Actions

Work Header

there are no haunted places

Work Text:

The news begins as a whisper at first before growing to a rumble that spreads across towns and countries and continents, crossing oceans and state lines until it becomes a roar, a rallying cry: John Mitchell is dead. It finds everyone he ever knew in his long life: the ones he loved, the ones he fucked in back alleys, the ones he turned, children left now with the sense that they’ve lost a place to call home, the ones he hated, the ones that hated him, the ones he rampaged with, dancing together in rooms littered with bodies and vodka bottles until the sun rose over the River Thames. It finds the ones he never met too, the ones who only knew his name from stories, for them he was already a ghost, a hero, a king, a monster lurking in their closets long before he turned to dust.

It finds them all one way or another, his name becomes an echo reverberating back to the house in Barry until it blots out all the other noise. At night, George and Annie listen to the silence and imagine they can hear the murmur rising, constant and steady, rolling over them in waves, just his name repeated, an act of calling, a prayer given over to the night.

For George it becomes a furtive wish that if Mitchell’s name is said often enough for long enough it might just bring him back. For Annie the sound is a constant reminder, another roadblock in the already slow process of letting go.

Even though they can’t know it, Mitchell hears the sound too. From far away in a place that burns hot and bright, he hears and in his own way he calls back, his own repetition, just their names, George and Annie over and over. An act of contrition, the only offering he has to stave off the darkness.

-

The war comes with a speed that frightens George. The Old Ones offer him no time for mourning before they infiltrate the government. By dawn of the next day, the papers are brimming with half-truths about new leadership and strange deaths in the night. After that the disappearances begin in earnest and the television is full of mothers and children and boyfriends all pleading for their loved ones to come home.

A note is slipped under the door on the third day after, it simply reads tick tock. It seems subtlety is not Wyndam’s strong suit.

George gets the message.

He begins to look twice at every police officer he passes on the street, searching for a knowing smile or the hint of fangs. Without Mitchell, he has no link to the supernatural world. He is no longer protected. More importantly, Nina and the baby are no longer protected. It’s them against the world now and George can already feel the shift. The floodgates have been thrown open and he can sense the tension rising. They’re coming for him, for everyone he loves, and he isn’t ready.

Not yet.

-

Annie stops.

Not for long, she gives herself two days to curl on Mitchell’s bed and cry and think and plan. She keeps the door shut, disappears whenever George or Nina try to offer comfort. Comfort won’t make it better, only time can do that.

She shifts through his things and wishes that there were pictures instead of mementos. There are so many times that should have been captured on film, little moments between the three of them that would have looked silly given it would have just been George mucking about on his own like a nutter. It still makes her sad though, gives her the distinct feeling that those times have been lost somehow. Dramatically, she thinks it’s as if they never happened at all. But even as the thought crosses her mind, she realizes how silly it is. She remembers. George remembers. That’s enough.

She finds a napkin from the pub with Mitchell’s familiar, tidy scrawl. Just a date, but she recognizes it. It’s from the day the boys moved in. In his coat pocket, there’s his lighter, old and silver. It weighs heavy in her hand, solid. She likes that.

In the back of his closet there’s a small stack of paperbacks and a much larger stack of records. His shirts and pants still hang above her head and it’s all so strange, so incongruous. A week ago she thought she knew John Mitchell. Knew everything about him that mattered anyway.

Then she found out she knew nothing at all and here sitting amongst his things, a small pile of leftovers from just one of the lives he lived, she wonders if anyone ever did, if they ever really could.

She finds pictures after all. Two of them tucked into the wallet left abandoned on the nightstand. One is of George staring at the television, his glasses slightly askew, a blanket pulled halfway up his chest. She wonders if he knew Mitchell was taking it. The other is of her. It’s a clipping really, cut out of the newspaper quite hastily if the ragged edges are any indication. She recognizes it immediately; it’s from her twentieth birthday party, the picture her mum used for the obit page.

She runs her fingers over the images and her world seems to make a sort of sense again.

She tucks the pictures back where they belong, replaces the wallet on the nightstand and leaves Mitchell’s room for what she can feel in her gut is the last time.

-

It’s not so different from purgatory. Warmer. His body is never without a sheen of sweat. There are corridors filled with doors, but he learns quickly not to open them. Each one is a pathway to some wretched thing he did, to a life he left ruined, to a moment of cruelty or selfishness. There are no good times here. No door will lead him to a quiet afternoon with George, to his first kiss with Annie, to a moment of heroism or love.

Mostly he stays in the cage. There’s a bed there, or rather a mattress and a rusty set of box springs, and a window he can’t see out of no matter how hard he tries. He’s not entirely sure he even wants to given the endless stream of red light that filters through as if there’s always a blood red sun hanging in the sky. The best (and worst) part is the television. It’s an old black and white number that looks suspiciously like the first television he owned. The quality is terrible; the picture is always turning to fuzz and the sound cracking. But he can see them sometimes; he can watch them go about their day.

He knows better than to see it as a bit of mercy.

He knows what it really is.

It’s there so the management will know that he’s watching when the world caves in around his friends.

-

Nina paces the kitchen, one hand resting on the ever growing swell of her stomach. Logic says she should barely be showing by now, but her body tells her that she’ll be giving birth by the time the next full moon arrives.

She’s afraid in a way that she can’t begin to find words to express, so she doesn’t try. George would listen, but she’s not sure he would hear. He sits at the table not drinking the tea in front of him and watches her.

Nina,” he half whines. “You’re going to wear a hole straight through the floor if you don’t stop. Come and sit down. Please.”

He leans over and pulls a chair out for her with a playful flourish. He’s trying so hard to pretend everything is normal that it makes her angry. There could be a monster growing inside of her and he put a stake through his best friend’s heart less than a fortnight ago and she can still see the place where her blood stained the carpet when Herrick left her for dead. Add to that Wyndam lurking about, waiting to make his move and Nina honestly can’t think of a single thing that is normal in their lives at this particular juncture.

George holds his hand out to her and she takes it, forces a smile.

There are circles under his eyes. He doesn’t sleep; she can feel him lying awake beside her every night.

“It’d be an improvement, don’t you think? Our linoleum is fucking hideous.”

He laughs and that’s reason enough for her to play along for now.

-

The news reaches Carl while he’s sipping coffee in a café in Paris. He left Brazil at the first hint that the Old Ones were stirring. The alternative…well, he prefers not to think of what would have become of him if he had joined their service.

A young vampire full of bravado sits down at Carl’s table without asking and tells him of that mick bastard getting his in a boastful voice that implies that he did the job himself. Carl has his hands around the kid’s throat before he remembers he’s in a very public, very well lit place. He recklessly decides that he doesn’t care.

He loosens his grip just enough for the boy to speak.

“Where did you hear this?” Carl asks with a calm that he doesn’t feel.

“At a club last night, it’s all anyone’s talking about,” the boy chokes out.

“And how did it happen?”

“The dog…the one he ran with, he did it, no one knows why…”

Carl nods even though the story makes little sense. He remembers George, remembers the loyalty he saw in the boy’s face. If he did kill Mitchell, it could only mean that his old friend had lost himself for good this time. Carl tightens his grip again, leans in close to whisper in the vampire’s ear.

“I’m going to let you go now, but if I hear so much as a whisper that you’re going around town telling people that you killed John Mitchell, I will come to your home and rip your heart out while you sleep, is that understood? Nod if your answer is yes.”

The boy nods vigorously, his glinting black eyes wide with fear. Carl releases him, smiles at the staring patrons and tosses a few bills onto his table.

He walks away, one shaking hand fishing in his pocket for his mobile. He promised that he would never return to England, but he has to know for sure, has to look George Sands in the eye and ask.

And if it’s true it won’t matter where he is anymore. It won’t matter for any of them.

-

Mitchell believes that he is alone. He’s seen nothing but his own ghosts since he came to this place. He’s never been good at being alone. In fact, he’s not sure he ever really has been. He’s wrong, of course. Hell is just as full as heaven and purgatory. Maybe more so. It’s all a matter of knowing where to look.

He’s wandering the corridor when he sees her. She’s sitting on the floor; legs stretched out in front of her, her brown hair damp and curled from the humidity. She doesn’t look surprised to see him.

“Hello, Mitchell,” she says.

“Lucy,” he breathes.

-

“I need you to teach me how to fight.”

George says this without preamble. He feels it gives the notion a bit of urgency, a surge of authority he doesn’t really feel, but still wishes to convey.

Tom barely looks up from the stake he’s witling.

“But I’ve never taught anyone anything before.”

“I’m a good student. A brilliant one, actually. Learning may very well be the only thing I’m really, properly good at, so it’ll even out in the end.”

“If you say so,” Tom replies cautiously.

Tom’s lack of enthusiasm leaves George with a sense of deflation. He wishes that he would have asked Mitchell when he had the chance, knows now it was foolish not to. But he never imagined that anything resembling a war would fall to him to deal with. He never imagined that a day would come when Mitchell wouldn’t be beside him or at the very least a phone call away. The things that he never bothered thinking about keep coming in these days, piling up like bills he’s ignored and left to stack up in the hall only to have them all come due at once. It’s unsettling and overwhelming and he needs Tom to understand, if only so someone does.

“You’re my only hope,” George says sincerely. He’s secretly glad that Tom won’t be likely to get the reference.

Tom sets down the freshly sharpened stake and faces George with a look of determination. Guilt gnaws at George’s gut for appealing to Tom’s need to be needed. He pushes it away.

“Okay,” Tom says.

-

The ghosts are uneasy. The island is brimming with them suddenly. Annie can see them on every corner, heads bent together, whispering. She tries to stop them, to ask them what they’re all doing, but they shy away from her. It’s as if they’re afraid of her. You’re paranoid, Annie thinks.

But still she wonders.

There’s a change in her. A shift deep inside, a power that scares her as much as it intrigues her, she’s felt it since her return, since she knelt beside Nina and whispered in her ear, brought her back from…Annie shakes her head to clear away the thought. No one could do that.

(She did.)

She’s becoming solid again. People see her sometimes, throw up a hand in a casual wave and the happiness that this simple act brings makes Annie giddy. Her elation is always short-lived, drowned out by the questions lingering at the back of her mind or the worry lines etched in George’s face or an errant memory of Mitchell that brings her crashing back down all over again.

But even if the happiness is fleeting, it’s the start of something new and Annie holds onto that, tucks it away deep inside for all the rainy days sure to come.

-

At his worst moments, Mitchell blamed Lucy. For the train, for the deaths, for losing himself, for things that happened long before he ever met her and things that happened long after she was gone. Her death offered him an scapegoat, an easy answer for all the horror that followed. When he sees her face again, the anger---so well cultivated---surges forward again, but then she smiles, lopsided and hesitant, and the anger turns back in on itself, hits him squarely in the heart. Where it belongs, he thinks bitterly. He is the rightful owner after all.

“Fancy meeting you here,” Lucy jokes. She holds out a hand for Mitchell to pull her to her feet. He takes it, pulls her forward until she’s inches from him. He examines her carefully trying to discern if she’s real or just another phantom. A shaky laugh escapes her lips. It’s full of nerves, something between a giggle and a bark and it’s so familiar it makes Mitchell release her hand and take a step back.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Mitchell says. “You…did nothing to send you here.”

“I’m a killer, Mitchell. Just like you. Vampires, werewolves, people---we’re all the same. You were right,” she says, reaching up to brush a stray curl behind Mitchell’s ear. “We are all God’s children.”

“I didn’t want this for you,” he lies because on his darkest days he did.

“Eh,” she says. “It’s not as bad as I thought it would be. To be honest, I was expecting more brimstone and torture. This is more like a bad holiday, isn’t it? Wish I could tell my Mum. Maybe she wouldn’t worry about my little sister’s soul so much.”

“You had a sister?” Mitchell asks.

Lucy shrugs.

“I suppose we didn’t know each other very well, did we?”

Mitchell thinks they knew each other too well.

-

Carl prefers to fly at night. The light is too harsh during the day. It burns his eyes and he feels silly wearing sunglasses on the plane. Dan used to tease him about it.

He lands on Barry Island at midnight. Pushes through the mass of people crowding the airport with his fake passport clutched in one hand, his bag in the other. There’s no one there to meet him. He didn’t call George to warn him of his visit, opting instead to use old contacts to find the address he needed.

It was much too easy to find.

Everyone knows where George Sands lives. The boy can’t begin to comprehend the danger that’s catching up to him. Carl understands, just as Mitchell would.

In the months since he fled England, Carl has carried a debt with him. He saved Mitchell once and Mitchell returned the favor, by all counts they were even. But Carl chose not to live his life that way a very long time ago. Mitchell was his friend, for a long stretch he was his brother. The decision was made for him the moment that vampire sat down at his table.

He will protect the boy and the ghost for as long as he can.

This is an act of penance, as much as an act of love.

-

Nina dabs at the bloody gash on George’s brow while shooting dirty looks at the hunched shoulders of Tom’s back. Annie sits beside George, wincing in sympathy.

“You look like you’ve been in a bar brawl,” Annie says.

A look of pride flickers across George’s face, but it withers when Nina pops him across the back of the head.

“Don’t encourage him,” Nina snaps. Inside her the baby twists and she shudders. She has enough to worry about right now without adding her boyfriend’s rearranged face to the list. “And what do you have to say for yourself?”

Tom turns away from the window sheepishly. Nina secretly hates being cross with Tom. His dark eyes and hangdog face give the illusion that he’s perpetually sad and adding to the sorrow makes her feel horrible.

“He asked me to teach him how to fight,” Tom says defensively.

“And the appropriate answer to that ludicrous request should have been no.”

“Nina,” George says.

“Don’t Nina, me. This is no time for you join a fight club. I need you, right now. I need you alive,” Nina clarifies.

George doesn’t say anything, but Nina doesn’t miss the glance that passes between him and Annie. It seems to her to be filled with portent and things she doesn’t understand, things that are being kept from her. She opens her mouth to comment on it, but she’s stopped short by the doorbell ringing. They all freeze for a moment, staring at one another. That sound never seems to bring anything good to their home.

“I’ll get it,” Tom murmurs before shuffling to the door. Nina keeps one eye on the hall as she continues to patch George up. Tom returns a moment later, his jaw tensing in a way that fills Nina with dread.

“It’s a vampire called Carl,” he says. “He wants to talk to George.”

George gets up so quickly he nearly knocks Nina over. He reaches out a hand to steady her, half-mumbling apologies as he hurries to the door. Annie and Nina are right behind him.

Carl looks exactly as Nina remembers him. A bit thinner, perhaps. She doesn’t trust him anymore now than she did then, but the sincerity in his grief has always haunted her. This world was new to her when they met, but she thinks she understands more now. Carl is living, breathing evidence of how easy it is to turn a person into a victim. They both are.

“Is it true?” Carl asks.

George’s lip quivers slightly and Nina reaches for his hand. It’s enough to help him maintain his composure. He only says one word.

“Yes.”

The answer hits Carl like a blow to the stomach. He face visibly crumbles for a moment, but like George, he stills his pain.

“Can you tell me what happened? You don’t have to invite me in, if you don’t want to. We can go somewhere public, or I can stay here on the stoop…but I need to know.”

“You can come in,” George says softly.

Nina wants to protest, but it’s too late for that now anyway. The offer has been extended and besides that she isn’t afraid of this man. Their loss is his loss and no one should be damned to mourn alone, especially when they’re already damned in so many other respects.

“Are you sure?” Carl asks as a matter of courtesy.

There’s no use in fighting the inevitable, Nina’s finally beginning to understand that. She’s the first to step aside to let Carl in.

-

Mitchell hits the side of the television forcefully as if he can jostle the picture back in place.

“That’s Carl,” he tells Lucy over his shoulder. “My old mate. What the hell is he doing there?”

Lucy catches his arm, pulls him away from the screen and onto the bed beside her.

“I’d wager to bet he heard about what happened to you.”

“Maybe,” Mitchell says distractedly.

“It doesn’t matter. You can’t be there anymore, Mitchell.”

He’s not ready to accept that reality just yet. He ignores her and continues to stare at the scrambled picture, willing it to clear. Lucy sighs, sits beside him and waits.

-

The kitchen is quiet but for the sound of tea splashing against porcelain as Annie pours it into the delicate cups she reserves for company. Carl and George stare at each other from their separate sides of the table. George wasn’t fond of this man before. He was jealous of him and disgusted by him, but Carl is the closest thing he has to a brother in arms now.

An understanding passed between them on the stoop. The loss George doesn’t want to let himself feel is mirrored back at him now in someone else’s eyes and the relief that brings startles him. Carl understands. Of course, he would.

Annie takes a seat beside George and the boys take a sip of their tea, nod and smile their appreciation, all the while trying to find the words to move the conversation forward, to broach the gap between them.

“What happened there?” Carl asks, gesturing vaguely to George’s eye.

“A training lesson gone wrong. It turns out I’m not actually Chuck Norris. I’m quite disappointed about that.”

Carl laughs gently.

“It’s good that you’re preparing yourself. I’ve heard things in my travels, disturbing things. Wyndam has visited you, yes?”

Annie nods.

“On the night…on the night we lost Mitchell. He wanted to use him, turn him into an attack dog he said.”

A look of understanding spreads across Carl’s face.

“Mitchell didn’t want that,” Carl says.

“No, that’s why…” George’s voice cracks and he grits his teeth, angry at himself for breaking again (and again). Annie covers his hand and gives it a tight squeeze. “That’s why I did it. Because he asked me to and I couldn’t find another way. If I could have---”

“You would have,” Carl finishes. “I know George.”

George swallows hard and stares into the dredges at the bottom of his cup. If they hold his future they’re in no hurry to talk. He bites the inside of his jaw to hold back the desperate laughter bubbling in his chest.

“What should we do?” Annie asks Carl. “How do we fight these…“Old Ones”, or whatever they are?”

“I don’t know that we can,” Carl replies honestly. “But we can try.”

“You said we just now,” George points out.

Carl runs a finger around the rim of his cup and George can see the vampire’s age suddenly.

This used to happen with Mitchell sometimes, most days he looked like a bloke in his twenties: carefree, up for fucking and fighting and having a laugh and other times…other times in the right light, after a long night, George would catch a glimpse of something old in him, something ancient even.

“I did,” Carl says.

George doesn’t say thank you. Not that night or the next, but the promise of it stays there unspoken between them, but understood.

And later when he curls his body around Nina’s and rests his head on his pillow, George finally sleeps.

-

“How did you find me?”

Lucy’s sprawled beside him on his tiny, uncomfortable excuse for a bed, but they’re not touching or even talking, just appreciating the comfort that comes from having someone, from no longer being alone.

She takes a deep breath before answering and lets it out in one great whoosh that tickles his nose before she answers.

“I went through one door and then another and then about fifty more. The first few were awful; I saw the people that went into the chamber and your mates down at the undertakers. I saw all of the proverbial blood on my hands and I didn’t want to look at it, you know? I wanted to run from it, but there was nowhere to go. So I said fuck it and kept opening doors. But the funny thing was they didn’t get worse because I’m not actually a serial killer or a peedo. They got better. I saw myself nicking a pack of gum from the shops when I was ten and standing up this creepy fellow at the cinema. I just kept on moving until…well, until there was you.”

Mitchell closes his eyes.

“Do you think there’s a way out?”

He feels her body shift closer and then her hand resting on his cheek. It feels cool against his sweat drenched skin. He asked her once to save him, to be his redemption. This isn’t what he had in mind.

“Maybe,” she says. “If not out, then maybe up, maybe to somewhere the people we loved will be waiting for us when their time comes. I still believe in mercy, Mitchell. This place doesn’t have to be the end for us.”

He rolls onto his back and stares at the image on the screen. It’s clear now. Annie’s prowling the streets, some bloke’s whistling at her and she’s flipping him off. Mitchell grins despite himself. She doesn’t look happy exactly, but she looks strong. He’s glad.

“Will you come with me?”

Lucy doesn’t hesitate.

“That’s the plan.”

-

Annie returns to the house to find Carl waiting for her by the window, his face bathed in the first of the early morning light.

“You’re up late…or would that be early?” she says with a cheerfulness that sounds false even to her own ears.

“I wanted a chance to talk to you before the others woke up.”

“Me?”

Carl cocks his head to one side, sizing her up.

“That surprises you?”

“Well…yeah, I figured you and the boys would be strategizing and what not. You know, blokes playing war games and the like.”

Annie knows if she could still feel her heart beating it would be trying to race out of her chest. She can feel that they’re on the verge of something. Maybe something she’s known all along.

“There’s an unusual amount of ghosts on Barry Island for this time of year, don’t you think?” he asks.

“Maybe it’s tourist season. Although, being someone currently enjoying an afterlife herself, this wouldn’t be my first pick for a holiday spot."

Carl shakes his head, but he’s smiling.

“I’ve heard things about you. Everyone has. You and George have cultivated quite the reputations for yourselves. We’re going to need the ghosts on our side when the time comes. Do you think you can handle that?”

Annie snorts.

“What…you want me to be a ghost military recruiter?”

“Something like that. I don’t think you’ll have any problem.”

He pulls the curtain back slightly and Annie crosses over to the window to peer out at the street. There’s a cluster of ghosts there, staring at the house, whispering amongst themselves.

They’re here to see her, she’s certain of it now and the thought is exciting even more than it’s terrifying. She, little Annie Clare Sawyer, is a celebrity. A legend, even. She only wishes she knew what that meant. Then again it’s not as if there isn’t plenty of time to find out.

-

Nina lets George sleep in. It’s such a rare sight to see him sleeping at all she would have gladly let him go till noon. When he finally does wake, he stretches, lets out a yawn that’s caught somewhere between a whimper and a growl.

“Mornin’,” he mutters face down into his pillow.

Nina eases down beside him and ruffles his hair.

“Afternoon’s more like,” she teases.

George rolls over with a groan and reaches out a hand to rub across her stomach. She tenses instinctively and George props himself up on one elbow to stare at her inquisitively. Nina looks away from him.

“Hey,” he says. “It’s going to be okay, you know that, right?”

A lump forms in Nina’s throat and she fights to push it down.

“We can’t know that for sure.”

George sits up the rest of the way to rest his chin on Nina’s shoulder.

“I do know that. For an actual fact. Because the universe has shat on us enough for one lifetime. So our baby is going to be beautiful and perfect and healthy. And one day a really, really, really long time from now we are going to die in our bed like that lovely old couple in Titanic only of elderliness and not of drowning because that’s always struck me as a rather unpleasant way to go.”

Nina giggles and brushes away her tears with the back of her hand.

“We’re going to deal with Wyndam and we’re going to have our baby and be…happy. Really, boringly, perfectly happy, alright?”

“You’re insane,” she whispers against his cheek and George laughs, gives her a quick kiss.

“I know. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?”
-

Mitchell presses his hand against the screen and traces the outline of George and Nina’s shapes. Part of him wants to stay in the cage forever if only to watch them live and fight, if only to make sure they survive. But if he stays, if he never even tries to move past the doors, this will be his forever. And for all that Mitchell hates himself for the things he’s destroyed; he doesn’t hate himself so much that he wants the last he ever sees of the people he loves to be grainy images on a television set.

He watches as George plods down the stairs into the kitchen, ruffling Annie’s curls as he passes on his way to the toaster. George flips the channel on the tiny television to a news station while he waits for his toast to pop up. Tom and Carl are already seated at the table eyeing each other warily. Mitchell would give anything to have an incredibly awkward breakfast with those people right now.

“I’ve set up a meeting with Wyndam,” Carl informs George.

“No, no, no…”Mitchell mutters uselessly.

George looks a bit pale, but he nods confidently.

“Where?”

“At a pub around the lunch hour so it’ll be good and crowded, gives him a bit of incentive not to kill us on the spot.”

Mitchell pats the television screen gratefully.

“Good man, Carl. Take care of him, will you?”

The image is beginning to blur again and Mitchell resists the urge to shake the set or send it flying into the wall. Lucy taps him on the shoulder, drawing his attention away.

“Are you ready?” she asks.

Mitchell turns back to the screen.

“Almost.”

-

George is the last to leave. Nina’s off to work and Annie left in a rush yammering something about chatting up spirits and Carl and Tom seemed to have reached a temporary truce, either that or they had headed off to the backyard for a death match, George was too afraid of the answer to ask which. The end result is a very quiet kitchen.

The newscaster drones on about a water crisis in the north and George finds his mind drifting. He looks at the chair across from him and feels a pang of sadness for the person who’s no longer there.

“I wish you were here,” he says quietly, even though he feels foolish for talking to thin air.

He checks his watch and swears. It’s nearly time to meet Wyndam at the pub. The legs of his chair scrape across the floor in his haste to get up and the noise is just loud enough that he almost misses the crackling sound of Mitchell’s voice filling the room.

“Good luck.”

George freezes, turns slowly toward the television set. There’s nothing there but a weatherman making a prat out of himself. George crosses over to the set and reaches out to touch the screen.

“Mitchell?” he asks hopefully.

There’s no answer.

-

For one brief moment their fingertips are perfectly aligned. Mitchell holds the connection for as long as he can, but he doesn’t say another word, knows holding on any longer will only cause them all more pain. He doesn’t say goodbye because he doesn’t believe it is.

Instead he waits until George has given up on hearing any more messages from beyond the grave and walks away before he speaks again at all.

“I miss you too,” he whispers to an empty room before leaving behind his cage to begin his search for the door that will deliver him back into the light.