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Annie makes tea.

Mitchell leans against their kitchen counter and watches her make it; how she stirs the sugar in carefully, as if it requires all of her attention, as if all of their food and beverage preferences aren't programmed into one thing or another in the kitchen, as if she might get it wrong somehow, this eighth cup of tea no one is going to drink.

The apartment is small. They seem to have started needing less space, as the years went by, living on top of each other where once they would have clawed at each other for room. Well, him and George, at the very least -- Annie, he thinks, would have been happiest this way from the start, is happy to share her personal space and be allowed into theirs in return, happy that there's no telling those things apart anymore. Death is space enough, and Annie's always preferred closeness.

Death is space enough. But they don't talk about death, not these days.

It's good, now, that the apartment is so small. The indignities of age mean George needs Mitchell's help for things on a regular basis, mean Mitchell's anxiety needs evidence that all is well on a regular basis, too. The human body is so frail, so ill-designed for age; Mitchell's almost used, by now, to the way everyday things are suddenly a trap, how a fall can come out of nowhere and loom large and dangerous, but he's never quite reached the stage of making peace with it.

George has. George has made his peace with many things: with needing help to sit and stand, because his arms are too weak now to use the walker. With looking in the mirror and seeing an old man, and not looking away when Mitchell bends down to kiss his cheek. With bones so frail he fractured one rib, months ago, with nothing more than a violent coughing fit.

"At least I don't have to put up with turning anymore," he says. "There's probably nothing more pathetic than an old wolf." And Mitchell doesn't say the obvious, that he never would have survived turning now, that werewolves are even more ill designed for old age than regular humans. It's been more than a decade, he's almost certain, since George's body would last have been able to withstand tearing itself apart and being recreated again.

These are the things he's accomplished, in all his years of age: helping a werewolf to finally find the way to stay human, helping a ghost find the way to leave her home for good, almost, almost learning how to let go. He'll get that one, too. It won't be long now.

He used to be quite good at letting go, and better at never holding on to begin with. He'd call it one more thing he's accomplished, learning how to take hold of things, but it was never really his choice. Not any more than this is.

In a week or a month he'll stare out the window and wish he could work up the energy to smash things, to hit the wall. He'll tell Annie that now they can go wherever they want, climb mountains and discover if ghosts can scuba dive deeper than vampires, take the stairs at a run and leave the news at a reasonable volume. Annie will cry, and squeeze three drops of lemon into another cup of tea, stir in two spoons' worth of honey, then pour it all down the drain and fling the cup at his head.

In a week or a month, they'll huddle together on the floor by the wall of the kitchen, young and beautiful and already dead, and trade stories they already know back and forth in a whisper. When they leave, one bag packed out of the whole apartment (which Annie will insist on having equal vote on, even though Mitchell's the one who'll be carrying it), the one neighbor who doesn't assume Mitchell is George's grandson or dutiful employee -- who'd seen them kiss by their door a year or two back, soft and slow and warm ("You realize normal people don't find this kind of look sexy, right? Vampires are all kinky bastards." "Shut up.") and now clearly thinks Mitchell's here for the inheritance -- will be out in the hall.

He'll nod and avoid Mitchell's eyes, the way he always does, pretend to be searching for his key, but he'll look after them as they go. One young man with a bag on his back, nodding his head to some unheard thought, his pockets probably full and his mouth probably tasting of foul old age and decay. He'll think, "Hope it was worth it," and only mean it as judgment; he won't know a thing. Humans never do.