All right, I struggled to get this one out. It's about time I did a one-shot from Josef's POV, and I liked his chemistry with Simone. Besides, one-shots are great writing exercises for me, and it's been too long since I've done one. Of course I don't own Moonlight, no need to torture me. :Sniff. Sniff: Okay, enough with the babbling, on to the major feature.

No Refunds, No Exchanges

There are some things you can't be ready for. It's not like merging a company, or investing stock. Money's great, but I can afford to lose a few million if I lose. If you strip it down, investing's just gambling with decent odds. Sure, anybody who practically lost their shirt in the big crash of '29 doesn't do it blindly, but that's another story. Figures, assets, liabilities, all those things I understand. The emotional stuff, the complicated rituals of romantic entanglement? Might as well be Aramaic to me. (I speak Greek very well, thanks.)

It makes me feel better to know I'm not the only one suffering. If you want to talk about a difficult woman, Beth Turner's your gal. On the up side, Mick's actually lightened up since him and his fair damsel started dancing around the May Pole in earnest. I just hope that they don't screw it up, because the last thing I need is depressed Mick 2.0. Just thinking about it gives me the shudders, and I've been through more carnage than you could contemplate.

She's waiting for me, out by the pool, wearing nothing but the robe. It's beautiful, blue Chinese silk, but she'd look better out of it. She's a vision in the moonlight, and I feel so much for her, it's painful. Love? Thankfully, no. Maybe it never will be, I don't know. Maybe that died with Sara, but Simone helped make that better, and that's a big achievement unto itself. It's a bond that's complicated, and I don't do complicated, not normally.

Unlike Sara, Simone's no wide-eyed innocent, oblivious to what she's betting on. I protected Sara too much, I can see that now. I kept her separate from my world, thought I was doing the right thing. Simone's been a freshie, though not in the classic case. I don't know how much more involved you could get than that. She's a big girl, she's more than qualified to make this decision.

If you'd told me a year ago that I'd turn another girlfriend, I would have tossed you in the tar pits on principle. I mean, it's risky either way. If I get another sleeping beauty, then I might have a freakin' nervous break-down. If she pulls through, and we end up crashing and burning, then I'll have eternity to clean up my mess. You never completely lose the fledgling/sire connect. It diminishes, but it's always there. Look at Mick and Coraline, and you get the picture. Or what if it just get's old on my part, but not on hers? You know that little saying 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?' Yeah, well, one of my ex-lovers is the reason for that saying. Let's just say I was in the freezer for three days after that one. It's good for me our limbs regenerate. Simone's not the violent type, but for some reason, I can bring it out in people.

I join her by the pool, drawing her into my arms. I do know that I don't want to lose her, and that a long-standing relationship with a human is a one-way ticket to a train wreck. She leans into me, and I can tell she's nervous too. Good. It's a sign of sanity, of awareness. I mean, being a vampire is a no-refund, no exchanges sort of thing. I force my own issues aside. When I want something, I'm not letting anything, especially something as petty as worry get in my way.

My fingers brush aside her hair from her neck, and I don't bother asking if she's sure. The last few weeks we've hammered everything out, laying our cards on the table. Any more communicative and we would have launched into monologues. I even took her to see Sara, let her see for herself what can go wrong. Sure, it's the only case I've heard of, but since it was my set of fangs that did the damage, I figured it was relevant.

But Simone's not some fragile piece of glass, she's a woman who knows what she wants and isn't afraid to grab it. She examined the facts as calmly as she would have prepared for a trial, (it's so stimulating to watch her in lawyer mode, in those crisp little suits) weighed them, and made an informed decision. So here we are. Underneath the lingering nervousness, there's excitement in her blood, I can smell it, and it brings the vampire out to play.

I let my allure pour over her, letting her have a double-dose, and she shivers, her neck falling to the side, offering me anything, everything. I lean close, letting my breath tease her sensitive skin until her breath starts shuddering out of those sexy lips. I force myself not to kiss her, to focus on one appetite at a time. There's few other freshies I'd turn, most of them aren't vampire material. They're too needy, too vapid, too submissive. Can you imagine having to hold someone's hand for centuries, clean up their messes? They're ideal food, ideal playmates, but that's about it.

Usually, you keep the same freshie for about a year, before you send her back into circulation, with glowing references, if she earned them. One of my references could get a freshie a job anywhere. If you're dealing with a real pro, someone in synch with your needs, you might put her under an exclusive contract, and keep her as long as five years. I've only kept one girl longer, a tasty little French number…Darcelle. She stayed under my protection for 8 years, before she went on to be a handler. She's still at it, from what I understand. Still, even Darcelle, as fond as I was, didn't make the grade.

Simone's cut from a different cloth altogether. For one thing, my money isn't her personal aphrodisiac, she'd still be with me if I lived like Mick, God forbid. The others, while I am a magnificent specimen, and I'm confident in saying they've never had to imitate Meg Ryan, would be seeking another vampire's protection if I entered the ranks of the middle class. Most of my girls don't financially support themselves. Some dabble at 'careers' but they almost always spend more cash than they bring in. I don't mind indulging my freshies, a happy freshie is a tasty freshie.

The fascinating woman before me was my lawyer first, my lover second, my freshie third. Why should I deprive myself of a willing donor? It was invigorating to have a lover who paved her own way, who wants you more than your credit card. Kind of unsettling, too. If you can buy a woman, you can control the situation, make up the rules. When you take that element out, it get's complicated. Did I mention that I don't do complicated all that often?

My fangs scraped against her neck, the tips caressing, not slicing yet. "Turn me, Josef," she murmured, her voice sultry. "Give me eternity." Damned if that didn't send all my blood flowing south. It wasn't easy, but I forced my rampant hormones down, I needed to concentrate. There wouldn't be any do-overs.

Our fingers linked when I pierced her soft skin, like I had countless times previously. The familiarity made it easier for both of us, and I sucked down her blood hard, letting myself revel in the taste of what she had to offer me. I'm taking enough to absorb her memories. I see her childhood pageants, family Christmases, the anxiety of high school, the heartbreak of her first love, the stress of the bar exam, and so many other things. She's an ordinary woman that stumbled into an extraordinary situation.

She's growing weaker, but I don't taste any fear, even her anxiety has ebbed away, she's under the master's spell. I pull her closer, savoring her fading warmth, a warmth that's about to be forever extinguished. Well, you've got to take the good with the bad, right? I think a lower body temperature is worth not having to deal with wrinkles. She's going under now, and she goes willingly, she's peaceful.

I get up, laying her down on the lounge chair. I use my fangs to slice open my arm, just as I did not too long ago, the ritual methodical. Unlike with Mick, who was only wearing the illusion of humanity, I put my arm to her slightly open lips. After what feels like an hour, but was only a few seconds, she began to taste, her tongue swiping across my wound. Then she's sucking for all she's worth. She's greedy, and soon is latching on my arm, eager for every drop I'll spare.

Maybe I let her take more than I should, but I don't want to take any chances. Maybe I didn't let Sara feed enough, maybe that's what went wrong. I let her feed until the world is gray around the edges, then I pry her away from me, being as gentle as I can. She settles back, her tongue darting out to capture the blood smeared on her lips. It's a good sign.

When I turned, re-turned Mick, he came out of it right away. I'm here to tell you, that's not how it normally works. Our noble hero's true nature was really just paralyzed, I just pulled the stake out. Simone will be out of it a lot longer.

Not that I'd admit it, but that took a lot out of me. I'm not even sure I can stand up right now. Right on cue, Mick strolls out of the house, a glass of blood in hand. I knew there was a reason I kept him around. Luckily, it's from my tap, not his morgue fare. I'm still wondering how he drinks that stuff. I down it in one gulp, handing it back to Mick.

"You're welcome," he tells me, rolling his eyes.

"Is this my cue to launch into a ten-minute spiel about the wonder that is you, and how I couldn't live without you?"

"Well, it'd be nice, since I'm your only pal that likes you and not just for your money-" he starts in, a sly smile creeping up on his lips.

"You keep forgetting the power and reputation. One of these days, Mick, you'll hurt my feelings." Getting up, I scoop up Simone, holding her close. "I'll take her inside, get her comfortable. It'll be…a while before we know." I force myself to stay calm, to keep it together.

Mick puts a hand on my shoulder. "She'll put through, Josef."

"And you're the expert all of a sudden?" To my knowledge, Mick's never turned anyone. Then again, I'm not the only one good at keeping secrets. His almost love child was a good example.

"No. But lightening usually doesn't strike the same place twice." He slaps my shoulder, giving me a lop-sided grin. His moral support is helping keep me calm. I can share this with him, not have to go it alone.

I do know that Mick has his own reasons for being here. Although he's playing his romance with Beth by ear, the topic's going to come up, it always does. This is as close to a dress rehearsal as he's going to get, since I seriously doubt he's going to start randomly turning women until he get's it right. I wouldn't even do that, and I don't have half as many morals to get in my way.

"True," I heard myself agree casually. Well, at least my voice didn't give me away. I went inside the house, laid her on the bed in the quarters adjacent to my freezer. I'll never know how Mick sleeps in one of those industrial models. Then again, he wouldn't know luxury if it bit him in the ass. It hasn't been for lack of trying on my part. Well, I still have plenty of time to wear him down. I had plenty of time for anything.