble steps, she looked around, feeling so out-of-place, and even vulnerable, as if someone would jump out any moment now and demand to know why she was here.

Shaking off the feeling, she pushed open the door, which she was surprised to see was unlocked (she'd been anticipating a break-in) and stepped inside.

If the mansion had looked normal on the outside, it looked just like any other abandoned house on the inside, except perhaps grander.

There was a thick layer of dust on everything, and Maria felt almost hesitant to disturb it with her footprints.

The sunlight filtering through the grimy windows was dim, casting an eerie glow on everything else.

The furniture seemed in rather good shape, considering.

Taking a deep breath, Maria finally gathered up her courage to step forward.

The one good thing about the dust was that her footprints would give her a trail to follow if she got lost (which was a definite possibility, considering how huge this place was).

At one point, she saw something out of the corner of her eye, and almost had a heart attack before realizing that it was just a mirror.

This mansion had once been an absolutely gorgeous place, Maria could see as she looked around at her surroundings, at the gorgeous chandeliers hanging from the ceilings, at the elegant yet sturdy furniture decorating the place, at the gorgeous paintings hanging from the walls…she'd even walked through a ballroom at one point.

But of all the extravagant things she saw, the things that perhaps caught her interest the most were the small things that gave her insights into the kind of people that had lived here.

Things like the books or toys lying forgotten on the floor and tables, or the now dead flowers decorating every room, having once brightened up the atmosphere with their undoubtedly bright colours.

When she'd walked into the kitchen, Maria had seen a sight that had made her heart clench painfully.

There, on the fridge, were a number of colourful post-its, the writing on them having faded over the years, but still clearly legible.

There was a conversation going on in these post-its, the wonderful banter that was ever-so-often present between friends that had known each other for a very long time, and who trusted each other with their lives.

From the small segments of conversation she saw, for there were many going on at the same time, Maria was able to deduce that the members of this household had often been away for work, sometimes even missing each other my mere minutes.

And yet, they had found a way around this little problem; they had found a way to keep up with each other, to stay up-to-date in each other's lives…to keep a strong relationship.

And as she stood there, in the kitchen of that abandoned mansion, for the first time since she'd taken up this hobby, Maria felt like an intruder.

She'd been in many abandoned houses before, but she'd never had this feeling before.

Maybe it was because the abandonment of this mansion had been so recent, but she felt like she was massively breaching someone else's privacy.

Getting this little insight into the lives and personalities of the people that had lived here once upon a time had made everything all the more real to her. Maria, for the first time in a long time, actually remembered; she remembered that people had lived here once upon a time. These halls, which seemed so lonely, had once sung with laughter. This house had seen the good times and bad times, the love and the hate, the laughter and the tears of its residents.

And now there was no one.

There was just something so terribly lonely about it all.

Swallowing back the sudden emotions that had suddenly creeped up on her, Maria turned to leave.

And for a second, she was torn.

A part of her wanted to turn around and leave this place, to never come back, to escape the crushing loneliness that threatened to engulf her.

But a stronger part of her urged her to go on; she felt a strange sort of…need, a thirst, to find out more about the people that had once called this place home.

And so, she turned to walk deeper into the mansion.

At one point, the woman got to a rather wide hallway that had ten beautiful, large portraits hung on the walls.

The first portrait had a set of seven people in it, and it seemed old…at least a few centuries old.

In the middle was an orange-eyed blond with a kind smile on his face and wearing a pin-striped suit and a mantle on his shoulders. The blond was sitting in a chair with six others surrounding him: a black-haired priest in his robes, a blue-haired man in a military uniform, a platinum blond wearing a trench-coat, a green-haired teen that seemed much younger than his companions, a red-haired man with a red flame tattoo on his right cheek, and finally a man in traditional Japanese attire.

Depending on how old this painting was, Maria guessed (correctly) that she was seeing the beginning of this family…or at the very least, the beginning of their wealth.

The further Maria went down the hallway, the more recent the pictures got, but always with seven people.

When Maria got to the last one, the woman almost had a heart-attack as she stared at it with wide eyes.

This portrait had eight people this time instead of the normal seven, but that wasn't what had shocked her so much.

What had shocked the woman was that the men in this portrait (boys, really) looked eerily similar to the men in the first portrait.

Their poses were all exactly the same as the first (although that may have been intentional) and everything about them, their faces, their expressions, the way they held themselves; they were all the same.

What were the chances, really, that all of these boys (they were older than her, she suddenly realized) had been born in the same era, all of them looking so very alike to their ancestors?

Shaking these thoughts out of her mind, Maria turned to look for the next portrait, only to see that there wasn't another one, and her eyes slowly drifted to the previous one.

These were them, then.

These were the people that had lived here last; the writers of the post-its in the kitchen.

Staring at the portrait, the woman was startled, and slightly amused, to find that she was able to put names to some of the faces.

The youngest one there, the seventeen-year-old boy with curly black hair was probably the one called Lambo. He had been nicknamed the 'stupid cow' and because of that, Maria had been able to guess that it was him, since he was currently wearing a cow-print shirt under his blazer.

The two near the back were probably the ones nicknamed the 'male and female pineapples', which could be deduced due to their hairstyles, and the silveret standing beside the man in the middle was probably the 'octopus head' for the same reason.

Maria let out a small chuckle at the conclusions she had come to, and stood there staring up at the portrait for a few moments more.

When she had looked her fill, she turned and headed down the hallway, eventually getting to a large set of double doors.

After only a moment of hesitation, Maria pushed open the doors, and caught sight of the room which was most probably her favourite so far in this entire mansion.

Straight ahead of her, all the way across the room, was a mahogany writing desk with a high-backed chair behind it. There were stacks and stacks of paper on it, all waiting to be signed, and it was this, of all things, that made her realize that the disappearance of the people that had lived here hadn't been planned…as if they had been in the middle of their everyday lives and had suddenly disappeared into thin air.

Shaking off these thoughts, the woman turned to look at the rest of the room, and her attention was immediately caught by the wall to her left, which was absolutely covered, from floor to ceiling, with pictures.

And in the pictures were the eight people she'd seen in the last painting, all from different points in their lives.

Maria had immediately realized, upon seeing the desk, that this room was an office, which most probably belonged to the brunet in the picture, who seemed to be the boss.

Maria's impression of him from the photo was that he had been a very kind man; his smile told all.

And now that she was looking at all these pictures he kept in his office of his family, she saw that her assessment had been quite accurate.

The people in these pictures were all so happy, and it was obvious that they all loved each other very much.

Maria felt another pang of loneliness as she looked at all the pictures, and decided that she couldn't take it anymore.

She had to get out of here.

Turning on her heels, Maria turned to run back to the entrance of the mansion; she wanted to run and run until she was far away from this lonely place.

As she got closer to the foyer, though, the woman fancied she heard voices.

"–never imagined it would feel so good to be back!" a voice was saying, and Maria's eyes widened and her pace slowed to a walk.

Once she got to the foyer, Maria got the shock of her life.

After almost ten years of absence, they were back.

The residents of the mansion were back.

"Home, sweet home."

SkyGem: Soo…what did you think? Like it? Hate it? Boring? Please do leave a review and let me know what you thought! Ciao!

P.S. The post-it idea was totally inspired by the fic "Mafia Post-It Wars" by Winter Red Tears. It's a rather funny fic XD.