"You must hate me on days like today."
Beth closed her eyes before looking over her shoulder, meeting her husband's gaze and hoping he could read the sincerity in her eyes even through her dark sunglasses. "I could never hate you."
"Yeah, well," Mick sighed, leaning more against the tree and shading himself from the July sunlight. "I hate myself on days like today."
"Mick, your not a monster -"
"I know," he nodded. "But that doesn't make this any easier."
"No," Beth whispered, resting her head against the cotton of his white button down as he wrapped an arm around her. "It doesn't."
"It's a beautiful service," he noted as they looked down the hill to the respectable crowd of silent mourners. The day was nearly perfect, the humidity remarkably non-existent for a July in New York and perhaps, Mick considered wistfully, this was a day of celebration. The passing was not unexpected, and it had been peaceful. Surely that was what his loved ones wanted, and for a moment he hated himself for his envy that these people could take an easy passing into death for granted.
"I just can't believe it's been a century."
"We told you it all starts to blend together after while."
"I don't regret it."
Mick kissed the top of her head, his words muffled by her blonde hair, "on days like today, how can you not?"
Beth pulled away, slipping her sunglasses off, "I made my decision Mick. It was my decision, and I don't regret it."
"I know, but I thought after . . . " He trailed off as his eyes again focused on the bottom of the hill as the service began to wrap up.
"For awhile I thought I'd change my mind too, but I promised you . . ."
"People break promises Beth, they always have - just as any of Josef's former wives," he whispered as she laughed despite herself. "I wouldn't have held it against you, and I would have stayed as long as I could have."
"I know. I knew that then too. I also know you thought about leaving when I first told you."
"I wouldn't have been surprised . . . I would have gone after you though."
"Josef would have made it so you would have never found me."
"Yeah," she smiled, "but Logan can be bribed."
"I wish you didn't have to miss this."
"Mick, it was my choice - I entered into this knowingly. And even if I hadn't, I wouldn't have been here today."
Her husband was silent. Beth could be impatient, stubborn, annoyingly persistent, but he could not disagree with her. Medical science had made startlingly large leaps and bounds in the last century, but they had not yet found a fountain of youth that would have allowed a mother to attend her son's funeral when that son was mere weeks away from his hundredth birthday.
When he'd called Josef - now Aidan, living nicely in Chicago - to tell him the news, his best friend had mentioned that he was marginally surprised. Even in 2113, living to one hundred years old was respectable, but Josef had thought that his godson's status as a miracle since conception would have guaranteed him at least another quarter of a century. Mick had just sighed and explained that he and Beth would be out of New York for a few weeks before ending the conversation.
As his parents, Mick and Beth were understandably biased, but there was no way to deny that William Michael St. John, named after his father and late maternal grandfather, was a miracle. An unplanned and certainly unexpected miracle, but a miracle nonetheless. For all physiological purposes, Mick hadn't produced sperm in several decades, but the stick still turned blue. Josef not so subtly mentioned terminating the pregnancy, particularly considering the unfortunate timing, but Mick refused to let his wife even entertain the notion.
There had been no way around the argument that they found out at an inconvenient time - they had been married for five years and Beth was nearly thirty three. Although she had aged well, once she had made the decision, it had still taken forever to convince Mick to let her be turned, particularly when she teased that she did not want to spend eternity being mistaken for his Mrs. Robinson. The arrangements were made, they even had the awkward conversation with an overwhelmed Mrs. Turner, and Beth was three days away from being turned when she decided to stop ignoring her non-existent period and take the test.
William was born in August under the careful supervision of a doctor-cum-vampire Josef had flown in from Switzerland - he was a former Nobel Prize winner in medicine. Josef had quietly warned Beth for months that having Mick in the delivery room, as much as he longed to support his wife, was perhaps not the best decision, since it was difficult to predict how the overwhelming smell of blood combined with his utter anxiety over his wife and newborn would do to him. Yet, contracting his best friend yet again, Mick did not leave her side for all thirty four hours, although once his son was born and took his first loud gust of breath, he excused himself to get a drink.
The pregnancy had gone so well that the newborn's mother and father waited for the shoe to drop. None of the horrible myths that were attached to the idea of a human carrying a vampires child had cursed them, so they waited anxiously as William spent several hours over the course of his few days of life being examined by the same doctor who, according to Josef, had been successfully delivering world leaders for a few centuries. Then, befuddled but positive, the doctor declared that the newborn was completely and totally human and, consequently, could breastfeed without running the risk of draining his mother.
Little changed over the next twelve months. Mick worked cases and, once William was two months old, Beth rejoined him in the field through her work with the police department. Instead of weekdays at the park, William knew the playground in the evening and enjoyed picnics under the moon on the roof of his parent's penthouse. The baby seat fit remarkably well in the back seat of the convertible, and he fell asleep many a night to the sound of his parent's conversation and the night wind blowing over the dark fuzz on his head. Then, the evening after William had an extravagant first birthday party, complete with pony rides and a three tier birthday cake, Beth was turned.
There was no need to speak of it, but both Mick and Beth knew their time with William was short but, as they had promised to do from the beginning of their relationship, they enjoyed the then and now. As any first time parents, there were constant videos and pictures of William - his first hair cut, first time riding his training bike on his own, the first day of school, the day of his first recital, playing guitar with the grammar school band. Without the ability to enjoy the sun for too long, they took William on unconventional vacations to places such as Alaska and Iceland. He had his mother's eyes and focused determination and his father's dimples, dark hair and brooding intellect. At every birthday party he insisted on a scavenger hunt and thought his Uncle Logan was the coolest person alive when he build him the coolest handheld gaming system any young boy ever owned.
Josef, despite himself, loved the kid, loved him enough to finally force his parents to face an agonizing truth. William had turned ten that summer, loved fifth grade, night time convertible rides, going to basketball games at the Sara Whitley Memorial sports complex with his Uncle Josef and playing guitar with his dad. And they loved him, but soon it would become too obvious to him, his friend's and his friend's families that his parents were not aging. After all, it could be explained that Uncle Josef could afford plastic surgery after plastic surgery, but it was less convincing to explain that dad the PI and mom the police investigator could to the same. So, once Saturday in early January, after convincing Josef to let them have one more Christmas with them, they hugged him, kissed him and told him they loved him before sending him to spend the weekend with his grandmother. And that was the last time they would have see their son face to face again. To her credit, the cleaner was brilliant, and the only people who knew the truth about the unfortunate car accident were Beth's mother and Josef.
Anne Turner raised him, and Josef set up a trust so exorbitant that it would support not only William but William's great grandchildren for years to come. They watched from afar, returning to Los Angeles every year and at every important occasion to stand in the shadows or blend into the walls to share the moment with him. No parents were more silently proud at William's high school graduation, or took more pride at watching him cross the stage to accept his diploma from UCLA. He grew to be tall, a man who, from the back, looked startlingly like his father. Josef had kept up the Benz and William drove it anywhere, even as the price of gas grew astronomically. In the evenings he played guitar with his friends at various jazz clubs and friend's parties and during the day he worked as a paramedic and, unbeknownst to many, moonlighted as a popular blogger a career which, ironically, was his primary source of income.
They watched him stumble through life, keeping tabs on him through his blog and through the friends that remained in the area. William was happy and while he had many friends, he was largely solitary - a trait Josef blamed on Mick. But just like his father, when Beth feared William would turn inside himself irretrievably, he rose above his shortcomings.
William's twenty-fifth year was a difficult year for him and painful for his parents. Anne Turner died in her sleep one day in early January. William handled the arrangements with ease; she had not been a young woman, but the passing of the woman who had raised him over half of his life was painful. Beth dyed her hair and Mick remained in the car as she blended in at the funeral. For the first time in far too many years, she even had the opportunity to shake his hand as she, like all of the mourners, paused to give her condolences, but once William and the rest of the group had dissembled, Beth stepped out of the car once again to say a private goodbye to her mother.
That year Josef joined them as well, donating a significant portion of his fortune to a bogus charity in Switzerland before joining Mick and Beth in their current reincarnation as a pair of writers on the coast of England. For the first few days after his arrival, they milked him of all the information he had on their son, the information they could not get off of his blog or through other means. Despite the aching absence of their son, Beth assured both her husband and their friend that it had been a good fifteen years. They had traveled and they had slipped in and out of identities in ways that other people only dreamed of; the downside, of course, being that no one was allowed to stay too close for too long. Standing at Mick's side had been worth it. They continued to enjoy rooftop picnics, drives in the vintage Beetle convertible she had convinced him to buy, and once every few lifetimes they agreed to drabble in the world of private investigating. Once Beth and Mick had drained him of all the relevant information while feeding him all of the blood he needed, Josef retired to his guest suite, hardly leaving the suite that first week. The cleaner had called to tell Mick that everything had been settled and no one questioned the unfortunate death of Josef Kostan in an accidental fire. Except it went without saying that Josef, despite his ability to distance himself and his overwhelmingly pragmatic nature, loathed to leave William on his own.
Barely twenty one months later the three returned to Los Angeles, fitting uncomfortably into Logan's rooms, to take in William's wedding. He had met Olivia shortly after Josef's death and, according to his rather longwinded blog entries, had been instantly smitten. The photos he posted of the petite dirty blonde veterinarian did not do the woman justice. Conveniently the wedding took place on a public stretch of beach at sunset. Mick had not been exposed to that much sun in decades, but both he and Beth lathered on the sun screen and stood on the beach, practicing the specific yoga moves that Josef's former personal trainer had taught them only the day before. Although he wanted to attend, Josef opted to remain in the car. The wedding was beautiful and out of the corner of his eye, Mick saw Beth's eyes tear when, towards the end of the ceremony, the officiate asked those in attendance to take a moment of silence in memory of the groom's parents and grandmother who had passed on. At the end, once the ceremony was over and they stayed as long as they dared watching the wedding photographs be staged, Mick wrapped his arm around his wife as he pulled her close, kissing her temple.
"He didn't forget us," Beth whispered.
"Of course he didn't," he agreed, holding the car door open for her as they both slid into the cool, dim sanctuary of the rented car.
Faithfully in between different lives, Beth and Mick would return to Los Angeles and essentially spy on their son. They watched him buy his first home, rejoice in the birth of his first child, his retirement, their grandchildren's first days of school all the way through to their high school graduations and even William's retirement. Then Mick watched Beth sit in silent tears during the painful moment's in their son's life - Olivia's death to cancer, the death of their oldest granddaughter at far too young of an age, the bitter diagnosis of Alzheimer's, something medical science could treat far more comprehensively but the end result remained the same.
In the life they lived around these moments of voyeurism, they were happy in the many incarnations of themselves. Like Jackson and Emma all of those years ago, Beth began to take pride in her hidden collection of marriage certificates - by that July day she had nearly ten. Their first wedding, the one that in her opinion truly mattered, had been an intimate evening affair on the roof of Mick's penthouse - it was only appropriate to wed at the sight of their first date. Since then they had been married in the rain, in a vast yet empty cathedrals, castles and even while scuba diving. Along the way they had seen nearly every museum in Europe and New York, enjoyed the sight of comets and meteor showers that came only once a millennia, and spent countless nights walking through city blocks holding hands or cuddled in front of a fireplace. On more than one occasion, much to Josef's amusement and Logan's awe, they rode motorcycles and mountain climbed. Even once, on the hills of an otherwise abandoned stretch of property in Scotland, they build their dream home. Unfortunately they had to leave it merely twenty three years later.
She shook her head slightly, the sun glaring uncomfortably from it's arrogant perch in the sky, she looked at her husband. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"They're done," Mick jutted his chin toward the service. "Are you ready to go?"
"I don't suppose it's possible to go talk to Emily."
He ducked his head for a moment before he looked back down. Most of the mourners had passed, and certainly no one who remembered either one of them remained. "Yeah, sure," he agreed, his hand lightly on her arm, "we'll figure it out as we go along."
"She's my great great granddaughter too," Mick whispered before they approached the solitary young woman. Moments ago the petite blonde had had two young girls by her side, but they had disappeared into a car with a man they could only presume to be their father. As they neared her, Mick realized their great granddaughter had the same rare blood type as Beth. "Emily?"
For a moment they both stared at her through their sunglasses. Their great granddaughter, too preoccupied by her own turbulent emotions, failed to notice. "I'm sorry, I don't remember seeing you. Do I know you?"
Although it was only a fleeting thought, Beth wondered if Mick would reply with the same cryptic phrase he had all those years ago - it didn't seem that long, until she came face to face with a great great granddaughter who was older than either of them had been when they became undead.
"He was my great great Uncle," Mick adlibbed easily.
"We're really sorry for your loss," Beth added.
"Thank you," she smiled. "He had a good life, and he'd been alone for awhile . . . Rachel - my daughter," Emily clarified. "When he first came to live with us, Rachel asked him all of these impossible questions about death . . . He knew he was sick and he didn't want to be like that for too long. When she asked him what he wanted to do after he died - she thinks of heaven as this big amusement park in the sky. . . He was actually excited. He misses my great grandmother, and certainly my grandmother, and he always talked about his Uncle Josef. Believe it or not, Josef Kostan's money actually paid for today's service," she chuckled ironically. "Plus his parents . . . God, he was younger than Rachel when his parent's died. He kept this ridiculous photo the two of them had taken at a movie theater booth once in his wallet. Uncle Josef told him all of these wild stories about them . . . My Mom's still alive and well, so I can't imagine how hard that must have been. The last few months, he had us read to him and play music, but every time he talked to the minister all he spoke of was getting up there and seeing everyone again. I just hope he made it."
"I'm sure he did," Beth spoke, her voice cracking over the few syllables.
"Listen," Emily sniffled, "we're all going back to my house. It's not much, but we're having a small reception. Would you like to join us?"
Beth looked up at her husband, both aware that despite the irresistible pull to attend, it was an impossibility. "Thank you for the invitation, but I'm afraid we have a plane to catch," Mick explained.
"Thank you for coming - I'm sure it meant a lot to my great grandfather."
"Thank you," Beth said, surprised but soaking in the moment when her great great granddaughter embraced her. When she stepped back, Emily quickly hugged Mick, and the look on her husband's face simply increased the force of the tears she battled to prevent. "Please take care of yourself."
"Thank you, and please have a safe flight."
"We will," Mick assured her, pulling Beth close once again. With one last look into Emily's eyes, they turned around, back to their dark sanctuary and toward the other side of the cemetery, where Josef was no doubt impatiently waiting.
"Oh god," Beth whispered, her hand over her mouth.
"Mick, he's dead . . . Our son is dead."
"I know Beth," he whispered, his nose absently hidden in his wife's hair as blinked back his own emotions.
"I thought . . . I thought we were so lucky when I found out. Then to have him be perfect . . He was so perfect. Don't you remember?" she looked up, the mascara running unabashedly down her face. "He looked just like you."
"And you," he corrected, wiping away the tears with his thumb. "We talked about it Beth, we decided -"
"I know," she nodded. "I know, and I still know it was the right decision. Ten was far too young - Logan's been dealing with adolescent anguish for centuries . . . And then I just couldn't go back and shatter his whole world. How could we have done that Mick?"
"We couldn't," he agreed, the unremarkably sedan with Josef behind the wheel coming into view. "I'm sorry Beth. I should have convinced you not to do it, not after he came -"
"Don't," Beth ceased walking, causing her husband to nearly walk into her as he strolled a half a step behind. "Don't you dare Mick St. John. These last few days have been unbearable, don't you dare start telling me your a monster. I chose this Mick," she repeated, nearly yelling. "I chose to become this, does that make me a monster to? And what if William had been born a vampire - would that have made him a monster too?"
"No," he shook his head, stepping close to pull her into his arms. "No Beth, of course not. I never wanted you to have to feel this kind of pain."
"Living most of my life without you, and knowing you were somewhere watching me grow old and die, wouldn't have been any easier. Don't tell me it would have been any easier for you."
"No," Mick acquiesced. "It wouldn't have been."
Hesitantly, Beth pulled away, wiping her eyes. "I'm ready to go."
"Beth, are you sure? We can stay - we can even go back now that Emily's left -"
"I'd like us to go somewhere private," she quietly stopped him. "I'm not . . . This still hurts," she gestured towards the hill behind him, her eyes focused on the distant horizon. "This may hurt forever, but I'd like to go somewhere private."
"Of course," Mick spoke, pulling her close again as he caught Josef's eye, the older vampire sliding out of the driver's seat.
"Josef," she nodded.
"Are you guys -"
"Yeah," Mick said. "We're ready to leave."
"Would either of you like to," he gestured toward the driver's seat.
"No," the grieving father spoke, opening the back passenger's door for his wife, knowing instinctively that whatever tears escaped over the short drive towards the airport, she would prefer what privacy he could provide. "Let's go."