A/N So, poor little Barbara, eh? It seemed to work better with Barbara dying "off screen". Everything else about her was unassuming and quiet, so it made sense to me that her death would be too. I quite liked Herrick and Seth disposing of her without Mitchell even realising; I think Seth would have got a real kick out of that!
Last chapter now, with a tip of the hat to The Pack (S3E4) for what happens here. Thanks for following the story and for all your kind reviews and I hope it gives you adequate resolution.
The two werewolves circled each other warily, bodies tense and every sinew stretched ready to spring at any sign of danger. Gradually the noise from the watching vampires subsided, and the werewolves seemed to give up interest in each other and paced the outside of the cage, lips drawn back to show bared teeth at the watching vampires. Mitchell did his best to incite them, once more smashing the chain violently against the bars and shouting himself hoarse, but in due course even he had to admit defeat and join the rest of the vampires in watching silently as Cerys and Gareth patrolled their territory. Eventually Cerys went and laid down in a far corner and Gareth stood over her, hackles raised and occasionally growling a low warning through clenched teeth, protectively guarding her from the crowd.
The vampires went mad then, hitting the cage with anything they could find, and throwing anything that would fit through the mesh in a final futile attempt to enrage them, but the werewolves just stared back, yellow-amber eyes impassive. Herrick was the most enraged of all, roaring his anger through the mesh of the cage, face red and eyes wild in his fury, but even he couldn't rouse the wary werewolves. When nothing served to provoke the beasts, one by one the vampires drifted away, disappointed, as they contemplated the dog fight that never was.
Hours later, a dishevelled Mitchell sat by the cage, smoking one cigarette after another, watching Gareth and Cerys as they slept curled up together on the cage floor, drained from their transformation.
The change back had been slightly gentler, Mitchell had noticed. He had never seen a werewolf change back into a human, but although bones still broke and ligaments and tendons ripped and tore, their bodies seemed almost relieved to be reassuming their normal form instead of fighting against their nature. They dropped from exhaustion then, Mitchell the only observer of the process, the others having departed long since.
As he watched Cerys stirred, her eyes flickering open. She started as she woke somewhere unfamiliar, and looked around cautiously as she memory of what had happened returned. She sat up and her eyes closed in relief as she registered her brother, whole and unharmed, still sleeping next to her. "Thank God," she whispered, clasping her hands in front of her mouth and then covering her eyes, her shoulders shaking in silent sobs as the tension left her.
Mitchell uncoiled himself from where he had been sitting, stretching cramped muscles and making Cerys aware that he was there. She gasped, trying unsuccessfully to cover herself, anxious again at the presence of the vampire. Mitchell opened the cage and tossed her clothes in, following them with Gareth's. "Here, get dressed," and he turned his back while she dressed herself quickly. Strange, he thought to himself, a few hours earlier he had been quite prepared to watch her being ripped to shreds but now he gave her privacy to clothe herself. No wonder werewolves didn't understand vampires: as often as not he didn't either.
She shook Gareth awake and he sat up, instantly alert. He pulled on his trousers, then came over to where Mitchell was sitting and spoke to him while doing up his shirt buttons. "Did we spoil your party? It can't have been much fun for you, watching us not kill each other. Let her go now. You've seen she's no use to you. Let her go and I'll stay – be your fighting dog if you want me to be."
Mitchell took a long drag from his cigarette. "Did anyone see you yesterday? Do they know you are back? How is it going to look if you disappear again?" He exhaled, a long thin stream of smoke pouring from his lips.
"She won't tell, will you, Cerys? She can say it was some bloke who was drunk and claiming to be me. You didn't know me, so you believed the bloke when he said he was me. Yes? Let her go, Mitchell. You've got to let her go – she's my little sister and it's my fault what's happening to her – it's all my fault."
Mitchell was suddenly tired. Irene's death had shaken him more than he cared to admit, and he had nearly brought Barbara to her death too. There had been enough killing for a time. The next time he killed it would be to eat, not for sport or because of some senseless chain of events. "Step away from the gate, both of you." He unlocked the gate and motioned to Cerys, "Remember, we've got him here. Any hint that you've told anyone about us and he's dead. Yes?"
She stared at Mitchell in amazement, then clung to Gareth's arm. "I can't leave you," she pleaded with him, but he gently removed her hold and took her to one side. Mitchell could hear him urging her to go, her protestations gradually waning as he persuaded her to take her chance at freedom.
When she had gone, casting one last reluctant look at her brother, Mitchell leaned against the cage and said, "What do you mean it's all your fault?"
Gareth glared at him. "Like you care."
"Try me. Everything round here seems to be my fault, one way or another. Maybe I'm just interested to hear about someone else screwing up for a change."
Gareth gave Mitchell a long searching look, then started recounting his tale. He had been working on the big wheel at a travelling fairground, he told Mitchell. One night he'd been packing up after the fair closed and he and the friend he was working with had been attacked by a werewolf. His friend had shut himself in the control booth of the ride just before the wolf got to him, but Gareth had been further away. He'd been scratched just as he clambered into one of the seats and his friend raised it off the ground, far enough up that the wolf couldn't get to him. They had tried to tell what they had seen, but it had been dismissed as a big dog: a wolfhound maybe or an alsatian. Everyone knew there were no wild wolves in Wales any more.
The following month, of course, he had no idea what was going to happen to him. He had woken in the night with wracked with pain. Cerys had been terrified; she had tried to comfort him, but he had raked her with his claws as he started to transform. Thankfully, he had realised then what was happening, and had managed to run far away before the full transformation happened. "The human part of me knew she was my sister, but the wolf part didn't recognise her. I could have killed her without even realising it." They had moved around since then, never spending more than a few months in one place, although they liked Barry and had hoped to stay there, until...well, until Mitchell and Herrick. "We've always transformed apart up till now. I didn't know that would happen – what happened last night I mean. I assumed as you did that we'd just rip each other to pieces. I guess I recognise her now that she's a wolf like me, but didn't recognise her in human form." Gareth shrugged. "It's still my fault she's like she is, though. I did that to my own kid sister."
"But you didn't kill her today. I'm sure that shows you love her. You'd probably have killed her if there wasn't that connection between you."
Gareth looked curiously at him as if he was considering having a dig at Mitchell about not knowing about love again, but instead he said, "I do love her, yes. Very much. We've only got each other. We've been alone for five years now and I had to fight to be allowed to look after her; they wanted to take her into care as she was under age and I was barely nineteen. We're only ever likely to have each other too. I wouldn't dare marry or have children for fear of what I might do to them."
Gareth again considered Mitchell carefully, "Yes, I really think you are. You're a strange one, Mitchell. You were a vicious bastard last month, you and Herrick both, yet here you are sympathising with a werewolf over his personal circumstances."
Mitchell unlocked the gate. "I have a feeling I'll live to regret this when Herrick finds out, but go. Leave town; don't come back; stay away from Bristol. Go on, before I change my mind.
Gareth paused outside the gate. "We've had everything taken away from us – home, family, friends. We've only got each other, but that's enough for me. What have you got?"
Herrick and Mitchell had planned on moving out of Whitmore View, in the circumstances, but Janice Griffiths insisted they stay one more night before setting off back to Bristol.
"Irene had bookings for the next few weeks – right through the end of the season and into October – and I've contacted them all to let them know and see if they still want to come. I'll run it for now. She shrugged sadly. "I expect we will inherit. My husband was her only child, so there's no-one else."
Mitchell kept his eyes on his breakfast. Janice didn't know to keep him well-supplied with toast, but she did a good breakfast nonetheless. He was making a concerted effort to avoid looking at the patch of carpet where he knew there had been a pool of blood the day before; Cardiff's clean-up squad had done a good job, he gave them that. He had shuddered when he came downstairs to find the cricket gear still in sports bags in the hall, cricket bat cleaned and polished propped up on the wall beside them. Herrick had smiled coldly at the sight, but had rearranged his face into an appropriately sombre expression before entering the dining room, where he had commiserated with Janice on her loss.
"Will you run it, or sell up, Mrs Griffiths?" Herrick asked, a look of concern on his face that Mitchell would have believed was genuine if he hadn't seen the events of the previous day with his own eyes. When it came to dissembling, Herrick was a master, Mitchell had to admit.
"We really haven't talked about it yet. You'll understand that John is rather upset at the moment."
Herrick looked at Mitchell and raised an eyebrow. "Of course. Send him our condolences, won't you."
When she had returned to the sanctuary of the kitchen, Herrick leaned across to Mitchell and said softly, "John, eh? Didn't leave a little legacy behind you did you, soldier?"
Mitchell scowled back. "I think that might have made that home leave pretty memorable. Maybe she just liked the name."
"Oh I don't know. After all this time, all those women. Your memory might be a bit faulty. No quick fumble at the dance or after that Sunday lunch, then?"
"No. Just...no." Mitchell pushed back his chair abruptly and stalked out of the dining room, leaving Herrick staring thoughtfully after him.
"Oh, has he gone already?" Janice's face dropped as she came into the lounge, where Herrick was reading the newspaper. "I thought he might like to see this." She held out an old photograph in a simple silver frame. A much-younger Irene smiled out from it, in a wedding outfit suitable for reuse as a smart suit: the austerity of the war still evident in her choice of clothes. The uniformed man beside her was dark-haired and dark-eyed: easy to see Irene's type, thought Herrick. Or maybe Mitchell had set the pattern for her of what she had looked for in a man.
"She looks very happy," said Herrick, handing the picture back to her.
"Oh they were, I think. My husband is so like his father and Irene adored him. Irene's husband died quite young, you know, and Irene and John have always been close. Maybe I'll leave it here. Mr Mitchell can see it when he comes back, if he'd like to," and she crossed to put the photograph on the mantelpiece. It joined cards and flowers that had been delivered the previous evening as people heard the news. "Everyone has been so kind. She would have been touched, I think, by how well people thought of her."
"She was a remarkable woman," commented Herrick, "Most remarkable."
A stony silence enveloped the riders in the Ford Zephyr. The passenger sat grim-faced and with arms crossed and the dark-haired driver managed to look defensive even as he drove. "You're going to have to talk to me sooner or later, you know. You can't keep this up forever." The visit to the warehouse before they left had revealed Mitchell's impulsive action and Herrick was not happy. Mitchell looked sidelong at the man in the passenger seat. "We didn't need them any more, now that we're going back to Bristol. What was I supposed to do? Leave them locked up in there to starve to death? You say I'm bad, but you're sulking like a child – look at you."
Herrick stared straight ahead, his face not registering Mitchell's words at all.
"They never did anything to hurt us. They didn't deserve to be left like that, even if they did mess up your precious dog fight."
Herrick's cheek twitched. His reputation would have taken a knock after that fiasco and he didn't care to be reminded about it. The chances of him being invited back to host another event seemed remote at present, especially since word had come through of the redevelopment of that whole area of Barry Island – they'd have to find a new venue if the fights were to continue and suitable sites were hard to find at the best of times.
Mitchell's voice grew more petulant. He didn't like being cold-shouldered, even though he was acutely aware that pitching the two werewolves against each other had been his idea, and he knew that Herrick hadn't forgotten that either. "Jesus, Herrick, I did it because they loved each other. Do you even remember what loving someone feels like, after all this time? I don't. I envy them."
That got a reaction. Herrick turned slowly in his seat, cold blue eyes piercing. "Love? Love is what humans invent to make their pathetic lives more tolerable: to stop them being afraid their whole lives of dying alone. What do we need love for?"
"It just seemed to me...I don't know. Like we were missing out."
"We've evolved, Mitchell. We're the next stage. Vampires don't need love – we've come back from death so we don't need to be afraid of dying. We have our strength: that wins out over love every time."
Five weeks before, Mitchell would have said that too – now he wasn't so sure.
They lapsed back into silence after this exchange, albeit a slightly less frosty one. Herrick pulled the newspaper out of the door pocket and started to read. He had seen too many regimes and fashions come and go to pay much attention to the news these days, but he always scanned the papers, more out of habit than anything else. On one of the inner pages, something caught his eye: a story about the tragic death of a young girl in Barry. Excellent, he always liked to know what cover story the clean-up teams had come up with. She had apparently walked into the sea and drowned herself after discovering the bodies of her grandparents in a smoke-filled room in their house. She girl, who had been orphaned aged nine, had lived with her grandparents since then and had no other family, the papers said. There was the strong hint of a relationship break up too, but no mention of the man's name. Known to be an outsider, and without anyone else to turn to, the girl had apparently decided to take her own life rather than carry on alone.
Herrick pursed his lips. Just as well Mitchell rarely read the newspapers –Barbara's name was even in the article and Mitchell wasn't one to be fobbed off with the tragic accident tale. He'd recognise a vampire cover story when he saw one. He really had to have a word with Seth. He'd told him to deal with the girl, but couldn't remember saying anything about her grandparents as well. That was Seth all over; he always tended to get carried away.
Beside him, his friend and vampire offspring pondered an existence without love. When even werewolves, the lowest of the low in vampire terms, could still feel that way was it really possible that he couldn't? Not ever again? He thought back over four decades of killing, reviewing the faces and names of the people he had killed and wondered whether it was all really worth it...
Damn! Faces and names, names and faces: that meant that the hunger was kicking in again. He felt the familiar gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach and tried to work out when he had last fed. Too damn long ago, the answer came back.
Up ahead of them a man came into sight, trudging along the grass verge, petrol can in hand. He heard the sound of their engine approaching and stuck out an optimistic thumb. Herrick and Mitchell exchanged meaningful looks and Mitchell pulled the car over to stop a few yards ahead of him. The man trotted hopefully up to the car and Herrick wound the window down. "Need a lift somewhere? Hop in the back then." He mumbled his thanks, grateful at the lift that would save him a tedious walk to the nearest filling station, and Herrick and Mitchell smiled at each other as the delicate aroma of fresh blood filled the car. If all Mitchell had to look forward to was Herrick and Seth and Marco he supposed he'd have to live with it, but he couldn't help thinking there had to be more to life – even a vampire's life – than this.
A/N Yeah, I know *another* note - so shoot me! It struck me writing this that Irene was the same sort of age as Josie was in S1E5 and Barbara was a prototype young Josie. Barbara wasn't strong enough to be his saviour but she did enough to make him wonder if he could still have a relationship with a human. And poor Cerys and Gareth – they had lost everything but each other. Even with his great distaste for werewolves, Mitchell found it in him to pity them at the end and even envy them just a little bit. Did my subconscious make them proto-George?
As for the "John" thing, Janice was NOT going to let me finish without her reappearing and she tried really hard to throw *that* particular spanner in the works. However, in-my-head-Mitchell was adamant that he hadn't had that kind of relationship with Irene and for me, Mitchell's telling the truth, but you can decide!