She trails her fingertips up his arm, just to watch him shiver. George looks up from his book and smiles, soft, like pity. Mitchell exhales slowly, and curls his fingers around her wrist.
It's different, but it's not. She taps her fingers on the back of George's hand when she hands him a fresh cup of tea, just for a second, her hands wrapped around his on the cup, like she can feel the heat through him, if nowhere else.
She imagines that she can, when he smiles like that again.
Mitchell steps up behind him, wraps around George's back like a blanket. He presses his palm against the back of her hand and his own smile into George's neck.
She remembers tying towels around her shoulders when she was a child, running in circles as they flapped behind her. She remembers feeling like she could fly.
George doesn't look away, even has his cheeks go pink.
She remembers it feeling like this.
George is always shaking the night before; trembling, when the moon is looming close, the way addicts do, when the next hit isn't near enough.
Mitchell's on the floor, next to him, because George needs room, but he doesn't need space. Mitchell waves off another cup of tea for him, but catches her sleeve before she can get too far away.
She's stopped being surprised that they can touch her, but she hasn't stopped appreciating it.
"Annie," George says, barely beyond a whisper, and her fingers quake in sympathy, right along with his voice. Mitchell doesn't let go of her jumper as he shifts closer, wraps his other arm around George's calves, rests his forehead on George's knee.
She's never sure how she managed to forget so much. Holding on used to be the thing she did best.
Mitchell only lets go of her to take the tea and set it aside while she gets settled on the sofa, sitting on her feet, her knees pressed into George's thigh, both her hands wrapped around his in her lap.
They all breathe, and stutter, and tremble together until the sun comes up.
Annie woke up in the same place she fell, got up, brushed herself off, saw herself still lying there, and screamed.
No one heard her, of course.
Mitchell shushes her in the mornings, when she's singing along with the morning radio, humming commercial jingles and pulling at his blankets from the foot of the bed. He's not an early riser by nature, and she hopes he never becomes one.
He tosses a pillow in her direction, and she laughs when it hits her.
George still laughs like he's shy, sometimes, when she hands him toast butter-side up, and presses a kiss to his cheek as she pushes them out the door, one after another.
He forgets himself sometimes, Mitchell. Gets all caught up in the rushing blood of the jogger on the pavement, and misses words, loses his thoughts into that.
He forgets himself in other ways too, though, and asks her a question in the middle of the corner shop, and hardly notices the funny looks it earns him. He slips his arm around George's shoulder when it's cold out, and pulls him in close. He presses his palm to the small of her back, while crowds of people push past them and through her.
Mitchell presses his cold nose against George's pink cheek, and laughs. Annie likes to think the wind would carry the sound to her no matter how far away into the world they got.
They never get too far, though; Mitchell never forgets the limits of the distances she can go.
It's not a shock, really, that the first time George turns in to her kiss, he does it with Mitchell's hand on his cheek. Does it with Mitchell's smile pressed to the back of his neck, standing in the entry with winter blowing in around them.
It's different, but it's not.
She doesn't kiss Mitchell on the cheek either, when her palm trades places with his.
George curled his fingers into Mitchell's shirt, the morning after the first full moon that she'd been witness too. He'd been bruised and breathing heavy, leaning against Mitchell as they came in like he'd fall on his face without Mitchell as an anchor. She'd seen him naked, and scared, and angry and tired—all at the same time, even—but she'd never seen him look like he'd been torn apart and pieced back together. She'd never seen him more vulnerable.
She'd gone to make tea, and hadn't realized, until she'd handed it to him that she hadn't been able to touch the mug two days earlier, when she'd been trying to tidy up.
She's got tea ready now, when Mitchell brings him in. He drinks it slowly, propped up between the two of them, like their shoulders are the only things keeping him upright.
If there's a point where it began, she doesn't know where it could be.
George smiles, and Mitchell smiles, and she shares it with them.
They manage to get tangled up on the sofa watching old movies.
She touches everywhere she can, because she can't get enough of it.
George sneaks up on her, when she's sitting on the bottom stair.
He doesn't say anything though, not really. The sun won't be peeking up over the horizon for another hour, at least, and there's too much silence to dare to interrupt it.
He sits up on the step above her, sleep-warm and middle of the night slow. He brackets her with his knees and crosses his arms in front of her, to pull her to his chest. He's got an old university t-shirt from a place he's never been that he sleeps in, one he nicked from Mitchell so long ago they hardly remember at all where it came from; it's soft against her cheek.
She understands Mitchell, at times like this, because all she can hear is the sound of George's heart beating, his blood rushing, his lungs pushing air in and out and—
He sits with her, and she counts his breaths until the morning comes.
Death isn't an adventure. She paces, goes from one window to another, watches the neighbors and daytime telly, and waits.
Mitchell doesn't push, except for all the ways he does.
He pushes, with the doors latched and the shades drawn against the first warm afternoon of spring. He shoves George against the wall, curls fingers into his belt loops, and presses close, his mouth open against the stubble-rough line of George's jaw.
Annie laughs, because she can't help it, because the sun is bright and warm where it slips through the shades. She laughs, and holds George's hand on Mitchell's back, their fingers spread out to touch him together, from shoulder to hip.
She doesn't know which of them pushes Mitchell closer to him, until there's no space in between anymore. Until there's no more room to wiggle away, or make a joke, or pretend this is anything other than what it is.
"This is why you two are the favorite of all my boys, you know," Annie says, her chin pressed to Mitchell's shoulder.
"We're just happy to rate," George answers, and leans in toward her, while Mitchell's still close.
It feels like coming home when you've been away too long. Like getting that thing you've spent so long waiting for. George laughs with her, and it isn't shy, or soft. It's breathless, and knowing, and right.