It would work. Of course, it would work. Carl would fake his own suicide. Dan’s murder solved, Carl guilty and dead. There would be a note, an anonymous tip to the police. Simple, clean. And then, once Lucy had pronounced Carl dead, once he’d been left in the morgue, then Mitchell would help Carl escape. He wasn’t sure how he’d explain it to Lucy afterward, but he’d figure something out. He’d spoken to Ivan. The car was ready, the boat was leaving that evening. There was just one more piece that needed to fall into place.
Mitchell took the stairs two at a time, nearly knocking over a cup of tea that sat on the landing. It had become clear in the time that they'd known Annie that Annie made tea in proportion to her mood, good or bad. Based on the state of the house, she really must have had a rough time of it with Saul. Mitchell would deal with that. He’d sit down with Annie. He'd let her cry on his shoulder if that was what she needed. He’d apologize for shouting at her, but first he had to deal with Carl.
He pushed into George’s room.
“Why does no one ever knock?” George returned, surprised, his voice high with affront as he scrambled to appear presentable, though it was very clear to Mitchell that George hadn’t actually been doing anything that required scrambling. It was because Carl had been staying at the house. It had put George on edge. Learning about Carl had bothered George far more than Mitchell had ever imagined that it would. Mitchell was still working through it. Mitchell was working through a lot of things, really. He’d have to sit down with George too, but Carl's situation was most imminent. Carl, then Annie, then he could get to the bottom of…whatever this was with George. Then maybe after everyone else, Mitchell could sit down and try to deal with himself too. Jesus.
“I need your help,” Mitchell said.
George gaped at him. “What’s happened now? Is it Annie?”
“With Carl,” Mitchell clarified. “I have a plan, but we need your help.”
“My help,” George repeated. “With Carl. I – a plan to what?”
“To get him out of this,” Mitchell said. He sat on the edge of George's bed, his knee folded up on the mattress as he faced George. If there was one thing he knew about George it was that this conversation would go better if Mitchell wasn't standing over him. They had to be at the same level. He leaned in a little as he continued. “We’re going to stage his death. I need you to help me to get him out of the hospital once we’ve staged his death. It’s the only way.”
George shook his head as he tried to take it all in. “You want me to – you’re going to smuggle a dead man from the hospital. Mitchell – ”
“He won’t be dead,” Mitchell said. “Not really. Or not any more than he already was. This is important. Don’t you see how important this is? If we don’t cover this up we’ll all be in danger. It won’t just be vampires. It’ll be werewolves and ghosts and – “
“And what?” George asked, suddenly horrified. “What – no, I – don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. What kind of help do you need from me?”
“It’s easy,” Mitchell said, a hand on George's knee. “It’s just a small little thing.”
George sighed, giving up. George had no love for Carl, but he'd give in for Mitchell. It was what Mitchell had been counting on. He’d do this for Mitchell now because Mitchell would do the same for George.
"What do you need me to do?" George asked, resigned.
"It's just a little thing," Mitchell said again. "I just need you to hit the fire alarm."
George balked. "Hit the - in the hospital? I'll get caught."
“Of course I’ll get caught,” George countered.
“Listen,” Mitchell said. “There is this one alarm. It’s in a lower stairwell on the north end of the building. It’s the only alarm in the hospital that’s not observed.”
“There’s no camera?” George asked.
“But what about you?”
“Cameras won’t be a problem for me,” Mitchell said.
“Oh. Oh, right.”
"So you'll do it?" Mitchell asked.
"Why don't you hit the alarm?"
Mitchell shook his head. "It's too far from the morgue. I wouldn't have time."
George was thinking it over, running through all of the possible scenarios, all of the ways that he could end up implicated in this.
“George,” Mitchell started.
“I won’t let you get caught.”
“And what about Carl?” George asked then. “What happens next? Is he just going to move in here?”
“Of course not,” Mitchell said. “Too dangerous.”
“Oh,” George said. “Too dangerous. Too dangerous, he says.” He looked like he was going to start laughing any moment now. It wasn’t a good sign. It was a definite step backward.
George was bothered by Mitchell's relationship with Carl, that part was clear. Some of it probably had to do with Nina. Nina was a werewolf. She was, understandably, having a hard time of it and George wasn't taking it well, was taking some of it out on Mitchell, but that couldn't be all of it. George's reaction when he found out that Mitchell had lived with someone else before him had little to do with Nina.
Okay, new plan. George first, then Carl, then he would sit down with Annie. He grabbed George’s wrist and checked George's watch. He had some time.
"Okay," Mitchell said. "Okay, let's do this."
"Do what?" George asked, the pitch of his voice suggesting that he was now more confused than he had been when Mitchell first burst into his room.
"You want to know about Carl?" Mitchell asked. He leaned back, propped a hand behind him on George’s bed and then gestured for George to get moving. "You want to know who I've lived with other than you? I'll talk. Just ask."
George gaped at him for a moment and then he shook his head. "No," he said. "I wasn't – were you and Carl lovers?"
Mitchell squinted at George. "What?"
George shrugged. “When you lived together were you lovers?”
Mitchell paused. It wasn't a question that Mitchell had expected. He tried to guess the answer that George was looking for here. George was watching him, eyebrows raised and eyes wide, impatiently waiting. Finally Mitchell just went with the truth.
“Yes,” Mitchell said with a shrug of his own. “For a little while. It was a long time ago. What of it?”
“Nothing happened,” Mitchell said. “He had Dan. We just fell into being mates, I suppose. It was a fling.”
George thought about this for a moment and then nodded.
"Were you in love with him?"
"No," Mitchell said. "He's my friend."
George laughed. "I'm your friend."
Mitchell's eyebrows shot up.
Oh. Oh, was George – ? No. George was – there was Nina, for one thing. Mitchell squinted a little at George, his head tilted. Still, Nina aside, Mitchell couldn't help but think that part of George's problem had to do with the specific relationship that Mitchell had had with Carl. It was true that this had started when George had learned that Mitchell and Carl had lived together in the past, before George knew about Dan at all. George had apparently just assumed that Mitchell had wandered lost and feral for all those years before meeting George in that alley. It was ridiculous and a little endearing, but this now – George had clearly been thinking about it since their conversation in the kitchen. He'd been thinking about it since Carl had arrived at the house, and these were the questions he'd been turning over. Maybe it wasn't as simple as Mitchell had originally assumed. Maybe George actually wanted –
Mitchell pushed himself up from the bed, leaned in, and then quickly stopped when George jerked back.
"What are you doing?" George asked, hands up.
"Come here," Mitchell said.
"Why?" George asked, but when Mitchell slid a hand behind George's neck, George didn't try to pull away again, just sat there, frozen, staring back at Mitchell. He didn’t freak out when Mitchell closed the rest of the distance and kissed him. He almost seemed to expect it.
He didn’t kiss Mitchell back though, and after a moment Mitchell released him and pulled away.
George was just watching him, his lips parted a little, one eye narrowed.
"What did you do that for?" George asked.
"I don't know," Mitchell said. "I thought maybe you were a little jealous, or I don't know, curious or something. Guess not."
"I thought you were going to attack me for a second there."
"You just came at me," George said.
"Why would I attack you?" Mitchell asked, offended. Had he ever – since when did leaning in toward George suggest that Mitchell had any intention of attacking him? “Attack you? Jesus, George.”
“Well, I don’t know. Why would you kiss me?"
"I thought you wanted me to kiss you!"
“Have I ever given you any reason to think that I wanted you to kiss me?” George asked with a sigh.
“Not until you started being all – “ Mitchell gestured toward George “ – about Carl.”
George just squinted at him.
“Okay,” Mitchell said. “Okay, I’m sorry. Will you help us?”
George opened his mouth and Mitchell waited, but once again, the words were not what Mitchell expected them to be. “Have you ever lived with a werewolf before?”
Mitchell laughed. “You’re a mess!”
“I know!” George agreed. “I know I’m a mess. Have you?”
“No,” Mitchell said, still laughing a little. When George didn't laugh with him, Mitchell stopped and eyed him. Mitchell should have waited. He should have waited until they had time to just sit around and get pissed. Everything would have turned out fine. This all would have been so easy then. "You're really offended by this."
“A little,” George sniffed.
“Why?” Mitchell asked.
“I don’t know,” George said. "I thought - I know this sounds stupid. I thought we were special."
"Okay," Mitchell said. “George, listen. You’re my best mate. I’ve never lived with a werewolf before. You and Annie – you’ve changed my – I’ve never lived with a werewolf and ghost before either. All right? Are we good?”
George thought hard about this answer. Finally he nodded, decision made.
“Good,” he said.
“You’ll help us.”
George shrugged. “It’s what you’d do for me.”
It worked. It all went exactly according to plan, but it wasn’t a comfort, not really, because it wasn’t the end. Ivan was right. This would happen again and again, another body, another cover-up. Mitchell didn’t miss Herrick. He really really didn’t, but he’d never wanted this. He hadn’t signed up for this. When he’d moved in with George he hadn’t intended to keep one foot in the vampire game at all. He was getting out. He was starting over. What he’d had planned with George really was special. It was human, blending in, connecting. This – this wasn’t what he’d had in mind.
Carl had been clean for twenty years. He’d thought he was safe. He’d – if Carl couldn’t do it, then what hope was there for Mitchell? Was there really any hope at all?
“Well,” he said, just to break the silence, to get out of his own head. “Carl’s gone.”
George nodded. He looked…stiff and stifled, pent up like he was trying to hold something in. He looked like he might explode with it at any moment. The full moon had just passed, so it wasn’t that. Mitchell shuddered at the thought that they might have lost track of the nights, that George was about to change right here in the middle of everything.
“Are you all right?” Mitchell asked finally.
“No, Mitchell, no, I’m not – “ George started, and then he huffed and shook his head.
“I really appreciate what you did back there,” Mitchell started. “I want you to know – “
And then that was it. That was as far as Mitchell got because that was when George turned to him. He reached for Mitchell, his hands on either sides of Mitchell’s face.
“Shut up,” George said, and then George kissed him. Actually kissed him, and this time it was Mitchell standing there frozen. Mitchell caught on quick though and then he was moving, kissing George back. George’s thumbs slid along the line of Mitchell’s jaw, back and for through the stubble there.
George was good at this, better than Mitchell expected, really. Mitchell hadn’t actually thought a lot about how George might be in the kissing department, but given how George stumbled and fumbled when speaking to women, Mitchell hadn’t imagined his friend to be a pro. George was a bit. He was good at this and Mitchell let George kiss his mouth open. George’s tongue slid against Mitchell’s for just a second, just one little tease, before George started to pull back.
Mitchell smiled at that. Yeah, George was good at this. He pressed forward, not willing to let George get away with that, and George kissed him again, another slide of his tongue, hands firm and warm on Mitchell’s face.
When George started to pull away a second time, Mitchell didn’t push, and George came back on his own, small kisses that pulled a little at Mitchell’s lower lip. And then George was gone. He released Mitchell’s face and took a step back, the air between them suddenly cool against Mitchell’s skin.
Mitchell scratched at his chin, raised his eyebrows, nodded. George shrugged and turned away.
“What was that?” Mitchell eventually asked.
"I don’t know,” George admitted. “I guess – I just felt like I didn't give it a fair chance before.”
Mitchell nodded again, slower now, processing. “Is this going to become a thing?”
“No,” George said as he straightened his clothes. “No, I think we’re done.”
Okay, that worked too. “Back to best mates then?”
“Yeah,” George agreed. They started walking toward the hospital.
Mitchell reached up and touched his fingertips to his mouth, then shrugged and stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “You’re a good kisser.”
George glanced over at him. “You sound surprised.”
“I’m not surprised,” Mitchell lied.
They walked in silence for a while after that.
They should have left Bristol. That was probably Mitchell’s first mistake. Maybe it would have been easier to stay out of it all if they’d just left Bristol right at the start. It would have been different. It was different at the beginning. George would never have agreed to something like this at the start. He never would have helped Carl escape. Mitchell was changing him. Vampires were changing him.
Of course, there was good and there was bad. If they’d left Bristol, there wouldn’t be Annie. Would any of it really be easier without Annie? Would any of it really be better?
“You’ve never lived with a werewolf before,” George asked again. They were just around the corner now and George slowed his pace.
“No!” Mitchell confirmed with a laugh. He lifted his hands from his pockets and held them up in surrender. “You really think I’m lying to you about this? Of all things?”
“No,” George shook his head. “Have you ever kissed a werewolf before?”
“God, no,” Mitchell said.
“Hey,” George came back. “You said I was a good kisser.”
“No, no,” Mitchell said. “You are. I just meant – no, you’re the first werewolf I’ve ever kissed.”
“Okay,” George said. “Okay.”
“Hey.” Mitchell reached out, a hand on George’s arm to stop him. “We’re good, right?”
George looked down at Mitchell’s hand for a second before he looked up, looked Mitchell in the eye.
“I’m done with vampires,” George said. “Don’t come to me for this kind of help again. But yeah, yeah, we’re good.”
Mitchell nodded. That was fair. They should probably talk about it some more, over a pint, maybe, when words came easier. But that was fair. And for now they were good.