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31 August 2016 @ 03:40 pm
But the Horror of the Shade: Chapter Nine  

Chapter Nine

George did not like the parts of his adventures when he was in hospital. Even if it wasn’t him being treated, they were still one of his least favorite places to be. He’d often reflected on the matter and decided that even if Mitchell hadn’t urged him to give teaching another go, he wouldn’t have been able to cope still being a porter and walking the florescent, smelly halls for a living.

He straightened the ridiculous gown he was being forced to wear and tried not to think about breathing. Somehow, it didn’t quite work. His broken nose and cracked rib was apparently the worst combination to have when one wanted to keep breathing. The doctor had looked at him and tsked as if George had somehow done it on purpose. He wasn’t quite sure exactly what had been done to treat him as he hadn’t really being paying attention at the time the doctors explained it all. He’d been too busy being in pain.

Everything else was a bit of a blur as well, if he was being honest. He remembered getting into the car and holding Nina’s hand tightly, thinking of nothing but her and Eve being safe. He must have blacked out at that point because he was violently shaken awake later when Mitchell insisted on getting everyone out of the car and then smashing it into a tree in the side of the road to simulate a car accident.

After the ambulance had arrived Mitchell had cooked up some story about him, George, and Tom driving back from a lad’s night out and swerving to avoid an animal on the road.

Annie took Nina and Eve and joined them at the hospital, but George had only been told that later when Nina was finally allowed in to see him. She climbed up on the bed with him after reading his chart thoroughly and sat against his unbruised side.

“Where’s Eve?” he asked hoarsely, his voice sounding strange to him.

“Annie has her,” Nina said. “She’s just outside but I thought she might get frightened of your face.”

“What’s wrong with my face?” asked George indignantly.

“Oh, I don’t know, it’s covered in gauze and some bloodstains and the black and blue is started to cover your eyes like you were descended from raccoons,” Nina said.

“Oh,” said George. “Our girl’s been through enough anyway.” He still longed to hold her and see her.

“Agreed,” said Nina, “absolutely agreed.”

“Will she be okay?” George said, voicing his greatest fear. “Have we scarred her for life?”

“We showed her we’ll never abandon her,” said Nina fiercely. “It’s more than some children get.”

There was too much in her tone for George not to guess where her mind had just gone and he ached to think about what she’d gone through.

George tilted her chin up.

“You are not alone, Nina. You turned out wonderful and you are the best mother.”

“Thank you,” Nina said, burying her face in his neck.

“Are you okay?” George asked next. “Did they hurt you?”

She shook her head against him.

“No, some bruises from when they grabbed us, but it’s nothing.”

“What now?” he asked.

“Hopefully you’ll get released soon,” she said. “Tom’s already out because all he had was some cuts and bruises and was extremely tired from shifting so many times. I think he needs to sleep for a week.”

“And Mitchell?”

“Well,” Nina said, “he had a giant hole in his leg and a gash on the head. He lost a lot of blood and I think he’s…hungry.”

“Where is he?” George asked, panicked. “We can’t leave him alone, there’re humans here; what if he loses control? What if they see he’s a vampire?”

“Tom went out with him after they were released,” said Nina, “and I promised Annie that as soon as I’d seen you were okay, I’d take Eve and she’d go to him.”

“Then go, go,” said George. “I’m fine and now I’ve seen you’re fine. But we can’t let him, Nina, we promised him. He has to stay-”

Nina shook her head, but George didn’t think she was upset.

“Maybe…maybe he won’t have to stay this way,” she said. “Maybe there’s a way for him to be at peace.”

George didn’t get it for a minute and then it dawned on him.

“Eve…” he breathed out.

“Our Eve,” said Nina.

George didn’t know what to think of it. He’d seen it with his own eyes, a vampire drained of the dark inside, suddenly human, with no apparent side effects, finally rid of the hunger that had plagued it, whether it liked being plagued or not.

Mitchell had been struggling for so long, for more years than George had been alive, and now maybe George could finally give him the gift of peace. The thought scared him to death, but it was an intriguing idea.

But for now, Mitchell was out there, battling, with only Tom there. What Mitchell needed now was Annie, so George would make sure he got her.

Nina got off the bed and kissed George’s hand.

“Find out when I can leave,” said George.

“It’s over now, George,” said Nina. “Relax.”

“I am relaxed,” snapped George and settled back into his bed, closing his eyes against Nina’s laughter.

Relax. He had a broken nose and a cracked rib and she wanted him to relax. Sure, easy as pie. Only he did have morphine dripping through his veins…relax, well, maybe he could get there.


Nina held Eve until she fell asleep. She had cried off and on for hours and Nina did worry that she might be irreversibly damaged. She couldn’t help it for all that she didn’t want to think about it. Eve’s life would never be easy. As hard as Nina and George had tried to shield her and had been relieved she wouldn’t have to go through the trauma they did every month, Eve was already exposed to the supernatural and heavily linked to it. Now that Nina knew Eve had this gift, ability, curse, whatever it could be called, she knew it would only be harder for Eve in the long run.

When did they tell her she was the fabled War Child, at what age would that be appropriate? Should they encourage her to never tell anyone and hide from the world or should she rise up as some kind of underground werewolf’s rights champion? It was all ridiculous and Nina knew she was borrowing trouble, yet it was hard not to after the events of the past few days. No matter what, Eve was going to face some hard decisions in her life and Nina would have to face them first.

Nina did know that all of them would do their best to support and love and encourage Eve and that could cover a lot of damage. Children were incredibly resilient and Nina had often wondered what she would have been like had she been taken away from her mother sooner rather than later.

Eve looked at peace now, wrapped in a hospital blanket with one hand curled up under her chin. Nina was so proud of her. She carried her into George’s room, where he was sleeping under the influence of drugs and laid her down carefully on the rather cushy window seat. Eve didn’t stir, a sure sign that she was exhausted in every way.

There was a slight rapping on the door and Nina looked up to see Tom standing there.

“Sorry,” he said.

“It’s okay,” Nina said, walking to the door and keeping her voice soft, not wanting to wake either of the two sleepers.

“I can wait here, like,” said Tom. “You need some kind of break.”

“Thank you, Tom,” said Nina, because she truly did. “I would like to freshen up slightly. Where are Mitchell and Annie?” Tom shifted, guilt in his posture. Nina’s eyes narrowed. “Where, Tom?”

“He needed blood,” said Tom. “He won’t heal without it.”


“So, I nicked some.”

“The bags of blood don’t work, Mitchell’s told me that,” said Nina.

Tom looked over her shoulder, avoiding her eyes.

“There were a blood drive outside. Got it right out of the vein, sort of,” he said. “Seemed to do the trick.”

Nina sighed but she honestly didn’t know if there was a better solution. Mitchell had now tasted blood when he’d been clean for so long, but better that than him either dying or finally snapping and draining an innocent person.

“I guess that works,” she said. “Now he’ll get all broody.”

“That’s the downside,” Tom said soberly and Nina almost laughed at his earnest expression.

“I’ll be back soon,” she said and headed down the hall.

There was a bathroom close by and Nina spent some time getting cleaned up. When she wandered back by George’s room Tom had now joined the sleeping duo in their slumber and was sitting on the window seat with Eve curled into his side.

Nina wasn’t worried about them, the threat was over and Annie had grimly announced in the car that with the possible exception of Hetty, not one vampire had escaped the explosion. It didn’t appear that Hetty was a threat either, at least not more than a normal vampire, so Nina felt safe taking a bit of a walk and stretching her legs.

Her walk brought her to the end of the hall and a room that currently housed a pacing Mitchell and a stubborn Annie.

“What if someone had needed-” Mitchell broke off mid rant when he saw Nina in the doorway.

“Bemoaning the fact you’ve been saved again?” Nina asked, keeping her tone casual.

“Well, now I’ve got the taste again,” said Mitchell, glaring at her. “It’s singing in my veins, Nina, and I’m bloody tired.”

“Aren’t we all?” she replied, not really expecting an answer.

Annie took her hands off her hips and pulled Mitchell to sit on the bed, laying her head on his shoulder.

“No one got hurt, Mitchell,” she said. “Instead, we get to have you.”

“Aren’t you precious lucky,” he said bitingly.

“I get to be glad you’re here,” Annie said sharply. “We promised each other we’d survive and we did. You don’t get to regret that.”

“I’m too weak to start over again,” said Mitchell.

“That’s baloney,” said Nina. “You’re the strongest idiot vampire there is, so suck it up and I don’t mean that literally, obviously.”

Mitchell chuckled slightly.

“Fine, fine. I don’t deserve it, but fine.”

“What would the alternative have been?” asked Annie. “Avoiding the injuries would have been preferable, but you would never have left Nina and Eve captured and you know it.”

“I’m not some sodding noble knight here,” said Mitchell. “I enjoyed the fighting and I enjoyed the violence.”

“Yeah, well, so did I,” said Annie.

“I would have liked a bit of it myself,” said Nina. “A pity I couldn’t join in and tear them all new ones for daring to touch my baby.”

“I give up,” said Mitchell, holding his hands up. “I was always going to give up.”

Annie kissed him and Nina took that as her cue to leave, but she hesitated at the door.

“Things are different now, you know that, right?” she asked.

Mitchell broke away from Annie and he stared at Nina for too long of a moment and she hated the fear and indecision in his gaze.

“Yeah, I know,” he finally said.

Nina didn’t know if that meant he would or wouldn’t want to become human again, but she did know it would have to be his choice.

Chapter Ten

George limped from the car to the door, Mitchell supporting him slightly. It felt like the car was very far away from the house, but it was only a few meters.

“Who fixed the door?” George asked, admiring the handiwork.

“Like I would,” Mitchell scoffed. “That’s Tom for you.”

George nodded as they went inside.

“Looks clean,” he said, surprised and not surprised.

“Well, if you’d gotten here and it wasn’t we’d have had to deal with your moaning,” said Mitchell.

George couldn’t deny it but he glared at Mitchell anyway.

“There is nothing wrong with a clean living area, Mitchell,” he said sternly.

“Of course there isn’t,” said Annie, swooping into the room with a mug of tea in her hands. “Come on in, George, I have the perfect recuperating area all ready for you.”

George and Mitchell exchanged glances before going into the lounge and Mitchell burst out laughing.

There were enough pillows and blankets to make several small forts, vases of flowers on every other available surface, the shades were drawn down to George’s preferences, the remote on the arm of the couch, bowls full of sweets, and Real Hustle was playing on the telly.

“I want some broken ribs,” said Mitchell, hoisting George down onto the sofa.

Annie went straight to work, propping him up with a dozen pillows, making sure the remote and sweets were within his reach, and then bestowed him with the mug of tea before standing back to admire her handiwork.

“Annie, I think you overdid it again,” said George cautiously.

“Don’t be ungrateful,” said Nina coming into the room, hiding her smile behind her hand.

George shot her a look and she shook her head at him.

“Thanks ever so much, Annie,” he said robotically, even though he really did mean it.

It was hard not to love Annie’s exuberance and tendency to be extravagant, but it did make life slightly hard to predict at times.

“You’ll love dinner even more,” said Annie and rent-a-ghosted out of the room.

“So, everything back to normal then?” asked George, the most comfortable he’d been since being on the morphine.

He’d been in the hospital for a few days and in that time period Nina informed him that the house was being put back together and Eve’s only discomfort appeared to be that George wasn’t home.

“Right as rain,” said Mitchell.

He was tapping his fingers on his leg incessantly and George filed that away for later meditation. Mitchell had been snippy and impatient on the way back from hospital; more than usual anyway.

“Where’s Eve?” asked George, because, really, seeing his girl was all he wanted at this particular moment.

“Right here,” said Tom, coming into the room with Eve on his back.

“Daddy,” squealed Eve and practically jumped off of Tom’s back.

George braced himself for a lot of pain when Eve pounced on him but Nina caught her before she could.

“What did we say, Eve?” said Nina sternly. “Daddy’s not feeling well and you need to be gentle with him.”

“Sorry, Mummy,” said Eve contritely.

She sedately climbed on the couch and put her arms around George.

“How’s my little girl?” asked George, a tightness he hadn’t know he was still feeling dissipating in his chest.

“You k, Daddy?” she asked him instead.

George smiled and nodded, putting his tea down so he could squeeze her back.

“I’m fine, Eve.”

“Bad men hurt you?” she asked quietly, her eyes downcast.

George locked worried eyes with Nina over Eve’s head. She shrugged, apparently not having the answer.

“Don’t worry about me, love,” said George. He tilted her head up and smiled. She smiled back tentatively. “I’m poorly but the bad men have gone all away and you don’t have to worry about them anymore. We’re all safe now.”

Eve nodded, her face a study in concentration.

“Good,” she said finally, apparently having finished processing.

George laughed a little and held back a wince as he kissed her head.

“You want to sit and watch some telly with me?” he asked.

Eve nodded enthusiastically and George sighed inwardly with relief.

“Unca John, too,” she said, apparently understanding that this particular program was not complete without Mitchell watching.

Mitchell smiled at her and dropped into the chair opposite them.

“Okay, darling, for a little while.”

“Tom?” asked George.

Tom shrugged and sat down on the floor by the sofa.

Nina rolled her eyes and exited the room.

George was careful not to move too much, but he couldn’t help but look around the room and feel much more satisfied than he should be feeling.

It looked good, no signs that an epic struggle with vampire and werewolf had taken place. Tom did good work. Their home had survived and that was important, the most important thing of all. Maybe Eve had been scarred by the event, but George would do everything in his power to take that fear away.

They had won the day and saved her from the Old Ones and they weren’t coming back.

Mitchell had mentioned in the car that he’d done some reaching out into the supernatural circles and everyone was buzzing about the destruction of the Old Ones. Wherever Hetty was, she was keeping a low profile. She’d have to be added to the list of vampires that George didn’t worry a whole lot about. It was a fairly short list, Daisy being the only other vampire George didn’t think was out to personally get them. She had other issues associated with her though so George didn’t dwell on her. In fact the only vampire he wanted to dwell on was Mitchell.

That didn’t mean Eve was safe forever though. There were still vampires, vampires who didn’t have the knowledge of Eve’s abilities, just brainwashing that convinced them she was evil and needed to be destroyed. Mitchell had been insistent on them having a plan in place for the future in case something like this happened again, safe houses set up around the world and people in place to leave Eve with in case Annie needed to rent-a-ghost her someplace quickly before returning for anyone else. Annie was already determined to practice rent-a-ghosting until she could take all of them in one go and George had no doubt she’d get there fairly soon. They’d all work on their parts.

For now there was just the question of how to process what had happened and George glanced over at Mitchell.

Mitchell, sitting over there, tap tapping away and running his fingers through his hair. It was hot again, the heat wave pressing down on the room despite the fans in the corner. But somehow George didn’t think that the reason Mitchell looked so sweaty was simply the heat.

“You okay, mate?” he asked quietly, knowing Mitchell would hear him.

“We’ll see,” Mitchell said after a minute.


Three months later

Nina straightened up from the chicken coop to see George standing behind her. She smiled at him, but let him make the walk to her rather than meeting him. She rubbed her brow, sweating thankfully from work rather than oppressive heat. Autumn had finally descended on their almost farm and she would far rather deal with torrential downpours and dismal mist than a solid wall of heat.

“Ready to come in for dinner?” George asked.

“Only if I must,” she said.

“I’ll have you know I cooked tonight and it is going to be delicious,” he said, putting his hand on the small of her back as they walked.

Of course it was, he was an excellent cook, but she wasn’t going to let him off that easily.

“What about those biscuits last week?” she queried in an innocent tone.

George stopped walking and faced her indignantly.

“You know bloody well that was Mitchell’s fault. Annie egged him on as well.”

“Annie did, did she?” asked Nina.

“I don’t know why I bother with you,” he said in a fond tone, putting his arm back around her as they made their way to the house.

“Probably because I bother with you,” she said.

They walked into a kitchen that was violent with noise and chaos. Mitchell was chasing Eve who was chasing Tom who was chasing Annie who was chasing Mitchell around and around the table.

“Is this a house or a circus?” inquired George loudly.

Annie stopped guiltily causing Tom to bump into her and the whole kitchen would have become a massive accident scene if Mitchell hadn’t grabbed Eve before she could crash into Tom.

“We playing trains!” said Eve, not looking put out.

Nina would let her play trains from now until doomsday to keep that happy look on her face. Eve still had occasional nightmares so whenever Nina saw Eve content, she was happy.

“Well, maybe we can keep playing trains after dinner,” said Annie, shooting a look at Nina and jerking her head toward the door. “I’m going to help you wash up, little princess.”

Annie plucked Eve out of Mitchell’s arms and headed out of the room while three male heads watched her in confusion.

“What was that?” asked Mitchell as they all turned to Nina for answers.

Nina took a deep breath. She’d been preparing for this moment all week. She’d already discussed with Annie what she meant to do but hadn’t talked to anyone else. There were moments in life that you couldn’t share with anyone other than your best friend because you needed their biased, yet completely generous advice.

Annie had convinced her she just needed to say it out loud and that would make it real.

“Annie was not so subtly nudging me to make an announcement,” said Nina. George instantly looked worried and she went over to stand next to him, putting her arm through his. “We’ve been through a lot lately and I wanted to wait until we were settled down and knew more about our unique situation to make a decision.”

“What decision?” asked George, but Nina knew that he knew what decision, likely they all did.

“I’ve been monitoring Tom really closely over the past couple of months,” she said. “He’s doing wonderfully, no signs of anything wrong. He can change at will and completely control himself during the change. He still changes at the moon whether he wants to or not. He has more heightened senses and seems to heal faster. It’s quite remarkable.”

“We all know this, Nina,” said Mitchell. “So say it already.”

She met his eyes for a moment and she knew his own decision in that moment.

“I’m going to have Eve bite me,” she said, tensing.

“Brilliant,” said Tom into the thick silence.

Mitchell didn’t say anything but he’d already said it with his eyes.

Nina turned to George who was biting his lip as if it would keep him from exploding.

“George?” she asked.

He still didn’t say anything for a minute and when he spoke he was obviously trying to be more casual than he felt.

“Why-why didn’t you tell me?”

“I only just decided,” she said. “I did tell you, you just weren’t awake to hear it.”

“I don’t think that’s fair,” he said. “Your decision affects my life, too, Eve’s as well.”

“I know,” she said. “That’s partly why I’m doing this. I know you won’t, George, and that’s okay. You and your wolf have your own arrangement. But people came and took our daughter and there wasn’t much I could do about it. Even if I trained with Tom for years, I wouldn’t be nearly as effective a fighter as I could be as a wolf. I know we won this battle and I think it’s the biggest battle there will be, but there may be others. When the time comes I want to fight. Eve is the War Child and I am her mother and I will use every tool I have to fight that battle.”

George nodded, his face tight, and she put a hand up to wipe away a tear from his eyes.

“I want you to be safe,” he said, his voice cracking. “My Nina.”

She smiled and stepped up on her tip toes to kiss his chin.

“I think I will be. I think we all will be.”

“I understand,” George said. “I knew it would happen, ever since the warehouse. It just…I wanted you to tell me and then I wanted it not to be true because I worry.”

“Truer words never spoken,” said Nina. “Do you forgive me?”

“I’ve been forgiven worse,” he said, smiling through tears. “Of course I do.”

Mitchell and Tom had been busying themselves with the dinner table during this interlude but Nina knew they were listening as hard as they could.

“Shall we continue then?” she asked, inclining her head back toward them.

“When?” asked George, raising his voice to include them in the conversation.

“No time like after dinner,” said Annie, coming back into the room with Eve on her hip. “Then you can rest up. By our calculations the change will set in after the next moon, which isn’t that far away.”

“Our calculations?” said George. “Like you calculated anything.”

“Never underestimate a ghost on a mission,” said Annie. “Now, shall you all consume this delicious meal?”

“One second, love,” said Mitchell, holding out his hand. Annie’s face softened and she nodded, walking forward and taking his hand. “Got a little announcement of my own.”

“I can’t take much more of this bloody revelating,” said George, wiping at his eyes.

Annie tossed him a look and covered Eve’s ears.

Mitchell chuckled.

“Too late, mate. It’s time.” He straightened up. “I had to make the decision about being bitten as well. After all, I’m a walking time bomb and now I’ve had blood again. I have got a chance to be free of it. We’ve been watching Kione on his human journey since he was bit. No side effects either, just a normal human. Granted, he’s in jail under a fake identity for trespassing and attempted burglary, but you know, being treated for delusions of vampirism isn’t so bad considering he doesn’t have to feel the hunger anymore.” His voice actually managed to turn hungry. “To not feel it anymore…”

“So you’re going to do it?” asked George and his voice sounded different to when he spoke about Nina’s being bitten. Nina chose not to feel weird about him wanting Mitchell to change and not her. After all, everything that had happened to any of them had been caused the night Mitchell chose to save George’s life. If George could do anything to repay that debt, she knew he would. “Become human?”

“No,” Mitchell said after a long pause.

George made a strangled noise of surprise but Nina simply smiled a smile of satisfaction and faint regret. She knew why but she was sad for the sacrifice Mitchell was making.

“Why not?” asked Tom, sounding faintly disapproving. He’d always tolerated and then grown to like Mitchell, Nina knew, but Tom would never be fully comfortable around any vampire, no matter how much he liked him. “No choice to see there.”

“None except for the fact that I already have my own War Child,” said Mitchell, swinging Annie’s hand up into the air in illustration. “I have one benefit to this vampire gig and that’s living forever with her. If I give that up…I can’t give her up.”

“You’re sacrificing your mental health for love,” said George, not really questioning it but musing over it.

“If I have to or you all vote that I should,” said Mitchell, “I will. I’ve been a burden around your necks long enough. Five years ago you all agreed to be my sponsors, but I can release you from that debt right now if you want. I can’t deny that I’m a beast in a cage and the only thing stopping me from carnage is this random group of people. It would be the most freeing thing in the world to become human and stop the madness inside me. It wouldn’t be a cure all, I’ve got my own demons and guilt to contend with, but it would be enough to make me feel set free.” Mitchell smiled and turned to Annie. “I could grow old with you, the only trouble is I promised you forever and I’d like to keep my promise if I may.”

“You know what I think,” she said. “I want forever with you but I will sacrifice forever for one lifetime if it would help you.”

“Up to you then,” said Mitchell, turning back to the rest of them.

Nina shook her head and wondered if every event in her life was going to end with Mitchell putting his life into her hands.

“I trust you,” she said. “Shocking, I know, but I do. I once thought you would never be good enough for Annie and I still think that…but the two of you belong together and I don’t want her alone.”

“Not my decision to make,” said Tom, shrugging his shoulders.

George coughed nervously.

“Don’t look at me like that,” he said, somehow including them all. “I’m thinking.”

“Don’t hurt yourself,” said Mitchell.

“For jokes like that you ought to be made human,” muttered George. “Mitchell, you don’t need me to decide these things for you. You know what you want and you need to do it. If you’re willing to face down hell itself to be with Annie then you love her like I love Nina and there’s nothing better than that.”

“Guess I get to be the neighborhood vampire a little while longer,” said Mitchell, and Nina could see a part of him was disappointed and she couldn’t blame him, but he wasn’t backing down and because of that she was proud of him.

Mostly she just couldn’t imagine why Eve hadn’t been interrupting them more, but when she peeked at the tousled head of hair in Annie’s arms, she saw Eve had fallen asleep. Annie winked at Nina over Eve’s head and Nina felt that little twinge of curiosity she got sometimes when she wondered just what Annie didn’t tell them about herself.

Dinner was delicious and Nina made sure to compliment George several times. The conversation flowed easily enough as they discussed George’s students and Annie’s business and Tom’s crush on the girl named Allison he’d met at work and what to plant in the garden come spring and whose job it actually was to feed the pigs.

They didn’t rush through it and Nina sat back after dessert with contentment. This is how she wanted to live her life and it was what she planned on fighting to protect. George turned to her and held out his hand and she took it, letting him lead her into the lounge.

He sat her down and then sat Eve in her lap and they both leaned forward to kiss Eve’s head at the same time, bumping noses.

He met her gaze and offered her his support with a crooked smile and she wasn’t worried anymore about his reaction. He probably would freak out many more times after this, but then again, so might she.

“Eve,” said Nina. “Can you do something for Mummy?”