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Being Human fic: In Recovery

Title: In Recovery
Author: wiliqueen
Pairing(s): None
Rating: PG
Length: 1225
Disclaimer: The people, places, and things found within belong to Auntie Beeb. I promise to return them in the condition I found them, with nary a penny changing hands.
Warnings: Spoilers through Series 2
Summary: Nina's still not sure what to make of Mitchell, but she's working on it.
Author's notes: Thanks to diannelamerc and sabaceanbabe for beta insights, on a holiday no less!

~

Arms loaded with three grocery sacks, Nina intended to head straight into the kitchen.

An intention somewhat hampered by six feet of miserable vampire sitting crumpled across most of the doorway.

Correction: Six feet of miserable vampire sleeping crumpled across most of the doorway. Or possibly passed out. Did vampires pass out?

She picked her way carefully round him to deposit the sacks on the table. Even when her arms were free, she hesitated to wake him, and hated that she hesitated. She'd managed to shed most of her wariness of him, if only by a sort of attrition - it was simply too exhausting to maintain when she shared a roof with him. And knew he'd give his life for the man she loved. And knew, as long as she was being honest, that he'd probably do so for her as well.

That last made her feel a bit guilty for being wary and for maybe resenting him sometimes. But it wasn't as if she'd asked it of him, was it? And none of it made her any more eager to risk startling him. Still, it was ridiculous to just leave him there, one leg flung out in front of him and the other pulled up to his chest, his head drooping over it and his face mostly obscured by unruly hair. He didn't seem to be breathing, but then he didn't need to.

"Mitchell?" When he didn't stir - Christ, what if something was really wrong with him? - she knelt next to him and set a hand on his shoulder. "Mitchell."

He snapped his head up, inhaling sharply, and she managed not to jump.

"Nina?" Mitchell blinked at her under eyebrows pulled into a twist of confusion, and she felt that much more foolish for the wariness. "Weren't you going into town?"

"I did. Two hours ago. I dropped George off at work and went to the Tesco, and now I'm back." She frowned. "You can't possibly be comfortable like that."

He almost smiled, the closest she'd seen him come to it since... the day of the gas leak, it would have to be, when the whole street had gathered round Annie's tea tray. A million years ago. "I can't possibly be comfortable anywhere at the moment, but I appreciate the thought."

The wince as he levered himself up underscored the statement, as if he felt every minute of his hundred and sixteen years. Maybe he did; God only knew what the vicious cycle of feast and famine really did to his body.

And God knew the latest go-round qualified as a feast.

"You have a bed, you know."

"I know. I've spent enough time awake in it." He raked a hand back through his hair, accomplishing nothing that she could see. "If I sleep now, it'll be that much harder tonight. I need to get back to a routine. Structure."

Nina nodded, seeing the sense of it, and peered into two grocery sacks before she found what she was looking for. "Five packets of coffee." She pulled one of them out. "Hopefully that'll last us more than three days."

Mitchell's answer was somewhere between a mutter and a grunt, but she took it as an acknowledgment that he'd been the one going through most of the coffee, and he started putting things away without being asked. By the time she had the cafetiere burbling away, he'd got to the last sack.

He held up the big box of Sugar Puffs as she turned round. "Cheers."

"No problem. Pour me a bowl while you're at it, will you?"

"Sure." This time he did smile, a weak and crooked thing, but there all the same. "Thought I was the only one who liked this stuff."

Nina leant back on the counter, arms crossed. "I think most people like it. We just had to go and grow up, and start feeling guilty for eating crap."

"Silly thing to feel guilty for."

"Easy for you to say. You're not going to rot your teeth or get fat." She cocked her head curiously. "In fact, it's probably better for you than proper food, isn't it?"

Mitchell shrugged. "I dunno. Food's food. I never thought about it much."

Well, there was a shock. "You're not building new cells or anything. You don't change. You just need fuel, and sugar's the most efficient. I mean, apart from..."

"Yeah, I suppose." He poured milk in both bowls, then pushed each to a side of the table and set spoons beside them. Over his shoulder from the fridge, he added, "Mostly it's just easier. Cooking isn't really my thing."

"Another benefit of moving in with George?" The coffee was ready, and Nina poured out two mugs and met Mitchell at the table.

"Definitely." He sat down and dug into the cereal, explaining around mouthfuls, "I tried to learn once, but I maybe possibly accidentally set fire to Josie's kitchen."

She suspected there were any number of things he had tried once. For someone who was theoretically going to live forever, he didn't have much of an attention span sometimes. Still, the one thing he kept trying, despite a growing catalog of failures, was the one that really mattered. She had to respect that.

He'd left the newspaper she'd bought at the center of the table, and Nina considered a moment before sliding it toward him. "There's a list of names in there. From the train."

He froze, staring at the paper as if it might bite him.

"I couldn't work it out at first," Nina said. "All those hours listening to the radio. That's what you were looking for, wasn't it?"

Mitchell swallowed. "Yeah."

"Was it just you?" When those eyes snapped up in her direction, part of her wanted to run. She was sick to death of running. "George doesn't want to know. I'm not George."

"There were two of us." His voice came out as if forced past gravel and broken glass.

"And twenty of them."

"Yeah." He watched her for several seconds, obviously waiting for a stronger reaction. When there wasn't one, he went on, "You'd have had a lot to say about that, not long ago. When Carl was staying with us – "

"Carl killed someone he loved." Nina wrapped her hands round her coffee mug, suddenly chilled. "I still can't fathom that. I don't know what I think about this, but… I don't know."

Slowly, gingerly, Mitchell pulled the paper over and opened it to the second page. He stared at it for nearly a minute, reading over the list several times. "Someone loved them. All of them."

"And now you know their names. Does it make it easier?"

"No. Not easier." He closed the paper, folded it, set it back in the center of the table. "But it's important. I'm the only one who knows what really happened to them. Well, me and – " He stopped short of naming the other vampire involved. "I'm all they've got. I need to know. I need to remember."

There was silence for a bit longer, not exactly awkward, then Mitchell picked up his spoon and started munching away again.

They were still in a drafty cottage in Wales, and Annie was still gone. Even so, Nina found herself hopeful that they'd all sleep better tonight.

[xposted to beinghuman_fic]

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
sabaceanbabe
Jun. 1st, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC)
I just love this entire paragraph:

She suspected there were any number of things he had tried once. For someone who was theoretically going to live forever, he didn't have much of an attention span sometimes. Still, the one thing he kept trying, despite a growing catalog of failures, was the one that really mattered. She had to respect that.

It says so much about both Nina and Mitchell. Our poor Mitchell could teach a lot of people how to be more human, couldn't he? *pets the poor woobie*
wiliqueen
Jun. 1st, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC)
Thankyouthankyou! I'm particularly pleased with that bit, so I'm glad it struck you.

Our poor Mitchell could teach a lot of people how to be more human, couldn't he?

In more senses than he'd really prefer. *wry g*
darkmagess
Jun. 3rd, 2010 09:25 am (UTC)
Slight note, the coffee maker is just a french press, so it wouldn't burble.

Aside from that, lovely. Very in character. For some reason I love Nina informing him that yes George wouldn't ask these questions, but she's not George.
wiliqueen
Jun. 3rd, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC)
D'oh! Should have checked, having never seen one before, but I assumed it was safe to think anything that heats water should make a noise eventually. :-) Assumptions are never wise things...

Nina informing him that yes George wouldn't ask these questions, but she's not George.

I think she's aware George specifically said he doesn't want to know, and understands that he really needs to not deal with it right now.

The fact that she doesn't have the same emotional investment in Mitchell makes her potentially more helpful to him than anyone else at this point. He needs no-nonsense, no-excuses boundaries, and Nina's pretty well equipped to set them. She's not going to write him off (perhaps mostly, but not entirely, for George's sake), but she's not going to stand for the lying and secrets the way George and Annie have either.

I had this flash of them getting cages set up in separate spots for her and George just in time for the full moon, and her turning to Mitchell and saying "Where's yours?"

Edited at 2010-06-03 02:58 pm (UTC)
brightknightie
Aug. 7th, 2010 05:15 pm (UTC)
>"I had this flash of them getting cages set up in separate spots for her and George just in time for the full moon, and her turning to Mitchell and saying "Where's yours?""

Yes? Story, please. ;-)
wiliqueen
Aug. 8th, 2010 03:47 am (UTC)
Right now that's all I've got, but I really want a story to go with it. Nina cutting Mitchell no slack is at the very top of my wish list for S3! Somebody has to, and she's best qualified at this point.
brightknightie
Aug. 7th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
"I know. I've spent enough time awake in it."
I read this story on my Kindle yesterday, while visiting some friends' pets to get them food and water through the weekend. When I finished reading, I mentioned to the nearest cat that this is definitely a Val story, and isn't it nice to have Val stories in the world?

You capture Nina's wariness, resentment, determination and curiosity in regards to Mitchell, and you also nudge her around to her expertise as a nurse. It's very characteristic of them both, and this tiny story feels exactly as if it could happen days or a week or two after the finale.

A summer story! You know? Written between seasons, with that edgy energy of impending new canon and bristly old canon. I can't remember the last time I encountered a new summer story. (That's what I get for living in canceled fandoms. ~g~)

>"the day of the gas leak, it would have to be, when the whole street had gathered round Annie's tea tray."

That summation of first season, as second prepared to pop the bubble.

>""You're not building new cells or anything. You don't change. You just need fuel, and sugar's the most efficient. I mean, apart from...""

This is a very nice use of Nina's expertise as a nurse, turned on her new situation, addressing canonical questions that this universe doesn't seem to ask of itself. And yet she's not quite precisely right; Mitchell heals from injuries, and that means new (replacement) cells are built. By the theory you give her here, a BH vampire can live on human food as an energy source as long as he/she avoids injury, but when healing is required... is blood then required? We have no clue. :-)

>"She suspected there were any number of things he had tried once."

Nice line, for characterizing Mitchell's somewhat indolent dilettantism, and Nina's somewhat impatient practicality.

>""I couldn't work it out at first," Nina said. "All those hours listening to the radio. That's what you were looking for, wasn't it?""

Nice work, integrating and addressing that behavior from the finale.

>"She was sick to death of running. "George doesn't want to know. I'm not George.""

Nice work, completing Nina's turn against the running that was her response in second season.

>""I'm all they've got. I need to know. I need to remember.""

Remembering them by name invokes Lucy, who remembered her werewolf victims by name (but didn't even think of counting much less naming her vampire victims).

However, the idea that he needs to remember plays curiously against his claims elsewhere this season that remembering is what the blood blots out, and that going clean brings back the memories indelibly, inescapably. (He says in the flashback that with the blood, he wouldn't remember their names by morning. Without the blood, he can never forget.) Hunting up the names would thus seem to mean that he wants to match the names to the memories he cannot escape, put the handle of a name on each victim.

>"And knew he'd give his life for the man she loved."

Suggestion: Should this sentence have a subject ("she")? The subject from the previous sentence does not carry through smoothly, perhaps because the previous sentence has three clauses.

Mitchell's relationship with George is something that may fluctuate interestingly, and for her distressingly, in Nina's view. That is, when it's them against the world, it's worth everything that Mitchell would die/live/kill/spare for George. But when things are calmer and safer, is Nina able to accept and respect this friendship as an end in itself, beside and outside her relationship with George? Something to return to, if calmer and safer comes again...

Good work. I enjoyed reading and rereading this piece. Thank you very much for sharing it.

Might you consider adding a "myfanfic" sort of tag to your LJ? Or should I take myself over to AO3 or your website? Just a thought. I know I've read all your FK long since, and I don't plan to miss any of your BH or BT or other things now... :-)
wiliqueen
Aug. 8th, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
Re: "I know. I've spent enough time awake in it."
I mentioned to the nearest cat that this is definitely a Val story, and isn't it nice to have Val stories in the world?

Oh, thank you!

By the theory you give her here, a BH vampire can live on human food as an energy source as long as he/she avoids injury, but when healing is required... is blood then required? We have no clue. :-)

We have some slight ones. Mitchell initially healed faster than expected from the stabbing, but then hit a plateau and didn't get any better until he fed from Josie. My interpretation of that -- and thus Nina's here -- is that he used up the efficacy of the blood already in his body. So, yeah, "not making new cells" is imprecise, but in my head it's not exactly what's in her head. If that makes any sense.

Remembering them by name invokes Lucy,

I appreciate your noticing. :-) It's a deliberate callback to that, as well as to the first time (from the audience perspective) Mitchell described the memory phenomenon -- not to Josie in this season's flashback, but to Annie before he heads out to face Herrick: "I can tell you all their names. What they were wearing. I can tell you who cried, who fought back..."

Hunting up the names would thus seem to mean that he wants to match the names to the memories he cannot escape, put the handle of a name on each victim.

This is exactly what I was going for, yes.

The subject from the previous sentence does not carry through smoothly, perhaps because the previous sentence has three clauses.

Good to know. Thank you! I've gotten stricter with myself over the years with the complex sentences, but there are still some Russian dolls I can't quite keep from nesting. Too many pieces of each thought trying to be expressed at once.

Might you consider adding a "myfanfic" sort of tag to your LJ?

I can do that, if not immediately. I really, really need to get my website updated (along with...oh, too many other things!)

I'm glad this works for you! (I confess I'm trepidatious about asking you to beta That Other Thing In Progress, given the damage Mitchell has done to your estimation of him. When the time comes, I won't be offended if you'd prefer not to for that reason. It's about a week after S1 in BH time, but still.)
brightknightie
Aug. 8th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
Re: "I know. I've spent enough time awake in it."
>"I can't quite keep from nesting. Too many pieces of each thought trying to be expressed at once."

There's nothing inherently wrong with complex sentences, of course! Many times, that's appropriate and evocative; please don't cut yourself off. There was nothing wrong with the complex sentence in this case. What happened here is that two dependent clauses (lacking subjects) were cut loose and standing as if they were sentences; they followed a complex sentence. In my opinion, that staccato trick with dependent clauses works only with an easy-to-see antecedent. ~shrug~

>"(I confess I'm trepidatious about asking you to beta That Other Thing In Progress"

Thank you for thinking of me. When the time comes, please do ask me, if you still want me, and I'm sure I'll be happy to do my best. Your story is set before the massacre; as long as you don't have the character committing another massacre, I can roll back to that previous setting for him. (After that point with the character, I need to see repentance, at minimum. Preferably self-sacrifice, perhaps, if the writers will oblige, as you have here in this story here, with a start on the repentence and responsibility and admission that there are no adequate reparations.)
wiliqueen
Aug. 9th, 2010 03:10 am (UTC)
Re: "I know. I've spent enough time awake in it."
Your story is set before the massacre; as long as you don't have the character committing another massacre, I can roll back to that previous setting for him.

I was hoping that would be the case, but I wasn't sure. Sometimes this sort of thing can taint a character retroactively in someone's mind.

There is not a shortage of stupid in the crossover, but it's a first-season level of stupid. *wry g*
wiliqueen
Aug. 8th, 2010 01:21 pm (UTC)
Re: "I know. I've spent enough time awake in it."
I got up earlier than expected this morning, with a brain unwilling to do anything more taxing, so it was the perfect opportunity to add the tag. It's on any post that contains or exists for the purpose of linking to a completed fic. (AO3 is still more reliable for anything prior to "Ambient Light." I finished one SG-1 fic after getting on LJ, but it appears never to have actually been posted here.)
brightknightie
Aug. 8th, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC)
Re: "I know. I've spent enough time awake in it."
I used your handy new tag to navigate here! Excellent. Thank you! :-)

I may use your new tag as a platform for a post mentioning my own tags, encouraging everyone else to make such tags themselves, and asking for examples of the easiest-to-use-for-readers tagging systems people have seen.

I didn't know that you'd written an SG-1 story at all. Sorry! I must not have been paying attention; I'll offer the excuse that that's not one of my fandoms, but still. If you wrote it, it's worth reading.
wiliqueen
Aug. 9th, 2010 03:30 am (UTC)
Re: "I know. I've spent enough time awake in it."
I didn't know that you'd written an SG-1 story at all. Sorry! I must not have been paying attention;

I'm pretty sure it was before we reconnected here. I had a very long writing drought between it and "Ambient Light," and "Still Waters" took quite litereally two years (in fits and starts, obviously) to finish.

My output during FK's run was very much an anomaly. *wry g*

Edited at 2010-08-09 04:30 am (UTC)
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