Disclaimer: I do not own Moonlight or anything ML related.

Inspired by a plot-bunny offered up by ripley2win.

September 21 of 1822

"Josef?" Mick called as he entered his friend's large home. He received no answer. "Josef!" This time Mick couldn't hide the irritation in his voice. It had been Josef's idea to go out for the night. The least he could do was be ready when he said he would be.

Mick sighed and headed for the stairs that would take him to the second floor; he knew Josef was in the house somewhere, he just had to find him. And that shouldn't be too hard since there were only a few rooms in the massive home that Josef spent most of his time in.

Mick headed for Josef's home office first, knowing that was Josef's most often used room other than the freezer room.

Mick's knowledge of his friend's habits proved right as he picked up Josef's voice from down the hall. He was obviously not alone, and Mick knew Josef's visitor was another vampire. An old one. He could smell the age before he even reached the room.

Mick rounded the doorway and paused; best to make sure he was welcome first. Never could tell who Josef's visitor might be. He cleared his throat to announce his presence, though both had likely sensed his approach before he'd arrived.

"Mick!" Josef greeted in what appeared to be good spirits. Josef and his visitor held glasses of some type of liquor and both wore large smiles and seemed relaxed and at ease. "Come in," Josef invited. "I'd like you to meet an old friend."

Mick entered the room and proceeded to Josef's side and accepted the half-full glass that Josef thrust into his hand.

"Mick, this my old friend from years past, Jacob. Jacob, Mick."

The two nodded at each other, acknowledging the introduction. Mick couldn't help grinning. He'd waited for this day. A vampire that had known Josef long ago. He wondered if Jacob would be willing to spill a few of Josef's secret escapades.

"Jacob. It's nice to meet an old friend of Josef's," Mick said congenially.

"And it's nice to meet a new one," Jacob returned with a small smile.

That startled Mick a bit; he and Josef had been best friends for over fifty years, the whole of Mick's vampiric existence. He wasn't used to thinking of their friendship as a new thing. But he supposed that relatively speaking, it was.

"Would you like to join us tonight?" Mick offered politely. "Josef and I were going out, but you're welcome to come." Mick shot a glance and Josef, who made no comment. He hoped he wasn't overstepping his bounds with Josef by inviting Jacob, but the man was intriguing to Mick. Or rather, what he represented was intriguing. Jacob represented a chunk of Josef's past, something Mick had been trying to learn more about for a very long time.

"Thank you, no," Jacob declined, to Mick's disappointment. "But don't let me hold you up. I really should be leaving anyway. We've just been remembering days gone by."

"Really?" Mick asked in sudden interest. "Any interesting stories?" He looked slyly over at Josef, who looked startled.

"Well, actually," Jacob started, gesturing toward Josef. "I was reminding our dear friend here of some of his more foolish escapades."

That sounded promising. "Really? Like what?" Mick couldn't help the greediness in his voice and Jacob chuckled.

"Josef, I take it you've been less than forthcoming with your young friend."

Josef cleared his throat self-consciously. "Didn't you say you had to go?" he reminded Jacob. "I'm ready if you are, Mick." Josef set his drink down and put a hand on Mick's arm in an attempt to propel him toward the doorway but Mick pulled away.

Mick was all the more intrigued by Josef's sudden urgency and he knew now, without a doubt, that Jacob had some invaluable Josef stories. He couldn't pass this up, not while there was a willing well-spring of information waiting to be tapped.

"What's the hurry, Josef? Don't be rude. I'd love to hear some of these youthful escapades of yours." Mick skirted around Josef and took a seat in on of the armchairs. After a moment of hesitation, Jacob smiled widely and followed suit. Mick glanced over at Josef, who still stood near the doorway. Judging by the glare, Mick was certain he'd pay for this later. But it would be worth it, he knew.

"So tell me, Mick......what would you like to hear? Romance, humor, suspense? I've got them all, and right now I'm your open book." Jacob relaxed back in his chair with a smile and took a sip of his drink.

"Anything," Mick said in gleeful anticipation. "How about one of your favorite ones," he suggested. "You were there for them, after all."

"That I was," Jacob agreed, "and many times that was to Josef's advantage. I can't imagine the trouble he'd have gotten into without me," he laughed. "He probably never would have survived to see the twentieth century."

"Yeah, right," Josef muttered from the doorway, reminding his two friends of his presence. Mick was not surprised that Josef was glowering and surly. He'd made no secret that he objected to the imminent story-telling. What did surprise Mick was that Josef was doing nothing but objecting, given Josef's usual insistence that he get his way. That brought Jacob up a notch or two in Mick's estimation; Josef was either too respectful or too wary of his old friend to do more than protest. It could be either. Jacob was older than Josef, Mick could sense it, and would therefore be more powerful. Yet he sensed no tension between them.

"Josef," Jacob chided, "don't be rude. Come join us."

Josef's eyes narrowed dangerously, expressing his displeasure at the proceedings, but he finally gave in and joined them in the seating arrangement. "Just so I can keep your stories honest," he claimed.

Josef's relatively submissive behavior intrigued Mick and he vowed to find out more about this Jacob and Josef's past with him. But that was for another time.

"My favorite story," Jacob mused softly to himself. "You know, Josef wasn't always as rational and clear headed as he appears to be now. When he was younger he was brash and unthinking, often learning a lesson the hard way. I kept him with me as long as possible simply for fear of what he'd get himself into before he learned to use his head."

Mick grinned at Josef, but his friend was less than happy at the somewhat unfavorable description of his younger self.

"The perfect example," Jacob expanded his explanation. "It was......let's see......September, I believe. Yes. September twenty-first. Eighteen twenty-two."

Josef's reaction was impressive.

He shot up from his chair, knocking his drink over on the chair-side table. "No! Jacob, don't you do it."

Jacob didn't seem quelled in the least by Josef's snarled demand. He simply relaxed back and looked up at Josef where he stood above him. "Ah, so the past still haunts you," Jacob chuckled. "As well it should. It was a lesson well learned, was it not? Humiliation will do that better than anything else."

Mick was concerned at first. If Josef objected that strenuously, maybe Mick had no real business knowing. Everyone was entitled to their secrets, after all. But Mick's concern disappeared when Josef next spoke. His friend's words turned from mildly threatening and decisive to a whine. And actual whine. Mick stared at his friend in humorous bemusement at he break in his usual character.

"Jacob, you don't know this guy," he said pleadingly, jerking a thumb to indicate he was speaking of Mick. "He'll do anything to have something on me. Jacob, you tell him that story and I'll never hear the end of it. He'll use it until the end of time, I swear."

"Then prepare yourself, friend," Jacob said to Josef unsympathetically and turned back to Mick.

Josef looked toward Mick, silently asking for mercy, but Mick couldn't pass this one up and turned his attention back to Jacob.

Thus ignored, Josef dropped back into his chair with a groan of despair. He rested his elbows on his knees and leaned forward to rest his face in his hands.

"As I was saying," Jacob continued. "September twenty-first, eighteen twenty-two. It was a Saturday, I believe........."

Two snow dusted figures rode into the small town on skittish horses. Horses always knew, Josef had learned. They always sensed the alternate natures of vampires. Josef had been using his current horse for weeks and it still balked at him on occasion. He'd prefer not to use the animal at all, but upon coming to America recently, he'd quickly learned that not using one to transport the long distances between towns seemed odd to most of the human populations. Josef didn't want to draw that kind of attention.

"They must take their town very seriously," Jacob observed to Josef as they passed a T-shaped pole holding up a sign in the town's center.

"Paradise Point," Josef quietly read the sign as they slowly passed. "Population, ninety-two. Well," he said, this time to his companion, "we'll certainly take care of their over population, won't we?"

Jacob glared over at the younger vampire and Josef scowled back, expecting the words that came.

"This is a small town, Josef. We have to be careful. How many times do I have to tell you this? In small towns, people watch out for each other. They notice strangers and odd happenings. We have to feed, but we cannot hunt here."

"Wait a minute," Mick interrupted the story. "Hunt? What about freshies?"

"Freshies barely existed back then, Mick," Jacob explained. "At least in the states. There were a few, but it was rare to find them. Many fewer people knew about us or could be trusted to know about us. Freshies were a little more prevalent in some other countries, but still much rarer, and they were often not voluntary. We had to hunt for our nourishment back then, or take smaller portions from several sources, if we wanted them to live. Especially while traveling."

"Oh." Mick could think of nothing else to say. He'd known that, really. Josef had mentioned things like that many times. But Mick spent little time thinking about how a vampire survived in the 'old days'.

Mick was very glad he hadn't had to experience it. There would have been no blood bags for the more reluctant vamps like himself.

"May I continue?" Jacob asked, with only a little sarcasm. Josef just groaned in misery, but seemed to realize there would be no stopping his old friend.

"Oh.....yes, of course," Mick said. "Sorry."

Jacob continued.

"Yeah, yeah," Josef dismissed in irritation at the often heard lecture. "I know. Don't worry about me. In fact," he said, leering suddenly as he gestured toward one of the buildings, "I think I see my late-night snack right there."

Above the doorway was the word SALOON, and next to the doorway was the side business run out of the saloon.

"Paradise Point, indeed," Josef laughed as he watched the women vie for the two newcomers' attentions as they passed. They women were scantily clad despite the light snow and heavy chill of the night air and there was no mistaking their profession.

Jacob sighed next to him. "Do you never tire of that drive that sends you to seek out women like that? It's much more fulfilling to woo the lady first than to pay for it. No matter if she is supplying a meal or.......otherwise."

"Maybe," Josef agreed. "But I don't want to waste the time it takes to 'woo' them, especially if we can't hunt. And anyway, who says I'm going to pay for it? I possess charms of my own, you know."

They proceeded to the livery where they stabled the horses, then to the one motel to acquire rooms.

Josef wasted no time grooming himself for a night of feeding and debauchery. He opened the window in his room wide before leaving, hoping it would freeze the room to a comfortable sleeping temperature before he returned. He hadn't found a comfortable enough sleeping arrangement since he'd crossed the sea. Where he'd come from, frozen ground and chilled caves had been abundant, if one knew where to look. But here......he was still relatively new here and hadn't yet found suitable long-term lodgings. He hoped he and Jacob could before the season of cold and snow passed.

But that was not a worry for tonight......tonight he was going to have fun.

"That was Josef's biggest problem back then," Jacob explained. "The only thing that mattered to him were his pleasures."

"Not a lot has changed there," Mick quipped, looking corner-eyed at his miserable friend. "How did you guys stay cool in the summers back then?"

"Caves, mostly," Josef informed. "Sometimes digging into the ground."

It was the first time he'd spoken since the story had began. "Or moving to cold places during those months. Certain areas in Canada or Alaska sometimes offered what we needed, but usually those places were less populated and feeding became a problem. Other countries and continents, of course, but sometimes it was hard for us to travel over seas back then. Ships were often dangerous for us, and the travel time was very long. They could easily become a trap, of course, and our options for feeding were limited unless we could take a freshie. Hard to avoid the sun all the time and even harder to find cool sleeping when we needed it. And that was if we were legitimate passengers. Don't even get me started about when we had to stow away."

"Life did require a bit more creativity, didn't it?" Jacob added fondly.

Mick decided they could have their fond memories of those days; he'd take his bagged blood and electric, always accessible freezer any day over scrounging for it. The two of them were reminding Mick more and more of when he was a kid, listening to his dad and uncles talk about how hard they'd had it as kids and the hardships they'd suffered.

No, thanks, Mick thought as the story continued.

Jacob was already on the move, Josef saw on his way to the saloon. He was hungry, too, Josef knew. It had been too long since they'd last fed on anything but animals as they'd crossed the prairies.

But the older vampire had more patience than Josef and was taking the times to garner the good graces of a lovely young thing that looked as if she'd never stepped into the rough-shod saloon before. They occupied a corner outside in the night air and there would be no mistaking Jacob's would-be meal for one of the ladies of the evening that Josef had his eye on. Jacob's pretty girl was wearing a very modest dress that protected her from the chill, bonnet and all, a heavy coat covering the whole get-up. She blushed at Jacob's attentions. Josef threw a wink at his friend as he entered the saloon, leaving Jacob to do his thing.

Josef knew right away which one he wanted first, and he didn't have to try hard to get her. It must have been a slow night for the women, because he had his pick of the willing participants. It didn't matter though. In the nights he and Jacob would stay in the town, he'd sample each and every one of them.

In minutes, Josef and his first pick ascended the wooden stairs to the upper level. The other women watched their compatriot with envy and she disappeared into one of the rooms with the handsome, wealthily- dressed newcomer with the mysterious accent.

Josef wasted no time, but neither did he hurry. He spent a long time indulging in the many pleasures the woman offered, and one she didn't.

But he was careful not to take too much.......they couldn't afford to start leaving bodies lying around- or for people to begin 'disappearing'- on their first night in town. Strangers were always the first suspects.

Josef tasted her until he was almost- but not quite- satisfied, though he was 'otherwise' sated. She'd been good at her job.

The woman was groggy when Josef made himself stop, but other than that, none the worse for wear. And that was just where he wanted her. She wouldn't remember that he hadn't paid her for her services before he left her there alone to recover.

"And that was Josef's first mistake," Jacob explained to Mick. "He got greedy and cocky."

"Who, Josef?" Mick asked sarcastically.

That hadn't changed much, by Mick's reckoning. But he was a bit surprised to hear that Josef had treated the women in such a way. His friend prided himself on his charms with women. Even the humans he fed from, usually.

"Hey, I had a good thing going," Josef defended himself. "I think we just stayed too long."

"You let yourself get found out, is what happened," Jacob shot back. Then he turned to Mick. "'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'," he quoted. "I tried to warn him, but he wouldn't listen."

Mick looked back to Josef, waiting for the rebuttal, but his friend just looked sheepish and embarrassed.

"What can I say?" he asked. "I was young."

The story continued.

Josef had hit on the perfect system. In the following two weeks he went through each lady of the evening twice over, then began his third round. He had become known among the townspeople as the newcomer that spent every night in the saloon, every night with a woman, but his burgeoning reputation didn't bother him at all. And not all of the observers saw it as a bad thing, anyway.

It was the same night after night, but Josef never tired of it. He was getting two of the pleasures he valued most in life, and he was having fun doing it. And each night, he left the woman he was with just groggy enough to not realize that he'd not only left her, but left without paying.

Or so he'd thought.

Jacob was on him constantly to show a little more discretion, to be a little more careful, but Josef ignored his friend's warnings.

And the third week was when Josef received his comeuppance.

"Alright, alright," Josef interrupted urgently. "I think Mick's heard enough, Jacob."

"Are you kidding?" Mick protested. "It's just getting to the good part!"

"That it is," Jacob agreed with a smile.

"No it's not!" Josef exclaimed with a glare.

Mick ignore him. "So what happened? Did they find out he was a vampire?"

"Well, actually, they did realize something was off, that he was doing something to them. I don't know if they identified exactly what it was. Strangely, they were more concerned with the fact that, in their eyes, Josef was taking them for fools, and stiffing the pay he owed them. And they took their revenge."

"Revenge? How? What happened?" Mick asked gleefully.

Josef just sighed and closed his eyes in misery.

"Josef, you know better than to use the same source over and over. They're going to catch on."

"Jacob, relax. Who are they to us? They are cows, our source. We're the top of the food chain. I haven't killed any of them, so stop worrying. We're safe."

"Don't say I didn't warn you," Jacob said as his friend departed for his nightly ritual at the saloon.

In the meantime, Jacob would make ready to depart in a hurry. He knew Josef's antics were going see them rushing from the town any day now. He just hadn't expected that it would happen that very night.

Josef was greeted by the women enthusiastically. They'd come to know him quite well by then. And he showed no surprise when the women collectively claimed that had something special for him. He deserved it, after all. He wasn't paying them as expected, but they didn't know that, and otherwise, he treated them well in bed.

"But not here," Colette, his dark-haired favorite, purred in his ear. "Our special gift to you involves all of us, and that's frowned on here at the saloon. We're not allowed to use the rooms like that."

"Sounds promising," Josef breathed, desire rushing through him at the vague promise of a night to remember with several women. And tonight perhaps he can sip more than his usual take, too, if he can do it without the others seeing the act. "Where?"

"Follow us," a red-haired beauty said. She took his hand and pulled him from the saloon and out into the cold night. The rest of the women followed, often laying hands on him in seductive caresses as the procession went around the back of the saloon to relative privacy.

Josef was a bundle of nerves, waiting in anticipation for what the women had in store for him. It promised to be an unforgettable night.

"I don't know how it happened," Josef moaned to Mick and Jacob.

"I heard that a hundred times if I've heard it once," Jacob said to Mick with a shake of his head.

"I was just caught off guard. I didn't expect anything like that. They shouldn't have been able to take me." Josef's excuses poured from his mouth with the ease of long practice.

Mick had no doubt Jacob had heard those very words often and for a very long time.

Josef's face was a study in shame and humiliation.

Mick couldn't wait to hear the rest.

Josef didn't know how it happened. He was taken off guard, and in quite a vulnerable moment. One moment he was enjoying the attentions of two of the very talented women, and the next........he wasn't.

He was suddenly face down in the snow, fully naked as a thick potato sack was pulled over his head, and his wrists and ankles clanked with the iron wound around them. It felt like chains or shackles, and his arms were tightly restrained behind him.

"What the hell!?" He exclaimed to the twittering women he could only hear. It was hard to catch their scents through the dusty brow sack smelling of moldy potatoes.

An hard tug against the iron binding him proved it to be too thick for even him to break without enough leverage.

"Try all you want," one of the scorned beauties said to him. "I don't think any man can escape iron chains."

It was only to their luck that they'd chosen to use more than rope or weak chains. They thought him to be a regular man. They seemed to have no knowledge of his true nature.

Josef fought as hard as he could in his present condition and was stunned and shocked to discover that he'd been fully overpowered by a gaggle of women. He continued to struggle, to no avail, as they picked him up and carried him.

He was enraged and he was mortified. Never had something like this ever happened to him. He was a vampire! He was the top of the food chain, superior to those he fed upon. Who did they think they were to do this to him?

Josef struggled, even his superior strength doing him no good within the chains and the tight grasps of several women. Without the hood, perhaps he'd stand a chance if he could let his vampire show and scare them away. But that was not to be, and anyway, trussed up as he was, it could mean his death to show them what he really was.

If he wasn't on his way to death anyway.

Was this how he was to die? Naked, trussed up and overpowered by a horde of angry prostitutes?

How humiliating. Josef would be forever known in the world of vampires for his most undignified death.

Josef was dropped to the ground after several minutes of being carried to wherever. He grunted at the not-so-gentle impact.

"You think you can take from us and not pay?" one of the women asked angrily. "We are providing a service, you know.......how do you justify not paying for it?"

"Do you think we're fools?" another asked. "We're not. We knew what you were doing. Managing to sneak off without giving us our due every night. We just don't know how you managed to get us drunk when we drank nothing, but that doesn't matter. We'll just add that deception to your sins."

"Ladies," Josef tried in a conciliatory tone, but he was cut off by a chain around his neck. It was pulled tight against something behind him, holding his head to something solid.

"Don't worry," one of the women chimed in caustic tone. "We are not murderers. That's just to keep you from getting any ideas while we get you where we want you."

Josef was unable to follow the proceedings, blind as he was under the hood. While the women worked, they berated him continually about his actions.

"And it's time for you to pay the piper," one said, "since you couldn't be bothered to pay us!" The hood was whipped from his head and he groaned in realization of what was happening. He whipped his head back and forth as the women took turns smearing......stuff.......all over his face.

In short order, Josef's feet left the ground as he was hoisted up inch by inch. He felt rough wood dragging behind his naked back, ass and legs as he was pulled up and he prayed he would collect no splinters.

And he was very thankful that he was not front-forward against the splintery surface.

When they were finished, the women stood back to inspect their handiwork.

Josef was utterly naked and pale in the moonlight. He was hoisted to the top of the Paradise Point T-shaped pole in the center of town.

Josef hung from the T, the chains holding his arms out wide, across the top.. His ankles were chained loosely together behind the straight pole. His face was painted thickly and brightly with the women's makeup in a parody of their own brazen styles.

He was displayed, completely naked and face made up, for the whole town to see.

Mick choked as he laughed throughout the ending to the story. Tears streamed from his eyes and he was doubled over in his seat.

He would carry that picture in his head for eternity.

"What happened after that?" he finally gasped out. He looked from Jacob to Josef, but choked back into laughter upon looking at Josef.

Naked. And make-up. Strung up by women. Mick had just heard the best story of his life. And the most valuable.

Josef's face was thunderous but Mick paid him no attention. It was hard to be afraid of him while that picture was still embedded in his imagination.

"Well, I found him like that the next morning on my way back to the hotel. There was a crowd gathered around him. Nobody trying to help him though."

Mick busted into laughter again. He couldn't help it.

"They were having fun with him. Jeering and laughing. He was certainly a sight to see. I let him stew for a little bit-"

"And don't think I appreciated that on bit," Josef cut in acidly. "I saw you standing down there with the crowd. You were even laughing!"

"Then I pulled him down. The women had taken his clothes and his money- even ransacked his room to find what they could. He had nothing, literally. I had to share my clothes with him for awhile, and as you can see, he's slighter than I am. He spent the next two weeks looking like a boy in his father's clothes."

"You should've let me kill them like I wanted to," Josef snarled.

Jacob just laughed. "And have the whole town chase us into the prairie? I don't think so, friend. I had no intention of dying, especially for the cause of your foolishness."

"Did you see the women again?" Mick asked Josef, barely choking back more laughter.

Josef didn't answer, just glowered.

Jacob answered for him. "No, we left town immediately. We were now in the spotlight,the talk of the town, and that's never a good place for vamps to be. Not back then, especially. And I didn't know how long I could keep Josef from going after the women. If any of them had ended up dead, there would be no doubt who the culprit would be."

"Yeah, it was morning," Josef added bitterly. "We left right away but we had to find a suitable place to spend the day out of the sun. We spent the day covered in dirt in a whole in the ground, under a small group of trees a few miles outside of the town."

"Yeah, and they laughed us out of town, too," Jacob chuckled at the memory. "Following behind us as we rode, making jokes and laughing at Josef." Jacob finally gave into the full laugh he'd been holding back and Mick couldn't help but join him once again.

"I don't think Josef lifted his head for days, he was so humiliated," Jacob went on. "That was a hard lesson, for sure."

"Sound like it," Mick agreed. He threw a look full of mischief toward Josef, then said, "Any more Josef stories, Jacob?"

"No," Josef said, standing quickly. "Jacob has to go."

"Actually, I do have-" Jacob began, obviously having fun with Josef.

But Josef pulled Jacob up from his chair and hustled him rudely toward the door. "Thanks for visiting. Come back next millennium."

The door shut soundly behind Josef's old friend.

Josef turned to Mick and pointed a finger. In a dangerous tone he said "I swear, Mick, on word.......you say one word......."

"Who, me?" Mick asked innocently, hands held up in front of him. "I wouldn't dare. What are friends for?"

Josef knew as well as Mick did that he hadn't heard the end of it.

Not by a long shot.

What were friends for?