Rain, Water, and Wet
Mitchell hates rain almost as much as sun. No matter how many layers he wears, the cold and damp seeps underneath the parka, underneath the gloves, underneath the boots, and gets into his bones. It pours on his way from work to his car, and pours from the car to home. He never brings an umbrella. Only tourists carry umbrellas.
Crashing through the front door, he slams it shut and shakes water out of his hair. He hops on one foot while dragging his boots off, trying to remain on the rug rather than drip on the wooden floor. Shedding his drenched coat, he tosses it on the side table, effectively negating any attempts to keep the wooden floor dry, but he doesn't consider that. He peels off his fingerless gloves and gingerly arranges them on the radiator to dry.
"Do you hear that?" George appears in the kitchen doorframe, sounding irritated.
Mitchell stares at him blankly and roughly shakes his head.
"The tap," George points his finger upwards emphatically, "Been running all day! Constant sound of the shower! As if the rain weren't enough. I haven't peed in five hours. Been having to avoid drinking tea," he marches across the hall and shakes Mitchell's shoulders, "Five hours, Mitchell!"
"Is it Annie?" Mitchell asks.
"No," George drawls, "The other invisible resident without a body to clean who apparently still enjoys taking day long showers."
"I'll check on her," Mitchell reassures George, patting him on the arm. He walks up the stairs and gently knocks on the bathroom door, "Annie?"
George throws his hands up in exasperation and returns downstairs.
"Annie, are you all right in there?" Mitchell asks uncertainly.
Still no answer.
Mitchell sighs. He nearly leaves.
He figures ghosts probably don't undress for unnecessary showers. He tries the doorknob. It opens. He peeks his head in, prepared to close his eyes and close the door, just in case. Instead he sees a fully clothed Annie sitting cross-legged in the tub, hands and hair covering her face.
He pauses. And steps inside. And closes the door. And stands awkwardly near the mirror.
If he glances to the side, he disappears. Hateful mirrors.
"I went outside today," Annie says miserably. He detects the familiar sob her voice takes on after she's been crying.
"Good," he says encouragingly, "That's good," and moves to sit on the toilet lid.
"No," she moans, "Not good. Very bad, actually."
"What happened?" he asks. She still hasn't looked at him.
"Nothing," she admits, "Over half my life spent turning down invitations to swimming parties, refusing to put my head underwater, walking around with a hood on in the rain, for fear of destroying my hair," she sighs, "and now I would give anything to be able to do just that."
Mitchell sits in silence.
She laughs humorlessly, "Well, not ruining my hair is actually a plus of this whole ghost thing, but hardly compensation for not..." she trails off with a little gasping shudder.
He stands abruptly, an idea half forming in the back of his mind. Probably a bad one, and a bit rash, but he ignores the doubts. And pulls off his shirt.
She pushes her hair out of her face and wipes a tear from her cheek, "Apparently, the only water I can feel, is the kind I produce." she waves her tear stained hand at him and sees him undressing, "What are you doing?" she asks, confused but not repulsed, which he takes as a good sign.
"These are my only remaining dry clothes," he says, "I don't want them wet." he starts to undo his jeans.
"Oh, Mitchell, no," she says, "This is silly..." She rolls her eyes and snorts. But doesn't move.
The jeans come off. His hands loosen the elastic of his boxer shorts.
"Oh, gosh," Annie says, exasperated, "Boys. Can't keep their clothes on" She covers her eyes and leans back against the tile at the end of the tub. Her boots' rubber soles squeak against the porcelain, "Is this really necessary?"
"I've seen you dead. I think the rules of privacy have gotten a bit blurred," he uses her own logic against her.
She takes her hand away to glare at him, receives a clear sight of him stark naked, and hastily returns her hand to her eyes, "You have got to be kidding me."
He climbs into the tub with her.
She peeks at him through her fingers. He sits in front with his back turned to her so the shower stream hits him directly.
He glances over his shoulder, "Put your hand on my back."
"What?" she asks, screwing up her nose in disbelief.
"Touch my back," he offers.
Biting her lip, she stretches her arm out and touches his shoulder blade with the pad of her index finger.
"Do you feel anything?" he asks.
"No," she says simply.
She sighs. But closes her eyes. Taking a deep breath to calm the unusually loud echo of her old heartbeat in her head, she tries to focus on the point of contact between her and Mitchell. Gradually, starting with the prickling sensation of a single icy needle, she feels it. The water, cold at first, warms, and falls, drop by drop, on a tiny patch of skin near her right shoulder blade. Exactly where the tip of her finger rests on Mitchell's back.
"Wait," she laughs, "Yes. Yes, I can feel droplets of water..."
She starts to pull away but Mitchell reaches across his chest and over his shoulder, and grabs her right hand with his left. He presses the flat of her palm to his back.
Her eyes snap open. Her shoulder floods with sensation. The drizzle of water hits every nerve. Her nonexistent heartbeat picks up pace again. She flexes her right hand, drinking in the feeling of water on her skin. Slowly she extends her left arm, gingerly touching the back of his other shoulder with her fingertips. Another icy prickle. Without hesitation she flattens her left hand against his skin. Another rush of feeling pours over her in waves.
She takes deep breaths to soothe her racing heart. Mitchell leans slightly into her touch. His arms encircle his knees and draw his legs to his chest. If her touch chills him, he shows no sign of discomfort. Perhaps her cool hands offer a welcome respite from the heat of the water and the stifling steam filling the room. She scoots closer to his body, fitting a leg on either side between him and the tub. Her hands run down his arms and encircle his waist. She molds her body to his back in a tight hug. Her head nestles in the crook of his neck. The shower spray crashes over them both. Through Mitchell, Annie feels the water covering her head, drenching her face, and filling her mouth. She starts to cry again, silently this time, the tears mixing with the shower spray. Not crying from sadness, but from release. She wonders if he can feel her tears, or if their connection is a one way street.
Eventually the water turns cold.
"Annie?" he asks.
He shifts in place, slightly enough so he can see her face out of the corner of his eye without disturbing her. Her eyes are closed. She looks peaceful. With a start he realizes she's sleeping. Or at least is in whatever unconscious, restful state passes as sleeping for a ghost. He turns his face to the cool water and grins. Pulling his legs tighter to his chest, he tries to ignore the cold. Soon he'll go numb. Vampires are fairly impervious to temperature changes when they want to be. Not comfortable, but survivable. He lets his mind go blank and relaxes. His tongue tastes salt on his lips. Definitely not his tears. Annie's, perhaps.
After midnight George can't take it anymore. He can't put off his natural bodily functions any longer. He doesn't care what his flatmates are doing mysteriously sequestered in the bathroom for hours, but enough is enough.
He barges through the door.
"Half hour, okay. Hour, maybe once in a while. But I absolutely draw the line at three hour long showers..." he trails off when he sees the two in the tub.
George's shoulders sag and his face droops in disappointment, "Mitchell..."
"Shhhh," Mitchell glares at him.
George angrily gestures to Annie and to Mitchell's discarded clothes.
"She's asleep," Mitchell explains softly.
The werewolf does a double-take, "how?"
"I don't know," Mitchell shakes his head.
George stares openmouthed at Annie's quiet form for a minute. Then at Mitchell, "You're shivering."
"She's asleep," Mitchell stresses.
George sticks a finger in the spray of the shower, "That water is ice!" he shakes his hand violently against the cold.
"And," Mitchell sighs, "in a half hour, it'll go hot again. And I'll..." he blinks "...defrost."
"Ice water, Mitchell!?"
"She's asleep," Mitchell repeats calmly.
"Yes, and I highly doubt Annie would approve of you contracting hypothermia for the sake of her comfort," George points out haughtily.
"Vampires don't get sick," Mitchell scoffs darkly, "Our bodies aren't alive enough to sustain disease. Plus she hasn't slept since she died."
"How do you even know for certain she's sleeping?" George asks, peering at her face again, "And you can't be comfortable there, regardless of immunity."
Mitchell clenches his teeth stubbornly and he remains silent.
George moans a little, "And where, exactly, am I supposed to go to the bathroom?"
"In the yard?" Mitchell raises his eyebrows, "Fire hydrant on the corner?"
"No way," George hisses in disgust.
They stare at each other.
Two breaths later George huffs, "fine" and walks out.
Mitchell turns his face to the shower spray and closes his eyes again.
"But..." George hops back in, lunges for the cabinet under the sink, drags out a shower cap, "...just.." he takes a hesitant step towards the tub. Mitchell eyes him, always curious to watch George's unusual behavior play itself out. George darts forward, pulls the plastic cap down over Mitchell's wet hair, and then jumps away. He sticks his head around the doorframe before he leaves, "It'll keep the heat in...for your head, at least."
Mitchell smiles and chuckles to himself. He sighs, and prepares himself for a long wait before she wakes up.
The sky outside the textured glass window dawns light grey by the time Annie stirs. She sits up. Mitchell had gotten so used to her weight leaning against him, the sudden lightness makes him feel empty.
"Mitchell?" she asks groggily, "What did I miss?"
He catches her eye with his, an innocent expression on his face.
She notices the shower cap.
"Was George in here?" she asks.
He glances up at the plastic clinging to his brow and shrugs.
Annie smiles, "You two are very comfortable with being naked around each other, aren't you?" She reaches over his shoulder an turns off the tap, "Let's not add me to that flatmate tradition."
"How do you feel?" Mitchell asks.
"Alive," she grins at him and sucks her bottom lip.
He fights a sudden urge to lean in and kiss her, uncertain even where the urge came from. But he's naked, and cold, and feeling rather shriveled. It would hardly be appropriate.
She lifts the shower cap off his head, ruffles his damp hair, and stands up. She taps each foot lightly on the edge of the tub to shake off the excess water before stepping onto the bathmat. Except there is no water. Her skin and clothes are bone dry. She giggles and shakes her own hair. Her smile is radiant. He smiles back at her, still huddled in the tub. Still shivering.
"Right, towel," she says brightly, snatches the nearest, moderately clean towel, and tosses it at his head.
He catches it and stands up, artfully maneuvering the towel in front of himself. He rubs his body under the towel, trying to warm his numb limbs. Glancing at her from underneath soggy curls, he asks, "Are you going to watch me get dressed too?"
"Right," she says, blushing but still smiling, and backs out of the door.
Mitchell drops all decorum and stumbles out of the tub in his haste to grab a second towel and dry himself off completely. He shakes, teeth chattering, as he drags his clothes back on. Not comfortable, but survivable, and worth the smile.
Afterwards nothing much changes. The household dynamics certainly don't. But the morning schedule shifts. George claims the bathroom first, in and out in minutes. Mitchell's daily shower extends to an hour at least. He starts smelling cleaner. On the second week, Annie sneaks a bit of lavender soap into the routine. However, Mitchell's hair maintains its constant state of slight grease. Thank goodness for shower caps.
Some things are never meant to change.