Whispering Pines - Braving the Storm
By Mavis Applewater
For disclaimers see Part 1.
A special thank goes out to my beta reader Mountain Girl.
As always this is for Heather.
Stewart, Massachusetts 1957
"This has to be the lamest task yet," Mitchell whispered to his best friend Frank as they stood on the porch of the dilapidated old house. Frank shrugged in agreement.
"No talking," one of upper classmen scolded them. Mitchell glanced over his shoulder and spied his future Fraternity brothers standing on the front lawn drinking beer. Mitchell dutifully turned his attention back towards the manor. He just couldn't understand what the big deal was. It was just an old house. Spending the night should be the easiest task they would have to endure, much better than when they were forced to run across the campus quad wearing nothing but their BVD's.
During the drive up to Stewart the upper classmen tried their level best to scare him and Frank with wild stories of a crazy old sea captain who went on a murderous rampage. He and Frank just rolled their eyes at the ghost stories. Although a couple of the other pledges didn't seem as unaffected as he and his best friend.
"It is time if you dare," the pledge master challenged the small group of five freshmen. Mitchell was eager to get the task over with since he had studying to do. He reached for the doorknob. He wasn't worried when he discovered that the door was locked. Instead he simply griped his flashlight tightly and approached the window.
He raised his fist and smashed the flashlight against the glass. He yelped in pain when he jerked his hand back and the glass remained unbroken. "Whatever," he grumbled as the older members laughed at his plight. He nudged Harry who was a member of the football team. "Kick the door in," he instructed the large teenager who smiled eagerly at the suggestion.
Harry lunged shoving his large shoulder into the door. "What the fuck?" Frank stammered when Harry slammed into the door and nothing happened.
"There must be a way in; let's scout around," Mitchell insisted as the snickering from the drunken frat boys continued. Just as he turned to step off of the porch the door slowly opened. "Cool," he beamed as he noticed his fellow pledges turning pale and staring at the now open door. "Let's go in." They stared over at him as if he had lost his mind. "What? Harry loosened it," he reasoned as he stepped inside and turned on his flashlight. The others finally followed him into the abandoned house.
"I didn't," Harry whispered in his ear. Mitchell looked up stunned to find the large teenager shaking like a leaf. "The door didn't budge when I slammed into it."
"Chill out, man," he shook his head as the others began to wander about. "I wonder why the locals didn't mess up the place." He questioned thinking it would be the perfect spot for the local teens to throw a party.
"Man you guys should see the kitchen," Frank exclaimed as he darted into the foyer. "The cabinets are all hacked up."
"I guess the locals did do a little partying," Mitchell reasoned as he followed the others towards the kitchen. He felt a cold wind blow past him. He quickly dismissed it as the night air. He stumbled backward when Harry bolted past him with a look of sheer terror on his face. "What the fuck?" He grumbled. "Stan, go get him all of us have to stay the night," he explained as he stepped into the freezing room. 'I know what you are,' was hissed in his ear. He felt hands on his throat as he dropped his flashlight. 'Sinner!' Was howled by an unseen person.
Mitchell bolted out of the room after Harry this time not to stop him from leaving, but to join him in his escape. Joining Phi Delta wasn't worth the fear that was pounding through his body. He found Harry standing in the foyer hugging his body as the others followed after them. "How did it know?" Harry stammered as tears ran down his face.
Mitchell just stared at the oversized man as the startling realization hit him. His secret it knew his secret, but how could it. "What is with the two of you?" Stan demanded as Harry glanced over at him.
"I'm not staying," Harry squeaked out.
"We have to stay," Frank tried to reason with the whimpering linebacker.
Suddenly the sound of a woman wailing echoed through the house. "It's just the guys goofing on us," Stan tried to reason with them until the doors and windows all shot open. Everyone stood in a stunned silence as the doors and windows just as suddenly snapped shut. 'Get out! ' A woman's voice screeched sending the five young men rushing from the house.
Their feet didn't stop moving until they were face to face with their fraternity brothers. "Something wrong boys?" Tom the pledge master taunted them.
"She said to get out so we did," Mitchell reasoned as his entire body shook.
"You mean her?" Tom quietly inquired as he pointed to one of the upstairs windows.
Mitchell's heart clenched when he spied the glowing image of a woman watching them. "That's it," he fumed deciding that his brother's had set them up. "They're yanking our chains. Let's go back inside."
"Are you shitting me?" Harry bellowed with a murderous gaze.
"You want to go back?" Tom sputtered truly surprised by his bravado.
"Yeah," Mitchell asserted as he silently prayed the other pledges would talk him out of it. The front door swung open and he jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"It is okay," Tom reassured him. "You don't have to. We can head back to campus now."
"I don't get it," Frank muttered. "Who was in the window your sister?"
"I don't know," Tom confessed. "Guys we aren't messing with you and, just so you know none of us last any longer than you did in there."
On the drive back to campus everyone laughed at how frightened they were and no matter how much they coaxed the upper classmen they failed to get any of them to admit they had been behind the pranks.
A few months later Mitchell and his Frat brother's were hanging out in a local pub. Everyone was trying to pick up a girl. Mitchell did his best to pretend to be playing the game as well. He managed to side step a Vassar girl who eagerly accepted his advances. He spied Harry lurking alone in the corner. Something had been troubling him since the night they went to the old house, something that only he and Harry seemed to share. "Hey," he greeted the football player as he handed Harry a beer. "Can I talk to you about something?"
"Sure," Harry shrugged as they sipped their beer before ducking outside. "What do you want to talk about?"
"That old house the guys dragged us up to," Mitchell carefully began. "What did you mean when you said it knew?"
Harry spun around and glared down at him. For some unknown reason Mitchell stood his ground. "Tell me?" He asked as he felt his knees buckle.
Suddenly Harry's features softened as their eyes met. "This," was all he offered as he cupped Mitchell's face in his hands and captured him in a searing kiss. Mitchell melted into the kiss before the reality struck him.
"I am a sinner," he whimpered as he jerked away.
"No you're not," Harry huffed. "And neither am I. Whatever is trapped in that house is evil, not us."
Mitchell suddenly felt years of fear fading as Harry held him in a tender gaze. "We should get back inside," he suggested softly.
"Or?" Harry beamed brightly. "We could pretend we got lucky and just sneak off."
Houston Texas, 2002
"Mitch, get in here!" He shouted from the den of their home.
"What?" Mitchell grumbled as he joined his lover. "Another special on football? We are going to be late for the party." He taunted the larger man as he scratched his now gray beard. He looked over at the television with disinterest. "My God are those boobs fake or what?" He snickered as he listened to the blonde prattling on. "Whispering Pines?" He choked. "I can't believe it."
"We can be a little late for the party," Harry encouraged him as he pulled him down onto his lap. They watched each trembling slightly as they remembered the past.
"Oh no, Honey, you and that little blonde really shouldn't go in that kitchen," Mitchell squealed as he covered his eyes. Harry snapped off the television.
"I can't watch," Harry stammered. "It feels like yesterday."
"As frightening as it was," Mitchell tenderly began. "It did bring us together."
Months later Harry forced Mitchell to go with him when Dr. Williams was in Houston signing copies of Whispering Pines. Harry was normally quiet and reserved but once he met Shawn he wouldn't shut up until Mitchell dragged him away. "Jesus, Mary, give the girl a break," Mitchell scolded his lover as he dragged him from the bookstore.
Arlington, Massachusetts 2003
Faith stood looking out the window of her parent's living room. "Dinner will be ready soon," she heard her father informing her. She just kept staring out the window as she wondered if she would ever forgive him. "It is nice to have you home," he encouraged. "Will Shawn be joining you soon?"
"No," she bristled as she turned to him. "I'm heading to New York in a couple of days."
"Good," he blew out with relief. "I was afraid that something might have happened between the two of you."
"We broke up," she flatly informed him as his eyes dimmed.
"I'm sorry to hear that," he sighed. "Shawn was good for you. I was hoping that just maybe you were finally going to settle down."
"Strange you giving me advice about relationships," she harshly quipped. She instantly regretted her words as she saw the hurt in his eyes.
"Faith someday you really should take that chip off of your shoulder," he cautioned her. "It was a long time ago. Your mother forgave me. And, frankly, based on the way you treat women you really don't have any right to judge me."
"You're right," she conceded. "I keep telling myself that Dad just had a midlife crisis. No big deal, except you snuck around and started a new family."
"All of which happened when you were just a child," he scolded her. "And I will forever regret what I did and how you found out."
"I'm sorry," Faith blew out her apology. "It was just a shock being a teenager and discovering that I had a sister. Poor Jessica I was so cruel to her. I really am sorry Dad. I don't mean to drudge all of this up every time I come home. But you'll be happy to know that Shawn and I are trying to work things out."
"That's good," he beamed. "I really like her and the way she makes you smile. I am also very happy that you are back in the United States."
"For now," she shrugged as her mother called them into the dinning room. "I'm heading to Scotland soon."
"What is in Scotland?" Her mother inquired as they each took their respective spots at the dinning room table.
"City of the dead," Faith chuckled as her mother's eyes widened. "Covenanters Prison to be more precise. It is supposed to be very spooky."
"Sounds a lot safer than your last assignment," Myra Charles sighed.
"Kansas?" Faith questioned. "Oh you mean the war. Don't worry I'm not going back into the hot spots. In fact I mostly visit cold spots."
"You seem to have neglected telling us about Kansas," Myra scolded her. "Why don't you tell us about Kansas, and then about your trip to Edinburgh?"
"How did you know I was going to Edinburgh?" Faith asked as she loaded her plate with mashed potatoes.
"Covenanters prison, the black mausoleum?" Myra supplied. "I am a history professor. I don't know the ghost stories but I can only imagine given what happened there."
"So it is haunted?" Her father encouraged as Faith smiled. Her father was as much of a skeptic as she once was.
"What happened at the prison?" Faith pried eager to hear about her next assignment.
"Later first tell us about Kansas," Myra sighed. "Was Shawn with you?"
"Kansas was boring and Shawn was in Salem," Faith grumbled. "After Edinburgh I will be coming back to Massachusetts," she offered in an effort to derail her mother from any further inquires regarding Shawn.
"Lizzie Borden House?" He father gleamed.
"Why don't you just drive down to Fall River?" She laughed knowing he was fascinated by the infamous murders. "I think I am hitting Fall River later this year. If I do why don't you take some time off and join me?" She offered hoping to finally end the tension between them.
"Can I?" He gushed.
"Yes," she rolled her eyes.
"Okay so what are you working on here? It can't be Salem, you said Shawn was just there," Myra prodded.
"Stewart," she mumbled as her father dropped his fork.
"Faith? Are you going back to Whispering Pines?" He choked out. "Are you sure you want to do that?"
"Want to? No," she blew out. "I feel like I have to go."
"But Faith," Myra stammered.
"I'm going," she fussed.
"Well at least Shawn will be with you," Myra sighed with relief as Faith began to chew on the inside of her mouth.
"You didn't finish telling us about Kansas," her father interrupted somehow sensing that Faith would be on her own.
Later that evening she was relaxing on the front porch simply enjoying the night air and a cup of coffee. "Shawn's not going with you is she?" Her father tenderly inquired as he sat down beside her.
"No," she sighed. "I wish she was because I don't know how I'm going to handle that place without her. She just can't go back."
"Maybe you should follow her example?" Stan Charles suggested as Faith gave him a curious glance. "I read your book and,"
"And?" She coaxed him.
"When I was in college my fraternity used to think it was funny to bring new pledges to Whispering Pines," he tried to explain. "I don't buy a lot of that hokey spooky stuff, but I can't forget how two of the pledges went running from the house."
"That wouldn't be Uncle Mitch and Uncle Harry would it?" Faith laughed. "Why didn't you tell me you've been there?"
"I don't like talking about it," he confessed. "And I didn't know you were going there until your mother and I saw you on television. It isn't as if you are big on sharing your whereabouts."
"I'll try to be better," Faith promised. "What happened when you were there?" She asked suddenly feeling closer to her father than she had in years.
"Not much," he shivered slightly. "It was just a big, dark house then Mitch and Harry bolted out of the kitchen. The doors and windows opened and shut. Then a voice told us to get out."
"What'd you do?" She urged.
"Got the hell out of there," he blurted out. "For the longest time we all just convinced ourselves that the older guys had played a joke on us. I think I still believed that was the truth until you went there. I saw a woman in the upstairs window," he added absently.
"Second or third floor?" Faith inquired calmly.
"Third, I think," he shuddered once again.
"Catherine," she nodded. "That was her room. How much of the house did you see?"
"Just the entry way and the kitchen," he explained. "Really couldn't see much as it was at night and all we had for light was our flashlights."
"Want to go back?" She teased him.
"No," he flatly refused.
"Oh come on Dad it is a great mystery," she further teased him. "They even have a cop investigating the case."
"No thank you," he asserted. "I'd rather go to my grave lying to myself that my fraternity brothers set the whole thing up."
"Wuss," she snickered.
"I'll go if you want me to," he offered warmly. "I don't want you going alone."
"I'll be fine," she waved off his concern.
"Want to talk about Shawn?" He gently inquired.
"Well," she grumbled. "You and Mom aren't the only ones I neglect telling where I am going to be working. I failed to take her feelings into consideration when I took the assignment overseas."
"Bad call," he groaned. She bit her tongue to keep from snapping at him. They were finally getting along and she didn't want to ruin the moment. "Sorry, like you said I shouldn't be giving relationship advice."
"I almost said it," she laughed as she laced her fingers together. "I'm trying Dad. I really am. I need to let this go. And on that note how is Jessica doing?"
"She hasn't talked to me in years," he wearily responded. "You weren't the only one I hurt."
"No that one falls in my lap,' she grumbled. "I was the one who hurt her. She was just a kid who didn't even know what was going on." She glanced over at her father her heart sank as she caught the look of sadness on his face.
"For a little over one month in my life I acted like an ass and caused so many people a lifetime of pain," he sniffed.
"I never realized that the affair was so short," she absently responded.
"Frankly, it wasn't any of your business," he sighed.
"True," she conceded wondering if he had simply come to his senses one day or had her mother found out? Then again it really wasn't any of her business. It was, however, time to let it go. "So what do you think about what Mom told us about the prison?"
"A mass grave and all those people locked up in deplorable conditions, no wonder it is haunted," he laughed.
"Becoming a believer?" She teased.
"Who me?" He scoffed. "Nonsense."
"Yeah that's just how I used to say it for the cameras," she snickered. "I remember I almost confessed once in Toronto. We were at this old farmhouse walking from room to room. Shawn is going on about I feel this or that and I'm just ignoring her. We get to the kid's bedroom and I swear this rocking horse just starts rocking. I just about jumped out of my skin."
"I would have peed my pants," Stan laughed.
"I almost did," Faith supplied. "I still went on camera denying that there was anything strange. I like not having to do that anymore."
"So you like the aspect you are involved with now? You didn't seem to enjoy Kansas," he asked.
"I like it," she nodded inhaling the brisk night air. "I get to interview people and research stuff; I just like it more when I get to do it with Shawn."
"I really hope the two of you work things out," he comforted her as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. For the first time in years she allowed him to comfort her.
"So do I Dad, so do I," she sighed happily.
New York City, 2003
Shawn stretched out her aching body as she had been working on the computer for days trying to get things ready for her next book. She also busied herself with researching her next project. She had hoped that by keeping busy she wouldn't have to worry about what would happen when Faith arrived. She knew that deep in her heart she wanted things to work out between the two of them. She was just leery about jumping back into a relationship with the enigmatic reporter.
"Maybe that is where we went wrong the last time?" She pondered aloud as she stood and wandered off to her tiny kitchen so she could pour yet another cup of coffee. It was the constant wondering that they had jumped from being adversaries to lovers much too quickly that concerned her the most. What if Faith panicked again and left Shawn behind for a second time, could she survive it? "Now how am I going to keep things at a safe distance when she will be staying with me?" She groused as she sipped her coffee.
Suddenly her skin prickled and her heart skipped a beat. "And she's early," she sighed heavily as she placed her cup on the counter and made her way to her front door. Faith jumped with surprise when Shawn opened the door before she had the opportunity to knock.
"I hate it when you do that," Faith scowled as she tried to balance her traveling bags and the boutique of flowers she was carrying.
"That is why I do it," Shawn quipped as she took in Faith's uneasy manner. She stepped aside allowing the tall brunette to enter her apartment. "You're early."
"I'm not interrupting anything am I?" Faith cautiously inquired as she stepped into Shawn's home. Shawn was mildly amused by the way the brunette was shifting nervously and averted her gaze.
"No, you're timing is perfect," Shawn teased her ex-lover. "I just sent the dancing girls home for the night."
"Sorry I missed that," Faith grumbled with a slight sneer. Shawn was perplexed as to why Faith was just standing there strangling the flowers she had brought. She was frustrated that she couldn't get a bead on what was going through the brunette's head. She gave the taller woman a curious glance before turning and closing the front door. "Did those flowers do something heinous?"
"The flowers, you're crushing them," Shawn informed the brooding woman as she pointed to the unfortunate bunch of roses that were crumbling in Faith's hand.
"Sorry," Faith exclaimed with a wide-eyed look as she thrust what was left at Shawn. "Here."
"Thank you?" Shawn sputtered as she accepted what was left of the once beautiful arrangement. She carefully examined the roses all of which had been snapped at the stems. Faith glanced over at her with a forlorn expression as Shawn cradled the mess and carried it into the kitchen. She blew out an exasperated breath as she cleared away the mangled stems and placed the buds in a bowl. "Well they'll make a nice bowl of potpourri," she surmised before rejoining her moody guest. "They are very nice, thank you."
"Sorry I smushed them," Faith grunted as she shoved her hands in her pockets.
"Faith what is going on?" Shawn tenderly inquired. "You're acting as if you've never given a woman flowers before."
"I haven't," Faith blurted as her face turned scarlet. "Well except my mom."
"Really?" Shawn beamed as Faith took a sudden interest in her shoes. 'God she is so adorable when she gets all shy, ' "It was very sweet," she offered in an effort to ease Faith's tension. "Why don't you take off your coat and sit?"
"Thanks," Faith blew out with relief as she shed her coat. "I'm sorry I got all goofy," she added as she plopped down onto the sofa. "I saw them at the airport and thought I really want to give Shawn flowers. I'm just nervous about staying with you. Weird huh?"
"No," Shawn reassured her softly as she sat down beside the taller woman. "I've been feeling somewhat anxious myself."
"Anxious? Anxious how?" Faith snapped in a defensive manner. "I thought you wanted to work on things?"
"I do," Shawn quickly placated the agitated brunette. "Relax; I've just been worried about rushing things. With you staying here we'll be closer, not that we haven't dealt with that before; it just that this is my home and there isn't work to buffer things."
"I should stay at a hotel," Faith surmised in a determined tone.
"Or my guest room?" Shawn suggested as she felt her ire growing. "What the hell has gotten your knickers in a twist? Can't you just admit that you're afraid that if we sleep together now it might not be a good idea? Why is it so hard for you to just say what you mean? I swear you are the most infuriating, irrational, Mmmf," Shawn's words were cut off as Faith swooped down and captured her in a fiery kiss. Shawn melted into the kiss as she laced her fingers in Faith's long, dark hair and drew her closer.
Shawn's body was still tingling as the sultry kiss came to a reluctant end. "Or you could just kiss me senseless," she sighed as she rested her head on Faith's shoulder.
"I'm not good with expressing my feelings," Faith sighed softly as Shawn played with the buttons on the brunette's soft cotton blouse.
"Not with words," Shawn snickered playfully as she continued to play with the buttons. "But you do have a very unique way of breaking the ice with a girl. Feel better?"
"Hell yeah," Faith laughed as her fingers gently massaged Shawn's scalp. "Am I still staying in the guest room?"
"Why don't we just enjoy our time off and not think about the sleeping arrangements?" Shawn suggested hopefully. "I'm going to put on a fresh pot of coffee and then you can tell me how your visit home went."
"No work? No pressure? Just you and I hanging out getting to know one another, I don't think we've ever done that before," Faith mused thoughtfully.
"We haven't," Shawn pointed out as she slipped from the warmth of Faith's body and padded off into the kitchen. "It could be fun," she added as she ground a fresh bunch of coffee beans and cleaned out her coffee maker.
"Fun?" Faith sighed from the other room. "Hey why is it that you aren't reading me?"
"I knew that you were at the door," Shawn began to explain as she returned to the living room. "But you were so keyed up that you had the walls up. Now you're relaxed and comfortable and when you're like that I can't see what you're thinking. Then again maybe there is nothing going on inside of that pretty head of yours."
"If you only knew." Faith teased the blonde in a husky tone. "You're right though now that I'm here and I didn't find another woman with you I feel much better."
"Wait you thought I'd have a date here is that why you showed up early?" Shawn demanded as she folded her arms across her chest.
"I thought it was possible," Faith admitted in a frank tone. "You only broke up with Deb a short time ago. I was worried that once you got back to New York she'd be trying to get you back."
"She did," Shawn confirmed as she peered into the kitchen to check on how the coffee was progressing. "I'm not interested. Even when you and I didn't get along I was attracted to you and now that you've kissed me,"
"Yes?" Faith encouraged her eyes glimmering with hope.
"It was a nice way to break the tension," Shawn conceded as she shook her head knowing that Faith was up to her old tricks. "And I think leaving the sleeping arrangements ambiguous took the pressure off of the both of us. So did you have a nice visit with your parents?"
"I did," Faith smiled in response. "It was nice for a change."
"That's good," Shawn called out as she ducked into the kitchen and poured coffee for the both of them. "I know most people can get edgy visiting their parents, but you've always seem almost hostile," she continued as she rejoined Faith in the living room and handed her a cup of coffee.
"Hostile? I wouldn't say hostile," Faith argued as she accepted the steaming mug from Shawn. "I love both of my parents," she added as Shawn sat down beside her. "It is just something happened when I was a teenager and I've been bitter about it which makes me nuts because I know I should be an adult about it."
"Want to talk about it?" Shawn encouraged as she curled her legs under her body eyeing Faith carefully looking for any sign that she had over stepped her bounds. Her heart dropped as Faith's smile slipped into a deep scowl.
"Yeah," Faith finally nodded as Shawn's hazel eyes widened with surprise. "Shawn, I'm learning," the brunette explained with sincerity. "It is not easy for me to trust or open up, but I understand that is all part of getting to know one another. When I was a teenager I found out that my Dad had an affair years earlier. I never looked at him the same way again. I stopped trusting him and, even though I understood that what happened is none of my business, I've been mad at him ever since. I used to idolize my father and discovering that he had cheated on my mother broke my heart."
"You were young it is only natural you'd be angry," Shawn reassured her.
"I know," Faith shrugged. "But carrying that anger into adulthood hasn't been healthy. I mean my mother forgave him and they saved their marriage. Not to mention the way I've handled my own relationships. I really shouldn't be casting any stones. Not with you by the way."
"I know that," Shawn smirked as she wiggled her eyebrows.
"Yes another added bonus of dating a physic," Faith laughed. "Dad and I really got along this week. Probably because he finally called me on the carpet for my snotty attitude. He and Mom say hi. They were a little disappointed to hear that we split, but thrilled that I'm staying with you for a few days."
"Faith that is amazing," Shawn blew out in appreciation. "Half the time not only do you hide your feelings from the people who care about you but most of them don't even know where in the hell you are. I'm impressed that not only are you talking about your feelings, but discussed our relationship with your parents. That is a huge step for you."
"Nothing like the cold, aloof reporter you use to fight with," Faith laughed.
"Oh I'm still very fond of her," Shawn sighed happily.
"Speaking of my father," Faith continued excitedly. "He told me that when he was pledging his Fraternity back in college they made him go to Whispering Pines. How funky is that?"
"What happened?" Shawn inquired eagerly as the ghost hunter in her emerged.
"Nothing like what happened to us," Faith began slowly. "Just windows and doors slamming open and shut. A couple of his frat brothers didn't like the kitchen. He didn't need to tell me who, they are still a couple and friends with Dad. He saw Catherine in the upstairs window that is about it. I asked him if he wanted to join me on the shoot. He's worried about me going without you. He said no. Much like everyone else who's been there he doesn't want to go back."
"Well the next time you talk to him tell him not to worry," Shawn offered with a blissful sigh.
"And why is that?" Faith prodded as Shawn smiled over at the brunette.
"I signed the contract yesterday," Shawn supplied casually as Faith's eyes bugged out.
"You're going?" Faith stammered.
"I'm going," Shawn confirmed as she caressed the brunette's shoulder. "I don't want to, but I feel as if I'm supposed to be there."
"Hey I'm not going to question why," Faith blurted out excitedly. "I'm just happy that we'll be there together."
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