Moonlight and all of its characters do not belong to me. They are solely the property of WB and Silver Pictures. This story is just a figment of my imagination.
For all of you that wondered what happened to Josef at the end of "Some Women Like That", this story is for you. Please read and review. – Laurelin
Mick stepped off the US Postal Service boat, slung his backpack over his shoulder, and thanked the captain, handing over a generous tip for the unscheduled midnight voyage. He followed the captain's directions and came to a stop in front of a run down building glistening with neon signs advertising the various beers served within. The tin roof looked a hundred years old, and he was surprised the place was still standing from the looks of it, all covered in snow and rust. But Tom's Bar was the only business in this god-forsaken Alaskan town that was still open at this late hour, and Mick was hoping that someone inside would know where Josef was. The few customers inside looked up with curiosity when the cold air from outside rushed in with the obvious outsider. It wasn't often that they had newcomers to the town in the heart of winter, Mick guessed. Trying to be nonchalant, Mick smiled briefly and went to the bar, handing over a twenty. There was unfortunately no telltale trace of vampire decay in the air.
"Whiskey please, neat." The bartender took his money and handed over the shot glass.
"If you're looking for a job, mister, the only boat hiring right now is the Northern Star. She's at pier 3, put in for repairs."
"Thanks," Mick replied, trying to be tactful in a situation in which he had exactly zero experience, "but I'm not actually here about a job. I'm looking for an old friend of mine. I heard he came here sometime in the last two years. Maybe you've seen him?" Mick held out Josef's stock photo from the Kostan Industries press kit.
The bartender stared at the picture for a long moment before there was a flash of recognition that he instantly tried to cover, but Mick didn't fail to notice.
"No, never seen him. Are you with the cops?" the man, who he guessed was the namesake of the bar, said with an air of mistrust.
"No, I'm not with the cops, the IRS, or any other government agency. Like I said, he was my best friend, and I haven't heard from him in a while. His sister went missing two weeks ago and none of his family members could get in touch with him… they wanted him to know, to see if there's any chance she might have come here on her own, or if he'd heard from her in any way. Please, I'm begging you." Mick didn't have to reach too hard to look desperate. Being truly desperate made it look easy.
"What's your name, son?" Tom asked, still cautious.
"Mick St. John, sir." Mick hadn't been called "son" since the War, and he was feeling his age more than ever right now.
Tom kept a close eye on Mick, who was sipping his drink uneasily. He could feel the eyes of the other three patrons on his back, and they weren't friendly.
"Well, Mick St. John, there are no new women in town, believe you me, or we'd all know about it. We don't get many visitors to these parts."
"I understand, sir. Her family isn't sure if she ran off, or if something worse happened to her. Please, I need to talk to him, see if he's heard from her, but I couldn't find a phone number for him. So I came up here myself." Mick wanted this to be a peaceful exchange, but it was looking more and more like he was going to have to follow Tom home and convince him in some other way.
With a sigh, Tom grabbed his parka and told the other patrons to get out. "If I find out you are anything but what you say you are, their will be hell to pay. Joe is the best mechanic we have, and I won't see him harassed by the likes of you. Do you understand me, son?"
After the door was locked behind them, Tom lead him down towards the ships moored in the distance. Mick remembered to close his coat around himself and pretend to be cold for the human's benefit, but he had to admit that a midwinter's night here was like living in a giant freezer, and it certainly held consideralbe vampire appeal. But it wouldn't appeal to the Josef that he had known for fifty years. This was literally the end of the earth, the last place Mick would have ever thought to look for him, which he had to admit was probably why he hadn't been able to find Josef for nearly two years. He had trouble seeing his hedonistic friend blending in here, but Josef seemed to have garnered the respect of at least one bartender in this town, which was interesting in and of itself.
Mick followed the man in silence for ten minutes through the snow and cold, marveling in the utter silence of the place. There was nothing but Tom's breathing, the soft crunch of their boots on the snow-packed road, and the slight rustle of the wind. Mick hadn't been away from the cacophony of L.A. for so long he'd forgotten what true silence sounded like. There were more stars in the sky than Mick ever remembered seeing since he was a child, and he was amazed at just how vast the skies were. It was peaceful here in a way.
Just before they stepped out onto the docks, Tom stopped and turned to face Mick.
"Look, it's really none of my business, and Joe is a very private person, hard to get to know, if you know what I mean." Mick was intrigued that he hadn't bothered to change his first name when he started over here. "But there's something not right about him. In my sixty years in this town, I've seen it time and time again. Young men come here for only two reasons: money, or because they're running away from something. The law, an ex-wife, a bad relationship, it doesn't matter. Joe is not here for the money."
Mick opened his mouth to interrupt but Tom silenced him with a wave of his hand. "And I've seen too many young men look at the sea like she's calling just to them, like she wants them deep in her embrace, and in the dark of the winter, I've seen some of them choose to answer her call and not come back with their ship. The captains can call it an accidental fall overboard if they want, but I used to be a captain, and I know that look. Homer may have thought the sirens were only in the Mediterranean, but they are here in the Bering Sea too, and they are the answer to many a man's despair. Your friend hears their call, Mr. St. John. I can see it in his eyes. He'll answer that call one day. None of us want to lose the best mechanic we've had here in thirty years, but you have to get him out of this place if you really are his friend."
Mick took a second to process what the man was telling him. Josef was suicidal? After four hundred years of thoroughly enjoying his life as a vampire? Josef didn't have to come here. He could have gone anywhere in the world and still have run away, lived in luxury with his billions, and been hard to find. But he'd chosen this end of the earth, chosen to live as a tradesman, and chosen to listen to his own inner demons. It was possible.
Beth had told him about the letter he'd left with her just before he disappeared. She had cried for three days after he'd gone, convinced that she was responsible for ruining their fifty year friendship and forcing him out of the life he'd enjoyed in L.A., all over one night with her. It hadn't been easy for Mick to accept that Josef had probably fallen in love with her, and that Beth had developed some feelings for Josef as well, but Mick had never wanted him to leave. They could have worked something out, some way to keep Josef with them.
It was something he should have seen coming, Mick decided, but Josef had never been like that in all the years they had been friends. Women had come and gone from his bed, both humans and vamps, since Sara had failed to turn fully, and none of them had made Josef feel the need to run. Mick, strangely, was not jealous of the other vamp's feelings for his fiancé. Every time he looked at the beautiful woman he called his own, he wondered how any man could resist her, and why it took Josef so long. He wasn't worried about Josef stealing Beth away from him; he was content in his knowledge of her love, but that didn't mean that they both couldn't care for Josef and find a way to keep him in their lives, in their bed if that's what it would take. It wasn't that unusual of an arrangement for immortals.
But the time for reverie was over. They were standing in front of a sixty foot fishing boat tied up along the pier, and Mick cringed at the name. "Fortune's Fool" was written in large black letters against a red background on the stern of the ship. It belonged to Josef, alright. The smell of vampire was faint given the constant wind off the bay, but it was here, and it was his friend's scent. Tom looked at a note that had been left in some sort of clear waterproof sleeve near the gangway.
"He's down at the Northern Star. Joe works all hours of the day and night, I swear I don't know when that boy sleeps."
"If you only knew," Mick thought as they headed up the pier to a much larger boat. The Northern Star was twice the size of Josef's boat, and not nearly as tidy in appearance.
The captain-turned-bartender yelled loudly for someone named Captain Erickson, and after a minute a man in his forties walked up onto the deck. His red hair and beard were streaked with gray, and his face was hard and unyielding, a lit cigarette held between his lips.
"Tom? What are you doing all the way down here?" Then his eyes slid over to Mick, and he suddenly felt like he was being appraised like a horse at auction. "Who's your friend?"
"This is Mr. St. John. He's a friend of Joe's, and needs to speak with him about an urgent family matter. Would that be possible, Captain?" Tom was polite, but the tightness in his face marked some old conflict between these men. Mick was glad it was none of his business.
"Welcome aboard Mr. St. John." It didn't escape Mick's notice that the captain didn't offer the same courtesy to Tom. Erickson's handshake was strong enough to break bones in a human, and the message was clear about who was in charge here. "Joe's in the engine room finishing up. You're welcome to wait in the galley if you'd like. It's warm in there," he said, leading Mick down a flight of stairs and into a small kitchen, complete with a booth-like table that would be more at home in a neighborhood restaurant that a fishing boat. There was no way that they could have their conversation here with the humans around, so Mick forced himself to sit down and wait for Josef to finish whatever he was doing.
Fortunately, the wait was only about ten minutes. He didn't think he could stand just sitting there with the captain staring at him any longer, utterly silent since Mick declined his offer of a job. All he could think about was how much he missed Beth, and how much he was worried about her.
Mick was startled out of his daydreaming by a thunk at the doorway. Josef stood there, hand resting on a large acetylene tank, wearing a welder's mask with the shield pushed up. He had a well trimmed beard that covered most of his face, but it couldn't disguise the gauntness of his face, or the vacancy of his expression. Tom was right.
Josef walked past Mick with just a cursory nod and handed over what Mick assumed was a bill to the captain. "Give the welds overnight, but you should be good to go by high tide."
"Thanks again, Joe, you're a lifesaver," Erickson said with a genuine smile.
With only an answering nod that lacked every bit of the confidence that Mick had been accustomed to, Josef finally turned to him and said, "Mick. What a pleasant surprise." The words were pleasant, but none of that meaning reached his eyes. "Help me with that tank, if you wouldn't mind, and I'll get the other one from below," he said before disappearing down the narrow stairs, returning a moment later with a similar tank of gas.
Both men carried their burdens out into the night.
Josef walked silently along next to Mick, saying nothing, not meeting his eyes. It was as if he was waiting for something he didn't want to come, and by being silent he could forestall the inevitable.
They reached Fortune's Fool and stepped aboard and down into the small galley after Josef secured the tank and Mick followed suit. Everything on the ship was immaculate, no trace of dirt or rust anywhere, and it was absolutely still except for the two of them. No freshies, no other vamps, and only a faint male human scent that belonged to someone Mick hadn't met yet lingered in the air. The place wasn't a ship so much as a tomb: cold as the winter outside and equally without joy.
Josef continued to move like he'd forgotten Mick was even there, taking off his shirt and heading into the main berth. Mick started to follow him until he saw the other vamps ribs in clear definition, then the loaded gun on the small desk, and he smelled the silver of the bullets. Once the water in the shower had started, Mick headed back for the galley to wait again, setting down his backpack.
While Josef had always made himself at home in Mick's apartment, he wasn't sure if the reciprocal was true. Turns out it didn't matter, there was no blood in Josef's refrigerator, just several cans of Red Bull and half a Tupperware container of spaghetti. Mick was still looking around for the hidden refrigerator when Josef reappeared in a fresh set of clothes with a small container of frozen blood in his hand.
"Don't bother looking. There won't be more human blood delivered until the day after tomorrow, so I hope you brought your own. You do not have permission to hunt in my territory," he said succinctly before dropping the container into a crock pot full of pre-warmed water.
"I don't want to hunt in your territory, Josef," Mick replied.
"Why are you here, then? Come to rub some salt in the wounds? I think that's been done thoroughly already," Josef said bitterly, wiping the counter of its invisible mess with a nearby sponge.
"Yeah, I see that." Mick's instincts told him to be very cautious and careful with his friend. Tom wasn't kidding when he said that Josef was on the edge. He was starving, and obviously depressed, and from the look of things, Mick suspected he wasn't going to last much longer like this. "I need your help. Beth's been taken. I received a note the next day that says they'll trade her back to me in exchange for you."
Josef had stopped cleaning and just leaned on the counter, facing away from Mick and waiting for his blood to thaw. He went completely still for several long moments, and Mick wondered if Josef had even registered what he'd said.
"Did you hear me, Josef?"
"I heard you."
"Look, in spite of what you might think, Beth and I aren't mad at you. We never were. You're my friend, and Beth's too, and we both miss you."
The melting blood occupied all of his Josef's attention for another long moment. "Did you turn her yet, Mick?"
"Not yet, we were going to wait until the wedding." The visible flinch of Josef's shoulders didn't escape Mick's notice, and seeing that reaction hurt Mick just as much as it appeared to hurt Josef. "She wants you to be there. I do too."
"Yeah, well we all want things we can't have."
Stepping closer to his long time friend, hesitating for a half second with his hand just above his friend's shoulder, Mick finally laid it gently on Josef's back. "Josef. Brother. You didn't do anything wrong. Why are you doing this to yourself?"
"Same reason you did for twenty years."
Pulling the now warm blood from the water bath, Josef opened it and poured it into a cup. Mick cringed as the smell of the contents assaulted his senses. Josef knew well that the taste was just as revolting as the smell, but he drank it anyway.
"What the hell is that stuff, Josef?"
"Horse blood. The salmon sharks like it."
"That doesn't explain why you are drinking it, though."
Changing the direction of the conversation, Josef finally looked Mick in the eyes. "You know, I finally understand you, why you swore off freshies for all those years. It was never about the humans' safety, or denying what you were." he said as he stared at the cup of blood in his hand.
"This isn't about me, Josef, this is about you." Mick was trying to be gentle and supportive, but he knew he wasn't getting very far.
"That's where you're wrong. It has everything to do with you."
Throwing his hands into the air, Mick said, "fine, Josef, I give in. Why did I stop drinking fresh blood? Why did I make myself stupidly miserable for twenty years? Enlighten me." Mick threw himself down onto the padded bench.
The half smile on Josef's lips did nothing to conceal the haunted look in his eyes. "Penance, Mick. Penance." There was to be no absolution, as far as Josef was concerned, and Mick saw in his friend what he'd been warned about.
This just couldn't go on unchecked. Mick stood up and quickly pushed Josef's hand towards the counter, preventing him from taking the next mouthful of the vile substance that really couldn't meet his needs anyway. Josef's eyes flashed vamp for a second before he simply gave up and let Mick have the glass like it wasn't important, like he wasn't hungry anyway, and he walked away.
Josef headed back towards his desk, and Mick was concerned for a moment that he was going to shoot him over the animal blood. But Josef took out several legal-sized pieces of paper and signed them, throwing the stack on the galley table. It was the deed to the boat, signed over to someone that Mick assumed was the owner of the refrigerator's contents. Josef then disappeared up to the deck.
Mick followed him, but he'd already reached the wheelhouse and had started the engines and bilge pump. Josef was on the radio talking to someone, telling them to be down at the dock in fifteen minutes because they were leaving. And something about going to Anchorage. Mick headed up to the wheelhouse. Josef wasn't getting away with igoring him any longer.
"Josef?" Mick said tentatively, hoping that the fifteen minutes would be enough time to get a few things straight.
"Who was the note from?"
"It's not signed," Mick said quickly, before pulling the note out of his pocket and handing it over. Josef held it to his nose and breathed in deeply before turning on a small light that he didn't really need to read the words.
"I should have known. But it's better than I thought; Beth is likely still alive." Josef commented before handing the letter back over and heading out of the cramped room.
"That's it? You should have known? Who the hell has Beth, Josef? And why?"
Turning to look at his friend, Josef just said quietly, "it really doesn't matter, does it? We'll go to Ireland, get Beth, and you two can go back to your happily ever after." There was no bitterness in his words, only resignation as he busied himself securing several items on deck.
"That's not good enough, Josef." Mick was getting irritated by Josef's apparent lack of concern. "I want to get Beth back, kill whoever took her, and then the three of us can go to L.A. and figure out how we're going to get you stay." Mick ran his hands through his hair in frustration, trying to calm himself down enough to rationalize with an irrational man. "You know, you didn't have to leave."
Josef just let it go. "Katherine isn't the forgiving type, and no doubt she's still upset that I left her and came to America the first time. I suspect she won't be amenable to letting me return here a second time, or anywhere else for that matter."
"Who the hell is this woman and what does she want from you?"
Josef undid all the mooring lines but one, disconnected the water and power connections, and waited on the dock for the young man running down the pier.
"She was my mortal wife, and she interpreted our wedding vows a little differently that I did once I became immortal. She didn't think that mortal death counted as dissolution of the marriage. Katherine tries to kill me periodically, usually when some other relationship of hers goes sour and she wants someone to blame. Though I have to say, she's getting more sophisticated in her techniques lately."
"Hey, Joe. I got here as soon as I could," the blonde human said as he rushed onto deck and helped his captain with the gangway. Josef threw the last rope onto the deck and jumped back onto the ship, stumbling in a very un-vampire like way, Mick catching him more gracefully.
Handing off a brown paper package to Josef, the human looked warily at Mick. "I know you said you didn't want this for a couple of days, Captain, but since you were traveling…"
"It's okay," Josef said as he took the bag, "and thank you." Turning back to introduce the two, Josef said, Jackson, this is Mick St. John. He already knows what I am, so you don't have to dance around what's in the package. Mick, this is Jackson Tanner, the man who will be captain of this boat as soon as we reach Anchorage."
Mick held out his hand and appreciated the younger man's strong grip. He couldn't be more than twenty-five, but he was no stranger to hard work, and he obviously knew his way around a sailing vessel.
"Call me Jack. Nice to meet you Mick," he said energetically before heading off to do… whatever it was you did on a ship when it left port. Mick had deliberately avoided traveling by boat since the War, and wasn't feeling too happy about being on the second boat of the night, but he'd endure a lot worse to get Beth back.
Josef took the blood up to the wheelhouse and set it in the small refrigerator without even removing it from the brown paper wrapper. Mick followed him with the cooler from his backpack, adding another five units and keeping two out. He poured each bag of blood into a glass and sat down across from Josef, waiting for the ship to get safely out of the port before moving on to the next segment of their impending argument. Only problem was that Josef didn't want to argue.