The Confrontation

Rating: K+

Disclaimer: All characters are the property of CBS, Warner Brothers and Silver Productions. I'm just taking them out for a spin.

Beth exited the elevator and headed towards Mick's apartment. The closer she got, the more she could feel the excited butterflies performing acrobatics in her stomach. The same thrill she always got when she knew she would soon see Mick. The two had been drawing closer and closer together over the course of the last few weeks, ever since he had revealed what he was -- a vampire. There were moments when it still seemed incomprehensible to her. As he had said, "It's a lot to….get." The revelation, although shocking and surprising, actually helped answer some questions for her when she dwelt upon it. The strange way he acted that day at the cemetery, darting under the tree line, for example. Little things that she had found odd, but had dismissed as just being quirky, eccentric even.

And now, weeks later, even though the thought of vampirism still scared her in a way, she knew one thing for sure - one thing she was positive had NOT changed with his declaration, and that was that he was still her friend. Deep down inside, past the lingering fear and doubt, she was confident that that would never change. Something had bonded them that night, maybe it was knowing that he had trusted her enough to divulge what she was sure was his deepest secret. And sometimes, late at night when sleep evaded her, she contemplated the idea that maybe they had always been connected, had always been meant to meet, almost as if it had been predestined.

Shaking her head in order to clear her thoughts, Beth reached into her pocket and retrieved the lock deactivator that Mick had given to her. She still felt odd just walking in without knocking, but he had insisted that she should feel free to come and go as she liked. She guiltily wished she could return the favor. Frowning for just a second as she entered the apartment, her thoughts briefly dwelt on her relationship with Josh. She loved Josh, that was certain. But the question as of late, the query that kept rolling through her mind on those sleepless evenings, was, did she love him enough. The thought gave her pause, but she soon swept it away as she walked in. That question was left for another time.

Beth closed the door behind her and meandered over to the kitchen area. As she placed the bag she was carrying on the counter, she called out, "Mick? Are you here?" Pausing for no more than a second, she continued, "I stopped on my way over and picked up some Chinese. Hope you don't mind if I brought my dinner with me!"

"Not at all," came a controlled voice from directly behind her.

Beth whirled around as quickly as her body would allow and was shocked to find a man she did not recognize standing no more than five feet away. Scrambling, she moved to the other side of the kitchen's island, hoping to put a barrier between her and this stranger.

"Who the hell are you?" she asked, her voice shaky from fright, her adrenaline flowing swiftly.

The ghost of a smile flitted at the corner of the stranger's mouth, his eyes flashing briefly with amusement, "Impeccable interviewing skills. I can see why you're so popular at Buzzwire," came the measured reply.

Beth was taken aback by the man's answer, briefly thrown off guard by the knowledge that he obviously knew who she was. Not liking the continuing off-balance of power, Beth pressed on. "Well apparently you know who I am. Would it be possible to get your name?" she asked, silently relieved to hear some of her confidence returning as she spoke.

Seconds ticked by as the two eyed each other from across the counter, each measuring the other up, registering details and mentally taking notes. Beth's bravado was quickly fading. Any confidence she felt she had gained was slowly leeching away. For lack of a better description, she felt like prey being sized up by the predator. A slow chill began to seep into her bones as the moment seemed to expand. For her part, she tried her level best to maintain eye contact, seeming to know that tearing her gaze away would somehow be construed as weakness. If living in a large city like LA had taught her anything, it had been to never put yourself at a disadvantage.

For whatever reason, a smile finally worked itself onto the outsider's face. It was like watching the sun slowly rise above the horizon, the cold presence of night slowly giving way to the warming rays of dawn. The transformation was remarkable and stunning. The man standing before her now looked every bit a gentleman, charming she would even have to say. She marveled at how a simple smile could change so much in but mere seconds. Perhaps he had been testing her, intent on seeing if he could force her into dropping her stare. Whatever the reason, she felt her defenses slowly slip. Only one other person she knew of could ever change so quickly from menacing to charismatic in but a blink of an eye. One Mick St. John. As that thought slowly floated through her head, the visitor finally spoke.

"My name is Josef Konstantin." The smile widened and Beth could have sworn that for just a second, his eyes had flashed to a pale, almost transparent shade of blue. But that would mean………

The chill that had left, was now back and spreading rapidly.

To be continued……