Sugarhell: Moonchild10's Fanfiction

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Bitter Season chapter 4
adorable Haruhi X3
moonchild10 wrote in sugarhell
Title: Bitter Season
Fandom: Silent Hill
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: James/Maria
Summary: Maria receives a letter from James... a letter that he doesn't remember writing. Desperate for answers, James is willing to chase the truth, even if it means losing his last real connection to who he is.

Ha ha, you can just tell I'm setting things up for a cameo in the next chapter, can't you?

James felt increasingly suffocated as he moved down the shabbier and shabbier stretches of road that led from Shepherd’s Glen around Toluca Lake. He could sense Maria’s discomfort almost as acutely as he could feel his own. When her hand came across the gap between the seats, reaching for him, he took it. Her fingers felt warm clasped within his own and sent a jolt of something terrifyingly familiar through him. Over the course of the day something inside of him had shifted completely, and now somehow, pushing her away from him didn’t seem like such a good idea.

‘I’ve been trying so hard to distance myself from her…’ he thought. But now, going back to that terrible place, it was hard to want to. Mary was in the ground now, and Maria was here. It was the inescapable truth that he had been wanting to deny all along. Mary was gone, and closing himself off from Maria wasn’t going to bring her back. Experimentally, he squeezed Maria’s hand, and she squeezed back.

“Maria?” he asked as they crossed a bridge over the rushing river.

“What is it, James?” she asked him, and he looked sideways to see her watching him.

“Was it always this way? Silent Hill, I mean?” James took a deep breath. “Mary and I… we went once, together, and it was normal then. But was Silent Hill always this way… for you?”

Maria seemed to recede deep inside herself for a moment as though she was struggling to remember, and then she shook her head. “No, it wasn’t. I think… I was born there. Things were different back then. Until the day I met you, there were people in the town. It was just a normal Podunk town before that, and then those monsters started turning up in the fog. It was almost like they replaced the people. I don‘t… remember what happened for a while before that day, but I know it wasn‘t like that before.”

“Wait, that was the first day?” James asked. Maria nodded. “But why was everything so broken... so run down? It was like it had been that way for years.”

“Well, it hadn’t,” Maria assured him haughtily. “Don’t ask me why that happened.”

“I’m not saying I don’t believe you,” James told her. “I’m just surprised.”

“Well aren’t you just a gentleman, making sure I’m not taking your comments the wrong way,” Maria said, her tone teasing but not malicious. “A girl could really fall in love with you James.”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“I would,” Maria replied, and her tone was laden with purpose. James gave her hand another light squeeze and Maria’s thumb started stroking the back of his hand.

Oddly enough, as they neared Silent Hill, the fog on the road seemed to diminish little by little. The clouds were beginning to thin, and a weak winter sunlight made the damp road glisten ahead of them. It didn’t seem fitting, given the circumstances, and it made James’ skin break out in goosebumps. He kept driving nonetheless, and before long they were passing the telltale Welcome to Silent Hill sign that made James want to turn right back around. This time, where there had been an enormous gate blocking the way into the city beyond the rest stop parking lot, there was only more road. A town wasn’t suppose to just spontaneously change, he thought. A town was not alive.

Maria began to fidget as they passed through onto Nathan Avenue and headed west, and James could not deny that his skin was crawling as well. The city looked the same as it had during James‘ previous visit, but the debris and scattered monster corpses had apparently vanished into thin air; the sun-glistening streets were clean. The buildings no longer looked dilapidated. Cars were parked here and there, and they did not look abandoned. Despite the city’s less-than-foreboding appearance, James looked in the rearview mirror, expecting the road to have crumbled away behind them. However, there was only an innocent stretch of road, no enormous chasm.

“It looks… the way I remember it,” Maria said softly, glancing around the window. They actually passed several over cars driving by, and it did not seem right. James was shaken to his very core by the nostalgia that swept through him.

“It looks the way I remember it too.”

Turning onto Carroll Street, James was slightly shaken by the town’s appearance yet again. Families were coming out of the bowling alley, and truckers filled up their rigs at Texxon. Suddenly James remembered their purpose, and hoped the town’s current state would not complicate things.

“Will there be people in Heaven’s Night, too?” he wondered out loud, and Maria laughed.

“Of course not. It’s not open during the day, silly,” she said, elbowing him gently. “Haven’t you ever been to a strip club?” James shrugged noncommittally and Maria laughed again. “Oh James, you haven’t! You’re like a virgin! It’s adorable!”

“Mary and I met when we were young,” James muttered, very faintly offended. “I never really had any reason to go to one.” he pulled into the parking lot of the club and put the car in park. Maria leaned across the gap between the seats once more.

“Well, since that’s the case, I’d be happy to give you a private dance,” she said, her voice a low purr against the shell of his ear, and James was not sure whether to be irritated or intrigued, despite the fact that she surely wasn’t serious. Slowly, he turned his head to face her and simply stared at her.

“Don’t get so embarrassed,” she told him, brushing his hair back. They stared at each other for a moment, and then James took his keys from the ignition and transferred them to his pocket, moving to get out of the car. Before he could Maria grabbed his arm and he turned around back, alarmed, as Maria pressed herself against his chest.

“What is it?”

“James, I’m scared,” she said in a whisper. Her carefree demeanor had disappeared rapidly.


“I know things aren’t like they were last time. There aren’t those monsters, and things are normal. But whoever-- whatever-- sent me that letter… is inside, waiting for me.”

“If you don’t want to go in, we don’t have to,” James said in as comforting tone as he could. He placed a hand lightly on her shoulder. It had been quite some time since he had spoken to someone this way, and he had to admit he was a bit rusty.

“No, I want to go,” Maria said. “I feel like… I have to. I want to know. I want to know why I got that letter. I know it wasn’t from you, and I want to know why someone would send me a letter pretending to be you, or if it’s from a ghost or if I just imagined the whole thing. Or if I‘m crazy. I just feel like I need answers. I‘m not going to get them any other way, now am I?”

“Maria…” James said, concerned.

“Just promise me something. Promise me… that you won’t leave me alone,” she said, looking up at him slightly tearfully. She looked so afraid and so utterly vulnerable that James could not help the tug he felt in the region of his heart.

“I promise,” he replied. It was really the least he could do. Maria smiled very faintly then.

“Thanks,” she muttered. She tilted her head up and kissed his lips once more, and this time James did not recoil. The moment was brief. “Hey James, I love you, you know?” the way she said it was almost casual, but the words did not lessen any in their intensity. “I’m not sure how. I haven’t known you for long at all. It could have something to do with me having some of your dead wife’s memories, for some reason. Because I do remember things I know I shouldn‘t. But then… maybe it’s something more than that. No, it has to be more than that. I guess I just wanted you to know, in case things don’t go exactly perfect in here.”

James was not entirely sure what to do with this new information. He simply stared at Maria for a moment, and she stared back, her expression almost a challenge to his silence. Then finally, she looked away.

“Well don’t get so happy,” she muttered, smiling a little cruelly at him out of the corner of her eye.

“Maria I…” James swallowed. Words failed him and Maria’s hand brushed his cheek gently. Her fingers were even warmer than he had remembered.

“You don’t have to say anything,” she said, pursing her lips for a moment and then smiling again. “I know. I’m not Mary, and I never will be. Just… don’t worry about it, huh?”

James was grateful for the out, and watched as Maria dug in her boot and pulled out her set of Heaven’s Night keys. He felt as surprised as Maria looked when he pressed a hasty kiss to her cheek. He hadn’t really planned on doing it.

“Let’s go,” he said, fully ready to face the unknown now. This morning he had resolved to find the answers to the questions Maria’s reappearance had brought about, and now those answers were so close he could almost hear them. He had a feeling that they both desperately desired and feared the illumination that waited behind the doors. Slowly, Maria nodded, looking like she was bracing herself.

“Okay,” she answered, her hand sliding onto the door handle. “Let’s go.”

Maria led James around to the door in the alley once more and with trembling hands she unlocked it. Her usual sense of playful confidence was nowhere to be found and she reached for James’ hand like a frightened child. He let her take it.

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

Maria smiled wryly at him. “Of course. But what are you asking me for? We both know you want to know where that letter came from just as badly as I do.”

“You’re right,” James admitted. Maria took a deep, rather loud breath and pushed the door open. It made an ominous creak under her hand and the two of them stepped forward into the foreboding darkness. Maria reached past James to click the lights on, and almost immediately both stared forward into the newly brightened club, expecting the worst.

“There’s nobody here,” Maria sounded both relieved and irritated. “We came all this way for nothing.”

Glancing around the empty room, James felt his tension and hope deflating. For the second time that afternoon they had reached a particularly frustrating dead end. The reasons for those letters and their origins still lingered just beyond his reach, and he wanted to drop to the ground in despair for a moment. He supposed it was for the best; neither of them had thought to bring a weapon. Despite this, it was still hard not to wish there actually had been something there.

“What do we do now?” he asked a bit helplessly, and Maria sighed.

“I suppose we shouldn’t let our time go to waste,” she replied. “Want me to make you a drink, James? I can shake you a martini you’ll never forget.”

James shifted his weight and the car keys in his pocket clinked slightly. “Why not?” he asked. “We’re here, after all.”

“Well look who’s loosening up,” Maria said with a playful grin. She was still holding onto James’ hand and she pulled him in the direction of the bar. He followed obediently. “I’m glad you’re trying to enjoy yourself for once. You’re so serious all the time, James.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile,” Maria slipped behind the bar and rested her elbows on it, then dropped her chin onto her elbows. “Does anything make you smile?”

“I don’t know,” James stepped to his left and seated himself on one of the barstools.

“Really?” Maria looked like she wanted to laugh. “You don’t know? What about sex, does that make you smile?” she was just trying to get a rise out of him and he knew it, so James ignored her. “Oh come on James, don’t get so mad.”

“I’m not mad.”

“Sure, you’re not. Whatever you say.” Maria moved away from him and started digging around under the cupboard. “I was just joking about the martini… what does James Sunderland drink when he’s out? I’ll make that.”

“Scotch?” James asked, and Maria tsked.

“How boring,” she muttered, turning around to grab a bottle of scotch. “Well… I’ll tell you what. The first time I see you smile, I’ll just up and marry you. Or at least feel you up. How does that sound?”

“Do you really have to be so vulgar?” James asked as Maria slid the drink down the bar like an old New York bartender and he caught it.

“It’s part of the job description. I’m at work right now, remember?”

Finally something clicked. James felt ridiculous for not putting two and two together before. “Oh, you work here?”

“What, did you think I stole the keys or something? Of course I work here.” hand on her hip, Maria turned to face him as he took a long drink of scotch. “You don’t pay any attention to me at all, do you?”

“Yes I do,” James said helplessly as Maria made herself a gin and tonic and then leaned on the counter again as she started to drink it slowly. “It’s just that you’ve never really even told me anything about yourself. How was I supposed to know?”

“You’re supposed to ask,” Maria said helpfully. “Some gentleman you are.”

“Well, then I’m asking now.”

“What’s there really to say? I was born in Silent Hill, moved to Paleville with my family when I was fourteen, ran away when I was sixteen and stayed with my brother in Ashfield for a while but then… I came back here. It was almost like… almost like I had to.”

“Like something… brought you here?” James asked. He knew the feeling. Maria nodded.

“Something like that. But anyway, I got a job here at sixteen-- they don’t do the most thorough background checks ever-- and eventually I just bought the club. Even after I moved to Shepherd’s Glen I still spent more time here than there. That’s all there really is to know. And I don’t need to ask you anything about you, now do I? I already know everything about you.”


Maria shrugged. “I don’t know. I just… do, I guess.”

“You never thought it was strange?”

“Of course I did, but what was I really going to do about it? I guess it’s kinda weird to know how someone likes their eggs and how their hair feels between your fingers before you ever feel it, but then again everything was weird when I first figured out these memories of you. There were monsters everywhere. I guess I didn’t think much about it, but now that I think about it, it was pretty weird, don’t you think? I could barely even remember who I was, but I could remember everything about a man I’d never even met.”

James stared very hard at her for a moment. “Are you… completely sure you’re not Mary?” he asked, just to be safe. These memories she was talking about… seemed strange belonging to anyone but Mary. Maria laughed.

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” she asked, tipping back all of her gin and tonic and looking very faintly miserable.

“No, I wouldn’t,” James said quietly. “I’m sorry.”

“You wouldn’t?” Maria asked, her tone slightly mocking. “You wouldn’t like me gone and replaced with that wife of yours?”

“No,” James assured her, placing his hand rather clumsily on top of hers on the counter. “I… like having you here with me, Maria.”

Maria smiled. “That’s all I ever really wanted to hear, you know?”

“I didn’t know.”

Maria pulled her hand away and turned to make herself another drink. James took a slow swig of his scotch and looked down at his hands on the counter. He raised an eyebrow when he noticed that under his left one, there was what looked like a newspaper article. Lifting his hand, he caught sight of a photo of an attractive dark-haired woman at the top of it, and the recognition was almost instantaneous.

“Maria… is this you?” he asked. Maria turned, fresh drink in hand, and he held the paper out to her. She took it, sipping at her drink.

“Yeah, this is from before I did my hair… what is this?” for a moment she was still, reading and sipping, and then with a shaking hand she set her drink down on the counter and looked up at him, her blue eyes wide and horrified. “James…” he had never heard her sound quite this affected.

“Are you okay? What’s wrong?” James asked, about to get up and move over to her, but she held the paper out to him before he could.

“Read this,” she whispered, looking faintly blurred. Confused, James took the clipping from her outstretched hand and held it closer to his face-- the lighting in the club wasn’t exactly brilliant. The clipping was small and torn, only showing a few paragraphs of its article beside the photo, but James read it anyway.

At 3:00 AM, while attempting to leave Heaven’s Night after her shift, dancer Maria Townshend was attacked by an unknown assailant. When she failed to give the would-be robber money, she was repeatedly stabbed and then strangled. Townshend was--

The clipping tore off at that point, obliterating all hope of deciphering any more of its message, but the purpose was incredibly clear. Hands shaking, James lowered the clipping to look at Maria, whose face was streaked with tears.

“I… don’t… I don’t remember,” she whimpered, sounding terrified. James was conscious of the deep bruises around her neck as he got up from his stool and slowly came around the counter. “I don’t remember.”

“Maria…” he said softly, coming closer to her. She drew back, pressing herself against the row of shelves behind her.

“How could I not remember?” she asked him. “How can someone forget something like that? James… James…” she was sobbing now and it was difficult to make out the words.

“It’s alright,” James told her, reaching for her and pulling him to her. She was wet where the blood from her stab wounds was soaking through her clothes and James could feel her blood wetting his jacket as he situated her against his chest. “It’s okay.”

“It’s not okay!” Maria fairly shouted, and James wrapped his arms as tightly around her as he could. It had been years since he had held someone this close. He desperately wanted to stop her crying, though he was starting to tear up a bit as well. Somehow, glancing down at the newspaper clipping that had fluttered from his hand and onto the floor, he felt that they had found exactly what was waiting for Maria. It was not a ‘who’ at all.

“James,” Maria sobbed as James slid to the floor with her still in his arms, sat with his back against the back of the bar and held her even closer, willing this moment to be a dream. Pressing his face into her hair, James rocked Maria slightly. He was beginning to become wet with her blood. She was still crying, and he needed, more than anything, for her to stop. Biting back his own terror at the sudden revelation he tipped her head back, he kissed her, he ran his trembling fingers as gently as he could through her hair. Over and over he whispered her name until she was more or less calm.

“In that alley… that night…” Maria whispered, her voice so low he could barely hear her. “I was alone. I was all alone. No one came, no matter how much I screamed…” the bold, confident Maria he knew was somewhere behind this almost childlike mask of fear, though it was hard to believe. “Please James… don’t leave me alone…”

“I won’t leave you alone,” James promised, feeling lost and a little frightened himself, as though he was losing a part of himself. “Never. I promise.”

Maria seemed content, and she rested her head against his chest, wrapping her arms loosely around his waist. “I’m so tired…” she muttered, sounding a million miles away.

“Then go to sleep,” James whispered gently. “I’ll be here. I promise.”

For a moment they just sat like that, the two of them enclosed for that brief time in a world that consisted of only the two of them, Maria’s thin body warm in his arms, her hair tickling his chin. James expected it to be gradual, but it wasn’t. It was achingly sudden. One moment Maria was whispering his name into his shirtfront and the next, James’ arms were full of nothing but air.

“Maria…” he muttered. For several minutes he simply sat there, numb, and then slowly he climbed to his feet. He did not want to look at Maria’s drink that still sat on the bar top. He only wanted to walk. With grim determination James moved toward the door, toward the outside world. He took a moment to look back, to feel a tug on his heart that was both sweet and bitter. Then, gathering every last bit of his courage, he opened the door and stepped out into the light.

Chapter Five (final)


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