A/N: So I got a request from Kittenamos for a fic about what could have happened in that moment if Josh made it to Nora the first time she changed into a wolf. I loved the idea and I was pleased as all get out to be asked, so here it is Kittenamos! It took awhile; I've been busy with work and have been hellaciously sick for a week, but it's done. It feels kind of strange for me to be writing a male Josh instead of the female version that's been living in my head this past year. :P My apologies for the tense differences, I tried to fix it as best as I could so it doesn't come across too weird. I'll probably come back and fix this when I'm not hopped up on medication. Note to self, sickness does not a good writer make.
Something had been wrong, he'd known it, felt it, and really should have seen it coming. But he'd just been so overtaken by her acceptance; here was the woman he loved telling him that it was okay, that what he was didn't bother her and she still wanted to be with him. He should have known when she started asking questions; wanting to know what it felt like, did he like it, hate it? It wasn't easy for him to talk about and he had never wanted her to know that part of him, the ugliness that lurked under his skin bidding its time until the moon was ripe.
He'd been evasive, frustrated even, which had in turn frustrated her, but couldn't she see that he just wanted it all to be separate? There was the wolf and then there was the life that he was trying to build; the normalcy he so craved. She was part of that, his wonderful Nora, and he just wanted to keep her away from the monster that he was every time the moon was full. What was that saying? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. He'd had the best of intentions and he'd even dared to hope, which was something that was a scarcity in his life. He should have known… ++++
The tension in the car was palpable; Josh felt like he was on a razors edge. Why did she have to insist on driving him out there? Why had he finally agreed? Glancing over at his girlfriend as she stopped the car, the only answer he could find was that he felt he owed it to her, that it was rude to not take up her offer of a ride, when she seemed so adamant that she just wanted to do something for him; after all how was it different then Aidan dropping him off? And yet, he felt that just by having her there in the car with him he was endangering her.
"Thanks," Nora's voice was soft as she spoke, and he again felt bad for his earlier dismissal of her offer. "for letting me do this."
"Sure." He closed his eyes briefly, his tone resigned.
Nora seemed to ignore it though as she spoke again, "When I was freshman in college I woke up in some theater major's apartment with my clothes across the room; my hair still smelling like vomit. I'd puked in front of the entire party. Repeatedly, while reciting stopping by the woods on a snowy evening, just to prove I wasn't drunk." Her tone was wry, almost cynical in that way that only Nora could pull off; it was one of the things he loved about her, but at the moment all he could think was what does this have to do with anything.
She shook her head, as if to dislodge the memory. "The point is, once you've picked your naked way across a theater geek's living room, in the cold light of day after a vodka binge-"
Josh shook his head, "Its not the same thing Nora."
"No," her gaze was earnest as she looked at him, and he found that he couldn't return it fully. "Its not the same thing. But the reason I want to be here for you is that I don't want you to feel alone in this."
Now he did look at her, understanding falling upon him. What had he ever done to deserve her? "You want to hold my hair back while I vomit."
"Yes," a slight smile touched her lips.
"Essentially." He nodded, feeling so many things in that moment, but mostly love. Part of him, a large part, he mused as he made his way into the woods, was glad that Nora was so willing and wanting to be there for him, especially after what had happened in the hospital during his last change. But a large part of him just felt tired by it all; he'd never wanted her involved, it felt wrong as if he was tainting her. More than that there was this niggling feeling of unease that he pervaded him all day, as if there was something just on the horizon; the other shoe dropping.
Its was as the change began to overtake him, causing his bones to shift, his blood to feel as if it were boiling and his insides began to rearrange themselves, that he heard the screams. They pierced right to his heart; the agony in them was so familiar. He was on his feet and running, his pain only second to what he knew she must be going through. There was only one thought in Josh's mind: get to Nora before the change takes over. He will reflect later, lament at what he has brought upon her, but now there is but one goal. He cannot let her go through this alone.
Josh skidded out of the trees and onto the dirt road where Nora's car was parked. The sight that met his eyes was truly one out of his nightmares; his worst fears. His wonderful, amazing, normal as they come girlfriend was half way through the change into wolf, her face already elongating, her hands, where they gripped the door as she tried in vain to pull her self out of the car, already clawed, her teeth, long and definitely canine, pushing from her jaw. Her eyes light upon him and the relief he saw there amongst the pain and fear just about broke his heart. He did this; she should not be glad to see him.
"Josh," her voice was barely there, but he could still understand her.
"Nora," he rushed forward, willing himself for once to be stronger than the change that was over taking him; he needed to be strong now, to help her. He grabbed the seat belt that was restraining her and yanked it from its fastenings, allowing her to scramble out of the car and onto the road where she hunched over with another sharp cry. Josh soon followed; he could feel his spine beginning to curve, could see her's doing the same, but he had to be push on if only for one more moment. Propelling himself forward he pushed at her as she convulsed, his force knocking her forward towards the trees. She seemed to get the hint because she began to crawl as best as she could into the foliage, as he followed, his own convulsions almost too much to do anything other than brace himself for the rest of the change. Somehow they made it away from the road though.
As the rest of the change was overtaking him, overtaking them, there was one clear moment when their eyes met. There was no condemnation in her gaze and he felt as if there should be. His last human thought, before the wolf took over, was of how sorry he was that he had ruined her. +++
When he wakes, it's to the bright piercing light of day, the taste of blood and dirt and bile in his mouth. At first he only lies there, readjusting to being back in a human body, feeling the strain of the change in his muscles still; and then he remembers. Its but a moment before he is on his feet, looking around, but there is no sign of Nora, no indication that she was even there. Josh wants to think it was all a horrible dream, but he knows that it can't be, after all when in the past few years had fate ever been kind to him really? Or to those around him. He raced back to his clothes and then to the car, searching, hoping that she will be there. But she wasn't, and his heart was in his mouth and he felt like he was going to throw up. Or have a heartache. Or both. It was only when he arrived home, to find her sitting on the front stoop, looking lost and oh so fragile that he began to calm down slightly.
"I looked everywhere for you-I thought you were…" he didn't know how to continue; she was looking at him with so much pain in her eyes; and he knew what she must be feeling, thinking. So instead he swallowed and asked "Are you okay?"
"I'm a little shaky," she admitted.
He reached out and touched her arm, traced the marks there, marks that he gave to her last full moon, which she had hidden from him.
"I did this to you." It is something that he will never make peace with, it will always haunt him somewhat even when things get better.
Josh tried to keep it together then, because he knew that he needed to be strong and support her. He tries not be accusing when he asks her why she didn't tell him what he had done; what she must have suspected had happened. Her questions made all the more sense now and he finds himself wishing that he had answered her better, prepared her. But how do you really prepare someone for the reality that is the agony of the change? He finds himself reflecting that its strange for him to be the one telling her that things can still be normal; this must be how Aidan felt every time he tried to prop Josh up. But Nora, always perceptive, always insistent that things be presented baldly, seems to know that it's a pipe dream and that they can't just pretend. There is nothing he can do; but he'll be damned if he doesn't try.
He promises her he'll find her a cure, a cure for them both.
"This is not what I wanted," she told him tearfully, "I wanted us to be happy. Not be together because we're monsters."
"I know," he felt so tired. "It all moved so fast. Too fast. And I know I don't look it right now, but I'm happy. You make me happy."
"Then why do I feel like we're completely screwed?"
He took her hand in his, caressing the softness of her skin. "Because that's the appropriate, non psychotic human reaction."
She moved closer to him then, resting her hand on his knee and her head on his shoulder. "Thank you, for coming back for me last night. I-it was less scary with you there. Somehow."
"Of course." He wanted to tell her that he would always come for her, always try and be there in her hour of need. Just like she offered a metaphorical hair hold to him, he wants to say that he will always do the same. But words, sometimes are not enough and so he doesn't say anything, just holds her close and wishes that he could push all their fears away, banish them. But he doesn't, because that would the biggest lie of all.+++
He should have known that this would happen; he'd known deep down that something was wrong. Its those moments, when you begin to hope that everything can be okay that get you; when reality seeps back in and slaps you in the face and says how dare you allow yourself to believe that dream. Only nightmares exist when your reality is anything but normal, and this was his worst nightmare come to life. He should have known…