Seeing as George had an IQ of 156 and an affinity for languages, it was no surprise that occasionally he felt the need to do a bit of writing. Mostly pointless stuff, really; he had a diary which he was constantly trying to hide from Mitchell. But he'd written a couple of poems for Nina back in the day, and one for Sam which he'd ripped up because it was terrible, and a rather charming look at the ethics of euthanasia which had scared Annie quite thoroughly.

Anyway, Nina had entirely taken over the desk in their room, so George's little notebook had no home. And although George was the sort of person who liked everything in its proper place, it did end up one day on the table in the kitchen, opposite the TV through which Annie hadn't yet sent her final message. It was to this table that Mitchell made his way one cold morning, wrapped up in his customary layers, studiously ignoring their battered kettle.

And it just so happened that the last thing George had felt the need to scribble down in his unbearably neat hand the night before was a short verse. Mitchell stared at it for a minute, still standing, glowering at this score of words as if they were a personal insult.

Doors should not be opened,
Hearts should not be broken,
Eyes should not have cried,
The dead should never die.

Why the hell did his housemate have to have such a way with words, eh? Why the hell did he have to be able to do that?

And why the hell did he have the right to write about him crying?

However much Mitchell might storm and rage over his own transgressions, however much he might weep about his own failures, he was a twentieth century lad, a soldier who didn't cry when he lost someone. No, he was the man who stayed strong for everyone else. In war you lost your friends every day if not more often, and Mitchell's life was one long war. In battle, you didn't have time to waste in mourning, and Mitchell's life was one long battle.

Why the fuck could he not stop crying?

Sometimes, he could kid himself that he was just crying over his own guilt. Because it was his fault that Annie was dead. Gone, on the other side, whatever you'd call it. If he'd just been there, he could have stopped it, he knew. Maybe Annie wouldn't have felt the need to go; maybe he could've dragged her back.

But he wasn't crying because it was his fault. Obviously he felt terrible that it was his fault—god-awful guilt plagued him every second of every minute of every day—but that wasn't what made him break down in private and in company, in this rotting house and outside it, in thirst and in hunger.

He was crying because he missed her.

Not her cheerful chatter, filling the silences. Not the ubiquitous mugs of tea, littering the house. Not her boundless pacifism that sometimes drew him back out of that incessant war. Not her company that was so free of temptation because her beautiful veins weren't pulsing with hot, glorious blood.

Her. Annie. Ghost, friend, believer. His Annie.

He did look on her as his, if he were honest with himself. His to protect when she needed protecting, his to hold when she needed holding. And his to protect him, to protect him from himself. She did that without even trying, just by being so beautifully, humanly Annie. How could he be a vampire in her presence?

But of course he had. The last thing he said to her, and it wasn't him. God, what a legacy.

He sat down at the wretched table, crumpling pathetically.

Doors should not be opened,
Hearts should not be broken,
Eyes should not have cried,
The dead should never die.

No, the dead should die and stay dead. He should have died back at somewhere-in-France, back in the days when he was an accomplished soldier, a young Sergeant-Major who put his men first, one of those Irish who were looking forward to Home Rule, who told his men that the revolts back home were just a blip, that it'd all turn out fine in the end.

It would have been far easier just to die back then.

And Annie should have died when she fell, no, when she was pushed down the stairs in what had been going to be her marital home. She should have escaped Owen there and then; it shouldn't have been her task to neutralise him. She should have passed over peacefully, fully believing that she was going to a good place. She shouldn't have been dragged out, screaming all the way, thinking that he'd abandoned her.

He would never have met her, and that would be better. Fuck all the romantic ideas that the time with her outweighed the pain now. It didn't, because he knew that she must be so scared and alone and thinking that he'd abandoned her entirely.

When she'd gone, he'd heard her voice as clearly as if she'd been screaming in his ear. She'd called out for George, and that hurt almost as much as the fact that she was screaming at all.

It didn't outweigh it, because he'd seen death in that interminable interim between humanity and vampirism. He'd seen the men with sticks and rope and black, black feathers on their black, black wings.

Doors should not be opened,
Hearts should not be broken,
Eyes should not have cried,
The dead should never die.

Ah, why the hell did George have the right to make the assumption that his heart was broken? For God's sake he was a cold-blooded killer in every sense of the phrase, a murderer of the worst kind, the kind that didn't even know his victims' names. Who was to say that he even had a heart? And if he did, surely it was a bloody rock, weighing him down uselessly.

Annie didn't have a heartbeat, either. Nor did either of them need to breathe. On those comfortable evenings curled up on the sofa together, it had been so remarkably peaceful. No pounding in the chest, no continual shifting of the body to take in air. No burning heat, no omnipresent ticking clock. The tranquillity of death, or rather an absence of life.

They didn't have working hearts, that much was irrefutable. But no one who knew Annie could have called her heartless. God, it was incomprehensible. She was so full of love, that dead young girl, in ways that thousands of humans with actively beating hearts could never be. If Mitchell let himself remember, he couldn't deny that he'd fallen in love before, and if he were ruthlessly honest, he thought that he would fall in love again. No, he wasn't heartless, not really.

That didn't mean he had to admit it, and it certainly didn't mean that George had the right to speculate.

Speak of the devil and he will appear. With girlfriend in tow.

George ignored Mitchell as he always did in the mornings, making his way sleepily over to the cupboard where the cornflakes were kept while Nina went straight for the coffee. She had less kettle-related trauma than the boys.

"Morning," she said in her naturally matter of fact way. That voice hid a multitude of emotions, sometimes.

Mitchell didn't respond. In days gone by, he might have pushed the notebook away, flipped it closed and started a conversation on a completely different topic. Today, he didn't have the energy.

"Morning, Nina, how are you? Oh, I'm fine thanks Mitchell, and you? Oh, I'm exactly the same as I have been the last three weeks, thanks, Nina, so in fact there's no point talking to me and you're wasting your time trying to be polite," Nina continued as she filled the kettle.

Even in these past three weeks, Mitchell would normally have retorted with something along the lines of 'couldn't have put it better myself'. Consequently this drew George's attention.

"What's wrong?" he asked, turning back with the box clutched in his hand.

When he saw the notebook, he turned just a little paler than he already was, thanks to their dodgy boiler.

"What gives you the right, George?" Mitchell muttered.

George blinked. "What? It's just a poem."

Forgetting that he too had originally come down for breakfast, Mitchell pushed away from the table, his chair scraping with a hideous sound, and left for his desolate room.

Nina watched him go, then put down the kettle and went over to the table.

"Oh, don't—" George protested, half-heartedly.

Being Nina, she ignored him entirely, scanning the poem once, then reading it more thoroughly.

Doors should not be opened,
Hearts should not be broken,
Eyes should not have cried,
The dead should never die.

"Who's it about?" she asked, still staring at the page.

George watched her intently. "It's, um, all of us. Well, me and Mitchell more than you. Um, not that that means you didn't love Annie, but…"

"It's fine, George," she reassured him. Closing the topic, she set the notebook aside. "Coffee?"


Half an hour later, she'd successfully packed George off job-hunting and gone up to Mitchell's room bearing coffee. She'd learnt the hard way not to make tea for anyone.

She set the mug down on his half empty chest of drawers and sat down next to him on the bed where he was staring into space.

"You loved her."

Nina had been a ward sister before life went to pot. She knew when to start a conversation gently, and when people just needed telling it straight.

That didn't mean Mitchell had to like it.

"Go away, Nina," he said in a lethargic manner.

"No."

She took the notebook out from her pocket.

"I'm more a science person than a literature person, but to me, that poem is fairly inoffensive. And I think it is inoffensive, unless you believe that it's written specifically about you, and that the writer shouldn't know you felt like that."

His silence told her that she was right more than any words would have done. She set the book down on the bed.

"Now, you know George. He can barely see his own relationships, let alone anyone else's. So however you felt about Annie, then you can take it from me that he hasn't a clue. He wrote that poem about both of you."

"I didn't love her."

Nina paused for a moment, because she really didn't know if that were true. Of course, she knew that he had loved Annie because otherwise why would he be so cut up? But she didn't know whether they had been in love. They certainly hadn't been lovers (was that even possible for ghosts?) but perhaps they'd loved each other just that little bit too much and had never admitted it. Perhaps Mitchell honestly thought that he saw her no differently than he saw George.

"Well, that's none of my business," she said aloud. "I'm just telling you that George wouldn't have a clue even if you did."

"Thanks for the hint," he responded in a manner that would have been sarcastic had he had more energy.

"You're welcome," she replied, and made to leave. But by the doorframe she stopped.

"What?" he asked dully.

She took a breath. "If Annie hadn't been pulled in, would she have been immortal? Or whatever the equivalent is for someone who's already dead?"

His eyes, which had been gazing at a hole in the floorboard, finally focused on her. "Yeah," he managed. "Essentially, yeah."

"Like you." It wasn't a question. "Would you want to die? Now, a thousand years in the future when you'd seen everything, done everything, and got all the futuristic t-shirts, whenever."

He looked at her like she was insane. "Nina, you saw Annie being pulled in on the screen, yeah?"

She nodded.

"You saw her grabbing at the frame, trying to drag herself back, screaming?"

This time, she didn't bother.

"Why the hell would I want to go somewhere like that?"

Most people would leave it there, but Nina fixed him with a sharp look. "You've seen death, I know you have. You died back in the Great War. But you only ever saw the gateway. What if it's not all like that?"

He didn't flinch. "Then the gateway's hell enough. Thanks for the coffee."

It was a clear dismissal. She gave up, shutting the door behind her.

Mitchell picked up the notebook she'd forgotten and flicked to the last page again. He shouldn't have told her anything about death. It was a cardinal unspoken rule, that the dead kept secrets from the living, but when he was feeling like this, he couldn't bring himself to care. She'd find out eventually, anyway.

Doors should not be opened,
Hearts should not be broken,
Eyes should not have cried,
The dead should never die.