Three days had passed and Mitchell had swayed from begging forgiveness to cursing her existence so many times it was becoming a bit boring. George had left that for the facility that morning and Annie was not sure if he would ever see her again. She had wanted to go with him, had planned to go with him, but now was not the right time to move on. In those moments when Mitchell was himself, when he looked at her and saw a friend and she could see the self-loathing in his eyes, she knew that she was making the right decision. When he was settled, when he was strong enough to be the man that he wanted to be, then she could think of letting go again.
This was clearly not one of those times.
"Do you know why they call me Big Bad John?" Mitchell was strapped to a chair in the middle of his small room, the straps anchored to metal hooks in the floor boards, and still, of the two of them, he seemed the one in control. "It was only the strongest of brick houses that I couldn't get into." His voice was soft and Annie tried not to listen from where she lay on his bed, but his lilting tone might as well have been a siren's song for all that she could ignore it. "Most women want to have their heart stolen. They keep 'em in houses of straw and sticks and I huff and I puff and I swallow their hearts whole." He paused and she fought the urge to look at him. "I could eat you up."
When all she did was turn the page of her magazine, Mitchell went on. "Your blood would've been so sweet. I can almost taste it. I can still smell it sometimes, your blood, where it'd soaked into the floor. I'd've been drunk on you for days. More's the pity Owen did you in like he did. Such a waste."
She was up and in front of him in a flash and her palm stung with an echo of pain when she slapped him across the face. The smile he gave her only stoked the fire his words had started and she laid into him with a vengeance.
"How dare you. How dare you talk to me like that. Least of all me." There were tears in her eyes and she hated that, but would not give him the satisfaction of backing down. "Would you have preferred to be the one to've killed me? Is that what you want? For me to hate you?" He flinched at that. "Because right now, all I feel is pity." She spat the word. "You've fought for so long not to be this man, and yet here you are. A wanker strapped to a chair."
She could see her friend swimming to the surface. Maybe it had been the thought of killing her, perhaps it had been the threat of her hate, whatever had triggered the change, Annie was relieved to see her Mitchell back now.
"I'm sorry." He was crying again. They both were. "I'm so sorry."
It was too much, the stress of the past few days. The wall in Annie broke and she found herself sinking to her knees and sobbing in front of him.
"How many," she demanded through her tears. "How many people was it Mitchell, because what I cleaned was more than just one."
His eyes were clenched shut when she looked up at him and he shook his head as he answered. "You'll know soon enough. You all will." He opened his eyes and the despair she saw there was enough to drown in. "Then you'll be glad to have me tied down. It'll be easier to drive a steak into me."
She recoiled at the thought and spoke her denial.
He only shook his head and another tear fell loose from his lashes. "You don't know."
She placed her hands on his knees and looked up into his face, the face of her friend. "Then tell me."
He shook his head again. "Please, Annie. I don't want you to hate me. I'd rather you kill me now than see me like that."
She looked at him, really looked at him and replayed the last few days in her head. In the time that Mitchell and George had moved into the house she had really only thought of them as human. Yes they had their moments, their quirks that set them apart from the rest of humanity, but it was only now, as she looked back that she could see what a mistake that had been. Her boys were not human, but they were still her boys.
"What if I make a promise." She wiped away the tear tracks on her cheeks and sniffled back the rest. "You talk, I listen, and then we discuss it. If I ask a question, you answer. You explain this to me as a vampire, and I try to understand." She was not sure if she would ever be able to look at him the same, but she would try. "Just, start from the beginning. As far back as you think you need to go."
And he did. He started with the war and Herrick and held nothing back. It was the first time he had been to confession since before he had been recruited and the relief that poured out with his words was almost tangible. She wondered how anyone could live for so long with such a weight on their soul, never once questioning if he had one or not.
She learned of Josie, and she slipped her fingers into his as he cried again. He talked of Lucy, and her betrayal, and of Daisy. When he had finished, who-knows how long later, Annie was not sure what to think. The betrayal that she felt for Mitchell at the hands of Lucy, the gravity of his grief at the loss of the Bristol vampires, and she thought again of her amazement at what he had accomplished only to have it burned away by someone else's fear, all of that fought with her horror over the innocent deaths on the train.
It was too much. She needed time to think, to sort out what she had learned. Without a word, she popped down to the entryway and had a moment of regret when she heard him calling for her. Perhaps she should have said where she was going, but in that moment, she could not look at him.
His shouting for her became pained, more desperate, and she was crying again when she left the house.
Annie had no set destination in mind. She roamed the streets of Totterdown without paying attention to where she was going. There was a moment when she considered going along with her original plan to go with George to the facility and leave the problems of the world to the living. But it was a passing thought, and she dismissed it quickly. She had not fulfilled her promise to Mitchell yet. They had not talked and she had not asked her questions.
She let her feet lead her up and down the streets, weaving her way through the city, all the while thinking about what she had learned. By the time that she found herself back in front of the pink house, she was ready to face Mitchell again.
It was quiet in the house, and Annie wondered if he might have gotten loose somehow. She made her way up the stairs on silent feet and poked her head around his door. He was still strapped to the chair, his head lolled forward and postured slumped. She wondered if he might have been sleeping.
Something gave her away, a movement or a noise, and then he was looking at her. He was angry, that much she could see. What she could not tell was who it was that she was looking at.
His voice was rough and scratchy and she felt a pang of guilt. How long had he been screaming for her?
"I just needed to think, to sort things out a bit." She entered the room, trying her best not to look afraid, and settled cross-legged on the bed.
He did not answer, only kept his unnerving stare trained on her.
She could see that she had lost her opportunity to talk to him. The man before her was closed off and she cursed herself for having run. "I'm sorry." She had not meant to apologize, but did not regret that she had. "It was too much. I had to get away."
He was still glaring when he finally did speak. "Why did you come back?"
She had no easy explanation because there was none, but she gave him what answer she could. "Because even when you were talking about killing all of those people, even when you said how much you loved it, you were hating yourself." He raised a brow at that. "I could see it. I still can."
She took a breath and moved to sit before him again. When she raised a hand to brush his hair behind his ear he flinched. "Because you don't think you deserve to be forgiven. Because I'm just now starting to see how hard it is for you day-by-day, but you still try." She finished by laying her hands on either side of his face. "Because you are my friend and I will always be here for you, if you want my help."
He met her eyes at that and she relaxed a measure to see her Mitchell staring at her. Something shifted in his gaze, something soft and warm, and he turned just the slightest to nuzzle into her hand.
It was the smallest of motions but it sent a flutter through Annie that was completely inappropriate for the conversation. Still, she let her thumbs caress his cheeks as she pulled her hands away.
Now that Mitchell was off the blood again, his body would require nourishment from alternative sources. Annie had made him his favorite dish for dinner and he tried to keep as much of his dignity as he could while she fed it to him one bite at a time. Bad-Mitchell had yet to surface again and for that Annie was grateful. They talked a bit more about mundane things, ordinary things, while both tried to ignore the fact that he was still strapped to a chair.
After awhile they lapsed into a comfortable silence. Annie watched as Mitchell began to nod off again. If he felt half as exhausted as he looked, she could imagine why. When she was certain that he was asleep she made her way down the stairs and out the door, Father Kemp's card in hand. She was not ready to leave yet, and Mitchell was nowhere near ready for her to go, but she had time enough to check in on George and Nina before he awoke.
It was easy to slip into the facility, the tricky part was finding George and Nina.
Annie passed down the corridors unseen, peeking every now and then through windows and open doors. She called out for her friends as she made her way, secure in the knowledge that they would be the only ones to hear her.
She found George having dinner in a small cafeteria and took pleasure in the surprise her presence caused. It took several strange looks from the staff and other patrons before the werewolf remembered that no one else could see Annie.
"What are you doing here?"
His question had more than one meaning and Annie did her best to answer both as she settled into the chair across from him.
"Well, the redecorating is finally under control, so I thought I'd pop round and see how this place is treating you." She cast an appraising eye around them and spoke in an unnecessary whisper. "Have they tried to probe you yet?"
"Annie," George was too loud and he caught himself before continuing in a forced undertone. "They're religious nuts, not aliens."
"Whatever." The ghost waved away his comment and continued her scrutiny of their surroundings.
The lights flickered and George groaned. "This place is doing my head in. All the medical tests, religious talk. Did you know, I'm not even allowed protein?"
The absurdity of his comment curled her lip. "You're kidding."
"No." He looked down into the mug in his hands. "No dairy or meat. Apparently they're worried it'll strengthen the demon."
That prompted a startled laugh from Annie. "Demon."
His head twitched in a tiny shake and his eyes pinched closed at the stupidity of the situation. "It's not funny."
She sobered quickly. "So then why are you here?"
Even avoiding her eyes, it took George several tries to get started. "Since I gave Nina- Since-" He cleared his throat. "Since Nina got the curse she's asked me for nothing, except this. So it doesn't really matter what I believe."
"You're gonna see it through." It was more of a statement than a question.
The lights flickered again around them.
He closed his eyes for a moment, "I will see you later," before preparing to stand.
"No. You won't."
Annie's quiet words stopped his motion and he settled back into his seat.
She took a moment to choose her words before speaking. "If this cure works, you'll be human George. You won't be able to see me." He had no answer to that. At his silence she forced a smile and tried to keep her voice from sounding too watery. "So, say goodbye. Properly."
They both stood and circled around the table to meet in a hug. She was glad that he seemed not to care how he would look to outsiders. They both needed this, a sort of closure.
There were tears in both of their eyes when they pulled apart.
She could see the moment a thought popped into George's head. "Oh, I almost forgot. We found Mitchell's girlfriend."
The heartfelt moment was shattered by the ice that shot through her system. "What?"
George seemed not to notice her reaction, or perhaps had taken it as shock. "Lucy. Lucy Jaggat. She's the scientist here."
"Oh, this is bad." Annie pulled away to pace, shaking her hands in agitation. "We've got to find Nina." She stopped and gripped him by both shoulders. "We've got to get you out of here."
"Woah, woah." He was holding her by the arms now, trying to calm her down. "What's the matter?"
Clearly she had not made herself clear. Speaking in slow, short words Annie tried to clarify. "You are both in danger." But she only made it one sentence before her panic began to set in again. "Mitchell told me all about her. She only pretended to be interested in him to get close to him and then she set a trap and she killed all those people. She was the one who blew up the funeral parlour. She was the one who murdered all those vampires." She took a breath before nearly shouting, "She tried to kill Mitchell."
George's eyes had grown wider as she had spoken and now he looked to be at a proper level of panic. "We've got to find Nina."
The fastest way to search the building was to split up. George had been against the idea, but when Annie pointed out that no one else but Nina could even see her, he relented. There was also the matter that they did not know if there were any other werewolves being tested, and so both were on the lookout for more test subjects.
As Annie moved through the halls, calling for Nina, or anyone that could hear her, she would occasionally catch a glimpse of movement from the corner of her eye. When she would turn to look, there was never anyone there, but the idea still put her on edge. She moved through the compound faster.
The lights still flickered and the number of staff began to dwindle, but she was too focused on her search to notice. It was not until she entered the room with Father Kemp and Hennessey that she realized her mistake. Werewolves were not the only ones that could hear her.
"She's here, sir." The psychic could feel her presence, but could not see her. It was unnerving.
Then Father Kemp smiled and began to talk and she found herself reassessing her opinion of what it was to be truly unnerved.
George had found Nina, and then the flaw in his and Annie's plan. They had not thought to set a time or place to meet back up. As the two werewolves ran through the compound, he spotted a room filled with screens. Skidding to a halt, he backtracked to find the security station unmanned.
It was a moment later that Nina joined him and they scanned the monitors together.
They saw no signs of other werewolves, though what they did find was more terrifying. The bloody remains of more than one person was on display for anyone to see. As the screens cycled through the different cameras, they counted the translucent outline of five different ghosts. Annie, and four that were dressed in the standard gown of a patient.
"Oh my god, that's Tully." George could not believe his eyes. Not only was the man who had turned him dead, but his ghost was haunting the building they were in. Four ghosts were haunting the building. Four people, four werewolves had died here, and they were out for blood. The realization renewed his urgency.
"Come on." he reached for Nina's hand, intent of finding Annie and getting them all out of there.
"George." Nina pulled him up short, her eyes still fixed to the screen. "Something's happening."
He returned his attention to the screen, watching transfixed as Kemp killed a man, as a door appeared where no door should be. He cried out as Annie fought not to be sucked into the abyss of the other side. But there was nothing that either of them could do.
Mitchell sat, still strapped to the chair that was bolted to the floor. From one second to the next he was asleep and then in agony. If he could not see that his insides were still intact he would have believed them to have been torn out. Annie flashed through his mind, screaming for help, clawing at the ground as she was dragged from the world. His throat had healed from his earlier shouting, but now he shredded his vocal cords with her name. He fought at the restraints that held him, rubbing his wrists past raw. He knew that it was too late, that she was already gone, and yet he still fought to break free, to do something, anything, that would bring her back.
When George and Nina found him, he was still bound. Pools of his own blood puddled under each arm and his face was smeared with red. There were teeth marks in his skin around the wrist cuffs where he had tried to break free.
"She's gone." his voice was flat and empty. There was nothing left in him, it had all been taken away with Annie.
Nina stayed in the doorway to his room, not daring to venture further, but George knelt in front of Mitchell, unknowingly taking the place that Annie had been in not so long ago.
He laid one hand over the blood drenched binding of Mitchell's wrist. "We have to go. They know where we live and we have to go now." Slowly, he began to undo the cuff. "I'm going to let you out and you're going to come with us." He paused before freeing the first hand and waited until Mitchell had met his stare. "Annie said that you were under control now. I can trust that, yeah?"
Mitchell's hands fisted at the mention of her name, but he nodded his consent. George finished with the first cuff and moved to the other. When both were free he helped Mitchell to stand for the first time in days. There was a bit of a wobble at first, but they steadied and Mitchell's face hardened into an unforgiving mask.
"The address." He did not need to clarify. He did not truly need George to answer. He had been a hunter now for near on a century, he could find the ones responsible, of that he had no doubt.
"Mitchell, no." George moved to block the door, as if that would be enough to stop the man.
"They killed her, George." His voice had started quiet, but grew in volume as he continued. "They took her away from us."
George did his best to stay calm, perhaps hoping that would be enough to dissolve the tension in the room. "She wouldn't want this. You know she wouldn't."
Mitchell screwed his eyes shut, pressing on them with the palms of his hands. It was too much, it was all too much too soon after coming down from the blood. He shouted out his pain and frustration, bringing down his hands in fists and shaking with rage. "They killed her."
Still keeping a reasonable tone, George stood his ground. "And this is how you're going to honour her? If you want to kill, if you want to rip away every last shred of humanity, then fine." his voice was a quiet hiss. "But don't you dare do it in Annie's name."
He was right and that ate at Mitchell all the more. He could imagine her in George's place, saying the same thing.
"They're the monsters," George finally moved from the doorway to stand in front of Mitchell, "not us."
How he decided to proceed had the feel of a test to it. Did he strike out for vengeance, or submit to George's request. His road to redemption, that was what Annie had called it. He thought of her, and his decision was made.
"We lost her."
They both moved to embrace the other and Mitchell remembered that he was not the only one to have lost Annie.
"I know," George's voice was muffled by Mitchell's shoulder, "but we still have each other."
This is the end, for now. I may revisit this later to continue with Series 3, but I have GOT to finish my Hobbit fic(s) first. I just do.