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Bitter Season chapter 5 (final)
cute Tama
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.

If you liked the kinda bittersweet ending of the last chapter, you don't have to read this one XD it sort of ties up all the loose ends I left but it sorta obliterates the more depressing, SH-esque feeling the previous chapter created.

Also... cameo time. You all knew it was coming. These two are my other favorites and I wanted them in there. They actually served a pretty valid purpose, too.



It was surprising to James, even looking back on how much things had changed over the course of that day with Maria, that it felt like somehow a large part of him was missing as he drove back into the fog and headed for South Ashfield, strangely numb. All that was left of Maria was a tube of lipstick on the seat and he tried not to look at it. Somewhere between Silent Hill and Shepherd’s Glen, it rolled onto the floor and disappeared from view. James was relieved.

It seemed like madness for James to settle back into his quiet little routine after everything that had happened, but he did it nonetheless. When Maria had come out of nowhere she had brought with her a small tie to his past, to the man he was before he grew stagnant in his own solitude. Now that she was gone, that tie seemed to have disappeared as well. James went back to his quiet madness because it was all he knew now, and the numbness from that car ride back to Ashfield settled in and kept him company.

To be fair, James knew he should not have been nearly so distraught over the whole situation. Maria had been dead all along, he told himself. It wasn’t as though she had died before his eyes. But still, the revelation that she was gone was a crushing blow. It took some getting used to. She had been absent from his life for quite a while before reappearing, but over the course of one day somehow Maria had managed to worm her way inexorably back into his life. It was maddening. It felt like losing Mary all over again. And so, he tried to keep himself numb. He worked, he shopped for groceries, and he tried to keep his thoughts blank when he closed his eyes to sleep. All in all, he did rather well, despite the fact that now there were two faces it was hard not to see when he closed his eyes. James was not an overly emotional man and he managed to keep himself comfortably unfeeling most of the time for the first few days. He supposed, had he not had a reminder that he really should be feeling, he could have continued that way forever.

That reminder came on a particularly cold night. The wind outside made the tree branches thrash against the sides of the house, but James slept like the dead, completely unconscious of the noisy world outside. No amount of stormy weather could jar him from sleep.

“James honey, wake up…”

That soft voice, however, had the power to wake him. He bolted upright in bed as though lightning had struck him, glancing around in the dark.

“Maria?” he asked.

“Not quite,” she said again, laughing gently, and James could see her, just beside the edge of his bed, her figure silhouetted in the moonlight. For a moment his heart stopped completely.

“Mary?”

“I’ve missed you, James.” her soft hand, so familiar, reached out and pressed against his cheek. James could smell her unmistakable scent of lavender soap. She looked beautiful, strong and happy like she had been before the sickness had touched her. It was almost like looking at an angel. This was Mary, the real Mary. Not the sick, twisted vision of her that James himself had conjured in Silent Hill, the horrible manifestation that he had had to kill.

“I’ve… missed you too.” it was difficult for James to believe this was really happening. Mary’s hand felt real, felt solid against his cheek, but that was no proof. He had made love to Maria, and yet she had vanished into thin air. “Mary… are you real?”

Mary smiled at him a little sadly, and her hand moved to his hair and caressed it just a bit. “Not real in the same way you are,” she replied, and James was struck by the fact that a year ago he would not have understood the statement, but at the moment it made perfect sense to him. “I can’t stay, James. There are just some things I need to say.”

“What are they?” voice trembling, James reached out his hand and found the one of Mary’s that rested on top of the covers. He wanted desperately to fall into her arms, to kiss her, but he knew that now was not the time. Though it ached him to know, the time for that had been when she was alive. Those times were gone. Their time together was over.

“I want you to know… that I forgive you,” Mary whispered, her hand that stroked him infinitely gentle, in just the same way he remembered. “I need you to stop feeling so guilty. And I need you to stop… denying the things that make you happy, for my sake.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You love her, James. I can see it. I know you love me, and I know you might feel some sort of responsibility to keep yourself true to your vows but James… I’m gone. I can’t come back. You moving on… won’t hurt me. It’s possible to love more than one person. It happens all the time.”

James took a moment to mull her words over. “I’ll always… love you,” he told her carefully, squeezing her hand that felt oh-so real and yet somehow like it could dissolve. “I can never stop loving you. And I can never forgive myself… for what I’ve done.”

“I know it’ll take time,” Mary said softly. “But you need to let it go. You need to let yourself be forgiven. And for me… you need to move on. Promise me.”

“How can I make a promise like that?” James asked, and Mary smiled.

“You’ll find a way to forgive yourself, I know you will. You always were a strong person, James. I’ve been watching you, and I know you’ve been living your life shouldering all this guilt and pain. But you can move on. You can be happy. It’s what I want more than anything.”

“Then… I’ll try,” James agreed. It was strange; he had wanted nothing more than to see her since the night she died, and now that he had finally given up she was here, and he had not even had to go and look for her.

“I know you will,” Mary smiled gently at him. “And James… there’s something else.”

“What is it?”

“That woman… Maria… I know you believe she’s dead. But she isn’t.”

James was taken aback. “What?”

“What you read about happened three weeks ago. She survived the incident that you believe killed her, and she’s been hospitalized ever since. She still isn’t conscious, but she’s alive.”

“But I was in Silent Hill less than three weeks ago…” James muttered. “I saw her there. Who… was that, then? Who did I see in Silent Hill?”

Mary looked slightly amused at his confusion, which James supposed was unfair, given the fact that she was on an entirely different plane of existence, could see and know things he could never dream of. James was not a ghost nor an angel, or whatever it was that Mary had become.

“She’s in a coma, James. Who knows where her mind is? I’m sure some part of her-- the part you met-- was really there… looking for you.” For a moment, there was only silence, and Mary petted his hand a bit the way a mother would. “I can’t stay.”

“I know.”

“Please try to be happy,” Mary looked a bit concerned, and James felt a flash of guilt at the fact that he could even worry her in death. “I love you very much.”

“I love you too,” a sense of desperation was beginning to set in at the fact that he knew she was about to leave him once again, but he stopped and tried to calm himself down. He was ready to let go of Mary, he reminded himself. Going to that terrible town, facing that raw guilt head on and coming out alive… that was what it was all preparing him for, and now he had to be alright without her, even after the beautiful torture of being able to see her again. For the sake of his own sanity, he had to be able to let go. “Will I see you again?”

Mary smiled. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “But I’ll think of you, and I know you’ll think of me. That’s just as good. Just… be happy, and don‘t dwell on me. Move on. You need to go on with your life. Someone is waiting for you.”

It wasn’t just as good, but James nodded anyway. He held her hand perhaps tighter than he should have, and for one final, brief moment he pressed into his memory the warm brown of her eyes before he was once again alone in the room.

“Thank you… for making me happy,” Mary whispered in the empty bedroom, no face to go with the voice, and then there was silence.

“Mary…” James said softly, the single word falling from his lips like a lead weight. For a moment he pressed his hands to his face, resisting the temptation to cry, and then he found his resolve. Very slowly, he slid the wedding ring from his finger. It hurt him to do it, but he opened the drawer on the bedside table where Mary had once kept her things and dropped it inside. Mary was right. It was time for him to move on with his life.

XXX

When James arrived at Saint Jerome’s hospital, the sun was just beginning to creep out from behind the clouds. He stepped inside without the most cheerful expectations, but he was determined to see this visit through even if it ended up doing nothing but depressing him. So far, it was not off to a wonderful start; just being in this building reminded James of Mary’s illness and it was a daunting feeling.

James approached the front desk almost nervously, and the woman behind it peered up at him with horn rimmed spectacles. “Can I have Maria Townshend’s room number, please?” he asked.

“Are you family?”

“Well, no.”

“I’m sorry, but we can’t give out patient information to anyone but the patients’ family,” the woman behind the counter informed him and, discouraged, he stepped back. Wandering the entire hospital peeking his head into room after until he found her did not sound like a thrilling prospect, and for a moment he was at a loss. This visit was something he felt like he needed to do, but the day was not going at all as he had hoped. He was starting to think that perhaps leaving was his only option.

“Excuse me?” James shook himself out of his thoughts at the sight of a small brunette moving over to him. “Did you say you were looking for Maria Townshend?”

“Yes,” James replied.

“Are you a friend of hers?” the woman asked with a kind smile. James nodded, and the woman turned around. “Henry, come over here.”

A rather scruffy looking man who had been standing near the doors waiting for the woman approached, his posture clearly indicating that he would rather be anywhere else at the moment. “What is it Eileen?”

“Henry, this is…”

“James,” James replied. “James Sunderland.”

“This is James Sunderland. He says he’s a friend of Maria’s.”

“Oh,” Henry replied simply, nodding. “It’s… nice to meet you.”

Eileen sighed slightly and continued for him. “This is Henry Townshend. Maria is his sister. We were just on our way out… we were visiting.”

“She’s in room 543,” Henry told James. “If you’d like to visit her.”

“I would. Thanks,” James said, nodding to him.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Eileen told him. “Maria doesn’t get many visitors. The doctor said that they think she can hear what you’re saying, so I’m sure she’ll be glad to have you visit. She’s doing a lot better… a few days ago she started improving a lot.”

“We’re going to miss our lunch reservation,” Henry said to Eileen, who smiled warmly at him.

“I’m sorry, I forgot you were hungry. I didn’t mean to get caught up in conversation,” she said, reaching for his hand. “It was nice meeting you, James.”

“Nice meeting you, too.”

Henry nodded at James and then he and Eileen exited through the front doors, leaving James to the daunting task of finding room 543. Finding the elevator was no problem, and getting to the fifth floor took only moments. But the branches of rooms did not seem to be arranged in as organized of a manner as he would have expected, and it seemed to be simply a matter of wandering around checking the small plastic room number signs outside each door until he found the one with 543 on it, somewhere down the farthest hallway. James took a moment to steady himself outside the room, and then he took a deep breath and went in.

The room was empty of doctors and nurses for the moment, and for that he was grateful. The bed was situated near the windows, and James moved over to it slowly. Maria lay on her back, covered with the starchy white blanket. Assorted tubes connected her to the machinery around her and there was something about seeing her lying in the hospital bed that made him want to flinch. However, he moved closer to the bed, ignoring his impulse to run away. The pink in Maria’s hair had faded, and dark roots attested to the time she had spent lying here, helpless. Carefully James lowered himself into the chair beside the bed. Somehow it felt like everything had been leading up to this. This was the kind of situation he had been running from, the kind of situation that conjured up memories he didn’t want to face. But James was ready now. He couldn’t just keep running away. That town had made him see that.

“Maria…” he muttered. For a moment, he was simply silent. Maria looked strange when she wasn’t moving, and completely different without her makeup. Her hand lay on top of the sheet and he took it gently, lacing his fingers through hers. The fact that she was here, alive and breathing and looking just the way he remembered her made him feel like he could handle feeling again. “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” for a moment, he felt like he was going to choke. “All the time we spent together… the whole time, all I wanted was Mary, and I constantly made you feel second to her. I can see that now. Even after I told you that you were enough, I never acted like it, and I always put a dead woman before you.”

Outside the window, the sun was weak and a soft sprinkle of rain made it even weaker. James stared out into the world for a moment. He could take all the time he wanted, he realized. She was here, really here, and she wasn’t going to fade away. This time, he was not going to push her away, was not going to run, was not going to hold in everything he wanted to say to her.

“I suppose I was wrong, always making you feel like you weren’t enough, and lashing out at you when I was hurting because I missed Mary. For that, I’m sorry. And I did… I mean I do… love you. I’m not sure how well I’ll do with this feeling after everything that’s happened, but I’ll work on it. I’ll try. I just wanted you know. About all of it.”

For a long moment, there was only silence and the two of them in that room together. This was what James had been afraid of, this quiet closeness, this thing that reminded him of the good times, not the painful times. Despite the fact that she was unconscious in a hospital bed and James really had no way of knowing if she would ever recover, it was hard to think of the bad times. Somehow, Maria seemed to have a knack for making him forget.

“I also wanted… to thank you,” he said softly. James was not the most openly emotional man in the world, but for just a moment he allowed a tear to travel down his cheek in a hot, slow trail before he wiped it away, and no more came. “I guess I never really… took the time to appreciate what you did for me. You probably didn’t even mean to but… you woke me up, and reminded me what it was like to be alive again. I don’t even know if you can hear me, or if you’ll ever come out of this but I want you to know that I’ll keep coming.” swallowing, James forced himself to look at her face. “I’ll come as often as I can, and I’ll talk to you. I’ll do it so… you won’t have to be alone.”

James sighed heavily. It felt like a great weight had lifted from his shoulders, and still holding Maria’s hand, he stared out the window into the heavy gray day, wondering what to do now, now that he had said everything he needed to say. He was still pondering when he felt a light squeeze on his hand. Alarmed, he looked down, and was surprised to see a pair of blue eyes watching him, as though they had been able to see him all along.

“James.”

And he smiled.

The End.



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