Set say S2, Bristol.
Slouched on the black leather couch Mitchell forced a tight smile as he waved Annie off for another "training session" with Sykes. He wasn't particularly happy about this little arrangement at all, but he had been warned to back off and Annie was a force to be reckoned with on some occasions. And he needed Annie out the house for his plan to take place. Unfortunately sleeping beauty - in other words George - was still upstairs, but Mitchell had to take action on this rare opportunity.
His foot tapped impatiently on the wooden floor and he checked his watch for the umpteenth time as the seconds pushed slowly on. He waited a good five minutes to ensure the coast was clear and Annie would not make an unexpected reappearance – catching him off guard.
Satisfied, Mitchell returned to his bedroom and closed the door quietly, momentarily considering that he should really tidy his room somewhat. He stepped over small piles of clothes, clean and dirty, towards his bed and dragged an old suitcase from underneath. It was well travelled – old, worn leather – but still perfectly sturdy despite its age.
Yes his room was a mess – a clutter of junk and clothes – but everything in this room meant something. Over the years Mitchell had collected many things throughout his travels. Some might call it cack, some of it was, but from the lighters to his accordion, each object held its importance. Of course they were kept from his vampire years. They were not souvenirs of his many victims. No. Memories of an undeserved life, but memories nonetheless.
However, what lay within this suitcase held the most significance for Mitchell. He hesitated before unbuckling the two leather straps and opening the lid. The smell of dust and stale air tickled his nostrils. He rarely looked through these memories of his human life and they still evoked spikes of sadness and anger, despite more than a century passing.
Each trinket from his short human life was carefully wrapped in tissue and newspaper - medals from a war long fought; jewellery belonging to his mother and his mother's mother; photographs of his family, brown with age but in almost perfect condition.
He rummaged carefully, removing each treasure delicately until he found what he was searching for – a photograph of himself, truly young and confident, a soldier naively eager to fight in a war and his last picture before his recruitment by Herrick.
He studied the picture and swallowed hard. It was always a shock to the system. Years of no reflection, no photographs or mirrors – he was accustomed to that part of his vampire life. Yet looking at himself clean cut, dressed in brown, nervous with a hint of independence – he was looking at a different person. He was that boy, same face, same eyes, but of an old mind filled with horrors and fear for more.
The familiar wave of self loathing bubbled to the surface and hastily he packed the items back into the suitcase along with his woes.
With the photograph in hand, Mitchell crept into the hallway towards Annie's empty bedroom, homing in on George's light snores. The door to her room was open as he entered and he was struck by how eerily quiet and still the room felt – as though the house sensed her presence was temporarily missing.
In a way he was invading her private sanctuary and felt briefly unsure of himself. He wanted her to have it though. Not in the case that something finally happened to him. No, he wanted her to have something of him. A fresh pair of eyes to look at the photograph with wonder and curiosity, and not the regret he often felt.
It was too late to back out now anyway.
He scanned the room with a growing sadness. Although Annie enthusiastically decorated the house, much to George's annoyance and Mitchell's encouragement, her bedroom remained uncharacteristically bare. He hadn't noticed that before. There really weren't many possessions here – a woollen blanket placed neatly on her armchair, a wooden drawer set where her favourite perfume sat beside a vase of fresh tulips of various colours. No pictures hung from the walls, no photographs smiled through frames – just a small pile of re-read magazines, books and pens.
The emptiness disheartened him a tad. His was a room full of stolen luxuries - someone who had travelled and lived through years of killing – more memories than he deserved. Her room was one belonging to life taken before its time. It didn't seem fair. It wasn't fair.
She didn't want the reminders of a life unlived, stolen by a controlling bastard. Here she found some peace and Mitchell wasn't here to judge that.
He kneeled before the arm chair, and reached under, rough carpet scratching the palm of his hand until his fingertips grazed the thin spine of a book. He grasped the edges and pulled the photo album from the hidden gap.
Exactly where she hid it, he remembered.
The idea had developed a couple of days ago when Annie walked with a little less bounce in her step - though she hid her true worries behind tense smiles. Of course they sensed her sadness.
He had shared a worried look with George and found her sitting in her haven, clasping the photo album with shaky hands.
He had leaned against the door frame, watching her eyes brim with crushed acceptance.
So lost in her thoughts that she startled when he finally spoke, snapping the album closed.
"What's that?" he had asked, nodding his head in the direction of her lap.
"Oh, it's nothing – just old pictures," she had replied, tracing her fingers across the cover before pushing the album under the chair.
"Is it?" he said, with a sad, encouraging smile, sharing some touch of understanding.
She took a deep breath and knitted her fingers together on her lap, looking everywhere but him.
He waited patiently for her to speak.
"I know what I am, what I've lost. I've accepted my…this existence. I can't see them again – my parents, my sister...family…and that hurts. I look at these pictures and I don't know whether to laugh or cry, but that's ok," she had said, finally meeting his eyes. "And sometimes I'm scared that one day I'm going to forget who they are or who I am."
She spoke with such shame in revealing her true fears, hiding from his gaze that Mitchell wanted to shake her and tell her she was here, this was real and he'd be damned if she became lost.
Instead he had walked over to sit on the arm rest and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, kissing the top of her head.
"You won't forget Annie, believe me you won't," he reassured her. He knew it was a 'ghost' thing – they feared loosing their attachment to this world, connections to a life they refused to let go of. He also spoke from the heart – he still remembered, clear as day, saying goodbye to his family as he left for the war.
"Does this get easier?" she had asked, peaking over her shoulder to catch his eye.
"Eventually with time it does, but sometimes it can grab you when you least expect it and that's ok – that's human," he said stroking the soft curls of her hair.
She nodded softly, and squeezed his hand softly in appreciation.
Sensing she wanted some alone time, Mitchell let her be, already planning his next move.
And now he cradled the album in his hands, testing the weight as he bit his lip nervously. It was A4 in size, a deep purple colour with a thin gold trimming.
Now he was really invading her privacy. Gingerly, he thumbed through the pages, flicking through different chapters of Annie's past. He didn't linger on any of the pictures but two on the last filled page caught his eye.
The first was a Polaroid shot of a rather inebriated George, glasses askew with the cheesiest of grins possible. Mitchell chuckled – he had a similar picture of George, for a tipsy George was not camera shy.
The second was a photo of Annie in mid-twirl, smiling brightly, daylight highlighting her features perfectly. Her hair was tied back in a pony tail, loose curls framing her face. There was a sparkle in her eyes – enhanced by the loose, low collared dress she wore; no grey in sight. She looked beautiful, happy – but there was a slight sadness hidden in her eyes. It couldn't have been taken long before her death. Sometimes he wondered why she had stayed with Owen for so long. She was stronger, more independent than she realized. Had she been so blinded by love?
Owen. A burn of anger bubbled through his veins and he blinked the darkness from his eyes. He pushed that building impulse to tear Owen apart limb to limb aside. He couldn't think about it – it wasn't…productive.
He placed his own photograph under the protective film, smoothing the page down in finality.
"What are you doing?" a voice questioned from the doorway.
Mitchell jumped and quickly slid the photo album in the space under the arm chair.
"Jesus George! You scared the shit out of me!" gasped Mitchell, racking his hands through unruly hair as he stood from the floor.
George crossed his arms and eyed Mitchell smugly, knowing for once it would be Mitchell to face the full wrath of Annie.
George raised his eyebrows scrutinising him, "Well?"
"Nothing! I-I was…looking for a pen," he said picking up a sparkly gold pen with pink feathers. He internally cringed holding the damned thing.
"Uh-huh. You, my friend, were snooping!" said George, rocking on the balls of his feet.
"I wasn't…snooping!" laughed Mitchell nervously. "Even if I was – which I wasn't – it's not as if Annie never does…"
"What do you mean?" asked George, suspecting Mitchell was trying to toy with him, freak him out.
"Well, it is her house after all, her living room, her bedrooms. Now if I were in Annie's shoes, maybe, say, I'd want to see what furniture was moved, what said tenants might be hiding," said Mitchell, planting seeds of worry in George's mind.
"Annie doesn't snoop," said George suspiciously.
Mitchell just gave him a look suggesting 'this is Annie we're talking about'.
George stood straighter, "Excuse me," voice rising an octave and retreated back to his room.
Satisfied, Mitchell smirked knowing George was currently re-organising certain items in his room. He checked everything in Annie's room was in the right place before returning to his own.
Of course the minute Annie returned George - like a true friend - would grass on him, and revenge would be granted at a later time.
In the meantime Mitchell watched in adoration as Annie's face contorted from a scowl to a horrified embarrassment as she realized Mitchell had looked through her room – like a teenager discovering their younger sibling reading their diary.
It would take a couple of days before Annie figured out what he had done, skipping into the kitchen and planting a cool kiss on his cheek as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Thank you," she whispered a chilly breath that lulled his dull thoughts of blood and aching pasts.
Regaining his balance, Mitchell fell into her embrace, somehow how absorbing that peace and calmness her presence always radiated, smiling into her hair as his fingers pressed into the curve of her lower back.
"Are you sure?" she asked timidly, releasing her arms to look up at him.
He pushed a wild stray curl behind her ear, "Yeah, I want you to have it."
She gave him that dazzling, shattering smile and hugged him tight again.
"N'aw," he murmured, rubbing his hands up and down her back.
A cough interrupted the silence and Annie lifted her head to peer at George now standing in the kitchen.
"Am I interrupting anything?" he asked, moving to sit in one of the kitchen chairs and opening the TV Guide.
Annie wriggled out of his embrace and immediately Mitchell missed her closeness – a startling development of late.
"Nope," said Annie, popping the 'p' and smiling bashfully. She scooted Mitchell out the way and flicked the kettle on, "Tea?"
George eyed the pair suspiciously and accepted the offer, scrutinising Mitchell's soppy grin with growing concern, but brushed his curiosity aside when he looked at the night's listings.
"Huh. What day is it today Mitchell?" asked George.
Mitchell sat in the facing chair, apparently invading Annie's tea-making space, "Thursday. Why?"
"Thursday. It's Thursday and The Real Hustle isn't on," squeaked George, jabbing the page in anguish.
Annie tutted in the corner, "It's only a show George, not puppies trapped in a burning building."
George faced her, eyebrows raised, mouth in a perfect 'o' shape, expression utterly flabbergasted and turned back to Mitchell.
"She thinks it's just a show Mitchell. A show!" shrieked George, ignoring the roll of Annie's eyes.
"Women," muttered Mitchell, and turned to wink at Annie so she understood he was only joking.
She took it with good heart and placed their tea on the table, clasping a cup for herself.
"Right, give me that," said Mitchell, grabbing the guide from George's grasp. George may have a ridiculously high IQ, but he had been known – on several occasions – to check listings on the wrong day.
Jesus, Mitchell thought, he was right. The Real Hustle wasn't on – there would be hell to pay.
Annie sighed and muttered 'men' under her breath, leaving her friends to bitch like two old biddies about the downfall of programme reliability.
She hid a smile though, knowing how lucky she really was.
Thanks for reading!