|The East Everlasting
Author: LetThemRot PM
Working alone is the single most dangerous thing a hunter can do. Jo hasn't got many options when it comes to companions, so she takes what she can get.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Angst - Jo H. & Balthazar - Words: 1,381 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 2 - Published: 06-23-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8247625
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
There's rain beating out a steadily-building tattoo against the truck's roof when Jo startles awake. Straight ahead of her, the sun is rising from the swell of the earth, beaming directly into her eyes, only a few wispy clouds blazing pink and orange and gold to mar the crisp skies. The storm front is rolling in from the west; when she twists in her seat, shoving aside last night's Taco Bell to grab for her water bottle, she is struck by a sky that is nothing short of black. Even the waking of the sun can only do so much. Black skies, black ground, and black water in between, closing around her to hold back dawn's light.
Jo tries to remember if she saw a storm in the forecast last night, brow furrowing, before realizing that she never even bothered to check. Stupid, stupid, stupid. She'd just been so tired, and this stretch of the Midwest was so barren of civilization, it had seemed better to camp out on the road's shoulder than keep driving in the probably-vain hope of finding a motel with Wi-Fi.
Stupid, stupid Joanna Beth. No wonder Ellen was always harassing her about getting a partner, someone full-time. I don't trust that angel, she would say. They're sneaky bastards, loyal to their Father above all else, no matter what they say. That thing'll leave you tied up in front of a wendigo's hideout someday, mark my words.
The problem is that no hunter wants to work with a little girl, not even if she is Bill Harvelle's offspring, so that thing is all she has watching her back.
Fidgeting at her neck, Jo wraps the thin chain of the dogtags around her index finger and fishes them from under the oversized T-shirt she wears to hide the gouges from last week's demon that are still healing across her shoulders. She still has no idea who Sebastian Roché is – hasn't found a trace of him anywhere on the internet. He doesn't matter right now; not as much as the creature wearing his skin.
The steel plates are body-warm where they are pressed against the flat of her palm. "Balth," she breathes into the darkness.
"Hello, darling." Kicking his feet up onto the dashboard in one smooth motion, Balthazar blinks at the rising sun. "Bloody hell, that's bright. You know, if you wanted to burn your eyes out, you could have just asked to see my wings and gotten it over with."
"Shut up." Jo pokes a hand into the Taco Bell bag and emerges with the second half of a burrito. She gives it a cautious sniff, then takes a bite. "I' dis you?" she asks through a mouthful of ground meat, waving her breakfast at the onrushing deluge. "Or d'I got demons t' deal wit'?" She takes another bite; screw common courtesy and her tastebuds – she's hungry.
For his part, Balthazar seems more amused than offended. "It's always me," he offers. "Some part of it – of every storm you'll ever see."
That makes Jo give him a wary look and pause between mouthfuls. "Even the ones caused by demons?"
"Even the ones caused by demons." Leaning forward, Balthazar licks his thumb and rubs at a spot on his shoe while speaking. "Don't look so distraught; it gives you hunters something to look for, doesn't it? What else do you have to go on? Cattle mutilations?" He snorts, derisive. "Was that it, then? You pulled me out of a rather delightful ménage a douze."
"You didn't have to come."
"True." His gaze lingers on the dogtags, lying on the outside of her shirt, atop her pathetic excuse for a bust. "Yet here I am."
Jo swings so she's facing him more, and leans over her meal so that the cloth falls away from her chest, hiding its flatness. Tangling her fingers in the chain with one hand while the other delivers the last bit of burrito to her mouth, Jo chews and swallows while she waits for Balthazar to drag his eyes away. He doesn't, so she takes it upon herself to speak. "Why are you here, Balth?"
Blue eyes flicker up to hers. "You called," he says dryly.
"Which I was only able to do because of something you gave me." The blunt edges of the steel are biting into her palm. "And you've got – what was it – eleven people waiting for you to get back? Are they Italian? Or French? Or maybe they're Brazilians – eleven Brazilian women with bodies like dreams, maybe another man or two in there with them to liven things up, but they're all waiting for you to finish up with this little trivial errand so you can all get back to-"
"Why are you angry?"
"I'm not angry," Jo says on instinct, but her throat's closed up and she wants to hit something. Distantly, she realizes that she can't see the sun anymore – the storm has swallowed them, and outside is nothing but shifting sheets of gray. "I'm not angry," she repeats. "I want to know why the hell you're here."
That thing'll leave you tied up in front of a wendigo's hideout someday.
When Balthazar reaches over, there's a bare, stilted second of hesitation before his palm cups her cheek. "You called," he repeats.
"That's not-" He flicks up one finger, silencing her.
"You called, and – you can tell your mother this – I will always come when you call, Joanna Beth." His smiles crinkles up the corners of his eyes. "Darling."
"Don't call me that," she mutters. "Go back to your Brazilians."
"They're Italians; you were right the first time. And I think not."
She blinks. "Think not what?"
"I'm not going back to them. A case of blue balls will do a person good, every once in a while."
"You have got to be kidding me."
Balthazar huffs, though whether he's amused or exasperated she can't say. "Darling-"
"Don't call me that."
"- there are more important things in this world that ménage a douzes. Especially when those can easily be converted into ménage a onzes."
Jo stares at him. "I don't understand where you're going with this."
"Bloody stupid human, you are," he grumbles, and kisses her.
She has a blazing sensory imprint of ozone and rain and a faint skein of lightning threading through everything, but then the door handle is digging into her spine and she's got a booted foot planted on Balthazar's chest, though he hasn't move from his seat. "What the fuck was that?" (Is that a knife in her hand? It is. Good ol' instincts.)
The angel – that's it; that's what he is: a fucking angel, a thing, a monster wearing an innocent man's skin – appears totally unperturbed. "You asked where I was going," he says simply. "Was that not a sufficient answer?"
Something that is simultaneously frozen and molten is roiling in her belly. "You're a freak," she spits. "You're – you're…"
"Not human," he offers, expression darkening. "The enemy."
Her breathing falters. "…Y-yeah."
They sit, silent, with that word and its acknowledgement hanging in the air. Water pummels the steel around them, and Jo squeezes her eyes shut, fingers curling tighter around the knife handle to ground herself.
Balthazar's chest rises and falls under her boot with every breath he takes. Somehow, it's that small detail that breaks her. "This is so fucked up," she tells the steering wheel as she sits back up and tucks the knife away.
"Not like this," she mutters, slotting the keys back into the ignition. She pauses before starting the engine and forces herself to look up. He's watching her intently, both hands now folded in his lap. "Last chance to go back to your ménage a whatsit."
"Douze." He lifts one hand to flick the Taco Bell bag off the center console and into the backseat. "I'd rather be here."