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Bitter Season chapter 2
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.

The fog was rising up around the sides of the road as Maria slammed her way out of James’ house and into his driveway, where her car was still parked. It was a classic Thunderbird, obviously well-driven but maintained enough to still be beautiful. Maria zipped her jacket and slapped a hand onto the hood.

“Do you like it?” she asked, none too coyly, and James nodded. Any man would have to be crazy not to. Maria gave him a look that told him quite plainly that she knew what he was thinking and opened her car door. “Come on, get in. But are you sure you want to drive all this way just to see an envelope?”

“I’m sure,” James told her. He wanted to validate his sanity, if anything. If he had really sent the letter, the envelope would provide concrete evidence, and it was what he needed more than anything. A normal person, a sane person, does not simply forget writing a letter. James supposed it spoke to his sanity to know this, but not much. As his immersed himself in his thoughts, Maria was unlocking the car door. She paused to cough several times into her hand and James shuddered at the many painful memories linked to the sound. All at once he felt frozen and had to rub his eyes with the heel of his hand. When he finished, he looked up to find Maria giving him a rather odd look.

“You okay?” she asked him as she pulled open the driver’s side door. James looked at her without really seeing her and nodded faintly, and Maria disappeared inside the car. The handle of the door was cold in his fist and he opened it, Maria reuniting with his sight as he ducked into the car. She looked so carefree perched on the fake leather of her seat cover, fiddling with the seat belt and then turning to buckle it behind her back.

James buckled his seat belt and watched as Maria slid her keys into the ignition. Innumerable key chains dangled from the relatively small collection of keys-- a house key, a car key, and what looked like the key to a keepsake chest, nearly identical to the one Mary had kept from her childhood (though he knew it couldn’t be. They were custom made, after all. Still, it hurt him to look at it)-- and they jumbled together in a small mess. The engine whined in protest as Maria turned the key.

“Dammit,” she hissed, trying again and receiving the same result. The despairing chug chug chug of the engine as it tried to come to life made James want to cover his ears. Maria sat back in her seat and sighed, rubbing a hand over her eyes. For just a moment she looked extremely worn and then she dropped her hand and looked over at him.

“Well, I guess I won’t be driving,” she told him wryly. “Would you mind doing the honors, James? I‘ll give you directions.”

“I suppose not,” James ducked back out of the car and dug for his own keys deep in the pocket of his jeans. His car was nothing to rival Maria’s but it was functional enough, and Maria gave it a rather critical once-over once they were inside.

“It’s cleaner than I expected… clean for a man’s car, anyway. You’re full of surprises as always, James.”

James ignored her. “Do you still have that letter?”

“Relax,” Maria laughed a little at him, dipping into her pocket and pulling out the paper. She waggled it in his face before returning it to its place. “All we did was walk through your driveway. How could I possibly lose it already? What, you don’t trust me?” she leaned a little closer over the caddy between the two bucket seats. James ignored her again, and Maria gave a little huff. “You don’t trust me, do you?”

“I don’t know what to trust anymore,” James replied, and Maria sneered at him.

“That’s just your fancy way of saying ‘no’, isn’t it?” she asked, her hand falling onto his arm and caressing him through his jacket. “You can trust me, James. I’m not like everyone else, you know?”

James pulled his arm away and was conscious of her looking offended as he started the car. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” he eased out of the driveway and headed left, heeding to Maria’s mutter and gesture.

“They look at you like you’re crazy, don’t they?” she asked after a moment, when they were on the road in the fog. “You disappeared for weeks, didn’t you? And you thought it was only days. All of a sudden you come back out of nowhere with ghosts in your eyes like someone who’s been away in a mental hospital, and they don’t know how to deal with you anymore…”

“Shut your mouth,” James told her, a little harsher than he meant to. “You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”

“Sure I do,” Maria’s voice was a little crueler now, a little less sweet and pensive. “They think you’ve gone raving mad, James. I’m the only one who understands you anymore, now that you’ve been to that place. Even your precious Mary wouldn’t look at you the same now…”

James lurched the car onto the shoulder, stopped it, and turned to face her, seething with rage and not entirely sure what his next course of action was going to be. For a moment he saw himself striking her and it bothered him. “Be quiet,” he told her instead, his voice shaking. “Don’t you dare talk about Mary!”

“Why not?” Maria was giving him a vindictive smile. “I know things about her you don’t, James. I know how she would sit up in the hospital waiting and waiting for her precious James, the one who would never come. I know how she wanted so badly to see you, and at the same time she hated you, and she wished you were the one there dying instead of her--”

This time James did strike her, much to his own shame. The back of his hand collided with her cheek with quite a lot of force and the sound of it rang out through the car, out into the silent foggy air. For a moment there was stillness and Maria’s hand came up to touch her own cheek as she looked at him with shock and with a little bit of tearfulness, her cruelness gone as suddenly as it had come. James could see that his wedding ring had cut into her cheek just a bit and a tiny trickle of blood ran down to the corner of her mouth, the exact color of her lipstick.

“James…” she whispered, and she sounded so much like Mary that for a moment it disgusted him to look at her. “Why would you… how could you hurt me?”

“I’m sorry,” he said, more tenderly than he normally would have allowed. But Maria wasn’t having any of it. She unbuckled her seatbelt and opened the car door, her boots making a loud clack as they contacted with the asphalt. She moved with a swing in her hips like a dancer even when she was angry, and James watched numbly for a moment as she started to walk away. Then he got out of the car and started to follow her.

“Maria,” he said as he caught up to her, and she sped up a little. “Wait. Don’t go,” she was moving at a steady pace down the side of the road, ignoring him. He caught her arm and turned her to face him, and he saw that despite her usual obvious strength and confidence, her face was streaked with tears.

“You just don’t want to be alone,” she told him bitingly. “You don’t care if it’s me or it’s Mary or anyone else… you don’t give a damn about me, James, and we both know it. You’d kill me without a thought if it meant you’d get your Mary back.”

“I wouldn’t kill you,” James told her honestly, though a nagging voice at the back of his mind questioned the validity of his answer.

“Of course you would,” Maria hissed, grabbing his left hand and showing it to him. “Because she’s dead and you still wear this damn ring. Would you wear a ring for me, James? After I was dead and gone? I don’t think so,” she took the slightly bloodied ring off his finger with a dry sob and threw it hard off into the fog.

“Maria…” he was unsure what to say. His first impulse was to go after the ring but he knew it would make matters much worse. Somehow it felt a little freeing to have the ring off of his finger for a moment, and immediately he felt guilty for the feeling. “Come back to the car,” he said helplessly.

“Why should I?” she snapped. But she was losing fight and he could see it. “You know what, fine. It’s cold out here anyway.” she turned and started walking for the car, hands in her jacket pockets. “Get me out of here.”

James followed her rather timidly. Back in the car, he touched the cut on her cheek gently with his fingertips before drawing out his handkerchief and wiping the blood away.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m sorry I did that to you,” but he was unsure if he was saying it to Maria or to that ever-present ghostly memory of his wife, never far when he looked at Maria. He still had the cloth to her cheek when she pushed his hand away and climbed into his seat with him, straddling him and pushing her skirt up dangerously far onto her upper thighs.

“James,” she whispered haphazardly, her fingers twining themselves through his hair. Her warm body pressed closer as she rocked her hips against him. “Make it up to me?”

“Stop it,” he told her, but she just pressed closer. He had learned long ago that Maria was one to stick to her own desires even if it meant causing a lot of discomfort. He wasn’t surprised when she simply pressed harder against him, grinding herself on him a bit. The natural response his body had disgusted him. “I mean it. Stop.”

“Don’t be so naïve, James,” she told him softly, her lips tracing the shell of his ear. “I know you’re restraining yourself because I’m not your Mary. But she isn’t here. And I am.”

She really wasn’t Mary, he mused as he watched her giving him a sultry smile and moving her hips against him. Despite their similar features, he could not imagine Mary doing something like this. She kissed him them and some dark, forgotten part inside of him made him kiss her back. It had been years, so many years, since he had last felt these sensations and his body took charge accordingly. Dimly aware of Maria unbuckling his belt, he wanted to stop her but at this point it was impossible. She tasted cleaner than he had expected, almost like butterscotch.

“Why bother?” he asked himself as she fumbled with his zipper and her underwear. He hated himself, but simply let it happen, and what was more, in some perverse way he enjoyed it. He was an animal now, he was sure of it. What kind of a man ravages another woman when he has still yet to atone for killing his wife, he wondered.

Maria was quick about it, and soon she was still as she pressed herself against him, strands of her sweaty hair sticking to his face, whispering in his ear and making him feel dirtier still as they settled.

“Is that better?” she whispered, and he hated her and hated himself and hated Mary for making him feel so torn. Instead of replying he ignored the woman who was still straddling him as she adjusted her skirt and was smiling at him like she knew. She was caressing his face almost possessively and it took everything in him not to wrench away.

“It is better, isn’t it?” he asked. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?” she didn’t sound mocking as he would expect, however, and her words were somehow soothing. She bent to kiss his cheek and somehow, in some twisted way, for a moment James felt almost loved.

It wasn’t long before Maria had returned to her own seat, and soon they were driving again, Maria pointing out where and when to turn and James following her direction blindly like a dog. He did not want to take his eyes off the road, because at one point he looked down and saw his wedding ring on his finger.

Chapter Three


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