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walking with a ghost

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(He doesn’t go through the door.)

“It’s a bourgeois concept,” he says, and Annie smiles but doesn’t really know what to think. If he’s staying for her, if he’s just bored.

I love you, he’d said. It sends a shiver down her back and she feels him watching her while she’s making tea or cleaning the house, and George takes on a humorous attitude whenever they’re in the room together.

Stupid George.

But somehow, Gilbert becomes the fourth member, adding to the washing-up and listening while Annie and George and Mitchell talk about what to do with Herrick. It’s terrifying, Herrick’s plan, but Annie puts on a stiff upper lip. She doesn’t even have the hard part.

It becomes easier to slip away for walks with Gilbert though, to get him to do actually fun things that don’t involve dancing with branches in the cemetery. It takes a while.

And it turns out 80s music isn’t all bad.

(He lets her take his hand in hers, lean against him, doesn’t ask anything in return.)

His hands, it turns out, don’t feel cold like a ghost’s should, like Annie’s been told she is. He feels warm against her and she asks him once if it’s the same for him.

“You're summery,” he tells her, humming along to the music in his headphones, and Annie laughs.

Nothing’s going to happen. They’re dead (so very dead) and she’s never asked how he died. Why he’s here with her.

It doesn’t seem to matter.

(The door shows up every once in a while. Gilbert opens it, says something to people Annie can’t see, and comes back.)

“I’m buying time,” he tells her when she finally asks him about it, curled up next to him on the couch.

“What does that mean?” she asks, worry creeping in her voice.

“I have to go, eventually,” he says, and Annie swallows, a panic rising in her chest. Ghosts aren’t supposed to feel panic; she knows this.

“What do they want from you?” she asks, has to know, kneels next to him on the couch and tries not to let her worry show.

“Time,” he says. “All they want is time.”

(For Gilbert, time is nothing now. A few years as a human, longer as a ghost, but Annie knows what time is. Still remembers wanting, to live, to breathe, to not bleed out on tiled floors.)

“Time is all we’ve got, Gilbert,” she says firmly and Gilbert smiles, slips his fingers against her cheek and in her hair.

“It all means nothing to me,” he tells her.

It’s easy to kiss him – easier than explaining – and it’d be so bourgeois, anyway, explaining. How precious time is, how not to throw it away. His lips are just as warm as his hands were (warmer) and suddenly the kiss isn’t for him at all. Not for him, not for his love, not for his time.

Annie pushes against him on the couch, doesn’t think about George or Mitchell coming home to this, and relishes the sound Gilbert makes as he shifts under her.

(So warm. Warmer than warm.)

“Annie,” he gasps, and it’s almost like they’re alive, because she can feel him. She can feel his skin and what was once blood and there’s a pressure in her stomach that hasn’t been there in years.

“Yes?” she asks, because maybe she’s doing it wrong, maybe she’s forgotten herself. Maybe he doesn’t want this.

“This –” he says, can’t finish, reaches for her again. This means something.

She kisses him again, hazily decides in the back of her mind it doesn’t matter what he’s bargained, because he’s not crossing over. None of them are. Especially not her.

Crossing over is such a bourgeois concept, after all.