The next afternoon, Mick woke early enough that he had time before his vistit to Josef to make a few more phone calls concerning his new case. He'd only stayed at Josef's long enough the night before to drink from the freshie and talk to Josef for awhile. About an hour after dawn, Josef had called and informed Mick that he had something he wanted to speak to him about and he would expect him at the mansion that evening.
Mick was extremely curious, but Josef had refused to discuss whatever it was over the phone. That made him a little apprehensive, as well.
In the file, the girl's father had given him a list of his daughter's friends and even some known acquaintances of the girl's boyfriend. As it turned out, he made quite a bit of headway. This was the earliest into a case he'd ever made this much progress so quickly. But most of the people he'd spoken to were eager to help however they could. It seems maybe Dana didn't leave willingly after all, he deduced after hearing several accounts from the girl's friends and the boy's co-workers. Apparently, there had been suspicions of abuse, and it was testified that the young man had a volatile and unpredictable temper.
After following up on a couple leads from Dana's friends, Mick thought he'd found her already. A young man and young woman fitting thier descriptions had checked into a seedy motel in San Diego. But if they had, they'd done it under false names. One of those 'don't ask, don't tell' places, he figured. He would have to see them to make sure it was them, and besides, if she was there unwillingly, she might need help getting away from him. But he didn't think it could wait. It seems they'd been moving around quite frequently, and if he put it off he might lose the lead. They could move on and he'd have to begin searching again. If she was being abused and forced to stay with him, that was unacceptable. He thought of the girl's worried father, who'd known something wasn't right with his daughter. He knew what he had to do.
Josef's not gonna be happy about this, Mick thought to himself.
Just as Josef was starting to think he was going to have to call Mick and remind him that he was expecting him, he felt his friend arrive. Moments later he was informed of Mick's arrival by his house employee. Josef could feel Mick's nervousness as he entered the room. At first he put it off as anxiety over the reason he'd asked him to come, but he sensed that wasn't the issue. And Mick had been with Josef for the past two nights, so he knew it was too soon for him to need that kind of attention. Anyway, it didn't feel like that kind of unease. Josef can always tell.
It was something else.
"Mick," Josef greeted.
"Hey, Josef," Mick answered with a nervous little smile.
"I was starting to wonder if I was gonna have to send out a search party."
"Nope. I'm here."
"Good. There's something I want to talk to you about before the Community gathering tomorrow night."
Mick slowly sat in the chair next to Josef's and crossed one ankle over the opposite knee. The casualness he was trying to pull of with this pose was betrayed when his ankle began to jiggle nervously. He seemed oblivious to this tell.
"Okay," Mick agreed. "But there's something I need to talk to you about, too."
Well. Apparently he wouldn't have to wait to find out what had Mick so wound up.
"Okay," Josef said curiously. " You first. Shoot."
Mick licked his lips nervously and opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again.
"I could use dinner," he announced abruptly. "Have any good choices waiting for a call?"
Josef wasn't sure what he'd been expecting Mick to say, but it wasn't that. "Wait a minute. Not that I'm going to knock any instant progress, but you want a freshie? Without me practically forcing you?"
"Sure," Mick shrugged one shoulder. "Why not?"
Josef's curiosity drifted into suspicion. What's this all about?
"Not hungry? That's fine. How about a chess game? The lessons are getting interesting." Mick's tone was nervous and eager.
Josef suddenly came to the conclusion that Mick was playing him. Or trying to. He was using tactics he'd thought would appease Josef, to soften whatever blow he was about to deliver.
Yep. His young friend was up to something.
Josef settled himself more comfortably against the back of his seat. He settled his elbows on the arms of the plush chair and intertwined the fingers of one hand with the other and rested both hands casually across his stomach. He let put a stony expression on his face, and he saw Mick swallow nervously. The younger vampire knew the game was up.
Josef was a master at intimidation.
"Spill it, Mick."
"I picked up a case."
"Well....I'm gonna have to go out of town. To San Diego."
Josef frowned. "I'm not sure that's such a good idea, Mick."
"I should only be gone two or three days."
Is this what he'd been worried about? Telling him he had to go out of town? San Diego's not too far, it could be workable. "I guess you should be fine if you spend the evening before you leave here with me, and come to me immediately on your return. San Diego's not too far. If you think you'll need to stay longer, you could always come back for a night and then return the next evening to do whatever it is you do on a case. But remember, Mick. We don't want a repeat of what happened to you a couple weeks ago."
Josef had had passing worries about what would happen when Mick felt the need to regain as much independence as he could. Mick was not a completely new turn. He'd already had a life in place and his own career before he'd been re-turned. Josef knew they'd have to come to some kind of compromise. If Mick had been a true infant, he would not be allowed out of Josef's supervision for a good while, but thank goodness that's not the case. They both knew now that Mick was strongly dependant on Josef now for an indeterminate amount of time, but neither of them wanted Mick to have to give up his lifestyle just because it.
Mick nodded eagerly. "I know, Josef. I'll be careful."
But Josef still heard nervousness in Mick's voice. There was more.
He waited a moment to see if Mick would offer the rest willingly, but he didn't seem so inclined. "When will you be leaving?"
Mick hesitated, then... "Soon."
Josef now had an idea where this was going. He narrowed his eyes and speared Mick with a glare. "How soon?"
Mick squirmed a little under the intense gaze, then said, "I planned on going tonight, but I'd never get there before dawn. I'm leaving early tomorrow evening."
Josef's glare turned sterner. "No. You're not."
"Josef, I have to. It's my job, people are depending on me."
"People are depending on you around here, too, Mick. Are you forgetting about the Community meeting tomorrow night?"
"I haven't forgotten, but... is it really so important that I be here?"
"You really have the nerve to ask me that?"
"What do you expect me to do? My client's counting on me. I promised to find his daughter for him, she might be in a bad situation."
"You've known me for a long time, Mick. You know by now that I don't care about the plight of humans. I'll tell you what I expect you to do. I expect you to either forget it altogether or put it off until after tomorrow night, but you're not going anywhere until after the meeting."
"Why are you being such a hard ass about this, Josef? It's not that big a deal!"
"I'll tell you why. The reason I wanted to talk to you tonight. Some elders- and not just yours, Mick, my elders too- have become interested in our.... situation. They're going to be here tomorrow night and they want to meet you."
"I don't care about them."
"Well you'd better. These aren't the kind of people to ignore. You don't want to be on their bad sides, and I'm certainly not going to let you put yourself there so you can run off and play hero."
"Well they can be interested in our situation without me here! Turn on the charm, Josef, you'll keep them entertained enough for both of us."
Josef ignored the sarcastic barb and stood up gracefully from his seat. Out of an instinctive sense of self-preservation, Mick hastily exited his own seat and retreated a couple steps from Josef, then stopped.
Josef laughed to himself. Seems the boy has some common sense, after all. He stopped a couple feet from Mick and stared at him until he looked away. When he next spoke it was with false calm. "You are going to be here, Mick. You're going to make yourself presentable and appear for their inspection like a good little vampire. Just like I am. You are not leaving town."
Mick threw up his hands and heaved a frustrated sigh. "Josef! You can't just.....Dammit! Do you see?! Do you see now why I'm having a hard time with this? I don't need someone monitoring my every move! And I don't need someone else that takes heat if I do something wrong! I just want things back to normal. It's not fair!"
"There's no such thing as fair, Mick. It is what it is. And this is our normal now. Get used to it." As much as Josef cared about the younger vampire- and those feelings had multiplied a hundredfold since he'd turned him back- he was tired of coddling him. He was going to have to face reality sooner or later.
Mick stared at Josef for a second, looked away, then back. A little calmer. "I'm not so sure I can, Josef."
Josef's heart gave a sympathetic tug for his friend as he heard the almost plaintive tone in his voice.
"I mean, think about it, Josef. Think about it happening to you. Imagine being bound to someone all over again, but without losing your age, experience or power. It's even more restricting than the first time, because age-wise, I need it less. It's like....like... like an adult being made a child all over again, while still being an adult on the inside. You've got to give me some leeway here."
"Leeway I don't have a problem with, Mick. But you have to make concessions, too, you know. Even before the turning I would have expected you to be at an important meeting, and you would have had no problem doing as I ask. It's the change in our relationship you're fighting. You admitted as much yourself last time we had this discussion. It's just when you don't get your way that you suddenly have problems with it. Well, Mick, the circumstances under which things have changed are unique, but the nature of the change is not, and you know it. It's in our nature, and part of vampire society. Being your sire dictates that regardless of how good or bad our relationship, there will be times you'll have to answer to me or that I have to make decisions that are best for you, or on your behalf. And there will be times you'll seek me out for answers, as well. It's a give and take relationship. You've always called me your mentor, Mick. This is just a few steps higher in that direction."
Josef paused in his winded speech to see if Mick had anything to respond with. Mick just glared, no response forthcoming, so Josef hardened his face and his voice and continued.
"But all that aside, Mick. We've talked those issues to death, and it's an argument for another time. You're acting like a pouting teenager because you can't have your way. You have to be at the meeting tomorrow night. We both do. That's all there is to it."
Silence. Mick just stared. Then, through gritted teeth, he growled out, "Fine."
Mick spun on his heel and headed for the door.
"I mean it, Mick," Josef called out to his friend's retreating back. He felt that, given Mick's usual stubbornness, the younger vampire had given up much too easily. "If I find out you try to go anywhere, you'll never get past the city limits before I bring you back."
Mick just waved a backward hand at him before he disappeared into the hall, but Josef didn't know if it was in angry dismissal or acknowledgement of his threat.
Now alone, Josef let himself flop down and sprawl back in one of the room's comfortable chairs. He felt wrung out, these little battles with Mick took a lot out of him.
Great, he thought. Another crisis in the Mick St. John saga.
He shook his head, wondering if he was just going about this all wrong. He wondered if Mick was testing him in some way. Only Mick could make him doubt himself.
"Kids," Josef Kostan muttered in frustration.
Mick was right. Josef hadn't been happy. But now neither was Mick. He didn't like the idea of possibly losing the lead on his case by waiting two days before doing anything about it, but it looked like he didn't have much choice. Josef always followed through on his threats and probably already had someone keeping an eye on Mick by now. Mick knew Josef really would have him brought back. And as much backbone as Mick usually has standing up to Josef when he felt the need to, that was not an encounter he would care to experience.
But what bothered him even more than that is the fact that much of what Josef said had struck a nerve. Lately, that's kind of how he'd felt whe he was around Josef. Like a teenager waiting for approval from an admired adult. And Mick knew that some of that was their new bond, but he didn't have to like it. And as much as he'd like to blame Josef for their arguments, Mick was aware that they usually started with himself. But if Josef would just stop treating him like a newborn fledgeling, then Mick wouldn't have a problem.
He tried to push down the creeping thought that he really knew Josef was doing his best balance it all out.
No. Mick was going to have to get it across to Josef somehow. Obviously, talking- or fighting- doesn't work. It was time for a little more....aggression.
Another disturbing thought- he really was starting to sound like a pouting teenager. No, he told himself. Don't go there. Focus. How to show Josef how I really feel? And maybe get him back in the process.
Let's see. What would bother Josef the most? For Mick to stay away would surely affect him. But no. It would affect Mick, too, in a bad way, and anyway, he wasn't looking for something that would damage their relationship. Just something that would make Josef uncomfortable, make him take notice. What kinds of things does Josef care about? Appearances, for sure. His reputation.
And tomorrow night's vamp gathering at Josef's place would be the perfect time, too. It's mandatory for every vampire in the Community to be there, and there will also be the Elders Josef was talking about. Mick let a small, excited smile cross his face as he pulled up in front of his building. This could be fun.
He wasn't quite sure yet what he was going to do, but the obvious first start would be with Mick himself. Now that he's Josef's fledgeling, his actions reflect back upon the older vampire.
The tiny little thought that maybe this wasn't such a good idea tried to push it's way forward, but he shoved it as far back as he could and continued planning.
Oh, yeah. This could really be fun.