Chapter 1;

"We're only a couple of miles away now," called the driver from the front seat, eyes flitting up to the rear-view mirror, "As long as the road isn't too bad, we should be there soon."

Jesse only nodded, too absorbed in his own thoughts to even utter a reply. He chose to stare out of the taxi window, eyes barely focusing on the pine trees rushing by. The sun shone down above, illuminating the odd mist that seemed to hover within the trees. Over the course of the journey, cities had turned into small towns, and small towns had turned into forest. The scenery could even be considered relaxing, but he couldn't be more tense if he tried.

This was it, after all, the day he started his life shook his head, chuckling, it was kind of funny, in a way: onto his second life at only 21.

And that was where he found himself; on the road to a new life. This new life just happened to be in the middle of nowhere; a remote village called 'Iris Point' to be precise. A secluded place in the middle of a forest was about as far from a wide-open desert town as he could get - and that's exactly where he wanted to be.

"You know," the taxi driver piped up again, glancing back into the mirror to look at Jesse, "There's a… a history to the place you're going."

The silence hung for a second, and McCree lazily drew his gaze over to the rear-view mirror only to see the taxi driver still staring earnestly at him, obviously waiting for a signal to continue his story. "Go on…" Jesse sighed, rolling his eyes, wishing his driver would keep his eyes on the road more than himself.

Pleased, the driver started to babble: "Well, Iris Point used to be this gated Christian community up in the forest, yeah? Decades ago this was, right? So everything's good there for a while, until one day they all just up and leg it."

That caught Jesse's attention. "Well, what happened?"

The driver shrugged, "That's the thing, you know? No one knows, the people who lived there were found in the woods almost dead, all confused and shit. They all said that some weird stuff was happening but they couldn't tell people what. But it gets stranger, right?"

McCree leaned forward slightly, "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, so, there was this one guy who stayed. They said he was stuck in his ways; wasn't moving for nobody. Nobody ever heard from or saw that guy again. Probably dead now though - this all happened forever ago." He hummed, "Kind of creepy, if you'd ask me."

"Yeah…" Jesse frowned, "Weird." His heart skipped with a wave of panic; what was this place he was going to?

"Ah, shit," the driver muttered, "I didn't mean to scare you or anything; you didn't let me finish." He wiped his forehead before continuing, "See, after all this went down, this women, Angela Ziegler - she's kind of famous, you see - bought up the land and brought that place back from the dead. God knows how she did it - people said that place was like ghost town after everyone left. I wouldn't worry about it though," he added hurriedly, "I'm sure it's nice now."

McCree almost laughed at the driver's scrambling, "Naw, you're makin' it sound delightful." Thinking back for a moment, he did recall the name Ziegler on the forms for his new apartment, but he'd been in such a hurry to leave the crap-shack that he used to call a home, he hadn't paid too much attention.

"Really though," the taxi driver turned his head to McCree, his elbow resting on the back of the chair, one hand on the wheel, "I have no idea what it's like in there. They don't let no one who's not something in there, you get me?"

"Naw."

The driver laughed sharply, "Well, Ziegler allegedly turned it into a dead nice place, but let's just say they let a certain type of person in there."

That just confused Jesse even more. "What, you mean like, some big-shots? Real ace-highs?"

"Ace-highs?" The driver paused, "Well, the community is still gated, but it's not got rich kids in it if that's what you're thinking. I don't know, I've just heard that they've got a real handful of people living there." McCree frowned and the driver continued to trip over his words, "Well, like, I've not heard anything bad about them there I mean I'm sure you'll love it? There's just some weird...myths about the place..."

Jesse found himself undeterred - he'd come too far now, "Well, so long as it ain't filled with some pompous idiots, I'll be doin' just fine."

As he uttered the words, the taxi began to slow before whirring to a halt. McCree turned to look out of the window, confronted with an eight-foot golden iron gate, an intricate design carved into the metal. A large eye was positioned in the centre of the door, with orbs seeming to float around it, kept hovering by some cleverly concealed magnets. Maybe this is a tad too fancy for me, McCree pondered, his eyes skimming over the perfect typography reading 'IRIS POINT'.

The driver leaned over in his seat once again, turning to face Jesse, weary smile on his face, "Well, this is where I leave you, pal."

McCree turned to look back at the driver, "I s'pose it is." Digging into his wallet, he pulled out his card and paid the necessary amounts (which had made Jesse deeply consider jumping out and running - boy were cabs expensive these days) as well as giving the man a pretty solid tip - it was the least he could do, making this guy drive him all the way up from the city two hours away.

Upon reading the totals, the driver beamed at Jesse, "Hey, thanks man! Tell you what," he began as he opened the door and climbed out of the front seat, motioning for Jesse to get out as well, "If you ever need a ride down to town or something, you just call up and ask for me." He popped open the trunk and hauled out Jesse's rather overstuffed rucksack. "Adrian's the name - don't forget it now."

McCree chuckled, nodding before bidding farewell to Adrian with a small tip of his hat before turning to the massive golden gates. "Good luck," he heard Adrian call from the taxi before the engine hummed to life once again and the cab slowly took off back down the lane.

"Nice lad," he mused before turning towards the gate, walking to the side of the giant stone wall it was embedded into, searching for a keypad where he could request entry. Eventually he found one on the left wall, jamming his finger onto the marked call button. As the electronic buzzer sounded, he couldn't help but notice how the keypad had small patches of moss and lichen creeping up onto the silver metal. Weird…

Jesse waited half a minute, but no one picked up his call. Frowning, he prodded the call symbol again, longer this time, so the irritating buzz could really ring out, hopefully catching the attention of whoever was waiting on the other end.

He waited another minute.

Still no reply.

Growing ever more concerned, and wishing he'd told Adrian to wait for him to make sure he got in safely, McCree desperately thrust at the button again, and again. The irregular beeping almost sounded like morse code; a desperate man stranded, searching desperately for help.

And there was still no reply.

McCree withdrew from his futile attempts to gain access and backed away from the keypad. He was a rational man. He could think of some other way to get in. He was smart.

And so McCree decided to scale the gate. The wall looked far too slippery, covered in dew and fungi of all kinds, with no real purchase on it. The gate looked more feasible as a method of entry, the intricate designs leaving a lot of places to hang on as he inevitably climbed up.

So Jesse began his ascent, hauling himself up onto the metal frame before beginning to swing himself up, trying his best not to damage the metal-work. He was almost at the top when he noticed that lining the very pinnacle of the gate were many small spikes - the walls were lined with these too, obviously designed to stop any birds or critters from sitting on top and scratching away at the golden material - oh, and to deter stupid people like himself.

It was just at that moment, when Jesse found himself hanging from the gate, deliberating whether to drop off or keep climbing, that the intercom crackled to life. Startled, McCree clung on.

"Hello? Who is this?" The voice echoed from the speaker, feedback ringing in his ears.

"Uh, hi, I'm uh, moving in here."

There was a pause. "Oh, Mr McCree! It slipped my mind that you were joining us today. Apologies for the wait." Despite the distortion that the old intercom was providing, he could still detect the trace of an accent from the woman speaking - was that German? Something European like that.

"Give me a moment and I will open the gate for you."

Oh God. "Now hold up-" said the man currently clinging to said gate, very much considering dropping from the nine feet he was in the air, and walking into Iris Point like a civilized person, praying that the owner of the voice wouldn't move the gate until he was safely back on the ground.

As if he were to be so lucky.

"Mr McCree…" there was a very long and awkward pause "...are you on top of the gate?"

Mortified, he felt his face flushing and in embarrassment dropped off of the metal frame, landing rather ungracefully with a slight stumble. "...No?" he offered to the intercom, resulting in a rather surprising harsh laugh.

"Creative; have some patience next time though." Without any further discussion, the golden gates, now slightly tarnished by McCree's boots, swung open with an eerie groan, halting adjacent to the wall, allowing him to walk through.

Heaving his rucksack over his shoulder, Jesse was about to take his first steps into his new life when the intercom suddenly came alive again, "My apologies Mr McCree but I will be unable to show you around Iris today. To get to your lodgings, you'll want to walk down the main road past the fountain, until you see the apartment building - it's an old manor house. Enter there; your key will be hanging up at the information desk. I trust that you'll be able to take care of yourself from there."

McCree's brow creased but he shrugged, "Sure: main road, big building, key at the desk, find my room. All set."

"Very good, very good! That's all for now. Auf Wiedersehen, Mr McCree. We will meet soon." And with that, the intercom crackled before the connection was cut.

Shaking his head, Jesse wandered into 'Iris', as the woman on the intercom had called it, gazing around the area. This was certainly not what he expected.

The main road was cobbled; extremely unusual. Most cobbled roads were gone before Jesse was even born, but here was one, relatively untouched. The road was lined with regularly spaced pine trees, a rich green in colour - summer was just around the corner and everything was blooming. Needles littered the ground he walked on as he proceeded forwards until the trees cleared, leaving him in a small square, a fountain sitting in the middle.

This must be what she was talking about, McCree thought to himself, staring at the, yet again, finely detailed sculpture that was in front of him. It depicted a stone omnic, hands clasped as water seemed to flow from the orbs floating around its head. The word 'weird' came to mind again; what time was this place living in? Old cobbled roads and gates, but new sculptures and decorations. The whole thing was a paradox.

McCree didn't care that much though.

Continuing, Jesse continued on his way to the apartment building. He noticed that there were more roads coming off of the main square, but the cobbles were covered in moss and grass was sprouting through the cracks, obviously not used much. Adrian was right - this didn't look like the sort of place wealthy people would live.

Coming to think of it, Adrian hadn't mentioned a lot of things about the town. He said that that Ziegler woman had brought the town back from the dead, but when? Surely it must have been recently, given the relatively new decorations, but the way Adrian told it, made it sound like this place had been falling apart decades ago…

He chose not to dwell on it, eyes occasionally catching on old houses scattered about the abandoned back streets; grand and imposing, with some smaller but equally as luxurious cottages lying dormant near them. The whole place was slowly becoming a bit more sinister.

Lost in his thoughts, Jesse barely noticed that to the right of himself was what he assumed to be the old manor house. Now that was grand. There had clearly been some renovations done; the paint was renewed and the ornaments had been cast in gold. They sure like that colour here. The building looked as if it was four stories tall, and he wondered how much of that height had been original, and how much had been added on in the renovations.

Before entering the large double doors at the front, McCree cast another look around the rest of the street, noticing how the mist from the forest was beginning to settle on the cobbles - there must be a river or lake around here somewhere. On the opposite side to the apartment building was a set of three buildings. To far left, and closest to the way he had entered the town, was some sort of shop - he couldn't quite tell what. There were no posters on the windows, but looking through the glass Jesse could see that there seemed to be various food items inside. He was pleased: that would save a trek to the nearest town every time he was hungry.

The next store seemed to be two stories, towering above the one-story buildings either side of it. The curtains were drawn and the door was shut, with a simple 'Closed' sign hanging off of the wood. The upstairs building looked the same; all windows covered and dark. He didn't think too much of it; it was evening on a Sunday afterall, everyone had probably gone home by now.

The last store was right up McCree's alley. A bar. A barrel was positioned either side of the door and a neon sign flashed in the window reading 'All Welcome'. The building was stout but wide, and a warm glow poured from the half-shuttered windows. The faintest sound of music drifted on the wind, tumbling towards McCree in something that felt all too familiar. As he gazed out, the street lights began to flicker on as dusk moved in, lighting up the name of the bar in large capital letters: Crusaders.

Thinking about how he would have to visit there soon, Jesse stared off into the sky, realising that shades of pink and red were beginning to stain the faint blue canvas. He cast his eyes back to the row of shops, deciding that he would see what was what tomorrow; right now it was time to get settled and pass right out.

Bag hauled over one shoulder, he rather unceremoniously shouldered the large oak door open, almost groaning under its weight. "Christ…" he muttered as he finally made his way inside, letting the door swing shut with a dull thud.

"It's automatic."

McCree's head swung upwards; a voice sounded from the left hand wall of the glamorous foyer, startling him. 'Course, just my luck…

In what appeared to be the corner lounge area, seated at a high rounded coffee table were two figures, both staring at him with obvious distaste. From what he could tell, there was a woman who perched in a perfect posture, her back just as straight as her hair. The other was a larger, but equally as graceful, one arm placed flat across the table, his other hand raised holding a cup to his pursed lips, his judging eyes boring into the newcomer.

"Aw shucks, I guess I didn't see that…" McCree scratched the back of his head, "What, is there a button or something?" he asked quietly, desperately trying to play off the second embarrassment of the day. He offered a weak smile to the two sat at the table, who only gave each other a knowing look before continuing to glare with expressions equally as fierce as the other.

"Evidently." It was the woman who spoke this time; her voice soft as silk, but as sour as a lime; the way she sneered at McCree made him cringe - so there were big shots here after all, or at least people who thought of themselves pretty highly. The other man only chuckled, returning his attention to his conversation with the woman, but McCree couldn't help but notice the way the stranger's dark eyes flitted towards him occasionally.

Clearing his head of his most recent social failure, McCree meandered over to the right side of the room where what he assumed to be the information desk was situated. The first noticeable thing was that the desk was covered in all sorts of scattered papers and forms, making the dark marble barely visible.

The second thing was that there was no one manning the desk, and no bell to grasp the attention of any nearby consigliere. Well, the woman on the intercom had said that his key would be hanging up at the information desk - she didn't say that he had to wait for anyone to get it for him.

He was about to hop around the counter and find his apartment key before he froze; this was far to similar to what happened earlier, and that turned out so well. His hand hovering over the counter, he weighed up his options.

"Hey," he called to the pair in the corner, who's heads immediately snapped to face him, squinting, "Uh, is there any sorta person to get my key and check me in or something?"

The male at the table snorted, "This is no hotel; you're new, yes? Ziegler should have told you where to find your key." His friend snickered, her chin resting on her hand as her cold eyes regarded Jesse. McCree barely noticed however; what accent was that? He hadn't ventured far from the West in his life, so his cultural knowledge was certainly lacking.

He mulled for a moment until he realised he was staring dumbfoundedly at the pair. Quickly gathering himself, Jesse hurriedly nodded, "Oh, sure. Thanks…" he smiled but the man had already turned away again. Real friendly, these people.

As he rounded the counter and began searching for his key, he reflected on the man's words; so he was right to assume that the woman on the intercom was Ziegler, but he couldn't help but think it was strange that the lady who ran the town was also the one answering the door. Didn't she have people for that?

He couldn't think about it too much though as he quickly located the key hanging on a hook just under the counter, a sticky-note attached reading 'Mr McCree'. Snatching it up, he read the number on it - 9. Well that couldn't be too hard to find.

McCree hefted his bag over his shoulder and straightened his hat. He was about to begin his ascent to the top floor via the centre staircase when he finally found a moment to take in the grandeur of the room. Front and back walls were a pristine white in colour, whereas the other two were a deep, rich red. From the white ceiling hung a gold and silver chandelier, crystals dangling from the fixture. Perfect decorations were carved into the walls, details on them painted and flecked in gold. AA rug spanned the majority of the hardwood floor, all-too-fancy lamps stood in the corner. This place really was something.

Jesse shook his head - what in the world was he doing in a place like this? Keys jangling in his hand, he crossed to the centre staircase and began to climb to room nine, wherever that was.

As he reached the half-landing, he heard soft footsteps approaching behind him. Turning on his heel, he saw the male stranger sauntering up the stairs. McCree scowled, still bothered by their earlier encounter. The stranger met his gaze with equally as cold eyes, his dark eyes practically engulfing Jesse's self confidence.

As the stranger moved closer, McCree could pick out details that he previously hadn't seen on the other man's face; a sharp nose and a mouth that was drawn too tight, as if the skin was about to snap back. He reckoned that they were both round-about the same age. The stranger's face matched his expression: sharp, with his cheekbones pulled high and his pale skin stretched across the bone along his jaw, where the hints of a trimmed beard lay. His dark hair was pulled back into a bun, strands falling down the back of his neck. God, even his face was groomed to perfection. If this stranger was good for anything, it was making anyone around him feel inadequate.

"What is your room number?" Jesse barely heard the question; his attention was drawn from the stranger's face to the intricate patterns on the kimono the other was wearing, his eyes scanning the traditional gold-laced patterns. Suddenly, McCree was feeling a bit underdressed.

"Nine accordin' to this," looking away, slightly flustered as the stranger had clearly caught him staring.

The thinnest smirk appeared on the other's face; it was an odd look, as though the presence of a smile was foreign to his face. "Good."

McCree offered a half-smile back, "Oh yeah?"

The man clasped his hands and began walking up the stairs once again, passing Jesse, "Yes; the third floor - away from me." And without any further words, he vanished onto the first floor, walking down the corridor and out of sight.

Jesse was stunned. "Well then," he muttered, tipping his hat down to cover his eyes before ascending the stairs again, taking them two at a time with his long gait.

Top floor, the stranger had said (although he was partially thankful that he at least some direction towards his lodgings.) Walking up here everyday is gonna get old fast, McCree thought to himself. He briefly wondered if he was going to have to deal with that pompous resident on the stairs every evening - being belittled by the same man twice in the span of ten minutes was enough to make anyone sulk.

He quickly ascended the rest of the stairs before reaching what he assumed to be the third floor. The next flight of stairs sent a chill down his spine; striped tape was stretched from banister to banister, strictly denying access. A paper sign was stuck on, reading 'No entry to the fourth floor and roof'. Huh… Looking along the corridor, McCree saw four different doors - two on the left hand side, and two on the right. Walking to the right side, he saw his door, a golden number nine bolted to the dark wood. Opposite his apartment was number 10, parallel to the stairs he had just come from.

He pulled his key out again and was about to shove it into the lock before a loud voice called from the other end of the corridor. Great. Time to meet the neighbours. Swinging his head to the left, Jesse saw a thin figure shooting towards him, waving wildly.

Just as he thought she was about to crash straight into the end wall, she skidded to a halt and grinned before saluting at him, giggling slightly. "Heya!" she beamed, placing her hands on her hips, "Are you our new floor-mate then?" Her English accent was strong and her hair bounced energetically when she spoke.

"Hah, yeah, I guess so," he grinned, finding that her enthusiasm was catching, "I'm McCree, uh, Jesse McCree." His own name seemed to catch on his tongue; back home he'd only really gone by his surname, it was going to be a change being called by 'Jesse' for once.

His 'floor-mate's' eyebrows raised, "Ooo, a cowboy - guess I could tell by the hat, though," she snickered as Jesse tipped it at her, "I'm Lena, I live in number ten, right here-" she knocked on her own door, as if to prove her point before swinging back around and extending her hand, "Nice to meet you, Jesse."

"Nice t' meet you too." He shook her hand before she grinned and waved goodbye, practically diving into her apartment.

"Oh, before I forget-" Lena's head poked around the corner of her door, "Hana and Luce - they both live on this floor too - get a bit loud sometimes so just be ready for that."

Oh good. McCree rolled his eyes as Lena vanished again, finally pushing his key into the door and twisting the lock open, cringing as it screeched, clearly having not been used in a while.

With a deep breath, Jesse shoved the door open with his free arm. Here we go…

New life.