This work of fiction is rated R for violence, language, and adult situations (if not in this chapter, in others). You've been warned.
The characters from Moonlight are copyrighted by CBS, and no infringement is intended.
This work follows the events of "Within the Empty Reaches of the Night," and you might want to read that one first, if you haven't. Yes, it's another Freshie Fic.
Lucky didn't see or hear from Josef for a solid week after Julian's death. None of the freshies did, and no one quite had the courage to ask Mick about it. She hoped wherever Josef was, he was getting some nourishment, that he was coming to terms with what had happened. It could be nothing, he could simply be on a business trip, but somehow she thought not.
She found that she missed him, missed hearing his voice. And she began to wear a satin nightie every night, going to bed thinking of the touch of his hands, and the silken razor feel of his fangs sliding so easily through the veil of her skin, the soft insistent pull as he took the blood from her veins into his heart. Sometimes in the darkness, she almost thought she could feel the weight of his gaze upon her, the power of his regard. She whispered his name in the darkness, but silence was her only reply. And she ached with the wanting, and wept for it, for him.
So she wasn't sure whether to be surprised or not, when there was a knock on the door one night, and she answered to find Josef standing in the hallway, his suit a little rumpled, and his eyes shadowed with hunger.
"Hey, doll," he said, quirking his mouth into a smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Miss me?"
She stood back and held the door open for him. "Yes," she said.
A few moments later, she was sitting comfortably on his lap, her arms around his neck, his cool hand resting on the satin of her gown as it draped across her upper thigh. She shifted, and the material rode up just a bit, exposing the ugly scars left by Lunos' attack. When Josef's fingers encountered the roughness of them, he stiffened in her arms. "Damn," he said. "Lucky, we should have healed those wounds for you. These scars—they're an obscenity."
Lucky reached down and twitched the cloth over her scars. She shook her head. "I'm glad they're there."
"To remind me?" Josef said a little harshly. "How I failed you?"
She shook her head. "To remind me. Of everything you—and Mick, too, but mostly you—did for me afterwards."
He dropped his head to her shoulder for a long minute, but when he raised his head again, she could see the beginnings of a familiar gleam in his eye. "You know, Lucky, one of the problems with living so long is that you start to repeat yourself. Julian—Julian reminded me so much of someone. Someone I met a long time ago."
Lucky settled in, breathing slowly. Listening to him, feeling the vibration of his voice through his chest. "It was 1790. Marie was beautiful," he said. "Julian looked a lot like her, and Marie had that same 'screw everybody' attitude." He gave a short laugh. "I met her in London, back when it was a real party town. Good times, those. Go to a gambling hall for a little action, meet a French aristocrat. She escaped the Terror—got smuggled out of Paris in the bottom of a cart full of garbage. She said the smell alone nearly killed her, but she stood it, because the alternative—the alternative was stay behind, get caught, and meet Madame Guillotine. Up close and personal. And after all that—she died young. Some stupid accident. She was riding to the hounds." He looked away. "It's such a waste, sometimes, Lucky. Life, death, it's all such a goddamn waste." Then he looked her in the eye. "Help me forget about it, Lucky," he said, with a quiet note of desperation voice that was echoed by the look in his eyes. "Help me forget about all of it."
Lucky nodded, and silently pulled his unresisting head forward to her throat.
After that, things seemed to fall into a pattern. Josef never mentioned Julian again, at least not in Lucky's hearing, nor did anyone else. It was as though she had never existed, never set foot in Mick's place, and certainly never left it as spectacularly as she did. Lucky wondered if it would have been the same had Julian simply stood up and walked out the door and out of their lives. Would anyone have kept in touch? Would anyone have ever recalled the events of her departure? Freshies, Lucky decided, were very much creatures of the present. Without much security for the future, it seemed they had reason not to dwell on the past, either.
Lucky continued to spend most of her free time at the FoS, even if Mick never seemed to look her direction. That was all right—it was still the best place to run into Josef, who came by at some point almost every night. And it wasn't just for him. Lucky was developing fast friendships with Allara and Faction. That seemed odd on the face of it; they were both great admirers of Josef, and she often ended up as a silent witness to him feeding on one or the other of them. She would have thought there would be a rivalry between the three of them, or jealousy, but somehow an understanding sprang up instead. Maybe it was just that a vampire needed more blood than one freshie could supply. Maybe it was that they all understood the difference between being a freshie and being a lover. Or maybe, she sometimes thought wryly, Josef just had them all charmed into blind acquiescence. Certainly, when he gave her his attention, Lucky never thought of anything except him. He had a knack of making the whole world narrow down to just the two of them, and she assumed it was the same for the others.
Then other events shattered the peaceful round of her days. The tension had been growing for some time, both between Josef and one of Mick's freshies, Susie, for reasons Lucky had no way of understanding, and between the freshies themselves. She did understand that. It really all boiled down to competition for the attention of the vampires, in Lucky's opinion. Tension she could live with, competition was even all right, but the night it all came together and ended with the frightening spectacle of Josef losing control—under provocation, granted, but nonetheless losing control—and seriously injuring one of Mick's freshies while everyone else present suicidally tried to keep it from turning tragic. While Lucky was very fond of the freshie who was injured, it came to her eventually that she was more concerned to keep Josef from doing something he would regret forever. He had become that important, somewhere along the way.
It would seem that a decision of sorts had crept up on her. After some of the things she'd seen lately, some of the trauma, maybe it was a strange decision, maybe it was a bad one. She pulled Lunos's fang on its long chain out of her neckline, and clutched it in her hand. The pressure of its point against her palm was like a crystallization of everything that had happened. She thought about Julian, thought about her tragic choices. And that circus at Mick's apartment the other night, when Susie had come so close to dying. When Lucky thought about that, about herself getting right up in Josef's face when he was so out of control, she literally felt faint. He'd been a hairsbreadth away from attacking her as he had Susie. Where she had gotten either the courage or the trust to do such a thing, she would never know. It seemed to have come from somewhere deep inside. She'd never wanted to get emotionally involved, never expected to regard either of these vampires as more than a physical experience. She hadn't counted on Mick's essential decency and humanity, or on Josef's dangerous charm, his mercurial moods, the allure of his hidden vulnerability.
Somehow, somehow it was a turning point. She realized that she could no longer bear the thought of feeding any other vampire. It had to be Josef, or no one. She knew it was unorthodox, but she had made a decision. If Josef accepted it, fine. If not, it was still the same decision. She had to talk to Mick, first, and let him know in the nicest way she could that she would no longer feed him. She didn't really expect he'd mind—he had Andromeda, and all those others. The way things had been—or really, not been—between them lately, she didn't think he'd even be surprised. Usually, it was the vampire who asked a freshie to go exclusive, but her mind was made up. She was going to tell Josef she was exclusive to him, if he wanted her. She didn't expect any special treatment, she would simply continue to be around, and if he needed her, if he wanted her, she would be there. If he didn't like that idea, then she was going to walk away. Unlike Julian, she knew she could walk away. Maybe she would do some looking back along the way, but that was all right. She would have memories, and she would make herself a new life, if she needed to.
He was not her lover, he would never be her lover. But he was her vampire, and that was enough.