North Glenn 
wanna drink a couple beers and shoot the shit?
I'll supply the beer if you supply the place !

After their (textual) conversation where Jo accidentally proposed starting a coyote band, she'd resolved to get to know Alex better. She knew a total of three things about her, after all: she'd turned Lia, Kai had turned her, and she owned a bunch of storage facilities for whatever reason. In other words, Jo knew basically nothing about her. But Alex seemed nice enough, not to mention she had offered instant support for Jo's misguided plan to shove these furry disasters into a cohesive group.

Per their agreement, Jo carried a six pack of beer under her left arm as she exited her truck outside of Alex's home. She paused there, hand on the door of her car, and pulled on her beast's senses. It didn't smell like bear, but she also wasn't entirely sure what a bear smelled like. Well, at least if a territorial Were killed her, it'd be a cool one and not something dumb like a rat.

Satisfied, she locked up her truck before ambling up to the door and rapping her knuckles against it.


 When the first text message had come through she had thought, perhaps, just maybe - it was a wrong number. She'd meant to text Lia or Kai (due to the nature of the text, she assumed Kai). The second one, however, made her grimace and panic for all of a few minutes, pace about her living room and try to come up with some sort of halfway logical excuse as to why it just wouldn't work. There was none - it would work.

 Sure. she was pretty sure Levka would come knocking if she doubled the coyote population in North Glenn early into her first month, a day visit - surely he could let that slide? Well, she sent a thumbs up emoji and her address and hoped that she wasn't making a piss poor assumption. That would be a great welcome to the neighborhood, a visit from the Were housing association.

 Nervous enough that she was waiting in the living room by the time Jo knocked on the door, she resisted the urge to go open it immediately and counted to thirty in her head. That was enough time - right? To not look like some over excited puppy? She hoped so, she was doing a lot of hoping these days - it was fairly terrifying. After she hit thirty she tugged on the hem of her shirt and pushed her hair back and off her shoulders, she ran her tongue over her teeth and tried to actually like - smile. It felt weird, she opened the door anyway and then it felt less weird at the sight of beer and an even vaguely familiar face.

 "Come in - fair warning, it's not exactly Pintrest worthy." The bare essentials of Ikea furniture, a TV, a couple of old and dog eared posters for concerts back in Seattle and Los Angeles before it. But if nothing else she hadn't had time to make a graveyard of fast food bags and empty paper cups, so ... way to strike while the iron was hot? "How're things going, anyways?"

Jo smiled wryly and raised an eyebrow. "Girl, I'm living out of my truck. Anything is Pinterest worthy at this point," she retorted. She stepped through the threshold and touched Alex's arm lightly as the passed, her beast using the opportunity to greet the woman's with a brush of flanks.

She surveyed the room briefly as she gestured vaguely with her free hand. "Same old, same old. Where d'you want me?" she asked, patting the six pack under her arm.

Following Alex's direction, she plunked down the evening's libations. Very little made Jo nervous, but a small knot of tension sat in her stomach, although not enough that she paid it any mind. "How's bear country treating you?"

 Touche. She supposed that was something to keep in mind - that even a poorly furnished home was better than a cramped back seat and not much else. She remembered those days, despite the fact that they were years in the rear view mirror by now. She remembered couch crashing and sleeping in backseats - given, the circumstances were different and Jo's sudden homelessness was the product of the biggest what-the-fuck Alex had personally encountered in a long time. Vampires, legit ones - not edgy kids gone too far.

 "Couch is fine, I don't know what you want to watch or ... do." She felt like a child on an uncomfortable play date. 'I got tv, you like tv?' So she focused on wondering into the kitchen and grabbing a bottle opener shoved into the top most drawer. "It's very ... rustic."

 She came back out and plopped down beside her, less than graceful as she popped one of the caps off and offered the bottle out to the coyote beside her. "I haven't ran into Levka since I moved - that's like, papa bear I guess?" Whatever. "But sometimes I can smell 'em, like when I'm going to get groceries or going on a walk or ... just occasionally. I don't know if they're like, certified yet." How did that work? She didn't pretend to know, but it seemed they would find out soon enough. "Anyway, it's really different from anywhere I've lived before."

 She teetered then, unsure what was being sociable and what was blabbering on and on. At any rate she decided to take the gamble and give a little bit more of her own history. "Cordova of course, Seattle, Los Angeles before that, ... Mobile." One of these things was not like the other's.

Jo shrugged nonchalantly. "I'm not picky." She wasn't even sure what was on TV nowadays -- she really only streamed Netflix over her phone, mooching off an old band mate as one last, unnoticed "fuck you" to the shithead who had nearly killed her. "I just figured we'd, y'know, sit around and talk and drink beer until we get bored of each orher." She grinned easily.

Alex flopped down on the couch beside her, and Jo angled her body slightly toward her, crossing one ankle at her knee. She accepted the bottle with a brief "thanks", glad that it was still mostly cold after she'd driven around in circles to find her way here.

She nodded and made an "mm" of acknowledgment as Alex explained the bear situation. As it was, Jo enjoyed nothing better than hearing peoples' about lives and listening to them recount stories. "Man, you've been around," she remarked. "I grew up in bumfuck Arizona, and I've mostly kept to the southwest."

"What brought you here? To Colorado, I mean. Clearly I know what brought you to North Glenn." She waved a hand dismissively at her own words.

 "Well, I'll try not to bore the shit out of you." She settled in her seat and pulled the cap off of her own beer, resisted the urge to turn the television on. It was a common and easily fix back at home growing up - uncomfortable silence? Basic cable. But ... she was supposed to be getting better, not coasting along - or at least that was what she had told herself.

 "I passed through Arizona once on a job, but I've never like - taken in the sights ..." Apparently whatever part Jo called home didn't have many of those. That was fine, the drive-by made it look like it was a shit hole anyway. She peeled at the wrapper around her bottle and pursed her lips as she played mental tug of war with her defenses.

 On one hand, Kai knew the truth - Lia to a lesser extent, Ben even knew an element of it ... Jo knew nothing. One the other, this was her maybe coyote Were boss and she wasn't sure about delving into the nitty gritty. "Business." She raised her drink, tipped it back and focused on the turned off television screen, the vague silhouettes of their bodies that reflected against the black. "I used to torture people for a living, that's how Kai and I met."

Well that wasn't the answer she expected. She covered her surprise (poorly) and delayed a response by taking a long sip of her beer, tipping her head back. Jo had gotten into some shit when she was younger, but nothing quite like that. "Ah," she said shortly, mind racing to come up with an appropriate response. Unfortunately, there wasn't really an appropriate response to "I used to torture people."

Jo scrutinized Alex's expression, even as the woman stared off into the dark screen of the TV. "You, uh—" she paused, considering her words, and then carefully changed track. "Thanks for telling me." That also sounded pretty dumb, but she did mean it. "Do you... want to elaborate? Or talk about it?" This was so not a discussion for casual beers. She should have brought fucking scotch or something.

 "Not really, I don't talk about it a lot." Given, this was only her ... fourth coyote, her first that made her feel smaller than ever and safer at the same time. Maybe that was why she was running off at the mouth, maybe it was an interest in trying to lay out all her cards so that Jo could at least see what she was working with. She thought about what she had said and then laughed, a dark bit of humor as she turned her body to more or less face her guest.

 "I just realized - Kai didn't work with me. Sorry if that was how it sounded." She didn't want to give the story - fact. Still, she recognized that there was no leaving it like this and moving on to chat about the absurdity of Mountainside weather. "I worked in trafficking ... human's." Not proud, not horrified - calm and a bit uncomfortable. "I don't do that shit anymore."

Jo thought about Lia's scars and the brand on her forearm, and her stomach turned over uncomfortably. "Ah," she repeated, filling in the silence as she processed. Another swig of beer gave her a moment to piece her thoughts together. At least Alex shifted to mostly face her -- that was a good sign, right?

She brushed the tidbit about Kai aside for now. One closet of skeletons at a time. "What do you do now?" Jo thought of the storage units Alex had mentioned the other day and could only picture them in the context of shitty crime movies, as big empty industrials with a single chair in the center and a swaying light overhead. Had she seriously suggested being king dickboss over a mafioso? Nice job.

 "Um, trafficking." She paused for a beat and then raised her free hand to stop any possible remark or confusion. "Arms ... weapons, I mean." She thought about Seattle and the things she had done, thought about her powers and then squinted at Jo. Did she need to know that? Probably not, it wasn't like it was still a thing. But - so far she was taking all of this pretty well, and there was something to be said for that.

 "You know that guy on the news everyone is shitting the bed about, the one that set himself on fire and then got his ass wrecked?" Perhaps not the most sympathetic description, but she was rushing to get this out while she still had the courage. "He has ... powers? I don't know him personally, but I did too - one time. I could like, make people see things? Hear them, feel them ... I used it back when I worked for - well, when I did ... interrogations."

 She patted her hand on her knee, bounced her feet and tried to keep from fidgeting as she went for a second beer and cursed Were tolerance for the millionth time. "I'm self-employed now so, if that's any comfort ..." Probably not though, she imagined.

... Powers? What, the fucking X-Men were real, too? She shouldn't be surprised, really. Vampires and Weres alone opened all sorts of doors to supernatural possibilities. Next thing she knew, there'd be fairies flitting around.

Still, Jo couldn't help but chuckle. "A small one," she agreed. At least Alex didn't have some scary boss she needed to worry about.

She glanced down at Alex's bouncing feet and shoved her own discomfort down. "You hiring?" she teased, a grin offsetting her words. (She tried not to think about how she did actually need a new job, considering that was also in the off-limits Cordova.)

Jo drained the last of her beer and set the empty bottle aside. She gestured for Alex to pass another one. "Well, I did come here to trade lurid gossip, but I don't have anything that quite compares to that."

 "I could be." It was said quick, decidedly fast as she cleared her throat and tugged on her sleeves. "I mean, if you were hard pressed - I could be. It's not too violent on the delivery level." She didn't bother going through the whole system, didn't want to risk turning Jo off when she seemed to be surprised but not outright aghast.

 "Well, I guess that's a good thing - I imagine people would prefer an honest leader." Silver linings and all that, she started on the label of the next particular bottle, dragged her nails over the bits of paper that clung to the glass to try to pry them up. "I'm still interested to hear anything you'd like to share. I'm sorry I uh, dumped that on you - I just thought ... if we're going to do this, I want to do it honest."

Not too violent. She waved off Alex's offer. She'd try her luck at finding a regular, nonviolent job -- with all the were and vampire shit going on, everyone was scrambling to hire extra security. It paid shit, but that was probably better than muddying this power dynamic even more.

"Nah, I appreciate it, man." Jo gave a small, nonchalant shrug. "And I mean, I'm here if you wanna, y'know, talk about it more." She tried to leave herself open without sounding too weird or sentimental.

This whole conversation had felt like walking on eggshells, and Jo wasn't the most socially graceful with these kinds of things. Whatever kind of thing this was. "You're still interested? It's not gonna be weird calling someone else king dickboss when you're some kind of crime lord?"

 "I mean ... if we're being honest with one another it wasn't exactly the best time of my life. ... This shit isn't either." The jump from woman to part-time coyote had taken it's toll, a slice of humble that had knocked her flat on her ass at first. Slowly but surely the dust was settling, but she didn't bother to pretend she was thriving, at least not yet. She thought about the incident at The Food Rally and then the unexpected coyote car ride with Kai. Yeah - definitely working on it, not there yet.

 "But I appreciate it." Tacking it on for the sake of their maybe friendship, she thought about the six pack and finished off her third beer - a fair split down the middle. The offer was sincere but suspicious, less than surprised when Jo declined. Still she felt anxious and tense, her own beast shuffling about uncomfortably, an inherent desire to go run it out that she tried to quash.

 Her attention turned back to the woman fully, she cracked a smile and nodded at last. "I mean, if you were to march into my business and start tellin' me how to run shit then, yeah that might grind my gears. But just because I'm in charge of somethin' don't mean that I'm in charge of everything." Authority wasn't an outright issue, long as respect came with it - and it wasn't like she was in any position to tell anyone how to Were. "I'm gun dickboss, and you're coyote dickboss. I'll defer to you - as long as you don't expect me to become some sort of humanitarian ... I'll take all the help I can get."

Jo laughed boisterously at that. Gun dickboss. Alex's answer did a lot to put her at ease, and even if this conversation had thrown her for a loop, it sure could be going worse. Jo was nothing if not adaptable. "Fair enough," she conceded with an easy grin. "All I ask is that y'all don't try to kill each other." She didn't plan on letting this go down like her last two bands, crippled by poor leadership and poorer personalities, from which she still bore scars.

She polished off her second beer with a long swallow and made an executive decision. Alex's anxiety was practically palpable, and the woman's nervous beast was making hers uncomfortable. Not that Jo wouldn't also benefit from letting loose for a bit—it had been a long, shitty week that was only going to get shittier when she started putting out job applications. "Let's go find somewhere to run," she declared, and then quickly tempered her words, "If you want, I mean. We can trade more gossip on the way."

 "I can't promise that Kai and I won't fight from time to time." Transparency was the word of the day, apparently - she reveled in it. A door that she had opened just a crack and now the truth was flooding out so easily she worried there would be nothing left to latch onto when all was said and done. "But I have no intention to kill her or anyone else that's in the punk rock band." Ben included, long as the old bastard didn't start to wonder his grubby fingers too close to her business ventures.

 Her face felt hot at the suggestions, bowing her head and assuming that Jo could sense it - that it wasn't just a case of perfect timing. "Sorry ... people." It was explanation enough as far as she was concerned. Moving to clean up the graveyard of empty beer bottles and toss them into the recycling. "There's a clear cut to the woods a couple blocks away ... if you really wanna."

Jo grinned, unconcerned. "There's only so much I can ask." She appreciated Alex's honesty, at the very least—even if it was continuously surprising.

She hadn't expected the woman to be quite so anxious, either. Alex had seemed stoic, the whole two times Jo had met her prior to this. "I don't say things I don't mean," Jo said easily. She passed over her two empty beer bottles and stood, stretching languidly as Alex disposed of them. Yeah, a run would do them both good. Get them out of their heads for a little while.

"You said you've been at this for a year?" she prompted conversationally.

 "Just short of it - it'll be a year in the spring." A quick correction, fine details that she wasn't sure were all that important in the grand scheme of things. Crouching down, she rolled up her pant leg on the right side and twisted to show the silver crescent of a scar at her kneecap. Pulling it down just as quick, she grabbed her keys and hooked them on a belt loop. "Wanna walk or drive?" Either way she held the door for the other woman, rolled her neck until she heard the dull pop of bone.

 "How long have you been ...?" The door was open now and she wanted to be cautious, on her best behavior as she still settled in to her new home.

She eyed the curved scar that Alex revealed with plain curiosity. "Walk," Jo decided. She pat her pockets to double-check she had everything and then exited, pausing just outside the door for Alex to lead the way.

"Nearly a decade." She wasn't sure when the ten year anniversary was—sometime this year, at least. Probably. She pulled up the hem of her shirt to show the long, silvery scar that marred her side. "Bad night. Got knifed by some asshole and chomped on by an entirely different asshole."

 She whistled at the sight of the scar once she locked the front door and fell in at Jo's side. "What's the story behind the knife part?" She imagined the bite was a direct side effect of the smell of blood, but - who knew for sure. Either way the mention of a decade was humbling, a reminder that this was forever, that the rest of her life would be marked with at least monthly romps as a dingo.

 "I was uh - working on Kai when she shifted." That sounded ... well, she left it to hang between them and stared down at her boots. "I suppose I had it coming in that case, right?" Rhetorical for the most part though she supposed there was a good measure of truth to it. "I can't blame her for being an ass rag, it's not exactly the sort of jumping point you'd expect for a healthy friendship."

Jesus, every little tidbit she learned about Kai and Alex just made the situation all the more fucked up. "Shit happens." She gave a small shrug. It did seem rather like appropriate karma, but it sounded like Alex already knew that. No point in kicking a dog when she was down.

Jo wrinkled her nose at the unpleasant memory, but she always professed to being an open book and here Alex was, willing to share all her closeted skeletons. "Did some underground fights back then," she recounted. "Trash talked some guy who took it personally, probably. I never found out who it was." She paused and then repeated, "Shit happens." It sure did.

"The bite was some kid, only a few days after his first run. Younger than I was. Can't blame him, y'know." Not that there was anything to really blame for. Jo had made peace with the were thing a long time ago; she could hardly remember what it was like to not have her beast.

 She whistled at the underground fight bit, brows raised in apparent surprise as she compared Jo now with what she could imagine of Jo then. Still she nodded along, thought of her own lack of control back in the Cordova apartment that wasn't hers anymore, about how Lia came to be - at least as she was now.

 "I think we should get shit happens printed on the official band merch ... just my two cents." Some effort to break up the gloom the laid thick over the present topic of conversation. "Have you ever ... bitten anyone? That you know of, at least." Casual, as if it didn't matter one way or the other.

Jo couldn't help but grin. "Official band t-shirts. I can dig it." She appreciated Alex's attempt at levity, but her follow-up question rather undermined it.

For an instant, Jo wanted to lie. She wasn't sure why, and she squashed down that momentary urge. "Yeah," she answered shortly, brain turning over as she tried to find a way to explain that without being a major downer. "Yeah, it was my... second year? And close to that time of the month, y'know. I just lost it. didn't even remember doing it once I woke up. She uh, died." A beat passed before Jo realized how that sounded. "Not from that—from me, I mean. From another coyote. The band we were in imploded a few months later."

 While Jo had no way of knowing it, despite the comfort found in common ground, it really fucking sucked when she said it had been year two. Sure, she didn't think that she would wake up one morning after the year mark and magically have her shit together. But, it had been nice to think at some point this complete loss of control would stop ... some point sooner than later, she had dared to hope.

 "I'm sorry to hear that." She didn't pretend to know how Jo felt about the mystery dead progeny, wasn't stupid enough to think it was any of her damn business for that matter. So instead she rolled with silence and nudged her companion with her elbow as they neared a clearing towards the end of the next street.

"Well, you'll just have to make sure to keep this one from imploding."

Jo swallowed a rote "it's fine" because, well. It wasn't. But it had been a long time, and the guilt and the grief had faded over the years. She didn't know the last time she had even thought about it, which she found a little more distressing than the memory itself.

She chuckled despite herself. "I'm pretty sure there's a word for that—hubris?" Jo grinned to soften her words. She reached out to rest her hand familiarly in the middle of Alex's back, returning her nudge with that momentary contact, and then dropped it again as they passed into the clearing.

The woods thickened around them, the damp and earthy scents of the forest crowding out those from the street they had left. Jo pulled on her beast's senses, suppressing the color that might leak into her eyes, but didn't catch any particularly concerning smells. "Ready?" Jo prompted, her beast pacing inside her with anticipation.

 Fact: She didn't envy Jo or her seemingly insane decision that she wanted the stress and hassle of a group to run. This wasn't a book club or a meeting of the neighborhood watch, this would be a group of Were's - some decidedly more pissy at any given moment than the next. Still, the idea of its success was enough to keep her going, enough to peak the interest of her more animalistic side. Slowly but surely, she was learning to loosen her hold on the reigns and allow that part the slightest bit of control. It was a balancing act, but she was just managing - but with that many spinning plates at once ...

 The touch while simple and brief was of notable comfort, enough so to make her smile just a tad. "Sure." Now this was a part she wasn't positive would ever not be weird. Wondering a bit further into the trees and out of the line of sight from the road. Just stripping in front of people and sitting in the dirt to wait out the often times dreadfully slow transition from the drivers seat to somewhere all the way in the background. She'd seen Jo's own shift once, a relatively graceful and seemingly painless transition that made her feel like a fourteen year old that still had training wheels bolted to their bike.

It never got less painful, but it did get easier. Casual nudity between near strangers was almost comfortable now—certainly not something she really thought about. She stripped quickly, dumping her clothes into a pile on the ground, and her beast pressed forward at this almost ritualized act, like those dogs and the bell.

She flopped down beside Alex, close enough that their shoulders brushed, and returned a hand to Alex's back. Just a light, anchoring pressure until the woman either shrugged her off or she felt her bones and muscles begin to shift; then she dropped it to curl both arms around her legs, crooked up against her chest. Her beast slid forward, a rapidly enlarging presence in the forefront of her brain, and she tilted her head to press her cheek against her knees. At least it was relatively quick now. She maintained her composure until something in her chest twisted, a low groan escaping her. It was always her chest that hurt the worst.

Within two minutes (she swore she would time herself one day), a coyote lay in her place, silver eyes cracked open as she adjusted to her new skin.

 Like how you picked up your stride when someone falling in line with you started to gain, she had some inherent desire to make up the distance. How the fuck was she so quick in all of this? She assumed it was the veteran status, didn't vocalize it - didn't trust her voice at the moment to do so. Instead she gritted her teeth until they ached, folded her things to keep herself busy until she couldn't finish her shirt, until the bones in her hands and wrists started to crack and contort, until he muscles pulled and gave way and she clamped them at her sides and bowed her head.

 Halfway through, a contorted mess of flesh and fur that would readily be shot on sight by most, she glanced over at the over sized coyote beside her and smirked a bit - the look failed to reach her eyes. No 'how do you do' then your spine was cracking all the way down and compacting, that shit could wait.

 A few minutes behind she rose up, shook her body, forever less guarded in this form as she went to bump her under Jo's, brushed along her side before taking a few tentative steps further into the forest.

Jo remained stretched out on the ground until Alex finished, tail twitching in the dust as she restrained herself. But then a brush of flanks and she all but leaped to her paws, yipping in pleasure. She bounded forward past Alex and flipped around to face her, then bowed low with her tail (and furry butt) perked in the air, inviting her (soon-to-be) bandmate to play.

She had intended to run and maybe hunt (although the bears probably wouldn't appreciate that), but her beast had other priorities and its easy, animal joy flooded to the forefront of their shared headspace. Right then, she much preferred its priorities to her own.

 Woman came second like this, replaced by coyote as she lowered her self a bit in turn - a slow and methodical twitch of her tail as she kept otherwise still. She kicked off - a small flurry of leaves as Were leaped towards the other, a high pitched sound as she collided with her. Playful in intent, she kept her teeth to herself and bumped her head against the other's side with a bit more force.

 Less than graceful as she untangled herself, she twisted and took off, leaping and glancing backwards with a few more high pitched whines.

Jo met Alex's leap forward, butting her muzzle against the Alex's neck. And then the coyote darted away just as quickly as she had darted forward, goading Jo after her. She bounded after Alex and yipped in affirmation when she glanced back at her.

She caught up easily but didn't try to overtake her, instead nipping playfully at Alex's tail as she stayed close on her heels.

 The movement felt good, translated to a lightness in her chest - a freedom that was as different as it was beloved. Coyote Alex wasn't worried about living conditions or the location of her credit card, she was occupied with things such as this - kinship and stretching her legs, testing the air and running until everything burned in the good way.

 And even if the woman part of her had more pull these days (by a margin, at least) ... most of the time she didn't fight it anymore, drifted happily with the tide. A fleeting backwards glance as she zigzagged through the tree's and huffed, tried to cut off the other. It was infinitely easier this way - being social and friendly and ... whatever it was that you needed to be to make people comfortable. So whatever, something that didn't have opposable thumbs was a better communicator than her - it was still technically her, small comforts.

Jo could never hold onto her human stresses when she shifted, for better or for worse. She had full control of the reins, of course, but it impossible to stay worried in the face of her beast's exhilaration. And god she needed this, after the past week.

Dry leaves crumpled under her paws as she pursued Alex. She nearly barreled into the other coyote twice, cut off by her veering sharply in another direction, and her breath came out in pants. She sped forward until she was shoulder-to-shoulder with Alex, craning her neck to nip at an ear before she could zigzag off again.

 The coyote snorted at the near bite to the ear, a playful sound as her footing slipped from time to time on the leaves and pine needles that coated the earth beneath them. Woman floated freely in the background, hands up so to speak and allowing the coyote free reign now that she was reassured that they were indeed on good terms. It was easier this way, to chase and to run until eventually she would exhaust herself and shift back, until she would lose track of her clothes ... again.

Worth it.

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