Where does he get off? Mick thought. He angrily snatched his car keys from the table top. So much for friendship. He just couldn't let it go. Ever since the bitter argument between Josef and himself yesterday, he'd been feeding a festering anger. He'd actually held onto the anger deliberately, fed it, nourished it. He had to. Because as much as he hated- regretted- the vicious feelings between him and Josef since yesterday's fight, that bitterness was preferable to what would be left if the anger wasn't there to cover it up. Because he knew that much of what Josef had said was right. He didn't want to admit it, but the evidence is right there, a part of him, and it was impossible to deny. At least to himself. And to Josef, the little thought forced it's way through the anger and into his mind. But no, those thoughts aren't allowed to intrude, and he pushed it down as far as he could. Which of course wasn't far enough, but it was the best he could do.
He slammed the car door hard as he got behind the wheel, but didn't start the car just yet, still lost in his inner fumings. Josef's always liked power, and now he's trying to throw his weight around with me. Who does he think he is?
He started the car with a harsh twist of the ignition key, causing the starter to grind as he twisted the key just a little too hard. He winced at the sound and took a moment to be glad that he hadn't snapped the key- or the ignition- in his anger. He pulled out of his parking space and headed in the direction that would take him to Josef's lavish home. He knows how I feel about these things. And now, here he is, trying to change me. Friends don't do that.
He was trying to keep himself convinced that he was going to see Josef because that was what Josef wanted. He'd told him as much yesterday- orderd it, in fact. He tried to hold on to the idea that if he had to do it, he might as well do it now and get it over with. And that is how he felt....some. But not really as strong as he was trying to portray to himself. True, he wasn't eager to just go against the morals he'd held for so long by feeding from Josef's humans, but he had to admit - again, damn it- that Josef's concerns in that area are valid. And Mick harbored no delusions that Josef would not take aggressive action if he failed to comply. Mick had no intention of enduring another visit from Josef under those circumstances, in which he'd very likely escort Mick to his home like a truant schoolboy, or at the very least bring a freshie with him to Mick's apartment and try to force feed him.
So, yes. These were realistic, valid reasons for him to be turning up the drive that led to Josef's large estate. And true reasons as well, in large part. What he was trying his damndest to deny- and not so convincingly, at that- was the reason that he gave in so soon. He'd originally planned to hold out as long as he thought Josef would allow before giving in to his demands. But the truth of the matter is this- he needed it. By the time Josef had come to him yesterday, he'd resisted the pull for five days- two or three days longer than he'd gone up to that point, since the turning- and he had been just about to give in to the need. He'd been nervous and uneasy and, strangely, had felt his self-confidence waning. He'd been unable to sleep after the first three days and had began to feel too agitated to feed or even to use the blood syringes he often depends on. But he'd resisted because he'd been vexed at the knowledge that he needs Josef to feel validated. And then Josef had come, they'd had that so pleasant quality time, and their mutual anger had prevented Mick from taking a fledgleling's comfort from Josef as would normally happen. And it had kept Josef from consciously offering it, as well.
Once Josef had gone, it hadn't taken Mick long to start to feel the first little threads of rebellion trying to set in. And he gave into it, at first. He'd show him. He'd show Josef that he could resist it. He was familiar with these feelings from his first turning. He'd felt this same dependence on Coraline- regardless of her lacking as a Sire. But he's not a newborn anymore, he's stronger that that. So he'd show Josef that it wasn't necessary for him to become the Father to his Childe, and that they could stay best friends without the complications of the stronger instincts that kept trying to intrude and rule them.
Mick's annoyance had known no bounds when daybreak had come and he'd realized it was going to be another sleepless day because he couldn't calm the emotions tornado-ing through him. And it became even worse when he could no longer deny that he had to see Josef. It became a driving need, and he'd had to resist the urge to suffer the daylight to go to him and the comfort he knew would be there. If he'd let it, of course. But he had to, he knew that. He felt....ragged. He didn't know how else to explain it. Like a drug addict without his fix, he had to have it. Of course, he didn't have to let Josef know that.
Of course, Josef probably already knew, but Mick decided it couldn't hurt to hold on to his illusions as long as possible. Most likely, Josef was sitting calmly in his study or home office just waiting for Mick to give in and come to him, knowing he would have to sooner or later. And he would be ready with a sarcastic remark or humorous quip,thinking that it could solve everything, that it could erase his betrayal. Okay, Mick thought to himself. Maybe betrayal is a little harsh. But still- fifty years of friendship and he has to go and get all demanding on me. What he wouldn't give for Josef to be the same old mentor he'd always been. Even just three weeks ago, when Josef would criticise Mick's life choices, tell him how he should change and give advice on how he was suppossed to accomplish that. Mick would listen to him, banter back with him, then promptly ignore the unasked for advice. Then they would both go on their merrily way till next time, both secretly satisfied with just the way the other really is. Best friends. That's the way it should be.
Unless of course Josef is still mad at him.
That thought stilled Mick's hand as he reached for the car's door handle. He paused, then he sat back against the seat, thinking. This was the first time the possibility had entered his thoughts, but he should have considered it sooner. What if Josef's still mad at him?
He'd spent all this time focusing on his anger toward the older vampire that he hadn't even considered any possible repercussions for his own part in their argument. Now he felt a whole new anxiety join the rest on his already frayed nerves. He knew Josef could be a force to be reckoned with, and could hold a grudge indefinately. Could Josef possibly be angry enough that he didn't want to see him? Maybe wanted nothing more to do with him? He'd told Mick straight out that he was sapping whatever patience Josef posessed. Maybe Josef had decided to wash his hands of Mick.
Now Mick was torn. He so badly needed- and wanted- to soak himself in Josef's aura, to seek comfort and ease the edginess that was caused by the Sire/fledgling separation, and yet still angry that he needed it. But now he was also anxious, half afraid and half certain that Josef had decided that Mick wasn't worth the trouble and couldn't care less whether he ever saw Mick again.
He bit his lip, thinking. Josef's expecting me. He's the one that told me to be here. He couldn't explain the feelings of hope and helplessness under all the other emotions. Mick knew, knew, that he didn't want this new expansion of their relationship. And yet, he experienced a wild hope that he was wrong in his assumptions and a desolate depression that maybe he was right. He almost panicked at the thought that maybe Josef didn't want him anymore. And besides all that- when had he began worrying whether anyone wanted him or not? As if he were a posession to be kept or tossed away on the owner's whim.
Well, it didn't matter anyway. He was so close to Josef, he could feel his presence in the large house, two floors up and at the back. The need was becoming too strong and he just wanted relief from this swirling chaos inside of him. Instinct was trying to take over, and the fledgeling wanted his sire. Now.
Mick threw the car door open and nearly leapt out in his rush. But then he stopped himself, forced himself to take a moment to gather his thoughts and clear his mind. And hold onto the anger. If he lost himself in instincts, he could very well run in there full tilt and make a fool of himself, and that's never good. And besides, whatever else was going on inside him, he still wasn't ready to let Josef off the hook for yesterday. He was still mad.
Holding on to the anger would help him focus.
Josef terminated his business call as quickly as protocol would allow. He'd known Mick was near before he'd been informed of a visitor by his house employee, but it had taken him almost that long to end the business with tact, rather than simply hanging up on that pompous old windbag on the other end of the line like he'd wanted to. Such political incorectness is quite bad for business. And for Josef, when the pompous old windbag is several hundred years older than Josef himself.
He'd been suprised that Mick had given in so soon. He'd actually been prepared to have to force the issue, and unprepared to deal with it at this particular moment. True, instincts are hard to ignore, and Josef had been aware of how hard Mick's were pushing at him- but still.... that boy always had been a stubborn cuss. As much as Josef wanted what was best for his friend and fledgeling, and knew Mick needed to give in as soon as possible for his own well-being, he'd been secretly hoping the younger vampire would give him time to recoup from last night's "festivities". Josef had not yet decided how to best proceed. He had his own whole set of instincts pushing at him, but he just wasn't sure that giving in to them quite yet would be the best way to deal with Mick. He'd caused enough damage already by ignoring this whole situation for two and a half weeks, and he was determined to handle it right from here on out.
If only he knew what was right.
Josef did not like not knowing what was best. He always knew what to do. Well, usually. And when he didn't, he was a master at making sure everyone else thought he knew what to do. The older you get, the more confident you have to be so survive in the big boy's game. Did other Sires feel like this when getting used to their fledgeling's? Or was it just because this is a unique situation? Leave it to the two of them to hatch a situation that no vampire has ever before encountered. They seem to be magnets for difficult situations.
He stared at the door, feeling Mick approach, waiting for him to enter. When he did, Josef was struck at the difference in Mick's appearance just since last night.
He looks like hell.
"You look like hell." Oops. So much for tactful.
Mick just gave a one-shoulder shrug and remainded silent. Rather than seating himself in front of Josef's desk as he normally would have before, now he wandered around the spacious office, seemingly interested in the many decorative artifacts and artwork scattered randomly around the room.
Josef simply waited, watching.
Eventually, there was nothing left for Mick to pretend was so interesting about the office he'd seen a hundred times before, and he slowly made his way toward the desk. Josef thought he would take a seat in one of the plush armchairs, but instead he stopped a couple feet away and just.....stood.
"Josef..." Mick's eyes, carefully trained on the floor, flicked up to Josef when he said his name, then back down.
Josef frowned. He'd expected Mick to be out of sorts. After all, it had only been twenty-four hours since he'd seen him, and then he'd been angry, upset, defiant. He hadn't expected him to come in here all lollipops and sunshine, but there was a new quality to his demeanor now. There was a hesitancy in him. He seemed almost.... scared. Josef could sense that it was more than the fledgling sensing a sire's dominance, because Mick was still fighting that instinct and Josef hadn't pushed the issue yet. No- it was something else.
"I'm suprised to see you," Josef remarked. He'd meant to convey that he hadn't expected Mick to show up so immediately, but apparently it meant something else to Mick because his posture went stiff.
"Mick, are you okay?" Josef asked in concern- and curiosity.
"You... you told me to be here."
Josef was suprised to hear a note of almost pleading desperation in Mick's voice. "I just didn't think you'd give up so easily. You're stubbornness matches mine," Josef joked, trying to lighten the mood.
The sentiment was lost on Mick, though. "I.... needed to, Josef. But I can go. I'm sorry."
Mick turned to go, looking despondant, and Josef frowned. Time for the big guns. He sent a little push across their link, trying to get a feel for Mick's emotions. Mick jumped a little and looked up in suprise at the light intrusion in his mind, but Josef continued. Even when Mick's expression began to show an edge of anger at his apparent lack of privacy- even over his own emotions.
Josef spent a couple seconds rooting around under all the other stuff he knew he'd find- the hunger, the sleeplessness and the sharp need of contact the fledgling needed with it's sire- until he found what he had began to suspect. Then he pulled away, letting Mick have his mind to himself once more.
"Don't do that!" Mick snarled.
Josef kept his face blank and ignored Mick's outburst for the false bravado and diversionary tactic that he knew it was. "Why don't you have a seat?"
"Forget it, Josef. Never mind, alright? It's okay. I'll come back later if it's... I can come back later." Mick turned to make his escape.
Josef added just a touch of steel to his voice. "Sit down, Mick."
His friend hesitated, then turned back and moved to the chair and seated himself. Josef knew that Mick's compliance had very little- at this moment- to do with their new relationship. Josef is Mick's elder, and the Elder of the community. Even as Josef's best friend, Mick knew when it was smartest to react to Josef's position and the power that comes with age, rather than their friendship. Josef was counting on this, and he'd never had a problem- as Mick knew- using his position and age to his advantage. Even where his younger friend was concerned.
Josef was concerned about the younger vampire. He should have taken a measure of reassurance from just being around Josef. That was the natural way of things for thier kind, a normal reaction between a sire and fledgeling. But Mick was fighting it. Between Mick's strong stubborness and his reticence of this new relationship, he was unconciously blocking the natural give and take that should have existed without effort between the two of them. Any thoughts either of them might have harbored of possibly ignoring this new bond, of trying to go on as if it didn't exist, was made moot by Mick's bad reaction. It was obvious that Mick needed the connection despite his wishes, and if Josef were to be honest about it, he'd have to admit that he himself needed it just as badly. He was just able to control it better.
Josef used their link again, but instead of feeling for Mick's mind like he had seconds ago, this time he sent an influence of calm and reassurance. Just lightly at first, but it didn't seem to get past Mick's wall of tangled chaos, so he sent a second, heavier, push. Mick stiffenned at the first second, realizing that he was being influenced, but then relaxed as his edginess began to calm. After Josef's initial manipulation, the link opened as most of Mick's inner resistance began to crumble. After that, it happened naturally, with no help from Josef. They both stilled as the link fairly pulled from Josef what Mick needed. They could both feel it, Josef's aura flowing across their bond. It was a strange feeling, though not painful. Rather, it was fulfilling. And Josef realized that Mick's resistance had been affecting him as well, without his realization. He felt a tension in himself ease, one that he hadn't even recognized was there.
Mick's eyes drifted closed, and Josef smiled as his friend seemed to be savoring the absence of his former turmoil. His body lost the tenseness that had kept him so stiff in his seat and Mick's body just sort of....melted....into the the plush cushions of his chair. His muscles relaxed and his posture became almost boneless. His head fell back against the back of the chair and he sighed- an unneeded act, but an old habit- in contentment and the exhaustion that pervaded him.
"Feel better?" Josef asked, his eyebrows raised in mild amusement.
Mick raised his head and looked at Josef, a little embarrassed. "Yeah," he answered. "Thanks. I guess I needed that more than I thought."
Josef resisted the urge- barely- to say 'I told you so'. Instead, he leaned back in his desk chair- he hadn't realized he'd been sitting on the edge of his seat- and steepled his hands on his desk.
"Tired?" Josef asked. He had an ulterior motive for the single word question, an opportunity for a lesson that he couldn't pass up.
Mick seemed to garner that there was more to Josef's inquiry than simple curiosity, and he became alert with a suspicion that showed itself in his voice when he spoke.
"Yeah. A little."
Josef felt a surge of pride at Mick's quick mind, but was careful to squash it before Mick could discern it. Sharp as a blade, that one.
"More than a little, I'd say."
"I guess. Pretty wiped out, actually."
Mick frowned. "Good? Why good?"
"Because a lesson isn't learned without consequences."
Yep. Sharp as a blade, but so good at playing dumb.
"You can't let yourself get to this point again, Mick. It's more dangerous than you realize."
"It wasn't intentional, Josef."
"But you let it continue. You should have come sooner, Mick."
"I know," Mick answered quietly. "I don't intend to let it happen again." He had the grace to look sheepish.
"Good. I'm gonna hold you to that."
Mick just nodded, knowing there was nothing he could say. Josef never makes idle comments. Mick knew he wouldn't get away with stalling so long again.
"And another thing," Josef continued. Mick sat up a little straighter as Josef's eyes speared him. "I don't care what happens between us, now or ever. Even if I have reason to be angry or at odds with you, even if we're fighting. I will never, ever, deny you what you need. Do you understand?"
Eyes wide at realizing he was outed, Mick just nodded. He was just a little taken aback by the stern tone.
Josef gave a little shake of his head. " Uh uh. I wanna hear it, Mick."
"I understand," Mick complied quietly.
"Good," Josef nodded once, and Mick relaxed.
"You let yourself suffer, prefered it, to just coming to terms with something you don't want.
That's not healthy. You're young, Mick,-"
"Oh, god, Josef," Mick interrupted, groaning in frustration, his temporary intimidation gone. He let his head fall back against the seat again. "Not this again. Please!"
"I'm not finished, Mick."
Mick raised his head at the elder vampire's tone, just as Josef had intended. He glared at Mick until the younger looked properly chastened, then continued.
"I know this changes things with us, Mick. A little. But I'm not understanding why you're having such a hard time with this. It's not like it'll be forever-."
Mick raised his eyebrows at Josef- oh, really?- and Josef read the expression clearly.
"I mean," he amended, " we'll always have this bond, as long as we're both still alive. But not always to this intensity, you know that. Right now you're almost like a new turn- Yes, yes! I know, you're not really a new turn- " he impatiently interrupted Mick's oncoming protest, waving him into silence with a flapping hand- " but you have the reactions and instincts of a new turn. May I continue? Thank you." He had to smother a smile at Mick's surly expression and pouting demeanor. "It's intensity will fade in time. But right now, you could damage yourself emotionally and phsychologically by fighting it too hard while it's needed. I've seen it happen, Mick. The problems abandoned or rejected fledgelings acquire, and it's never pretty. And they're usually terminated before their issues cause more problems, dangerous problems. You've always been your own worst enemy, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna let you endanger yourself for your own selfish reasons!"
Josef's speech had turned into a tirade, and he punctuated the last word with an angry fist slamming into the top of his desk has he sat tensely forward. His eyes were burning with the intensity.
Mick flinched backward into the chair at Josef's anger, but he stubbornly held his ground. "I know it'll fade some, but that will take years. Josef, I could be bound to you with a fledgeling's needs for a good twenty or twenty-five years. Maybe even longer. I know it doesn't always take that long, but sometimes it does. Or what if, God forbid, it never goes away? This is a new situation. Maybe because this is my second turning, it sticks longer, or something. We just don't know."
"No, we don't," Josef replied, calmer. "But what choice do you have but to deal with it? You talk as if you got the short end of the stick out of this deal, but there are life-long repurcussions for me too, you know. Taking on a fledgeling is a big deal. A sire is responsible for so many things. Thank God you don't have to be socialized. But there's still training,-" Mick frowned at that one, and Josef knew his friend didn't even realize what he'd missed in a good
sire- " protecting, mentoring. Even disciplining and monitoring, because a sire is responsible for the actions of his childe and can be held just as accountable if he's found lacking, based on a turn's behavior. I'm now responsible for your well- being, and whatever that entails. Forever. It's not an easy thing, Mick. And frankly, it can be daunting. I might not always do what's right, but I'll always have your best interest in mind. And there are going to be times in our long future that I only hope you can remember that when it doesn't seem like it to you. Or when I make mistakes."
Mick looked away, then back at Josef. "I'm sorry. I guess I never thought of it like that. It doesn't make me like it any better right now, though. It's alot to take. I'm trying to change- in just day- the thought processes it took me fifty years to form. It's hard. But I'll try, okay? That's all I can promise for now."
"That's all I ask. For now." Josef made sure Mick was aware of the veiled threat that he would force the issue later, if necessary.
There was an akward silence for a moment then Mick looked across at Josef with a sly grin. "So, the mighty Josef Kostan admits he could make a mistake, huh? That's one for the record."
"That's privelaged information. Don't spread it around."
"I won't anytime soon. I'll add it to my 'possible blackmail ammo' list. It could come in handy for future use."
"Remember, I know where you live."
Mick just gave a little smile. His sleepless days had suddenly and unexpectedly caught up with him and Josef watched as his eyes fought to close against Mick's will. Josef stood up and walked around his desk to reach the other man's seat.
"C'mon," he encouraged the exhausted vampire as he pulled him to a standing position. He moved him over to the couch against the wall and let him flop down. By now Mick was more asleep than awake and he made no protest as he lay stomach down on the leather couch. Josef considered taking Mick to his own freezer, but he figured he'd be okay for a few hours on the couch. His hunger would likely wake him before he could sleep as long as he would really need to anyway. Then Josef would supply him with his meal, then let him sleep some more if he wanted. He could move to a freezer then, if he needed to.
Josef stared for a moment at the figure on the couch, wondering how anyone could hold so much stubbornness and will power, and yet lack common sense so much of the time.
He felt a sudden rush of tenderness toward the younger vampire. He reached down and placed his hand lightly on the back of Mick's head.
"Sleep," he whispered quietly.
Then he stood up and exited the room, glad Mick was not aware of Josef's moment of tender weakness. He'd never live it down.
It would probably be added to Mick's 'possible blackmail ammo' list.