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and at the end of all things, there's still you

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"Tell me a story," she says, her forever-cold fingers wrapped around a steaming mug she'll never feel again.

She cozies up to him in his own bed, like a housecat, offers him the tea, bribes him with Earl Grey to pry a tale from his lips.

She doesn't need to try so hard, he thinks, amused. If John Mitchell has a soft spot, it may as well be labelled "Annie Was Here" in neon letters.

"What do you want to know?" he asks, taking the tea. She really does make the best cuppa.

She smiles that heartbreaking smile and snakes her hands around his arm, resting her temple on his shoulder as she settles in.

"Where were you when you heard about the Titanic?"

He sips the tea. "Annie, I was human then. And I was in Ireland."

"I want to know how accurate the movie is."

Mitchell snorts, coughs on his laugh. "The way they treated that Tommy character, that was accurate, I kin tell ye tha'," he says, exaggerating his own accent to make her giggle.

Annie stifles her laugh in his bicep, her lips pressing whisper light like a half remembered memory and Mitchell closes his eyes. He can't, won't, think of it as a kiss, refuses to steal that from her but.

If his heart still beat, it would race.

She is gorgeous, and vivacious, and the sweetest, strongest person he's met in a hundred years. The type of woman he would have been proud to introduce to his ma, rest her soul.

But she is dead at the hands of a man who promised to love her, and the last thing she needs in her unlife is another murderer thinking about the pout of her lips.

She reaches up, brushes a strand of hair from his eyes, tucks it behind his ear. It's an affectionate gesture, tender and thoughtless at the same time, and Mitchell's heart aches.

"Do you ever think about how you should have died?" Annie asks bluntly. Mitchell smiles, leans into her touch.

"Yeah. Yeah, I do."

Her hand is brushing at the side of his jaw, fingers fussing with his curls, but she seems to be doing it because she wants to, and Mitchell lets her.

"I was supposed to die an old woman in my bed, surrounded by heaps of family." Annie sighs, her cold fingers stilling at his temple.

He presses a kiss she can't feel into the cup of her palm before he can overthink it.

"If I didn't die in the war, I was gonna go home. Find a girl, probably. Ma and da had plenty of plans for me." He says huskily, trying desperately not to feel the regret coursing through his dead heart.

Two undead people, frozen as they were the second their blood stopped rushing, cuddled up in a lonely bed. It would almost sound like a joke if it weren't their sad reality.



She winces, looking like she's choosing her words carefully. Finally she blurts, "I'm glad you didn't die in 1950 like a normal person. I'm glad I know you." She draws into herself, looking embarrassed, and he panics as he can feel her solidity grow weaker. "Oh god, that was a terrible way to put that, I'm so sorry-"

"Annie, Annie darlin'-calm down, you're gonna fry the circuitry- it's okay." He moves, barely getting the mug on his side table before kneeling in front of her with his socked feet dangling off the side of the bed. He reaches out, runs his hands up and down her arms, trying to be reassuring. She peeks up at him from behind her hands and Mitchell really can't take this.

But he smiles anyway, tucks her hair away from her eyes. "I wish to god almighty you'd never got pushed down those stairs, but since I can't do anything about that, I'm glad that we moved in and met you. You don't deserve to be a lonely ghost, Annie."

She smiles at him, and if Mitchell could carve a bloody swath down everything that had ever prevented her from that smile, he would. They settle back in, and he reaches for his tea as she fusses with the ends of her cardigan.

They do this sometimes, when George and Nina are at work and Mitchell has the day off. It doesn't happen often, not anymore, but they both like the company.

She stretches her legs out, side by side with his casual sprawl, grabs his hand and plays with his fingers. Even if he weren't wearing his gloves, he'd be hard pressed to know she was touching him without looking.

He would have torn out her throat if they'd met while she was alive, and he thanks whatever higher power there is that he hadn't.

She's so wonderfully alive for a ghost.

It occurs to him that she is still waiting patiently for a story, and he sips his tea as he weaves her a tale of his singular visit to America in 1980. It's gritty and funny and he leaves out the part where he stole a motorcycle from a corpse left in the dumpster of a 24 hour diner, not because he isn't ashamed of what he's done, but because he knows that Annie will give him the look that says she understands who he was, that she is proud of who he is trying to be.

He can't keep letting her make excuses for his monstrous soul.

So he doesn't mention where he got the bike and she doesn't ask, but she laughs in all the right spots and gasps when he pauses dramatically.

And it's nice.


"Tell me a story."

He looks up at her, surprised. Annie is drawn into herself, looking like she wants nothing more than to kick the absolute shit out of him for hurting her.

He'd deserve it and more, he thinks.

She hasn't asked him for a story since the pink house, since Purgatory, since Wales. He thought she had been disabused of the notion, honestly.

Tentatively, he opens his arms to her, offering silently without pressuring her, and Annie falls in.

He pulls her into his lap like this was something they used to do, before everything. It very much is not.

This is intimate and shaky and vulnerable. She tucks up under his chin and he wraps her up in the tightest hug he can manage when trying to embrace a body-less echo of a person.

He doesn't quite remember what he tells her, something about his childhood he thinks, but Annie's eyes are glazed over with tears by the end of it.

He doesn't think she was listening any more than he was.


"Tell me a story."

He jolts, staring hard at her. She meets his gaze with flint in her eyes and Mitchell swallows.

The cell is white and they've given him the world's thinnest mattress with the matching pillow. Every once in awhile, some prick of a policeman opens the slot in the door to slack jaw ogle at him through their phone camera.

She's fierce in her determination not to let him off the hook, and he loves her for it, he does. Her soul would be untarnished, free of his poison.

He wishes that the price he pays for his sins wasn't the exposure of his entire kind, but there you have it.

He's sitting in a cell, ready to rot for eternity, facing down people who want to cut him open and see what makes him go, and Annie wants him to tell her a story.

So he does. He tells her a story about a ghost girl who died too soon and the monster who loved her when he shouldn't. She knows it like the back of her hand but doesn't interrupt him as he fills in the blank spaces on the page. How he told himself every day not to get attached to her, that ghosts were transitory. How the cracked tile in the entryway reeked of stale blood that he could smell from outside the door the first time he'd seen the house. How he'd poured bleach into the crevices of the spot she had died, trying to wash away the temptation and the horrific realization that she would have been delicious.

She looks at him with tired eyes, closes them, and huffs out a breath she doesn't even have. "Disgusting." She says, and she means it. Mitchell hangs his head.

He goes on, tells her about wanting to kill Tully with his bare hands, not because he was a werewolf but because he had frightened her, how finding her cowering in the street had nearly sent him off the edge.

The accidental kiss he replayed in his head like some sort of sick movie, how he needed to brush it off for her sake when it sat in the back of his mind for ages, festering and pulsing. He hadn't lied; it had been nice. It had been more than nice, and in his darkest nights the memory of it was his most shame inducing comfort.

He doesn't think it's the story that she wants, but it's the one she needs to hear, the one that will tear him out of her too-big heart forever, that will dig him out like the bloodsucking parasite he truly is.

And he hopes that however this story ends (and he knows how it ends, he's known that it rests on the point of a stake since Lia laughed in his face with her cruel mouth and her wolf-shaped bullet) that Annie and her burning love find someone better to save.


It’s not that he deserves an after afterlife.

He doesn’t.

And he doesn’t know why he’s been placed there.

It’s a lot of light and weightlessness and drifting, which is admittedly better than the hellfire he’d been expecting, or worse, the endless expanse of nothing he’s feared since the war took him from home.

And time doesn’t exist but it does and it’s eternity and a moment all at once but then-

Her voice is in his ear, and Annie is there, Annie is here and suddenly he knows he hasn’t been saved for himself, but for her and he wants to die all over again, and she smiles at him.

“Tell me a story, Mitchell.”