Not Enough




Deja stared up at the old, weathered house; glad she was wearing sunglasses because it hid the shock in her eyes. Forcing herself to look again, she appraised the Victorian styled house with hopefully an unbiased eye.


It wasn't TOO bad, she supposed. Sure… it could use a fresh coat of paint; that preferably wasn't that hideous shade of purple. The windows probably needed replaced, she was fairly certain they were warped and shingles were dangling from the roof; which undoubtedly leaked.


The front porch however, was enough to make her almost crack a smile. It was in disrepair too but she could already see the balustrades repainted, perhaps trellis' lining the ground before the porch for climbing rosebushes.




She turned to look at her husband, nodding. "It's perfect."


Shawn knew she was lying but managed a tight lipped smile anyway, reaching out to awkwardly wrap an arm around her shoulder. "Not yet it isn't, but it will be, sweetheart." He promised.


"Perfect." She echoed.




Shawn Michaels had met Deja through a mutual acquaintance of theirs, which had been shocking enough as Shawn hadn't thought Steve Austin had known a woman who wasn't a blond. Steve had set them up on a blind date, at a bar no less, and they had hit it off immediately.


Deja was funny enough to keep his attention and firm enough to not let him get too cocky and lippy with her. Which he had at first a bit annoying but as the night wore on, he found himself respecting her no bullshit attitude.


Truthfully, Deja had found his arrogance mildly cute at first, but she knew better than to let him think he could get away with the cocky attitude, and everything she knew it would wind up entailing. Lord knew he was good looking enough to have reason to be somewhat arrogant; it was a damn shame, the man was gorgeous.


He had hair that was about as long as hers, cascading down past his shoulders. It was a light brown, though she was fairly certain she could detect hints of honey in those tresses that he hadn't bothered pulling back into a tail but simply brushed and left loose.


He also had a five o'clock shadow, which normally she would have found a turn off as she liked her men on the smoother side but… Everything about Shawn seemed to simply scream at her that he wasn't her usual, and she found that… refreshing.


Taller, lean and muscular with a tan that made her a bit envious; a smile that melted her insides even though she'd never confess to it. Though she had quickly noticed his mouth could go either way, it was both good natured and a bit mean.


What had probably sealed the deal for Deja were Shawn's eyes. She assumed they were hazel because sometimes they appeared green, others a gray color; his eyes were constantly sparkling, drawing her in.


While it hadn't been love at first sight, it had definitely been lust.


Shawn had felt pretty much the same way about her. She had a sense of humor; seemed fairly intelligent and wasn't hard to look at by any means. Of course, she had quickly established he wasn't getting away with his usual cocky attitude and that had made her all the more interesting.


While his hair had natural waves too it, hers was straight as a board; a silky, pliable board that he was immediately tempted to run through his fingers but refrained because he had a sneaking suspicion she would have drenched him with her beer.


Her hair matched her eyes, a dark brown that reminded him of chocolate; warm. He had guessed that without the heeled boots she had been wearing, she would have been maybe three inches or so shorter than him; and she was lean.


All over, almost boyish in her figure; which was not something he generally found attractive at all. Slim hips; flat stomach and well, in his male chauvinist mind; he had juvenilely acknowledged her to be a table top.


By the end of the night however, she was the most stimulating; beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes on.


It helped that she had refused his advances so far as sex went; which were half-hearted to begin with as he hadn't wanted to scare her off; though she had agreed on a second date.


Six months later, they had gotten married.


Shawn had made Steve his best man simply because it was Steve who had introduced them.


It was within their second year of marriage that Deja had told Shawn the best news he had ever heard; second to her accepting his proposal.


She was pregnant. They were going to have a baby.


Immediately, he had begun preparations for a nursery; wanting to add on too their small ranch that was snugly settled on the outskirts of San Antonio. If it were possible, they fell even more in love with each other during that time.


Then tragedy had struck.


He had gone to help Steve round up cattle, as he did every year simply because it paid rather well and he liked riding, and Deja had gone along; planning on visiting with some of their neighbors while the herders were out.


They had been a few riders shy so she had volunteered to go out with them. At four months pregnant and still not showing, it hadn't seemed like a big deal at the time. She could ride as well as anyone and knew her way around the land.


Shawn hadn't been watching her when the accident happened. Deja and Steve had been working together to round up a few stray mares when suddenly her mount –which had been a gorgeous American Paint- reared; letting out a scream.


Steve had started letting out curses.


Shawn had turned in time to see Deja trying to control the horse; which was now reared onto its hind legs.


"Copperhead!" Steve had shouted; letting out another round of curses.


The man they were all working for –Carl- had at this point drawn a pistol.


With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Shawn hadn't been able to do anything but watch as the snake shot forward; biting again.


It wasn't fear of a snakebite as Copperheads –while venomous- were hardly ever fatal. It was what had happened next that everyone had feared.


When the horse broke out into both a fury and a panic and began trying to stomp it's attacker to death opposed to fleeing, Deja had flown off.


The baby had been lost.


And it seemed their marriage had too.


At first, Shawn had blamed her for joining them instead of remaining behind like she was supposed to. Then he had blamed himself for allowing her to go when he had known better.


Then he had felt guilty all around simply because he knew it hadn't been either of their fault and he hadn't been content to not lay the blame.


But the damage had already been done. Tension reigned between them for the better part of six months; their third year wedding anniversary had come and gone without open acknowledgement from either of them.


It was perhaps that factor that had made Shawn start contemplating the idea of moving. Their house was a constant reminder of what they had lost. The unfinished nursery he had eagerly been working on; a basket of baby clothes and blankets they had been given by Deja's friend –and mother of three-, Larissa.


Even if the reminders were removed, the nursery converted into something else; the feeling of what might have been would have lingered.


So he had started house hunting.


Outside of Texas.


He figured if they were going to start over and make the attempt at saving their dissolving marriage, they might as well do it properly and completely start new.


Deja had agreed.


Which is how they wound up in New England, with this house.




"It's a fixer upper but…"


"It's perfect, Shawn." Deja said, injecting life into her tone. She loved her husband, honestly she did, she just couldn't bring herself to stop mourning; fairly certain she had gotten over the lingering resentment that he had blamed her for the loss of their baby.


As if she hadn't blamed herself enough without his help.


"You sure, sweetheart?"


She smiled slightly at the hint of worry in his tone; turning so they were standing pressed chest to chest and lightly kiss his chin. "It's a project, which is exactly what we need. We can make this our house."


Relief flooded his face and Shawn gently cupped her cheeks in his calloused palms. "We'll be fine, Deja, we're going to work through this, together." He promised; feathering his lips over hers.


After a moment, she pulled away; her head turning back towards the house. "So do I get the tour?"


"Honey, I haven't even seen the inside yet." He chuckled, his arm moving back to its comfortable place around her shoulders. "The real estate agent will be here in the morning to give us the keys, and the power and water should be on by then. So tonight…"


"Another motel?"


"Just one more." He leaned his head down until it was resting against hers. "Then tomorrow night, we'll sleep in our new bedroom, in our new bed."


"The movers will be here on time, won't they?"


"They had better or I'm not paying them a goddamn dime." He scowled, remembering the trouble they had had with the company. "Let's go before I give myself a heart attack or somethin'."


"Somethin'." She repeated, shaking her head.


He snorted, swiping the keys from her back pocket.


Wrapping her arms around herself, Deja turned back to the house; giving it one last look and nodded. This would work, he was right; they would make it work.




Jas Coleman did not like the old Morle house, at all. As he was also the only realtor in the small New England town; he had the sad task of trying to find a buyer for it. Over the years, a few people had looked at the house; outsiders, people who didn't know the history of the place.


When he had been contacted by a man from Texas who had seen the listing on the internet, Jas had done everything he could to seal the deal. Surprisingly enough, without even seeing the place, this Mr. Michaels had bought the house.


Jas nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard tires crunching on the gravel drive; whirling around with a hand over his heart. He managed a shaky smile, walking forward with an outstretched hand as a handsome couple got out of the vehicle. "Mr. Michaels?"


"Call me Shawn." The tanned man said with an easy grin; tipping back the brim of his white Stetson. He reached out, accepting Jas' hand in a firm shake.


"Well, Shawn, it's a pleasure to finally meet you. This is your wife?"


"Deja." The woman next shook his hand, wearing a straw cowboy hat; smiling as well though hers wasn't as warm as her husband's.


"Pleasure to meet you." Jas hesitated when she stepped past him; her eyes on the house then regained his composure. "So, Shawn, are you ready to take possession of the house?"


Shawn nodded; his smile remaining firmly in place though it now seemed a bit tense. "We sure are."


"All the paperwork has been signed, you have the deed…" Jas reached into his blazer pocket, pulling out a few keys and passed the ring over; feeling relief coursing throughout him though he showed no visible signs of it. "You are the proud new owner of Morle Manor."


"Morle Manor?" Deja echoed, turning around to stare at Jas. "Is that what this place is called?"


Jas nodded, stifling his discomfort. ""It was, way back when it was built, it's not really a manor but… the name stuck."


Before she could ask another question, a moving truck appeared in the long drive.


"Ah, well, I'll just leave you two to sort things out. If you have any questions, Shawn, you have my car."


Shawn shook his head, watching Jas walk to his car. "Was it me or was he a bit anxious?"


"Too much coffee." Deja said dryly; holding her hand out for the key. "I want to see the inside."


Chuckling, he passed it to her. "Impatient much?"


She smiled slightly. "I just want a peek."


"Go on, sweetheart, go explore. I'll handle this." Shawn said softly, returning her smile when she kissed him.


Hopefully, they were on the right track to getting their marriage together again.




"Deja, where you at?"


"Hey mister, where do you want this?"


Shawn turned in what he didn't want to acknowledge was a parlor but it was; frowning. "Just set everything in the living room, we'll sort it out."


Nodding, the two men shuffled by him; carrying the mattresses to their bed.


Frowning, Shawn peered up the stairs; resting his hand on the ornate banister. "Deja?"




Deja was staring at the huge claw foot tub in the master bathroom, a small notepad and pen in hand. She was sincerely hoping she could get the bathtub clean because she was dying to test it out; feeling that a nice hot bath would be heavenly.


"CLR…" She muttered, shaking her head and wondered; not for the first time, just how long this house had stood empty. Dust coated everything and she was grateful she didn't have allergies or she would have probably had an attack just from opening the front door.


The house was going to need a lot of work, and that pleased her; it meant her mind would be occupied for quite some time to come. She was taking notes on what needed done and immediate cleaning supplies they were going to have to buy if they didn't have them already.


Sighing, she continued her tour; arching an eyebrow when she realized the second door in the bathroom –the one she entered being from a bedroom- wasn't to a closet but…


"Oh wow…"


This must have been the master bedroom.


Déjà's jaw hit the floor when she seen the… bed. It was gorgeously breathtaking, undoubtedly an antique and very valuable. Whoever had left this behind Who would leave this behind?


After a moment, she walked over to examine it in detail; taking note of the detailed panels at the foot; guessing the wood was mahogany. It was a type of four poster, though at the head of the bed; it wasn't posts but a wall, a panel, that branched out into a type of roof of sorts until it met the posts at the foot.


"Wow…" She repeated, pressing a hand on the mattress, somehow not surprised to find it deliciously soft; almost begging her to lie down. Shrugging, she eased herself onto the bed, feeling her body sinking into the feather mattress comfortably.


Sighing contentedly, she folded her arms beneath her head; closing her eyes.


Almost immediately she felt pressure on her body; frowning slightly. It wasn't heavy or stifling; it almost felt like someone was hovering over her. Feeling silly, Deja opened her eyes and snorted, nothing; the feeling had even disappeared. Mentally chiding herself, she shut them again.


Again, it felt like someone was hovering over her.


Again, she opened her eyes.


Piercing, fern green eyes were staring at her.




She blinked, shooting upright and stared at her husband who was now standing in the bedroom doorway. "Shawn?"


"Sweetheart, I've been calling you for awhile now…" He took in the bed with the same look of awe she was sure she had worn when she first seen it. "You must've fallen asleep…"


"Yeah, maybe." She said slowly, than shrugged. He was right, she probably had fallen asleep; which would explain everything that she had just thought happened. "It's this bed, it's so comfortable…" She patted the spot next to her.


Grinning broadly, he all but jumped onto the bed; automatically raising his arm so she could sprawl on his chest. "I wonder why they left this bed… it's got to be worth-"


"A shitload of money."






"They bought the old Merle place, you can bet Jas didn't tell those two a thing about that- Hello." Viola instantly stopped gossiping and smiled warmly at the pair who had just strolled into the store. The very couple she had been jabbering about. It was hard not to notice them. The town wasn't very big so usually strangers were noticed right away.


The fact that this pair weren't just passing through but apparently looking to settle in had made things even juicier. Of course, the mere idea of anyone living in that house… it made Viola shudder.


"Can I help you find anything?" She asked politely, trying not to stare.


"No thanks," Said the man; glancing down at his wife who shook her head. "We're just lookin'."


"Well if you need anything, don't hesitate to ask."


As soon as they disappeared into the aisles, Viola turned to her friend and arched an eyebrow.


Linda shook her head.




"Was it me or were those old women a bit… nosy?" Deja asked as she and Shawn unloaded the contents of their cart into the cab of the truck.


"All women are nosy, sweetheart." He teased, ducking the broom she tried whacking him with. "Now honey…"


"Don't you now honey me." She shot back with a grin, relinquishing her hold on the broom and allowed him to put it in the truck. "It just feels like everyone is either talkin' or starin' at us."


"Now… that sounds paranoid." Shawn shook his head, clucking his tongue at his wife. Though when a couple passed by and openly stared at them, he sighed. "But you're right. Dej, we're new in town, it'll pass in a day or two."


She snorted.


"I'm going to run down the street to the hardware store. You want to come with me or sit in the truck?" When she didn't immediately respond, Shawn frowned; glancing over his shoulder at her. It took a moment to realize she was staring across the street; following her gaze. "Oh Lord… she found the bookstore…" He mockingly threw his hands heavenward.


"I'll meet you back here." Deja replied, ignoring his smartass comment –used to them by now- and jogged across the road.






Deja didn't have high hopes when she had entered the bookstore. She was half expecting it to be a themed store, like an all Christian retailer; as was something she noticed as a mainstay in small towns. Or on the far end of the spectrum; some beatnik store specializing in the occult and new age bullshit.


To her great delight, it was neither. It was just a bookstore. Sure, it wasn't Barnes and Nobles but it would do until they actually went to a city.


She inhaled the familiar scent of pages as soon as she walked in; sighing contentedly. Of course she had several boxes of her own books at the house; but she had been meaning to buy some new ones; books she had never read. Of course, with restoring the house; the chance to read was very likely going to be slim to none…




"Help you find anything?"


Deja whirled around to find a man with a nose threatening to poke her eye out standing right behind her. "Um, no, I'm just looking."


"You're Deja, aren't you?"


She arched an eyebrow, surveying him coolly. "Mrs. Michaels."


"Sorry." He popped his bubble gum, holding out a hand. "Hunter."


Not wanting to be too rude and make a bad impression –and only because it would affect Shawn-, Deja reluctantly shook his hand. Afterwards, she gestured towards the stacks before walking away; rolling her eyes.


"So…" Hunter followed her. "How do you like town? Bet it's a lot different from Texas, Jas said you were from San Antonio?"


"Outskirts, yeah." She muttered, picking a book at random and opened it; staring without seeing at the words. Jas needed his ass kicked, running his mouth about them to everyone.


She sincerely hated small towns.


"Seen the ghost yet?" He asked, leaning carelessly against the shelf; staring intently down at her.


"I beg your pardon?"


"The ghost, Mrs. Michaels; that house is haunted."


Oh great. On top of the entire town being NOSY, now she had some punk trying to FRIGHTEN her. "Well… I suppose I'll just have to call the Ghost Busters, now won't I?"


"The…" Hunter frowned, watching as she walked past him; trying to figure that one out. It struck him just as the bell over the door dinged, informing him she had left. "Smartass…"




The moronic shopkeeper's words of the house being haunted were quickly forgotten in the next week, she was so busy working alongside Shawn trying to make the house livable.


The first room she tackled was their bedroom and adjacent bathroom, she wanted a clean; comfortable place to sleep and bathe. Shawn, being a typical man, had gone for the kitchen in hopes they could stop bringing home pizzas and she might deign to cook.


After the first week however, they had to face the facts that they weren't going to be able to live on their savings for much longer, not with renovating a house draining the money.




"Shawn, I've been going over the budget…" Daija said hesitantly, a week and a half after moving in; they were both sitting round the small; somewhat wobbly table they had found on the back porch eating… pizza. "And…"


He held up a hand; gesturing for a moment to finish chewing his food. "I know, sweetheart. I already spoke with Mr. McMahon down at the mill and-"


"The mill?" She interrupted.


"Well, not like 'mill' mill, it's basically a factory for… dog food, but, for now, it's a paycheck."


Daija frowned, staring down at her half eaten slice of pizza. Pizza had definitely become her least favorite food as that's pretty much all they had eaten this week. She had made the attempt at cooking the night before only to find out that the oven needed replaced. "I can start looking in town."


Shawn shook his head. "No point, Daij. I'd be working a forty hour work week, Monday through Friday and the mill is a half hour away. We can't afford a second vehicle at the moment, sweetheart. Besides," He smiled impishly. "If we're both gone off all week, when will this house ever get done?"


Daija considered that, trying not to smirk. "This is true."


"That and I want you to have a hot meal waiting for me when I get home."


"I got your hot meal right here, darlin'."


He arched an eyebrow, a moment later her pizza resting against his face. Groaning, Shawn peeled it away. "Smartass."




When Shawn started work, it was both with a mixed feeling of relief and sadness that Daija felt when she was in the empty house by herself. Whatever happened between them, she would never deny that he had never shirked his duties of being the provider, taking the 'traditional' role of the husband quite seriously sometimes.


Now if he had actually came out and said 'you should be a house wife', she would have not only flung pizza at him but probably divorced him as well, solely on principal.


As reluctant as she was to admit it, Shawn knew his way around her quirks and how best to get her to acquiesce to his wishes, or what he thought would work out best for them. Sadly, he was usually right on the money as well.


Today her project was straightforward. They had already swept and cleared the layers of dust; now she was going through the house from bottom to top and clean. Everything that couldn't be salvaged was going out to the burn pile in the middle of the too large backyard, what could be would go to the back porch to await refurbishment.


Armed with insecticide, cleaners; garbage bags and a broom, Daija headed down the steep cement stairwell that led to the unfinished basement. The floor was hard, packed dirt as were three out of the four walls; one shelf lined with shelves that held dusty jars.


"Gross…" She muttered; reaching for the light switch, holding her breath as it sputtered on; expecting it to blow. When it flickered once then remained steadfast, Daija let out the breath. "Thank God for small favors."


To put it mildly, the basement was creepy as hell. It was also fairly cold; which she attributed to the dirt walls and the fact it was underground. Pretending not to notice the huge, disgusting spiderwebs that liberally decorated the ceiling; she got to work; heading straight for the shelf.


It wasn't until she had cleared all the cobwebs and dust until she realized just what the glass Ball canning jars contained. At first, she wasn't sure if she was seeing what she thought she was. Hesitantly, Daija carried a jar upstairs; setting it in the kitchen sink.


She didn't bother attempting to pry open the horribly rusted lid or seal off; just pulled her clawed hammer from the toolbox under the sink and smashed the jar open.


She regretted it instantly.


A stench of formaldehyde and something else she didn't even want to begin trying to identify wafted to her; causing Daija to recoil with a hand clamped over her mouth and nose; gagging violently.


When her stomach had stop threatening to regurgitate the contents of her sparse breakfast; she approached the sink; peering down.


What she saw made her flinch; moan disgustedly and dry heave all at once.


She was fairly certain the thing sitting in clear; viscous fluid in her sink was an embryo.


A baby.




It was almost like a cruel joke, Daija reflected as she quickly stuffed the jars –she wasn't checking anymore contents, she could hazard a guess at what was in them- into a garbage bag. The irony of the situation wasn't lost on her. She had miscarried months before they had moved in, so it made perfect sense to find a basement filled with… fetuses.


It was a cosmic joke.


One she wasn't laughing at.


Whoever had done this, was a sick fuck and she could only hope they were either dead or living in a nursing home suffering full body paralysis.


She also mused on telling Shawn about this; just envisioning the expression on his face. No, she couldn't do that to him. He would take it as some sort of sign from above that they were cursed or something. Daija didn't believe in a god, Shawn did however.


No, it was best if she just got rid of all this… stuff, and kept it to herself. Her husband was trying so hard to make this new life work for them, she wasn't about to ruin it.


After putting the bag in the trash bin; in the middle of the bags already in there, she returned to the house to retrieve a cigarette. Not a habit she normally indulged but she kept a pack in the freezer just in case. Right now definitely qualified as a smoke moment.


She couldn't even look at her sink; sitting at the table with her back to it. She had of course discarded of the… thing, with a pair of gloves (that had been thrown away as well) and scrubbed the basin out with bleach and scalding hot water.


But it wasn't bleach she was smelling. It was still the formaldehyde.




"Hello? Is anyone home?" Joanie Laurer called through the screen door; peering inside the dark house. She damn near jumped out of her skin when a woman appeared suddenly; pressing a hand over her heart. "Damn!"


"Sorry." The woman said dryly.


"Mrs. Michaels?"


She nodded.


"My name is Joanie, I live a few miles from you." Joanie greeted, attempting a friendly smile; though it didn't come easily; especially since Mrs. Daija Michaels looked grim. "I thought I'd come welcome you and whatnot…" She held up her other hand; which had a small casserole dish in it.


Daija appeared to give it thought before finally pushing open the screen; gesturing Joanie inside.


Joanie hesitated. "I'd rather not."


Daija arched an eyebrow.


"Superstitious I suppose. Would you mind?" She stepped back; watching Daija silently follow her onto the front porch. "It's just a ham and cheese casserole, nothing major. I figured with the renovating, you and your husband might not have time to cook or anything."


"Thank you." Daija looked mildly surprised, finally smiling as she gratefully accepted the dish; feeling how warm it still was and couldn't stop herself from inhaling. "Mmm. I'll just go set this inside."


Joanie nodded, waiting patiently. She folded her arms around herself, looking around the porch and tried to pretend that it didn't feel like below fifty when she knew for a fact it was in the eighties today.


When Daija reappeared with a cigarette between her pale pink lips, Joanie offered another smile, pleased to see this one returned. "So how are you liking it here?" She asked politely.


"It's alright." Daija shrugged. "I haven't had a chance to really have a look around, been busy with the house."


"I can only imagine. It's been empty for almost fifty years."


"Wait, the last time someone lived here was… 1947?" Daija did the quick math; frowning slightly.


Joanie nodded.


"Do you… know anything about the place?"


She hesitated.


Daija sensed that and smiled awkwardly. "One of the guys in town tried to scare me into thinking there are ghosts here." She laughed, shaking her head. "While it does have that haunted house look, it's not."




"Yeah, him."


"He's a moron," Joanie waved a dismissive hand. "Don't take anything he says seriously. I think he gets bored living here cause it's such a small town and feels like he has to stir something up every now and then just for a chuckle."


Daija didn't laugh.


"The place has a history sure," Joanie shrugged. "But this is New England, half the houses here are haunted. In the sense that people like to gossip and make up wild tales, it's just been empty for so long."


"Considerin' how long it's been standing empty, it's in remarkably good condition."


Joanie just shrugged again.




"I need money."


Shawn arched an eyebrow, staring at Daija tiredly for a moment. "Jeez, no hi honey, how was your day?" He was only half-teasing.


Daija wiggled her fingers, trying not to smile at the exasperated look on his face.


Shaking his head, Shawn pulled his wallet out of his back pocket; rifling through it. "I only have hundreds"


"That'll work."


Once Daija had stuffed the bill in her own wallet, he held out his arms. "Now that I've paid you, can I at least get a hug?"


"I'll have to consider it."


She looked so serious he actually believed her for a moment. Growling, Shawn pulled his wife against him roughly; locking her arms at her sides. "You infuriating wench. I work all day and can't even get a hug when I come home?"


She began kissing the side of his neck; pressing her body against his.




"Well… I can't exactly hug you." To make her point, she wiggled her trapped arms.


"God save me from women…"




In the two weeks he had been working, Shawn had noticed a change in his wife. She seemed… he wouldn't say happier, but not quite so sad and angry all the time. She was also working like mad on the house, he knew this because every night when he got home; there was always several improvements and supplies set out for whatever next she was working on.


He just realized he was staring into the bathroom mirror without really seeing; the faucet running; waiting on him to get around to washing his hands.


"Shawn, dinner!"


"Comin' sweetheart!" Shaking his head, he began washing his hands.




After a quiet meal and a hot shower, Shawn was ready for bed. He padded downstairs in just a pair of cotton pajama bottoms; sinking down to sit on the bottom step; watching Daija.


She was standing on a ladder; doing something to the top of one of the windows that adorned either side of the front door.


"What're you doin'?"


"Scrapin' this old paint off so I can put a new coat on tomorrow."


"Daij, come to bed."


"I'll be up in a few, honey." She glanced over her shoulder, smiling at him. "You go on up."


He didn't budge though, just watched as she meticulously worked. "This weekend, why don't we go out? Get out of the house."


She hesitated for a moment, her shoulders visibly tensing before laughing softly. "And do what?"


"I don't know. Maybe go… go…" Shawn tossed around for something to do, then grinned. "Next town over is an antique town; we could go have a look and see if we couldn't find anything for the house."


Daija carefully maneuvered herself around on the ladder until she was facing him. "That would be wonderful, Shawn. Saturday then?"


He nodded.




He watched as she turned back around, wondering with a frown why it felt like he just had to make an appointment to go out with his wife.


She wasn't aware Shawn had returned upstairs; intent on scraping off the peeling and faded paint; her tongue planted firmly between her lips. Bit by bit, the house was becoming… hers; she was driven to restore it, change what she didn't like and claim it.


Except for the basement, after cleaning it; she hadn't gone back down. Shawn was more than welcome to it.


An hour later when she had finished her task, Daija felt more awake than asleep; glancing up at the ceiling. Undoubtedly Shawn was already fast asleep and wouldn't notice it when she finally came to bed. Humming under her breath, she made her way to the kitchen; snagging a glass from the strainer on the counter and turned on the tap.


She was used to the first spout of rusty water; waiting patiently until it ran clear before filling her glass. While sipping the cool water; she stared out the kitchen window, the dim light from the moon showing a bit of the backyard.


Which would be tomorrow's task. The lawn was in bad need of being mown and she wanted to get to work weeding the overrun flower beds.


Just as she was about to flick off the kitchen light and possibly go to bed, her attention was drawn back to the window. Frowning, Daija set down her now empty glass and moved to the back porch door; opening it and crossed the old; creaking wooden floor to the screen door that separated porch from outside.


"Hello?" She called quietly, fumbling for the light switch. When her fingers finally scraped across it, she flicked it.


The bulb emitted a weak glow for a moment, made an odd sizzling noise then popped.


"Great, just great." She muttered, pushing open the screen door and stepped outside. She automatically wrapped her arms around herself. While not cold, it was chilly. More so than she was used too. Narrowing her eyes, Daija looked around before focusing on the spot she could have sworn she had seen something.


It idly crossed her mind that she could have seen a deer, or some other animal. Lord knew they were relatively close to a national park for it to be entirely possible.


Before she could convince herself that it had simply been a deer and nothing else, a motion to her left distracted her; her head swinging automatically in that direction.


Daija took several backwards steps.


Something green was glowing from under the darkness of one of many trees that littered the yard. She would have instantly said it was a cat if not for the fact that the eyes stood higher than her head and somewhat familiar.


"Who are you?" She demanded, inwardly cursing herself for the somewhat shaky tone her voice had taken on.


Another flurry of backward steps when a man stepped out into her vision.


He was one of the largest men she had ever seen, bigger even than that moron Hunter from town. His face was pale, standing out in the darkness that was closing in on them.


Daija opened her mouth to holler for Shawn but nothing came out. Inhaling deeply, she tried again; this time a choked noise coming out. It felt like a hand was wrapped around her throat; squeezing.


The man was steadily approaching, becoming more and more easier to see with every step he took. In her haze of panic, it registered he was indeed much taller than she had initially thought. Long hair cascaded over his shoulders and she was hazarding a guess it was black; it was so hard to tell. When he was maybe a foot away, she could make out his face.


He wasn't handsome in the traditional sense at all, definitely not like Shawn. He was more rugged, his nose long and almost blunt at the end. He wore a mustache and goatee combination that only made him look even more intimidating if that were possible.


Lastly, she noticed there was a black teardrop beneath his right eye.


The pressure on her throat stopped.


The man reached for her; his eyes narrowing.






"Darlin', you were probably half asleep and saw a deer or something, maybe a large dog." Shawn said softly, adding a liberal amount of brandy to the mug of tea he had made his wife before settling down across the table from her; folding his hands before him. He had woken up out of what he had thought was a deep sleep when he heard her screaming his name.


The terror in her voice had made him damn near have a heart attack. He had scrambled out of bed and stumbled down the stairs, all but flying out the backdoor.


After calming her down enough to get her inside, he had managed to make out what had happened outside through her garbled speech.


Daija, much calmer now, sipped the doctored tea and nodded. "You're right." She said softly, knowing he wasn't but he looked almost as pale as she was sure she was. "I'm just tired."


"No wonder, darlin', you've been running yourself ragged ever since we got here." Shawn reached across the table to take her hand, gently squeezing. "You need to get out of the house, Daij. Why don't you go into town tomorrow?"


She really did not want to go into town, as there wasn't anything there to hold her interest but nodded.


"Or maybe you could see if that woman, Joanie, could show you the sights."


"Maybe." She agreed doubtfully.




Going out with Joanie had turned out better than Daija thought it would be. Once you got past her large, muscular frame and somewhat nasally voice; she was really smart and funny. She seemed to realize Daija had no interest in the small town and suggested they go to a neighboring community that had several antique malls.


As Daija was looking for things to furnish the house with, she readily agreed to that.


Maybe Shawn was right, she mused as she surveyed a selection of vintage lamps, maybe she was spending too much time in the house; practically obsessing over it. But then again, what was wrong with wanting to finish a project? Especially when that project happened to be their home?


"You alright?"




Joanie smiled when Daija faced her, staring intently down at the other woman. "You looked like you were spacing out there for a moment."


"I probably was." She admitted. "Just thinking about an… episode we had last night."


Joanie didn't say anything, just looked politely interested.


"I could have sworn I seen something in my backyard… are there bears around here?"


"Bears?" Joanie echoed, frowning. "Well sure, but if it was a bear, you'd probably of been mauled."


Daija personally felt she had been almost mauled but didn't say anything.


"Maybe it was a deer, we have plenty of those."


Daija managed a tight smile.




"Fancy seeing you here." Hunter peered over Daija's shoulder, snorting when he seen what she was reading. "Researching your house, huh?"


"Isn't that what people come to the library for?" She replied coldly.


"You could save yourself time and just ask anyone around town, or me." He pulled out a straight backed wooden chair from the table and carefully lowered his muscular frame into the seat. "I'd tell you all about Morle Manor, Daija."


"Mrs. Michaels."


"Where's the Mister?"


Daija HAD been trying to sort through old newspaper, deeds and everything else she could lay her hands on without having to resort to asking for help (the librarian had given her the same funny look most people did when they realized she was the new person living at the old Morle place), but it was damn near impossible to focus with this Neanderthal hovering. "Working." She said flatly, pushing away from the table and began gathering up her books.


"Ah, down at the factory, right?" Obviously not put off in the slightest by her less than welcoming attitude. "Yeah, that job sucks. Bet he comes home, eats and goes to bed, don't he?"


She'd had enough. Not even bothering with putting the materials away, Daija 'booked' it from the library, hoping Hunter would take the damn hint.


He didn't. He soon was falling into step alongside her on the sidewalk. "You're touchy, you know that?"


Exasperated, she stopped and whirled to glare at him; throwing her hands heavenward. "What the hell do you want, boy?"


"Boy?" He sounded offended, both eyebrows raising. "Who the hell are you calling a boy, lady?"


Scoffing, she sharply turned away from him; her hair flying and catching him across the face. Well at least when Shawn got home from work, she'd have something to tell him besides how her latest renovations on the house had went.


Such as she had gone antiquing for the first part of the day, the second was spent being annoyed by a lumbering moron.


"Hey, I asked you a damn question!"


Daija had encountered a lot of bonehead males in Texas when she was single, usually drunk and emboldened by liquor. And Lord knew there wasn't a shortage of the sober variety of male assholes in any part of the world.


So when Hunter actually reached out and gripped her wrist to stop her from walking away so hard she was certain he was going to leave a bruise; somehow, it wasn't surprising. "Look, I don't know about here but in Texas, this is considered assault."


Scowling, Hunter let go.


Surveying him with a cool expression on her own face, Daija backed away.




When she got home, she caved into the desire to tremble in fear. Once that was out of her system, she set about to starting supper; anger once more taking back over. Who in the blue hell did that cretin think he was?


She had finally found the Morle house mentioned in a paper, dating back several decades ago when that troglodyte had interrupted. It was like she was destined to not know the story about her own house, even though there was apparently a town full of people eager to tell it to her.


Sanity told her she needed to schedule a cat scan and an MRI as soon as possible to see if there might be something wrong with her head that was giving her hallucinations, a tumor perhaps. The feeling in the pit of her gut –and truth be told, she considered that more reliable-, told her there was something else going on.


Once a roast (hopefully it was a roast, she was a bit distracted), was in the oven, Daija headed outside. Right to where she had seen this… bear, or possible deer at.


There was no indentation in the ground, nothing looked disturbed… After searching for signs that someone besides her had been there for five minutes, she was forced to conclude Shawn had probably been right. She had been half asleep and seeing things.


"Daija…" It was a whisper that seemed to caress her ear; causing a shiver to wrack her body.


She turned on the spot, remembering something her grandmother had once told her. If you heard someone call your name but couldn't see anyone, or were quite sure you were alone, don't answer in case Death had come calling.


That was an old wife's tale, a superstition and she wasn't superstitious.




But just in case, she kept her lips firmly pressed together and hauled ass back inside.




Summer rolled into Fall and Fall abruptly gave way to Winter, before Daija and Shawn were ready for it. The worse of the house had been repaired, inside and out; there was still plenty of work left to keep Daija occupied throughout the cruel New England winter.


She still heard her name whispered from unseen lips; felt like she was being spied upon when she knew she was alone and positively refused to go down into the basement. Sometimes, Daija would come downstairs in the morning to find the work she had done the night before… undone.


Maybe she was losing her mind.


It was a possibility. Losing the baby, moving from Texas to this… place, she had come unhinged or something.




"God, I hate this…" Shawn muttered as he bent down to examine the chains wrapped around his tires.


Wearing a sweater and jeans beneath her heavy coat, Daija was jumping in place; staring down at him. "Everything alright?" She asked, watching her breath steam before her face.


It snowed in Texas, well some parts of it, and they had gotten a storm or two in San Antonio; ice storms more often than not, but they never lasted long.


She was a pussy and didn't like the cold. They probably should have retreated to Miami.


She'd take alligators over this freezing cold and constant snow any day.


"Yeah, just not used to usin' them." Shawn grunted, finally standing erect and flashed her a smile; his cheeks rosy red from the cold.


"Can't you call in?"


His smile broadened when his luscious wife wrapped her mitten covered hands around his neck and pressed against him; his own arms going around her waist. "I wish I could darlin', but McMahon would probably fire me on the spot. He's a mean ol' bastard."


She hated Vince McMahon.


"But when I get home…"


"Hot chocolate in bed?"


"Maybe melted fudge…"


Daija began laughing; kissing him on the mouth; feeling his own cold lips briefly against hers. "Shame on you, Shawn, now I'll be all hot 'n bothered today."


"Good, maybe that'll keep your pert ass warm."


"Maybe." She agreed.


Shawn went to work with a smile on his face.




Daija stared anxiously out the window; rubbing her arms as she watched the rapidly falling snow. Maybe three hours after Shawn had left for work, the light flurries had turned into 'white out' conditions. She had a feeling he wasn't going to be making it home tonight.


They had made a contingency plan in the very likely event this happened. Not far from the factory was a gas station; antique store that also sold some delicious maple syrup (Shawn had brought a very expensive, very small sample of it home for her) and a cheap motel.


If Shawn couldn't drive home, he would stay at the motel and call her to let her know he was alright.


Tonight was going to be one of those nights.


"Well… more hot fudge for me." She sighed, rubbing a circle with the palm of her hand on the now fogged up window.


The old house had obviously been heated via an old fashioned wood furnace during the 'good old days', but a heater had been installed. She was guessing sometime in the early 80's. On the back porch was a full cord of wood, some of it Shawn had chopped –Daija still went into lust envisioning her husband bare from the waist up; his hair escaping a low hanging ponytail; sweat glistening over his still tanned; muscular upper torso and swinging that axe- and stacked, just in case.


So far, they hadn't had to use it, which she was especially grateful as the wood furnace was in the basement. Though… considering how this day was going, she wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if the heater went down and she had to either freeze her ass off or venture down into the pit of Hell, albeit an icy; dank hell.


As the kitchen was the warmest room in the house; Daija spent her day in there. There wasn't really much to do anymore, not until they got around to pulling up the yellowing, peeling tile at least (they were planning on replacing the boards that needed replaced and then smoothing them for a wooden floor opposed to retiling), so she baked.


And mended some of Shawn's 'work' clothes, refusing to go out and buy –or allow him to buy- new ones to replace the shirts and jeans. Especially as they'd only wind up stained and torn within the week. So until these were rags...


Even though she knew he wasn't coming home; the snow was already two feet high from the looks of it, Daija made a stew; not hungry in the least, just needing something to occupy herself.


To keep her mind from wandering too far… like a few feet to the basement door.


She also pretended she couldn't feel the draft that was coming from the gap between door and the floor.




"We're sorry, the number you're trying to reach is unavailable at this time. Please hang up and try your call again later."


Shawn all but slammed the freezing to the touch phone back onto the receiver; reaching out with numb fingers to rip open the phone booth door. He turned up the collar of his Carhart as he quickly crossed the icy; snow drift covered road; snow still falling rapidly. Undoubtedly power was down at home and Daija was huddled in their bed under a million blankets and wearing every article of clothing she possessed.


Thinking wistfully of the melted fudge they had been joking about only that morning, he unlocked his motel room door and slipped inside. It was cold as hell in here too, but blessedly the icy wind couldn't touch him nor the freezing snow bury him.


"Damn it…" He groaned from chattering teeth, flipping on the heat.




Shawn was half right. Daija was in their bed; layered under all their blankets and wearing two pairs of sweat pants and sweat shirts, but they hadn't lost power.


In fact, the heat was cranked as high as it would go and she knew it was working but she was freezing her ass off.


She wasn't asleep. She was curled up on Shawn's side of the bed; his pillow clutched against her; his scent enveloping her. But as comforting as that was, she still couldn't sleep. The house wouldn't let her, or whatever besides them that resided here wouldn't let her.


Maybe she was letting her mind get a bit too imaginative these days. Of course, the fetus' she had found hadn't helped, but she had probably let it spiral. She was alone most of the time; it was only natural her mind start to entertain her.


This was a bit much perhaps, but it was perfectly logical. Now she was a bit afraid to be alone in her own, empty house. A house that she was restoring because she loved it, even though she felt like it was…


Out to get her, maybe. Or at least scare her to death.


She was going crazy. That was a rational explanation to her irrational fears.


"Shawn, your hand is cold, honey…" She murmured tiredly; reaching down to push his hand off her bare thigh, feeling goosebumps breaking out over her skin. "Honey, warm them up some before you get to-" A soft giggle escaped her when she felt his knuckles brushing the back of her knee, a place she was especially ticklish and he knew it. "Shawn…"




Daija rolled over immediately; her eyes widening when she was almost immediately sucked into the same fern green eyes she had seen her very first day in the house. Only it was night, and the room was usually too dark to see anything.


Only, it wasn't dark and she didn't really recognize the room once she managed to break eye contact. It was her room but it… wasn't.


It was daytime, that much was obvious from the sunlight pouring in through the white lace curtains that adorned the windows. The bed was the same she and Shawn slept in only much newer; the sheet underneath her soft but at the same time, a little coarse; the pillows beneath her head felt like they were filled with goose down.


She glimpsed the wooden, lacquered walls that were so different from the wallpaper that now covered them but that was about as far as her visual wanderings went; the man who was NOT her husband who was also currently hovering over her; grunted to regain her attention.


"You have no idea how long I've waited for you…" He murmured, his voice husky; a low rumble that reminded her of thunder across the open plains. It demanded your attention.


"Please, I-" Daija realized she was nude, he was too; feeling his bare skin burning into hers as he shifted ever so slightly; making her aware that he was resting between her legs; hovering over her body. "Who are you?" She whispered.


He sighed softly; his breath odorless as it caressed her face.


He was just so large, that alone was enough to make her gasp for air. He was twice Shawn's size, in breadth as well as height; shadowing her petite frame easily. Pale, fair skin and long auburn; brown hair that cascaded over his shoulders and brushed against her collarbone.


His face she couldn't even begin to describe. He had thin lips that looked both sensual and cruel; emphasized by an auburn mustache and goatee. His nose was long; blunt at the tip; strong looking. A very masculine face, definitely not handsome by conventional standards but still quite attractive.


It was his eyes however, that recaptured her attention; those damn piercing eyes.


"Who are you?" She repeated hoarsely.


His thin lips curved in the barest, briefest hint of a smile; a large hand (a hand that could very easily hurt her with even the faintest of blows she thought fleetingly), reached up to trace the contour of her jaw and chin. "You know me, Daija."


"Mark." His name fell from her lips, her mind hazy as she struggled to figure this all out. "Mark."


Then he smiled.




How she knew his name was beyond her, Daija did not know who this man was. If she had been able to wrap her mind around the situation a little better, she would have assumed he had somehow planted that information –his name- in her mind. Then she would have checked herself into the nearest insane asylum.


"This isn't happening." She said loudly, forcing her voice to rise past the breaking point. "You're not real."


Mark's response was to bend down and press his lips to hers; the soft pressure telling her he was quite real. One large; work roughened hand moved gently down her side; his palm skimming flesh before coming to rest on her hip.


A strong scent of formaldehyde filled her nostrils, reminding her sharply of the basement and all the embryos she had found carefully preserved in those Ball canning jars. It took her a second to realize the scent was coming from him like it was deep seated in his pores, it was his odor.


Mark's lips curved into a knowing smile, watching the horror and comprehension dawning in her eyes. "You threw out my infants." He said, his grave voice at odds with the smile on his face; green eyes wide. "My poor babies, you threw them away." He shook his head.


"Your- YOUR babies?" She echoed, shaking her head; nose wrinkling as the odor seemed to grow stronger. "What did you do to them?"


He frowned, looking towards the window.


Daija followed his stare, blinking as the sunlight seemed to only get brighter.


The light was beginning to eat at the room, obscuring everything with its brightness…




"Daij, Daija, come on baby… come on…" Shawn gently smacked his wife's pale cheeks; frowning as he rested the palm of his hand against her forehead; she was burning up though the rest of her body; her hands for instance, were freezing to the point where she could have been an ice sculpture.


He glanced at the open window; frowning and looked back down at his wife. She was breathing, that much he was certain of but she was freezing. He piled blankets on her before wading through the snow that had flurried into the room, leaving at least two feet near the sill.


Cursing under his breath, Shawn fought with the window; struggling to close it and finally did; flexing his fingers as he turned to survey the room and Daija. He had only made it home after a long night in a motel room, the factory shut down due to the weather it was now that bad. He had only made it home on a wish and a prayer, knowing the good Lord above had been watching over him because the roads were treacherous.


It was freezing throughout the house, he knew the furnace must have gone down sometime during the night and obviously Daija was in no condition to venture down to the basement to get the wood stove going. He wondered when this fever had set in as she hadn't had it the morning before.


Shawn knew he was going to have to leave her alone long enough to go light the woodstove and have a look at the furnace, but he was reluctant. He walked over to stand beside the bed; glancing at the snow that wasn't melting on the floor. Cursing under his breath again, he scooped Daija into his arms, blankets and all.


Holding her against him was like plunging himself into an icy lake; she was that cold and he almost dropped her from shock alone. After a moment to settle himself from the shock; Shawn carried his wife into the 'guest' bedroom; kicking the door open impatiently.


It was one of the rooms they had cleaned but other than that… it was barely livable. This room had two things in it that made him bring her in: their old bed that they had brought with them from Texas and no snow on the wooden floors.


After settling her in, he hauled ass downstairs and then down to the basement; his numb hands fumbling with the grate to the woodstove. There was a full cord of wood on the back porch but there was also a sizeable stack down here against the far wall; near the shelf Daija had cleared off.


It took him longer than he wanted to get the stove going, knowing he would have to come down and check on it every hour and held out his hands towards the flames; feeling the warmth washing over him. Shawn looked up at the ceiling, knowing he needed to get back to his wife and spared a glance for the furnace.


He should really have a look at it but the woodstove would have to do for now, he knew there were ducts that connected to it and led to various rooms throughout the house. He knew definitely because of the black soot that had coated parts of the walls they had scoured.


"Fuck it." He headed back to Daija.




It was unbearably hot, sweat was literally pouring from her forehead and she could feel the dampness beneath her back and that was not comfortable. Nor was the hair that was sticking to her body.


"Shawn?" Daija whispered hoarsely, feeling like the words were sticking in her very dry mouth and made a face; rolling her tongue in an effort to build up saliva.


"I'm here, baby."


She became aware part of the reason it was so damn hot was because he was holding her. They were both under what had to be each and every blanket, quilt and comforter they owned; both of them naked; sharing their mutual body warmth.


Shawn watched as she struggled to move, finally helping her push away several of the blankets. He moved so he was kneeling on the bed; not minding the warm air coming into contact with his perspiration slicked skin; causing a somewhat cool chill to course over him.


"How… when…" Daija made a face; apparently suffering cotton mouth and trying to work around it; her finally clear eyes meeting his; confusion in them. "When did you…" She hesitated again, glancing around the room as if realizing that they weren't in their bedroom; frowning. "What day is it?"


"Saturday." He said matter-of-factly, reaching out to place his palm against her forehead, then slid it down to her cheek; nodding with satisfaction. "You're fever is broken."


"Saturday… But that means…"


"You've been in and out of consciousness since Wednesday morning, or at least, that's when I got home and found you in the bedroom… You were burnin' up and yet… colder then ice…" Shawn seemed troubled by the memory, watching his wife's face carefully. "The window was wide open, there was at least two feet of snow on the floor…. That's why we're in here."


A mixture of emotions warred on Daija's face as she struggled to understand, aware Shawn was looking at her with concern but she couldn't help it. Something was tugging at her mind, urging her to remember and when she did… she gasped as if she had been doused with a bucket of cold water.




The fearful yet oddly triumphant, hoarse tone his wife had shouted another man's name made Shawn reel. "Mark?" He echoed. "Darlin', who's Mark?"


"I- I… I don't know." Her face seemed to fall, shaking her head. "A dream I had, I think…" Now it all made sense, she had been feverish and hallucinating. Relief swept throughout Daija and she managed a slight smile; reaching for her husband's hands. "I must have broke out with fever sometime in the afternoon… and… I don't know, I know I came up to bed and that was it…"


"Well, you seem fine now." Shawn said doubtfully. "You need some food and something to drink though, you've got to be parched."


Now that he mentioned it, Daija did feel like her throat was made out of sandpaper, nodding her agreement.


"And some clothes…" He smiled mischievously.


"I probably need a shower…"


"Or a sponge bath, I've been giving you one daily… you've sweated so much I wouldn't be surprised if you've lost weight." He chided teasingly, already up and on his feet.


Daija watched as he slipped into the bathroom, hearing the tap and knew he was getting her a glass of water. "Were you ogling me while I was sick and possibly dying, Shawn Michaels?"


"Mrs. Michaels… I was only doing my husbandly duty by taking care of you."


Daija waited until he had handed her the water and she had slaked most of her thirst before weakly throwing a pillow at him with a scoff.


Shawn, feeling relieved and in an almost elated mood now that he knew she would be alright, let it hit him square in the head and feigned injury, dropping to the floor with a loud.


As he lay there, Daija's giggles floated down to him causing a smile to spring to his lips.


Everything was going to be alright.




"So help me God, the first person that bugs me is going to die a violent death." Daija promised herself as she scouted the library, remembering all too well the last time she had tried coming in only to be annoyed by Hunter, driven from her task.


It had been a few weeks since her sudden illness and she was feeling so much better. Shawn had taken what time off he could in order to tend to her, caring her for her better than any doctor could. With his gentle nursing and time, she had eventually felt well enough to get out of bed. Little by little, she had begun doing other things, taking it easy just so she wouldn't relapse.


Making sure she wasn't going to be bothered, she headed for the old albums that contained the newspapers, her fingers skimming the old leather binding before reaching the years she wanted. Carefully, Daija pulled each album from the shelf and headed to a semi-hidden table in a corner, tucking herself away.




"Hey Daij, what're you doing here?"


Daija had been sitting motionless at the table with her chin propped on her fist, staring down at a newspaper article she had read at least a dozen times, her eyebrows furrowed. At the sound of Joanie's voice, she gave a start and looked up. "Um, reading."


"I can see that." Joanie swept her long black hair over her shoulder before sitting across from her friend, arching an eyebrow. "Old papers." She commented, reading the date upside down. "45-47?"


"Researching, you know, about the house."


Joanie nodded, biting her pink lower lip hesitantly; still staring at the papers.


"Is everythin' alright?"


"Yeah, yeah, fine. Just thinking."


"What about?"


"The house."


The way Joanie said house sent shivers up and down Daija's spine and she found herself wrapping her arms around herself to fend off a sudden chill. "What about it?"


"What'd you find?" Joanie asked, ignoring the question.


"Nothing really... Just a mention of some kind of clinic." Daija closed the album shut and closed her eyes. "There has to be people still alive, right?"


"Beg your pardon?"


"That were around back then. Fifty years ago wasn't THAT long ago."


Joanie shrugged, tracing her finger along a knot in the wooden table. "I suppose so... Daija, aren't you a little... obsessed.... with this house? I mean, it's just a house after all."


"No, it's not 'just a house', it's... it was, it IS, something more. I want to know what kind of clinic it was, who the doctor was." Daija said firmly, her mind wandering to the basement. What kind of 'doctor' stored fetuses in canning jars? Let alone kept them as, as trophies?


Sensing she wasn't going to get any help from Joanie, she stood up.


Joanie stood up as well, concern on her face. "Daija, let it go." She said softly. "Just let it go."


"I can't."




"The signs says closed!" Hunter shouted, scowling as he stared down at his sandwich, wondering since when people who came into bookstores couldn't read. "Closed, we're closed!"


"I want to talk to you."


He looked up startled, finding himself staring into the face of Daija Michaels. "What the hell do you want, Mrs. Michaels?" He demanded sarcastically, remembering the last time he had seen her. She had damn near caused a scene on the street.


"Morle Manor."


He scoffed, shaking his head as he stood up from the stool he had been sitting on behind the counter. "I ain't talking to you about that place. I TRIED to warn you but you blew me off, forget you lady."


"Please, Hunter?" She placed a hand on his muscled forearm when he went to brush by her, staring up at him pleadingly. "I'm sorry I was a bitch before, please. Tell me anything you know."


He stared down at her, frowning when he seen the fear in her eyes and finally nodded. "Alright. Let me lock the door and draw down the shades." He said softly, patting her shoulder. "Just... have a seat."


Smiling just a little, Daija slid onto another stool, looking around. The lights were off, the only light coming from the slotted blinds at the windows. She had interrupted his lunch apparently, salami, her nose wrinkled in disgust.


"Hold on, I've got to lock the back door." Hunter called, his heavy footsteps thudding on the floor as he weaved his way expertly through the stacks of books.


She waited in silence, her eyes scanning the shelves, not wanting to admit how... scary, the bookstore was in the dark. There was just something about shelves of old books in the dark, like something or someone might be waiting in the stacks to lunge, to attack.


"Stop it," She chided herself, sitting up straighter. "You're giving yourself the willies."


Another few minutes passed and Hunter hadn't returned yet.


Frowning, Daija slid off the stool. "Hunter?" She called, staring at the back door he had gone through. "Hunter?"


No answer.


Most likely, the giant ape was waiting for her, ready to give her a scare.


Which she didn't need, she was actually pretty frightened enough without adding his juvenile pranks to it.




Taking the longer route, Daija walked by the shut windows, rounding the room as she approached the door. She kept looking over her shoulder, half expecting some kind of monster to leap from the pages of one of the many books and attack, the hairs on the back of her neck rising.


"Hunter, are you alright?" She asked, her hand on the doorknob. "This isn't funny, you're scaring me." She tried to keep her voice light, scolding but couldn't keep a tremor from escaping into her tone.


Bracing herself, she twisted the knob and pushed the door open.


The back room was littered with boxes of unpacked books, a desk sat in the far corner, paperwork scattered all over it. The door, the back entrance to the store, was shut. She reached along the wall beside her, fingers fumbling for a light and finally felt it. She flicked it up.




Frowning, Daija flicked it up and down several times, cursing when nothing happened. If this was some kind of joke on Hunter's part, she was going to sue him for this pissant bookstore and then burn it to the ground, preferably with him in it.


"Son of a bitch!" She cursed when she finally took a step forward, tripping over something and threw her hands out to keep herself from falling flat on her face. Grunting, Daija turned over onto her back and sat up, reaching out to feel what she had tripped over.


"Oh shit..." She whispered, her fingers alighting on what was unmistakably hair.


As if on cue, the lights flooded on.


Once her eyes had adjusted, she really wished the lights had remained off, unable to keep herself from screaming at what she saw.


Hunter was laying spread eagle on the floor, face down in a pool of blood.




"Oh my God, Hunter!?" Daija dropped to her knees, not reaching out to touch him; feeling her breaths coming in shallow pants. "Fuck... fuck..." She began crying, staring helplessly at his body; trying to imagine who could do this.


The tears came in great big sobs, racking her body as she buried her face in her hands, unable to look any longer. It vaguely occurred to her that whoever had done this could still be in the building but she couldn't get herself to move, she was frozen in place.


After what seemed like an eternity, she pushed herself up, careful not to touch him; wiping tears away with the back of her hands. Drawing a shaky breath, she turned around, looking for a phone; she had to call for help.


No sooner then she had reached the desk when a heavy hand clamped on her shoulder. Daija let out another ear piercing scream as she was whipped around; beginning to cry all over again. "YOU SON OF A BITCH!"


Hunter's smirk was wiped clean off his face when she began slapping him with both hands as hard as she could; catching her by the wrists. "Whoa there, Daij, it was just a joke!"


"You son of a bitch! I t-thought you were d-dead!" She screamed, her chest feeling like it was going to explode with how fast her heart was beating. "You rotten, no good, son of a bitch!"


Hunter had fake blood running down his face and matted in his hair; frowning when he seen just how upset she really was; feeling the beginning's of guilt and that 'you're a jackass' feeling creeping up on him. "Look, I'm sorry, it was... a bad joke. Please, calm down..." He grunted when she actually punched him in his nose, beginning to honestly bleed now. "Fuck, Daija..." He reeled away, cupping his injured nose. "I said I was sorry!"


"Sorry doesn't even begin to cover it you jackass! I came to you for help and you pull this bullshit on me?" She screamed, tempted to begin whaling on him with something heavy, like the baseball bat she had spotted tucked behind the door. "Fuck you!"


When she started to leave, he reached out and grabbed her wrist. "I'll still help you, damn..." He used his free hand to grab the bottom of his shirt, bringing it up to his nose, trying to stem the tide of blood. "Christ lady, you got a mean hook."


"I don't want your goddamn help!" She hissed at him, shaking him off of her. "I don't want nothin' from the likes of you!"


Hunter followed her back into the main of the bookstore, still trying to coax her into staying and profusely apologizing for what he had done, but it did no good, Daija simply gathered up her purse and stormed right out of the building.


"Nice going, Hunt." He sighed, watching her walk across the street to her truck, shaking his head. "Real good one."




When Daija got home, she had several messages on the answering machine, frowning when she realized it was Hunter. He kept apologizing for the first few and then began speaking about the history of Morle Manor, which reluctantly got her attention.


The phone rang while she was listening to the messages, automatically she reached for it. "Hello?"


"Look, I'm sorry, just-"


"Just tell me what you know already, moron."


Hunter sighed into the receiver. "Morle Manor was built at the turn of the century, there was no history of anything going on there until it's last owner, before you and your husband."


"Yeah?" She began winding the telephone cord around her fingers; feeling a pit of dread beginning to build in her stomach, for the second time that day.


"Now, the last guy who lived there was a Mr. Calaway, he was a doctor of sorts."


"Of sorts?"


"He didn't actually have a medical degree or license to practice but that didn't stop him either, if you get my drift."


Her thoughts drifted back to the basement, having a feeling she knew where he had ran his practice, the images of those canning jars filled with embryos dancing before her eyes. "What... what was his specialty?"


Hunter made a noise of disgust. "That's the real sick part. He was an abortionist, and we're not talking about the kind you have nowadays. We're talking about back alley abortions."




"Coat-hangers, special 'teas', shit that was more than likely to completely sterilize if not kill the woman."


Daija felt one hand flying to her stomach, trying not to envision all the images lining up; bile rising in her throat. "And... and he got away with this?"


"He was the town's dirty little secret, for awhile." Hunter's answer came slowly, like he was reading as he went. "Now mind you, there's no official record of any of this."


"Then how do you know?"


"Written account by one of the locals, who knew someone who had gone to him because she had cheated on her husband... Wound up with an infection. Oh damn..."




"She died, shortly after writing this."


"A book?"


"No, just a few pages, it's the 'Unofficial' town history, you would not believe how much it cost me to get a copy, town officials don't want this book out and about but... occasionally you can find one in circulation."


"Of course not, that would ruin the town's pretty, picturesque image."


"Exactly. So the woman wrote about going to see 'Dr.' Calaway and he used the um, coat hanger method. She got one hell of an infection, they took her to the Philadelphia hospital for an emergency hysterectomy and died anyway."


"Charming, what happened to the good doctor?"


"I'll take that as sarcasm..." Hunter laughed. "They shut him down, head honchos went out to the Manor and slapped him with a hefty fine, a threat of jail time and then let him be. He never took another 'patient', so far as I can tell. Mind you, I could be wrong."


She was silent for a moment, trying to understand. "Well, as creepy as that is, I still don't understand why..." She hesitated, not sure how to say it.


"Why people are terrified of that place?"




"Because Calaway was murdered in that house and nobody has lived there since, local gossip is that it's haunted."


"What was the doctor's first name again?"




The phone dropped from her hand.


"Daija? Daija?" Hunter called, his voice sounding tinny through the line; far off. "Mrs. Michaels?"


"Mark..." She whispered, running both hands through her hair and turned in a slow circle, half expecting his ghost to be behind her. After a moment, she glanced down at the forgotten telephone, picking it up and placed it back in it's cradle, ending Hunter's 'Daija?' quietly. "I know who you are!" She called out to the empty house.


It was faint, but mocking laughter seemed to drift at her.




The basement was the last place Daija had ever wanted to go but she had too, she simply had too. He had been murdered, had he been murdered here in this house? She had a feeling he had been, no doubt down here, where the worst of the vibes were. "I know you're here." She called as she descended the steps; one hand braced on the tightly packed dirt wall. "I know what you did."


As her foot stepped onto the floor, she closed her eyes; feeling like something was passing through her. When she opened them again, the room looked so much different.


It was cleaner, and tiled... The walls were... plastered, no longer the dirt and the floor wasn't dirt either, it was wooden, much like the rest of the house. In the center of the room was a steel surgical table, a rolling tray beside it with a black velvet cloth draped over the top; stainless steel glinting from it.


Slowly, Daija walked over to it, picking up a scalpel. She stared at it for a moment before laying it back down, turning around. Shelves of medical books, equipment... Her head was reeling.


"Do you have an appointment?"


She knew that voice, feeling goosebumps breaking out all over her body as her feet kept on turning; halting when she seen him. "Mark..." She whispered; the hair on the back of her neck rising.


He was dressed in black slacks and a grey pullover sweater over a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his forearms, a neatly folded lab coat draped over one arm. His hair was neatly pulled back and he almost did look like a doctor. Except there was something... wild about him, for all his proper dress; something willingly evil.


"Yes." He cocked his head to the side, studying her out of thoughtful green eyes. "Mrs. Michaels... I remember now, you do have an appointment, don't you?"


"What? No, no!"


"Don't be silly." He was shrugging his massive arms into the coat; still staring at her. "This won't take to long, you'll be up and about shortly, I promise."




He smiled reassuringly at her as he approached; the soft green of his eye being replaced with venom. "Now now..."


Daija felt as if her feet were rooted to the spot, unable to stop him when he took her by the hands and pulled her unwilling feet towards the table; feeling material swishing about her ankles. She glanced down to find she was in a plain cotton nightgown, looking back up at him, panic overtaking everything but it was internal, she couldn't force any words from her mouth.


"On the table."


Her body wasn't listening to her, it was listening to him! Daija's mind was completely her own but nothing else seemed to be cooperating. She flinched as the cold from the steel table pierced through the gown, easing herself back onto it. Her head rest on the table, unable to do anything but stare upwards; unable to even cry at the helplessness of her situation.


Mark was adjusting her legs into stirrups; his cold palms moving to her ankles and then skimming upwards, pushing her gown past her bent kneecaps; inhaling sharply as she was revealed to him. "Mmm..."


That low growl of approval sent a flush of unwanted desire coursing through her, reminding her of their last encounter. How could... could a spirit elicit such emotions in her? Fear, panic and lust all at once?


"Shall we begin?" He asked, a hint of amusement in his tone, caressing her inner thigh with his knuckles.


She shivered, uncertain just what was about to happen and just closed her eyes. Movement from him made her stiffen, expecting to soon feel a jab of a coat hanger perhaps; tears gathering beneath her closed eyelids at the thought. She wasn't even pregnant! She probably never would be again... Her chest heaved violently with emotion at that thought.


His hands were on her knees again, pushing them apart, her back bowing off the table as she struggled with the compulsion to scoot down. Another low chuckle from him sent another wave of... pleasure... through her, her body warming at the sound of his voice.




Daija was in a sort of Hell, waiting for the inevitable; knowing this would be painful, perhaps even kill her. Could she die? Stuck in some sort of... ghostly illusion? She didn't want to know. But on the other hand, she was aroused, not understanding it and very ashamed of it.


All thoughts were forced aside when she felt his tongue; her hips rising up almost violently.


The pain was there alright, but not like she had been expecting. This was the pain of severe need, the burning of desire desperately needing to be quenched. He tormented her, tasting and biting at her sensitive flesh until she was crying for release, for an end of the torture.


When it felt like she couldn't take anymore, he was hovering over her, forcing her to open her eyes.


They were in the bedroom again, only... it wasn't her bedroom, but his.


"Help me, Daija." He murmured against her lips, slowly filling her; his hands catching hers, threading their fingers together. "Help me finish my work..."


Daija was arching her hips; letting out a ragged moan when he was fully sheathed inside her aching sex. "Yes..." She whispered. "Yes..."


He smiled.


Chapter 10


"I think I sold my soul to a ghost last night."


If Hunter was surprised by Daija's greeting, he didn't show it. Instead he took another bite of his sandwich and continued reading the newspaper, not budging from his spot behind his desk. "So? I sold mine for this here sandwich." He raised it up, then frowned, looking at it. "I should ask for a refund, it's a bit dry."


Scowling, Daija knocked it out of his hand, ignoring his protest. "Look, this is going to sound incredibly insane but-"


"You? Insane? Perish the thought, dear lady, perish the thought." He turned his humor filled eyes up until he was looking into her face, all traces of humor erased when he seen her. "What the fuck happened to you?"


"Don't ask."


"Well I'm asking, you look about two hours shy of becoming a zombie. Have you seen yourself, Daija? You look like you've lost twenty pounds and ten years overnight."


She had seen herself, and all she had to say was thank God Shawn hadn't noticed anything when he had left for work that morning. That might've been due to the fact that she had been hiding under the blankets; pretending to be asleep and he wasn't bothering her because he thought she was still recovering.


Her hair had turned grey and dingy overnight; her tanned skin was now yellow and sallow; her cheekbones hollowed and her eye sockets... It was like she had sat with a hair dryer propped against either eye all night and they were shriveling. She knew what she looked like the living dead and smiled; her lips cracking with the effort.


"Fuck..." Hunter looked disgusted as he plucked tissues from a holder, passing them to her. "Your lips are bleeding now." He watched as she blotted her mouth; trying not to openly look disturbed but the changes in her WAS disturbing. "What happened?" He asked softly.


Daija didn't even know where to begin, setting down in the chair opposite him and stared down at her lap. "Mark." She said finally.


"Mark? As in Dr. I'm Insane Calaway?"


She nodded.


Now he wasn't one for really believing in ghosts. Sure, there was something up with the old Morle house and he liked to joke about it, but he wasn't sure he ever truly believed it was haunted. When she had come to him for help, he had done it more for his amusement and boredom issues than anything else.


But the sudden change in her appearance from yesterday to now was enough to convert him.


He had briefly entertained the possibility that she was just trying to get him back for his joke yesterday but... A person didn't lose all that weight in one night, no damn way.


"You had better start from the top." He sighed, leaning back in his chair.


Daija took a deep breath.




"Daij?" Shawn stood in the empty dining room, looking around. He frowned when he didn't get an answer. Considering they lived a few miles outside of town and they only had the one truck -which he used to get back and forth to work- she sure did get around quite well. "Daija?"


The cracked basement door caught his attention, his feet quickly carrying him into the kitchen, halting by the door. Daija hated the basement, she point blank refused to go down there unless she absolutely had too. He didn't know why she hated it, but...


Feeling a hesitation that he wasn't accustomed too, Shawn pulled the door open the rest of the way.


Forcing aside the stupid fearful feelings he was suddenly experiencing, he all but ran downstairs, damn near tripping over the last step. "Daija? Honey, you down here?"


Surprisingly, she wasn't.


"Aw hell..." He sighed when he seen the old wood stove was going, frowning as he crossed the dirt floor to it. The furnace was working just fine, what the hell...


After adjusting the damper in the flue to smother the fire, he wearily turned around. Maybe taking the rest of the day off to 'cut back on hours' as McMahon had suggested hadn't been such a good idea. Lord knew they could use the money but... he had wanted to spend some time with his absent wife.


"Hello, Shawn."


"Who the HELL are you?"




"So... the man kept the um... fetus' of aborted babies?" Hunter recounted, his sandwich having long been thrown away; wishing he hadn't eaten the three bites he had, they were bouncing around his stomach at the moment.


Daija nodded, rubbing her tired eyes with her hands. "Yes, in canning jars. When we first moved in, I found them while I was cleaning the basement and... I threw them out. It was..."




"Somethin' like that. What I want to know is just what was he keepin' them for?"




She considered that, finally shaking her head. "No, you would have... had to of seen his... office." She shifted uncomfortably in her chair, knowing she was talking like she was crazy but... "He had it set up like he was a REAL doctor or somethin', you know? I didn't see the jars then... Someone must have moved them."


"Oh yeah, old Jas Coleman did because he wanted to up the real estate value." Hunter scoffed, shaking his head. "And this, um, ghost... asked you to help him finish his work?"


"Yes... in a manner of speaking." She hadn't exactly told him ALL of it, not about to recount she had had sex with a ghost; feeling a trace of color flooding her sunken cheeks.


"Hmmm..." Hunter tapped his jaw while he considered this. He knew he looked like nothing more than a giant lug, all muscle and no brains, Lord knew he didn't help that opinion with his antics; crude mouth and juvenile antics but he was anything but a dimwit.


One simply did not work in a bookstore and not have some sort of intelligence.


That and as nobody really bought books that often, he had felt compelled to read them himself, at least that way they weren't going completely to waste. Some things he had found so interesting that he had actually had read up further on the topic.


"You know... Nazi's used to do human experimentation."


"Human. An embryo is not human."


"Just... hear me out, okay?" Hunter stood up and began pacing, trying to word the thoughts in his mind so they wouldn't come out sounding stupid. "They did genetic experiments on twins, they did sterilization experiments, a lot of different things. And it wasn't just the Nazi's, but Japan did it too. Hell, the United States has done it."


"I'm going to assume you have a point."


"I do, I'm getting there. Calaway fashioned himself a doctor, right?"


"Of sorts."


"And he kept the embryos?"


She was slowly beginning to see where he was heading with this. "That's a bit... out there, don't you think?"


"Not really." Hunter was actually sounding excited as he continued to pace. "What if he was? Experimenting on them, I mean? Wouldn't that be fucked up?"


"More than a bit." She agreed dryly. Daija glanced at her wristwatch, which was hanging loosely from her thin wrist, grimacing as she took in her paper dry skin; how her veins were so prominent, the skin drawing taunt over them and tendons. "I need to get home... I have to, to figure out some rational explanation for-"


"Your new look."


"To give to Shawn."


He patted her shoulder awkwardly.




Shawn's truck was in the drive. Daija frowned as she stumbled up the drive; feeling like her brittle legs were going to snap in half. She was so tired, so damn tired, all she wanted to do was make it inside and collapse. Sleeping on the wooden floor really didn't seem like such a bad idea really.


When she made it inside after what seemed like hours, Daija looked around for signs of her husband; her eyes immediately darting to the tightly closed door. "Shawn?"


"He isn't here."


Whirling around was a bad idea as it made her lose her balance. Grabbing the doorframe to steady herself, she found herself staring at Joanie. "What're you doin' here?" She demanded, trying to sound calm and strong but her voice came out just as tired and weak sounding as she felt.


Joanie's hazel eyes were pure ice as she regarded the smaller woman, one side of her mouth curling up in a leer. "I'm here to help you, of course." She said, her sweet tone at odds with her eyes, with the inflection of the words. "Why don't we go down to the basement, hmm?"




The basement was exactly as it should have been, dirt floors; wood stove... There was just the matter of the swirling green light that was thick like fog surrounding their feet.


"Mmm, he's here." Joanie inhaled deeply, a low moan escaping her blood red painted lips. "Can you sense him?"


Daija just shook her head, her tired mind trying to catch up with what was going on. Her vision was blurring, her eyes ached so much. She just wanted to sleep.


"Come on, to the back room." Joanie wrapped an arm around Daija's waist, helping her across the floor; laughing in delight as the mist creeped up their legs. "He's so pleased you're here, Daija." Joanie let go long enough to grab a shelf that Daija and Shawn had assumed was bolted to the wall and slide it to the side; revealing a small stone door. "In we go."


"No..." Daija did not want to go through that door, into the darkness that was sinisterly welcoming them. "No..." She felt like if she crossed the thresh hold and went into that room, she would never come out. And if she did come out, it wouldn't so much be her and someone, something else.


"Yes, how on earth on we going to make you feel better if we don't go in there?" Joanie said reasonably, her arm slithering back around Daija. "Besides, He's in there, waiting for you, don't you feel him?"


Whatever was in that room, Daija did not want to know; letting out a muffled scream of pure terror as she was pulled into through that door.


Chapter 11


Joanie was humming under her breath as she set up the alter, lighting each black candle slowly; the tiny flames casting a dim, small glow over the centerpiece. The centerpiece was simply a black bowl made out of stone; for the moment it stood empty.


She slowly turned around, her bare feet making no sound on the black marbled floor and smiled down at the slowly coming too Daija. "You poor thing, you fell asleep." She cooed, kneeling down besides the other woman and began stroking her now pure white hair lovingly. "You're so tired, Daija, aren't you? It'll pass though, I promise."


"Wha- why?" Daija croaked, her throat feeling like it was on fire.


"Why? Now that's a silly question." Joanie scolded, carefully pulling Daija into a sitting position; her pale face composed peacefully. "I don't know if I can answer that really, you'd have to ask Him. He sent for you, you know." Now she sounded wistful. "When Shawn was looking for a home, he 'accidentally' stumbled across the listing for this place. Coleman was so surprised when he got the call, he'd never actually listed Morle Manor on the internet, I did. I did because He told me too."


"You're insane."


"Hush now Daija, don't say mean things to me. I'm your friend, I've always been your friend." Joanie scolded, placing a finger against Daija's cracked and bleeding lips; her forehead scrunching as she frowned. "He needed a woman who had just known loss." Her hand moved to gently pat Daija's stomach. "You were perfect, and then you fell in love with the house, that was perfect too. He really loves this house, and you've restored it beautifully. He fed your mind and heart how the house should look and you did it!" She looked awed and happy, positively beaming. "Such a lovely job you did too."


Daija was slowly becoming more aware of her surroundings, how Joanie was now in just a black cotton nightgown, so was she as a matter of fact. It felt light and cool against her skin, she liked the feeling. "Where's Shawn?"


Joanie hesitated, glancing behind Daija's head. "Now Daij, don't be mad, okay? I know you love Shawn but honestly, this is for the best. You can't be with Him and Shawn at the same time, it just isn't fair."




Scowling, Joanie scrambled to her feet; her eyes flashing. "Don't yell at me! Can't you see I'm doing this for you? If He wanted ME I would be so honored, but it's you He wants so I'm going to help you! Shawn will be out of your life and then you'll be free, isn't that what you want? To be with Him?"


This with Him stuff was confusing; but then it dawned on her who Joanie kept referring too. "Mark?"


"Yes, Him." Joanie nodded, looking insanely happy again. "You did promise you'd help him." She reminded as an afterthought. "And you even sealed the pact."


Daija would have blushed if she could; now aware that the green mist was enveloping her. "Where's Shawn?" She demanded again.


Joanie pointed behind her.


Slowly, Daija turned on the floor; gasping when she seen her husband. He was shackled to the far wall; his head hanging down so his chin was resting against his chest. "Shawn!" She began crawling towards him.


Shaking her head, Joanie got up; extending her arms out as if in welcome. "It's time."


But Daija wasn't paying any attention to her anymore, she was more focused on using Shawn's jeans to pull herself upright. "Shawn, baby..." She managed to clasp her hands around his neck; feeling her legs trembling violently under her, threatening to give way at any moment. "Please, wake up..."




She tensed at that voice, that deep; dark baritone she knew so well, only now it... it was so clear, so real and not just some voice in a fog. She was afraid to turn around, afraid to see whatever unnatural means this ghost, this spirit, had used to make himself earthly.


But she was compelled to turn anyway, gasping at the atrocity that meant her eyes.


It was Joanie's body but it wasn't Joanie possessing it, it was Mark.


Joanie's hazel eyes were now his venomous green, staring at Daija hungrily. "My body is long gone, there's no way to reclaim it." He said, raising Joanie's arm and stared at the blood red painted fingernails, wiggling them with an expression of disgust. "But I can... share another's body, like Joanie's, if she allows it."


Daija could only stare at him in abject fascination, mingled with horror.


"But I don't want a woman's body." He/she continued calmly, the oh so very masculine voice coming out of the lipsticked mouth. "I want to be a man, not this corporeal spirit form I now possess."


The words had an implied meaning and she grasped it immediately. "No! You can't have him!"


Joanie's mouth formed a very un-Joanie like smirk, cold and cruel. "You said you'd help me, Daija. Remember?"


The words were like a caress, her eyes closing as she fought off the memories. "I didn't know what I was sayin', look what you did to me!"


"All temporary, I just needed enough of your... essence... to allow me this." He/she gestured to his/her body, scowling. "Just enough to enable me to do what needs to be done."


She was still shaking her head no.


Ignoring her, Joanie or Mark, whoever It was, walked to the alter and stared down at it. "Science and the occult, they've always gone hand in hand." It said thoughtfully. "I only got into my... practice... because I needed fresh... samples."


"The babies."


It snorted. "They were nothing more than masses of tissue, unwanted ones at that. But I wanted them, I NEEDED them. Scientists have always experimented on humans, trying to prolong life spans, or make superhumans. I was looking for a way to come back. And I managed it, by mixing them, science and what you would, I suppose... call 'magic'."


When Daija looked towards It again, she seen Joanie's hands adding something to the bowl on the alter, a soft 'splash' telling her that whatever it was had mass, she felt like throwing up; the stench of formaldehyde piercing her senses.


The green fog was climbing her body again; snapping her out of the stupor she had been sinking into. She realized with a start that It was approaching her, the bowl in it's hands; steam rising from the bowl.


"No, you can't have him." She rasped, trying to let go of Shawn in order to defend him but she couldn't move her fingers, it hurt too badly to unflex them, an almost arthritic pain. With yet another start, Daija realized she was steadily growing... older, by the minute.


"Daija, I need him. You and I, we can be together, and it'll still be your husband's body. It won't be bad, I promise you." It was saying, the voice coming in soft and then loud, like a bad radio station. "And in a few moments, you'll have your youth back again, I won't need it anymore, I won't need it to be the adhesive that binds me to Joanie's body."


"Daija! Daija!"


Daija's rheumy eyes slowly moved towards the stone door, unable to see more than a few feet away.


She heard crashing, a curse and something else... it was too hard to make out.


She was so tired... so drained...


Chapter 12


"How's Shawn doing?"


Daija smiled wanly, popping a chip in her mouth and crunched down on it. She was having lunch with Hunter at the local diner, sitting side by side with him at the counter. A half finished plate sat before her, hamburger and plain chips, the dill pickle on the side. She pulled her Coca Cola towards her, taking a long pull from the straw. "He's alright, he doesn't remember anything that happened, thank God. He thinks I blew up the furnace, which is why the floor caved in... in that spot."


"It could happen." Hunter said with a derisive snort, having finished his plate awhile ago and reached for a handful of her chips. "How bout you? Have I told you, by the way, that you are looking a LOT better?"


Shaking her head, she pulled a lock of hair away from her head; studying it. Mixed in with the deep brown were now streaks of gray, she had told her husband it was a new look she was trying out. But for the most part, she felt like herself again. She looked like herself, minus the hair issue... it was almost like she could pretend none of that had ever happened. "You've only said it about three times since I walked in, but go ahead and say it again."


"You're looking better."


She fell into silence again, struggling to remember what had happened. She had woken to Hunter carrying her out of the basement; sweat and blood pouring off of him. He had deposited her on the couch before going for Shawn, somewhere between then, Joanie had gotten up of her own accord and fled the house.


So far, neither she nor Hunter had seen Joanie and Daija was just fine with that. In fact, she never wanted to see Joanie ever again, unless she was allowed to shoot the other woman.


"How... how did you know something was wrong?" She asked after awhile.


He finished scraping chips off his teeth, considering that. "I didn't know something was immediately wrong, but I had found out Joanie was invested into some interesting... activities and I wanted to warn you."


"What kind of activities?"


He smiled dryly. "You know, the kind where you resurrect dead people, dabbling in the occult, that kind of thing."


Daija just shook her head. "So you came charging down into the basement..."


"Because I heard you screaming something about Shawn."


"And then through that odd doorway."


"That door was small, I scraped the hell out of my shoulders getting through."


"And knocked into... Joanie..."


"Or Calaway, whichever one it was."


"Made it spill that... shit."


"All over the place, it STANK." He grimaced at the recollection and stared down at his plate, wishing now he hadn't eaten it all, it wasn't settling very well."Then I got you out of there because it honestly looked like you were dead or something. You started coming around once we were out of the basement so I set you on your couch, went back down and got your hubby out of there."




"Then I went for Joanie but she was already gone."




"And I got the hell out of there because the stench was making me dizzy and it's a good thing too because I just got to the steps and the floor caved in, thanks to your shitty furnace."


"So besides you and me, nobody knows just how damn close this town was to having a sick ghost walking around in an actual body?"


Hunter began laughing. "Something like that."


Shaking her head, Daija slid off her stool and patted him on the back. "I'll catch you later, Hunt, I'm going to go home and spend some time with my husband."


"Sure, give him a kiss for me."


"Will do."






Shawn was holding his beautiful albeit a little gray, wife in his arms, they were lying in bed, just enjoying being with each other. She had been... quiet, the past few days and he couldn't understand why nor wrangle an answer out of her when he would ask if anything was wrong. He had figured she'd come to him when she was ready. "Yeah, darlin'?"


"I was thinking," Daija rolled so she was laying on him, running her fingers up and down his chest and noted with sadness that his tan was all but gone; he was becoming pale, just like everyone else around here. "That maybe we should Texas another try."


Shawn was quiet for a long time, finally touching her hair to get her to raise her head off his shoulder and to look at him. "I thought you liked it here."


"I... do..." She had, even though she could no longer feel the strange vibes in the house, it was still unsettling to be in it, maybe because of everything that she had seen. "But I miss Texas, our friends... The damn sun. I know you do too."


"Yeah... but... we got all this money invested in this house, Daij. I don't think we can just walk away from it." He replied quietly, running his hand down the small of her back. "Not to mention we have to get the downstairs fixed."


"I know."


When she lapsed back into silence, Shawn closed his eyes, wondering what had brought this on. Things were... different. She wasn't obsessed with the house like she had been, she no longer felt the burning desire to have it finished. But different in a good way, he supposed. She was there, with him again, no longer distracted by whatever it was that had for so long held her attention elsewhere.


It was like he had his Daija back again.


He did not and would not ever understand why she had felt the need to streak her hair, she had told him it was supposed to come out a silvery, shimmery color but... He still loved her, grey streaks and all.


"Daij, why don't we wait until Spring and then we'll talk about it again." He said finally. "Everything that needs fixed downstairs will be fixed and if we're lucky, we'll even have some of the tax money leftover."


Sensing he was giving serious thought about Texas, Daija smiled and kissed his collarbone. "We still have the ranch, and I bet Steve would love to have you back working with him."




"And I could go back to work at Millie's."


"Are you sure you'd be able too, too handle being in the ranch?"


She knew what he meant, her thoughts straying to the unfinished nursery and nodded; smiling somewhat. "Maybe we could try again." She whispered slowly, watching the confusion on his face fade into a smile.


Texas, they were coming home.




"Who pissed in your breakfast?"


Jas Coleman glared at Hunter before stabbing his eggs viciously. "The Michaels put Morle Manor on the market, they left for Texas this morning."


Hunter arched an eyebrow, swallowing the remains of his coffee and shook his head when the waitress went to refill it. Daija hadn't said anything to him, but then again, with spring finally here, he hadn't exactly been an easy man to find. He had been out and about, enjoying the fresh air and the lack of snow on the ground. "Well, good for them, I didn't think they were cut out for New England to begin with."


Jas sighed, shaking his head.


"So... you have to sell it again, huh? Shouldn't be too hard, they did fix it up, right?"


"Restored it completely, the damn house is worth more than what they paid for it." Jas actually sounded pained, grimacing. "IF I can find a buyer, they'll make quite a tidy profit from the difference between what they paid and what they can get for it."


"Mmm." Hunter stood up, clapping Jas on the back. "Good luck with that."


Jas just kept muttering to himself.




"Goddamn son, you are pale!"


Shawn whirled around, damn near dropping the box he was carrying when he heard the very familiar, very welcomed voice; grinning broadly. "I know, I'm hoping a summer outdoors will fix that."


"Shit, I think we can work somethin' out." Steve bounded up the steps, a broad grin on his face. "Need some help?"


Daija walked out of the ranch, having just opened every door and window to start airing the place out; laughing when she was picked up off the porch and twirled around. "Nice to see you too, Steve."


"Honey, you two have no idea how borin' it gets around here." Steve laughed, setting her down. "Heard you were back... So I wrangled up some neighbors and..."


Shawn and Daija both looked towards the open gate, neither too surprised to find their neighbors, they're friends, driving through, horns honking loudly.


Steve's grin broadened if that were possible. "Daij, you best go get the coffee and food on, I have a feelin' getting you two moved back in is going to be hungry work."


"I brought stew!" Larissa shouted as she slid from the passenger side of her truck; holding the seat forward while her three kids scrambled out, her husband ambling towards Shawn and Steve. Balancing a crockpot in her arms, she hurried up into the house, leaving the children to play in the yard while the rest of the neighbors got to work. "I'm so glad you came back."


Daija waited until Larrisa had set down the stew before hugging her best friend tightly. "I missed you too."


"Alright, enough blubberin', let's get some biscuits and gravy made up, some coffee too I reckon. And you can tell me all about New England..."


Where did she even begin....?




It was pitch black behind the bookstore, which was nice as she wasn't keen on being spotted. For a moment, Joanie fumbled over the top of the door, her fingers finally stumbling onto a cold bit of metal. Smiling eagerly, she unlocked the door; keeping a firm hold on the papers in her hand. '


After she had let herself in, she hurriedly locked the door and turned around; throwing out her free hand to feel along the wall, flicking on the lights. "Hello."


Hunter had been sitting at his desk in the dark, hands laced behind his head; feet propped up on the desk. He nodded, eyeing the papers she carried.


"I have them." Quickly, she crossed the room to set the papers down. "It's all there, family trees of everyone in town. I also put in the bid for Morle Manor." She met his gaze, her smile wavering. "Did, did I do alright?"


Hunter's hazel eyes flashed fern green, slightly venomous color before nodding. "You did perfectly, my dear." He rumbled, his voice much different than the usual. It was deeper, a dark baritone. He reached one lazy hand for the papers, examining them, a slow smile of wicked glee crossing his face. "Beautiful, dearest, beautiful."


Mark Calaway had been murdered by the very townspeople who had come to him for years with their dirty, sordid affairs; paying him to rid themselves or some young woman of the burden of shame she carried.


Of course, he had probably signed his own death warrant the night he had performed a late term abortion on some runaway young woman, needing the near fully finished child inside of her for an experiment. He hadn't known at the time that she was the daughter of one of the states's most prominent citizens.


To hide their shame, to hide the evidence of what they had allowed to go on... the people from town had murdered him and destroyed his office, leaving nothing but four dirt walls and a dirt floor behind.


It had been Joanie who had uncovered the secret door to his alter chamber, it was Joanie who had snuck inside the Manor over ten years ago to dig beneath the dirt and uncover the canning jars, his babies, and put them on a shelf.


And it was Joanie who had gathered the necessary ingredients for his resurrection and started the ritual, then allowed him to share her body to finish it.


Originally, he had wanted Shawn Michaels body... then he would have been able to keep Daija who he had almost loved, she had been so easy to entice, to lure... so eager to help him with his work, at least until she realized the price that would have to be paid.


But this would do...


Hunter, the idiotic fool who had rushed in to save the day... who had made Mark spill the contents of his alter bowl over them both... He had sealed his own doom.


This wasn't the body he had wanted, but it was HIS body now and it would do.


If he had too, he could always find a suitable replacement, which... now that he thought of it, he was going to have to do. Especially since by the time he was finished painting this town in the blood of it's own residents, Hunter Helmsley was about to become a very, VERY wanted man.


Joanie whimpered in delight when he stood up, closing her eyes as he caressed her face with a small sigh of ecstasy. "Master..."


Scientists had spent years trying to prolong human's lives, make them stronger, faster... He didn't want that. He just wanted to be able to come back after death, he did not want to live out one life in the same body, not when there was so many wicked, murderous things he wanted to do. He had succeeded where they had failed, he had found the way to bring himself back, to defy death.


One body however, was not going to be enough for what he had in mind, for all the murderous things he had planned, he was going to need several...


"Joanie... we have so much work to do..."