Disclaimer: I own nothing Moonlight related.
A/N: Okay, guys. This was meant to be a quick, light hearted, one-shot when I began but it turned into something else. Also, it was just a quick, free writing sort of thing, so that's my excuse if it's not so good. But here it is anyway!
Also, I remember one episode where Josef states that he was four years old in 1603, which would put his birth year at 1599. I guessed his age to be 25 when he was turned into a vampire, and as there are no details of his early past on the show, the few things he talks about in this one-shot are purely made up on my part and left deliberately vague.
Oh, and for the followers of Changes- a new chapter very soon!
A Reason For Thanksgiving
"Hey, Josef," Mick greeted quietly as he entered Josef's office. He made his way to his favorite chair and slumped down into it, the picture of dejection.
"Mick," Josef acknowledged with a nod and an appraising glance. "What's going on?"
Mick just gave a vague shrug, but he wasn't fooled by the careful question. Josef had picked up on Mick's obvious mood- he'd have to be deaf and dumb not to- and he was questing lightly while still leaving it open to Mick to choose- or not choose- to confide in him.
"Not much," Mick added to the shrug. He leaned back in his chair and let his head fall back. He counted the tiles on the ceiling.
Silence for several moments, then Josef spoke, a slow recognition tinging his words. "Ah. It's that time of year. I'd nearly forgotten."
Mick raised his head and looked across the desk at the other vampire. How could Josef have possibly forgotten, despite the fact that he paid very little heed to the celebrations of the human population? It was everywhere, reminders of it in every direction he looked, and Mick couldn't escape it if he tried.
Josef met Mick's gaze. "Not any better this year, then?"
"No," Mick answered honestly, but he let his eyes slide from Josef's. He felt something close to shame under Josef's stare, knowing his friend and mentor didn't approve of holding on to such things. He'd lectured Mick about it enough times, but Mick couldn't help how he felt. It was still in his heart, the memories still too close to the surface, for him to let go yet.
"You'll get there, Mick." Josef had the good grace not to make a big deal about it this time. Or perhaps he'd recognized that Mick would be less than tolerant of it this time. Whatever the reason, Mick was grateful. He wasn't in the mood to justify what he couldn't help to the one person that knew him so well.
"I don't know......" Mick shook his head in doubt. "It's hard, Josef. How......" Mick paused, then went on, looking back at Josef, his eyes mournful. "How did you get over it, Josef?"
Josef went still......Mick saw something indiscernible flash in his friends eyes, and for a moment Mick thought Josef was going to tell him. But instead, Josef's face went mask-like- only Mick knew him well enough to know that was how Josef hid his true feelings- and Josef's eyes shuttered themselves from expression, and the moment was gone. "Yeah, well, you know me," Josef said with dismissive wave of his hand, "I don't buy into all that bull."
Mick stiffened, suddenly angry. He wasn't sure which made him the angriest- that Josef was making light of Mick's strong emotions about the matter, or that Josef was so obviously hiding what he really felt when Mick needed his friend's understanding. Or maybe neither. Mick knew he was in a less than amiable mood; it didn't take much for his mood to fluctuate wildly when he felt like this.
The anger faded into despondence, and Mick shook his head. He felt let down. Josef had failed him in some obscure way that even Mick didn't understand.
"I don't know why I came here," Mick said, not hiding his disappointment or his hurt feelings. "I don't know what I expected, but I should've know better."
Josef leaned back into his chair and looked at Mick, maintaining his emotionless expression.
"Explain it to me then, Mick," he said imperiously. "Explain to me why you have such a hard time with the holiday season?"
"Why shouldn't I?" Mick countered. "I guess I don't really expect you to understand." And that was all he'd wanted, really. Someone to understand. Josef was obviously not that person. It had taken him fifty years to learn that, but today that lesson had been rammed home for good. He wouldn't make that mistake again.
"Tell me, Mick......tomorrow's holiday. What does it mean to you?"
"You know what holiday it is, Josef, and you know what it means."
Mick stared at Josef, trying to discern the game he was playing, but Josef's mask never wavered. Mick gave in with a sigh.
"Thanksgiving, Josef. You know that. It's the holiday of......giving thanks."
"And it's origin?"
"In the year 1621 the Indians 'broke bread' with the Pilgrims just landed at Plymouth Rock. Many say that the Indians' generosity kept the pilgrims from starving, and that was considered the first Thanksgiving. Or so the story goes." Mick memory flashed a picture of him dressed as a Native American, complete with a feathered band around his head, in his third grade school play. He'd keep that little detail to himself, though. "There's more to it, of course," he added, " but that's the premise."
"And you were there, were you?" Josef asked pointedly. "At the first Thanksgiving? You have personal feelings invested in it?"
"You know I wasn't," Mick snapped in exaggeration. Then a thought hit him and he lost his scowl. "Were you?" he asked Josef, wide eyed.
A corner of Josef's mouth lifted momentarily. "No," he said, and Mick felt a second of disappointment. He would've loved to hear that story. "I was still human in 1621, though not for much longer" Josef explained, "and it was many years before I made it to this continent. Understandably, I'd never heard of the holiday of Thanksgiving. That particular holiday, especially this version of it, didn't exist in my homeland."
Mick resisted the urge to grill Josef for more details of his origin. Fifty-five years of close friendship, and Mick still knew so little about his best friend's beginnings. Later, perhaps. For now, he refocused on the matter at hand. "Okay, so? Why the third degree on the history of Thanksgiving?" Mick asked.
"I'm trying to make a point, Mick," Josef said impatiently.
"And that would be what?"
"Mick......you're not human anymore. No matter what I tell you, or what all is going on in your head, it all boils down to that. The origins or meaning of the holiday don't matter. None of this stuff means anything anymore, it doesn't pertain to you at all. For God's sake, Mick, you can't even feast on the traditional holiday fare. It's time to let go."
"It's more than that, Josef," Mick tried to explain. "It's not just what the holiday is supposed to mean to me; it's the memories. The memories, Josef. They're so sharp this time of year." Mick's eyes avoided Josef's for a minute, then settled back on him, full of inner pain. When he spoke again, it was in a hoarse whisper. "It's when I miss them most."
Mick didn't know what he'd expected. Sympathy, maybe? A little understanding? Whatever he'd wanted, it wasn't forthcoming. Josef stared back at him impassively. Anger surged through Mick and he pushed himself from the chair. "I don't expect you to understand," Mick said coldly. "How could you? You're so unfeeling; hard, cold and jaded. The only thing that matters to Josef Kostan is Josef Kostan, right? You probably never once mourned the loss of your humanity or anything that went with it." Mick tried to stop himself. He wanted to. He knew those things weren't really true, despite how hard Josef tried to make others believe it. But Josef's blank mask hardened just enough for Mick to know that his aim had struck home. Josef and Mick understood each other implicitely, and Mick knew it hurt Josef to hear Mick make accusations they both knew to be false.
But right now, Mick didn't care. He was hurting, and he wanted someone else to hurt with him. And judging by Josef's clenched jaw and so-expressive eyes.......mission accomplished. Mick pushed aside the feelings of regret and guilt trying to take precedence and fostered the anger instead, and his own hurt.
He opened his mouth to go on but, despite his fueled anger, he couldn't. He'd said enough that would require repairing later. He felt himself deflate. He decided he'd just go home and wallow in his nostalgic memories himself. He knew well how to be miserable all on his own.
"Never mind," he said quietly, regretfully. He didn't apologize, not yet. It wasn't time, and neither of them was in the right frame of mind for it yet.
Leaving those as his departing words, he turned to go. He made it to the door when Josef stopped him.
Mick paused, but didn't turn, waiting for Josef to speak again.
Now Mick turned to face him, and Josef gave a nod at the chair Mick had just vacated. Mick wasn't sure if it was in invitation or command, but he obliged after a small hesitation.
Mick waited curiously for Josef to speak again. The older vampire seemed to be gathering himself, steeling himself for an ordeal.
After several minutes, in which Mick simply waited, Josef finally began in a soft voice.
"I had a younger sister and brother and an older brother. My mother. My father died when I was pretty young, and my memories of him are good. My oldest brother kind of took over the paternal role in the family for the rest of us, and it quickly became normal. Those are mostly good memories, too. He was a jerk sometimes, but I really looked up to him; so did my younger brother and sister. He became the father I'd lost and the father they barely remembered, when it counted."
Mick listened in awed silence, his mind gripping and storing the words. This was the first time Josef had ever spoken of anything personal in his life before the year Mick had met him fifty-five years ago. The first time he'd ever spoken of his human life, his family. Josef's eyes had gone hazy with an expression Mick had never seen in them before; his small smile could only be called fond remembrance. Nostalgia.
"My mother was a strong woman, but she welcomed my brother stepping into that role for us. She never let him get too big for is britches, though." Josef gave a small laugh, then seemed to catch himself. He cleared his throat self-consciously, and Mick knew Josef was disconcerted at what he'd see as a lapse in his usual decorum. He'd let the real Josef, the original Josef, shine through for just a second.
"My grandmother lived with us, too, and she was a scrappy old woman. She demanded respect just by virtue of her determination and hard work. None of us could keep up with her. Everyone in the surrounding village looked up to her, and by extension, our family. We had festivals every year, and those were the times I looked forward to the most. We'd get together, the whole village, friends and families.......we'd feast, we'd play games and have contests, pitting strength and craftiness against each other. Back then, one of the big things was storytelling. We'd all gather, and we'd listen to stories that had been passed down through the ages. Most of them were for the purposes of teaching, full of morals and all that, but we didn't care. It was a celebration, and a break from our everyday lives."
Josef went silent and Mick stared at his friend, struck by the surrealism of the situation. Josef's face was no longer blank but soft and full of remembrance, with a smile playing around his lips. His eyes were far away and full of things his words couldn't say. Mick wished he could see what was going on in his friend's eyes.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, Josef visibly forced himself from his memories and refocused on Mick. His voice was back to it's usual matter of fact tone, but not unkind.
"It took me awhile, Mick. It was hard; Hell, I don't have to tell you that. My sire had to drag me away from my home village time and again before I understood that it wouldn't be helping anyone for me to show myself to them. They thought I was dead, you see. But I couldn't let go of the memories, not for a long time. As much as I loved my new nature, I missed them. I thought about them and remembered, and wished I'd been able to be there for the milestones or to at least keep updated on how they were doing.
So don't try to tell me that I don't know what you're going through, Mick, because I do. But it's been fifty years, Mick, and it's time to move on. At least from that. Keep the memories, but don't mourn them. Look on them as gifts, because that's what they are. You're bummed because tomorrow is the day of a holiday you celebrated with your family, and it's hard for you, I get that. But forget that it's Thanksgiving, Mick. That's just a day made up centuries before you were born. You don't need a holiday to be thankful. Anything you're thankful for should be remembered everyday, not one day out of the year. Don't hold on to the things that bring you down; eternity's too long for that. Remember your family, and the things you truly are thankful for, happily every day instead of mournfully on one. I can't say it any clearer than that."
Mick stared over Josef's shoulder at the window behind, taking in the words his friend had spoken so solemnly. As much as he hated to admit it, it made a certain kind of sense.
He did miss his family; fifty years wasn't so long, really, to have let the memories dull. But they were happy memories, of family and fun and togetherness. So why was he wallowing in self pity? Was he doing it on purpose? Was he trying to hold on to the poor, pitiful me persona? After all, loss was a part of life, even for the mortals, and they all managed to go on after losing those they loved with the same quality of life. It was okay to mourn, but it had to have a deadline.
And when he thought about it, what was there to mourn? He was lucky to have such wonderful memories.......thankful, even.
Maybe Josef was right; maybe it was time to let go. The holiday had become something else for him, anyway......it was no longer a day of togetherness with family and friends, not for him. It couldn't be. But he'd transformed it; it had become the day he'd set aside to mourn what he'd thought he'd lost. But he hadn't lost the memories and he should be thankful he had them. And not just on the day set aside for thanks.
Nodding his head slowly, Mick looked at Josef and gave his friend a small smile. He didn't bother to voice his thoughts, or admit that Josef had helped him with his breakthrough. He didn't let on that he knew Josef had privelaged him with personal information that maybe no one else knew. He could see that Josef knew those things, and Josef didn't say it either.
Mick decided that tomorrow, Thanksgiving day, he, Mick St. John, would start a new tradition of his own. Tomorrow, he would remember all that he know longer had with fondness, revel in the memories of his parents and grandparents and relatives and friends that no longer existed in his world, and he would rejoice in the memories instead of shrouding them in sorrow. And his Thanksgiving would be three hundred and sixty five days a year, because he was glad he had them. And, he suddenly realized, he was thankful he had Josef, too.
"Thanks, Josef," was all Mick said, and he knew his best friend understood.
Josef just gave a satisfied nod. He'd die before he'd ever tell Mick that their friendship was the one thing he'd been thankful for every day for over fifty years.