AN: One of my best friends and I were talking and it turned me into planning this one shot. I may or may not write more for this fandom, but I had to write this before I could get back to any of my other projects. The title is inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, but that's pretty much the only similarity. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a review!
Growing up, Mitchell's family hadn't been wealthy enough to afford any kind of portrait or photograph of themselves to hang on the wall above the fireplace - in fact, they hadn't been wealthy enough to even afford a fireplace. But that didn't bother Mitchell. He saw his family every day and saw himself in mirrors and reflections, so what did they need a family portrait for? Young boys didn't have a need for such things.
It was only upon being sent off to fight in a war that he barely felt barely old enough to take part in that Mitchell wished he had a picture of his family to keep in his pocket like so many of the other men in his company did. As far as Mitchell could remember, the picture of himself in his Army uniform was the only image of himself that he had ever held.
Mitchell never got the chance to see himself in any other portrait.
As the years went on and on, the faces of his family became blurred, less recognizable. It was on the day that his mother would have turned 100 years old - had she been alive, had she been like him - that Mitchell realized he could no longer see her face in his mind. He could vaguely recall black curly hair, much like his own, but nothing else. Mitchell cried that day.
It wasn't long after that that Mitchell realized he no longer knew what even he looked like. He hadn't kept a copy of his military portrait, and he hadn't seen himself in the mirror for decades upon decades. Out of the corner of his eye he could get a glimpse of his black curls, and he knew that he was a bit tan for a vampire, but he'd long forgotten the color of his eyes. Mitchell would guess they were brown, based on his hair color and skin tone, but he had no way of knowing. Throughout his decades, it remained true that women and an increasing number of men found him attractive, but that was as far as his knowledge of his own appearance went. There was no mirror that could show him, nor a camera that could provide the answers.
Normally, none of this bothered Mitchell all that much. He had much more important things to angst about than forgetting what he looked like, even though that inescapable truth roared its ugly head every single day. He'd told a date one time that he couldn't use a public toilet unless he were alone, which was true, but his reasoning had been a lie. It wasn't out of having a shy bladder, like he'd told her, but because there were mirrors in every loo. Mitchell couldn't take the chance that someone would notice that he cast no reflection as he washed his hands. Keeping his secret was a full time job.
The fact that he'd killed more people than he could count and spent every waking moment trying to fight the urge to kill again was much more important than his vanity, and yet, it still hurt every time he caught a glimpse of George in the mirror. George could see himself. Annie could see herself too, even if others couldn't see her. But Mitchell couldn't see himself. Mitchell couldn't even remember what he looked like, and that wasn't fair. Why, on top of everything else that he was cursed with, did he have to forget his own face?
"Are you alright there, mate?" George asked him from the doorway. George had been talking to him about- well, about something, but Mitchell hadn't been paying much attention once he finished brushing his teeth. He'd just been glaring at the mirror, reflecting only the cabinets behind him. It was infuriating. It wasn't fair. It mocked him, reminding him every day that he was a monster.
Before he could stop himself, Mitchell let his fist fly towards the mirror, smashing into it with a loud crash as the mirror shattered.
"Mitchell, what the hell?" George exclaimed, rushing towards him, but Mitchell just brushed past him without a word, not bothering to clean up the mess of the broken glass or his bloody hand. His own blood didn't send him into the same frenzy that the blood of humans did, so he was content to let it bleed, and let the pain be a reminder of what he was.
He needed to get out for a bit.
"Is everything all right? Why do you look so grumpy?" Annie asked, appearing beside him as he reached the bottom of the stairs. She was as chipper as she always was, but this time, it only made Mitchell more bitter. One day, Annie would finally move on to the next world, and George would age and die just like a human, leaving Mitchell alone once again, and in time, he would forget what they looked like too. George and Annie would just become fading memories, something he would never again behold, just like his own face.
Mitchell just shook his head in lieu of replying and moved to put on his coat, keeping his hand hidden from her view.
"Wait, if you're going out, at least let me fix your hair a bit," Annie said, trailing off a bit at the end as she skipped over to him and began to move a few locks of his curls from one side to the other. Mitchell sighed, but let her. "There we go," she happily exclaimed, moving back once she was done, her own curls as perfect as they always were. "That's better."
"It's not as if I would know," Mitchell grumbled. "Can't exactly look in the mirror, or even remember my own bloody face." He turned away from her as he pulled his gloves on. "I'm goin' out for a smoke and a pint." Mitchell shook his head and stepped out into the dreary day. At least the English weather seemed to understand how he felt.
Annie remained stock still for a few moments after Mitchell left.
"What is goin' on with him?" George asked as he slowly made his way down the stairs. "He just destroyed the mirror in the loo."
Annie looked over at George in surprise and concern. Part of her wanted to race after Mitchell, but she knew that the vampire would rather be alone. He preferred to stew a bit, but if he wasn't out of his funk by the time he returned, Annie was going to investigate the problem, whether Mitchell wanted her to or not. They were a family, and Annie was not going to let Mitchell angst alone for very long.
"I know he's not exactly fond of mirrors but I've never seen him get quite so worked up about it before," George added with a shake of his head.
Annie could feel her face falling as all the pieces slid into place, forming one coherent picture of what she imagined was going through Mitchell's mind. It was heartbreaking, and something she'd never even considered.
"He said he couldn't remember his own face," she said softly. "And I don't think he was joking."
George scoffed. "How could someone forget their own face?"
"Well it's not like he's seen it in, what, ninety-two years?" Annie pointed out. "Everyone else sees their own face in the mirror and in pictures every day, but Mitchell hasn't seen himself in ninety years. I don't think it's too far fetched to say that maybe he doesn't remember what he looks like anymore." She crossed her arms and gave George her best glare, but even that was only half-hearted. Mitchell was George's best friend, his brother. Of course George didn't want to consider such a heartbreaking reality for someone he cared so deeply about.
Finally, George sighed. "I suppose you may be right," he admitted with a shrug. "But there's not exactly any way we can change that. I don't know if you forgot, but there's no magic mirrors or cameras that will work on vampires." As intriguing as the idea of a magic camera or mirror was, Annie had a much more practical idea, and frankly, she was surprised that someone as genius as George hadn't thought of it.
"Come on, people still had portraits before cameras existed," she said, giving George a knowing look. She knew about his secret artistic talent that he didn't want anyone to know about. All it took was one notebook left on the floor while Annie was tidying up for that secret to be revealed. George's artwork was incredible. The landscapes he created, the emotions he captured, the beauty he was able to reveal, it nearly brought Annie to tears. A quick look through the notebook proved that George could draw people as well as he could draw the White Cliffs of Dover. There had been several drawings of the three of them in that notebook, but Annie was going to request an entirely new portrait of Mitchell, and she knew that George could deliver.
Slowly, the realization dawned on George's face. "No," he firmly stated. "I am not going to draw a portrait of my best mate because he's been grumpy, that's so...so... Men don't do that," he claimed, although he was whining more like a child than an adult man.
"And why shouldn't they?" Annie genuinely asked. "You just said he's your best mate. You love him. That should be reason enough to do this for him. What if you forgot what your own face looked like? Think how devastating that must be." Annie took a few steps closer to George as she felt more and more emboldened. She wasn't about to let George worm his way out of doing this because he didn't feel masculine about it. "Men should be strong and help others. They should be strong enough to let themselves be emotional and be there for their mates. Or are you not man enough to be a good friend?" She put her hands on her hips and gave him a real glare. Annie was not going to lose this argument. There was so much that Mitchell went through on a daily basis that neither she nor George could ever even hope to understand. Doing this to help him was truly the least they could do.
"Fine," George grumbled, drawing the out the word like a whine. Annie jumped up excitedly with a bright smile. "But you can't tell anyone about this," he said, pointing a finger.
Annie rolled her eyes. "Who am I gonna tell? People can't see me." George stood there for a moment, then nodded in concession as he realized his blunder. "So get to it," Annie encouraged him, even pushing him along a bit.
"Alright, alright," George said, then continued to grumble under his breath about how much he didn't want to do it. Annie would let him do that. He could grumble all he wanted, but this was happening, and grumbling wasn't going to change that.
Watching George work was truly remarkable. For the longest time, it was silent, save for the sounds of the pencil dancing across the thick paper as George sketched out what would become a portrait of Mitchell. It took form rather quickly, Mitchell's distinctive curls and strong jaw making the portrait immediately recognizable as their friend, even unfinished.
Eventually, Annie couldn't keep her thoughts to herself any longer. She wasn't exactly known for being quiet.
"That looks great, but make sure you get the stubble just right," she commented, pointing down at the portrait.
"Yes, yes, I know what I'm doin'," George dismissed, continuing to fill in Mitchell's eyebrows.
"Don't make them too thick," she warned.
"They're not," George insisted. "I live with him too, I know what he looks like."
Annie stayed quiet for another few minutes, until the portrait was nearly complete.
"You really just need to capture the essence of his tortured soul," she said. George halted his pencil mid-stroke, and looked up at her in incredulity.
"'Capture the essence of his tortured soul'?" he repeated. "And how do you suggest I do that? I'm not Titian, you know," George muttered, but nevertheless, he went back to Mitchell's eyes, making them more detailed and expressive.
A few moments later, and he was done. The portrait was beautiful, capturing who Mitchell truly was better than any camera or mirror ever could, even if the man were human. It was better than Annie could've ever dreamed it would be.
"George, it's beautiful," she said reverently, almost in a whisper. Her earlier joking criticisms were gone, for the drawing was truly a masterpiece, both lifelike and emotional. "You should be proud of yourself."
"It's nothing," George replied with a shrug. "I've drawn him before, all three of us even," he admitted, but he wouldn't meet Annie's eyes. She didn't say anything about it. Annie knew George well enough to know that he was indeed just as upset at the fact that they could never get a picture of the three of them together like a normal family could. Annie could see herself in a mirror, but cameras didn't work for her just as they didn't work for Mitchell. A drawing or painting was the only way that they would ever have a physical copy of the three of them together. George knew that just as well as she did, and, despite his act at not caring that much, clearly wanted a way to remedy it.
"He is going to love it," Annie said. How could anyone not?
Annie was practically vibrating with excitement until Mitchell returned almost an hour later. He was playing at being fine, flashing her a fake smile as he stepped inside and hung up his coat. It didn't reach his eyes, the way his true smiles did. His beautiful brown eyes didn't light up with joy the way that they would if he were truly happy, and he turned away far too quickly. Annie thrust the cup of tea she was holding into Mitchell's hands - one of which was bound in gauze - not even bothering to ask him if he wanted any.
"George and I figured out what's been going on with you-."
"Nothing's been going on with me," Mitchell interrupted, but there was no fire in his voice like there usually was when he was actually trying to sound persuasive. He just sounded tired.
"I think we all know that's not true," Annie continued in a kind voice. She gave him a soft smile and rest her hand on his arm, giving it a gentle squeeze. She'd always been a very tactile person, and being a ghost had really made that difficult. Mitchell and George, both being supernatural creatures themselves, were the only people she could embrace, and Annie took every advantage of that. "But I came up with a solution, and George was kind enough to help me out."
George shuffled in from the kitchen, where he had been doing the dishes. He grabbed the notebook off the table and brought it over to Annie and Mitchell.
"I drew this for you," George said softly, not meeting Mitchell's eyes. He tore the page from the journal and held it out to Mitchell. Annie beamed as Mitchell's tired expression slowly changed into one of shock and disbelief.
"This- this is me?" he asked them, visibly struggling to remain in control of what was likely a myriad of emotions. Mitchell smiled one moment, his eyes tearing up the next. "You drew me? I didn't even know you could draw."
"Yeah, that's the ugly mug we see every day," George said with a nervous chuckle that Mitchell joined. "And I didn't want anyone to know, but Annie still found out."
"Now you have a way to remember," Annie said with a slight shrug, ignoring George's comment. "It's certainly not a face that I would ever want to forget." If she were still alive, Annie would have been blushing, but she met Mitchell's eyes nonetheless. They were filled with joy and love, and they were beautiful.
"Thank you," Mitchell said, regaining a bit more control of his emotions. "Thank you both. I don't even know what to say."
"Just say you won't try to carry everything alone," Annie immediately replied. "We're a family, and we're here for each other, no matter what."
George nodded. "Yeah, what she said," he echoed. "You're my best mate, and I care about you. I don't care how that sounds, it's the truth." He nodded a bit more vigorously, as if reaffirming to himself that it was true and he was still a man for saying it.
"Well thank you, very much," Mitchell repeated.
"It was the least we could do," Annie added, smiling again and grabbing Mitchell's hand. She began to pull him towards the kitchen. "Now it's your turn to dry the dishes," she said as Mitchell laughed behind her.
"You can go ahead and just finish washing them too if you'd like," George added, joining them in the kitchen, though his voice showed how doubtful he found the notion.
Nevertheless, George and Mitchell finished the dishes together, while Annie made more tea that no one was planning on drinking. They fell quickly back into their usual patterns of banter, the smile barely ever leaving Mitchell's face. The beautiful drawing was sitting on the table, but Annie was already planning on framing it for Mitchell. Maybe she could even convince George to let her hang one of the pictures of the three of them that he had drawn. George and Mitchell were her family, and they deserved a family portrait just as much as anyone else.
It broke her heart to know that one day, Mitchell wasn't going to have their family anymore. Eventually, George would grow old and die, and surely Annie would find her way to the next world by then as well. Mitchell would be alone once again, spending eternity at age twenty-four. Already George had grown older than him, older than Mitchell would ever be. There was nothing Annie could do stop that from happening, but if she could give Mitchell a way to remember them as the centuries passed, then she was going to fight tooth and nail to make it happen. Annie smirked at George behind his back - he and Mitchell were currently arguing over the most efficient towel to use to dry the dishes. She had many more drawings that she would commission, whether George liked it or not. Because they were a family, and that's what family did.