Well, this is really it, the last chapter, the farewell segment. Everyone, thanks so much for making this a rewarding fanfic experience. I don't plan to do a sequel on this story, the narrative I wanted to tell is done. Enjoy!
Talk about the anti-climatic, Mick St. John thought ruefully, opening his eyes, alone in his freezer. Automatically, he scented the air, his senses reaching out for his lover and sire. The little vixen was prancing around, probably naked, in the bathroom, drawing herself a bath. Faint traces of jasmine and vanilla adorned the air, which meant Coraline was in the midst of her weekly beauty routine, the one that lasted a while. A wise man let women alone while they were undergoing such rituals, and Mick tried to be in the habit of being smart.
It was funny, a riot really. One minute, it was missing in action and the next, it was up and running like nothing had ever happened. He remembered everything in high definition, right down to getting his first spanking at four. He remembered the strict, but loving Catholic upbringing of his youth, his confusing teenage years, the pressure of medical school, his hellish stint as a soldier, and the naïve enthusiasm of his post war years, making corny music and paying the bills by patching up dogs and horses.
Maybe he remembered it better than he ever had before, because he didn't see it through the same pair of eyes, he wasn't the brooding crusader who was a human in a vampire's body. Before, he'd seen only the edited version, airbrushing the flaws away, inflating the good. Yeah, there'd been some good times, but it hadn't been heaven on earth. He'd been at loose ends, unable to really shine in music and not satisfied by the medical scene. He'd been bored at times, and wanting more to life, tired of the same old grind. That's why Coraline had called to him; she was everything opposite of predictable or ordinary.
After Coraline turned him, he conveniently forgot that part, pining for something that had never really been there in the first place. It was easier to blame her, to resent her than deal with the fact that maybe his nature wasn't so vanilla, that maybe he liked this new world she was showing him. His mind couldn't process that, so he rebelled. It wasn't really his fault; he just hadn't been equipped to deal with this. His only experience with vampires had been restricted to Bela Lugosi fare, and his hard-core religious background didn't help. Good was good, evil was evil, that was just the bottom line.
Coraline sure as hell wasn't good, so she had to be evil. He drank blood, he delighted in violence, he had to be evil too…a monster. As far as he was concerned, she'd damned him, and there was no forgiveness for that. She'd separated him from the precious body and blood of Christ, casting him into the void.
Eventually, he'd developed a 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' attitude, especially during the 70's. That was the decade when he'd rode a wild circuit of Josef's parties, drank gallons from willing freshies, just about drowned in carnal delights. Of course, that had been in the off periods with Coraline, as she wasn't known as a vamp to share, not where Mick was involved, anyway. And as promiscuous as Coraline could be, she never made Mick share either. It wasn't exactly a hardship, since the walls were known for shaking when they let loose. Obviously, whatever problems there had been, and there was plenty to go around, it wasn't in the sex department.
Looking back on it, he saw it in a way he never would have seen before, never wanted to see, all the wasted chances. It never would have been perfect, but whatever him and Coraline had, a love that just wouldn't quit, even when it overlapped with hatred, it could have been amazing, had the potential to have been something beautiful. That wasn't all his fault, and he wasn't going to pretend it was. Coraline had kept playing her games, not learning from her mistakes, giving him more reasons not to trust her. Still, if he'd ever just forgiven her, stopped rejecting who they both were, maybe she would have knocked it off.
That's a subject I could go around and around about all day. Not going there, Mick told himself. No way was he going to let himself get bogged down. It happened, it wasn't pretty, but it happened. That was then, this was now. Coraline had changed, he could see that. She was still devious, still ruthless, but she was shooting straight with him, not trying to manipulate the situation. She'd proven her love for him a lot of times since he lost his memory.
She'd also put her money where her mouth was, proved he came first. After Lance's defeat, a year ago, they'd traveled with Miss Sourpuss to France, summoned by the head of the clan himself. They'd met at an old Château, not too far from Paris. It wasn't hard to see why this guy was calling the shots. Lance had been a peon in comparison, the power radiating off Dominick had been awesome and terrifying. He hadn't been thrilled with Coraline, although he was impressed with the resourceful kill under her belt, and had been swayed by her obedient persona.
Still, he hadn't been without his terms, which were straightforward. He'd ordered her to destroy what was left of the cure; he didn't want to hear about any more research, and she'd have to pay from her own pocket the money he'd spent keeping her in line. In addition, she would publicly beg his forgiveness before the entire family and their minions, and swear her allegiance to Dominick. If she could do that, then everything would be peachy keen.
Since the alternative wasn't great, Coraline swallowed her pride, and did what she was told. Appeased, Dominick offered her Lance's old place, as his favorite, her power only second to his. Her sire, Veronica had been pissed off good, since she'd had her eye on that position for hundreds of years. It was a tempting carrot to dangle, for that reason alone, and Mick could see Coraline wanted it bad. But a blind guy could've seen the strings. Dominick would own Coraline, just like a king pretty much owned a vassal in the medieval days.
Also, her ex-husband didn't have a role to play in this little drama. Marrying and turning Mick hadn't been family approved. If she wanted the power and status within the bloodline, she could forget bringing an 85 year-old 'child' along for the ride, and she'd have to take on Dominick as her mate, keeping the power all in the family, sort to speak. It was obvious the guy had it bad for her, wanted to dominate her in and out of the bedroom.
Still, huge fly in the ointment or not, by vampire standards, it was a hell of a deal. Coraline had been trying to claw her way up her whole life, and this was the pinnacle, as good as it'd get. Life, in the mortal or immortal scale, was all about choices, and Coraline had an important one to make. It would change a lot of destinies.
She hadn't hesitated, not even for a second. She sent a dazzling smile Dominick's way, patted his cheek, and shook her head. "Enticing offer, but I've got other plans. No hard feelings, huh?" The ancient vampire had literally done a double-take; you could've knocked him over with a feather. Coraline swept out in a grand exit, taking Mick's hand, squeezing it gently. "We'll make our own bloodline," she whispered.
Mick brought her fingers to his lips, kissing them reverently. "You're still royalty, Coraline. You're my queen."
"As it should be," she declared, winking sassily in his direction.
In his freezer, a year later, the memory still made him grin. He knew how much that decision cost her, and it told him more than mere words ever could, about how much she loved him. For the last year, he'd made sure his own actions conveyed how much he loved her. She was definitely a force of nature, sometimes a destructive one, and she reveled in the darker side of her nature. She behaved herself, up to a point, for his sake, but made it clear her morals weren't nearly as sensitive, but as long as they had fun, she was willing to play along.
Thirty minutes later, she was finishing up, when Mick joined her in the bathroom. He admired her naked body, unconsciously licking his lips. She made her own inspection, a wanton light dancing in her eyes. "Morning," she greeted, voice low and velvet. She sauntered over, slowly running her hands up his chest, leaving a trail of sensation in her wake. His fingers burning to touch her, so he let them caress the curve down her spine, traveling until he could give her firm ass a playful squeeze, urging her against his evident arousal.
"You're always horny when you wake up," she said around a chuckle.
"With you, I'm always horny," he corrected, nipping achingly close to her jugular, where she craved the pressure of his teeth most. He brought their lips together, pouring every ounce of love and lust inside him into the kiss, hearing her moan, and return the favor. It didn't take them long to get lost in each other, their bodies pressing together urgently, trying to get closer and closer. The tip of his cock nudged at her wet opening, and he slipped in a fraction, teasing them both, before pulling away.
Coraline tore her mouth away, trying to glare. "Want you," she announced gutturally, finding those fabulous eyes glazed over.
"I know. Want you too." He gripped her hips, and hoisted her up, her legs automatically slipping around his waist. It was a long journey back to the bedroom, since they kept rubbing together, and several times, she playfully tried to connect their bodies, and he penetrated her shallowly more than once. They reached the bed by the freezer, one they'd purchased especially for their trysts, since it was a lot more romantic than the couch or top of the freezer. He ignored the urge to toss her on the bed, and carefully laid her down, smoothing a hand along her cheek.
"I love you," he whispered, kissing her wrist, licking lightly along the subtle vein there. "Let me show you." He had the urge to make love to her, to cherish her body in a way that he never had before. They'd done just about every other sexual act known to man or vampire with the exception of threesomes or orgies, and it hadn't all been fangs and claws, there had been affection, but never quite tenderness. Well, he planned on changing that.
"But I want you," she protested, a moan coloring her words. She reached down to grip his throbbing erection, to guide him to her, but he swatted her hand away. Whether she was stronger or not, he was determined to get his way.
"Humor me," he told her, kissing her long and deep. He showered kisses on her body, from her neck to ankles, no patch of skin neglected, except for where she needed his attention the most. She mewled, her own hand slipping down to her aching core, beginning to pleasure herself. Mick sucked in a breath, almost losing his control at the erotic sight, wanting to claim her. With a shaking hand, he tugged on her wrist, spoiling her fun. "No cheating," he gritted out. "Don't make me tie you up."
"Oh, kinky," she breathed, but wasn't able to really tease much in her state of mind, or lack thereof. Mick growled at the mental image of her bound and helpless, but shook it off. That wasn't what it was about, not what he wanted it to be about. He forced his mouth to be gentle when their lips meshed, knowing that once the mood shifted, he couldn't get it back. He nuzzled her, bringing his body down on hers. One of the advantages of having a vampire mate was that you didn't have to worry about crushing them.
For a minute or so, he held them both like that, electricity dancing along their nerves as skin met skin. He cradled her face in his hands, stroking his thumb along her lip. She drew his thumb in, sucking and licking, her eyes stormy. They both were breathing harshly, although it was a useless practice, born of some unnecessary instinct. He never wanted this to end, but his erection had gone from bordering on painful to actually painful, and he needed relief, needed her.
Slowly, inch by an inch, he made his way inside her, her body's juices lubricating him. They both howled in delight when he was full sheathed, and every atom of Mick screamed at him to pound into her until they both passed out. He gritted his teeth, withstanding the agony of keeping still inside her, especially since the little vixen was squeezing him for all he was worth. "Coraline," he barked.
"Move," she barked back, digging her claws into his back.
"Please, baby, let me do this slow." He forced his tone to soften, and he felt her reluctantly relent. When he was sure he wouldn't fuck her into oblivion, he began to move, taking her mouth, not breaking the kiss once, yet another advantage to mutual vampirism. Their tongues copied the gentle thrusts of their pelvises, dragging out sensation above and below. Coraline had surrendered to the languid lovemaking, caressing him lightly wherever she could, tears slipping from beneath her eyelids, the taste of salt in both their mouths.
"Oh, God," she whimpered into his mouth, as he shifted the angle of his thrusts to directly hit her clit, slow and easy. Her abdomen coiled tightly, her orgasm building, her body tensing in anticipation. She bit his lip with her blunt teeth, too addicted to his mouth to seek his neck, and a few drops of his blood was all it took. It took her sweetly, bliss coursing through her body. Mick went still, fighting to ward off his own release. He wasn't done with her yet.
When he could trust himself not to come, he took her again, keeping the leisurely pace, his body rigid from the effort. Coraline's legs wrapped around his waist, bringing him deeper, their mutual grunts of pleasure barely audible as they'd yet to end their kiss. Her foot rubbed his lower back lovingly, her fingers tangling in his hair to bring his mouth even closer. Their fangs finally elongated, and inevitable drops of blood began to rain down on their tongues, the flavor adding another level of intimacy.
Neither had any idea it lasted, but eventually, even Mick's self-control had its limits. They both whimpered in loss when he disconnected their mouths, his fangs a sudden whisper along her neck. She arched her neck, giving permission. He came, his hips jerking three more erratic times as his release took him. Ever the gentleman, he lowered his fingers to their joined bodies, massaging her exposed nub, bringing his neck to her searching mouth. She penetrated the skin with her fangs, a thin stream of his blood her reward. Another blissful orgasm floated through her system, leaving her dreamy and relaxed.
She sighed, wrapping her arms tightly around him, nuzzling his already healed neck. Absently, she cleaned the slight mess she'd made, reverting back to her human guise. "Get's better ever time," she gasped.
"Yeah, it does," he rumbled back, grumbling in protest when her tongue left his neck. He rolled them over, so she was on top. His eyes were serious as he gazed back up at her, tugging on a curled strand of hair. He noticed she wasn't looking at him, and wondered what his lioness could be avoiding. "Coraline?" he prompted.
"What was that about?" she blurted. "Was that some kind of goodbye?"
"Huh?" He blinked, wondering if he'd ever understand her. "Uh, no. Any reason why it should have been?"
"You've never touched me like that before," she pointed out defensively. "Like I was precious or something. What's the deal?"
"I guess I'm a weird guy, because the woman I love is precious to me." Mick kicked himself for not showing her sooner. With Coraline, it was easy to forget her fierce confidence didn't extend to every aspect of her life. "Look, I love you. I'm happy, and that's with my memory back."
He felt a jolt of surprise crash through her body, her eyes going wide. "What?! How? When?"
"My memory's back," he repeated patiently. "Don't know how, the silver just wore off I guess. And this morning."
"Well?" She demanded, propping herself up on her elbows.
"Where's the meltdown? Where's the Spanish Inquisition? Where's the third degree? Come on, Mick, I know it's in there. Get it over with." She was trying to play it cool with him, but he saw through the act.
"First of all, Mr. Night gave me the gory details a year ago, so there weren't exactly any big shocks. Second of all, I did my share of the damage too, I can admit that now. No, you weren't some abused little wifey, and me the big, abusive husband, but it takes two to keep make a dysfunctional marriage. And last, but certainly not least, that's long over, Coraline. We've both changed, for the better." Mick's kept his tone firm and his eyes locked on hers, willing her to believe him. "I told you once I wanted to keep making a fresh start, and we've made one. We've built something together, something that counts."
"Are you sure?" Coraline was beginning to relax, but he could still see worrying shimmering in those eyes.
He stroked her face, emotion naked and bare on his face. "I've always loved you, Coraline. We lost our way, big time, and I thought that love was wrong. I pushed it down, downplayed it, and outright lied to myself when I could. But losing my memory helped me understand what I couldn't before, that whether it's wrong or right, it's never going to go away."
"Can't do without your dark side, Mick?" she teased, or tried to, resting her hand against his larger one on her cheek.
"Don't want to." He flashed an unrepentant grin. "I told you once I got the feeling I didn't have enough fun before, and I was right. I was trying to punish myself, I guess. But you made me see I don't have to. I can still do the right thing, and enjoy being a vampire."
"Well, if the straight and narrow makes you happy, we'll keep walking it. As long as we still get to play." She flashed her fangs, wriggling her eyebrows suggestively. Mick laughed and let her attack him.
Two hours later, Coraline was off to photograph a wildfire raging 20 miles outside of LA, although it looked like it was on its way to be under control. Mick was doing some paperwork, when he felt the presence stepping off his elevator. The vampire was young, but extremely strong for her age. She wore an elder vampire's sexual brand and confidence that seemed inbred.
She strolled in his office without knocking, blonde curls cascading down her shoulders, her navy trench coat setting off her fair looks beautifully. "Mrs. Night," he said over a grin, rising to hug her.
She let out a little chuckle, and returned the hug. "I won't be Cassie Night for much longer. Just another week or so."
"So, how's married life treating you?" he joked, settling back to look at her. Over the last year, he'd wonder if seeing Beth would trigger old feelings and new problems, but was relieved to find nothing more than the love of a good friend inside himself. Maybe there was a time it would have been nice, but that ship had sailed, and they'd definitely gone in different directions.
"I'm thinking of getting a divorce," she deadpanned, then flashed a wicked grin. "Josef-whoops, Ethan, is a pain in the ass, but I've got used to him all right."
"Still have trouble keeping it straight?" The constant deception and adaptation was a downside of vampirism, that was for sure. "I'd probably have trouble with the change myself. He makes you happy?"
"When he's not making me crazy. Does Coraline make you happy?" The trace of venom on his mate's name didn't go unnoticed.
"Yes, she does…I don't expect you to approve or understand." He paused, gathering his thoughts. "I'm not going to apologize or defend our relationship. You have your reasons for your issues with her, but I have my reasons for loving her."
"She's dangerous, Mick," Beth protested, pursing her lips. "She could turn on you one of these days."
"She could," Mick allowed thoughtfully. "But she won't. Coraline's changed, Beth. I know you don't believe that, and that's okay. But if Coraline wanted to kill me, she's had about a thousand cracks at that, before and after '85. When she came back, it wasn't about revenge. With a lot of vamps, it would have been, but it wasn't with her. She had a chance to leave me an inferno, just like I left her, but she didn't."
"What, do you want me to give her a medal?" Beth retorted.
"It might be some good comic relief if you tried." When Beth scowled at him, he held his hands up in surrender. "Thanks for the concern, but the subject's closed."
"Fine," she huffed, crossing her arms. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
"Whatever you say. Now, does Josef know you're here?" If Josef was going to change identities soon, there really wasn't a point in getting used to a new name.
"No." She sighed, rubbing her forehead. "I need to talk to someone, and I can't tell him. Part of me loved living in Scotland, but for obvious reasons, he kept me kind of isolated."
Mick studied the emotions drifting off her, but didn't find serious turmoil, or even anxiety. More like indecision. "Tell me, then."
"I'm Sara," she blurted. He raised an eyebrow, waiting for her to elaborate. "Well, I was. Oh, Mick, in my death sleep I started to remember, and the dreams just got stronger…"
"Are you sure they're your memories? You're bonded closely with Josef…maybe somehow he transmitted echoes of what he remembers into your system somehow." It was rare, but not unheard of.
"I doubt he knew her when she was six," Beth retorted. "No, Mick, I'm sure they're my memories."
"Wow." Mick paused to absorb this, thinking. Often, in cases where people did have past lives, the transformation could trigger awareness. Mick himself had never had such experiences, so obviously this was his one and only run. "Does he know?"
"Nope, and I…I want to keep it that way." Stubborn defiance glittered in those pretty blue eyes. "I don't want it to be about the past, Mick. I want it to be about now, today."
"I understand," Mick answered softly. "But Josef doesn't like being kept out of the loop. He's kind of touchy that way."
"I'll tell him when I'm good and ready," she declared, her chin raising a proud notch. "I know I can trust you, Mick. You won't say anything." No, he wouldn't, but he wondered if she should be irritated she'd pegged him so well. "Anyway, things are good on their own. Maybe he doesn't need to know at all."
"Your call, Beth. It always was." He was about to continue the conversation when he caught a faint whiff of Josef's scent coming their way. A minute later, he was sauntering in the office like he owned the place.
"And I wasn't invited to the reunion because?" he demanded jovially, slapping Mick on the back.
"Well, we can't talk behind your back when you're in the room," Beth countered sweetly.
Josef opened his mouth to make a smart-ass retort, but Mick cut in before they could get into an hour-long bantering session. "So, I hear Mr. and Mrs. Night are going by the wayside soon?"
"I've got something more permanent lined up, yes." Josef smiled craftily. "Beth wants to go back to using her first name, but I think she should use some other form of Elizabeth."
"'Beth isn't that unique of a name," the woman in question protested. "With the right last name, no one's gonna think anything."
"I concede the point reluctantly, but living in LA is out," Josef informed her. "These days, once something's on the net, once it's loaded, you can't kill it. Anyone can access your video clips ten years from now. We're staying in Europe." He turned to Mick, ignoring Beth's icy stare. "You and Coraline should consider a new scene. It's amazing your cover hasn't been blown, the same name, same trade, same place."
"We've been talking about that," Mick said neutrally. "Thinking of going back to Charles? We could call you Chuck," he volunteered evilly.
Josef rolled his eyes. "Try it, St. John, just try it. I've been meaning to break in some new stakes." The group fell into a lively discussion, and it was only an hour later that the unexpected guests hit the road.
"I'll be along in a minute," Josef told Beth, gently nudging her out the door.
She grumbled under her breath, shaking off his hand. "Bye, Mick. We'll see you before we leave."
"Take care, Beth." He gave her one last hug, and a warm smile. He walked her to the elevator, waving as the doors closed. He turned back to Josef, wondering what was on his buddy's mind.
Josef cocked his head, studying his old friend. "No hard feelings?"
"No reason why there should be. Everybody got what they wanted in the long run, I think." It was Mick's turn to study Josef. "You love her?"
"No," Josef answered honestly, as was his habit. "Close, though. I could see myself falling for that one."
"Congratulations." Mick had to fight back a knowing grin, since Josef was about to connect to the same soul twice, and didn't have a clue.
"Love isn't something to congratulate an unfortunate soul about," Josef retorted moodily. "I believe condolences are in order."
Mick snickered, shaking his head. "You never change, do you?"
"Oh, sometimes." Josef's voice turned wistful. "Be seeing you Mick." He pressed the button for the elevator, looking pensive as the doors blocked him from the younger vampire's sight.