Actions

Work Header

Stray

Work Text:

 

When he and Mitchell move into the house and find Annie, George imagines he'll finally get that feeling of puzzle pieces fitting together. Everyone slotting into place beside each other perfectly.

 

Except this is more like a puzzle of clouds, where all the pieces look exactly the same, so you can never figure out what goes where. And then they move and change anyway, like clouds do, and you're back to staring at a million white, fluffy puzzle pieces, wondering if you should've had that last pint.

 

Annie and Mitchell don't seem to have a problem fitting together. But then they have a lot more in common with each other than they do with George. At least they're both dead. George feels like his breathing is unnaturally loud at night, in the silence of the house. His heartbeat seems to echo, bouncing off walls. The only sounds of life in their home are his. It's more disconcerting than he thought it'd be.

 

That doesn't mean he wants it to change, exactly. Just that sometimes it's weird, being the only person alive in his home when he's not living alone. He doesn't mention anything to Annie and Mitchell, because he doesn't want to make them uncomfortable.

 

Things are going relatively well, given the circumstances. Mitchell is a slob, and there's always washing up to do, because Annie won't stop making tea. But George doesn't mind straightening up on his days off, or cooking a meal in the evening so he can wrest control of the kitchen away from Annie and maybe put it into some semblance of neatness.

 

But sometimes--just sometimes, it's not like he's needy--he wants to sit next to someone on the couch and feel their heat. He doesn't want a cuddle or anything, just some warmth. A head on his shoulder while they watch telly, or feet in his lap. He wants someone to steal the blanket from him, just so he can steal it back. George has never been a touchy-feely type of person. He likes his space. But sometimes he wants to feel like he's part of a pack; unafraid to seek comfort when he needs it, or be close to someone just for the sake of being close.

 

It's too much of the Wolf coming through, so George pushes it down and forgets about it.

--

 

There is a cat in the house.

 

Not only is there a cat in the house, which is inexplicable in itself as both Annie and Mitchell swear up and down they weren't the one to let it in, but Mitchell seems to find the fact that there is a cat in the house extremely hilarious.

 

Or, more likely, what Mitchell finds hilarious is the fact that, while the cat doesn't seem at all bothered by the likes of any of them, George is utterly terrified.

 

Of course, George hasn't actually said a word since they both got home today, or given any other indication that he is afraid of a stupid cat. But he can see the smug, irritating little grins that Mitchell and Annie are trying to hide as he putters around the kitchen to avoid the (probably flee-ridden) little fur-ball. It is currently chasing a piece of string 'round the living room, while Mitchell and Annie have aneurysms over how bloody fucking adorable it is.

 

George is being unreasonable. He knows this. In any sort of world that actually made sense, the cat would be afraid of him. He is a ravening beast after all. Some of the time, anyway. The cat is clearly mental. Mental and tiny. Tiny and precious, with little white socks on three feet. George kind of wants to punt it out the door, but is slightly more terrified of Annie than he is of the cat.

 

The kettle goes off and George is out of reasons to be in the kitchen. He pours two mugs and stands at the edge of the lounge while he works out a complex plan that will allow him to sit on the couch and drink his tea without eliciting the attention of the cat.

 

Or Mitchell, who will never let him hear the end of it.

 

"Is that tea?" Mitchell says, ruining all of George's plans and clearly not caring in the slightest.

 

"Is that my shoelace?" George says.

 

"No, of course not,” Mitchell says, though it is clearly a boldfaced lie.

 

George makes a grumbly noise and hands the tea to Mitchell, keeping a close eye on the cat as he moves in awkward steps to avoid stepping on a tail or a paw. The cat seems more interested in the shoelace than in the ghost, vampire, and werewolf in the house.

 

Mental.

 

Annie watches him sink into the couch, but only raises an eyebrow when he sips his tea and glares at the cat.

 

For a moment, there's silence. Perfect, peaceful, almost completely normal, silence.

 

Then Mitchell says, "I guess it's the end of the world then."

 

"Why's that?" Annie says, but she is grinning stupidly and if George weren't so damned fond of his housemates, he'd probably throw something at them for being so blatantly inconsiderate of his issues. And annoying.

 

Mitchell looks up at George with that ear-splitting, I-find-your-discomfort-terribly-amusing grin of his and says, "Cats and dogs living together."

 

George glares. "I'm going to bite you."

 

Mitchell, because he is an irritating wanker, wiggles his eyebrows when he says, "Promise?"

 

George throws the tea at his stupid head.

 

On the plus side, it sends the cat scampering out of the room with a frightened yowl.

 

George – 1, stupid, inexplicable cat – 0.

 

--

 

There's not enough seating in the living room. George could swear there used to be, back when Annie didn't do a lot of sitting. Usually George and Mitchell would take the couch, while Annie went back and forth between them and the kitchen, making tea or lunch, or just fetching them beer and throwing peanuts at his head when George tried to explain to them the finer points of Doctor Who.

 

Now Annie comes in from the kitchen and just squeezes down between them. She's always been corporeal to them, never like what he always thought a ghost should be. He can feel her next to him, pressed against his side. There's no warmth, but there's a sort of electric tingling. Like when your foot falls asleep and you don't notice until you stand up and try to walk on it.

 

Unsurprisingly, Mitchell is cold. He used to be warmer, back when he was drinking blood. But since he's been on the wagon, he only heats up after he's been sitting next to George. He'll be ice cold at the beginning of EastEnders and burning like an oven by the time it's over.

 

Sometimes Mitchell hugs him, or squeezes George's shoulder before he heads off to bed, and George can feel that borrowed warmth seeping back into him.

 

George lies awake at night and listens hard for the sound of something, anything. He can hear the neighbours' heartbeats, cars out on the road, someone knocking over a bin and scurrying away with muttered curses.

 

Mitchell and Annie are silent.

 

The cat, however, scratches at his door and meows irritably at not being let in, before wandering off.

 

--

 

“You'll grow to love each other,” Mitchell says.

 

“We're not keeping it,” George snaps back. “We're not.”

 

Annie gives him sad eyes.

 

“Stop that,” he says. “For fuck's sake, I'm a werewolf! Hello! What if I eat it? What if Mitchell eats it?”

 

Mitchell looks affronted. “I'm not going to eat it!”

 

“Stop calling her an it!” Annie yells. “Her name's Floss.”

 

George and Mitchell just stare at her, then look at each other before both saying, “No.”

 

“I like Guinness,” Mitchell says.

 

“We know,” George says, and ducks when Mitchell throws a pillow at him.

 

Annie shakes her head. “I won't be one of those people who names a cat after what colour it is. We're not calling her Shadow or Socks, or anything stupid like that.”

 

“So you'd rather call her Floss?” Mitchell is endlessly amused by all of them, George can tell.

 

“Like candy floss! Because she's sweet.”

 

George refuses to be a part of this conversation. Especially since there is no way they're keeping the cat. He doesn't think their contract allows pets, for starters. Also, there's the problem that the cat isn't afraid of any of them and that is just weird and wrong and fucking creepy.

 

“If she's not gone tomorrow, I'm calling her Lunch,” he says, and goes upstairs to make sure the damn thing isn't hiding under his bed, waiting to stick her tiny kitten claws in his eyes the minute he lies down.

 

--

 

Annie is staring at him creepily again.

 

“Stop staring at me.”

 

“Why? Is it creepy?” Annie says. “It's creepy isn't it? Sorry, sorry.”

 

She shakes her head and goes back to washing up. George isn't sure when she finally started doing that, or how long it's been going on, but he figures maybe Mitchell said something. At least George won't have to do it all the time anymore, thus freeing up more time to pick up after Mitchell, who is still a slob.

 

He thinks about bringing it up to Mitchell, since that obviously worked for him with Annie, but he figures that Mitchell has probably been a slob for a hundred years, and will probably continue to be a slob for another hundred. He's not going to break a habit like that just because George asks him to.

 

Instead, George thinks about putting a nice piece of pottery or a nail by the door for their keys, so Mitchell will stop leaving his in the sofa and forgetting them.

 

Then he thinks, fuck Mitchell and his stupid keys. George isn't his wife.

 

Sometimes he thinks what Mitchell really needs is an adult. He's done a lot of things in a hundred years, but growing up clearly isn't one of them.

 

George takes another bite of his sandwich. He takes two more before he feels Annie staring at him again.

 

“Do I have something on my face or something?” he says through a mouthful of sandwich, so it's probably mostly unintelligible. Annie doesn't seem to have any trouble translating, and starts waving her hands and stammering.

 

“What? No! No, of course not,” she says. “No, your face is perfect. I mean fine! It's fine, there's nothing on your face.”

 

“Then what is so fascinating about me eating a sandwich?” George snaps. He doesn't mean to snap at her so much, he really doesn't. It's his knee-jerk reaction to Mitchell, and the two of them have been conspiring against him lately. He's certain of it.

 

Annie is silent for a moment. Her eyes flicker between his face and the door, as if she's expecting some distraction that will keep her from having to answer. Or maybe she's just waiting for Mitchell to make an appearance, because this is all part of some practical joke they came up with while George was busy leaving doors and windows open to encourage the damn cat to leave. He won't actually kick her out, but if she just happened to decide to leave on her own.... Well, he can't be blamed for cats being fickle creatures.

 

It hasn't worked, and with his luck they'll probably just end up with five more.

 

Just as Annie finally focuses back on him and opens her mouth to say something, the door opens and Mitchell bounces in. Annie lights up, her hands fluttering and grasping at the air. Probably she's struggling to articulate the sheer, overwhelming joy that so many women seem unable to help in Mitchell's presence. George thinks he might puke.

 

“Honey, I'm home!” Mitchell calls out. He smacks a kiss on George's cheek before George can fend him off, then wraps Annie in a brief hug.

 

“Did you get everything?” She asks, practically jumping up and down in a way that makes George simultaneously annoyed and...interested. Not like...no, not interested. Not like that. Not in Annie. She's just so...vibrant. For a ghost.

 

Okay, so Annie is vibrant for anyone, not just a ghost. She's got this happy glow and squeals a little bit when Mitchell pulls out wrapped packages that George can smell are steak. His stomach rumbles.

 

In addition to making seventy million cups of tea a day, Annie makes them lists: Things to pick up at Tesco and the chemist's, films she wants them to borrow, different varieties of flowers, depending on what colour scheme she's come up with for the lounge this week. George doesn't know if this is a symptom of being dead, or if she's always been irritatingly organized.

 

Mitchell sets the grocery bag on the counter and starts pulling out an assortment of odd things that could only be Annie's doing. Smelly cheeses, some kind of marinade, mismatched candles. Snapdragons. George has always loved them because they are called Snapdragons.

 

A bottle of wine comes out of the bag next and Mitchell sticks it in George's face. George blinks a couple of times before he can focus on the bottle. He ends up just taking it out of Mitchell's hands to get a proper look, because Mitchell's jittery and shaking a bit, like he's excited. Or nervous. Or jonesing for blood, which George doesn't want to think about.

 

It's a good wine. A great wine, actually. A much fancier, pricier, wine than they usually indulge in. The steaks that Annie puts in the fridge smell high quality. Mitchell has bought fancy cheeses. And candles.

 

And a tin of cat food.

 

George glares. His chair scrapes noisily as he gets up and stomps out of the room. If they think they're going to wine and dine him into accepting a cat in the house, they're barking.

 

He goes upstairs and calls the shelter to see if they have room for a cat, or if anyone's called in missing a tiny ball of fur with three white socks and an annoying habit of sitting just at the edge of George's peripheral vision and staring at him until he sets out a saucer of milk just so she'll leave him alone. She never even drinks the milk! She just does it to annoy him.

 

George is completely unreasonable when it comes to this cat, so the only obvious solution is to get rid of her.

 

He knows Mitchell can hear him. And he knows Mitchell knows George can hear him, because George can hear Mitchell saying, “I don't think this is going as well as we'd hoped,” to Annie. But Annie's response is too soft and indistinct even for George's super-powered werewolf hearing.

 

--

 

They ambush him on his day off. George is minding his own business, watching some ridiculous show on gardening, when all of a sudden Mitchell plops down next to him and scoots over until he's pressed against George's side, shoulder to knee. Annie appears out of nowhere, literally, and curls up against his other side.

 

Then the damn cat has the audacity to jump right into his lap and go to sleep.

 

George takes a few moments to blink and sputter indignantly, which is just enough time for Mitchell to steal the remote and switch to some even more ridiculous show about house hunting. Annie puts a beer in George's hand, then starts scritching the cat behind the ears.

 

Neither responds to George's irritated huffs and angry muttering. He can't quite form a coherent sentence, mostly because he's at a loss for where to start the argument: The invasion of personal space? The thievery and blatant disregard for his right to uninterrupted telly time? The goddamn cat in his lap?

 

He really should've taken that thing to the shelter already, instead of letting himself be bullied and distracted into letting her stay, “Just another day, George! She's got nowhere else to go! You wouldn't want to be all alone in the cold, would you?” by Annie.

 

By the time George comes up with a good starting point, his beer is half gone, the cat is purring in his lap, and Mitchell and Annie are discussing the merits of the country cabin with room for sheep versus the flat above the pub.

 

“This show is shite,” George says. Though he clearly means, stop making my decisions for me.

 

“Mitchell, check if there's a film on,” Annie says. And while it's the proper response to what he actually said, it's not at all what George wants her to say.

 

Mitchell says, “What do you want to watch, George?”

 

That's much closer to the kind of response he'd like, but George thinks he might need to get a little more specific, since it's been well established that none of them have inherited any mind-reading powers along with their other supernatural talents. Also, Mitchell and Annie can be dense as lead.

 

So George says, “I really don't like having this cat on my lap, if it's all the same to you.”

 

“Well all right,” Annie says. She scoops up the cat and cuddles her. The cat gives a perturbed growl before settling back to purring. “But we're not watching Doctor Who again. Sorry, I can't do it.”

 

And that, well...that's just another argument entirely, and it isn't until he's spent the next twenty minutes explaining to her all the many and varied reasons that she is incredibly wrong that George realizes he's forgotten what he even wanted to argue about in the first place.

 

--

 

The cat (George still refuses to call her by any name, lest she get the idea that she's welcome.) takes to following George around the house and meowing incessantly until George goes back to the lounge and sits down. Once she's certain he's not going to get up and walk out again, she leaves and returns a short while later with Mitchell trailing behind. She continues this pattern with Annie, once the kettle has boiled and Annie has made something to use up the last clean mugs in the house. Again.

 

After the second night of this sort of behaviour, George asks, “Are you sure you didn't get a cleverly disguised sheep dog?”

 

Mitchell laughs. “She certainly likes to keep us together.”

 

“I think she's just lonely and wants her family,” Annie says.

 

There are a hundred things George can say to that. They're not her family. She's an unwelcome guest. He doesn't like being herded by a cat.

 

But Annie launches into a funny story about taking out the rubbish when the dustman clearly couldn't see her, and how he was either somehow used to bins floating on their own, or just really high.

 

Mitchell puts his feet in George's lap, which they've discovered is a great way to divert the cat to someone else's lap.

 

The cat curls up on the rug instead and watches them silently, her tail flicking back and forth every time one of them laughs.

 

--

 

He hasn't given in. He really hasn't.

 

George still puts a saucer of milk down before bringing out plates of pasta to the lounge, where Mitchell and Annie are waiting to start the film.

 

--

 

They've had the cat for a week when George finally breaks.

 

He hasn't argued with Mitchell or snapped at Annie in three whole days. Annie only makes tea when they're actually going to drink it now. Mitchell feels warm all the time.

 

George hasn't seen Doctor Who at all, but he doesn't even mind that much.

 

“Okay, okay, I get it!” he yells down at the cat, who remains unperturbed. “You're all-knowing and mystical or whatever! We still don't need a cat! I don't even think you're allowed to be here!” His voice goes up an octave in that irritating way that he knows makes him sound like a harpy, but that he can't help.

 

The cat flicks her tail at him and gives him a look too close to the one that Mitchell always gives him. The one that says, you're my favourite idiot. George deflates.

 

“You don't even drink the milk,” he says.

 

The cat winds between his legs and purrs. He leans down and scratches her. Just once. Just a little bit.

 

He doesn't enjoy it, or smile. At all. He really doesn't.

 

She trots away and only glances at him once before flicking her tail and disappearing out the cat flap into the bright morning light.

 

George rolls his eyes and goes to put on some tea.

 

--

 

It's only after the kettle's boiled and he's rummaging through cupboards for some biscuits that the thought occurs to him.

 

Since when do they have a cat flap?

 

He goes to look at the door and, sure enough, no cat flap. He even opens the door and checks on the other side. Then he looks up and down the street, but he can't see where the cat might have gone.

 

George isn't stupid. He didn't just imagine a cat living with them for the past week. Annie and Mitchell clearly saw it, so it's not like.... Oh.

 

Well, that's a new one.

 

--

 

George has finally, finally, convinced Annie to watch Doctor Who with him, as long as he promises to answer every one of her stupid questions without calling them stupid.

 

They have pizza and beer, Annie makes hot chocolate, and no one mentions that the cat has mysteriously vanished. Annie doesn't cry or hit him and Mitchell doesn't accuse him of going wolf and eating her.

 

When Mitchell goes to sit on the floor in front of the couch, which George and Annie are sprawled across, they both make identical disappointed faces and high-pitched, confused whines. Mitchell just laughs at them and shoves George over to make room. He twines their legs together, while Annie practically sits in George's lap.

 

“Comfy?” she asks.

 

George smiles. “Very.”

 

“And we didn't even have to get you drunk first,” Mitchell says, poking him in the side with a bony elbow.

 

George could come up with a witty reply, or something to throw, but he's much too boneless and comfortable to bother. Maybe later.

 

Annie says, “I got you a puzzle of one of those pepper pot things.”

 

“I paid for it, actually,” Mitchell says.

 

“Yes, but I picked it out!”

 

George just says, “Dalek,” and snuggles deeper into the couch while they continue to argue over the top of his head. At least it's not a puzzle with clouds.

 

And he won't have to do it alone.