With Valentine's day coming up, I thought I'd branch out from writing Mitchell and see if I can capture the three voices. This is light-hearted for me - I'm normally all about the angst. Set early in series 1 as I needed Annie to still be fixating on Owen. I'm mulling over a series 3 fic, though, so watch this space. Well, not this space, but another very like it...
Mitchell got back from work to find George and Annie at the kitchen table, glaring at each other across a basket of roses. Each looked up and acknowledged his presence, but maintained a stony silence with the other. Mitchell slung his leather jacket over the back of a chair and sat down beside them.
"What's up? You two look like you're having a séance." He laid his hands on the table and intoned, "Is there anybody there?" His attempts at humour failed to break the tension and he looked from one to the other in puzzlement. "I've obviously walked in on something. Should I just go?" He jerked a thumb towards the door. "What's with the flowers, anyway?"
Annie sighed. "It's Valentine's Day, Mitchell. I know I've been dead a while, but when I was alive the shops were full of cards and fluffy bunnies and teddies holding hearts with 'I love you' on them from about the week after New Year. I can't imagine it's changed so very much since then. So have you been walking around with your eyes shut, or have you not noticed it at all?"
"Valentine's Day? Yeah, I've noticed, sorta. Don't have anyone to... you know... buy stuff for, or anything, so I ignore it mostly. Not really my thing." He turned to George. "Did you see that the pizza place are doing a Valentine's special? Two for one. Fancy phoning out later?"
"Maybe. A couple of pizzas, a few drinks, decent night on the telly – we could make an evening of it."
"Deal," grinned Mitchell. "I'll put some beers in the fridge."
Annie looked daggers at the pair of them – how had the subject changed to beer and pizza without her noticing - and tried to get the conversation back on track. "But about the roses. The dozen red roses..."
"Yeah, Annie, who are they from?"
"That's the problem," said George, "not only do we not know who they are from, we also don't know who they are to." He tossed an envelope over to Mitchell, who glanced quickly at the address on the front, then withdrew a card and read it.
" 'Happy Valentine's Day. Love you always.' Hmm, I see the problem. Doesn't narrow it down much, does it?"
"So do you know anyone who might have sent you roses?"
"I don't think anyone has ever sent me anything for Valentine's." He shrugged. "Can't think of anyone, anyway. God, what a sad arse I am. Spending the most romantic night of the year with you and a pizza."
"You see?" Annie looked triumphantly at George. "Mitchell doesn't have anyone who would send him roses. Which incidentally is pretty sad - over a hundred years old and never been sent any Valentine's gifts shows a remarkable lack of serious relationships. And before he arrived we established that you are also suffering from a tragic shortage of candidates for the phantom rose giver. Which leaves me."
"Annie, you're a ghost. Who would be sending a ghost flowers?"
George sighed deeply. "Annie is under the delusion that these flowers are from Owen."
Mitchell stared, open-mouthed. "Owen?" He looked at George, who shook his head almost imperceptibly and rolled his eyes.
"Roses. A dozen red roses. The traditional sign of love. You and George have nobody, whereas I have... had... Owen, who loved me very much. So obviously they are for me. To show he cares and is still thinking of me even though I am... well... dead. 'Always' you see?" She pointed to the word on the card still in Mitchell's gloved hand. "Not stopping when I die, but always."
"They were left on the doorstep." George raised an eyebrow, "Annie says she heard someone knock and looked out of the window but whoever it was had already gone, and when I came home from work the roses were on the doorstep."
"So why would Owen knock? I mean, he's not expecting you to answer the door, is he? And he's got his own key – it's his house after all. Wouldn't it be kinda weird for him to leave flowers with us? I mean, I can't give flowers to my dead girlfriend, so I'll give them to the two guys that live in my house? Seriously?"
Mitchell desperately wanted Annie to accept that the roses weren't from Owen. Owen was OK to have a beer or two with, but there was something about him that made Mitchell uneasy. He wasn't anywhere near good enough for Annie. And sending roses to a dead fiancée didn't seem Owen's style, especially since he had that new girlfriend – Janey, was it?
"Exactly. Owen is not going to bring you roses, Annie. Live with it." George winced at his unfortunate turn of phrase and Mitchell shot him a look that clearly said, "Live with it? Really?"
"So who are they for? You two failed Casanovas don't have anyone who would fork out the inflated Valentine's day prices for these. Owen is absolutely the only possibility."
"Come on, Mitchell. You must have dozens of women chasing you at the hospital," commented George, "All those hormone-laden nurses. One of them must have the hots for you."
Mitchell pulled at the edges of his fingerless gloves as he thought. "Well it could be Helen... no, scratch that, I indirectly insulted her mother, it wouldn't be her." His forehead creased in thought until he clicked his fingers and pointed triumphantly at George. "Yes! Yes! Emma in phlebotomy. Got to be her."
"Phlebotomy?" George's eyebrow raised again and so did his voice. "You are after someone in the phlebotomy department? God, Mitchell, that's like a recovering alcoholic chasing a barmaid."
"I am not chasing her!" Mitchell was indignant. "I just thought she might be useful, you know - if things get desperate and I need a bag of A positive in a hurry. Blood that's been sitting around in a fridge for a while doesn't satisfy like fresh does, of course, but it might keep me going in a pinch. And you never know when you might need someone who is handy at putting a line in."
Annie was looking a little green. "So you have cultivated this girl in case you need the vampire equivalent of fast food? That's sick, Mitchell. Even for you, that's sick."
"Thanks." He filled that single word with as much sarcasm as he could.
Further discussions of the rights and wrongs of Mitchell's in-hospital friendships were cut off by a tentative knock on the door. George glanced in its direction. "Are you expecting anyone?"
"Unless we ordered the pizza already and I forgot, then no."
George slid out from behind the table and unlatched the front door. A man stood there, jangling keys in his hand and shuffling from foot to foot. George had seen him before – had a vague feeling he lived up the road a bit, but he wasn't one of their near neighbours.
"Hi, mate. Listen, this is a bit awkward, but you didn't have something delivered here you weren't expecting, did you?"
"What sort of thing?" George's eyes narrowed behind his glasses and he could hear Annie and Mitchell turning to listen in the kitchen.
"I'd ordered a basket of flowers for my girlfriend, only I think the bloody florist has delivered them to the wrong place. Right dippy cow she was – should have known she'd mess something up. Red roses – cost me a packet. And the girlfriend's pissed off with me – thinks I didn't get her anything – got home tonight and got my tea chucked down my shirt." He opened his jacket to show a congealing mess of spaghetti bolognaise.
George chuckled. "Looks like something from a horror movie – entrails and stuff."
The man didn't look amused. "So have you got them, or not?"
George fetched the basket and the envelope from the kitchen and the man checked the envelope. "See. Does that look like an 8 to you? It's clearly a 3. Stupid bint. Cheers mate, now I might get some tea down the inside instead of the outside."
George and Mitchell exchanged worried glances as George returned to the kitchen. Annie swallowed hard, got up, smoothed down her cardigan and said with a false brightness, "Anyone fancy a cup of tea?"
Sitting on the sofa later Annie reflected on the day's events. She had got quite carried away with the Owen thing, she could admit now. She'd cried quietly into the washing up after the man took the flowers away, and Mitchell had put an arm round her and pulled her close, like he always did when she was down. He understood, she thought, more than George did, although George was a dear, sweet thing too.
George and Mitchell had eaten the pizza, had laughed about the silk rose that had accompanied it, and had settled into the corners of the sofa with a bottle of beer each. Mitchell had given Annie the rose, with a compassionate smile and no hint of mockery. He would have been entitled to laugh at her, she thought, given the idiot she'd made of herself.
She squeezed in between them, clutching a mug of tea. Not drinking it, just for something to do – her way of feeling more normal.
Annie smiled faintly. Most girls were spending Valentine's night cuddled up with one bloke: she had two. So different, yet both struggling to find a place to fit in. They were her family now. As if they could read her mind, George clasped her free hand and Mitchell laid a companionable hand on her arm and they watched TV like that, cosy and comfortable.
She glanced at the mantelpiece. Two cards: one with hearts and sweet sentiments of love and affection on the front and one with a red devil with a pitchfork and a corny joke inside. Both carefully slipped under her bedroom door early in the morning while she should have been sleeping but wasn't. And both read tearfully while they were at work.
Owen may not have remembered her but these guys had. Her best friends who wanted her to feel loved on Valentine's Day. Her boys.