Midnight. The Witching Hour. Whoever claimed it was a time of power for all supernatural creatures was talking out their arse. Annie felt the same as always: dead yet strangely alive.
The paradox of being a ghost.
Her new existence—courtesy of a fall down the stairs—was different than she'd imagined. Annie had seen films where spirits walked through walls and moved objects with the power of the mind. Those skills seemed natural in a supernatural sort of way. It was how real things were that was unexpected.
She had the ability to become solid. She could see, hear, and touch. And while physical touch was limited to objects and certain people, Annie still felt blessed. Her senses connected her to the world. They allowed her presence to impact others. She didn't take that for granted anymore.
When she died and her fiancé Owen moved out, the pain of being alone and unheard made her bitter. She drove away every tenant until Mitchell and George let the place. Like her, they weren't human.
Mitchell was a vampire, George, a werewolf. Their friendship was cemented by a shared resolve to fight inner demons. Annie enjoyed their company, she could talk to Mitchell about anything and share a laugh. George bickered with her like a brother. Having them in the house gave her a feeling of contentment that eroded when Mitchell invited George's new friend to stay. Tully was a werewolf who embraced his animal side. His smooth talk was amusing, at first, until she realised his words were aimed at getting a leg over. When she didn't respond, flattery became verbal abuse. He tried to assault her.
She teleported out of reach, and George eventually kicked Tully out, but Annie's peace was shattered. Hateful words kept echoing in her head. By the time the clock struck twelve she could stand it no longer.
Mitchell opened his door seconds after she knocked. An understanding smile creased his deceptively youthful face. "Been a rough day, hasn't it?" He drew her close for a hug.
His body had a lean strength that was comforting. "It wasn't all bad," she said, "Thanks to you."
"I should've spoken up before." Mitchell ran a soothing hand down her back.
Annie wanted to kiss his cheek but didn't. Earlier she'd tried such a move and ended up kissing his mouth. She'd explained that she was going for his cheek, but if she accidentally brushed his lips again he might get the wrong idea.
She dropped her arms to her side. "He won't stink up the bathroom anymore," she said, referring to one of Mitchell's complaints about Tully.
"It wasn't only that. He made the house reek of wet dog."
Annie retained vivid memories of tastes and smells. She crinkled her nose. "Eww. Does George ever smell like that?"
"Nah. He thinks cleanliness is next to human-ness."
"Or he has OCD."
Mitchell's dark eyes sparkled impishly. "George in therapy. That would be interesting. I can almost hear him shriek, 'I know the cause of it, I'm a bloody werewolf!'"
His Irish accent turned veddy British when he mimicked George. Annie admired his talent. "You were an extra in Casablanca. What other acting have you done?"
"All the world's a stage when you're a vampire." He didn't give further details.
Annie took the hint. "So," she said, "The other day you said you were looking for a certain kind of socks." It wasn't a brilliant change of topic, but it worked. Mitchell relaxed.
"Yeah," he said, "I found them. Come in, I'll show you." He went to the chest of drawers and took out a pair of black striped socks. "They're made to stay cool when you're hot and keep you warm when you're cold."
An important quality for a vampire with low body temperature. She noticed he wore a matching pair on his feet. They coordinated with his black striped pyjama bottoms. "You'll be toasty tonight, then." Her gaze strayed to the bed.
"I can't afford to buy everything new after a full moon smash up. The headboard's from a charity shop." When she gave him a blank look, Mitchell asked, "Weren't you going to say it obviously didn't come from IKEA?"
"No. I was noticing that the mattress is quite . . . roomy."
"It's a standard double."
"Really? I think two people could sleep and not be cramped." She gathered her courage and said, "I'd lie on my side. I wouldn't take up much space."
Mitchell put his hands on her shoulders. "What's going on, Annie?"
"You said it would do me good to sleep." The need to escape hurtful memories outweighed her fear of bad dreams. "I want to, I'm just not used to sleeping alone, and—"
"Which side of the bed do you want?"
She was so relieved she answered without thinking, "The one furthest from the door."
For an instant, his hands tightened, and then he turned toward the bed. "All I ask is that you not steal the covers."
It had been a long time since she'd lain in bed with a man. Owen always sprawled out on his stomach, or turned away from Annie. Mitchell rested on his side, facing her.
"I had a chance to play Hamlet once," he said, almost to himself. "Shakespeare in the park. Evening performances, indoor rehearsals, it would've been perfect."
Annie waited for him to tell her what went wrong.
Finally, he said, "And then someone got the idea to use photos of the cast on the playbill."
A vampire's image couldn't be captured on film or in a mirror. "I'm sorry."
"I wasn't sad, I was pissed off. All those lines memorised for nothing." His tone was uncaring.
He didn't fool her, she knew how missed opportunities hurt. "Did you have a favourite soliloquy?"
"Oh yes." After a pause, he said, "Tis the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world." His voice was low and hard. "Now could I drink hot blood and do such bitter business as the day would quake to look on." He chuckled mirthlessly. "I'm better than Kenneth Branagh, yeah?"
She made herself smile so he would hear it. "Better than Keanu Reeves."
"The Matrix bloke played Hamlet?" Mitchell scoffed. "My excellent good friends," he said, imitating Reeve's American accent.
She giggled, which set him off. It felt cleansing to laugh.
"Goodnight, my excellent good friend," Mitchell said at last.
Annie closed her eyes. "Goodnight."
Eventually, her body grew heavy and an image formed in her mind and played out like a scene in a classic film.
The nightclub was posh, verging on decadent. The clientele was a sophisticated mix of Europeans in fancy dress, Moroccans in silks, and Turks wearing fezzes. She wasn't there to gamble or listen to music. Matters of life and death were at stake. When the orchestra's singer wheeled his rolling piano to her table, however, nothing could have stopped her from requesting a song.
"I can't remember it," the piano player said.
She hummed it for him.
Reluctantly, he began to sing.
The music brought a man storming into the gambling room. His fury drained away when he saw her.
She stared at him in confusion. The man's face was younger and more handsome than she'd expected. His hair was tied back, his white dinner jacket elegantly tailored to his lean frame. She rose to her feet. "Hello," she said, ignoring a tiny voice that whispered she was supposed to wait for him to greet her first. She would do what she damned well pleased.
"Hello. Would you care to dance?"
"I'd love to." She asked the piano player to play As Time Goes By one more time.
Annie opened her eyes when someone chuckled.
"Feck, I woke you, I'm sorry." Mitchell's hair was tousled, his eyes merry as he said, "You were humming."
His face was too close. She sat up. "I was?"
"Yeah. Badly. I couldn't figure out the tune." He rolled out of bed. "How do you feel, Miss just-proved-ghosts-can-sleep?"
He stood grinning down at her. "I told you so."
"Know it all." She aimed a playful kick at his leg and felt material slide against skin.
"Where are your boots?" Mitchell asked. "I've never seen you without them."
It was the dream. She'd taken off her shoes to dance on the moonlit sands.
"They're back," he said. "Did you do that on purpose? I wasn't going to grab your foot and tickle it. Much."
The grey Ugg boots had vanished and materialised without deliberate concentration. Annie frowned. Was her subconscious that powerful? If she felt sexy, would her clothes fall off? The thought of Mitchell asking, "Where are your knickers?" made her want to sink through the floor.
She inwardly rolled her eyes. Dreams didn't mean anything, her clothes were staying on, and Mitchell was her friend. Her excellent and good friend. "Thank you," she said, and teleported.
When Mitchell walked into the kitchen a few minutes later, she handed him a cup of tea.
A/N: After seeing numerous commercials for Being Human on BBC America, I read a couple of articles, a fan fic or two, and finally broke down and started watching the prequels and a couple of episodes on youtube...which immediately made me want to write a story! Harry Potter readers know I have a dragon-sized soft spot for werewolves, :D, but here it was the budding relationship between a ghost and a vampire that fired my imagination. Will they ever get together in the series? Time will tell. All I know is that I had fun writing what happened behind the scenes in Episode 2.
I also enjoyed using quotes from As You Like It, Hamlet, and Casablanca.
If readers enjoy the story, I'd appreciate hearing about it. Review-lust isn't as dark a craving as blood lust, but there are disturbing similarities, like the use of carbohydrates as a substitute. I'll have to check to see if my eyes turn black. ;)