Kind readers, thank you to each and everyone one of you for your feedback, and even if you haven't left any, thank you just for reading! I know I posted a handful of chapters at once because I started posting late, so thank you for taking the time to read all those chapters. This fic was lots of fun to write and reading all the responses has been just as fun. So for the last time, please do feel free to leave your reviews!
Disclaimer: Moonlight and characters don't belong to me; I'm simply a fan having fun with the characters.
"Okay, Mick, you know there's nothing I love more than a good mystery, but I can't take the suspense anymore. I've been patient, I've answered all your questions; judging from the way you look, I understand you need to rest but still, now it's your turn."
He smiled ruefully. "I knew it was only a matter of time before you pounced."
"I think it's only fair." Beth waited for him to come to a stop at a red light, then reached over and touched the hole on his shirt. "You get a battle wound like this and you automatically have a story." She pulled her hand away. "Will you tell it?"
"Of course." Mick turned to face her, eyes shimmering softly. "If not for you, I wouldn't have the chance to tell any story."
Beth met his gaze, startled. "What do you mean? I was at Anna's the whole time…"
"Soon," he promised. "You'll understand everything soon."
"Okay, so start already," she burst out, unable to help it. She shot him a sheepish look. "Sorry."
Mick turned his attention back to the wheel, laughing. A moment later, his expression smoothed into seriousness and he began to speak. "It was lucky you left when you did; not long after you were gone, Shane returned." Mick shook his head. "If there's one thing we underestimated, it was his determination to make his whole setup with Gilly work. He was much, much angrier than I had expected. Almost came after you himself…"
Shane's eyes gleamed with madness as he brought the stake down. He was beyond reason, beyond listening. The only thing on his mind was getting Gilly back and if that meant making this sacrifice, so be it. The stake was an earthy brown arc in the air, its aim true, but it never met its target.
The stillness of the area and the sequence of the events about to unfold were thrown by the sudden shrill ring of Mick's phone. The stake angled in Shane's grasp and though it sank into Mick's flesh, it jammed harmlessly against his rib. Mick's pupils contracted into eerie pinpoints as he hissed in pain. In a lightning-quick movement, he wrapped both hands around the stake and yanked it viciously from his chest. A single shove from those same hands caused Shane to sail into an overgrowth of neglected shrubs and weeds.
Mick leapt after him, the debris from which he sprang tracing his graceful trajectory. He landed in a crouch and pushed one hand against Shane's lower chest, partly to balance himself, partly to keep Shane pinned down. "Shouldn't have done that," he told Shane venomously, fangs fully extended and pushing tautly at the flesh above his chin. A trickle of blood dribbled from the end of one fang and disappeared into darkness. Silence wrapped around them again, heavy and ominous, as Mick's phone quieted abruptly.
"You're making a mistake," Shane shouted hoarsely. "Gilly needs me!"
"See, I was going to let you live, thought you would understand that you need to leave your mortal life behind. Gilly has Anna; she doesn't need you!"
"I didn't ask for this. I shouldn't have to give up everything for a life I never asked for!"
"Goodbye, Shane." Mick drove the stake deep into Shane's chest, taking satisfaction in the way blood erupted from the point of entry in thin streams that pooled around the wound. He stared into Shane's unseeing eyes, trying to decide how he should dispose of him. He had had enough of blood and didn't want to spill anymore tonight… It wasn't until several minutes had passed did he remember the Cleaner and her services.
Luckily for Mick, she had just done a cleanup at a nearby part of the city and within ten minutes after he had placed his call, she arrived.
"Quite a mess you have here, St. John," she remarked. "Don't tell me I'll be hearing from you from frequently now."
"It was just a one-time thing," he assured her. He flicked his head toward Shane's body. "Can you get rid of him?"
She raised her eyes. "What did he do?"
"You've heard of the infant kidnapping and the petty thievery that's been going on, I'm sure. Well he's your perp."
"We'll make sure he doesn't do it again," she promised. "Looks like you have some work of your own to do—you look like hell."
"Thanks," Mick replied wryly. "Is there anything else you need to know? Or can I go now?"
She let her gaze sweep the scene. "That's all, I think. We'll call you if anything unusual turns up."
Mick hurried away, glad to be leaving the reek of the bank. Between the fire twenty years ago and his near-fatal experience tonight, he hoped it was a long time before he found himself here again. He didn't realize how exhausted he was until he got to his car and collapsed behind the wheel. In his mind, he compiled a to-do list: make sure Gilly was okay, talk to Anna, drop Beth off, and finally, go home for some much needed rest. He repeated the list over and over again and in this single-minded state, drove to Anna's.
It wasn't until he was well past halfway to his destination that he remembered to check his call log. When he saw Beth's name next to the missed call, he felt a faint stir of emotions. She had saved him again… even miles away, unaware of what was happening, she had managed to be there for him. And once again, Mick wondered if there was anything he could ever do that would come close to repaying all she had done for him.
"Oh my god…" Beth drew her hands to her mouth. He had told her everything, everything but the last part, which he kept to himself. He knew that even though he hadn't directly told her, she was sharp enough to guess the part she had played in all this.
"So now that you know all this, what's your official story for Buzzwire going to be?"
Beth sighed yet. "I don't know yet. Right now, I just want to go home and forget all this…"
"Hmm. I know the feeling."
When Mick pulled up in front of Beth's building, the sound of the running engine was the only thing that could be heard. Both felt as if there was something that needed to be said but neither could put into words what it was and so, neither of them spoke.
"Thank you," they both said at the same time. They laughed.
"You know why I'm thanking you," Mick said, raising his eyes. "Why are you thanking me?"
"Because for the first time today, I have no regrets about breaking up with Josh."
"That's… good. That's good, I'm glad for you…"
"I know you are, even if you hadn't said it." She smiled. "Thank you for saying it." She climbed out of the car. "Will you escort me upstairs?"
"Sure," he agreed. He followed her to the door and they lapsed into another silence as they made their way to Beth's apartment. He didn't speak until she was in her apartment, standing at the door and looking out. "Good night, Beth."
"Good night, Mick." But she still didn't close the door. Instead, she continued to watch him. He turned to leave. "Mick, wait…"
He turned back, concerned by her tone. "What is it?"
"I know I said I have no regrets, but…" Her fingers twisted rapidly around the edge of the door as she spoke. "Can you stay? Just for awhile… it's just been too quiet since this afternoon, too easy to feel alone…" Her eyes flitted from the floor to the door, then to the wall; anywhere but at Mick. "I know you're tired and you need to get cleaned up but I have hot water, and gauze, and—"
"Okay." Mick reached over and pried her fidgeting hand from the door. "I'll stay."
Her shoulders sank and she closed her eyes. "Really?"
"Yes." He stepped inside and let the door fall closed. "See? I'm here, staying, not going anywhere."
She rested her head on his chest and wrapped her arms around him gratefully. "I've said this a lot tonight but thank you. I just… I couldn't… I just need someone tonight… We don't even have to talk about anything, least of all, us. I mean, I want to, but I know where you stand in all this and I know you're not ready so…"
"Shh, shh… It's all going to be okay." Mick pressed his nose against her hair and breathed in her scent. He felt his fatigue recede just the slightest and he too, began to believe what he had told her: that it would all be okay.