Author's Note: Umm…I couldn't help myself.
One Heck of a Bedtime Story
About ten seconds after I realized that Mick St. John required a diet of A positive liquid life, I realized I didn't care.
I mean, okay. I cared a little. But not in the way you'd think. It sort of gave me the heebie-jeebies, you know, cause, uh, ew and all, but beyond that I sort of viewed his vampirism as like a sort of drug addiction. I mean, everyone's got problems, right? Drinking blood was hardly the weirdest quirk in some of the creeps I've known, which isn't saying all that much about my taste in guys, I guess. But Mick, he's a real sweetheart, you know? Real sincere.
He was kinda like Jack that way. You know, a bad boy trying to go straight? (Although for Jack that meant going to the cops, and for Mick it meant … um … not eating me.) But anyway. I thought about getting out while I still could, you know, like before he figured out that I knew, but I dunno. It's kinda hard to be scared of a guy who's dying for you, you know? Like how I was supposed to be like, "Listen, Mick, we've had a great run, I appreciate the state of my neck and distinct lack of blood loss, but I just don't think it's gonna work out."
I mean, hello, rude.
So anyway, I just sorta decided that if he'd kept me alive so far he probably wasn't gonna suddenly switch and go all Count Dracula on me, especially since—from what it sounded like in the bathroom—he was sort of getting his fill of, um, Beth. (And then I find out they aren't dating? I mean, like, what? That's friendship with some serious benefits.)
Plus, he'd done the best job so far of keeping me and my baby alive, which was more than I could say for any of the other guys that had promised to see me through the trial. Poor Officers Nagwa and Cooper. They were really sweet guys, I mean, I really liked them. Even if they did make fun of my Star and Us magazine addiction. But a girl's gotta stay connected with the real world, you know? Like, I'm sitting in the same room for two weeks, I gotta have a little excitement. And I'm totally willing to live vicariously through Britney. Girl's got enough drama for the both of us.
So, yeah. There you go. I figured out that Mike was a vamp all on my own (with, okay, a little help from Beth, who was talking so freaking loud it was impossible not to eavesdrop), weighed my options, and figured I was safer in the arms of someone who considers me food to the arms of the law.
Which, yeah, I understand is a totally messed up way of thinking, but seriously, the cops hadn't done a whole lot to impress me.
So Mick takes me to the trial, and I give my testimony, and we put that sociopath Fayed behind bars. And I thought it was over, you know? But I take two steps out of the court room and there's already a bullet flying at me. Mick pushed me out of the way, took the shot for himself (but we both pretended it missed him). And then all of a sudden it was like the vamp went in Mother Hen mode. I mean, his job was finished, you know? And like, I totally appreciate his concern, because, um, hi, bullets were flying at me, but I mean, a vampire's got needs, you know? And I need all my blood for the next nine months, 'cause I'm sharing it.
But I should have known better. Mick's not like that, I mean, he's like some sort of vegetarian or vegan or something. He only drinks from donated blood—which is equal parts sweet and creepy. I mean, most people just like a little orange juice in the morning, right? Not this guy.
Anyway. So Mick takes it on himself to be my guardian angel or whatever, but like I said, he had other things he had to do. So he got me—get this—a bodyguard. He's got the hookup from this friend of his, Josef. And everything's really great for a while, you know? Like Mick checks in every other day or so, and I sort of get to know Fabio (I know, I thought he was kidding, too) and it's sort of like a routine, me and baby and the big hulking character that follows us around.
And then one day Mick's friend, Josef, checks in to see me instead of Mick. For a second, seriously, my heart stopped. I really thought he was about to tell me Mick was dead, like he'd gotten staked or something.
As it turns out, he was just too busy being human, like eating real food and stuff. I never really got the whole story on that, so I sort of view it as like a sickness. Which is sorta backwards, I know. But it's the easiest way to put it into perspective for you, like, Mick the Vamp caught a cold and it turned him human.
Anyway, so Josef is going on and on, whining about all Mick ever does these days is eat cheeseburgers, and I sort of just… word-vomited.
"Wait, he's eating food?" I blurted, not remembering that, technically, no one knows that I know that Mick's—uh—a little supernatural. "Doesn't that like, make him sick or something?"
I didn't know Josef real well at the time, so I was sort of nervous that he was going to kill me for being a liability or something, but he sort of just looked amused. "So you know," he said.
I shrugged. "I don't know why everyone treats me like I'm stupid. It's kinda hard to miss the not-eating, burned-by-the-sun, sleeps-in-a-freezer thing."
Josef sort of stared at me for a second, doing that half-smiley, half-frowney thing that not a whole lot people can pull off. The jury was still out on how I felt about him, anyway; I mean, sure, he was attractive in this weird, cute, almost-boyish way that was made both better and worse by his sort of charming, sort of insulting attitude.
I mean, talk about a paradox, right. He was absolutely nothing like Jack, let's just say that, too. Jack was … rough around the edges, you know? But so sweet, and sort of full of himself but at the same time totally not. Josef … um … well, I mean, he had that 'I have so much money I don't even know what to do with it' kind of thing going for him, and plus he looked really good in a suit. Which was all he ever wore.
The draw back was that he really looked at me like I'm food. I mean, Mick did too, but only when he was starving/burning to death in the middle of a desert. Josef just did it 'cause he knew it creeped me out. I think.
Then he laughed. "You're more observant than I gave you credit for, Miss Hayes," he informed me, and took a step forward. "Does Mick know that you know?"
"No." I put my hands on my hips. "And you aren't going to tell him. He's weird enough about it with Beth, I don't know what he'd do if he found out I know about his little habit."
"And you aren't scared?"
"Do I look scared to you?"
Without warning, Josef's fangs dropped; his eyes went blue-ish white and it was like his skin lost all color. He hissed at me. He actually hissed! I mean, can you say like, rude? Anyway, I still to this day stand by the opinion that what happened next was totally not my fault. Josef Kostan should know better than to startle a pregnant woman, I mean, hello, one hundred and ten pounds of raging hormones over here! What did he expect me to do? Scream and turn into a puddle of goo?
Whatever. What actually happened was that I jammed a pencil through his eye.
After that there was some screaming and, okay, maybe a little bit of goo-age, but um, hi, I'd just stabbed him in the eye. Not that it wasn't totally justified and one-hundred-percent his fault, 'cause it was, but still. I mean. Ew.
He stared at me for a second, his good eye wide, and I threw a horrified hand over my moth. "OhmyGod," I wailed, "I'm so sorry! Let me call the hospital or something. Oh my God. It's okay. This is going to be okay. I'm going to—"
Calmly, swiftly, without fuss, Josef wrapped his finger around the protruding utensil and yanked it out of his person. He blinked a couple of times, shook his head, and then shrugged. "Do us a favor and calm down, will you," he barked at me, but he was doing that half-smiley thing of his so I knew that he wasn't, at least, going to eat me as punishment.
"Um, okay," I said meekly.
He was still for a moment, just looking at me, and then he sighed. "Just so we're clear, the next time a vampire comes at you like that, your reaction should be to, oh, I don't know, run.
Are we clear?"
I scowled, crossing my arms over my chest. "Yeah, good idea Josef. Let's watch the pregnant woman try to flee the scene. I mean, really, how fast can you waddle?"
He laughed then, and I'd never actually seen him smile like that before, so I sort of joined in just out of surprise. Then he told me to shower and put on something nice, because we were going to dinner, and I mean, I'm not one of his little midnight snacks, but—I mean, how do you say no when he's all suited up and grinning at you even though you just poked out his freaking eye?
Anyway. We went out. It was okay, I guess. And by okay I mean it was like the single most awesome non-date ever, cause we went out to eat at the most expensive—read: delicious—place in LA and he paid for everything and even though he didn't eat I never once felt like he thought I was a pig, and anyway, how can he judge, I'm eating for two. And then afterwards he took me home and made me sit down on account of the pregnant thing and he casually sipped a coffee mug of blood (ew) while making me coffee and afterwards just left, like a perfect gentleman which was weird because it's Josef, adorable or not.
Where was I?
Oh, right. So we went out. And then for a while I didn't see either of them, which I decided not to be sad about because, um, baby plus vampires. Still, sometimes Mick dropped me a call or an email, just to check in, 'cause he's like that, you know? It's not just about the money for him, he really wants to like, help people. We matter to him. I never felt like I was just a case to him, like he was just keeping in touch out of pity for the poor pregnant girl with the murdered boyfriend.
Then one day there was this knock on my door and guess who was standing there, but Beth? talk about a face I never expected to see again. I mean, she's adorable, and that thing she had with Mick was so … like … intense, but still. I watched her on Buzzwire sometimes, and she's busy, you know? Always investigating one thing or another and I mean, it can't be easy to look so put together all the time.
So anyway, she's just like, there, and her eyes are all puffy and I ask if she wants to come in and the next thing I know she's crying all over me and asking if it felt like this when Jack died.
Um, whoa, who wasn't ready for that sort of a question, raise your hand.
"What? Beth, what are you talking about?"
"He died," she whispered, appalled, and I sort of get the feeling that she doesn't cry a whole lot, and that when she does it's not to people she knows real well. You know that kind of person? My Mom was that kind of person. She'd only cry when she was drunk in bars and then wail out her whole sob story to the guy next to her. But ask her calmly what's wrong and she's all 'Oh, nothing, life is great, my world is made of rainbows!' I feel like that's kinda Beth. Ms. Independent until she just can't stand it anymore, and even then she doesn't want the people she cares about to see.
Psycho. What else are they there for?
"Who died?" I asked, bewildered, and then went really stiff and stopped breathing. "Oh my God, is Mick okay?"
Beth went still. I got the impression Mick was not the one she'd come to talk about. "Mick is fine," she said stiffly. "It's … Josh. My boyfriend. Josh. He—" And then she was off again, bawling like a third-grader with a belly ache. You couldn't help but feel bad for the poor thing, though, I mean, I knew what it felt like, watching that happen, you know? Just standing there while the person you loved bled out right in front of you, unable to do anything, unable to help him except to pray to God and hoped He had nothing better to do than help you out.
I guess He was busy the day Jack died.
So I took Beth back to the couch and held her while she got all the tears out, because sometimes you just need a girlfriend, you know? And then afterwards, when she was all cried out, I threw a blanket over her and told her to crash at my place for the night. The next day we were going to do some hardcore grieving stuff, the stuff that maybe I still needed to do, too. Beth didn't seem like the type to dwell on her sadness and really let it run its course, and let's be honest, I wasn't either.
I mean, who's got the time?
Beth curled against me. "He was just—lying there—bleeding—and Mick kept telling me to put pressure on the wound so I did even though I knew it was hurting him and he looked so—he looked at me like—and we could have saved him, oh my God, we could have kept him alive, I know Mick could have done it and I don't know why—I don't understand why he didn't—"
You know you're in love with someone when you keep their secret even when you're so mad at them you can't even say the words. Beth didn't know that knew about Mick's, um, condition, and I could tell it was hard for her to not just blurt it right then and there out of spite. But she loved Mick. She loved Josh, too, but she loved Mick, and no matter how angry she was she wasn't going to hurt him.
It kind of got me thinking, though. Had Beth wanted Mick to turn Josh?
The next morning I woke up to the smell of eggs. I went into the tiny kitchen my apartment has hidden away in the back and there was Beth, making breakfast. She smiled sheepishly at me. "I'm so sorry about last night, Leni," she apologized with a wince. "I know you probably weren't expecting that, and I doubt you really needed to be dealing with anyone else's problems on top of everything. I just … I didn't have anywhere to go, and—I mean, I knew you could… relate. That seemed important to me last night."
I smiled at her, hopping onto a barstool and gratefully accepting a plate of food. "Hey," I said cheerfully, "You cook. If you can cook, you are always welcome." I hesitated for a second. "Um, listen. I just wanted to say. I can relate. I know … I mean, after Jack, it was like … the whole world felt like it was too small, you know? Like I was squished all the time. Like the size of everything I was trying not to feel was pushing in on me. I blamed myself for a long time, 'cause I was right there, and I didn't do anything to stop it. And afterwards, I just … I couldn't move. He was bleeding out in front of me and I couldn't do anything to help him."
I looked down at my hands, feeling awkward. I didn't know how to say this to Beth. I was scared to bring up Mick's vampirism, because I knew she'd want to tell him that I knew, but … she was pretty angry with him, and I just. I don't know. Mick had been in my corner, you know? And I felt like someone should be in his once in a while. (Josef doesn't count, 'cause he's, well, Josef.)
"It's not Mick's fault," I said at last. Beth sucked in a breath. "I know you don't think it is, or at least not in so many words, but someone here needs to say it. And don't give me that 'you don't know everything' look, because I do. I know everything about Mick, and I know that if he decided not to make Josh into a … um …" I lowered my voice, like it was some sort of a swear or something, "vampire, he had good reasons."
Beth stared at me. I sighed. "Everyone thinks I am so stupid, and it's just because I say 'like' a lot. I mean, hi, no one recovers from dehydration like that. And really, you came out holding your arm with bite marks on it, and he's allergic to the sun, and, ohhh yeah, he punched a whole through the wall. Duh."
"Does Mick know that you … ?"
"What? That I know that he prefers a little A positive to some good old fashioned orange juice? No. He doesn't. I figured it wasn't important, so why bother telling him about it? That's like telling someone that you know they had the flu one time back in middle school. It's like, okay, so what?"
Like Josef, Beth seemed to find my reaction to Mick's diet hilarious. She walked around the counter and hugged me, holding on for minute, and when she released me she was smiling. "You're something else, Leni Hayes."
On her way out, I called, "Stop avoiding Mick!"
She didn't say anything, but after that we started chatting every once in a while, and she began showing up in Mick's emails again. So that was something, I guess. And pretty soon I heard from Fabio—who'd decided to stick around, even though I couldn't really pay him anymore—that Mick had bagged himself a certain Buzzwire reporter.
So, yeah. Rah-rah Beth, and all that.
I gave birth on June 21, 2008. A little baby girl, and she was so beautiful, I can't even tell you. She had these huge grey eyes, like Jack's, and sometimes when I look at her it's like … I don't know. Like she isn't a whole nother person at all, just an extension of me.
Mick, Beth, and Josef all showed up at the hospital during labor. I think Fabio had called them, only I don't know how, 'cause he didn't have any of their numbers. Mick and Josef stayed in the waiting room, because it was difficult for them, I think, to be near all the blood, but Beth came in to hold my hand. She told me I was doing a good job, and I decided to believe her because the alternative was thinking that this wouldn't be over soon, and that was a terrible thought.
Giving birth sucks. Just, like, FYI.
Later, when she was clean and sleeping in my arms, the other three came in. Fabio stood all Men In Black at the foot of the bed, arms folded like some sort of a bouncer, but Mick and Josef stood up hear my head. Mick cooed appropriately, 'cause I think he's secretly a girl, and Josef was—well, appropriately less snarky. For Josef.
"She is so beautiful," Beth breathed. "Oh, Leni." She had tears in her eyes, and Mick took her hand with a big smile on his face. When she looked at me, I felt sad for her all of a sudden. I doubted humans and vamps could, uh, procreate, and from the way she was with Mick I didn't see that ending any time soon.
Josef sighed theatrically. "Women and babies. I don't get it. They're small. They squeal. They excrete fluids. Yay." He twirled a lazy finger in the air and I hit him in the stomach.
"Watch it, or Josefina is getting a new namesake."
He choked. "Oh my God, are you serious?" He asked incredulously, looking horrified.
I giggled. "Not even a little. I'm naming her Jackie."
Mick and Beth burst into laughter, and Josef scowled, but the look of pure relief on his face erased any power behind it. After a while I started falling asleep because, um, hi, just shot a baby out of my downstairs region, thanks, I think I was entitled to a little nap.
It can't have been very much longer that I started to wake up. Fabio was still standing in the door way, embarrassingly enough, but he was speaking in a low voice to someone on the outside. I kept my eyes closed but strained to listen.
"And you're sure that she doesn't know I'm still paying you to take care of her," the mystery man was saying. I held my breath. No way Fabio was working for the bad guys. It couldn't be, right? Life just wasn't that messed up.
"No sir, Mr. St. John," he said. "Would you like me to tell her about the very generous Mr. Kostan has just made to her bank account for Jackie?"
"Oh, God, no," Mick laughed quietly. "Josef would die of embarrassment if he thought she knew he'd done something nice for a change. Just let it be. If she asks, tell her someone dropped off a check."
I rolled over so that he couldn't see my face, and the tears that were building up in my eyes. I mean, what are you supposed to say to stuff like that? Really. I know I'm not the smartest girl in the world, and definitely not the prettiest, but there has to be someone looking out for me up there, to drop me into the arms of people like Mick, Josef, and Beth.
I know, I know. That's like, totally corny, right? But you try watching your boss murder your boyfriend, getting shot at in a safe house, avoiding freakin' missiles in a stolen cop car, testifying against the most terrifyingly powerful arms dealer in the world in front of millions of people, finding out your savior is a vampire, going through a twelve-hour labor, giving birth to the most precious thing alive and then finding out that your body guard has been secretly accepting checks from someone who owes you nothing just because he, what, cares about you and knows you can't afford someone like Fabio, and on top of that realizing that the billionaire vampire ass isn't such an ass, after all, and you try not to get corny with all your gratitude.
I know I don't have much. I'll never be as rich as Josef or as independent as Beth or as good as Mick, but I've got my little Jackie and I've got friends, and I don't care how bad-80s-movie it is, that's all I need.
…Hm. There was a point to all this. I didn't just spill my guts for kicks and giggles, you know. What was it?
Go to sleep, you little monster. Jeez, how long can a girl drag out a story before you'll shut your eyes?
You want a sequel? What do you think I am, Blockbuster? There's no sequel to the history of your birth, Jacks. At least, not one that I get to tell.
Who do you think? You, dummy. You just make it up as you go alone. That's what your old Mom's been doing, and I did pretty freaking good, thank you very much. Now you get your precious little butt off to dream land before I call for Uncle Josef and make him read you information from last month's stock exchange.
…Yeah, I thought that would work.