We Live in Deeds Not Years
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Rated PG-13 for Adult Themes.
Written to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of Moonlight, September 28, 2012
Mick dragged vintage wooden coat hangers across his rebuilt closet rack. Without a heartbeat the throb of the city beneath his loft hung in the background. Fire had a way of forcing you to take inventory. The neighbor Mick never really knew, the mortal in the apartment beneath him, had torched the bedroom directly under his walk-in closet. Being confident that it wasn't The Legion or the insidious Duvall brothers Mick rebuilt the closet.
A wry smile crossed his lips as he recalled Josef's imitation of the opening credits of The 6 Million Dollar Man, Josef's arms flourished to the singed walls. "Gentleman, we can rebuild this, we have the technology….You can do a shoe wall here" periodically he'd flip at a perceived ash on his Armani sport coat, "I'd put strong horizontal lines here. Something automated to rotate your suits." Would Mick ever forget Josef agape when Mick assured him his three new suits wouldn't need to ride into his waiting hands?
Mick had been especially grateful that his guitar case and Army locker hadn't been in his closet when it went up in flames. So many artifacts of his humanity had slipped through his hands in the past six years
Now weeks later Mick was obsessively fixated on the twelve dress shirts, seven summer weight wool trousers, four Tom ford suits and three new dusters. It was Friday evening and five years ago he'd have spent this time watching Beth's BuzzWire report on his laptop. Those nights had gone up in wisps as heatedly as his clothing had incinerated. He toed the shoe boxes, yet unopened but stacked, six pair of freshly polished leather shoes waiting to be placed in their own cubicles. Undead, when you are lost you are possible 'lost' forever.
Where was Beth now? Mick strained to sublimate that. Josef taunted him with 'hints' dropped Beth trivia into conversation over poker hands. Josef attributed the past four years to Mick's boneheaded stubborn streak. Mick knew in his self-perceived dark heart that their parting was for the best, even though the door closed and their kisses escalated to the most memorable nights of his eighty-some years.
The days after the fire Mick dressed directly from the dry cleaning he had quickly stowed in the hall closet. Honestly he hadn't seen the lavender blouse until he carried the remaining items into his new, mid-century modern closet. Finding Beth's blouse after all these years burst down a dam he had painfully shored since the 'morning after the night before'. The new room smelled of cedar, laundry soap and fabric sizing until he fingered the blouse. The workaday poly/cotton blend seemed coarse next to his wardrobe of Egyptian cotton and silk, but the scent was sublimely all Beth.
'Before' Beth, Mick had hung on the periphery of her life, a silly millimeter away, a satellite in heliocentric orbit around his only sense of emotional warmth.
'After' the fountain Mick waded in emotions he hadn't handled since 1952. His resolve shattered when she discovered his undead secret; with time he viewed it as her sense of humor that, "the Red Cross" did not mention feeding Vampires in their mission statement. Within ten months they had moved from arm's length to skin on skin, exercising the elements of difficult, dangerous and complicated at an accelerated rate.
Beth's feeding him in the desert squalor of the abandoned hotel bonded them at a visceral level. With her blood sharing Beth's young heart seemed to forsake Josh, immersing them in a guilty miasma as Josh lay bleeding in Griffith Park. Wasn't it just like Coraline to masquerade as 'Morgan Vincent' and re-invade his life?
So, being years since he and Beth woke in the brutal light of day, Mick was holding the blouse she left at his loft. His eye caught the date, it had just four years since Beth packed her overnight bag and left for good. Or worse, he was still figuring that out. In the cool moonlight sometimes Mick surmised that sleeping with the woman he had rescued as a 4 year was walking the razor's edge of reason. If he'd taken Josef's good counsel he would have not only bedded Beth but graciously given her an engagement ring and a doublewide freezer.
"The way I see it is…. you've protected your interests." Josef drew a long breath on the Cohiba and settled back into his maroon leather chair. "I like to follow the principle of Brigham Young." Josef's whiskey colored eyes closed as if he 'tasted' the cigar better eyes closed.
Mick's head snapped around at Josef's words, "Brigham Young? What does a Mormon pioneer have to do with you?" Mick braced for what Josef would see as the obvious answer.
"Mick, in my hundreds of years I only feed from willing females just over the age of majority." Now he stretched his lean legs out and blew a ring on exquisite smoke above Mick's head.
"Bring them in young and raise them right…"
It was Labor Day Weekend, 2012 and Mick had a spontaneous idea to head down to Temecula for a Dierks Bentley Concert. Mick was comfortable with the musician's acoustic rhythms, the easy way the musician embraced being the son and grandson of US Army Veterans.
At twilight Mick was padding around the loft, finding random accessories that needed stowing in the new closet space. When the phone rang he debated answering. Hearing Josef's ringtone he connected the call, ignoring any greetings, Josef's deceit was thinly disguised. "Hey, did you leave an iPod by the pool last Saturday night?"
"Are you kidding? You don't need an excuse to call me, Josef. What's up?" Mick padded down the stairs toward his stash of bagged blood.
"No, really, I found a silver Classic, 160 gigs of jazz and 50's rock and roll. I figured it had to be you." Josef pressed.
"And it automatically has to be mine?" Mick's flat tone registered that Josef had gotten in the way of Mick's wake up routine.
"That and the fact that it's engraved "Love is inscribed on a heart and there it shall remain forever. XO, B.T. I figured it was a treasured memento." Josef didn't even approach sarcasm, he wouldn't have the audacity, and he knew what this weekend's date commemorated. Beth had been gone exactly five years.
Mick's dry voice retorted, "Try one of your Freshies, Josef." It truly hadn't been his, the iPod Beth had given him was secure in his glove box, reserved for when his Benz, 'Gertie' was rolling down the road.
"Ouchhhhhhhhhhhh, I can't believe you even said the F word." Josef loved to make digs at the Simone tasting incident. To him it was the lightest even that entire week, the only incident he could make light of in a week where they had to incinerate one of their own.
"Anything else, Jos'f?" Mick would have loved to hang up and go back to his meal. Did that make him a bad friend? Mick hoped not, it was simply a bad time.
One sentence delivered in Josef's inimitably inquisitive tone, "Is she ever on your mind?", and then his clicked off the phone, not waiting for Mick's reply.
Mick pushed around the loft, ruminating. Had Josef expected him to bed Beth Turner, confess eternal love and propose to her? Wouldn't this be condemning her to her a living hell of existing with the undead? Or did he think they'd marry and have little vampire babies to spend eternity going to PTA meetings? Mick shivered, not at the room temperature, but at the thought of condemning Beth to age while he spent the rest of time frozen at 30. He would never have the ability to take her life to make her what he was.
It had been a while since Mick had been to a concert; he wasn't used to the mini-cities that sprung up around the perimeter. His booted feet strode past tent after tent of liquor companies, jewelry and tee-shirts hummed with the heartbeats of thousands of buzzing humans. He hooked his thumb into the loop of his jeans and took it all in for a moment.
Off to the side was a tent advertising their services as 'Confidential'. No explicit advertising described exactly what they were doing, simply the title 'The Amethyst Center' in a banner hanging over the screened entry. Before Mick slipped into the stadium suite for a sip of A+ he paused, leaning on the cool metal rail. The September breeze carried the scents of life past him. He recalled the tang of food he consumed in those short mortal days five years ago. He watched stragglers from the throng wander into the Amethyst Center's tent. They stayed a good deal longer that the customers digging through tee-shirts and earrings at the other tents. Now Mick was curious.
Slipping on his sunglasses, Mick took steps toward the back of the tent. A serious feminine voice gently offered, "You don't have to live this life!" and muffled tears covered the woman's answer. Mick felt the raw emotion erupt from the crying woman, defeat, depression and relief rolled off of her like flames.
The words were parsed out between hiccups and tears, "I felt so used, even though he took care of me …. He said it would get better." The gentle voice offered, "Let's get you set up for a physical next week, tonight we'll get you set up with a partner at the group home. Can you get away tonight?" And that voice suddenly came back to him. How many nights had she asked him during cases, 'Can you get away tonight?'
It was Beth, working with women quietly and behind a screen not in front of a camera. He couldn't embarrass the women counting on help so he silently slipped back to the suite and prepared to enjoy the concert. Or so he thought. Somehow Mick sublimated his memories of Beth – substituting other incidents in his long life as Dierks strummed his guitar and sang about life and his country. Until that song, "Come A Little Closer." With those lyrics Mick felt his eyes glass over with tears.
"Come a little closer, baby I feel like layin' you down
On a bed sweet surrender where we can work it all out
There ain't nothin' that love can't fix Girl, it's right here at our fingertips"
He looked around the otherwise empty Auditorium Suite and snapped to a decision. At near Vampire speed his feet barely touched the pavement. Seeing the agora's walkway nearly deserted he vaulted over the railing and dropping silently into the shadows opposite the Amethyst Center's tent. He purposely let his footfalls make a sound as he slipped to the entry.
Hearing his booted footsteps, yet without turning around, Beth was bent over a table collecting literature, "I'm sorry our counselors have left for the evening. If you'd like to take a card perhaps we can help through the hotline." Mick saw her over a tall screen that separated the two of them. He purposely ducked and stepped back. Beth's voice had lost its professional reporter polish, now it registered concern and authority.
Mick voiced "OK" in a tone he hoped she wouldn't recognize. He waited as he heard her work her way from the back of the tent through the maze of screens and folding chairs.
"Come a little closer, baby I feel like lettin' go Of everything that stands between us And the love we used to know I wanna touch you like a cleansing rain, let it wash all the hurt away. So come a little closer baby I feel like lettin' go"
"I've never heard his music, are you a fan?" Beth called out, the lyrics finding a home in Mick's heart. He sniffed and voiced an "Uhuh, yeah. It's a tear jerker of song though." Mick hoped his voice would be disguised, a bit muggy from his waterworks. His eyes closed the thought of Beth's hands kept busy sweeping up literature at the stations into a bin while Mick balanced from one foot to the other. With the back of his hand he wiped the glassy look out of his eyes, until the next verse played out.
"If there's still a chance then take my hand
And we'll steal away off into the night
'till we make things right, the suns gonna rise on a better day"
Beth let the rhyme play out while she considered his words, "Yeah, Country music is good for churning up old heartaches." She stopped on the other side of the entry screen and he heard her draw in a deep breath as she closed up the plastic tote. Then she moved back to business, "Did you get that card; I have to be out of here before they turn out the lights." Mick caught her concern and her fatigue as he stepped back from the tent. Was he losing his nerve? He stood stock still, silent, waiting for her to come out from behind the screen. The music and the roll of concession stand clientele held its own against the crack of thunder and flash of lightening.
"Oh, a whole stadium of music fans are going to get mad now that -." Beth emerged from behind the screen and the sight of Mick in western boots, blue jeans and a plaid shirt left her speechless. The music played to each of their ears as they stood apart, frozen.
"Mick!" The color rose to her face as she leaned against the dolly holding her stack of totes.
His voice was dry and soft, "Beth". At her shrinking behind the dolly, his hands flew up apologetically, "It's not what you think I didn't even know you were here."
"But you had to stop, didn't you?" Her face was neutral, yet she fought to keep it so. Did Mick realize the pain she would chase by seeing him tonight?
He was sincere his words unbidden through his lips, "I'm sorry, Beth." He watched her grab the handle of the dolly and jerk it to push on. The wheel caught in the crevice and she collided with it sending her ass over tea kettle onto the pavement. Within that second Mick stood over her. Laid back on her elbows, her legs straight out, knees abraded, skirt around her hips she gasped up at him.
From a distance a security guard called, "You, OK, lady?" Reflexively Mick waved him off and extended a hand to Beth. She regarded her intact palms and she rolled away from him, onto her hands and one knee to stand. Disheveled and emotionally shaken she retried to roll the dolly away – in Murphy's infinite law it wouldn't budge. Aggravated, she heaved a deep breath that blew her long blond hair away from her face. Mick's cool hands fell softly on hers and with a gentle nudge he swung the dolly to the angle that it would roll freely. "May I?" he asked with a rasp of his quietly sexy voice. Beth slipped from under his hands and re-shouldered her purse. With her nod she headed them toward the gate nearest her car.
"Don't think this buys you a date." Beth's arms were folded defensively across her chest, her head tucked close as they moved in step with each other. After another crack of lightning they picked up the pace, fearing the answering thunder and the impending rain.
"I'm sorry I hurt you, Beth. I know how harsh I might have seemed." It was chivalry and old fashioned deference that got him all the way to her car, a cobalt blue new Volt electric model. Their eyes met over the trunk as she closed it. With the arrival of the storm's lights in the sky the air near the ground had nowhere to go but up, hopefully Mick and Beth's feelings about each other would rise too.
"I know the drill, you think you're a monster" Beth looked to the dry sky and cocked her hip against the trunk. "You couldn't accept taking my life, it was better to leave and let me find a normal life – stop me if any of this sounds off." In the cruel parking lot lighting Mick saw the corners of her mouth quiver at her forced hardness. He saw the pain in her eyes.
Drawing in a resigned deep breath Mick ran a harried hand through his hair and whispered, "These sound like excuses to you I know that. Beth, would you consider starting over?" he ducked his head to find her line of sight as he reached for her hand.
"Excuse me?" Beth's voice began to break.
"I'd like to start again. I'd like to call on you…" His head bobbed as his hands wrung in front of him.
Beth repeated his archaic offer, "Call on me? Its 2012, Mick. Ask me out, we'll do something that doesn't include food." Beth's head bobbed affirmatively as she broke into an easy smile. "This does not count as a date by the way." She emphasized the point with a poke of her index finger into his chest. Mick wanted to laugh at the way she pursed her lips as she scanned the skies for the rain.
"Of course it isn't." Mick shrugged and gave her a mugging smile. "Would you like to watch the Labor Day Fireworks on the beach Monday night?"
"I'll bring some wine- and I'll eat well before you come by." Now Beth eased closer and caught a whiff of his cologne. She knew Mick would catch the scent of her attraction and she cursed her simple mortality.
"I'll pick you up at 7?" Mick's words flowed back to her. His body was singing with the joy of being within her aura, dare he reach out to her?
If the skies didn't open on them she had to know now, "Mick, where do you want to start?"
His bottom lip trembled and he caught his words, "Where do you want to pick up?" Mick surmised probably not at her apartment after the earth-shaking sex with a heartbreaking argument.
Beth folded her arms over her chest after she brushed her hair from her eyes, "Somewhere after because I love you and before I could never take your life." She watched his reaction, having to rely on her lame humanity to gauge his answer.
Mick sunk his hands deep in his jeans, fighting the urge to wrest her into his arms and kiss her senseless. "So we're kissing….?" He wanted to hint at more.
Beth was nearly effervescent, "I'll bite." She unfolded her arms and brushed her thumb along his jaw. She watched his eyes close slowly as his chin dropped then she tipped his chin back up, rewarded with his silvered eyes and fanged smile. "I was hoping you'd do that." Her words were all the invitation he needed; he did draw her closer, their arms entwined around each other's shoulders, not totally embraced yet.
"I've moved since you visited last." Beth nestled against Mick's steadfast chest; she'd embed inside him if she could. When she felt the span of both of his hands travelling across her back she shuddered at the sensations she had remembered. "I bought a little house near West Adams." She felt him react to the neighborhood. "I still have the same phone number; Siri can give you the directions."
"Beth-" her name was a sigh on the breeze as he released her to look into her eyes. "I've missed you."
"Mick, I hurt for a long, long time. I won't even pretend to know why I want to do this again, you're under my skin, in my heart and my only regret would be to have more regret over us." Her hands caught his shoulders as their feet shuffled to not step on each other. The feeling of their knees kissing and their thighs brushing delivered shivers up and down their spines.
Mick nodded over the regret, he had no desire for more of that either. "I'll see you, Monday at 7." Then before she should break away, he did it, he kissed her forehead, then her nose and finally their lips met. His ice met her fire and they quenched each other in those moments. The seared promise of the good things to come left each of them shaken as their bodies and fingertips parted. Wordlessly Mick walked Beth to her driver's door and saw her safely buckled in. The car started with a whisper and he watched her drive away.
The wisdom of the music reverberated in his undead heart and he softly sang the lyrics while he retrieved his keys and headed to 'Gertie' his vintage Mercedes. Mick hadn't felt his feet since Beth had come into his view; all he could process were the words:
"Come a little closer, baby I feel like lettin' go of everything that stands between us and the love we used to know.
I wanna touch you like a cleansing rain let it wash all the hurt away so come a little closer baby I feel like lettin' go."
Now was the time to live in deeds and not years.
Dierks Bentley / Come a Little Closer