Steal

The future is ours.. isn't it?

80 posts in this topic

The world keeps changing.   When it does, the people in it need to change too.  Years pass, people grow older, things they once liked are altered.   Does that always have to happen though?  There are rare times when people don't change too much.  Outwardly they age but the years gloss over them, like they refuse to alter what is already good enough.  Maturity comes, but not at the cost of playfulness.

So it was with the silvery haired young man sitting on a balcony, humming softly to himself while watching the people walking past on the street.  The home he once lived in was gone now, bought out by a company who wanted to put in some other kind of building.  The upside was that the new place he lived in was much better, larger, more rooms and less people to complain.  Semi-detached homes allowed for but one neighbor and at the moment there wasn't anyone living there.  That seemed to be changing soon, since the for sale sign on the lawn had changed over to SOLD.   Who knew what kind of people would be moving in.

The pale young man turned his head to look back inside the house, wondering if his room-mate would be home soon.   Room-mate.  Years had passed, he was now 20 and he still had a Room-mate... would things ever change?   It had been so close a few times.  He had thought he had been making things much more clear.. heck he had even spelled out how he felt, but as of yet, no response had been forth-coming.   All he had got was a cute kitten, with a broken paralyzed tail.  That kitten was now a full grown cat, who slunk around the house like a ninja, ready to attack feet at a moment's notice.

So much had changed.. and so much had stayed the same.   It was a strange limbo.

The young man rose to his feet, and padded barefoot back inside, dodging his attack cat with a laugh, before walking to the dining room where he had set down a few sheets of paper, half of which had scribbles, phrases and music notations on them.   He had been working on a song for some time, but, it was as if the music was caught inside of him and didn't want to come out.  There was nothing that would set it free at the moment.   As much as he knew brooding would not solve anything, he still worked on it, struggling to put out something that would make him happy, if not someone else.  With a glare at the papers he shuffled them into a stack and slid them into a folder, tossing it to the side for now.   Soon the other resident of the house would be home, and he felt like it would be better to think about him instead.

Club for the night?  Moves?  A long walk?

Cliche.

Something new, something entertaining.. something..  OH yeah!  Racing across the room (Leaping over the cat), he snagged a news paper and flipped a few pages in.   GHOST TOUR!  Stay alone in a haunted house...  YES!

Rushing the the phone he placed the call, and set the plans.  This would be something entertaining.   Yusai would not suspect a thing.

 

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Yusai's day-to-day had been in something of a stand-still for many years, until circumstance--or fate, or whatever it was--brought Steal into his life. Steal had been a welcome wrench in the machine, so to speak, for Yusai couldn't really remember the last time he felt bored or dissatisfied with his life since Steal started living with him just a few years ago. 

It was funny, but Yusai couldn't even really remember when it was that Steal came along--no longer than 2 years ago, he thought, because he certainly remembered celebrating his 19th and 20th birthday--but the time in-between was a bit of a blur. They were mostly good times, Yusai was certain of that too, although he could recall those bleak days of misery and drama that threatened to jeopardize their friendship. He supposed that any good friendship couldn't just be built on just happiness alone, which was one of the reasons why he valued his friendship with Steal the most.

Now that he thought about it, his thoughts wandering in the weird way that they do when one is driving down a familiar street they've driven down a thousand times before, Yusai couldn't think of anyone in his life that he could call a friend (and mean it) the same way he could with Steal. Sure, he had "friends", good people that he knew and people who he cared about, and who cared about him, but they were not the same kind of people he felt like he could bear his soul to. Although, he had yet to ever do that with Steal. However, Steal had never been ashamed to wear his heart on his sleeve, and it was a quality in him that Yusai admired immensely, almost to enviable degrees. Yusai took comfort in the fact that if he ever needed to, or wanted to, he could express himself that way with Steal.

The only time Yusai could remember having as close a friendship with someone was ages ago, when he was a teenager and living in Australia. Yusai shook his head; This was a train of thought he was not particularly fond of going down, but brains being the stubborn things that they were, faint hints of a face, of a presence, of a person who had been dead for many years creeped back into his mind, and Yusai's lips pressed to a straight line, doing his best to fight off the memory. It was peculiar how even after all this time, it still hurt to think about.

He shook his head, dispelling the thought and instead concentrating on the road in front of him. Thankfully, he was only minutes from home. The row of stoops and alley space decorated by pumpkins of varying states of ripeness, some with carved faces, others sloppily painted with caricatures of spookiness were a familiar blur in the peripheral of Yusai's eye. As Halloween was drawing near--only a week away, in fact--he supposed the more zealous celebrators would bring out their more horrific decorations to really get the people on the block in the spirit. He himself had some usual holiday items he'd soon have to dig out and put on display, but he'd worry about that later. 

Yusai just remembered though, upon pulling in to the numbered parking spot outside his apartment building, there was a Halloween party he (and guest) had been invited to. As he parked and gathered his affects, Yusai wondered if it would be a thing that Steal would be at all interested in going to. It was just a silly event to be held at the club he worked at, and of course Yusai would have to work that night if he went (because who else could manage a busy bar on a weekend holiday?) but as he reflected, he couldn't think of the last time Steal had ever expressed any interest in Halloween, or all the "spooky" things it entailed. In fact, from what he did know about Steal, he knew he was more or less terrified by all things horror. Yusai laughed into a bag of groceries he cradled in one arm, fumbling with the door keys with his other, remembering the last time he and Steal watched some B-level slasher film... The way Steal would flinch, or yelp, cover his eyes, fuss with his hair, or practically burrow into the space between Yusais shoulder and ribs whenever something particularly grousome or scary would happen. Ah, but horror movies were one thing, dopey Halloween parties were another. He'd pitch the idea, anyway, and see how Steal felt about it. 

Fumbling with the last set of keys to his apartment, Yusai clumsily opened the door and stepped inside, damn near almost tripping over the cat in the process, and, before he could utter an annoyed "OI, CAT!" he heard hurried conversation suddenly coming to a halt, the "beep" of a phone being clicked off, and then muted footsteps from the other room. Yusai set his armful of groceries down--the cat immediately tackling the plastic--and called out "'Allo in there!" waiting for Steal to show up with a smile on his face. 

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Steal replaced the receiver with a bit of a chuckle as he heard the door close and the familiar sound of Yusai being attacked by Prince.  The little imp had never grown overly large and still had issues with high places but was most certainly happy with the living arrangement.  Yusai was a great toy and Prince loved being under his feet.  Steal turned the corner smiling brightly and stepped close to hug Yusai and welcome him home.

In the back of his mind he was wondering what he had just done though.  He had booked to spend a night in a haunted house..  with ghosts and... what in the world was wrong with him?  He couldn't even watch a zombie movie or one of those silly paranormal things without practically crawling under Yusai to hide.   Too late to worry about that now though, plans had been set and he wasn't able to take it back.  Maybe he could cancel but doing so would seem really bad, and he wanted to have a good time with Yusai.  Maybe this would be the bit that could tip things over from just...

Just kisses, only just that, once or twice it got closer, Yusai holding him, letting him touch, but something would always stop it.  A call from a mutual friend, work.. always something.  He just wanted to be able to say they were going to be a solid couple rather than just friends.  Not that being just friends was bad, but it had been quite a time, and wasn't it time for more?

"Hi Yusai, welcome home, I hope Prince didn't try to kill you again."   Steal murmured the words softly against Yusai's neck as he held the embrace.  "Mmm, I have a surprise for you.  I made us some plans... I mean, if you want, I can cancel them but.."  He stammered a bit stepping back and started to shuffle a bit like a small child being told to admit to something he had done wrong.  "Want to stay the night in a Haunted House with me on Halloween?" 

Yeah blurt it out, good going, way to just put it all out there fool.

To hide his embarrassment he rushed over and started to pull out the groceries and put them away, carefully extracting Prince from the bag first, then extracting him again when he went back to get more.  That cat was always climbing into anything that rustled.  Steal picked Prince up and put him off to the side a third time as he got the last of the food, smiling at the hidden bag of mint chocolates that had been purchased for him.   Ahh, sweet sugar rush...

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Yusai was happy to see Steal appear from the hallway, and even happier when he approached with his arms open for an embrace, as he always did, the familiar greeting being something Yusai looked forward to after a day out. He wouldn't admit--part because it wasn't a facet he was willing to admit to himself yet--but there was just something about Steal's warm welcomes that always made Yusai feel like he was the most important person in the world. He returned the embrace with a hug of his own, his arms curling around the warm curvatures of Steal's back for a moment before the younger man pulled away.

"You know he did, the little bastard," Yusai said in response to Steal's greeting, shooting a glare at the cat who was bouncing fiendishly among the plastic bags. "He'll get me one of these days. Just make sure when he does, you bury the bugger with me, and make sure you lodge him in my arms good and tight." Prince batted wildly at the plastic netting on a sack of potatoes, uncaring of the egyptian fate Yusai would seal him to if he continued making mischief.

As Yusai was talking, Steal occupied himself unpacking groceries and setting them on the counter, talking as he did. Yusai's eye was keen on observing the curves of Steal's back as he bent over and pulled out items, making subconscious mental notes that the guy who existed somewhere in the limbo of lithe, lean muscular build and soft suppleness was one hell of a sight, even when he was performing casual, basic tasks. Somewhere in the back of Yusai's mind, he supposed that's what made Steal so attractive in the first place, if not moreso because Steal had no idea how good he looked.

Shaking himself out of the trance-like state of mind that seemed to take over from time to time when Steal was in close proximity, Yusai found himself thrust into the middle of a question.  

"Want to stay the night in a Haunted House with me on Halloween?"

Yusai's eye widened in surprise. Steal? Booking a stay at a haunted house on Halloween? To say he was gobsmacked would've been an understatement!

"You... You want to stay in a haunted house? On Halloween?" Yusai repeated back, quick to catch the sheepish look shot his way when Steal bent up and moved around the counter to begin putting away the items he'd removed from bags. Yusai only smiled in return, practically beaming with both amusement and disbelief. Steal, in a haunted house, of all places! If it weren't for the look the younger man had just shot him, he would've been certain that he was joking. But, sure that he wasn't, Yusai mulled the question over in his mind, rolling the tip of his tongue over the ridge of his teeth as he though, his focus still entirely on Steal and watching him bend to his knees to stuff some items into the bottom drawers in the refridgerator.

Between the options Yusai had open to him for Halloween plans, staying in a haunted house sounded like it may be cheesy and maybe a bit silly... But the alternative was going to a Halloween party at work, while having to work. And there was nothing Yusai hated more than working the bar on certain holidays. St. Patricks day was his most loathed holiday to work, because it was always a night filled with belligerent, rude Americans with one-eighth irish heritages flaunting their glittery clover affects, demanding rounds upon rounds of beer until they were completely shit-housed, and then taking it upon themselves to involve anyone within arms-reach in their loud, occasionally violent deubatchery. Halloween placed second in Yusai's mind; While it was never as busy as St. Patricks day, the nights were nonetheless filled with loud, obnoxious people--mostly women--who through the 'anonymity' or sluttiness of their costumes thought that by hiking up their ill-fitting skirts or casually "forgetting" to pull up the blouses from their too-tight corsets on their ill-defined "witch" costume, would excuse them from having to pay their bill. Even if money during these nights could be really great, it wasn't worth the grief of staggering home at two o' clock in the morning, ears ringing, feet and back aching, and feeling as though 15 years had been sucked from your life.

He'd come to a decision there and then. "Well sure! A haunted house would be great fun!" Yusai said, leaning on the counter with his elbows and letting his eye fall on the sight of the slight hint of Steals buttcrack poking out from his jeans while he was still on his knees and stuffing things away, grinning to himself without really realizing it. "You sure you won't get too scared though? I think I still have your fingerprints embedded in me belly from the last time we watched 'Friday the 13th'..." Yusai chuckled, remembering the night with fondness.

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Steal's light laughter came from the fridge at the threat of having Prince buried with Yusai.  "Yes, he will be in your arms to ensure he can trip you for all eternity in the after life.  Such a lovely fate you have for him."  He cast a glance at Prince again, seeing the smallish cat trying to free one of the potatoes from their prison, likely to chase it around the room.  The pale haired young man shook his head in amusement, putting a few items in the back of the fridge, giving Yusai a lovely view of his backside.

Steal pulled himself up and moved to place a few boxes in the pantry, casually humming to himself as he did so, not at all aware of where the other man's mind was traveling until the silence from the other side of the room became too much, he turned his head and looked over at Yusai, just in time to see the pink tip of his tongue slide over his teeth.  Damn, how does he always do that in such a tempting way?  If I didn't know better I would say he was teasing me.. Ugh.. Hormones..  has it been.. shit.. so long and I have been living here celibate.

Down boy....

Steal closed his eyes counting to ten in his head before going back to unloading the groceries, praying he looked normal.

No reply yet, maybe Yusai had a better offer for the night?

When the answer finally came Steal found himself blushing in shame.  He would bring up the last time he watched a scary movie.  "Uh, well that was.. I mean it wasn't real either but, I mean, this can't be THAT bad." 

Steal crossed his arms over his chest and leaned on a counter,, his teeth worrying his lower lip a moment.  "I think I will be fine.  It is just you know, one of those things.."  He reached into his pocket for the ad.

 

Wanted:

People to stay the night in MacIntosh Manor. 

Free meal and bed. 

Must stay until noon next day. 

Failure will result in forfeit of deposit. 

Staying the whole night will be rewarded upon completion.  

Call: XXX XXX XXXX

 

"See it is a kind of publicity stunt.  I paid a deposit, we stay the night and if we make it, we get some prize."  Steal beamed from ear to ear, eyes sparkling in excitement.  "I'm sure it is just some kind of game."

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Yusai grinned wolfishly, laughing gently when Steal rebuked with, "Uh, well that was.. I mean it wasn't real either but, I mean, this can't be THAT bad."   He loved to make Steal fidget for a response sometimes, and this was one of those times he took a small pleasure in making the other boy squirm a bit. 

Steal went on to explain some other details for the event, and reached into his pocket to hand Yusai a small postcard-flier detailing the haunted attraction. Yusai gave it a cursory glance, half reading the details, his attention more on Steals explanation.  "I'm sure it is just some kind of game."

"Oh, I'm sure it is too, and I bet we won't be the only ones playing." Yusai said, looking up from the card to see Steals smiling face. He matched his expression and clapped his hand on Steals shoulder, bringing him in for a side-hug, and giving him a little tussle. "But we'll sure as hell be the ones to win it!" 

Of course, Yusai said this with no real intention to turn a harmless night of fun into a competition, but he hoped that his enthusiasm would ease any doubt or anxiety that may be brewing in his friends mind. He could practically feel Steals hands skirting up his shirt and clutching in desperation already.

***

One week later, and it was Halloween. Yusai, having had an exhausting week at work, was feeling stiff, sore, and tired, but ready to tackle the weekend haunt festivities. Maybe not so much for the actual experience he'd have at the haunted house, but moreso because he had been looking forward to spending some time with Steal. He was admittedly very curious to see how things would pan out tonight, and maybe in a secret way, had been looking forward to playing the role of Steals body-shield. There was just something about Steals touch...

Thankfully, the drive to the haunt location was short and sweet. Yusai pulled his car into a parking lot that was on the outer skirts of a large, gated motel that, from the looks of it--the building had cracks in the paint, was covered in graffiti, some of the windows either busted or boarded with plywood, and roof speckled with bald-spots in its terra-cotta tiling--must have been abandoned for a few years. Unsurprising, given that the motel was in one of the "sketchier" parts of Queens, but a part of Yusai's gut sank a little as he contemplated the nights bedding situation. After a long week, he was looking forward to getting a decent nights sleep... He hoped they would atleast have a nice bed.

Thrusting the gearshift to park, Yusai looked over at Steal, uncertain how to read his expression. He saw Steal knotting his hands in his lap, but wasn't sure if it was out of nervousness, or if he had the same thoughts that Yusai did just looking at the place. He moistened the rim of his teeth with his tongue, turned his body a little in his seat to face Steal, and with the backside of his hand, gave Steal a little nudge on the elbow.

"Ey. What're you thinkin'?" He asked, placing his hand along Steals wrist, and waiting for his response.

 

 

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(I thought I had replied >.<)

The week seemed to fly by too fast for Steal.  He knew what was coming for the Eve of Halloween but he hadn't really anticipated just how soon it was all going to happen.  One moment he was puttering around the house getting things all cleaned up, the next Yusai was home and packing HIM up.  The hard part to deal with was that he didn't even have the right to complain about anything as he was the one who had planned all of this.  

Once in the car though, his nerves started to really work up, he was jittery, quite and kind of sick feeling, but he was not going to let Yusai know any of that, he would not be the one to ruin this night.  All he could do was clench his hands in his lap, bite his inner lip and wait for the car to stop so he could open the door and get some fresh air.   That was the plan but that was not the way it played out.   Yusai instead of just smiling and getting out, seemed to notice something.

"I.. thinking?  No, no nothing I am just, excited I guess."  Steal peered up at Yusai and gave a smile, hoping that it didn't look fake.   He smiled again and opened the door, taking in a first good look at the place they would be in for the next day and night..  or rather the rest of this day, the night and the next day.

Dark?  Check

Spooky?  Check

Old?  Double check.

Haunted?   Well they were here to find that out were they not?

Taking a deep breath Steal led the way to the house, opening the door  and stepping into...

The place looked like an old manor, it was really rather nice inside, a bit dusty and worn down, but there was a sort of charm to it all.  It seemed like someone put work into restoring it somewhat for this night.  The lights were all old style, but they were not as bright as one would think, kind of like a mood lighting.  Steal's steps were muffled on an old area rug.  Inside was another couple, a man and woman who were seated on some chairs.  They looked up as Steal and Yusai entered.

"Ah, there you are.. we were waiting, things can start soon." The lady said, nodding to them.  "I hope you are ready."

Steal looked back at Yusai and swallowed audibly.  "Uh, I guess we are."

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Yusai should've predicted the response he'd get from Steal. He could always tell when the other man was trying to conceal his real feelings, because he'd always try to mask them with a smile. The first few times he'd seen that smile, Yusai had been fooled into thinking things really were okay with Steal. However, during the time they lived together, and the more Yusai found himself in Steals company, he grew to knew these little nuances. 

But, he wouldn't pursue him with any further questions. Yusai also knew when to stop pressing Steal for details, especially if he had an inclination that he was not so willing to talk about them. Yusai simply tersed his lips and nodded, following in Steals footsteps to exit the car, and enter the motel.

They were soon in the lobby, being greeted by the evenings characters; A woman in a tattered, faded pink-and-black outfit that somewhat resembled Jacqueline Kennedy's iconic "assasination" suit approached them, reaching out for Steals hand and shaking it gently between delicate gloved hands. She and Steal briefly conversed while Yusai's eye wandered around the room.

Surprisingly, the place was (slightly) better shape than he had come to anticipate when he had initially seen the outside. The interior structure was atleast solid and in-tact, and the only real problems the place appeared to suffer was cosmetic damage (Which, Yusai supposed added to the charm of a haunted hotel theme) At the very least, Yusai could rest just a little bit easier knowing that he wouldn't have to worry about the roof collapsing over their heads while they stayed the night. As for the spooks, though... Well. The night would simply have to play out.

Shaking his head back to awareness, Yusai was coming out of his reverie just in time to catch the attention of another "specter", whom was an older gentleman sporting an unusually clean and pressed tuxedo, and, to Yusai's strange delight, an eye patch. It wasn't often he saw other person with the same visual impairment he had--or in Yusai's case, simply missing an eye-- so to see someone sharing his likeness made Yusai smirk inwardly, having mentally forged an immediate kinship with this stranger (He'd be happy if he turned out to be Australian too, but he wasn't about to get his hopes up.)

The older man approached Yusai, dipping to bow and saying in a rather stiff, dull tone, "Good evening, gentlemen." He rose, his one good eye looking past the two men. "You are the first of tonight's guests. Allow me to introduce myself: I am Theodore, and I will be your personal... Attendant," He lingered on each word, selling his character as the lifeless, creepy butler pretty well, Yusai thought. Atleast, he was impressed. 

" 'Ello Teddy," Yusai responded in good nature, holding out his hand. "I'm Yusai, and this guy right here is Steal." He clapped his other arm around Steals shoulder, and drew him abreast. He drew his hand back when he realized that Theodore was not going to indulge his jocularity, and pat Steal gently on the chest instead with it, going on to say "We're real chuffed to be here tonight!" However, it was dawning on him that the tone he was striking had little effect on the mood of the room. 

He knew the attendants were just playing their parts--and they were doing a fine job so far--but poor Steal... The guy probably needed to feel more like he had a supportive friend, rather than a big lummox being a goof, not taking any of this seriously. Yusai made a mental note to tone himself down a little, and let the evening run its natural course. He cleared his throat, and the smile that had come across his face before.

"So, uh, when do things start around here?" he asked, his eye darting between Teddy, and the wide-eyed woman in pink.

"Oh! Shortly," The woman said, as if surprised by her own voice. "You can sign-in at the desk in the meantime... Yes."

Yusai turned to look at Steal, and gave him a contented look as if to say, "Well, alright," and sauntered over to the dimly lit, empty desk in the center of the lobby. On the edge of the dusty counter, he spotted an open, tattered guestbook, and a very nice fountain pen resting on top of it. Yusai picked up the pen to sign, and no sooner that he did, a tall figure sprang up from behind the desk, causing Yusai to startle with a loud "CRIKEY!", the most stereotypically aussie thing to ever come up in his vocabulary. 

"GOOD EVENING," the large, lanky man behind the counter said in a deep barritone, staring down at Yusai with dark eyes. "PLEASE, SIGN YOUR NAMES HERE,..."

When Yusai caught his wits, he gave into laughter. "Good God!" He exclaimed. "You bloody well scared the hell right out of me!" 

"MY APOLOGIES, THAT WAS NOT MY INTENTION," the ghoulish receptionist responded, "I MEANT TO SCARE YOU INTO HELL."

 

 

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Steal looked around trying as hard as he could to pay attention to what was happening.  If there was a theme to the nights events he had yet to catch on to what it was going to be. The woman looked like she could use a new suit, and as for the man, he looked.. well he looked like a stereotypical butler.   The words coming from them though were obviously not intended to comfort, but rather to get them more riled up, and it was working.  Steal kept looking around the room wondering what was going to jump out and try to eat him.   Yusai didn't seem to have any issues, he seemed cool, calm and relaxed.

Well he seemed relaxed, even jovial until the strange creature- ghost- person came out from under the desk.   Steal didn't even managed to get a yelp of fear or shock out, he inhaled sharply eyes going huge.  The scream caught in his throat though, and he just managed to utter the most pathetic gasping 'eep' sound.  When his heart stopped beating so hard in his chest he managed to nod his head at the request to sign his name in the book.

"Scare into Hell..."  He murmured, glancing around again.  It was starting to feel like that was just where they were too.  He took several more calming breaths before taking the pen to sign his name.  Much to his shock the ink was a very runny red ink, that looked a bit too much like blood.  He arched a brow at the rather over the top touch before handing the pen over to Yusai.   Okay if things stayed this cliche he may stand a chance at making it without dropping dead from fright.

The pale haired young man turned around and looked for the creepy other pair, but much to his surprise they had vanished already,  but he did take note of what seemed to be a child taking off around a corner.   Were there going to be kids here?  He looked to see if Yusai had seen the boy but he was still signing his name in the book taunting the ghoulish man behind the counter.

Steal took a few steps to the corner the kid vanished around, but ran smack into the man in the tux, stepping back fast but not fast enough.  "Oof.."  He uttered in shock, as the man made something of a dismayed and disgusted face,apparently just as surprised, but not nearly as forgiving about the accident.  "Sorry, I.. just thought I saw something."  He turned his head back to where Yusai was, as if asking for a bit of help, which was rather pointless since Yusai was on the other side of he wall.  He instead took a few more steps backward shaking his head.  "Didn't mean it...sorry.."

"It is fine...young Master.. just do not let it happen again.   The spirits do not like when their... hosts come in contact with the living."   Steal gave him a baffled look.  Was this man saying his was a medium or something?   This was going to be odd.

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Yusai was just finishing signing his name when he noticed that the large man beyond the counter had suddenly disappeared from his peripheral view. There was then commotion behind him, and Yusai turned to see more guests entering the lobby. Ah, good, so he and Steal wouldn’t be the only stooges getting frightened this evening, he thought with some gladness. He took a moment to glance over their company for the night.

 

It was a man about Yusai’s age, and about as tall as he was, too. He was hazel-eyed, brown-haired, broad-chinned and broad-shouldered. Looked something of an outdoorsy type, Yusai thought, and if his attire was anything to go by, he must be very into hiking. He donned a very-well-worn pair of rugged hiking boots, and dangling around his neck, tucked into the cuff of his collar, was a small compass. His girlfriend on the other hand, Yusai couldn’t tell a thing about her other than that she was as plain and non-descript in appearance as the majority of women he’d ever come to known. Her eyes were dark brown, and her bottled-red hair was tied back in a messy bun. That was about all he took away from her.

 

Yusai turned back to face his own companion for the night, only to find that Steal had disappeared. He looked around the room frantically, suspecting one of the hotel staff had snuck him off somewhere as part of the nights festivities, but was immediately put to ease when he caught the sight of Steal  peering around the corner of the hallway. Was he talking to somebody? Yusai simply peered curiously and watched what his friend was up to. 

 

Steal appeared confused, then startled when Theodore came around the corner and bumped into him. He watched Steal fumble and stammer and Theodore simply continue on with his dry act. The poor guy--Steal, that is. Yusai knew how easy it could be sometimes to fluster him. And truthfully, Yusai occasionally went out of his way to get a rise out of Steal on purpose, just to see him react...The way his brilliant blue eyes get big, the way he'll fidget with his hands, or bite his lip, or the times where maybe he's enjoying the tease a little bit more than he lets on, and he tries to scowl over a smile. It was cute. Of course, Yusai would never admit that thought to himself. This was also not an occasion to take any delight in, either. He had to go an rescue the poor guy before any real spookiness was allowed to happen.

 

Shrugging the tote bag of their nightlies onto his back, Yusai approached Steal and Teddy to dispel their conversation, and asked, "When do we check into our room?" Theodore's glazed eye never met his while he delivered his answer.

 

"I will show you to yours now... If that's what you wish..." Then, without another word, turned away from the two and began an unceremonious march toward a hallway, where only a few lights had been lit, while the remainder were turned off, leaving the hallway to fade into an ominous, creeping darkness. Yusai followed closely behind, extending a hand behind him so Steal could grab on for guidance, if he liked.

 

He hoped they wouldn't have to do too much wandering around in the dark. Not because he was afraid of the dark or anything silly like that, but Yusai was concerned about how well he'd get around in the dark with just one eye and in his current stiff, exhausted disposition, which made him prone to being a bit clumsy when his reflexes were otherwise keen. He'd be relying on Steal some tonight, he figured. 

 

Suddenly Yusai found himself nearly tripping over the heels of the butler, for he stopped dead in his tracks just outside a door with the number "128" just barely illuminated by the light from the dim, grimy sconce on the wall. There were some other markings on the door that Yusai could just barely make out (they looked like scratch marks, from what he could tell) but he didn't pay much mind to the appearance of the interior of this place. Half because it was difficult for him to. One peculiarity he did notice though was a low, rumbling sound--like a construction vehicle idling in the distance--eminating from somewhere down the hall, and he wondered briefly if that was a noise planned to be part of the evening, and if so, if it would be something he'd have to listen to all night. Boy, he was starting to think a lot about sleep now, he thought with a crick of his neck.

 

The butler wordlessly unlocked the door, and pressed it inward. It let out an agonizing, low creak and opened to an even deeper pit of blackness. Theodore, of course, made no effort to illuminate the room, or invite them in. Instead, he stepped aside, and gave a bow to allow Yusai and Steal to enter at their own discretion. Already Yusai could smell a trap ahead, but he wasn't entirely sure what was in store... With an inhale of breath, he took a step forward into the room, and waited for whatever it was to come, to come.

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(I KNOW I replied)

Steal glanced around not at all sure where the boy had gone, had he even seen it?  Ugh, maybe it was a trick of the light?  It didn't matter anymore though, since other people had come in, and it seemed that Yusai was done signing in.   Steal waved at the new couple, who seemed to have to double take when they looked at him.  Was it really so shocking that he was there?  Steal felt baffled for a moment as he watched Yusai head toward him.  Then it clicked.  They were a couple, and this was likely a couple event.  Likely they had thought that Steal would be a girl, since Yusai was so very very manly.

"Mine!"  Snapped a greedy voice in Steal's mind.

Calm the hormones there.   He took a deep breath and waved at the couple again, before heading after Yusai and the butler.  Hmm, he should have been paying attention since they had a bit of a lead on him, but a few bounding steps took him back to Yusai's side. 

The hall lighting was a bit gloomy, the lights not all on, and the few that were, were tinted and shuttered like old oil lanterns.  It made for a good effect and one that Steal found a bit charming.  He peered around, looking at the doors they passed, until they stopped at the one that was obviously intended to be theirs.  First floor, 28th room.  That was a LOT of rooms.

When the door opened Steal actually backed off a step.  It was huge, but it was also darned creepy.  First there was a King sized canopy bed, which was great, draped with a gauzy material around it, making a bit of a sanctuary, which was needed for sure.  The pictures on the walls were creepy as all get out.  Steal cringed as he noted one of them was a rather famous print of the decent into hell.  Who the heck could sleep with that in the room.  There was a fire place, and in front of it was a Oujia board.   Like he was going to use it in this room where he was supposed to sleep.
 

He inhaled sharply and turned to Yusai, his mouth opening and closing silently.  He did not want to complain but a room like this was likely to give one nightmares alone.  The carpeting was blood red.  "Uh, interesting..."   He tried to force a smile as Teddy closed the door, leaving the pair of them, with just one comment.

"You will be expected in the main hall in two hours."

Steal sagged a bit when the door closed, and he headed over to the bed, flopping down on it, shirt raising to show his navel.  "Well... this is not at all what I expected.  Are we supposed to use that thing?"  He made a slight gesture to the board by the fire.  "I have no intention of doing that in here.. or at all.."   The whole situation was much more strange than he had anticipated.

A moment after Teddy left the alone, a creaking sound could be heard above them, like someone walking around in the room above them.  It could have been just other guests.. or something else.   Were they going to start so soon?   With wide eyes Steal leaped from the bed and scampered over to Yusai as the creaking turned into a scream.

 

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Yusai had expected some kind of monster or some other equally spooky creature to come popping out of the door when it opened, but he was instead surprised to see that there was a room before them and nothing of any overt threat coming their way. It was a relief. Sort of. 

Steal was the first to enter, and Yusai stepped into the room behind him, only hearing the tail-end of instructions from Teddy before the door creaked to close. He paid him no mind for the time being, and instead devoted his attention to the large, but ever-so-inviting bed in the middle of the room. Suddenly Yusai felt as if all his limbs weight a thousand tons and the only relief to be had was to throw himself onto the mattress and be dead to the world. Steal had already made himself comfy on it, so Yusai followed suit; Allowing their napsack of nightlies to sag off his shoulder onto the floor, Yusai trudged to the edge of the bed and flopped face-down into its velvety--although mothball-stinking--cushion.

"Oi... Forget all this Halloween stuff. Let's just crash for the night, ey?" Yusai protested, half serious because damn, was the day really starting to catch up with him. Maybe laying down was a mistake...

"Are we supposed to use that thing?" He heard Steal ask beside him, and prising his face up from the mattress, Yusai turned to look where Steal had been pointing. He saw a small side-table with a board on it, and piece of wood with a lens stuck in the middle. Yusai was familiar with the game, but the name of it was escaping him at the moment; it was some silly thing teenage girls used to talk to the dead, or some stupid thing. It was all a lot of nonsense as far as he was concerned.

"I don't suppose we have to," Yusai said, resting his head on his forearms. "We don't have to do anything if we don't want. In fact, let's sleep through the night. In protest. Fuck the spooks, you dig?" Yusai extended an arm out and slung it over Steal's torso, essentially pinning him down to the bed at the middle so he couldn't sit up. He smiled at the small hint of protest from him, but only redoubled his effort to keep Steal where he was. "Oi! Stop movin', ain't you ever sleep-protested before? You're the worst at this!"

He could keep at this indefinitely, but he didn't want to tread that fine line between play and being a genuine annoyance, so he let up after a minute or two and grinned in repletion, satisfied he was able to get in a small amount of teasing for the day. "I'm just kiddin'... I'll stay up for this." Yusai said with a long breath. "Besides, the competition is showin' up. And you know what those teams are gonna have that we don't? Gals. And gals are always scared of everything." He turned on his side and gave Steal a look, something of a cocky expression, if he could see himself in a mirror. "If this is a contest about not bein' scared of things, I think we got this down-pat."

Of course, Yusai could only talk themselves up so much: He had no idea what the hotel staff was planning or what the rest of the night was going to entail, but he was going to do his best to put on as much bravado as he could, if it meant assuring Steal that he could count on him for support.

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A sleep protest had sounded really good, and being held by the strong arms of Yusai had felt so right, but the scream, that terrifying scream.   What in the world had made that sound and why did it echo so terribly.  He had to at least pretend not to be all that frightened.   Not all that easy being him but he put up and effort.

Girls.. yeah the other team had girls and maybe they would be.. maybe they were the ones screaming!  Yeah that had to be it.  Steal relaxed slowly and eyed the bed again.  Hmm, maybe he could manage a nap..  He slid back onto the bed and burrowed against Yusai, his slender form fitting nicely beside the other man.  A small nap, no one would mind that.   He let his eyes shut and murmured about how they would be much better at this than the other groups.

Still there were nagging details that were really eating at him.  The child, the scream... medium, someone who was supposed to talk to the dead, and the fact that this was listed as a real experience, not for entertainment.  How could someone ensure that there would be anything remotely real?  Plus those outfits.  "Mm, this can't be real.. must just be a really sappy game..."

****

The hall was cleaned, a large table set in the middle of the sitting room.  The staff had set up a few cameras, some lighting and ghost hunting materials, along with computers.  This suddenly seemed more like the setting for a ghost hunting show than a hotel.  Sure the outfits were the same, but the atmosphere was more tense. 

"Okay everyone I have the details.   The guests will be of course helping hunt the spirits, in their teams of two.  We will monitor them from here.  First we will let them have a good meal, then set up their areas and scheduals so no one overlaps in the same rooms.   Have we ensured that the rooms are the safe place?  No cameras there, since everyone needs some privacy but wired everywhere else."   A man marched through the room pointing at screens and yelling orders.  

Maybe this was not going to be a traditional haunted house after all...

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Yusai was unconcerned with the specters of the hotel, for as far as he could wager, all of this was pre-arranged, a game, a manufactured night of cheap thrills. He yawned and turned back onto his stomach, his ears catching only snippets of Steals conversation and his eye catching the sight of Steal fighting the same battle he was, which was against sleep. And it was a difficult fight; Yusai eventually succumbed to it, reassuring himself that he would just rest his eye for a minute… Just a minute…

 

Meanwhile, outside of their room, two more guests had arrived and gone through the process of signing themselves in and meeting the fellow spooks who had arranged the event. They were also given their own rooms to call their own for the night. They had all settled in, unaware of what the night had in store but each of them eager to see where the events would lead.

 

While they had been getting themselves settled into their rooms, the hotel staff was in a tizz. Costumed men and women were scuttling around, hiding cameras, microphones and wires wherever they could be obscured. Some of the men and women themselves were finding places to tuck themselves away in. Two hours later, and they would have quite the show to put on for all of their guests.

 

Upstairs, in a room inaccessible to the guests, a group of 4 men were seated around a row of monitors that were hooked up and playing what looked like surveilence footage. In some of the screen feedback, actors and actresses could be seen positioning the cameras. One man sporting an ear-piece would occasionally press a small button mic to his chin and instruct the actors to move the camera elsewhere, while one of the men who was in control of the camera relay would signal a thumbs-up when he deemed the visual feed acceptable.

 

“Are we about ready? It’s almost nine.” One of the men asked, looking up at the man sporting the earpiece and microphone and waiting for his instruction.

 

“Just about. I think we’ve got most of the camera’s where we need them to be, right Andrew?”

 

Andrew, still hunched forward an observing the camera feed, nodded. “More or less…” He said quietly. “Some of these areas are so dark, though. It’ll be hard to catch any good footage in some of these feeds…” His hands skimmed the surface of a keyboard, pressing a key and sifting through some especially dark camera feed. “The only way you could tell anyone was there would be if they had their face right up against the lens.” He said, clicking through the cycle of cameras still.

 

“Eh, I think that’s as good as it’ll get. If we put them anywhere else, they’ll be too obvious. I don’t want anybody to know what rooms they’re going to be filmed in. I want all the reactions to be as genuine and real as possible.” The first man replied with a cross of his arms over his broad chest.

 

“Man… Who do you think we’re gonna see cry first?” One of the other men piped in, the blue glow from the monitors illuminating his smirk. “I’m putting bets on that chunky red-head.”

 

One of them chuckled. “Oh, that chick? Nah, no way. You see the crazy eyes on her? She’s seen some shit. Probably worse things than a bunch of people in costumes, bangin’ on the walls.” This man paused for a moment to ponder, skimming his fingers through his short hair, and saying finally, “Nah, if I had to place bets, I’m betting it’ll be that one-eyed guys boyfriend. The twink.”

 

They all chuckled then in agreement, one of them composing themselves sooner than the rest of the group.

 

“Look, look, look... Just because he’s a twink doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a little bitch. He could be, you know, one of those power-bottoms, or whatever—“

 

“You’d know, queer,” Andrew piped in jocularly, giving the speaking man beside him a sideways look.

 

“You’re damn right I’d know. That kid has power bottom written all over him—“ The room started to laugh, and he too, as they all knew he was getting ready to spin some ludicrous scenario out as he often did, “—It’ll be his big bear boyfriend that’ll be sobbing in a corner, and just when you least expect it... WOOSH, that kid will come storming in with assless leather chaps--"

 

"Why do they have to be ass-less?"

 

"--Ass-less leather chaps," he continued, "Riding crop, the WORKS, and we'll just watch the footage of him giving his boyfriend a savage beating out of hysterics. Mark my words! I'm taking bets here!"

 

The conversation continued on in a similar fashion until the man baring the earpiece held up his hand, bringing everyone to quiet. He held the pause for a moment, then spoke quietly, "Right, okay, make the announcement to everybody." He looked up around the room at expectant expressions, and smiled in return.

 

"Well guys, it's nine-o-clock. We're ready to roll!"

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Steal had just got himself cozy when a loud knock on the door had him sitting up looking around in a daze.  Where was he?

Oh.. oh!  The haunted house!  Steal reached over and shook Yusai's shoulder as he knocking sounded again.  "Sai.. gotta get up.  Seems we are late or something.."   He rubbed his eyes and slid out of the bed fixing himself up as well as he could.   They had to get to the main room for whatever they had to do.  Two hours had passed really fast.  "Dinner I guess..."

He waited until Yusai was on his feet and he opened the door.  

If anything the halls were quieter than before, dimmer and gloomy.  It was as if the whole place was shrouded in mystery, it felt strange.  The main hall which had some fairly good lighting was now dim as well, and there was a huge table.   Already there were other couples sitting there, a mother and daughter, and two man woman couples.  It made for something of a balance.   Steal saw his name on a place card and he sat down, looking at the other people.  One of the men was yawning, as if he too had been wanting to take a nap, but there was no chance for that now.

A severe looking woman walked to the table followed by a well dressed man, and dear Teddy.  "Welcome all of you, tonight you are all up for a special treat!  You will be taking on the rolls of paranormal investigators.  At each placing you have a nice stack of papers, showing the stories of the manor and what has happened here.  The notes correspond to different rooms and where you will be expected to visit at what time.   We have it set so you will not be in the same room with another couple for more than a minute or two. 

She then walked over to each place to make sure they knew where to go.  "The two of you will be heading into the play room on the third floor.  The notes will tell you what happened there."  Steal frowned a little and opened the folder, lifting a page that showed the image of two rather cute little girls.  He showed it to Yusai and let Teddy show them the way to the play room.

````

"You really want to win this bet, sending the twink to the kiddy room first."   One man started to laugh as they brought the images up of the room, all decked out with children's toys and large dolls.  If someone had a fear of dolls this room would do them in fast.   Standing to one side of the door was a human sized doll that may or may not have been housing a person.  The room had a few little speakers in it, to pipe in the sound of giggling and crying of kids. 

"Even I would be hard pressed not to cry in that room, and I know it is a trap."    One of the other workers nodded rapidly, keying in info for a few other rooms, watching as the large red haired woman made her way into the cellar, looking rather peeved.

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After being roused from his all-too-brief nap, Yusai and Steal were instructed to meet in the hotel dining room to have dinner. Yusai groggily obliged to the invitation, and when seated with a plate, soupily ate what was in front of him while the familiar entertainers of the hotel gave them some more details about the nights events.

 

They said there was to be some sort of “ghost hunt”, and that each group would be stationed inside a room. While the bug-eyed woman in pink talked, Teddy silently handed out papers to each group. Steal had taken the sheet and leaned to Yusai to show him what was written on it, and from a cursory glance, Yusai gathered that there was a scavenger-hunt element to these rooms, tied in with a mystery. He supposed everything would start to make more sense when they were actually playing.

 

Which, after their dinner, they were unceremoniously told to get into their pairs, and were then escorted to their respective rooms. Teddy had wordlessly-but-courteously let Yusai and Steal into a small, dim room filled to the brim with toys in varying states of decay, shut, and then locked the door behind them.

 

It was oddly quiet. Yusai hadn’t realized how much ambient noise and other things he had been taking for granted outside of this room until Teddy shut the door. He looked down at Steal, who looked nervous, but was tentatively scanning the sheet of paper in his hands. Yusai leaned in for a more in-depth look himself.

 

Find Your Inner Child… The first sentence in the sheet read. Remember all the games you used to play? Hop-scotch. Jacks. Ring-around-the-rosie. When did the playing stop, and your inner child disappear? Take yourself back, and remember the days... Come back and play...

 

Yusai looked down at Steal, trying to decipher the look on his face, and seeing his own mood reflected there. Which was to say, he looked confused. But, wanting to keep the appearance of a man who knew what he was doing up, Yusai gave a long stroke to his neck and said, "Well, alright then. 'Spose we ought to... Start lookin' for our inner child, I guess." Then he scouted the room, his eye dancing over the mess of toys and childrens furniture littering the space.

 

He walked over to a row of baby dolls, all of which were dingy, grody, and obviously defective in some way. Missing eyeballs, lower jaws, patches of hair, limbs... Yusai then looked over in the corner of the room to see a pile of stuffed animals, all of them in a similar condition. One stuffed animal in particular made him start a little, and it wasn't because anything about it was especially frightening. It was because he recognized it, in a distant memory  somewhere in the back of his head, beginning to re-surface. He walked over to the doll, an orange lion with a multi-color mane, and picked it up to stare into its scratched up, beady eyes.

 

"Huh... Never thought I'd see one of these guys again," Yusai said quietly, turning the doll in his hands. "Man, these were real popular back in Aus when I was a kid. I think I had the lizard. Rich--" Yusai stopped himself, having suddenly remembered where he had seen this brand of doll now. He remembered the countless afternoons he spent over at his friends house, hanging out in his room, watching television, listening to the radio, reading books and magazines... He could remember the details of his friends room so vividly then, and strangely, he felt gutted as he held onto this doll and stared at it. 

 

Not only were those boyhood days long over, but all Yusai had of them now were memories. And those memories would only ever exist in his head, because the only person he could ever share those memories with or reminisce about had been dead for several years. The thought of which was always a very sobering, miserable, numbing reminder. Putting the doll back into the pile, Yusai quieted his breath and said simply, "... He had this one." Then began his scouting throughout the room once more in an attempt to distract himself from the thought of his late friend.

 

In his distracted state, Yusai's observational skills were not the keenest, so he didn't even notice one of the piles of toys shift on its own around him until he heard a distinct crash, and Steal yelp in alarm.

 

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Steal had been reading the paper when Yusai mentioned looking for their inner child.  Hmm, he had not really thought about something like that, so as he looked around he read parts of the paper out loud.  "It happened on a summer night, twin boys playing in this very room.  No one knows which of the two had thought it was a good idea to play cowboys and indians, but one had, and the result was terrible.   One boy, shot in the head with an arrow, the other hysterically trying to help his sibling.  No one had come for hours, and when they had, the youngest of the twins lay dead, and the other quite insane."

Steal shuddered at the thought, placing the papers down as he looked at the old toys.  Some were cute, like the lion Yusai had picked up, and as he listened to the older man's voice he felt the sadness.  He only wished that someday Yusai would share with him stories of Richard, and finally put the dead to rest, or at least share the burden.  He couldn't be the one to ask though.

He let his eyes drift and took in the sight of the huge doll, human sized, much much too large for the twin boys to have played with, actually the size of a human boy.  Why would someone give something that large to a child?  A play sibling?  They had siblings.  Steal opened his lips to mention that when the pile of toys around it shifted, and several tumbled to the floor.   He gave a yelp, jumping visibly, but... no other than being startled he was not scared.  He had expected something to happen.  "Sai.. wha.."  He pointed to the pile of toys, waiting for the other before getting closer.

 

***

"He didn't cry.  Points are still not up.   Jumped pretty good though.  Who set the toys to fall?"

"I did, worked well too, not too much of a mess, easy to clean."

***

Steal knelt in front of the toys and lifted out what appeared to be a smaller doll.  "Inner child?"  He asked softly, as he lifted the small boy figure from the floor.  It was a child doll that looked very much like the pictures on the wall of what must have been the twins, but it was crudely made, as if made by another child.  "IF, and big if, the story is true, then maybe the one made this for his brother. or rather , of his brother."

It was a sobering thought, of someone who didn't want to face what happened.  He gave a sad sigh, and placed the toy on the paper before reading more.

"Innocence lost, sadness gained.  Still you seek to regain the lost memories.  Don't fight it, look where the light least shines, and the secrets often lay hidden.  Come inside."

Cryptic.  Steal frowned at the thought.  "Where secrets lay.  Light doesn't shine.  Could they mean something like skeletons in the closet type secrets?  No light there."  He looked at Yusai and tipped his head to the side.  "Do you see a closet?"

***

"What the hell?"   the shrill voice came from the closet, hitting the speakers and the ears of those watching loudly.  "NO way, no fucking way!"  it was followed by the sound of someone running for the stairs, taking them fast.  "I am not doing this!"

One of the men in the control room started laughing.  "If he had looked closer he would have seen it was a toy spider.  Seriously like we would put a real spider that sized in any room."

 

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Yusai shook his distractions away and was suddenly alert, and sprinted to Steals side to make sure that he was okay. He was. Startled, but fine. Yusai gave him a gentle pat on the back and allowed a weary grin to pass over his face.

"Guess this is all part of the spookiness. They'll have to do better than stack a bunch of toys over to get us to scare." Yusai said, although a part of him was beginning to feel a little doubtful about their combined ability to stay composed. 

Steal had pulled out the sheet of paper again and was reading. In the meantime, Yusai had preoccupied himself with doing some more inspecting of the room, looking for anything that even resembled a clue or... Whatever it was they needed to get out of this room, complete this game. Not being entirely sure what the goal was for this event, Yusai was not particularly hopeful that they'd succeed in winning, even if he had been assuring Steal that they would. 

In his slow, leering trek through the room, Yusai saw buried under a bundle of paper with crude crayon with gruesome depictions of violence an object that shimmered in a familiar way, though blotted and mottled in the dim light in the room. He reached for it, unveiling the object and knocking over the stack of papers, and in his hands he held a bottle. Huh. It was an old liquor bottle, the label reading "Hopps Scotch". 

For once in his life, Yusai had a moment of instant clarity, and he turned to Steal, holding the bottle up to show him. "Oi! I think I found a clue!" he proclaimed, giving the bottle a shake. He paused when he heard a sound from inside the bottle, and he turned it over in his hand to examine it further. There was something wedged inside. Another clue, maybe? Yusai wasted no time in satiating his curiosity and opened the bottle, giving it a few shakes to dislodge the thing inside.

A tightly wrapped piece of paper slid out, and when Steal came to his side, he turned it over to him so he could unwrap it. Yusai eyed him curiously to see what was on the new sheet of paper, and was mildly confused to see what was drawn on there. 

It wasn't as though the picture was of anything especially weird, or hideous, or scary. It was however, poorly drawn. A childs drawing. It was virtually impossible for Yusai to decipher what it was, but admittedly, Yusai didn't exactly have an eye for art. To him, the picture was a confusing mess of paisley patterns with a large, black hole in the middle, with a scribbled red outline surrounding that hole. It didn't make much sense. Yusai scratched his head.

"... What do you think it means, Steal?" he asked quietly--but suddenly he heard a loud, rasping gasp, followed by a gurgling exhale come from somewhere in the room, somewhere among the toys, and darting his head to look around, he couldn't see anything that looked to be... alive that would've made the noise... But then it came again. And this time Yusai tried to follow where the noise was coming from.

-----------------------------------

"He found that clue pretty quick!" One of the men in the control room said, smirking. "You think they'll figure out what to do next?"

"Maybe. But I tell ya, it'll be fun to see which one of them goes sticking their hand inside the hole." Another man responded, giving the first man a knowing glance. "Speaking of--how many of those phony coiling snakes we got in there?"

"I think 6. Fuckers take like 4 triple-a's a piece..."

One of the men chuckled. "Yeah, but it's worth it. I think we'll get some good footage from their reactions."

-----------------------------------

After some more searching, Yusai was able to pinpoint the location of the sound. There was a large, life-sized doll against a darker section of the room where the noise seemed to be eminating from. He had to admit, it was a little creepy; the juxtaposition of the doll sitting lifeless while emitting this ugly noise was unsettling. He kneeled down and cautiously grabbed the doll by the shoulders, pulling it upright from the wall. Its half-lidded eyes shot open and its mouth clacked wildly, and instinctively, Yusai gasped in alarm and tossed it aside. It clattered to the floor, and the noise it had previously been making stopped.

"Bloody hell..." Yusai breathed, looking at Steal, "... I'll be honest, that got me a little!" He said, smirking. His smirk faded away though, as he saw Steals eyes trailing down somewhere behind him, and Yusai turned back to where he'd been previously looking. Oh... Paisley wallpaper there was cracked and torn around a fist-sized, pitch-black hole...

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Steal frowned at the note, then looked up again at Yusai's utterance.  He had found something, and as Steal went to see what it was, he couldn't help but hear the sound as well.   Creepy... nah, that was much too calm a phrase for the sound that had come from the doll.  "Guh.. that gurgling is sickening.."  Steal murmured.  He then took note of the large hole in the wall.   There are rules to things like that.  One huge one was to NEVER stick your hand into something dark.  "Wish they had given us a flash light.."

It was obvious that they had to get something from in the hole, but was there a way to do it without putting themselves at...risk?  If this was really a game was there actually a risk to be had?  Better safe than sorry.  Steal looked at the doll on the floor a moment, then smirked a little.  "Heh.. lend us a hand dolly!"  He pulled the large doll over and stuck it's arm in the hole, triggering a sudden barrage of hissing and movement.  Something was in there.

With wide eyes Steal looked at Yusai.  "Hissing.."

~~~~~

"Oh come on! That was no fun kid, you were supposed to reach in yourself!"

One of the others slapped a hand to his forehead.  "I didn't anticipate someone dodging by using another object.. crud."

"Don't worry, it's not done yet, someone still needs to reach in themselves to get the key."

~~~~~

Steal grit his teeth as he pulled the doll arm out, looking carefully for a sign of bite marks or anything.  Clean...  He looked at Yusai's worried face and smiled.  "It's okay, if they were live, or dangerous they would have bit into the doll first.  The plastic is soft enough it would leave a mark."  How did he sound so calm?  Steal thought a moment, remembering playing with spiders and snakes in his backyard.  His parents hated it.. when they remembered he was alive.  No good kid would play with that stuff.  Hah!   If they could see me now.  Steal winked at Yusai.  "Into the hole I go!"

He thrust his hand into the dark hole, feeling.. first movement, but it was cold, plastic, but it was moving.  Mechanical snakes of some kind?  There were a few of them. and he had to really reach to get past them all.  "Uh.. um, something is back here.. a bag.. I can just barely.."  He squinted his eyes tightly shut as he strained, finally reaching the bag with the tips of his fingers.  "Got.. it.."

As he pulled back.. the trouble started.  His arm would not pull back.  It was stuck in the hole.  "Huh?"  He tried again but it was like something was holding him in place.  "Sai.. I think I got stuck... can you give me a hand here?"  He was starting to worry but for all he was worth he kept his words calm.  Sai though, he would likely see the mounting panic in his eyes.

~~~~~

"Hey, do the snakes pin people in the hole?  Or are they just for a fright?  Seems the kid's arm is stuck."

The man who had set the trap shook his head.  "Nah they just move, the hole is big enough he should be fine."

"Doesn't seem that way, keep an eye on him, he may need help.."

~~~~~

His arm wasn't coming out.   Steal kept taking deep breaths, working to stay calm.   Releasing the bag hadn't done anything, his clothing didn't seem snagged.  It was like something was physically holding him there and would not let go.  "Sai.. this is bad..  I really can't get my arm out.."

 

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Steals ingenuity was a godsend, because there was no way in hell Yusai had any intention of jamming his arm into a mystery hole in the wall. He watched Steal take the arm of a nearby doll and attempt to reach into the hole at whatever was inside. To his surprise, Yusai heard a familiar “hissing” noise that he could only chock up to snakes, which seemed a bit alarming that the hosts would stick something so dangerous into a game. Thankfully, Steal soon discovered that they weren’t real. Or atleast, they weren’t harmful. However, Steal’s clever idea to use the doll arm as a grabbing apparatus was futile.

 

“Ah, that’s a real bint.” Yusai said, cocking his neck to the side to stretch. “Do they honestly expect us to go reachin’ in and—oi!” He anxiously watched as Steal jammed his arm into the hole and went fishing for what was inside himself. Although, he had to admit, he admired his bravery in the moment. Yusai knew from experience that reaching into dark, strange holes never often lead to anything good. He brushed aside memories flitting in his head of mishappenings in his youth, involving sticking his arms in crevices outside his home in Australia, only to have upset a nest of mice… Or moles… Or snakes… Or spiders, all in the name of retrieving lost toys. The toys he lost often remained that way.

During his brief reverie, Steal made a discovery; There was something inside the wall, perhaps a clue? Yusai watched Steal attempt to retrieve it, only then to turn to him with a peculiar look and say, “I can’t get my arm out. It’s stuck.”

 

Yusai’s lips tersed. “Well, that’s no good. Here, lemme just…” He took a firm hold of what he could of Steals arm, which was just above his elbow and up, gave the flesh there a little squeeze, and tried to prise him out. No avail. Steals arm barely moved an inch before it felt like it was being tugged back, or maybe it was just resistance?

 

He doubled back, this time stabling one hand on Steals shoulder, and the other around his arm. “Try to tug back with me, alright? Not too hard…” And, after a pause, they both pulled. This time, it seemed as though Steal’s arm was just starting to slide out… But then he AND Steal were caught off-guard, when his whole arm suddenly plunged back into the hole, up to his shoulder, the two of them yielding bonks on the head as they collided with the wall.

 

“Hey!” Yusai called in frustration, giving the wall a pound with his fist. “What the hell is going on here!” But there was no reply. Although, he could’ve sworn he heard a child laugh from somewhere…

 

“Bugger this,” He said in a somewhat severe tone. “Steal, mind your head a sec.” And after that short warning, Yusai reared his fist back and punched at the wall just around the opening where Steals arm was stuck. The wall only cracked a smidge, but as soon as it did, Steal went tumbling onto his back, as if released from a great force. 

----------------------------

“What’s going on in there?” One of the crewmen asked, peering over the camera monitors shoulder and pointing to one of the screens that featured Yusai and Steals room. The monitor shrugged, his eyebrows raised and mouth slung to a gawk.

 

“I don’t know… The kid got his arm stuck somehow and that big guy tried to put another hole in the wall.”

 

“Does that count as property damage? Will that come out of our pockets?” One of the other crew members piped in jokingly.  The monitor gave him sideways look, shaking his head slowly.

 

“… Anyway, forget those guys. Check out the feed from the basement. I told you that red-head chick was a total psycho.” He brought up feed from the basement, which was in nightvision. On the screen was the red-head and her boyfriend, both trying desperately to pull the hatch out of a rusty lock that was connecting a set of chains, which of course was draped across a door that they needed access to. The woman, between struggling, reared her head back every now and then to release a shriek of frustration. The boyfriend just kept his head down and continued to work at the lock, the sheen of sweat on his body collecting.

 

“…Who would’ve guessed she was claustrophobic? Were there any bets on that?”

-----------------------------

Meanwhile, Yusai and Steal had collected themselves, and were ready to move on with their next bit of the puzzle. In a trembling, weak hand, Steal held a ragged pouch containing a key. Between the two of them, they were in the process of trying to figure out where the key went to, since there were no obvious doors around outside the one they came in from, and it wouldn’t open with the key that they had.

 

“Agh… Maybe it doesn’t even go to a bloody door.” Yusai growled, smearing one hand across his eye. “I’ll bet it goes to one of these toys in this bog of junk.” He grunted again, admittedly growing tired of the search for clues. He was growing increasingly irate the longer the events of the night went on, and he was also starting to feel stupid; He was sure that the other participants had figured out the mystery of their rooms or whatever, and were well ahead the both of them while all they managed to accomplish was find a ragged key in the wall.

 

Still, he went with his intuition and silently began trudging through the mess of toys, looking for anything that bore a lock. Steal was beside him doing the same, occasionally nursing his arm, which was starting to develop bruises.  Yusai took a glance at him, his arm, and told himself that the next time there was something to be done, he’d be the one doing it.

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Steal winced as he finally got his arm released, rubbing a bit at the marks on his forearm, marks that looked an awful lot like fingerprints.  Small fingerprints.  What in the world.   He sighed and shook his head a little, before looking at the crack in the wall where Yusai had bashed his fist.   Holy hell was that a turn on!  Strong.. so very strong..  It was all he could do to control the urge to leap into Yusai's arms and make-out with him.   Wait.. Yusai would freak out.  Damn... He hated that he wasn't able to act on his urges.  That sucked so bad.

He shook his head slowly and paid attention to the key again.  A key to a lock, and no attached clue.  What would be the meaning of that, there had to be something to tie together.

Could the ragged state of the bag be part of a clue as well?  The theme of the room seemed to be traps.  "Twins in the room, one died... a hole in the wall, key in the hole."   He tried to put the thoughts together into one string but it didn't make a lot of sense.  Yusai was looking at the toys, could they be part of it?   Was the snake in the hole significant?

Steal started to pace slowly, fighting to make his thoughts work together.  Soon Steal found himself on his knees digging through the toys as well.  Bears... train, cars... wait!  He found himself moving faster as his eyes locked on something that had to be useful.

Lifting a box in his hands, Steal made a sound of joy.   A box.. which had a hole for a key!  "Banzai!"

What a stupid thing to say!  Still Steal found himself a moment later leaping into Yusai's arms and giving him a big kiss on the lips.  "We got the prize!"   Okay it was not a prize, it was a locked box, but it felt good to find things.  It felt even better to be able to kiss the other man, he was almost clinging for a moment.  He wanted that moment to last forever, even if Yusai was likely confused as hell.   It was all he could do to keep from moving to doing something else.  His body sure as hell wanted to.   Warmth flooding from head to toes... and pooling somewhere else too.  He was sure he was flushed to the roots of his hair as well.

~~~~

"Ooookay..."  

"Yeah... I think the little one got a little too happy about the box."

"Hnn, closest thing to team work we saw all night, seems the other are getting pissed at each other."

~~~~

Steal flushed finally parting from the other man, not wanting to though, it kind of felt painful.  FInally when he had caught his breath, straightening his clothing he found that he was able to hand Yusai the box when asked for it.  "See there is a small keyhole, if you open it we can see what comes nex..."

The faint sound of a child crying was coming from the hole in the wall.  It was eerie sounding, and really faint but he was able to notice it "The... hell?"  He moved slowly to the wall, and knelt down listening intently.   As he did he noticed that the crying intensified. 

"W-who is there?"  The voice came through the hole in the wall, causing Steal's heart to jolt.  No reply came though when Steal called back softly, just more weeping.  Steal looked at Yusai, his eyes a bit wider, pupils huge.  "S-sai do you hear that?"

 

~~~

The members of the team in the control room looked at each other in confusion.  "I didn't put any sound feed in there like that...  no one did, what is making that sound?"

~~~

Steal backed away from the hole in the wall and moved back to Yusai's side.  He didn't want to go near that hole anymore.  He just wanted to make it out of the room now, and back to where others were, or somewhere that didn't feel as creepy.  He knew he had seen a kid earlier but it seemed even then no one else had taken note.  Was the kid a ghost?  If he recalled there were not supposed to be kids in this place, it was an adult event, due to the nature of the rooms and such.   He took a deep breath and murmured.  "Just.. open the box and let's move on, I don't know if the crying or whatever is supposed to be part of this but if it is, we will find out why soon, right?"

The younger man moved closer to Yusai anyway kind of pressing to his side, his warm form kind of invading the blond's space but he didn't care anymore, he just wanted to stay close to the one he trusted the most, and anyone watching be damned for it.

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They were both sorting through piles of toys for a while, Yusai’s thoughts idling on the task of finding a lock, and nothing more.  It felt as though he had been sifting through things forever until he heard Steal cheer from behind him. He leaned himself upright and turned to face an exuberant Steal, who leapt at him excitedly—nearly toppling him backwards—and planted a kiss on his lips.

 

It wasn’t the first time Steal had expressed his glee in this particular fashion. In fact, it was something Yusai had grown quite used to by now. And strangely enough, it was something that had never really bothered him. It had confused him the first couple of times, sure, but he always figured Steal was just the kind of person who was raised to show his happiness that way.  Yusai had done some traveling across the world when he was younger, and could recall some of the social customs in Italy and France that were similar. Although maybe not full-on mouth-to-mouth… Still, he didn’t mind. Secretly, he enjoyed it.

 

Steal placed both key and box into Yusai’s hands, and parted from him to take a look around the room again, with instructions to open the box.

 

“Ah, alright then…” He obliged, fumbling with the box and key in hand. He was a little distracted however, because Steal was investigating the hole in the wall again and said something about hearing a noise.

 

Any noise that could be heard in the room was apparent when present, because otherwise, it was deathly quiet.  And, besides Steal’s occasional questioning, Yusai couldn’t hear a thing. He figured whatever it was Steal was hearing was part of the nights events, however, so he didn’t place much stock in its importance.

 

“They probably got a speaker lodged in there makin’ noise. Or maybe they trained those snakes to talk—You know, like they did in that Harry Potter kid movie.” Yusai said, giving Steal one of his grins he wears when he knows he said something stupid. Steal didn’t seem convinced, though, nor did he seem relieved. Instead, Steal wandered back to where he had been standing, and huddled close by Yusai’s side.

 

Ah, no more jokes, then. Yusai thought to himself, then went to the task of opening up the music… toy… Whatever box he was holding in his hands, was. The key slid in easily enough, and Yusai gave it a quick crank. The lid of the box gently popped up, but not open, and Yusai hesitantly pulled it up to have a look inside.

 

Thankfully, nothing sprung out or was crawling around, but that was a small relief compared to the actual contents inside. It took Yusai a moment to figure out what he was looking at, because they were shapes he was not familiar seeing without their bodies attached. A dozen or so black, petrified, diamond-shaped, scaly snake heads littered the interior of the music box, which was now playing a slow, disjointed melody. Yusai shuddered.

 

 

The crew upstairs were now having a hard time keeping focus to any one group, as each of the guests were beginning to discover new clues and set off the surprises they laid out. The couple that had been placed in the basement were now working their way up and out, which of course lead to more spooks and other traps of the like, much to their dismay.

 

One of the other couples had been placed in a room adjacent to Steal and Yusai’s residence, and were in the midst of their own creepy puzzle involving detangling a large rat king, which was wrapped around another dire clue. The husband was desperately gagging and the wife was doing her best to keep color in her face.

 

They were glued to the screens while simultaneously too distracted to notice particulars of what was going on, between all the radio-relay they were doing with the hired specters. But, if anyone had been paying attention, they would’ve been able to see a brief flicker of a childs face, and a bigger shadowy figure behind him, smiling mischieviously.

 

 

Although it grossed him out to have to do it, Yusai knew he needed to reach into the box and grab for their next clue that he saw inside. Atleast, that’s what he thought he had to do. A smarter man would’ve simply dumped the contents of the box out and sorted through the mess to get to the puzzle piece that way—and Steal started to say as much as he was reaching in—but the realization came too slow, and Yusai was already palm-deep in the box of snake heads with a knot in his stomach. He grabbed for the piece of paper that was buried underneath, and then promptly tossed the box aside.

 

“Alright, let’s get on with this…” He mumbled, wiping his hand along the side of his pants, and unfolding the scrap of paper with his other hand. Again, it was another childs drawing. The picture itself looked vaguely familiar, and after a minute, Yusai figured out that he was looking at some crudely-drawn musical notes.

 

“Oi, Steal, you can read this, right? What’s the tune?”

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47qUk8B1A3s

Steal looked at the note and gave a bit of a shudder as he hummed the tune.  A funeral dirge, though a pretty one, but it was still a dark form of music.  "Chopin"  He murmured softly after continuing a few bars.   If it was music notes it was likely he was intended to play it on something, there had to be a piano around the room somewhere since that was what you were supposed to play that particular tune on.  Looking about, he finally noticed a quite small piano, which looked to be sized for children, though no less functional for the size.  "I am thinking this is related to the death.."

Sitting down on the floor with the toy piano in front of him he started to play the Funeral March, not needing the music for the first bit, since he knew the first few bars, though it was a complex part to play, the next bit he managed to follow on the notes, feeling bad for any others who would have had to try to play it.   There had to be an easier way intended, maybe if they couldn't play it they had to do something else? 

Maybe playing it was not intended and he was just being a show off?  If that was a case he should feel ashamed of himself for doing such a thing, and he slowed the pace of his playing, finally ending mid tune and flushing.  "Uh.. Guess that was not what was intended."

~~~~

"Hmm, looks like the kid in the play room can play piano.. not bad.  Still they are close to getting out.."

"Yeah the pair leaving the basement just hit the fans, and look like they are climbing out of their skins."

"Whoa, not good we have a panic alert in the red room.."

~~~~

Steal left the piano and looked at the box again, checking to see what was the mechanism in it.   It appeared to be a crying angel.   "Sai, didn't we see another angel like this in the toys?   It may be the way out if there is something in there."  He dropped to his knees pushing the toys aside again looking for a small angelic figurine.  There had to be something that screamed exit.   The crying though, he could still hear some crying interspersed with some laughing now, a deeper sound.  Yusai wasn't hearing it, so maybe he was just going insane or something.  The crying and laughing was making him feel rather sick though, like there was trouble heading his way and he had to watch out.

Push it aside.... don't think of the sounds, think of something nice, like Yusai beside you hunting for an angel.  Who would have thought  that was going to be something they were doing.  This time Yusai found the angel first and when Steal noticed it in his hands he laughed softly.  "Yeah that is it, and it has a crack in it.   I think ... yeah that is a key!"  He leaned over and tapped at the crack making more of the key show.  "I think we finally found our way out, it sure looks like a room key."

 

 

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Yusai cupped the angel in his palms, examining the crack to see what was inside. Steal was right; there did appear to be something lodged inside the figurine. Without a moments hesitation, Yusai took the statue between his hands and squeezed what he could of his fingers between the crack, and pulled it open. There was initial resistance, then suddenly, the angel split wide open with a loud crunch. The key that had been inside tumbled just outside of his reach, and somewhere into the mess on the floor.

 

“Ah, hell—“ Yusai groaned, lamenting his carelessness. “I’m sorry. Lemme dig for it, it shouldn’t have fallen far.” He bent to his knees and began rummaging through the small pile of toys there, still cursing at himself, and starting to wish that this was all over.

 

Slipping his hands under a small pile of stuffed animals, Yusai felt the cool brush of steel against his fingertips. Aha, that must be the key, he figured, and began to wrap his fingers around it. As he did, he felt a peculiar sensation run up the backside of his hand. It was as if someone were running their own hands up the length of his.

 

Instinctively, Yusai recoiled, examining his hand quickly to see if maybe a bug or something of that nature was crawling up it. He couldn’t see anything… But… He was so sure he felt something… He reached down and slapped away the pile of toys, revealing nothing more but the key that had been underneath. He grabbed it, but not before giving the toys he removed to see if there was some kind of thing that would’ve created the sensation. There was nothing but soft plush all around.

 

“H… Huh.” Yusai hummed, rising to stand quickly in a manner that betrayed his sense of alarm more than he thought. He gave Steal a soft pat on his back, and brandished the key.

 

“Found it. I’ll go try the door and see if it unlocks the bugger.” He patted Steal again, and trudged his way to the entrance, examining the frame to see where the keyhole was.

 

Well, he found a key hole. Whether or not the key he was holding opened it was another story. The lock on the door looked slightly different in shape than the key in his hands, but, he’d try it anyways just to make sure.

 

He was just beginning to insert the key when he heard Steal yelp again, and startled, Yusai turned to face him, only as he did, the lights suddenly went out.

 

What happened then was anyone’s guess. Yusai had pinned his back to the door and was trying to make out any shape as he could in the darkness. He called out Steals name and heard him whimper back in return.  Then there was a thud, a laugh, another yelp, and then Yusai felt something at his feet wrap itself around his ankle.

 

He tried to shake it off, but whatever it was felt heavy—cold too. The sensation bled through the fabric of his jeans and made the skin underneath break into goosebumps. He tried to shake his leg again, but now he couldn’t even lift his foot off the ground, and Yusai bent down to grab at whatever had him pinned down.

 

There was another clatter, and Yusai could hear Steal’s panicked breathing somewhere in the middle of the room. There was the sound of scuffling, and then a sudden creak. Yusai called out to Steal again, a short breathed “I’m here, I’m here!” being the only affirmation that Steal was still in the room and not in danger. Yusai tried to move again, but to no avail.

 

“Steal—are you alright? Can you see anything? I can’t bloody move!” Yusai said, struggling against the weight with all his strength.  His question was interrupted, however, by loud notes being struck on a piano—the funeral march—and then there was a deafening “CRACK”, almost as if lightening had struck down in the room.

 

This time Yusai screamed, for one of his fears had come to surface. He fell back against the door, his fists banging backwards against it in a vain attempt to break it down or anything, but it was useless. He couldn’t get enough momentum, couldn’t get his bearings in the position he was in, and now… He was starting to panic.

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The room key had been found, and all he had to do now was escape the room.  Oh joy!   Steal couldn't wait to put this little horror behind him, but it seemed things were far from that easy.  First Yusai dropped the key, not really a bad thing but a delay if nothing else, then when he was going to unlock the door the power went out.   Sure Yusai had looked a bit worried when he had gotten back on his feet, but the pat on the back was enough to tell the younger man not to make a big deal of it.

While waiting for the door to open Steal turned away from Yusai, only to see a man on the other side of the room, or rather a man shape.  It looked adult, and it seemed to be beckoning him with one finger.   Yeah, as if..  Steal was not going to head that way, he couldn't help the startled yelp he let out though.   This whole ordeal was getting really really creepy.  The figure seemed to know he wasn't going to move though, and it started to move on it's own toward Steal, the grin on it's face larger the closer it got...

Darkness... sudden as a gun shot.

It was like someone was breathing in his ear now.  The feeling of someone putting their arms around him and holding him close, hands roaming his body.  Perfect... yes I will take this...

The words rang in Steal's ears but he was not able to say anything, it was as if he was paralyzed, or worse, watching everything from his own body, but someone else was now taking control, all sense of self being pushed to the side with the force of the sudden crack of energy.  He felt himself turn around, and move toward Yusai, and could only watch in horror as his own body pressed close to the other man, the lights turning on just as sudden as they turned out.

"Oh, I was so afraid.."  The voice simpered, wrapping his arms around Yusai and nuzzling his neck.  "What are we going to do.. it seems something happened to the key too, look it is melted in the lock."   The one controlling Steal's body started to croon softly moving to straddle Yusai's hips even as the other man was still seeming frightened.  "Oh hold me.."

What are you doing, stop it.. Yusai won't like that!

Hah, yeah right.. you are just too chicken, but no worries... soon enough you won't be there anyway... just like the last kid to be in this room with me..  it took his brother killing him to stop me that time.. and I am certain your friend would not do that to you..

N-No!  Stop let me go!  Get out of my body!

The silent internal struggle was pointless, not only could Steal do nothing, but now the cameras were blown and the key melted, until someone came to check no one was letting them out, and worse.. even if they did they would have no idea that something else was hitching a ride.

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