"I just don't understand how he could...forgive her."

"She's his sire," Josef tried to explain. "It's in the blood, Beth; his inner vampire is still drawn to Coraline. Before he ever fed, her blood was his first taste. The connection runs deep. So, you see, he can't let her go. Despite Mick's...moral outrage, a part of him kept loving her, possibly even to this day. Don't blame him. It's hard to resist. Kind of sick, when you think about it."

Beth shuddered. "But...she's crazy. She abducted me, kept me in that little pink room for days, just to lure Mick..."

"Coraline's delusional. Theirs was never a healthy relationship. She wanted Mick, and usually got what she wanted. Of course, all he signed up for was marrying her and maybe having a family. Something normal, human, impossible. She should've told Mick the truth first. I warned her."

"Well, she chose the wrong man to play house, you know, with vampires."

"Yeah," Josef nodded. "She never considered he might not see it as a gift. Mick would give up immortality in exchange for a chance to be human again. You know that. He fights a war with himself everyday, and he can't win. Mick thinks he is a monster Coraline created; he hates her for it, but he loves her, too."

"Why?"

"Because forever is a long time."

Turning Point

"He's your responsibility, Coraline."

"Josef, you must help me," she wailed. "It's all gone wrong! Mick won't feed!"

"His inner vampire knows what to do. Eventually it will take over, one way or another."

"I can't find him, Josef."

"Maybe he went out hunting."

"No, listen, Mick said...that he wants to die. Help me, please!"

. . .

"Hey," he addressed the trembling vampire. "Wow, you could not have picked a better place to wallow in self-loathing, except a I suppose gutter, but that's so cliche. No, I like the dark alley. Very modern. Your wife is worried sick about you."

"Go away," Mick pleaded weakly. "She turned me into this. I'm a monster because of her."

"I'll try not to take that personally. I know you're angry, confused, scared..." He smirked at the fledgling. "And hungry too, right?"

"I'm not going back. You can't force me."

Josef chuckled. "I've got centuries on you, Mick. You're weak. You need blood. Look, I didn't come here to bring you back anyway. Coraline means well, I think, but she isn't the best teacher. If you stick with me, you'll get through this."

. . .

"Thank you so much, Josef."

"I'm not doing this for you, Coraline, I'm doing it for him."

Changes

"First you stop going with me to freshie clubs," Josef frowned. "Now I discover you've been holed up here in your apartment, drinking that disgusting bagged blood and moping about Coraline."

"I can't do this anymore."

"Yeah, I'll say! Come on, you and I will go out tonight for a few drinks."

"No, I mean I can't live that way, feeding off humans. Since Coraline...things have changed. I've reevaluated my choices, and it's too much."

"For God's sake, Mick, you're not one of them! There's humans, and then there's us. You won't be able to pretend forever. You can keep hating what you are, but nothing will change it, and trying to suppress your inner vampire only leads misery."

"How do you know?" Mick asked.

"I've been around quite a bit longer, remember? I've had my regrets. I know."

After Sleeping Beauty

Fifty years of friendship, and there wasn't a lot that needed to be said between them. Mick knew better than to ask. If his friend wanted it, he'd talk. Mick was more likely to fixate on whatever bothered him, discussing the issue until there was nothing left to say. Josef, with his four centuries of experience, always gave advice whether it was requested or not. But now the roles were reversed. Josef needed him and Mick didn't know what he could do except just be here.

Really, after all Josef had done for him, that seemed like the very least he could do.

How do you explain to someone that their loss would be so devastating you wouldn't even know how to mourn them?

You can't.

Josef raised a glass of blood. "To the women we carry with us." He smiled, but only with his mouth.

"I'll drink to that," Mick said, thinking of Coraline in the hospital. Coraline, who was supposed to be dead. Coraline, who was human. Coraline, who had a cure...

"Why can't we let them go?"

"Nostalgia," he answered. "Or maybe hope. Sarah is never coming back."

"Coraline did," Mick pointed out carefully.

"That's different. I know exactly where Sarah is; she's right where she has been for decades, because of me."

"Forever is a long time, Josef," he said. "The guilt will eat you up if you allow it. And you know I speak from personal experience."

"Now you know why I'm against the idea of you and Beth. It can't work. I don't wish to see you two end up like Sarah and I."

"Yeah," Mick sighed. He'd thought about this particular subject a million times. Could he even bring himself to do it? To turn her or not to turn her, that was the question. "This is uncharted territory for us, brother."

"We all have secrets, Mick. This one stays in New York, okay?"

"Okay, man." He understood that meant the end of it.