It's been a miserable night, drizzle falling on and off from dusk til dawn. It's left the country a wet, heavy grey.
George has found his clothes today, though it looks like they spent most of the night on the floor. Mitchell is half tempted to say something about the scatter of damp leaves and the smear of gritty mud George is leaving across the seat.
But he's stopped by the expression on George's face.
There's an air of restlessness today, a quiet length of misery.
So Mitchell doesn't say anything, he just drives them home while George picks at length of mud that's hardened on the edge of his cheek, there's no blood today though, no smell of death.
Mitchell thinks about wet fur and earth and can't help but wonder what it's like when they can smell you coming.
They get back between one tea making spree and the next, Annie's making a haphazard effort to put washing up in the sink, though Mitchell suspects there are more bubbles in there than water. She leans back against it and watches them come in, dragging cold air and tension with them.
The bubbles in the sink pop with tiny noises
"Alright," Annie says simply, and it hovers somewhere between statement and question.
George smiles at her, and it costs him, Mitchell can see it in the fine tension of his neck. But she smiles back.
"I'm going to shower," George says quietly and his voice is thin, tipping from one word to the next and threatening to fall off every time.
When George disappears Mitchell can see Annie watching him out of the corner of his eye. Though, defying expectations, she's no clearer like that.
"Is he alright?" Annie asks quietly.
"He will be." Mitchell tells her.
He heads upstairs at a slower pace. Hears the thump of the bathroom door, the drag of cloth over skin, taut, half-angry, half frustrated movements that end in the drop of denim and the thud of an elbow on tile before George manages to produce water.
Mitchell slips into his own room, drags off his hat and sunglasses. He leaves his coat half buttoned, tips back on the bed.
There's a faint clank of ceramic downstairs, and that's becoming a familiar sound. He tries to concentrate on that. The tap of mug on mug, the drag of stainless steel and Annie's own unique approach to milk-
It's a losing battle though.
There's something breathless under the water, shivers of sound caught before they're even half formed.
George knows how to be quiet, knows how to hide things from people.
Mitchell doesn't quite think he fits into the category though, doesn't quite slide neatly into the people slot. He's all sharp edges and no matter how he folds he'll never fit.
Though George has never tried to make him, never expected him to.
The sound of the water changes, no longer a delicate shiver of droplets but a hard running trail, like George has stepped into the spray, eased into its path to let it fall over his back and shoulders.
There are things you carefully pretend you don't notice when your sense are sharper than normal, things you're obliged not to notice for a peaceful life, for something close to a normal life. It makes everything easier if you pretend you don't notice a lot of things.
Like your flatmate masturbating in the shower.
Mitchell tries for a careful observational tone in his head, but there's a thread of tension under there that tells him he's failed.
He frowns at the ceiling.
Pretending not to notice things is easy, ignoring them is not.
But playing human is important to George, especially today.
George is polite and harmless, George is helpful and kind and, when he's not paying attention, he can even be amusingly clueless, prone to drifting off on mad tangents that are so very human. In fact George is probably the most human person that Mitchell has ever met. In all the ways that are important.
Mitchell is careful or, to give it a more old fashioned name, reserved, he's cautious, quiet, he can wear humanity...though it's never been a perfect fit.
That's what the outside world sees, that's what they give them.
They don't see the parts underneath the smiles. The parts that are all teeth and blood. The monsters in the cellar.
They don't know what's under the surface, and Mitchell and George are careful enough not to leave gaps...no prying up the floorboards, that's a quick way to get your fingers bitten off.
But George prods at him without even noticing, sliding into his space, sharing it, making everything comfortable in a way it hasn't been for years, in a way it might never have been.
Not once has Mitchell protested over the invasion of space. He thinks George...might be good for him, he thinks George might just be normal enough for both of them.
And that might have been the end of it, it might have been that simple, a careful, slow build of routine and structure and normality.
But it's never that easy, and when they relax, when they stop watching for it, the abnormal intrudes.
The way George will lean in close enough to smell him at odd moments, close enough to touch, sometimes more than close enough, and Mitchell very carefully pretends not to notice and definitely doesn't point out to George that he can smell him as well.
Mitchell can smell when someone wants him.
He just isn't quite sure if George knows it or not yet.
New instincts are complicated.
Though George isn't the only one who slips, isn't the only one who sometimes doesn't hold on so tightly. Mitchell has caught himself a few times as well, more than a few times, and he's been living with his instincts longer-
He stops thinking altogether, listens to the wet slap of a hand on tile, the near silent catch of air, it falls free a second later not half as controlled, broken into pieces.
Mitchell stares at the ceiling in silence, he can't do anything but listen now, because there's nothing else to listen to, and short of jamming a pen in his ear....
He pushes himself up on his elbows, slides against the headboard, an effortless lazy sprawl which has nothing to do with relaxation and everything to do with practice.
The bathroom door opens, footsteps wandering outside, less tense than before, less heavy, a soft meandering wander of feet. The George that emerges from the bathroom is polite and harmless again. He's left the teeth and blood tucked carefully beneath his skin.
Heartbeat trailing back into steady, careful, normal.
Mitchell wishes that his instincts were so easy to pack away.
"Feeling better?" Mitchell asks quietly, he offers an eyebrow, half lifted in question.
George takes a moment, doesn't answer on reflex.
"Yes," he decides eventually. "Thanks."