My imagining of what happened after Mick's admission to Beth at the end of Out of the Past - and, given that silver is poison and has to be removed (unlike other bullets that can be left in, if the vampire wants), and that some of the shot was in Mick's back, of how Mick dealt with that.

My first Moonlight fic - all feedback gratefully appreciated.

"I'm a vampire."

The words he had longed and yet also dreaded to say to her, torn between wanting to be able to be honest with her, to share his secrets, and shame at admitting to being a monster, fearful of seeing the expected revulsion and horror in her eyes.

He'd managed to hold it together at the warehouse, gritting his teeth against the pain and trying to stand up straight, turning his body to hide from her the evidence of his injuries – injuries that would provoke questions he wasn't ready, or able, to answer. He wouldn't have stood a chance if she hadn't been pretty much freaked out over the fact that she'd just shot and killed a man. If she'd been remotely on her game, those reporter instincts of hers would have seen through his pretence in a heartbeat.

The noisy, red and blue flashing, siren blaring arrival of the cavalry had provided distraction enough for him to slip away, folding himself into the shadows between one heartbeat and the next. He'd felt bad about abandoning her there but he couldn't deal with the police, not like this. He'd slipped out of the warehouse, holding himself together long enough to find a dark and deserted corner where he could relax his iron control for a moment, a low moan escaping him as he hugged himself against the pain. It hurt. Dear god, it hurt.

He'd been shot before – it kind of went with the job – but this was the first time anyone had seriously come after him knowing what he was, armed for vampire. In all his years as a vampire, this was his first contact with silver that wasn't fleeting and accidental. It burned, flooding fiery pain through his veins, radiating outwards from the pellets embedded in his flesh. And with the pain came weakness; already he felt slowed, shaky, the unnatural strength he had grown accustomed to fading, leaving him frail and exposed.

And then there was the urgently growing hunger; his body's instinctive response to injury, the vampire's primal impulse to seek out what he needed to survive, to heal – blood.

Shivering, he had forced himself into movement, keeping to the backstreets, hugging the shadows as he stumbled through the night at a fraction of his usual grace and speed. He'd pushed down on the pain, pushed down on the hunger, and tried to think clearly. Blood. He needed blood. And the apartment was dry; thanks to Spalding, he'd had to clean it out and leave his supplies with Josef. He'd thought briefly about heading there; to his friend's, where help and blood would be available. But no. Josef had his secrets, as they all did, and he'd draw unwanted attention if he turned up bloody and shaking at the smart apartment block. Besides, Josef's place was across town. Not an issue on any other night but tonight… the blood bank was closer and, at this time of night, deserted. A little creative breaking and entering would get him what he needed.

He'd been trembling by the time he got there, his hands shaking so badly it took him several tries to pick the lock to the cold storage room. The hunger, the need, had been overwhelming and he'd been desperate enough to almost rip into the bag there and then but years of discretion had prevailed – if he left even a speck of blood spilled at the scene, questions would be asked… questions that might threaten the entire vampire community. Better to slip in and out unseen, door locks picked and relocked behind him, the theft unnoticed until the figures failed to add up at some future audit.

All he'd wanted was to get somewhere safe – get home. Lee Jay Spalding had forced him to abandon his home, his sanctuary, but Spalding was dead now, gone for good, and home meant safety, security. Home was a place to feed and to heal, away from the world.

He'd been shaking uncontrollably by the time he reached his building; the hunger so sharp as to be painful, a dreadful need that he could barely contain, the plump bags of blood stuffed under his coat a siren song of temptation, the scent rich and sweet even through the plastic packets. His features had morphed against his will, the beast within forcing its way to the surface, hunger bleaching out the irises of his eyes, his cuspids lengthening. He'd slipped into the building the back way, hunching over, head down, as he'd cut through the foyer into the brief safety of the elevator.

He'd fumbled the key fob from his pocket in the elevator, numb fingers struggling to grip it, staying upright now by sheer determination alone as he had staggered out of the lift, his legs trembling under him. He'd had to lean against the wall just to focus enough to hold and press the button to open the door, and then he'd been home, safe in his apartment, not caring about anything but that he was home and he was safe and he could feed. He'd fallen to his knees in a barely controlled collapse, clearing the low table as he clumsily emptied his armful of blood bags onto it, fumbling to grab one and open it and then he was feeding, sucking desperately at the narrow tube, squeezing the bag in his hand to force the blood out more quickly; cold, thick, life-giving blood flowing over his tongue and sliding down his throat, dulling the pain of his wounds, bringing strength back to his limbs.

And then her voice… and he'd frozen, horror flooding through him. Oh god. Beth. He'd left the door open and…

He'd tried to school his voice, asking her to leave, but she'd ignored him, walking into the apartment with him still huddled there over the table like a desperate drug addict, his eyes washed out and pale, blood spilt down his chin, his body shaking and hurting from hunger and pain and weakness. He'd tried desperately to hide himself from her, ignoring the pain as he twisted sharply, huddling on the floor like an injured animal, too weak to run, wanting only to hide his face from her, hide the reality of what he was. He'd never wanted her to see him like this, never like this, his features distorted, the ugly reality of what he was, what he did to survive, smeared across his chin in stark, undeniable red.

He'd begged her not to look at him, the shame almost as painful as the silver still burning him, still weakening him. But she was as stubborn as ever, her indrawn breath, her murmured, "Oh my god," telling him that she'd seen the half empty bag of blood still clutched in his hand. He didn't dare look up, imagining what he must look like to her, crumpled on the floor, desperate and shaking, his breathing hitching unevenly as he struggled with the pain and the hunger that still gnawed at him.

But in the end, there was nowhere to hide and finally, reluctantly, he'd turned to look at her, cringing in anticipation of her revulsion.

"What are you?"

"I'm a vampire."

A part of him had wanted to tell her, had tried to tell her, but not like this… never like this.

The silver in his body was a constant fire now, the tremors growing worse, and as much as he wanted to explain, to reassure her, he didn't have the strength, didn't have the words, and so he watched helplessly, despairingly, as she shook her head in disbelief.

"No. This can't… I mean… you can't be… I…"

Blood was sticky on his chin, his body trembling with need and pain. His breath hitched painfully.

She shook her head again, looking away from him now as she struggled to make sense of a world that had suddenly changed irrevocably. "I… I have to go…" She turned blindly, stumbling a little as she hurried for the door, running away from him, fleeing from the monster. He shuddered.

Pain and hunger were making him weaker by the minute. He needed blood, needed it desperately. Hating himself for his weakness, for his need, he fumbled the thin tube back to his mouth and sucked hungrily, the thick, cold blood tasting sharp in his mouth, tinged sour with revulsion. He drained the bag, squeezing out every last drop, and threw it aside with a shaky arm. The silver still burned in his flesh, its poison weakening him almost faster than the fresh blood could replenish. He needed help. Dredging up what little strength the blood had allowed him, he pushed himself shakily to his feet, swaying dangerously for a moment. The door was still wide open. Not that anyone else was likely to come around… Mick had been alone for a long, long time, keeping people at arm's length a choice so deeply ingrained that it had become habit. Until now. Until Beth. Somehow, she'd slipped through his defences almost without him noticing… and now look where it had led.

He stumbled the few paces to the door and swung it shut by the simple expedient of practically falling against it, leaning there heavily for a moment as shivers wracked his body. He had to get the silver out. The longer it stayed in his body, the more damage it was doing him. With enough blood he could heal… but only once the poison was removed.

Getting the silver out though… that was going to be a problem.

Pushing himself upright, he staggered unevenly into the kitchen, pulling open a drawer of kitchen utensils that had never been used and never would be. Reaching to the back of the drawer, he pulled out a scalpel and a pair of forceps; he dropped them onto the counter top with a clatter and sank gratefully onto a stool, slumping a little against the counter top as he clumsily pulled his phone from his pocket.

The number rang for only a moment before being answered with a peremptory, "Yeah?"

"Josef…" His voice came out in a rasp, his pain evident in every syllable.

"Mick. Jesus, you sound terrible! I thought you'd be happy; you're no longer public enemy number one…"

"Josef. I need help."

"What?" Josef's demeanour changed instantly, the wry levity falling away. "What happened?"

Mick was shivering, trying to keep his teeth from chattering. "Silver," he gritted. "Silver buckshot."

"Well, take it out, you idiot!" The humour was forced, masking real concern. Mick leaned more heavily on the counter; the brief high of the blood he'd drunk was fading fast.

"In my back…" he mumbled hoarsely.

"Shit." Josef cursed shortly. "Where are you? Home?"


"I'll be right there." The call disconnected and Mick sagged with relief.

It took more energy than he thought possible to shrug stiffly out of his coat, every movement of his shoulders a fresh agony. Blood had dried into the heavy fabric of his coat, sticking it to shirt and skin beneath and it snagged and pulled, peeling reluctantly away. The front of his shirt was dark with blood, peppered with holes where the shot had torn into his right shoulder. The thought of trying to pull the shirt off over his head was intolerable; instead he tugged at the torn and bloody fabric until it gave, ripping open to expose the blood-smeared flesh beneath. Beneath its coating of drying blood, the flesh was smooth, unmarked. The vampire's strength could also be its enemy – wounds healed, flesh closing, leaving projectiles embedded. Silver slowed the process but didn't stop it completely. He'd cut many a bullet out of himself before, though a vampire could easily leave such things in place, if he so choose. But not silver. Never silver. It had to come out. And it would have to be cut out.

His right arm was half numb, clumsy and uncoordinated, and he was forced to grip the scalpel in his left hand. His hand was shaking as he lifted the blade and he bit down on his lip as he sliced through skin and muscle and dug in deep. The scalpel clattered to the counter and he fumbled to hook his fingers through the grips of the forceps; there was no time to take a breath, to prepare himself, the fresh wound was already starting to close – he pushed the narrow tips into the bloody hole and moaned hoarsely as he twisted and pushed, searching out the small, hard pellets. He was sweating, panting heavily, by the time he pulled the first one free. He opened the forceps and let the tiny lump of metal drop onto the counter before gritting his teeth and pushing the instrument back into the slowly re-healing incision.

By the time the door swung open, he was pulling a sixth piece of silver out of his right shoulder, having had to stop once to reopen the cut. He didn't bother to look around; vampire senses are incredibly keen and Josef's scent was familiar.. besides, Josef was also the only person who had a spare key fob for the apartment's security system. His hand was shaking so much the piece of silver shot slipped from the forceps' grip and skittered across the countertop.

"Jesus, Mick."

Immaculately polished shoes moved into his field of vision and he wearily lifted his head to find his friend regarding him with poorly concealed dismay… with a hint of "I told you so".

Josef looked him up and down and Mick was acutely aware of the sorry picture he presented; hunched over his kitchen counter, weak and shaking, his eyes still washed out, blood drying on his chest and face.

Josef shook his head. "Bastard did a real number on you…" He scanned the counter top, taking in the bloody forceps, the scatter of small, silver pellets. "Any more in there?" He gestured at the visibly healing incision.

Mick nodded. "Yeah," he breathed. "At least a couple."

Josef's mouth twisted, his expression one of reluctant forbearance, and gave a put upon sigh as he shrugged out of his jacket and carefully rolled up the sleeves of his very expensive shirt. Mick had known Josef long enough to know that the disgruntled reluctance was an act… well, mostly.

"Gimme those." Josef held out a peremptory hand and, with shaking fingers, Mick relinquished the forceps.

"Sit up." Mick felt oddly like a schoolchild once again, being ordered around by his overbearing shoolteachers, and he breathed out a low chuckle as he stiffly pushed his weight up from the counter.

Josef twirled the scalpel with a rather unnecessary flourish. "You think this is funny?" he muttered, bending forward to look more closely at the closing cut. "Your priorities are so out of wack that it's downright scary, my friend. Suck it up."

With that inadequate warning, he sliced the scalpel cleanly along the length of the healing incision, re-opening it, pressing in deep to part the flesh beneath. Mick tensed, sucking in a breath, but to be honest in Josef's sure grip the scalpel hurt a lot less than his own fumbling, left-handed attempts. One of the really fun things about being a vampire was that although you could heal from just about any injury, the injury itself – and any necessary treatment – still hurt just as much as it would for a human. Mick gritted his teeth, every muscle tensing involuntarily as Josef used the forceps to dig around in the flesh of his shoulder, pulling out two further pellets in rapid succession.

By the time Josef laid the forceps down, declaring there to be no more pellets to be found, Mick was cold and sweating and the pile of silver on the kitchen counter had grown to ten deadly pellets. The wound healed over more quickly with the poison metal removed and the pain of Josef's ministrations was already fading… but conversely, the pain of the metal in his back was getting worse as the silver continued to poison him, the spreading weakness making him sway dangerously on the kitchen stool.

"Whoah, hey!" Josef reached out and grabbed him as he tipped dangerously to the side, his head beginning to spin dizzily. His friend kept hold of him, his grip keeping Mick from slipping from the chair, and looked briefly around the kitchen. "Okay. This isn't gonna work," he declared.

"Couch," Mick mumbled, his chin against his chest. He was struggling to stay conscious now, black spots dancing at the edges of his vision.

He was unable to help as Josef pulled him off the stool and hauled him across to the living room area, his body limp and uncoordinated, his vision fading in and out. Vampire strength had its uses though and Josef carried his weight as though it were nothing, though he still complained about the inconvenience; Mick was vaguely aware of the ongoing litany of criticism about his stupid morality, his penchant for getting into trouble and how he should have just taken Spalding out when he had the chance, and then he was dumped face first into the cushions of his couch.

Footsteps moved away and returned and Mick drifted, half lost in pain and dizziness. He was barely conscious of Josef slitting his shirt up the back, pushing the bloody fabric aside. Awareness came back with a vengeance however, when the sharp slice of the scalpel bit into his skin. He muffled a groan into the cushions.

"Yeah well, you don't like surgery, don't get shot with silver," Josef advised shortly.

The forceps were a blunt pressure, pushing and twisting in the wound. He drew in a shuddering breath as the pressure eased and a tiny clink spoke of metal hitting glass. "One down," Josef murmured.

In total, Josef pulled 11 pellets from his left shoulder, to add to the ten removed from his right. Altogether, enough silver to do serious damage to a vampire, if not removed in time. By the time the last piece was removed, Mick was drifting again, sprawled face down on the sofa, not even the pain of the forceps digging into him enough to rouse him from the pervasive weakness that tangled his limbs and fogged his mind.

"Shit." Josef's voice was tight, exasperation masking concern. "You're still bleeding." Footsteps hurried away from the couch but Mick couldn't find the strength to move. He was vaguely aware of wetness on his back, warm liquid trickling across his shoulder. He wasn't healing, he realised distantly. He'd had silver lodged in his flesh, poisoning him, slowly killing him, for hours. Maybe too many hours? The thought really should concern him, even scare him, but he couldn't seem to dredge up the energy to care. The poison was gone now but he was weak, so weak. He needed to heal and to heal he needed…

"Here." Hands dug under his shoulder and hip and roughly flipped him, rolling him until he was half on his back, resting awkwardly against the back of the sofa. He blinked against the sudden light, blearily aware of Josef leaning over him and then his head was being lifted and a glass pressed to his lips and then blood, thick and sweet on his tongue, sliding down his throat and easing the empty ache in his gut. He gulped hungrily, greedily, blood spilling out the sides of his mouth and tricking down his chin and neck.

"Easy…" Josef's admonishment was almost tender and the glass dipped slightly, slowing the flow. Mick kept swallowing, drinking down the precious, life-giving fluid. He was distantly aware of his features morphing, his fangs retreating, his eyes regaining their colour, as the blood sated his immediate hunger. He kept drinking until the glass was drained, whining a little as it was moved away from his lips, trying to lift his head to follow it, to lick the last drops from the rounded rim.

He felt better, already stronger, but was shocked to find his limbs still heavy and aching, even lifting his head a struggle.

"Wipes you out rather, doesn't it?" Josef smirked down at him. "Believe me, after that much silver, you're not going to be going anywhere for a while, blood or no."

Mick swallowed, licking the taste of blood from his lips. "Thanks," he rasped, his voice dry and thin, even that one word taking it out of him.

Josef grinned aggravatingly. "You're welcome. Now if you don't mind, I was in the middle of a spectacularly lucky streak when you called and I'd like to get back to my game while I'm still hot." He waggled his fingers.

"'kay…" The aches and pain fading, sated on blood, Mick was beginning to feel increasingly drowsy. He closed his eyes and heard, rather than saw, Josef's exasperated sigh.

Mick opened his eyes in surprise as he felt himself being lifted but all he could see was the fine weave of Josef's shirt, from very close to. He was aware of motion, the rocking gait of Josef climbing the stairs, and then he was suddenly looking at the floor of his – well, he supposed you could call it a bedroom, in that, despite the lack of bed, it was where he slept – as he was hefted abruptly over his friend's shoulder, his arms dangling limply. He had the distinct feeling that he should possibly be embarrassed about being carried around like this, as though he were a helpless child, but he was so tired and somehow it really didn't seem important.

Cool air brushed his skin as Josef opened the freezer.

Josef was talking again as he lifted Mick's weight easily and swung him into the open freezer. "If you want to get undressed, you're gonna have to manage it yourself and if you ever tell anyone about me playing nursemaid, silver buckshot will be the least of your worries." He leaned back with a wry grin. "I have a reputation to maintain, after all." Despite his words, he leaned in and pulled the remains of Mick's shirt from his arms, dropping it to the floor and leaving Mick in just his jeans. The chilly air of the freezer was delicious against Mick's bare skin and he smiled drowsily.

Josef looked down at him with a mixture of exasperation and irritation, shook his head in apparent disbelief and flipped the lid closed. Mick watched sleepily as he moved away, a blurred silhouette through the ice-frosted glass. He ached with a bone-deep weariness and all his body wanted right now was sleep. He closed his eyes and let the darkness pull him under.

In the morning he awoke to a familiar self-loathing, the memory of Beth's shocked face, frost on his favourite jeans, blood stains in the kitchen and on the sofa, silver shot sitting in a whiskey glass and a note from Josef that read simply, "I mean it. Not a word!"