There were many painful things that Mitchell had undergone in his lifetime. Hell, if you just looked at the last two years it was pretty bad. Hit by a car, not pleasant. Stake through the chest, quite uncomfortable.

It was nothing compared to this.

Ripping, tearing agony, screaming, shrieking torture, mindless. Oh God, he could hear her screaming, and he could feel the sound slashing through his own throat.

He'd seen death hundreds of times in his unnaturally long life. Those he never knew, those he should have known, those he knew better than he knew himself. Those who knew him: Josie sprang to mind, his first true love. There had been more.

When Josie died, it was for him. She gave him her blood to save his life, if indeed he could call it that, and he saw firsthand the pain in her eyes as she opened a vein and held it to his lips. The guilt was unbelievable, and the mental pain was hell.

But he didn't feel it like he felt this.

Desperate, desolate violence, terrified, fearful inevitability. Oh God, he could feel her nails scrabbling at the floor, and his own fingers jarred in protest.

Josie had given up life for him, but she'd already been dying. Annie (it hurts even to think her name; he's not sure he even does, he feels it instead) had given up her death for him, even though she was already dead.

When did he gain this connection to her? When she'd turned down that first door? Earlier, when he'd kissed her, accidentally? Later, when they'd stood in their kitchen and talked about family, both knowing that they'd never have anything so humanly mortal, those inhuman immortals?

Why does he feel it like this?

Hellish, satanic ice, frozen, glacial flames. Oh God, he could smell the stench of death as he hadn't for over eighty years, and he was suffering the same horror that paralysed her.

Why the hell hadn't she closed the door? Sykes had taught her, hadn't he? She'd done it before, hadn't she? God, couldn't she hold on?

But he knew, of course, because she knew. They knew that it was his fault. They knew that if Mitchell had known of her desire to pass over, then he would have begged her not to. They knew that if he had known of this agony, he would have moved heaven and earth to save her. They knew that if he hadn't been lost to the foul fragrance of blood, then she would have had something to stay for.

They knew that the slightest little loss of conviction was enough for her to lose.

For him to lose.

For them all to lose.

His mind shatters, his body crumbles, his soul implodes, and his heart?


That went with her.