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the bite that binds; the gift that gives

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Bristol falls in a matter of days. The news comes over the radio as George and Nina huddle together in the backseat of Mitchell’s car for warmth. George closes his eyes, tries to force himself to rest. He knows he needs it, they can’t stop for long. He’ll be coming for them soon. He’ll be coming for George.

George turns his face towards the cool upholstery and breathes in. He catches Mitchell’s scent and a shiver runs down his spine, a jolt of recognition. He spreads his fingers against the vinyl and imagines Mitchell’s there beside him as he drifts off to sleep.

He wakes up to the sound of Nina’s voice sharp and urgent, “It’s gone silent.”

George looks up bleary-eyed to find Nina curled in the front seat, her fingers turning the radio knob frantically.

“What has?” George asks.

Nina lets out a desperate bark of a laugh.

“Everything.”

*

They drive through the day, barely speaking. Every village they pass through is in a state of panic, people crowd in the streets desperate for news, for connection. George wants to tell them to run, to disappear, but he knows it’s no good. The vampires will tire of the cities soon, they’ll be moving outwards. There is no hope for any of them.

For the first time, George is happy Annie’s gone. He can bear a lot of things, but seeing her face as she watches the world fall is not one of them.

“We should do something,” Nina insists.

“There’s nothing to be done. Mitchell always said if this ever started there’d be no stopping it.”

“Fuck Mitchell,” Nina says. “This is Mitchell’s fault.”

“I know that,” George says evenly.

Nina turns to him, there are tears sliding down her face.

“Do you, George? Because it seems to me if you believed that, if you really knew it---you’d be angry. You’d scream or fight or something. You’d do something, you wouldn’t just give up.”

George keeps his eyes on the road, but he reaches across the seat and takes Nina’s hand.

“He’s my friend,” he says as if that’s an explanation. “And I haven’t given up.”

“You sure about that?”

“I am.”

*

They can outrun the vampires, but they can’t outrun themselves. The full moon doesn’t care that the world is ending. George and Nina have no choice but to stop. They disappear into the woods and try to push away the guilt that they’ll be putting two more monsters on the street tonight.

George says a silent prayer that he doesn’t wake up covered in blood.

They part ways at the first clearing. George kisses her roughly and she smiles her first real smile in days.

“Easy there tiger,” she murmurs. “Save it for the morning.”

“Be safe,” George says.

She gives his hand a squeeze, walks away without making any promises.

*

George turns his face towards the moon, lets it wash over him as he feels the first rumblings of the wolf deep in the pit of his gut. There’s a rustling somewhere behind him, but he can’t tell if it’s nearby or miles away. Right before the change takes hold, he catches a familiar scent on the air.

George tries to call out, to say the name, but the word is lost in a scream.

From the trees, Mitchell watches.

*

The first thing George sees when he wakes is Mitchell’s shoes, caked in mud and blood. Despite his bones aching in protest, George scrambles to his feet. Mitchell smiles at him, his eyes pitch black.

“Morning,” he says brightly.

George glances around, trying to get his bearings.

“Are we…is this Bristol? How did I…”

Mitchell’s beside George before he has a chance to finish his sentence. He moves so quickly, George almost misses it. Dimly, he wonders how much blood his friend has drunk. He knows it’s too much.

“You followed me,” Mitchell says. George can feel Mitchell’s warm breath against the skin of his neck. He knows he should push him away, he can hear Nina’s voice in his head, pleading with him to fight, but his instincts tell him to move closer.

“We walked to Bristol? That explains the cramps then.”

Mitchell laughs happily, lets his hand rest against George’s chest for support. The gesture’s so normal it almost feels right. The moment passes too soon. Mitchell slides his hand up to George’s neck.

“Did you miss me?”

George imagined this moment a hundred times, somehow he always knew it would come, but he thought he would be afraid. He’s not. He looks into Mitchell’s eyes, smells the overwhelming stench of death clinging to him, and smiles.

“Very much.”

For a moment, Mitchell seems to falter. His grip loosens and George can almost see his friend in the monster that has him pinned against a tree.

“I missed you too, George,” Mitchell whispers.

George reaches out and grabs a fistful of Mitchell’s jacket, tugging him forwards. George kisses him, swallowing Mitchell’s hiss of surprise. His tongue scrapes against Mitchell’s fangs and he feels Mitchell stiffen against him. Mitchell pulls away, panting, his body trembling from the effort of restraining himself.

“George…George…run,” he pleads. “You have to go.”

George presses his forehead against Mitchell’s, holding him close.

“No. I’m not leaving you Mitchell.”

“I’ll kill you,” he snarls.

“I know. It’s okay.”

“George!”

George shakes his head, ignores the hot tears spilling down his cheek.

“Do it,” he says.

Mitchell sinks his teeth into George’s neck and George feels the world slipping away as quickly as his blood gushes into Mitchell’s mouth. Everything is going dark and there’s a silence. It’s such a relief, not to think or worry. To have everything---the guilt, the pain, the love---disappear into nothing.

Then he feels blood dripping on his lips, warm and alive---without thinking, he wraps his hand around Mitchell’s wrist and drinks.

*

Nina waits for George to come back long into the night. She waits until she can’t ignore the truth any longer, then she gets in the car and drives.

They’ll be coming for her next.

George will come for her.