For Nancy, who saw this song coming out of Mick's mouth.

Of course, I saw the second song coming out of Josef's mouth…

On other boards I had the YouTube links for My Gal is Red Hot and the Billy Joel song...but that's not allowed here-Sorry!

This is somewhere between What's Left Behind and Sonata, definitely AU…

And did I mention….I own none of these characters, but if it wasn't for ME they wouldn't be doing this, right now. Thanks Trevor for giving us a great set of toys.

What racket was coming from the loft? Was Mick strangling a cat? It could barely be considered music; it sounded like a harmonica….as if Mick had flipped back to some alternate life in the Ozarks…..what was going on now?

When I had to whip out the remote key I carry, it momentarily chapped me off as I could tell he knew I was there, he just ignored me while he cupped the harmonica in his two hands and played along with a quiet recording of a Billy Joel ballad. Strangely, Billy Joel was waxing poetic about the same emotions Mick had been plagued with since he got tied up with Blondie.

"What's the distress- fest for?" I quipped as I pushed the door closed with the flat of my foot. I didn't know if I wanted to be swallowed up by the angst swirling around the dark loft, "G stop selling A+?"

He cut his eyes toward me with a shrug, "Cut the crap, Josef, you know what it is, how I feel about Beth" Mick dropped the mouth organ in to his lap while Billy Joel put their consummate ache to words.

"I've told you, what 9 or 10 times, just get on with it, stake your claim for her" I wasn't going for vampire gag, I just liked to zing the poor martyr. At the word "stake" he gave me his best hurt/pissed look, those eyebrows knitted, the sad corners of his mouth drooping then he wrapped it with a shake of his head to deliver the "pissed" bit of his reply.

"I found this harmonica when I was looking for my pre-vamp DNA, I just set it aside and today I wondered if any of the music would come back to me" Mick examined the gadget as if it had some hidden knowledge to impart. It had been years since I saw him stretched out like this, his head back on the sofa, his legs extended in front of him. He seemed so adolescent and wounded, what did his parents have to deal with before he "grew up"? Had he grown up?

I watched how his lids half covered his sad hazel eyes as Billy Joel's words described being betwixt and between professing his love for the woman of his dreams.

Even though I'm in love sometimes I get so afraid I'll say something so wrong just to have something to say

I know the moment isn't right to tell the girl a comical line to keep the conversation light

I guess I'm just frightened out of my mind

"Mick, snap out of it, you're beginning to behave like a pre-menstrual 15 year old girl" I darted to his liquor cabinet only to find the cupboard bare, the bottle in the rubbish. Now I wanted a tantrum, I had to listen to his whine-fest without the edge whittled of it, "You're letting a human, barely a woman get under that preternaturally pale skin, this time I'll quote a genius of film, Cher when she admonished her love interest to, "snap out of it"." I smacked the palm of my hand with my fingers and he jumped. Was he about to cry? Had he cried lately?

But if that's how I feel then it's the best feeling I've ever known it's undeniably real, leave a tender moment alone.

Yes I know I'm in love but just when I ought to relax I put my foot in my mouth cause I'm just avoiding the facts

If the girl gets too close if I need some room to escape when the moment arose I'd tell her it's all a mistake

"Hear that line, "It's all a mistake"? perhaps you finally understand what kind of guy follows a child for 22 years, then realizes he's in love with her" I stared at him, my fisted hands dug deep into my pockets. Mick had spent countless nights taking a beating for the situations Beth had dragged him thru, he told me about a few of them and he probably hadn't shared the worst of them.

Adding "Bethmergencies" to our friendship's equation had doubled our dickering points. I had come out in favor of facing his feelings, manning up and going for it where Mick had repeatedly ducked behind his litany of impediments, "I'm a Vampire, I'd bite her, I'd endanger her" I decided I still wanted to smack him so I stood back, leaning against the kitchen island.

But that's not how I feel, no that's not the woman I've known she's undeniably real, so leave a tender moment alone

"You are in the dark, my man" I levied a more grim facial expression.

"Enough, Josef, leave it be, OK?" Mick held the harmonica lightly, turning it slowly, visually absorbed in the intricate carvings.

"Not this time, it's 2008, it's 23 years since you thought you killed Coraline, Beth's at the age she needs a man, not a guardian angel." I wanted to push him into now, into all of their reality.

"Thanks for bringing that up, you know, enforcing all the insecurities I hold so dear" Mick still held the harmonica in his gaze, I was getting perturbed.

"Then drop them" I barked, my hands itching for a tumbler of single malt. I grabbed the harmonica out of his hands and slapped it on the island, at vamp speed.

"Like that, drop it" Mick was disbelieving; he reverently ran his hands thru his hair, then pulled himself upright, bent over parked his elbows on his knees, his face in his hands. Twisted, longing in soul searching anguish, yet not quite prepared to see it my way.

"You can grab her and growl as I say or walk away, relocate, start over. I did it myself at 90, you'll live" I was ready to turn on my heel and leave, he was getting under my skin and not in that remarkably sublime Cole Porter way, "LIVE the life that you have, Mick or at least have the good grace to step out of her life and let her live." The words dove out before I could check them. Since 1985 he had been a damned Martyr.

"Is that all the advice 400 years gives you?" Mick peered up at me, that begging puppy dog look, I wanted to spit.

"Mick, she's done everything but lay down naked for you, unless you left something out" I waited, if he had turned down a naked Blondie he surely wouldn't be forthcoming, I'd have to yank it out of him. He turned his face away from me and I sprinted to his side, was this a "tell".

"I couldn't take advantage of her when she took the Black Crystal" He got a funny half smile, as if he had skated close enough to get a good whiff of her corporal magnetism for him.

I dug deeper. "So she threw herself at you? What did I miss?" I was nearly in his lap on the sofa, ready to clamp my hand on his shoulder if he got up. He waved me off and shook his head, resting his chin on the heel of his hand, 90 looking like a lost 5.

"It was a long time ago, Josh was alive" he pursed his lips and we sat for a beat while we watched the flames in the fireplace.

"So, now is the time, man up, Mick, go get her. You won't do anything to hurt her, I can guaranty it." I know a lot, and I knew he'd take her reverently, attentively and thoroughly ….after all he had years pent up just waiting for an angel to pull him from his self imposed hell.

But it's not only me

Breaking down when the tension gets high

just when I'm in a serious mood she is suddenly quiet and shy

Leave a tender moment, Leave it alone

I know the moment isn't right to hold my emotions inside
To change the attitude tonight I've run out of places to hide

And if that's how I feel then it's the best feeling I've even known
It's undeniably real, leave a tender moment alone

You got to leave a tender moment alone, Leave a tender moment, Leave it alone
You've got to leave a tender moment, Leave a tender moment alone

"What if it's too soon?" Mick's eyes searched for truth, "you know, after Josh's murder?"

"You'll never know sitting here" What else could I say?

I took my leave, glad I had ridden over in the limo. I ratcheted lose my tie and tossed it on the leather seat then grabbed the decanter, not waiting for Melanie to serve me. Evidently my perceptible mood, my speed or my ignoring her gave her the high sign to slide back over only when I summoned her. She watched wide eyed while I swallowed the tumbler of single malt then wiped my mouth with the back of my hand.

Once we were a few blocks down the road, with the traffic at our back I crooked my fingers at Melanie, "I do apologize, my ire isn't directed toward you, my sweet" I felt my gums ache for this 1988 "Red" as she slid into my lap. What perversity, as she melted into my lap, my thoughts wandered to why a vampire wouldn't choose to enjoy this daily. After a distressing early evening I was determined I'd make it a great overnight.

The next evening, dusk...

"Fed up, FED UP, did you hear me?" Blondie barreled thru the reception area of my office, straight past Delores my assistant. Beth dropped her purse at her feet and stood hands on her hips, standing taller than I had ever seen her.

Not only did I hear her, I felt the vibration straight thru to the core of my being, all of my undead self. Why was Beth Turner in my face about my best friend, Mick St John? Because I always listened and understood when Mick would long-sufferingly nod and not act. For starters, he was bull headed and old fashioned, after all of their back and forth about vamps and humans I was expecting them to bed down like the star crossed lovers they felt they were….. She was after him at each of their intersections, evidently not successfully from the tone of her voice this evening.

"He won't bite me; he won't even go to second base. What do I HAVE, sour BLOOD?" she barked as she shook those lively tan wrists at me. I felt the burn in my nasal passages, the tang of her AO blood was calling out to me…..I teetered on the verge of coming to this damsel's distress and taking what I had wanted for so long.

In the past few weeks she had ripened, Mick had entertained her in the best of restaurants and she had worn the best of those steak dinners on her hips and in her breasts. The rose of her cheeks carried all the brilliance of the bottles of wine they had shared while Mick pussyfooted around the girl mooning for him. My gums ached for her, my fangs itched to trail down her neck and take delicious advantage of her. She stood there, nearly presenting herself to me and she was beautiful.

"Do you trust me?" I asked, making sure she was across the desk from me, I didn't trust me.

"Why?" her bloodshot blue eyes opened wide as she gnawed on her knuckle.

I pulled out my wallet, sifted thru the credit cards I usually handed off for therapeutic retail purposes and handed her one, "Let's pretend this is your fairy godmother, let Delores make you appointments at the spa, get yourself something very posh, not prom – got it?"

"PROM, what do you think I am?" she held the card by the edge like it was hot; I had insulted her just a tad.

"Jejune, uninitiated, curious" I ticked off the adjectives that came to mind for Beth Turner as I waited for her next eruption, she nodded with a sniffle and shuffled out of my office. Peace came at last with a frisky and robust 1988 O+ Now the work would begin; I had a party to plan for this Saturday night.

Second base….what exactly was second base?

Earlier that very day Beth had been interviewed about a case she had cracked today a new BuzzWire Reporter was shoving a mike in her face about a lover's quarrel gone fatal. I remember the haunted look on her face when she spilled the details of a younger woman and an older man's relationship that spiraled out of control when the 20 something pressed the successful 50 something guy for a permanent relationship. They had fought in his library and he claimed she had walked into glass wall backward while they struggled. What I read in Beth's eyes was the metaphor she saw in this couple's "relationship", and time was wasting for Miss Turner. To me a simple case of "Is You Is or Is you Ain't My Baby?"

So I pulled a simple get together out of my hip pocket, 30 or so of the oldest "summer" society of LA, they'd bring their exclusives, eagerly expecting to see my new "summer" model. In the past 23 years Mick had even attended although he declined the "buffet" and always arrived "stag", a sad day for the Freshies who had heard mumbled stories about him being the "bite of the night" in the old days. Most of the sybarites had no problem dropping their schedules for a Kostan blow-out, so all I needed to do was step lightly and control myself. I kept repeating that to myself.


I made sure Beth had enjoyed herself and when she arrived Saturday morning to a seemingly empty mansion I could read her apprehension. "What's up, Blondie, second thoughts?" Had Mick made a move, if he had I couldn't read it. She was moping, I detest mopey women, "Didn't you find a dress, did you break a nail?" she waived a flat hand at me on the dress question, but I earned a slug in the shoulder about the nail.

"I have been up nights trying to figure out what trick you're going to pull" Beth trailed a manicured finger nail down the spine of the leather sofa. Her usual short French manicure replaced with deep crimson crème nail enamel, her nails actually looked a bit longer than usual. That's right, Blondie, go werewolf on him, draw blood.

"No tricks, I just want your stalwart knight in a black duster to realize he's tantalized by fruit with an expiration date" I lit a cigar and sat back in the chair, gathering myself to explain my game plan.

"I do not like being compared to food, he's NEVER seen me that way, even after Victorville" Beth was indignant and it made me chuckle a bit on the inside of course.

"I asked you, do you trust me?" I sought the view of the ceiling rather than her eager face. I focused blowing cigar rings upward while I waited her answer. I didn't need to hear words; I read her heartbeat, her rising temperature, the heady mix of pheromones that drove me wild. If Mick didn't strike soon he was going to be down one girlfriend and I was going to be up one fledgling. "This isn't a case of stay in the car, Beth…notice I didn't call you Blondie? Follow my lead and don't say a word".

I gave her the "game plan" and regarded her in private – Beth is as breathtaking as Mick describes her, if she were in sweats and a tank top (perish the thought) she sings to me, sings a melodious song of passions untapped and desires not yet discovered. Then I had the final question, the one the entire night hinged on, "I need to step over a line tonight, Beth" I sat up, businesslike behind the desk and she snapped to attention.

"What, what line", she pulled her arms to wrap around her, as if that would protect her. I watched her anticipation morph to apprehension.

"Has Mick marked you?" I wasn't even sure she knew what I meant, I'd be finding out everything she knew about the family right here.

"In the desert, he said something about not here, not like this" her face saddened at the recollection.

"So there wasn't been anymore sharing?" This plunged a dagger into my heart. The only way I could pull Mick over his boundary was to give the appearance that Beth had succumbed to me; I was banking her future on his fighting me for her. Beth shook her head, a curious expression growing into a smile.

"Are you going to bite me?" She dropped her head demurely, inspecting her wrists for the old bite.

OH, God, how I wanted to ravish her right there, all the innocence was there for the swallowing, I sadly nodded.

"If that's what you think will get his attention, then . . . . . I'm in" She had a journeyman's approach to the act. Beth had taken great umbrage at Mick tasting Simone, yet now the ends justified the means for her, or so she said.

"Didn't you give Mick hell for the situation at the loft?" I knew this could take a tense turn, I couldn't influence her.

"I did, this is different, Josef" She was adamant, this was the woman who marched into my office with 8 x 10 black and white glossies from Mr. Kane the snake. This is the woman who was comfortable leaving a volatile solution in my hands then and now. She sat still then lifted a wrist toward me, her head turned from the wrist. I was by her side at vamp speed, catching that wavering wrist as she held it aloft like a school child who screams "pick me"

I stood silent, and then moved to sit beside her on the love seat, gently I drew her arm toward me, I minimalized our body to body contact, I had to. I could almost feel my undead heart begin to thump harder than its usual murmur. I scented her anticipation, resignation, excitement and the common thread thru it all was her undying love for Mick. My gums ached as I drew anxious fangs to my full length, thirsty for her as I caught her forearm and watched the map of delicious veins and arteries for my bite. Our eyes locked and she drew in a deeper than normal breath and nodded. Instead of being enamored in the prospect my heart sank as I recognized this was just business transacted between partners. At the second she nodded I struck softly, I had pulled back my fangs to barely enter her.

I know she was waiting for the euphoria she saw on Simone's face, and from the momentary bite and minute draw she wasn't going to reel in ecstasy. Perhaps if Mick took her home tonight and gave her the complete treatment she'd understand it all. I held what amounted to less than a teaspoon of her blood in my mouth. As it coated my tongue every capillary in my undead body sprung to attention, felt heat spread thru my chest to my gut where I had to curb the throbbing I felt in my groin. I licked gently, not rakishly and staunched the flow at the petite wounds. As I pulled away from her wrist I saw a measure of disappointment in her face, "Sorry, Beth, it's just for show" I convinced myself as I rose and straightened myself out for our grand entrance.

The casual arrangement of soft leather pit groups had been opened up to the perimeter of the room, the lights dimmed to just the right glow for both our deathly pallor and our guest's youthful vitality. The music soothed all the early birds who battled twilight traffic to get here, a little dancing was going on, but not so much – all of them hadn't quite settled into the party atmosphere. Tonight could be a long night.

I paced the length of my sectional, barely comfortable in my Tux jacket, abnormally tense waiting for Beth to stand and join me. She sat, like a high school virgin, stunned at the speed and innocuity of the act she had just participated in.

"I guess we never speak of this – right?" She grinned slightly as she regarded the delicate holes in the wrist Mick didn't bit in the desert. Her stare ran from the right to the left, as if measuring the bite and the men who made them.

"Glad you see it that way, I do have a reputation to protect and so far I've played far too gently" my tongue checked at my lips for any stray essence to savor. I extended my hand to her, we needed to be out in the crowd, stir the pot so to say. We seemed to glide across the mahogany floor together in step, her gentle hand curled in the crook my elbow and I stood a little taller. It hadn't surprised me she had chosen a fairly frugal frock; earlier in the evening when I saw the shopping trip's receipts I figured she expected me to collect the debt by the bite. The lights dipped a degree as the door from my chamber slipped open and my eyes ate up the crowd waiting for us.

I had wanted to drape my arm around her back to feel her luscious curls cascaded down her bare back. Her blue eyes opened wide to navigate alongside me. The deep crimson silk clung as I would if I had the prospect to wrap around her curves. Momentarily I caught her warm fingertips in my hand and laid a gentile kiss on her empty left ring finger.

The crowd of 50 or so had mingled at the side tables, vamps admiring each other's "Exclusives", the young men and women enjoying seeing and being seen at such an auspicious affair. I heard Willie Hurst complaining about all the bru hahah at Hearst College since Sherriff Mar's daughter had enrolled – personally I think he was disappointed Veronica hadn't accepted his offer of an "internship". There was the gentle lilt of 18th century Italian against less gracious 19th Century Russian. I gazed at the preternatural beauty in the room and knew Mick's woman could stand toe to toe with them. And Mick, where was he?

The double doors had opened with a small fanfare and the crowd regarded us, splitting to create a path to our seats, I had led Beth to essentially a platform of pillows where we took our places like Roman diners, semi reclining. I had arranged the DJ to keep the music current until they saw his Benz approach. Gloved servers brought wine, laid down a platter of canapés, all gastronomically designed to please the Freshie and then their Vampire. Beth's blue eyes darted throughout the room; she caught the pressing looks from my compatriots, her eyes flashed at me proudly.

"So, what now?" Beth whispered trying not to move her lips. Silly girl, I hadn't explained the majority of the room could hear her.

"We wait. Once he arrives, you'll know by the minor explosion" my tongue travelled over my teeth still seeking Beth's varietal flavor. For show, I stretched back against the bolster and invited her to sit near me. The room expected it from her, behavior becoming of an "exclusive" to the major Vampire in LA. She was nestled into the hollow of my armpit when the music went silent then burst out the rockabilly tune:

That's when the doors spread wide and Mick's presence silenced the chatter of the crowd. For them it was the unspoken message when he arrived stag. The society had waited for him snap back to our reality; it had been over 2 decades since he arrived with his "exclusive". Within the flurry Vamp and Freshie scents he paused to survey the room for a split second. Once he caught Beth's scent he cut thru the couples on the dance floor, tossing them with a swing of his arms. Then he stood a respectful 3 or 4 feet from us while our masquerade carried on.

Billy Lee Riley…..

My gal is red hot - your gal ain't doodley squat!
Yeah! My gal is red hot - your gal ain't doodley squat
Well she ain't got money, but man she's really got a lot.

Well I gotta gal, six feet four, sleeps in the kitchen with her face at the door,

but, my gal is red hot - your gal ain't doodley squat! My gal is red hot - your gal ain't doodley squat!

Well she ain't got money, but man she's really got a lot.

Well she walks all night, talks all day she's the kinda woman gotta have her way, but
My gal is red hot - your gal ain't doodley squat! My gal is red hot - your gal ain't doodley squat!
Well she aint got money, but man she's really got a lot.
Oh rock it...

Well she's the kinda woman who's a lounge-around

Spendin' my business all over town,but My gal is red hot - your gal aint doodley squat!
Spendin' my business all over town,but My gal is red hot - your gal aint doodley squat!

Well she aint got money, but man she's really got a lot.

Well she's a one man's woman which is what I like but I wish she was a woman change her mind every night, but
My gal is red hot - your gal aint doodley squat! My gal is red hot - your gal aint doodley squat!
Well she aint got money, but man she's really got a lot.

"I believe you are with my . . . . .date, Josef", Mick posed, his feet spread one hand on his hip while his thumb settled in the crease of his chin. Generations of the undead were silent, waiting for the showdown. I thought to myself, "Let the good times roll".

"Your Date?" I questioned, holding his eyes with my gaze, "Beth is my guest this evening" I settled back, tenting my fingers, a little showboating to prod him.

Mick raised his head, scenting the air in Beth's direction, at vamp speed he was in front of her, a rush of air moving her cascades of waved blond hair, "What did he do to you?" his hair fell over his face as he leaned into us. I didn't need to see his expression, the game had begun.

"Beth, you don't have to answer, as my exclusive you…." Mick's fist found my jaw and I was thrown backward into the pillows that were intended for far more pleasant endeavors. I lay there a second, waiting to see if he'd claim her as dramatically as he disciplined me. His steps caught up to us and he leaned over me – I read the confusion on his face, perplexity at why? Why tonight? Why with me? He kneeled back toward us on the daybed.

"Tell me you chose him…..chose him over me" His ragged breath launched his words toward Beth as she huddled away from me. From the time she digested his words she shook her head a negative reply.

"Why, Beth, tell me why" he whispered between his teeth, his anger growing as she froze under his spell.

"She didn't choose, I chose her" I interjected my face between them as I attempted to accept the blame, separate her from his assaults.

I looked at the crowd, all stretching their talents to hear each word, I dispensed them, all of them, and with "The party will continue on the patio" my voiced echoed over the silent throng as they filed out of the room.

I slid back from the two of them, frozen in these moments, her ache at his distress; his awe at what he thought was betrayal.

"You, you, you were stonewalling, you've kept me at arms' length" her brows knitted fiercely at her perceived role in his life. I admired her spunk in the face of an angry vampire she spoke slowly, clearly, plainly.

Then he caught her hand and saw the twin piercings Mick dropped the offensive sight like fire and shades of older anger erupted at me, "You Bit her" he propelled himself toward me, catching my shoulders as we rolled off the plump soft pallet and wrestled with sad anger. The grasping ended with him astride me, his hands clutching my lapels, my hands wrapped round his wrists.

"I could take you out, you know that" I whispered wise words to him and felt his thighs grasp me tighter as if he wanted to crush me. All the while I thought – he should be wrestling with Beth.

"You bit her, why did YOU bite her?" his eyes were sad, unspent tears nearly falling on me.

"I had to get the point across, Mick. She wants you, she loves you, and that love isn't going away unless you leave it in this century."

I had hoped to escape his manhandling, yet his frustrations escaped now. We threw punches that landed squarely, mine from the sheer fury he would let all this go so far, Mick returned them with diminishing punches that left him heaving in tears on me. I clutched at him, sitting upright, pushing him where we could all clear the air. Beth covered her offending wrist as if cleared the air between us. We listened as the room settled, he and I hearing the breeze and the noise of the undead menagerie outside.

Beth tucked her feet up under her, her crystal emblazoned shoes left on the floor. She broke the silence, "Mick, I love you, I always have. I couldn't have married Josh even if he were alive"

Mick moved toward her slowly, gracefully, capturing her in both his arms, she melted to him and they huddled wordlessly. I slipped back, scenting regret and forgiveness between them. Darting quickly, Mick pointed a string hand at me, "Don't you dare wiggle off" then as quickly he returned his attentions to Beth, who he repeatedly called, "My Beth".

I slipped a few more inches and he abruptly broke off their embrace and stood, yanking me up to my feet, he took me totally by surprise, "I'll finish with you later, I have far more important details to care for" Mick's eyebrows danced in a n innocent action, his pallor slightly enlivened between the romance and fighting.

"Mick, there isn't anything else to say, I bit her to get your attention and it wasn't even a full bite, look at the difference between my bite and yours" I attempted to minimalize to act.

"Not even a full bite?" he thumbed at his jaw, clearing some dried splattered blood. I nodded in agreement.

"Then, I think I'm going to take Beth home," he extended his hand to her and she slid off the cushions with a grateful smile toward me.

"Mick, I love you man, she loves you too" I made a little click stepped out of their way.

"I still can't believe you bit her" Was he going to start that nonsense again, and as he turned to walk away with his arm around Beth he turned over his shoulder "Don't even expect me to believe you didn't swallow."

Mick clicked the music back on, Billy Lee Riley's, "Red Hot"

My gal is red hot - your gal ain't doodley squat!
Yeah! My gal is red hot - your gal ain't doodley squat

As they left the room I checked my jaw, the square of my clothes and then confessed privately, "well I didn't swallow much". I don't think he heard me.