Episode: Loosely based after Episode 1

Episode: Loosely based after Episode 1.10
Pairing: Mick and Beth
Spoilers: None really! pure fiction

A Delicate Balance

Chapter I

"So, I got this wedding invitation. Want to go with me?"

Seated alone in his office in the gathering twilight, Mick St. John could almost see Beth's words hanging in the air in front of him. It was such a, a normal sort of question. Why should it have prompted such panic in him? All he had to do was to say no, right? Right.

After the time they'd spent together over the holidays, they'd fallen into a rhythm of seeing each other frequently. The first time he'd called, and invited her to come over, he was astonished to find he actually had butterflies in his stomach. Huh, he thought, guess I'm out of practice. Last time I asked a girl for a date was, when, 1952? Still, he'd called, and she'd given him a hard time about asking at the last minute, but she'd agreed. He knew she would. Even over the phone, he could sense her pulse, feel the blood in her veins quicken at the thought. It was, to say the least, flattering. And terrifying.

Perhaps things were a bit awkward that evening, at first, but as they sat and talked, sipped their drinks and listened to music, it got easier. He'd poured a glass of a nice red wine for her, and, after some hesitation, a glass of blood for himself. Beth insisted that his beverage of necessity didn't bother her. And for all he could see, or sense, it didn't. Wow. She's totally accepting. I never would have thought a human would be this way. But it is Beth. Maybe I should have known.

Beth smiled at him as though she could read his thoughts. "You know, Mick, the whole glass of blood thing—it's not a big deal. It's just you, and that's okay."

It was a pleasant evening. Neither wanted to push, neither wanted to be pushed. At the end of the evening, when he walked her to her car, there was another slightly awkward pause. Then she reached up a hand with a quick caress to the side of his face, and kissed him lightly on the cheek. He found himself smiling, genuinely, not the tight, I-have-my-armor-on-and-you-can't-touch-me smile she'd seen so often. It felt good.

And that was how it started. Mostly just quiet times in his apartment, occasionally an evening at her place. A few movies out. He'd never have thought he'd find sitting in a dark theatre again, his arm around a pleasantly curvy young woman, so very enjoyable. Simply listening to her heartbeat, her laugh…hell, he even enjoyed listening to her munch her popcorn. He shook his head at that. It was so easy to get caught up. So damned easy to be with her.

Even the closeness he'd thought would be so difficult was not a burden. They seemed to have an unspoken pact—a hug here and there, some cuddling together on the couch, a brief and chaste goodnight kiss at the end of the evening. Both very careful not to go across that line. He knew that underneath, she wanted much more from him, and he could feel his own desire simmering in the background of his brain, but he tried to ignore it and enjoy what they had. He found himself reveling in the contact they had. It had been so long, so long that he'd been without the healing balm of a simple loving touch. For now, it was enough. It had to be.

And then last night. Beth came in with a tote bag full. Fresh flowers—"You need a little living color around here, Mick." Take out—he was glad he'd finally convinced her it didn't bother him to watch her eat, and he really didn't want her starving herself because she thought the smell of food would bother him. It did, a little, but he'd never tell her that. And watching her enjoyment was more than compensation for a few moments uneasiness. She'd also picked up her mail. She had two movies from Netflix that they'd selected together and planned to watch. Classic noir detective flicks. She'd pulled those out and handed them to him, while she checked through the stack of other envelopes. He saw her hesitate over one large cream-colored envelope, pull it from the stack, and open it. She paused for a long moment, thinking.

"Mick, I know crosses don't bother you—" she started, then paused again before continuing, "—how are you on the topic of sanctified ground?"

He shook his head a little, his eyebrows drawing together. "Fine. No problem. Why do you ask?"

And that's when she said it. "So, I got this wedding invitation. Want to go with me?"

Beth hadn't realized Mick's eyebrows could go up quite that far. She thought she'd seen him flustered before, but this… "Won't they be expecting you to bring Josh?" That was touching a subject they'd scrupulously avoided. He knew she was still seeing Josh, occasionally. There were times when he caught a trace of the man's cologne (and he privately thought Aramis was a terrible choice of scent, particularly when he was smelling it second-hand on Beth). It hurt him to think about it, but he knew she didn't want to break it off too suddenly. So putting the question out there shocked both of them.

"Actually, no. This is a sorority sister from college. They're only expecting me to bring," she looked him straight in the eyes and finished her sentence in a rush, "the man I'm currently seeing."

"And that's me?"

"For the last two weeks, that's only you."

Ahh. A great opening to deflect the conversation from the wedding invitation. "You want to talk about that?"

Beth shook her head, decisively. "There's really nothing to talk about. He stopped calling me, and I stopped calling him. And I seem to have someone else in my life now."

That stopped Mick cold in his tracks. He'd managed so far to avoid telling himself that they were actually dating, but this was getting hit in the face with it. Somewhere along the line they'd slipped past "just friends" into "couple." And he'd have to think about that. So he'd temporized. Gotta buy myself a little time here. "Can I think about it?" he'd asked.

"Sure. But not too long. I've got to RSVP." She'd looked at him in a way that made him think she was aware of some of the thoughts in his head, and he started really wondering if that whole blood bond thing worked two ways, or if it was just how astute she really was. "Think you can get it all figured out by tomorrow night?"

"I, umm, yeah, sure. Tomorrow night."

"Great. Now, which movie you want to watch first?"