This chapter! It's soooooo long. I'm sorry, but there was no appropriate place to split it. Oh well, last one, you can do it!
The song I envisioned them dancing to was "Blue Angel" by the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Look it up, it's great!
Mitchell covered her cold hand with his own. He wanted to look into her eyes again, but she stared ahead and her face remained blank. Their silence stretched out unendurably and he felt the need to fill it. Looking out at the sea, he began to speak. He reached back almost one hundred years and told her about the first war, how he had been so scared and tried not to let it show but his hands had shaken every time he lit a cigarette for over a month. He told her about Josie, and how brave she had been and how hard they had both tried. He told her about George, and how when it was close to the full moon he sometimes barked in his sleep. Once Mitchell had found him cleaning the refrigerator while sleepwalking and watched him sniffing everything to see if it had gone off. He spoke of Annie, how strong she had become, and how brave she was in her fight against the doors. He told her how once Annie had come to his rescue with George, and how much he loved them both.
She was listening. She didn't look at him but her face had lost it's cold emptiness. She seemed to be deciding what to do with his words. He stopped talking abruptly and waited. Surprised by the sudden silence, Elise turned to face him. He slid his thumb gently across her tear stained cheek and they heard the band start up a song in the distance below.
"No more talking." Mitchell said, and smiled gently as he took her unresponsive hand to lead her down from the stand. The band began a softly lilting swing that Mitchell recognized from decades ago, and he pulled her into the small group of dancers gathered beneath the glittering white lights of the bandstand.
Elise closed her eyes, remembering. She knew this song as well. The 1930's, perhaps? She had loved that time, all the music and the dancing... Mitchell was watching her face attentively and saw a glimmer of recognition. He stepped into a dancers stance and pulled her to him, hips touching, thighs softly brushing each other. She instinctively stepped into him how she remembered, one hand perched softly on his shoulder, the other enfolded in his as he swept her up and across the dance floor. Their steps were in perfect unison and her face hovered close to his as he spun her about, twirling and dipping. She followed his every move, obeying the gentle pressure of his hand guiding her from the small of her back. Mitchell lowered his face to gently nuzzle the base of her throat as she leaned into him and they pirouetted gracefully together.
Nina, Annie and George made their way through the crowd. They stopped, breathless and in awe, when they saw the slowly revolving couple on the dance floor. The other dancers had moved away, creating a ring around the oblivious pair at its center. Annie observed an elderly couple on a bench clasp hands and follow Elise and Mitchell with wistful eyes and reminiscing smiles.
"Did you know that he could do that?" Nina asked George in amazement. She would never have believed Mitchell capable of anything so beautiful. They moved together perfectly, like the figures on a music box.
"They're... perfect together, aren't they?" George watched his friend. He looked so happy. He realized what a long time it had been since he had seen Mitchell genuinely happy. Not since they had left Bristol. No, not since Lucy and all the irrevocable damage that she had done.
The music ended, and the audience began to melt back onto the dance floor, obscuring the enthralled couple still swaying to the absent melody. Nina wrapped her arm around George's waist and they turned back the way they had come. Despite the crowd around them it felt like they were watching a very private moment. Annie took one last lingering look, smiled, and followed them home.
Elise and Mitchell clung to each other even after the music had ended. Mitchell was afraid to break the spell Elise seemed to be under. The spell that he was under, he realized. The minutes ticked on and still they held each other. Finally, Mitchell pulled back to look into her face and they examined each other as though meeting for the first time. He found her eyes clear and sharp, as he had seen them only once before. A smile flashed over him, warm and relieved. He amazed her, that he was always so open, so vibrant. She reached up her hands and buried them in his hair, pulling him down to her. Standing on tiptoe, she tenderly brushed his earlobe with her lips. "Thank you," she whispered simply.
Mitchell kept his head bowed, letting their cheeks rest together until he became aware of the throng of people that had filled in around them. He reluctantly stepped back, but took her hand and began to lead her out of the crowd and toward the empty beach. They walked hand in hand until they found a comfortably dry patch of sand above the tideline.
He gazed at her profile as they sat in silence. She looked more relaxed, as though resigned to accepting reality and the world again. She closed her eyes and leaned back on her hands, an exultant face tipped up into the salty breeze. He eyed the sloping line of her throat longingly, wanting to follow it with his fingers. He pushed the thought away, judging the timing to be wrong.
"Are you alright now?" he asked.
She turned the question over briefly. "I can be. I will be." she said, sounding determined. She pushed her bare toes through the sand and reveled in the sensation, both cool and grainy. To feel again! That was what he did for her, woke her every latent desire, every buried feeling. Her eyes flashed to him fiercely, almost possessive. Protective.
"The man that you brought me. Seven?" Mitchell nodded. "Where did he come from? He was willing."
Mitchell shrugged evasively. "Vampires I know. Odd ones."
Mitchell turned to her with his mouth open and she laughed, a surprisingly light trill. "This isn't my first rodeo." she said. "The Hargreaves have been around for years. I know how they live." She leaned into him as though trying to draw warmth from his cold shoulder. "I assume they didn't give you loan of Seven out of any sense of altruism."
He looked away, silent. It was answer enough. Elise took his gloved hand and laced her fingers through his. "What did they ask of you?"
Mitchell shrugged. He was becoming more aware of her slight accent, subtle but noticeable. A short clip to her vowels, a way of swallowing certain consonants. He liked hearing her speak after having wondered for so long what she would sound like. Her voice was a low feline purr in his ears.
"Favor, to be named." He answered. He tried to force a smile for her benefit, but Elise wasn't fooled.
"You can consider it paid," she said.
He shook his head. "You didn't make the request. I can't let you pay my debt."
She laughed again, quick and sharp. It made him shiver, this particular laugh. "I think you'll find them more than happy to accommodate me in anything that I might ask." Again Mitchell saw that feral look cross her face, wild and dangerous. Her face changed and she turned, idly watching the people milling about on the boardwalk. He recognized that look and for the first time was uneasy with her.
"Are you... hungry?" he asked, knowing the answer.
She looked at him closely. His brows were drawn together and he seemed guarded for once. She wondered why the thought of her feeding would disturb him. "Yes. Nothing that can't wait though."
He turned away, thoughtful. She studied the lines of his face, noting the clenching of his jaw. Abruptly she leaned closer, breathing him in and sat back, surprised.
"How long for you?" she asked.
Mitchell looked at his hands for a long moment. "Eight years," he answered. After a brief pause, his face twisted in anguish and he hung his head. "Two months." He whispered. "It's been two months since I've fed."
The hand holding his tightened briefly. Mitchell reluctantly looked up through disgusted tears and saw that Elise was simply watching the waves lap at the shore. She didn't seem disturbed by either the fact that he abstained or that he had failed so miserably to do so. She seemed to be forming some sort of resolution.
"Mitchell," she said slowly, carefully choosing her words. "I need to leave for a while. Let's just say I've been out of the social loop for a bit." A ferocious smile touched her tight lips as she thought of her impending visit to the Hargreaves. It would be enjoyable to see them squirm when she knocked on their door. No doubt they had written her off long ago.
She looked at Mitchell, who was still downcast. So she would be leaving him. He couldn't blame her. He knew that he was a train wreck. He winced at the unintentional pun. Watching him, Elise felt strangely awkward and unsure of herself. God, he made her feel like a newborn again. For once, she couldn't get a clear reading from his expression.
"Look, I'm just going to have it out as it's been a while for me... This is 2012, isn't it? I thought I saw a newspaper..." said Elise. Mitchell turned in surprise and nodded an affirmative. "Then it's been ten years since I... 'left', for lack of a better word."
"Left society, the public eye, the beaten path, what have you."
"Ten years," Mitchell echoed. "Ten years there, where George found you? In the woods?" She saw pity in his eyes and it sparked her to an anger that she quickly brought under control.
"It's my land. I bought it, before. There's many reasons not to live in a house." she said cryptically.
Mitchell was intrigued. "Such as?"
She smiled, teasing him now. "Here's a new tip for you, my little vampire fledgling. If you don't have a physical house, any border of land that you own becomes your threshold. Vampires cannot cross and you have a much greater barrier between you and them." She frowned slightly, then amended, "Most vampires cannot cross."
Mitchell took a minute to process this new information. The stake she carried, keeping such a large boundary around her... It all added up. "Who is after you, Elise?" Concern caused his accent to thicken, unintentionally becoming a soothing lilt. "You can stay with us as long as you need, we can help protect you."
Elise threw her head back and laughed, a bitter trill. Looking at him she could see all the demons that haunted him and understood better than he could know. He was still so earnest and so fresh. She thought it would kill her to see him loose that. He had enough troubles of his own.
"No, it's you that I'm going to help! I certainly owe you. There's something I want you to see. But first I need some... time." She had not drank from a human in over thirty years. Now she felt herself full of Seven's blood and knew that it was only a matter of time before the burning withdrawal set in. She would not allow Mitchell to see her that way. When it was done she would come back for him. Elise saw how difficult it was for him and how badly he wanted to beat his insatiable hunger, but he didn't know the way. She gazed vaguely out at the sea, lost in her thoughts and absently picking at the hem of her shirt. There was something ageless about her when she did that, Mitchell thought.
"You're an Old One, aren't you?" Mitchell asked, quietly. "That's why you're..." He stopped, searching for a word that wouldn't offend her. "lost. How old are you?" She was quiet for a long time and he traced circles in the sand with his forefinger while he waited patiently. When she answered, it was with a question of her own.
"Who was the oldest vampire you've ever really known?"
Mitchell considered. "Ivan. He was 237. Towards the end he was, well, bored. He was searching for something, anything, to make himself feel again."
"237. Yes, that can be the start of the vampire version of the seven year itch." Her mouth quirked. "To answer your question, yes, you could say that I would be considered an 'Old One'."
"Older than Ivan?" He pressed. She laughed and a pleasant shiver ran up his spine.
"Ivan was just a baby."
Mitchell raised his eyebrows but let the subject drop. They sat for a while in comfortable silence, enjoying the play of the salty wind in their hair. Mitchell's spirits still seemed oppressed by what he had let slip about himself earlier. Her heart went out to him. She wanted to wipe way all the hurt and see his eyes dance with laughter once more. She could help him, but the conditions had to be right. It felt so wrong to let him suffer but she couldn't put this off any longer. "Mitchell, I have to go. Now." she said.
Mitchell tried to arrange his features into a neutral mask and failed miserably. He didn't look at her when next he spoke. "You'll come back?" He stared down at the intricate designs that he had created in the sand beside himself. When he finally looked up, Elise was looking at him with faint amusement.
"Mitchell," her eyes sparkled. "you have no poker face. Let's not pretend that I'm not running back to you immediately after I... tie up a few loose ends. You're the most intriguing thing I've come across in centuries."
His forced calm erupted into a sunny smile and a happy laugh. He flipped himself around, kicking up sand as he did, and caught her up in his arms. Sure of himself now, he ran his hands up her sheer sleeves, caressing her arms through the slinky fabric until he was grasping her firmly by he shoulders. He pulled her roughly to him and she tossed her head back, watching him with intense, piercing eyes. He tipped his face down to nuzzle the base of her throat and grazed the hollows with his teeth. She leaned against him and at her sharp intake of breath he could feel his lust rising. Bloodlust, as well. He paused, collecting himself, and began instead a gentle trail of light kisses that ended at her jawline. He pulled back and they studied each other face to face, each amazed at the depth of this newfound connection. Elise raised her chin to seek his lips and found them cold and soft. Their kiss was slow and interrogative as they took each others measure. Both seemed satisfied with what they found and after a long moment their kiss trailed off with short, small nips. A look of fierce joy shone on her face as they stepped back from each other. She backed away, eyes flashing black with longing. Without a word she whirled and fled down the beach. She did not look back.
Mitchell watched Elise go, hair streaming behind her, until her small shape was swallowed by the distance. The dunes stretched out empty before him but still he stayed. The first light of morning was just beginning to push its way across the waves when he finally turned toward home, a contented smile playing faintly across his lips. He would wait.
So there will hopefully be a second part, time permitting. Lots of things left hanging and little mysteries to clear up. And the whole point was to give Mitchell a chance at a happier ending, so there's that. :)