Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Supernatural. All rights remain. Written for fun, not profit.
Author's notes: Written for twistedshorts August Fic-a-Day. Someone requested this Fic-For-All pairing, and I couldn't resist trying it out. Setting for SPN is sometime between S2 and S5, while Jo is off on her own.o)O(o
"Find your calm."
Those were the first words he'd spoken to her since he'd hopped into the driver's side of the van. The hunter had given her a couple quick glances but hadn't commented on her wound, or even acknowledged it, other than to press a spare t-shirt against the tear of denim and gesture for her to apply pressure. Jo did just that, but, eventually her hands dropped away, letting the red seep to surface.
It wasn't particularly deep, just jagged and messy, the way bites tended to be. And, slowing the flow of blood wouldn't help her.
She didn't want to think about what came next, so she watched the shadowed silhouette of his face. "My calm?" she asked. The broken huff that followed was her only means of stopping the sob building in her throat. She wondered, in that solemn silence, if this was what her daddy had felt, when he'd met his end. "I don't think that's gonna work."
The man kept his eyes on the patchwork excuse for a road. The old farm, where a body lay broken and naked, was far behind them. She bit her lip when he slowed, pulling down a dirt drive that seemed to lead to nowhere. The van rolled to a stop, and still he searched ahead. The heavy full moon shined clearly between the rows of darkened trees surrounding him and through the wide front windshield.
"You'd be surprised," he finally stated, and Jo couldn't remember what they'd been talking about.
Her hands were shaking, her breathing shallow, her forehead wet with sweat. She tried to hide it all, keeping her eyes on the other hunter instead.
The man almost appeared to be in pain, and Jo could understand why—the choices a hunter had to make weren't always easy. She tried to lighten the load. "I…I can do it on my own," she said, softly. "But, I don't have the right knife on me. Do you have any silver rounds left?"
He blinked, his gaze dark and intense when he turned to stare at her. For the first time she realized he was young, maybe only about her age. It was hard to tell with his rounded baby face and his spiky red hair. The sheep's wool coat over his shoulders seemed to swallow him whole.
Jo hadn't really noticed any of this when she'd been running around the side of the farmhouse, the beast on her tail, and he'd appeared, a gun in hand. What she had noted was the lack of shock on his face when he spotted the monster. It was better than words at conveying who he was, a fellow hunter who'd been investigating the same string of murders.
Jo winced, both because the cuts in her thigh were adding a fresh sting to their already deep throb and because she knew she'd done made a mess of this job. From the beginning, she knew she should have taken more time to investigate, but not a damned one of the reports had mentioned any missing hearts…If her momma knew she was doing such half-ass—
Christ. Her momma.
"I-I need to make a phone call first," Jo said. "Then we can get on with it."
Before she could flip her phone open, the man reached out, taking it from her. Jo watched, but didn't have it in her to argue. After all, she wasn't sure a final goodbye would be the best choice…Maybe he knew better. Maybe he'd been here before. Maybe he knew faster was easier.
"You're not going to die tonight."
Jo blinked, taking in the words in, repeating them in her head; the sentence didn't seem to make any sense. "You don't have to sugar coat this for me," she said, a little anger in her voice. "I know how the game is played. I was dealt a bad hand. Both of us know I can't walk away from a bite without…I'm not going to be a monster, and there isn't a hunter alive who'd just let me go."
He watched. Studied her. Waited. "The wolf doesn't have to win."
Jo didn't understand what that meant, or how much longer this guy was going to wait before putting metal into her heart, but some part of her enjoyed the sound of his words. It was cruelly hopeful, but she didn't care if it was lie; it was a comfort. For a moment, Jo Harvelle, soon to be dead woman, found her calm.o)O(o
The ground beneath her was cool, damp with morning, even though the basement was enclosed. Jo stretched, feeling the shredded blanket beneath her rip, caught in her foot. Tired and aching, she lifted herself into a sitting position, drawing her legs up to her body. Naked, chilled, and alive: her senses took in everything with vision too sharp, too many hints of mildew and sweat and musk invading her nostrils.
A hand reached up, cupping her shoulder. Next cam lips, which met her skin, planting a kiss there.
She didn't turn, watching the dimly lit dirt walls. Her hand ran down her body, found the scars at her thigh—it was far too healed to have been received just a month ago.
"How long will it take?" she asked, not for the first time. Her voice was hoarse from a night of yips and howls and growls.
She could almost feel Oz's shrug. He drew up closer to her, both his bare legs appearing on either side of her hips. Arms, stronger than they appeared, wrapped around her and pulled her back against his chest. Oz rested his chin against her neck, taking in her scent.
"Several more months. For some, years." His hug tightened. "But you're a fast learner."
Jo smirked. "You transitioned with me last night?"
He nodded against her. Oz didn't prefer words if he didn't need to use them, but Jo could hear what was unspoken, that it was a sacrifice for him to let the wolf out, even if it was just done to comfort her. A second kiss, against her jaw, promised her that he'd continue to change, every wolf night she needed him. If that wasn't motivation for her to learn control faster, Jo didn't know what was.
She couldn't keep doing this to him, not now that she knew what it felt like to let the monster rip itself free.
Oz had told her, that fateful night, more than she'd ever learned about werewolves from the hunters in the Roadhouse. About the different species. The ones who could be saved, the ones who couldn't. The ones who took hearts and the ones who ate flesh. The ones who stayed in wolf form when they were killed and the ones who changed back into humans. He told her about wolves who could control themselves and ones who couldn't; the man at the farm, the wolf who'd bitten her, had been the rare type who knew how to save himself and had chosen to be a monster instead.
Oz had been after him for just that reason.
Then, of course, he'd told her what he was. And what she could be, if she tried. If she didn't let the wolf win.
"You learn control. You stay alive so you can save others. Dying doesn't do anyone any good."
Jo hadn't heard him speak that many words again, since the last full moon.
She ran her fingers along his arm. "Other hunters, they wouldn't understand." Another thing she'd said one too many times already, as if she had to keep reminding herself. "I don't know if my mom would even understand."
Oz didn't need to speak. Jo could feel his answer in his movements, his warmth. His calm. "That's why we have to hide the wolf so well," he would have said, if she'd needed to hear it again.o)O(o
Jo watched the moon. It was early evening, a long night of driving ahead of her, but she ignored its taunting pull, pretending she didn't feel her blood catch on fire, didn't hear her wolf howling from its hiding spot, deep down.
"You want me to drive a bit?"
Jo smiled, giving her mother's slouching form a glance. The hunt was three states away and Ellen had spent the last ten hours prepping for it. Exhaustion was understandable. And, frankly, Jo was happy her mom was too tired to notice the gleam in her eye, the sweat on her forehead, the strain on her face.
"Nah, Momma, I've got it. Go back to sleep."
Ellen's breathing was already even again. Jo wondered if her momma would ever notice how her daughter's sleep habits had changed. Maybe it would never come to that. Maybe…maybe when it did, she'd understand. No maybes about it. She would, Jo assured herself, but now simply wasn't the time. When Jo had full control, when she was as good as Oz, then she could tell.
Jo felt the vibration in her pocket and pulled her phone free before it could ring. She flipped it open, not bothering with a hello."Find your calm?"
Jo watched the reflection of the moon on the slick surface of the highway. She would follow it, but never let it lead her. She would let the wolf howl, but never let it win.
"I did," she answered.
There was a pause, a breath of anticipation. Oz was good at silent promises; this one said they would see each other again soon. "Happy hunting,"
he finally replied. A goodbye-for-now.
Jo smiled, closing the phone. She held some small amount of guilt for living a lie, but what helped, what let her sleep when her head finally hit the pillow, was that she knew the truth of the matter: all hunters had monsters inside them, but the best hunters knew how to bury theirs deep.