The car pulled into the driveway, much the way it had for the few years its occupants had known someone who'd lived at this address; first, Relena and Heero, then just Relena. Now, it was empty. The two had been victims of anything from a serial killer to the supernatural, depending on who one spoke to. It had been long enough, however, that neither occupant of the car cared how it had happened: Their friends were gone, and that was bad enough.
The pair sat in the car for a while. A man, with hair the color of roasted honey tied into a thick braid and hanging, now, over his shoulder, and a woman, pale except for her dark, short hair and sharp blue eyes. It was she who moved first, though not in her customary impatience. She simply leaned forward to better look at the whole house, then sat back. The man's right hand slid toward her, grasping her left before she could pull it away.
"Don't say it, Duo." The woman crossed her arms and sat back, scowling at the dashboard. Duo raised his hands, not facing her but still in the classic pose of supplication.
"I wasn't going to say a word."
"I just don't want to have to face that she's gone. That's all."
Duo cracked a smile, not daring to look at her now. If she'd seen it, she'd knock him out of the car. "Nah. Me either." Then, after a few moments of contemplation on his part and stewing on hers, he sighed. His voice was soft, when he spoke, and genuine. "Hell, you're braver than I am..."
She glanced his way. "How so?"
"I wouldn't go in there alone, and you were prepared to. Even if I chickened out."
Hilde smiled a little at that, looking at the house. She suppressed a shiver, not to fool Duo, who obviously knew she was afraid to go into the house, but because she wasn't afraid. That was what she told herself, at any rate.
Duo pressed on. "I would have hired workers."
"Yeah, well... a stranger shouldn't be the last person to touch your things..." Hilde looked out at the house again, chewing on her lower lip. "It's not right... mom never really got that through my head..."
Hilde looked at him fully then, her eyes haunted. "Mom tried to teach me that when gram died. That family, or at the least friends, should take care of the... final possessions. She said it was a final act of love." With a one sided shrug she allowed herself to fall back against the car seat. "I didn't like Gram much, and she didn't like me, so I didn't get it, you know? Until now."
Duo watched her, then nodded, pulling on the sleeve of her puffy, white sweater. He linked his arm through hers briefly. "Come on. Let's tell our friends we love them."
Hilde smiled sadly at him, then opened the door. "Let's."
"Holy crap, they had a lot of stuff!" Duo shook his head at the enormity of it. The upstairs was packed, the clothing and trinkets set to go to a charity, and the bed set to be burned. Art and the like was packaged and ready to send to the pair's families, an undertaking for Relena, but a very simple matter for Heero: His family that was still living was the one doing the packing, and not blood related at all.
"Hush," Hilde said, bending over a box that she was taping. "This should be the last room."
"You mean, before the basement, right?"
Hilde's head snapped up so quickly that Duo had nearly winced in sympathy at what should have been a crick. "Basement? There's a basement?!"
Duo grinned. "Yeah. Where do you think all the stuff went when Relena got new stuff?"
"Nobody... said anything... about a basement!"
"Not surprising you didn't know about it. It was me and Heero that would haul the stuff down there, while you two girls twittered over the new stuff--" He knew he had said the wrong thing, knew he could hear an almost audible snap as Hilde's phenomenal patience finally broke, and cringed in anticipation.
"YOU KNEW ABOUT THE BASEMENT?!"
Duo took several steps backwards, even as his face slacked into disbelief. "Really? That's what you're mad about?"
She was mad. Duo could see that very easily. But as soon as it seemed she would reach her greatest anger, she seemed to deflate. "Damn it, Duo... Is there any other place I should know about?"
Duo bit his lower lip. "This would be a bad time to mention the small room off of the parlor, wouldn't it?"
Hilde's glare told him how right he was. She turned, heading toward the back of the house, and Duo followed, hands in his pockets, working on the proper suitably chagrined expression that he would need the next time she looked at him. It wasn't easy. Even past her teens, Hilde had a rear end that was a wonder to behold.
It wasn't until they'd circled the house a few times that Duo realized that Hilde was looking for the door to the basement. Duo stifled a laugh and, when they came to it again, opened the door. The noise made Hilde turn, and he barely got the hangdog expression on his face in time.
Her glare was less potent than it had been, but he could tell she was still angry. She swept past him, stopping at the head of the stairs.
"Yeah, so... this is the basement..." Duo rocked back and forth on his heels, letting his hands fly from behind his back to his front and back, clapping noisily at either end. Hilde stood, staring down into the basement, arms crossed, tapping her foot, but otherwise silent.
"Well," he said, after a lengthy pause. "I'm getting hungry. I think I'll go check and see what's to eat..." Duo fully expected a rejoinder about how there wasn't going to be any good food in the refrigerator after all this time, but there was no response at all.
He sighed. She did this, sometimes. Let the anger burn. In an hour or two, she would be fine, talking with him as if nothing had happened between them. It could be infuriating, but...
Well, it wasn't an easy time right now, anyway. He really shouldn't have teased her.
"I'll go get something for lunch."
Still no response, but he didn't expect one. He turned and walked to the hall.
At the end of the hall, the closet door popped open. Duo blinked. Shaking his head, he chuckled. "Man, this is an old house, all right."
Walking to the door, he peered in. Inside was a pitch black void, probably because it was getting dark. He opened the door wider, trying to let in more light. It didn't seem to help.
Still, he should check it to make sure there wasn't anything in there they needed to pack up.
Duo stuck his head in. A touch on the nape of his neck made him jerk.
"Hey, Hilde, I was-"
He was yanked forward, the feeling of hot, fetid breath washed over him, and he didn't even have time to scream as he felt himself drop, felt the feeling of slick, ivory teeth around the entirety of his body, felt the flame of being pierced by dozens of serrated spikes through the midsection...
The closet door slammed shut. After a moment of silence, the was a deep, wet crunch, and then silence.
"Better get this over with, huh?" Hilde shook her head, as if to clear it. She had watched the blackness until her eyes had misted over. She wasn't being fair to Duo. He couldn't have known she hadn't been told about the basement. "Come on, babe..."
There was no answer. Well, that was to be expected. He never liked the silent treatment. She turned, and was surprised to find nothing.
"Hey, Hilde," came a quiet sound from the basement. Hilde blinked and turned around, peering into the darkness. How had he gotten past her?
"Man, this is an old house..."
Hilde took a step into the darkness, then another. She could hear him talking, as if she were right next to him, but she couldn't see him. He hadn't turned on a light.
There was something foreboding about his talking in the dark, and any anger, new or old, was washed away in the cold chill down her spine.
"Duo, where are you..?"
"Hilde, I was--"
She crept down the stairs. Surely she would hit the bottom soon...
Another step. Then another. She would be at the floor, and he would have a light.
"Duo, where are you?"
Just another step down...
Just one more step, she was sure of it.