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It's The Same Old Theme In 2018

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George has been running for what feels like forever. He turns around:

"I think we're in the clear, Pip. We can stop running now."

He looks around, but can't find Philip anywhere. Then comes the screaming, from the dark back alley down at the other end of the abandoned street. The growling, the wet, awful sound of tearing flesh. The screaming.

The screaming. Philip screaming.

Un-slinging his gun from his shoulder, George runs back to the alley: there are two, no, three of the flesh-eaters on Philip, pinning him down, tearing into him. There's blood everywhere. Philip is still struggling, punching uselessly at the decaying, demented beings as their grimy fingers dig into his soft skin. His gun is out of reach, torn from his hands and flung away. George freezes for an awful moment, trying to comprehend the sight before him, then barrels forward, shooting one and bowling the other two off of Philip. He brings the butt of the gun down on one of their skulls once, twice. The third time it crunches through, and the creature goes still. One remains, scrabbling at his ankle: he shakes it off and with a single shot, he's alone with Philip.

Philip. Oh, God.

He's lying there, almost unmoving except for an uncontrollable, chilled sort of shuddering. Both of his hands now clutch desperately at his abdomen. Dropping down beside him, George gently pries them away. It's worse than he thought: he has to clamp his own hands over the horrible wound, feeling coils of intestine trying to work their way out between his fingers:

"Shit. Philip, I'm so sorry."

The boy's eyes flutter open, and he looks up at George in surprise:

"Georgie? Are they gone?"

"Yeah. Yeah, doll. They're gone. I killed 'em."

Philip laughs, or tries to anyway, and blood (and something else, something neither of them want to think about) oozes over George's hands with the movement:

"My hero."

"Stay calm, alright? I'm going to get you back to camp. They'll get you patched up. You'll be fine, Pip. Just hang in there."

Philip nods, looking very queasy:

"I - I'll do my best."

George slides the gun back over his shoulder, grabs Philip's for him, and gathers his hunting companion into his arms. Philip winces and pushes his own hands, trembling though they are, over the wound in his abdomen.

George calculates in his mind how long it will take them to get back to camp. Their camp is in a big warehouse in the old Chelsea neighborhood, near where Sleep No More was running before the apocalypse. From here it's easily a 20 minute walk, even at George's usual fast pace. He doesn't know if Philip's got that long, even if he can keep pressure on the wound. He sprints, not caring if he draws the attention of more flesh-eaters. He can easily lose them at even a normal run. He clutches Philip a little closer as he feels the younger man slowly go limp, losing consciousness from the pain and blood loss. He makes it to camp in ten.

Philip's breathing is shallow and labored as George sets him down just inside the bolted doors. He sits beside him for several minutes until Alexander and a heavily-pregnant Eliza arrive, followed quickly by Philip's aunt Angelica, her namesake niece Angie (George dully registers that he's heard she's already a bit fragile mentally and probably shouldn't be witnessing this), and the Hamiltons' second-youngest child, little William. Eliza falls to her knees beside her oldest son:

"The other children are sleeping already. We were just getting Will tucked in when they called us down. What's happened?"

"We were out on a hunt when Philip fell behind. I didn't realize until I heard him screaming."

As if cued by his name, the young man stirs and whimpers, regaining consciousness. Eliza frantically clutches his hand, squeezing it frighteningly tight. He responds with a small squeeze of his own, a soft, hazy-eyed smile and a faint chuckle that pulses dark blood and God-only-knows-what-else across the already-ruined brown corduroy of his jacket:

"Hey, Ma. Don't squeeze my hand off, alright? I still need it."

Eliza is in tears, but huffs a little laugh of her own, cradling her son's face with her free hand and brushing away a stray curl from his forehead:

"What were you doing out on a hunt this late at night, honey? You should know better. It's dangerous out there."

"I was with George. I knew he'd protect me."

George feels sick, hearing the confidence and affection in Philip's voice:

He trusted me.

His heart breaks at the thought that follows:

He trusted me... and I let him down.