The Best Birthday Ever
by Jenni

"As you grow older you will discover that the most important things
that will happen to you will often come as a result of silly things."
~~ Chaim Potok's- The Chosen
Later, they would all look back on how it could not have happened without a string of events that at the time had bothered each of them.
On the evening it came to pass...
JenniAnn felt guilty for having to back out of her promise to wrap Beth's birthday presents on behalf of her gift-wrapping challenged husband.  But little Annabelle's chicken pox kept mother and child tucked away at Willowveil Castle...
Andrew regretted that due to an assignment in a little French village that had went on far longer than he'd anticipated, he'd lost the time he'd meant to spend choosing a present for Beth.  When finally free, Andrew's gaze had settled on some beautiful wildflowers.  He recalled Beth's glowing smile when he'd delivered the humble bouquet around noon but was still wishing he had something less transient for his friend's birthday gift...
For her part, Beth was thoroughly disgusted that Mick couldn't pull himself together enough to wrap her presents until the very evening of her birthday, stalling their plans... 
And Mick was simply annoyed with the ribbons and the tape and the scissors and the  paper...
Mick set his materials out on the island in the kitchen.  He growled when the paper he tried to cut wound up with a ragged edge.  The first gift looked pitiful.  Frustrated, his movements grew sloppier and while cutting the paper in which he intended to wrap a necklace, the vampire's left hand struck the scissors. 
"Damn it all!" he shouted, staring at the cut across his palm and the blood oozing from it.  He knew the cut would heal within mere seconds but in the meantime he was dripping blood onto the presents and paper below.  His wife was ticked enough at his procrastination without him handing her jewelry crudely wrapped in blood stained paper.  Mick ran to the counter to grab some paper towels but on his return, his foot hit a spot of blood and he began to lose his balance.  Teetering, he clamored for something to grab onto. 
There was the noise of something sliding.  Then in the same instant he hit the floor came the sound of shattering glass.  Mick groaned and slowly sat up. 
"Uh oh..." he muttered, surveying the damage.
Spread on the floor around him were the remains of a crystal vase and the flowers Andrew had brought Beth.  Even worse, it had been a few of the flowers he had uselessly grabbed onto.  Those blossoms were ruined, crushed in his hand.  He was so focused on the wrecked gift and how their destruction would hurt Beth that he didn't notice that something very strange was happening.  It was only when he released the flowers and reached for the broken crystal that he saw it.
The trickle of blood hadn't eased.  If anything, he was bleeding even more.
"Oh God..." he murmured as he held his hand in front of him and stared at it.  A hope he hadn't felt for years began to stir in him.
"Mick!  What happened?!  I heard a crash!" Beth exclaimed, running into the kitchen.  "Good lord!" she cried.   She noted the discarded paper, drops of blood, shattered glass, crushed flowers, and in the midst of it all her husband was kneeling on the ground staring at his bloodied hand.  He looked up at her, pale and confused.  She wouldn't have given him such a hard time about wrapping her presents if she'd known the ordeal it would bring about!  "Oh, Mick...  It's okay."  She smiled tenderly at him and kissed his hair.  "My delicate flower," she teased before grabbing a dustpan and setting to work sweeping up the glass and saving the blooms which were still whole.  When she put what remained of Andrew's gift in another vase, she turned and saw her husband was still frozen.  And then, at last, she realized what had him so transfixed. 
Beth crouched near him and took his unharmed hand in hers.  She noticed he was shaking.  "M-mick... did you just recut that while I was cleaning?" 
"I... I was wrapping and the scissors..."
"So... that happened before I came in here?"  Beth took her eyes off the dripping wound just long enough to gauge her husband's emotional state.
He nodded, tears beginning to pool in his eyes.
"Mick, it took me at least three minutes to clean up...  so that... it's been bleeding for at least three minutes.  Usually... I mean... I've seen you cut yourself when you're shaving... the nick... it just disappears in the blink of an eye.  I... I've watched stake wounds close in seconds...   But that... that's still bleeding... a lot.  Like... you need stitches bleeding."  Beth was dazed.  It seemed like a dream, a dream she'd had so many times.  A dream she knew they both held dear.
"Y-yeah... I think I might need them.  But first..."  Still shocked, Mick managed to get to his feet.  He grabbed a towel and with Beth's help wrapped it tightly around his left hand.  Then he turned to the refrigerator.  He paid no attention to the bottles of blood on the top shelf.  Instead, he eyed the assorted food on the second shelf: "the human's shelf" they jokingly called it. 
Shaking, afraid their wild hopes would be disproved in a moment, Mick tried to open a carton of leftover Chinese food with only his right hand.  Beth drew near and helped him, producing a fork from a nearby drawer.
Beth watched her husband load up the fork.  It seemed to take an agonizingly long time.  She was tempted to grab a handful and shove it in his face.  But then it occurred to her: it had been years since Mick had reason to use eating utensils.  He needed time to reaccustom himself.  She waited patiently, holding her breath as he finally took his first bite of sweet and sour chicken.  She studied his face as he chewed then swallowed.
Mick stared into the carton, picking at the remainder with the fork.  He wrinkled his nose.
Beth's heart sank.  He hadn't tasted anything.  He wasn't cured.
Mick pierced a vegetable with his fork and lifted it out of the carton to show his wife.  "I forgot how much I hate green beans," he grinned before adding, "but this chicken tastes great."
Beth shrieked giddily and cradled Mick's face in her hands.  "Y-you're human again?"
Mick kissed her forehead.  "It sure seems that way."  He lifted his left hand, pointing out that the blood was beginning to seep through the towel.  "We may want to do something about this."
Beth laughed.  It was an odd feeling being elated by an open wound on someone she loved.  Odder still when he was smiling at her with such glee.  "Yeah, that would probably be a good idea," she finally choked out.  She kissed him and ran off to fetch the car keys.
Alone for a moment, Mick lifted his eyes and uttered two words: "Thank You."  He gathered up the carton, the fork, and another towel and moved towards the front door where Beth was waiting, murmuring her own prayer of thanksgiving.  Their eyes met and they grinned at each other.
"I... I never thought I'd be so happy to spend my birthday at the hospital," Beth said as she held the door open.
Mick chuckled as he stepped into the hall.  "Yeah, I guess I'll have to make this up to you big time.  Would you be available for dinner tomorrow, Mrs. St. John?  A real dinner?  For... for two?"
Beth choked back a sob and nodded.  It would be the first time she and Mick had ever truly shared dinner.  "I would love that, Mr. St. John."   
"Then it's a date.  As for tonight... I know you have rules about no food in your car but what do you say we live dangerously and split this on the way?"  He held out the leftovers.  "You can have all the green beans."
Laughing, his wife nodded.  "I suppose I can make an exception just this once."
Mick grinned and hugged her as they entered the elevator.  "Happy birthday, Beth."
Beth rested her head on his chest as the doors closed.  A new surge of happiness shot through her.  His heart was beating.  "Happy birthday to you, too, Mick," she murmured.  "I love you."
The newly reborn human smiled and buried his face in her hair.  "I love you, too," he replied with a contented sigh.  It truly was the best birthday he'd ever known.
"'Weeks passed, and the little Rabbit grew very old and shabby, but the Boy loved him just as much,'" Andrew read to the little girl resting in his lap.  "'He loved him so hard that he loved all his whiskers off, and the pink lining to his ears turned grey, and his brown spots faded.'"
"Poor bunny," Annabelle cooed, stroking the illustration in the book.  "Daddy, bunny's go like this." 
Andrew smiled as his splotchy daughter scrunched up and wiggled her nose in imitation of a rabbit.  Next thing he knew, she was off his lap and hopping about the room.  He chuckled, grateful that he'd offered to take Belle to his old place after his last assignment of the day so JenniAnn could at last get some sleep.  Regardless of the discomfort the chicken pox were causing, it was obvious the virus had done little to diminish the girl's energy level.  "You're an absolutely adorable bunny, kiddo," he complimented.
"I even have spots!"  Annabelle pointed out some of her pox then began scratching at them.
"Belle, try not to do that, okay?  You'll make them sore.  Here."  Andrew knelt beside her and dabbed some calamine on her arms.  He was finishing when the phone rang.  "Let me get that and we'll get back to our story, okay?"
The little girl nodded and sat down to pet Lulu while her father took the phone into the kitchen.
Andrew was surprised when the caller ID revealed Beth as the caller.  He hadn't expected her to take time out of her birthday celebration with Mick to call, especially when they'd spoken earlier.  "Hey Beth, happy birthday again.  What's going on?" he greeted.
Andrew blinked as he took in what the ecstatic woman on the other end was saying.  A kitchen accident.  A cut.  Mick was waiting to get stitched up.  Cured.  All vital signs were perfectly normal... for a human.  Cured.  He'd eaten.  Actually eaten.  He had a heartbeat.  Cured.  She kept saying the word over and over.  Then she launched into a stream of gratitude about her birthday flowers.
The angel of death raised an eye brow.  Something Beth and Mick had prayed for unceasingly over the years had apparently come to pass and all Beth could think to express gratitude for was a bunch of hastily picked flowers?
"Andrew, did those flowers come from France, by chance?" the woman asked.
"Yeah, they did come from France but I don't understand... I mean Mick's cure is a whole lot bigger of a deal, Beth!" Andrew exclaimed.
He heard Beth draw in a deep breath over the line.  "Andrew, you don't understand.  Those flowers are the cure.  When Mick cut himself, he inadvertently grabbed onto them and crushed them into the wound.  Coraline had said the cure came from a rare wildflower in France.  That's... that's why we'd go over there every so often.  To search, to hope.  But we never found it but you... you did.  Andrew, *you* cured Mick."
The angel gasped.  Stunned, he sat down on the floor, bracing himself against the counter.  "Thank You, Father," he whispered.
Mick's voice broke through on the phone.  "Believe me, He's heard that from us, too."  
Before he could respond, Andrew heard some commotion on the other end of the line.
"Andrew, I have to go.  They're here to do the stitches."
"Okay.  Mick, I'm very happy for you."
"We're very happy, too.  Andrew, before I go I... we... just want to say... thank you.  For being a part of this.  Maybe later this week I could swing by to try some of that orange juice and ginger ale concoction you drink?  I've only been hearing about it for a decade."
Andrew chuckled.  "Yeah, Mick.  Sounds great.  Good bye." 
After the couple shouted their farewells back, a dazed Andrew continued to hold the phone.  He only realized there were tears splashing down his cheeks when Annabelle entered.
"Daddy!  Don't be sad!  What's wrong?"  She threw her arms around him.
Andrew smiled at the little girl and returned her hug.  "It's alright, Belle.  I'm not sad at all.  Sometimes people cry when they're happy."
"Something good happened?"
"Very good.  To Mick and Beth."
"What happened?!" Belle asked, hopping with excitement. 
Andrew paused.  They'd kept the truth about Mick away from the little girl at his request so he wasn't sure how to explain to her what had come to pass that night.  After a moment, he settled on the truest answer.  "A miracle happened, Belle.  A miracle from God."
"Good!  A miracle, a miracle, a miracle," Annabelle chanted as she danced around.
The angel beamed at her and tousled her hair before joining in her celebratory dance, thanking the Father with each step and feeling immense happiness for his friends.
The End... for now
Notes: Andrew was reading "The Velveteen Rabbit" so that's where the story quote comes from.  I really had intended for the cure to surface in some big, dramatic way.  But that Chaim Potok quote has always seemed so true to me.  So it seemed totally believable to me that in the end the cure would just come down to a sick kid, work rush, and procrastination.
In "Moonlight," Coraline told Mick that the cure came from a concoction made with a rare flower in France that you applied to an open wound.  But I got to thinking: what if she lied?  What if the flower was the full cure but she diluted it and made it only temporary so she could dangle the full-blown cure over Mick's head?  So I went with that.

ETA 7-20-14: In the original version, Annabelle was consistently referred to as that and Andrew as "Uncle Rew."  The problem with flash forwards is one doesn't exactly know how things will evolve.  So now "Uncle Rew" is Daddy" and some Annabelles have been swapped for Belles.

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