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zemblanity or serendipity?

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Too bright. The intense rays of light being the first thing registered in Josie's brain. There was way too much sunlight filtering in to her room making it feel uncomfortably warm. It was already making her hangover induced headache worse. Groaning in disdain she rolled to her left in attempt to close her curtains. Blindly reaching for her curtains, hands encountering empty space where her window and bedroom wall should be. The sun becoming more of a nuisance as the seconds go by. Trying to attempt it once more and instead of meeting a solid wall, hitting a tiled floor face first with a thump.

"What the hell." She groaned in pain. Finally opening her eyes to a very unfamiliar room. That was uncomfortably warm and bright, with really nice tile work.

Laying on the floor, she took stock of her current predicament. Firstly the bitter after taste of alcohol in her mouth, tinged with something foreign yet familiar. Along with the brass band currently going on in her head it's safe to assume she definitely went on a bender last night. Second being the room; its bare, generic and tiny. Definitely not hers. Third she's currently definitely naked, judging by her tights, skirt and what's left of her underwear strewn about the floor. And lastly she was alone with no recollection of what happened in the last 10 to 12 hours with a dull ache between her thighs and the worst stiff neck ever.

After laying in her own misery for another five minutes she finally decided to get her day started and to stop baking in this heat. It's literally mid January why is it so hot all of a sudden?

Picking up her clothes, she was glad to see her bra was still in tact. There was a tear in her tights. She's left to wonder if she did that or her mystery hookup. Rolling her neck trying to release the kink there. Only serving to make her wince in pain and not much to soothe the soreness. Grabbing her purse from next to the bedside table searching for her phone.

Checking the time, 10:30 she was already late for work. Unlocking it and scrolling thru her notifications. 15 missed calls 65 unread messages and a bank notification letting her know she paid for the hotel room. Ignoring all of them and only replying to one person saying she'd call them later. Deciding to call her boss to let her know she was alive and would be late. Her boss answering almost immediately.

"Morning Saltzman are you sick today?" Though her tone was professional some worry bled into her tone.

"No just a rough night. I was wondering if I could come in at noon?"

"Definitely just don't make this a habit, because you're my favorite. You can come in later. There will be a little fairy waiting for you to do her check up as you get here."

"Tink is back again?"

"Yes and so is her helicopter mother. She's refusing to let anyone else do her check up. So please be here at noon." Her voice pleading. Josie knowing how irritating her patient's mother can be.

"I will be. See you then boss."

That out of the way Josie headed into to the bathroom to assess the damage to her body. Switching on the light in the equally tiny bathroom. Turning to face the mirror and taking her appearance in.

"Holy shit. I look like I've been mauled." Josie stared at her throat which is blooming with different hues of red and purple. The hickey was huge. Which was probably why her neck felt stiff and was aching. Letting her eyes scan lower taking in the rest of her body. A trail of smaller but still varying in size hickeys lead to a pretty discernible bite mark. Trailing her fingers around it and shuddering.

"Great finally found someone with a biting kink to rival my own and I can't remember them." She shook her head disappointed.

Continuing her inspection. Finding more bruises in the form of fingers and hickeys. Some red scratches. Another huge hickey adorned her inner thigh, swollen and brightly colored. Wincing slightly at its tenderness. Picking up her phone and opening her camera and turning her back to the mirror.

"Jesus."

She looked slightly horrified at her back. The entire expanse of her back looked like a pack of wild cats used her as a scratching post. She winced at the thought of how it would feel when she took a shower. After assessing her 'battle wounds' she couldn't help but be proud knowing she most likely gave as good as she got.

Leaving the bathroom after washing her face from the evidence of last night's make up. She got dressed, glad she was wearing one of her turtle necks for once. Feeling slightly uncomfortable about having to make her way back home commando, but she had no other option. Packed up her purse once more and headed to the door. A black leather jacket caught her attention sticking out from behind the dresser. Grabbing it feeling oddly connected to it.

The second her fingers made contact with the smooth material she got a flashes of memory from the night before.

That leather jacket on the back of a bar stool, it's owner with her back to her.

Another glimpse of her helping the other woman into it as they drunkenly made their way out of the bar.

Her gripping the lapels of the jacket while they were making out against the wall in the alley way near the motel.

Urgently pushing the jacket off the woman's shoulders, desperately looking for skin to run her fingers on. "Off now." She mumbled against soft lips. Practically tearing it away like it the garment personally offended her. In a way it did. Feeling a wave of victory when she got it down tan arms and threw it in a random direction.

Feeling slightly disoriented by the rush of memories and the emotions that came with it. Josie was definitely aware of her no underwear situation once more. At least she was happy her mystery partner was a woman and not some man. A woman that lit a fire in her with just kisses, a woman that might just be the best she's ever had judging by those brief flashes.

Trying to shake off the twinge of sadness she felt because she has yet to remember more of said mystery woman. She looks around the room making sure she had all of her belongings. Opening the door to leave. She almost smacks right into the housekeeper.

"Were you leaving miss?"

"Uh yes I was just on my way to check out."

"Do you mind if I check the room before you leave?"

"Yea sure. Go on ahead." Josie stepped out of the entryway giving the older woman space to enter. The woman walked in eyes scanning the room, eyes slightly wide.

"Everything is ok." The housekeeper told her sounding slightly surprised and confused.

"You sound surprised ma'am. Why is that?" Josie inquired.

"Well uh- there was several noise complaints about what sounded like there was a wild night going on in here. So I just wanted to make sure everything was uh intact." The housekeeper explained growing more uncomfortable.

Josie had the decency to blush and duck her head. Being internally grateful her and her apparently loud partner took out most of their aggression out on each other rather than destroy the room. Lord knows how much that would've cost her. She also felt proud that there was several noise complaints, meaning they really had a good night.

"My apologies ma'am." She mumbled and rushed her way past her to check out and head home.
---
After heading home and taking a much needed shower and finding an outfit to hide what she lovingly referred to as her 'battle wounds'. She could've done without the stiffness and stinging, but she figured it was a small price to pay. Popping two advil pills in hopes that will keep her headache and hangover at bay.

Stopping at the cafe near the hospital to get a coffee to praying for some sort of boost of energy. Feeling unnaturally sluggish and irritated because of it. She was also being severely affected by the heat. It felt like it was blazing, which contrasted with the fact that when she last checked the weather it was partly cloudy at 24°. Writing it off as the layers she was wearing under uniform (and mystery woman's leather jacket) making her already exhausted body act up.

Entering the air conditioned premises of Mystic Falls Hospital, she starts feeling slightly more relaxed in the form of her body temperature regulating once more. However being instantly hit with a wave of nausea from the chemical stench permeating the halls of the hospital. Making note to not to get black out drunk on nights she had to work the nights she had to work again.

Smiling politely to the other nurses and doctors as she makes her way to the pediatric ward. Letting her boss know she was there and picked up her assigned rounds.

"Geez Saltzman you weren't kidding about it being a rough night." The older brunette in her 40s joked. "Tell you what finish your rounds and the designated paperwork today and you can leave at 4." The nurse offered her young protege. Seeing that the brunette Saltzman looked truly run ragged. Josie tried to play it off not wanting to seem to eager and come across as unprofessional. She was extremely grateful for the cop out. And swore she wouldn't let there be a repeat of this.

Slipping into her happy facade, knowing how tired and irritable nurses tend to affect the mini humans negatively. She started on her cases. Her first being the ward's resident tinkerbell.
----
Peaking into the room she couldn't help the smile at the small blonde bundle of sheets on the bed. The l blonde mini human reminding her of Lizzie as a child. All dramatic and stubborn, armed with the cutest pouts. She'd always felt weirdly connected to the little girl since she bounced into her ER a few months ago. The brooding helicopter parent however she was less fond of.

"Jo! You came." The high pitched voice and accompanied giggle warmed her heart.

"Of course I did! How's my favorite little fairy today?" The little girl beamed a little brighter at the praise.

"I'm great."

Josie took in her appearance and could tell her she was anything but fine. The little girl was quite pale and seemed extremely lethargic in comparison to her usual hyperactive exuberance. She was also shivering even bundled up in her blankets.

"C'mon Fi you know our rule."

"To be honest. I felt very dizzy this morning and I fell down." The little girl explained to the young nurse.

"She also has been running a temperature and hasn't kept anything solid down since last night." The other occupant that remained silent up to that point interrupted. Josie turned her attention to the older blonde in the room. She oddly never really bonded with the worried mother as much she adored her daughter she just couldn't seem to like the woman.

"Any change in her diet?"

Josie asked all of the standard questions knowing that they'll be answered no. She proceeded to do a routine check up on little Fi, who cooperated well. Noting all the definite changes to compare to the last batch of symptoms.

"Ok Tink now for your least favorite part. But if you're the bravest fairy in the land for me I'll get you a treat."

Josie couldn't help the smile as she watched mini Lizzie have a little happy dance, which was just her wiggling in place. She bravely stuck her arm out so Josie could prep it for the blood test. A blood test that would probably not give any answers to the little girl's mysterious ailments. And Josie was getting tired of sticking her with needles.

Watching the crimson fluid fill the vacutainer unearthed some new flashes of memory of the night before.

Crimson lips..blood stained lips.

Josie was lost in the kiss only aware of where she ended and the other woman began. Which was becoming harder for her to tell with how their bodies were molding to one another. She got so lost in the moment that the thigh grinding against her took her by complete surprise and caused her to bite down on soft lips. Hard enough to draw blood.

"Shit sorry." Josie rushed to apologize missing the low moan of pleasure her partner let out. Pulling back to check the damage she might have done. Wincing at the little blood she saw there.

"Don't be I enjoyed it. You better kiss it better though." The mystery woman smirked at her.

That was all it took for Josie to fuse their lips back together. Moaning at the metalic taste mixing with the sweet liquor coloring her breath. She soothed the injured lip with her tongue. And then gave it a gentle suck. Moaning as more of the metalic taste filled her mouth.

"Jo."

"Jooo."

Josie was starled out her memory to curious looks from the mother and daughter.

"My apologies for spacing out."

She apologized and started to prepare her samples to take them to the lab. Making sure to take note of everything in the little girl's file. The abnormalities were perplexing. She'll try to sneak a sample to her father to see if there's anything otherworldly going on.

"All right tinkerbell you've been such a brave fairy for me today. High five. I'll make sure when the nurse brings your prescription she brings your treat."

"Can't you stay with me Josie?" The little girl pouted and once more giving her best Lizzie Saltzman impression though she never met the older blonde herself.

"Sofia, Josie has other patients and jobs to do."

"If I finish my rounds on time and you're still here I'll come visit you ok Fi. Now be good for your mom and take your medicine. Bye tinkerbell."

"Bye Jo."
---
Josie was on her way to the lab to deliver the samples when she bumps into someone. She had to take a step back with the force the body collided with her.

"Sorry I didn't see you there." The guy she walked into apologized.

She took his appearance in, his leather jacket seemed very familiar and wasn't a recognizable face she knew from the hospital or town. But something about him just called to her.

"It's no problem. Uhm are you allowed to be here?"

"Actually I'm here to visit my uh-uncle but I think I got off on the wrong floor, damn dyslexia." The shaggy haired guy explained, swiping his hair out of his face.

The way he did it triggered another onslaught of memories so she quickly pointed him in the direction of the elevator so she could process the images flying thru her mind.

Mystery woman moving her hair from her face after laughing at something Josie said. Josie was dumb struck at how beautiful she looked in that moment.

"You're beautiful." She couldn't stop herself from saying it. But the soft smile stopped her from regretting it instantly.

They were dancing the world melting away as the music flowed thru the bar. Effortlessly swaying a long. Then it happened. The dim lights hit her just right and Josie forgot how to breathe. Before her brain could register her hand came up and tucked some hair away from her face. Their eyes connected, the pull was undeniable. Josie lowered her head slightly as her dance partner tilted hers upwards. The kiss was the new definition of perfect in Josie's book.

This time Josie had a handful of raven hair, while the other woman was worshipping her throat. The little nips, the slight grazing of teeth were driving her insane. Not even mentioning the soothing tongue that made her ache even more.

Any other night Josie would be over the moon for such activities, but everything felt too intense and she desperately needed more. She started tugging on her hair trying to get her attention.

"Why are you interrupting my fun Saltz?" She asked pulling away and nipping at her jawline.

"Can you move on and go low-ah" A hard bite near her pulse point made her cut off into a moan.

"You want me to go low?" She teased lightly soothing the bite with her tongue.

"Please P-"

And lower she went leaving a trail of hickeys in her wake and a panting Josie with her hands still tangled up in her hair.

Josie needed a moment to recollect herself. The new pieces of the night before leaving her overwhelmed and slightly throbbing. She let her hand linger near the bite mark on her side feeling an intense form of longing.

Getting her head together and out of the cloud of intense lust she was experiencing, deciding that she could be horny and sulk about the best sex of her life when she's not working.
---
Four hours, two advils, a stack of files that needed to be checked and refiled and six different people pointing out how she kept her head in an awkward angle later. Josie Saltzman was free from her job and ready to give into her exhaustion. Get some food and just sleeping for the rest of the day.

Walking out of the hospital she's once more bombarded by the afternoon glow of the sun. Cursing the fuck out of her mystery woman for making her have to wear this damn turtleneck in this heat. And the fact that the heat was making her twitchy, which in turn made her neck hurt more. She just couldn't win today.

"Josette Saltzman why haven't you been answering any of my texts or calls?!"

Josie was confronted with a very irate Hope Mickaelson. Who was looking equally worried and angry which meant that she was in big trouble. She fumbled with her purse trying to get her phone out. Not having checked her phone since she called her boss earlier in the day. Clicking on her home button and getting a black screen she showed it to Hope and shrugged.

"Sorry, Hope my phone was dead and I just finished work."

"But you weren't at work this morning when I came to bring you breakfast."

"I came in around noon today. I slept in." Josie explained her absence.

"Bullshit you weren't at home either Josie. I checked." Hope crossed her arms expectantly waiting for the truth from her best friend.

Josie grumbled under her breath about how that wasn't what the emergency key was for. Knowing damn well the tribrid could here her.

"I was worried about you Josie. You disappeared last night and didn't reply to me. And no one heard from you!"

Josie rolled her eyes at Hope's outburst. She was sure no one actively checked on her besides M.G until Hope probably asked them too. She was growing more annoyed as this went on. She just wanted to get out this heat, some food and a nap, not be confronted on the sidewalk at her place of employment.

"Can you stop making a scene I work here. And I haven't eaten yet so if you'd like to continue your interrogation you can do so at the cafe sans the theatrics."

With that being said Josie started walking towards the cafe, not bothering to give Hope a chance to continue her well prepared 'I've been worried' routine.
---
Hope looked on in disgust as Josie tore into her hamburger like a starved animal. Thankful they were at the back of the cafe in a more secluded booth, because no one should witness the way Josie was eating anyway.

While she waited for her to finish she took in her appearance. The leather jacket was new to Josie, but looked like something out of a thrift store with the vintage and obvious signs of wear. The sleeves were also shorter on the brunette. The turtle neck was an odd choice to wear under her uniform. She looked exhausted, the skin around her eyes were sunken and discolored. Her hair was limp and unkempt, framing her face in an odd way. Josie looked..lifeless.

Hope mentally started going over a list of everything she knew that led to this moment. First being she bailed on their celebratory night out, because Landon needed her help. Followed by no one in their inner circle was with Josie last night. She went completely AWOL and radio silent around 8PM and no one had actually heard from her since. She didn't sleep in her apartment and was hours late for work, which was so unlike her. Her appearance was also worrying because she looked exhausted and rundown. Hope's mental timeline made her fear the worse and before she could logically assess her worries she questioned Josie.

"Are you using again Josie?"

The second the words left her mouth she regretted. The following seconds as the accusatory tone finally registered to Josie, Hope had never wished she could've taken back something she said back as much as she did in that moment. The hurt that contorted Josie's face was in the top 2 facial expressions she hated to see directed at her. Josie's face quickly contorted into Hope's least favorite facial expression: cold and guarded.

"You didn't care that much last night, so why now?"

Hope felt physically struck by Josie's words. The truth had a way of making words feel like knives and Josie at her bluntest and most hurt knew how to yield them as though she was a professional knife thrower, never missing her intended mark. However in true Josie fashion she regretted the jab as soon as it landed.

"Sorry Hope you didn't deserve that-"

"Don't apologize." Hope interrupted. "I shouldn't have said that at all. I let my worries take over and didn't think my approach thru. I'm sorry I offended you."

Hope grabbed one of Josie's hands from across the table, trying to convey the sincerity of her apology. Josie was slightly taken aback at the apology. Hope wasn't the most eloquent person, much less when it came to apologies or admitting she was wrong. Yet here she was giving Josie the most sincere apology she'd ever received.

"Apology accepted. And what a great apology that was."

Josie teased lightly trying to deflect from the situation that wasn't becoming any less awkward as time passed.

"Thank you. I've been working on it with Emma ever since Landon said and I quote 'that's your problem you don't acknowledge your mistakes and give empty apologies like they'll fix anything'."

At the mention of Landon, Josie's entire mood dropped and she retracted her hand from Hope's pretending like she was reaching for her drink. She tried to keep a neutral facade, but that special Landon related shine Hope seemed to radiate made it so much harder. She'd literally rather talk about government policies or hospital etiquette. Literally anything but Landon and Hope and their stupid relationship.

"I slept with someone last night."

Anything but that would've also been a better segway from the sore spot that is Landon and the entirety of Hope's relationship. But Josie panicked knowing that in her exhausted and irritable state, she wouldn't be able to continue appearing unbothered. Wild sex with a nameless stranger screamed unbothered though. Right?

Hope made a little choking noise as the sudden information caught her off guard. "You what?"

In for a penny in for a pound Josie sighed internally.

"Last night I went to the bar and I met someone and we had a one night stand at the motel. That's why I wasn't at my place this morning." She elaborated.

"Must've been one good night judging by how you look dead on your feet." Hope said after a beat wiggling her eyebrows at the taller girl.

"The best from what I can remember."

Hope did her best to ignore the jealousy that bubbled up inside her. The implication that some random hook up from a night she barely remembers, being the best really brought her jealousy to the surface. Jealousy she had no right to feel, she made her choice and she was happy. Now she needed to be a supportive best friend. At least she can be the best at that. She hoped so anyway.

"What do you mean from what you can remember?" She inquired as a supportive friend of course.

"We kind of- well I got kind of got black out drunk and only remember bits and pieces of my night with Petra." Josie explained.

"How did you manage to sleep with someone named Petra?"

"I don't think that's her name, I don't actually remember it. But I had this flash of memory where I was moaning the first syllable of her what I presume is her name, plus Petra is less of a mouthful than mystery woman."

"Ok..but out of all the possible names why Petra was she Russian and blonde?"

"The opposite actually. She was slightly taller than you. Dark brown hair down her back. Ethnically ambiguous, there's something foreign there but I can't quite place where from my memories. The most alluring brown eyes I've ever seen. She was extremely beautiful."

Josie got lost in herself describing 'Petra'. Piecing along different attributes about the woman from her memories, something she put off doing to focus on her job.

And she truly was beautiful. The way that she was a head shorter than Josie but had enough confidence to make Josie feel like she was the one being towered over. Her eyes were like dark swirling pools and from the moment they made contact across the bar Josie was entranced. Her voice was to powerful and the memory of it alone felt like it was tying up her insides and making it hard to breathe. And her smile, Josie might finally understand the motive behind the Trojan war. Beauty like that was dangerous. And a woman that knew what power her looks possessed was terrifying.

Hope started on in silent amusement and and jealousy -that she was refusing to acknowledge- as Josie got lost in her head. It had been awhile since she had the pleasure of just taking her in like this. Brows slightly furrowed, lips tucked between her teeth, eyes unfocused completely unguarded and just letting her mind wander. Wander to thoughts of a random hook up that didn't she seemed smitten by. Which worried Hope, because the brunette wasn't one to become quickly smitten with just anyone.

"Are you sure Petra wasn't a witch? You seem enchanted." Hope jabbed playfully pulling Josie from out of her wanderings.

"I have enough experiences with witches to know if I'm sleeping with one." Josie said replied jokingly.

"So do you think you'll see her again?"

"As much as I'd like to, probably not she wasn't there when I woke up. And she definitely wasn't a familiar face." Josie replied pouting slightly at the possibility of never seeing Petra again.

The conversation was interrupted as the waiter came to clear Josie's plate and refill their glasses. Josie used the interruption to turn the conversation to Hope was doing. Hope proceeded to tell her about a new werewolf with a vampire and a werewolf for mothers that came to get enrolled. How it didn't go well at all between her father and the concerned parents. Then random tidbits about her day and things Josie missed lately.

Josie listened attentively and gave appropriate responses, storing important information if need be. But as the burger started to settle and the insistent hunger pains started to ease, Josie found herself giving into her exhaustion. Wanting more than anything to just crawl into the comfort of her bed. Feeling the tension and tiredness settle in her shoulders, she tried to roll them to dislodge the discomfort. Only serving to to make her wince as the soreness in her neck hits her all at once again.

Hope noticed the grimace that colored her features and inquired what was wrong.

"Woke up with a stiff neck from hell." Josie explained.

"Do you want me to heal it for you?" Hope offered already reaching across the table with an out stretched out palm to heal Josie.

Hope placed her hand around her throat, the way her thumb sat right on her pulse point and her other fingers cupped the other side of her jawline. Though Hope's touch was gentle and was gone as soon as she finished whispering the spell, just the slight pressure and skin on skin contact triggered new flashes of memory from the night before.

---

The room was silent except for their synchronized panting. Josie felt the hand wrapped up in her hair slightly tugging to get her attention. Deciding to ignore it for now. She was far to content between quivering thighs, placing soothing kisses helping her lover ride out her orgasm. She'd been there for what felt like hours and she wouldn't mind staying for many more.

A whimper due to a well placed nip to the sensitive skin of her thighs. Followed by a stronger tug of Josie's hair. Josie finally removed her head from said thighs and met the pleading gaze from her lover. She was mesmerized by her view.

Watching her chest rise with shallow breaths several love bites adorning her beautiful skin. The way her bottom lip was tucked between her teeth. Her eyes seemed a light with an intensity that should've scared Josie and maybe if she wasn't still slightly drunk and in an orgasmic haze she would've been.

She wasn't though, what she was, was completely in awe of the woman before her. And she wished she could've spent the rest of the night committing every inch to memory, but the now more insistent hand in her hair wouldn't grant her wish.

"Saltz." Came a soft raspy whine. "Come here I miss your lips."

That's all Josie needed to hear to finally make her way up the tan body beneath her. She did however make it slow and painful on her lover. Retracing the path her lips took on the way down, paying a little more attention to the love bites and leaving a few new ones.

Finally reaching the desired destination she teasingly kissed down the older woman's jawline to her ear. Her lover turned her head chasing her lips but Josie pulled away smirking at the determined way her eyebrows creased together.

Suddenly before Josie's mind could process she found herself flat on her back and a very hot partner smirking at her. Her eyes fluttered shut anticipating the kiss. Feeling the other woman's forehead rest on hers and instinctually she sought out the other woman's lips. Their lips met and Josie instantly melted. Their mouths moved in tandem, like a synchronized dance .

It came to an abrupt halt, Josie whimpered at the loss of contact. She chased the lips and was met with nothing but air. Trying to sit up or dislodge the raven haired beauty off her so she could fuse their lips back together. She was pressed back into the bed by a hand around her throat. The pressure of a thumb against her pulse point and long fingers caressing her jawline drove her insane. She tried once more to connect their lips together but she's yet again pressed into the mattress.

"It's my turn to tease now JoJo." Was whispered into her ear. As teeth nipped at them playfully.

Josie whimpered extending her head back, making the fingers around her throat sink a little more into a tighter grip. Josie couldn't swallow the moan that bubbled up her throat quick enough. Blush colored her cheeks and she moved her head trying to hide from the piercing gaze trained on her. The hand around her throat was gone instantly, this time she managed to keep a whimper down. Managing to further incriminate herself as even more debauched.

"Hey don't do that. There's nothing to be embarrassed about."

Her voice was so gentle, it felt like it was caressing her soul. Josie knew it was supposed to put her at ease, but it overwhelmed her even more. A hookup with someone she didn't know shouldn't have been so intense. She definitely shouldn't be this unguarded and vulnerable.

"JoJo c'mon. Jo?"

"Jo..Josie?!"

Josie was once again dragged out of her head by Hope. She refocuses on her and her worried blue eyes. She couldn't help the annoyance that bubbled up inside her. She felt like there was something important she needed to remember from the before. That she was close to it. She was sure of it.

"You ok there Josie?"

"Sorry you just triggered some memories of last night...it was uh-intense." Josie attempted to explain.

Hope's concern was quickly tempered and replaced by unwanted jealousy. Watching the blush that colored her cheeks and the discernible lust in her eyes, it twisted Hope's insides in a rather ugly way. It also threw for a loop as to why she was feeling this way, she never had in the past. Deciding to push it down and analyze it later. Josie needed a friend not some jealous ex(?).

"Why do you look so perplexed then?"

"I feel like something monumental happened, something I'm not remembering and I don't know it's like I have this need to remember."

"Ok so you said that I triggered the flashes again. What was it, maybe I can repeat it and trigger your memories again." Hope suggested trying to help.

"Uh I don't think that's uh- necessary. I'm sure it'll come back in it's own time."

Josie stuttered. It would surely be awkward to explain to Hope that it was her hand on her throat that triggered her to Petra's hand slightly choking her. Much less explaining that she enjoyed that and the fact that she might possibly have a choking kink. Which in her mind wasn't something she should be embarrassed about because she wasn't one for kinkshaming, but she was afraid of judgement from her best friend nonetheless.

Hope was confused by Josie shooting down her idea like that. All she did was place her hand on her throat to heal the soreness..

"Did she hurt you Josie?"

Josie saw Hope's eyes flash and heard the underlying growl in her voice. She knew she needed to soothe her worries quickly because an overprotective wolf was not something she wanted to deal with today.

"No she didn't hurt me Hope I'm perfectly fine."

"Then why are you acting weird if all I did was touch your throat?" Hope questioned. All Josie did was blush and avoid her gaze. Which made it finally click for her.

"Oh...OH."

"Uh Yea."

Deciding to focus on the implications of that later, Hope reached out to touch Josie again. Wrapping her hand around her throat. Josie pulled away.

"What are you doing?"

"Trying to help you. Now come here."

"First of all that's not the proper way to do that and I highly doubt it'll work a second time."

"It's worth a shot now show me the uh- proper etiquette of choking."

Hope moved her hands to Josie's chin forcing her to make eye contact. And as soon as she they did she saw the unfocused gaze again. Mission accomplished. She just had to wait it now.

Gentle fingers grasp at her chin, trying to coax her to turn around. She tried to shake them off.

---

"Last chance of this going gently JoJo."

The slightly darker tone was almost enough to make Josie break her resolve to not turn her head. However she remained deviant, not wanting to face her lover out of fear.

"Well you had your chance, but I get the feeling you're going to enjoy this anyway."

She didn't give Josie the chance to really take in her statement before she acted. She tightened her grip around her chin and pulled Josie's face towards her. Josie whimpered but kept her eyes closed. The woman currently seated on her stomach made a noise of disapproval. Tilting Josie's head back she attacked her neck with little nips.

"I. Don't. Like. Being. Ignored. Jo. Jo."

Each word was followed by a nip to an already marked throat. Josie's throat was starting to look like and abstract piece on the bruising of the human soul. Not that she minded anyway. She extended her throat to give a better angle and more exposure. She couldn't control the chorus of whimpers that fell from her lips, but she somehow managed to keep her eyes close throughout the process.

And it didn't go unnoticed. Her lover buried her face in her neck and let out a dark chuckle. Josie felt it vibrate into her throat and down the rest of her body. She hadn't thought she could get any wetter. She lay there corrected and hyper aware of how sticky she currently felt.

Due to her attention being elsewhere she missed the 'be like that' that was whispered into her skin. She also missed the head near her throat moving away slightly. What she did notice though, was the teeth sinking into her flesh and biting hard. Her eyes flew open. And she let out a very hard:

"Fuck me."

"She speaks." Was said after the raven haired beauty was done soothing her mark with gentle sucks.

Her hand slid down Josie's chin and assumed the position once more this time. Musing to herself how well her hand looked around the now colorful throat.

"Ok listen Saltz. I have three rules here one your eyes stay on me, two you need to tell me what you want and three you answer all my questions. Are we clear?"

Josie nodded eagerly. She was soon reminded of the rules when the hand not currently occupying her throat twisted her nipple as a warning. She moaned out a 'yes' quickly not ready to earn what punishments there might be.

"Good. Now this, do you want this?"

She flexed her hand slightly causing her thumb to sink a little more into place near her pulse point. She smirked as she felt Josie's pulse thundering beneath the fragile skin. Josie on the other hand was in a haze. She barely managed to croak out another yes.

The hand not wrapped around her throat started trailing down her body teasingly. Feather light but Josie felt so hyper aware of that swore the she could feel the ridges of her fingerprints. The anticipation of them reaching the desired destination was overwhelming her to the point that her eyes shut trying to minimize the sensory overload. The hold tightening around her throat was a clear reminder of rule number one. She quickly complied and was met with a look of approval as soon as her eyes were open.

"Now tell me JoJo how many fingers?"

"Th-three."

The ask or well answer and you shall receive, was made clear to Josie, because once she answered she felt two fingers working their way back inside her. Her eyes fluttered close as she moaned softly. Then the sensation stopped.

"Eyes on me Saltz or everything stops."

Once she complied the movement started again, albeit torturously slow. Josie felt her sanity slipping with how slow those fingers were going, not exactly how she envisioned this round going. Her frustration was building and she was ready to just flip the situation around. Even with the hand around her throat being reason enough not to. The third finger now sliding home shelved that idea momentarily. The stretch was delicious, euphoric even. She was sure if the pace wasn't so slow she would've definitely came from it.

The torture continued. She felt fuller but the friction, the pace wasn't enough for her. Her hips thrust upward trying to get something. But the fingers remained slow and her lovers face remained a happy medium between impassive and expectant. Her eyes were clouded with unfiltered lust and obvious enjoyment. Which made Josie even more heated.

"What's wrong JoJo?" She teased.

"You know what."

"I told you if you want something you need to tell me."

"Can you move." She groaned pitifully.

"But I am JoJo." To accentuate her point she dragged her fingers across the inner walls slowly. Causing Josie to shudder rather noticeably.

"Faster. Harder. Anything but this." She practically snarled getting in the other woman's face. Just to once again be forcibly pushed down at her throat .

"Now was that so hard?"

The fingers took off in a shot, the change of pace and tightened grip around her throat had Josie seeing stars. Her brains attention being split into three, keeping her eyes open, the delicious pressure on her throat and how good the three fingers currently being hammered into her core felt. Everything else faded away. Sounds blended together she couldn't tell their voices apart, but the one that sounded like a mummered mantra of pleading was probably hers.

It was getting harder to keep her eyes open as the intensity inside her built and accumulated. Her moans were getting harder to keep quiet with each glide against her walls. She's never felt this way before, the build nor execution ever felt this good.

And yet she wanted more. She needed more. She could taste the most intense orgasm of her life but it was just out of reach and it frustrated her to no end.

"I need mo-re P."

"More of what Saltz. Tell me and I'll do it." Came the labored reply making Josie aware on her thigh.

Josie felt stumped more of what. Everything felt perfect and far better than anything she could imagine. What else did she need to finally push her over the edge. Without thought her hand came up and squeezed the hand around her throat making the hold a little tighter. The fingers faltered in rhythm and brows creased in uncertainty.

"Are you sure?"

"Please I need it." She pleaded. She felt like she was chasing a high and she'd do anything for it.

The first experimental squeeze timed perfectly with three fingers hitting home, made Josie want to scream the fact that she couldn't made it even better. The fact that she felt hyper aware of everything before, compared to what she was feeling now that was nothing. She swore she could feel color in this moment staring into lust filled brown eyes. Or feel the palpable shared hunger thundering thru them, that one might actually be her heart thundering out of her chest due to her air supply being methodically cut off.

Her body was vibrating with her impending orgasm, either that or it was the giddiness and nervous energy of being choked out for the first time. She felt it coiling inside her trying to find a place to burst thru. Spots were starting to blur her vision but she desperately tried to keep her eyes on the sight before her.

Messy locks framing her face, bottom lip tucked between gleaming teeth, chest heaving up and down with barely suppressed moans as she rode Josie's thigh and the most important thing being the eyes that seemed to tether her. Josie was sure this was the most ethereal thing she'd ever seen and experience. And that was saying something.

"Let go Jo."

Her brain registered the whispered command just as fingers twisted inside her hitting a new angle. Her back arched, mouth open with a silent scream and shattered. Her vision blurred and everything went numb for what felt like hours, a deep dive into the abyss. It lasted mere seconds before it felt like every synapse in her body was fired off in rapid succession.

It was too much. It was overwhelming and everything in her was screaming to get herself under control. She felt like she was wading thru some a rotating tunnel with lights she desperately wanted something hold on to. She felt herself subconsciously starting to siphon to try and find something.

She found something and in her haze she didn't question it. Mostly because it was the sweetest magical signature she'd ever siphoned. She wanted more of it. And more she took.

"What the- fuuck."

Hearing her lover's voice Josie's flew open and tried to focus on her, her vision still swimming slightly. She was right on time to see her lover come undone, head thrown back, eyes screwed shut. Watching her, along with the fingers that were gently helping her ride out her orgasm and the allure of the magical signature that was hanging in the air like pheromones. Josie came again just as intensely, feeding on the magical signature.

It had been a while since Josie let magic course thru her body and she was reminded why it was addicting and her hunger was insatiable.

She noticed the body above her stiffen a second to late. Finally connecting the signature to a source and before she could react, the hand that was caressing her throat reacted defensively.

She heard the snap before she felt it. Felt a weight a crashing on her chest.

Then nothing.
---
"Oh my fucking God." Josie said in a shocked whisper.

"Damn. That intense Jo?"

Josie looked at Hope wide eyed. Unsure of how to word what she was about to say.

"I think I died."

"They call it le petit Mort for a reason Josie."

"No. I literally died Hope."

 

 

Chapter Text

Elsewhere. In a clearing off the beaten path, secluded from prying eyes, currently occupied by an anxiety riddled werewolf and a sleeping vampire. At least that's what Jed hoped Penelope was doing anyway.

Deciding that staring at her and trying to mentally her awake wasn't working. He got up and started pacing to and fro. He was worried and he wasn't sure if he was supposed to be or not.

Calling his alpha for some insight was out of the question. Calling anyone from the pack was also scrapped from the list, knowing it'll just make it back to his alpha. Googling 'do vampires sleep' was a waste of time. Checking out occult reddit forums was a huge mistake and a reminder that humans were disgusting. And he couldn't WWPDTSHA (what would Penelope do to save his ass) his way out of this one, because for once her ass was the one in need of saving.

"You'd think after centuries we'd have our own accurate form of Wikipedia or our own supernatural WebMD."

He mumbled to himself. If anyone saw him right now he'd probably look like a frazzled junky he thought. With the disheveled look of his clothes, disarray of his hair and the talking to himself it was a fitting description.

"Penelope now would be a good time to wake up because I don't know what to do."
---
Penelope felt the leaves crunch under her feet. The yard she was entering was littered with discolored leaves. It reminded her of her childhood home and how the backyard used to look come mid October.

The contrast however between home and where she was, the leaves used to add beauty and a seasonal feel to her home. Here on the other hand the array of leaves were beautiful, but felt so out of place to what was essentially a rundown abandoned house. Oddly poetic she thought.

She was hesitant as she climbed the steps of the porch. The rotten wood creaked under her weight. The house was once a gorgeous sight. She remembered falling in love with it the moment she saw it, impulsively buying it on a whim because it felt like a place she could make home. Now just a sour reminder of what could've been.

Standing in front of the door contemplating on whether or not to enter. She grabbed the doorknob, feeling the smooth metal of it decorated with ancient runes for protection she spent hours carving into it. Not that it helped when it mattered, she thought bitterly.

There was so much of her in that house. The good, the bad and the ugly and it was just too much for Penelope. She couldn't make herself go in. She still wasn't ready to face it. If she ever would be. So she let go of the handle and turned to leave.

"You made it to the door this time. That's a new personal best." A voice said from behind her.

Penelope swiveled her head back so quickly she was surprised her head remained attached to her body. There stood her former fiancee in the doorway. Barefoot in a white sundress, hair in a messy half bun and the a few loose curls hung around her face. She looked angelic. Which threw Penelope off, because she looked nothing like that the last time she saw her.

"Ellie?.. How?" She asked in disbelief.

Ellie gave her a shrug in reply, not knowing either.

"Am I dead?" Penelope asked bewildered. She would've remembered dying though. Right?

"No, not quite anyway. You're very weak and need blood soon or you could die."

Elle explained, her voice soft. Trying to not make Penelope panic. Penelope closed her eyes, breathing in deeply. She wasn't as affected to the fact she was on deaths door as much as she was to Elle's voice. It had been so long since she heard it. Since she'd heard it be so kind to her. It shouldn't have brought up as many feelings as it did, not that she's ready to assess them let alone acknowledge them.

"So this is limbo?" She asked. Choosing to focus on her current predicament.

"Not really. It's something your subconscious conjured up."

"Why?"

"Only you can answer that. Do you want to come inside?" Penelope shook her head not ready to step into the house yet. "Ok. Come let's sit."

Elle led her to the porch steps and they both took a seat. Penelope felt her eyes studying her but she focused on a discolored leaf near her foot. The way the green was being overtaken by the sickly orange color. Which she deduced was a small scale representation on how most things in life decay, slowly losing color and life.

"I'm sorry for ruining this place for you."

Penelope turned making eye contact with her. Seeing them swimming with tears. On some levels she realized this was in her head and not legitimately happening. It didn't stop the apology of breaking something inside as well as mend some old wounds. She couldn't quite stop her instincts to comfort the other woman.

"It's not all your fault Ellie. My mistakes got us, you to that point."

Ellie let out a watery chuckle tinged with slight bitterness. She shook her head slightly in disbelief. "Even after everything you're still trying to lessen my burden and guilt by taking the blame. Like always. I never deserved it. I never deserved you."

Penelope wasn't sure how to respond so she remained silent. Focusing on the fallen leaf once more. She wanted to dispute Ellie's claims but she couldn't. It wasn't that she agreed with her. She doesn't. Ellie deserved so much more than she got. And she tried to give it to her but just gave birth to a monster instead. And that was her fault. She should've known better. But she was selfish.

"You deserved better than me." Her voice was a pained whisper.

"Pen, look at me." Ellie reached out for her hand. Penelope flinched slightly at the contact, but she didn't pull away. She looked up and stared into sincere brown eyes.

"There was no one better than you for me. Sometimes I wish I loved myself half as much as you loved me. I'd probably would happy with you chasing all the dreams we spoke about. But I didn't. And I had way more issues with myself and put them all on your shoulders. You took them without complaint, you shouldn't have had to."

"You weren't a bad person. I turned you, because you I loved you so much I was selfish. I had a hand in why it ended the way it did."

Penelope argued back. No one really let her take the blame where it was obviously her doing that led to Ellie's combustion. It was easy to blame her for everything, but Penelope wasn't one to do that.

"It still speaks volumes that your only fault was loving me too much."

"Not well enough."

"You couldn't will me to choose myself and to accept that it was ok to live. That was up to me."

Elle squeezed her hand softly. Reassuring her of the sincerity of her statements. She watched as Penelope's shoulder sagged from finally accepting that she didn't need to carry the weight of that guilt around. She smiled softly happy to see she'd gotten through to her. She hoped that she'd finally let herself find love and be happy again.

"It's time for you to go back. You need blood."

"I'm not quite ready to leave yet."

And she really wasn't. It had been a very long time since she'd felt so calm. Like she didn't have to carry the facade that was Penelope Park around. She didn't want to go back, to the loneliness that her life has become. Sure she had family and she loved them more than anything but it just hasn't been the same without Elle.

"I wish you could stay, but it isn't your time. Plus your second chance at happiness is close."

"How can you tell?"

"The seasons are changing. You've been shedding everything that tethered you to me for awhile now. It's time for new growth and roots. You just have to give it a chance to bloom and grow."

"What does that even mean?" Penelope asked perplexed.

"You'll see with time I hope. Now wake up Pen."

Before she could argue and say she wasn't ready, the ground started to shake beneath her feet. The leaves starting to rustle loudly like someone was crunching them in her ear. She felt like something was pulling her back.
---
Jed was panicking and his pacing only intensified the longer Penelope was unconscious. Maybe it was time to call his alpha. It was his fault anyway for letting her go off on her own last night anyway. So whatever chewing out he got would be warranted. Which would be far less severe than what would happen if he let Penelope die without doing anything to help. He decided to call anyway. He felt like a pup with how is heart was racing waiting for the call to connect.

"What did you do Jed?" Came an impatient voice thru the phone.

"Hey why do you always assume I did something?" he asked offended.

"Because it's you and you only ever call if you're in trouble. Now what is it."

"Uh well you see-" just before he managed to tell her, the lump of dark fabric groaned and turned over. "We, Penelope and I wanted to check and see how Mads is liking the school."

He covered the receiver with his hand hopefully muffling any noise so she wouldn't pick up on it and moved closer to Penelope to hear what she was mumbling. He half listened to his Alpha as she droned on.

"...Madi likes it so far. Extremely invested in the curriculum and the idea of kids her own age. Lexa on the other hand already called the headmaster a pompous, condescending asshole. So there's that..."

Jed was busy trying to decipher the words Penelope was forming with her mouth. Knee..need. Blo-blonde? Blunt?(he definitely needed one.)

"Oh blood..y uh-hell! I lost the bet to P. Definitely thought you'd lose your cool first and go commander on the whole situation." He hoped he didn't blow it completely.

"I'm the chill parent." She said affronted. "Is that all you called for-" she was caught off by Lexa's voice in the background. "-get Madi this was a terrible idea and this man is severely incompetent. Whose idea was this?"

Jed could already see Clarke biting her tongue not to remind Lexa that this was entirely her idea.

"I gotta go bye."

The call was disconnected. Jed put his phone away and started thinking about how he'd get Penelope some blood. Getting a human was out of the question, judging by how weak she seems to be she'd kill them. He could get blood bags from the hospital he wasn't too far away and it probably would be easy to get the blood.

But he'd have to leave Penelope here, which he wasn't quite fond of. She couldn't even talk, but taking her with him would draw way too many suspicions. It was risky but it's the only option he's got now. Pulling out a dagger he had strapped to his ankle. He placed it in her right hand, wrapping her fingers around the hilt. He picked her up and set her against a large tree facing the entrance of the clearing.

"I'm going to go get you some blood. I'll be back in like 20 minutes stops." She nodded weakly in understanding and leaned her head back.

Besides a minor run in with a nurse. He was in and out without much trouble. Taking four bags of 0 neg, he hoped that would be enough. He made his way thru the town, almost bumping into a beautiful blonde that called him a moron and gave him the icyest glare. He might be in love.

Making his way into the clearing, breathing a sigh of relief when he saw her exactly where he left her. Death grip on the dagger and eyes honed on him, or rather the blood she probably smelled.

"I come bearing life force."

The veins near her eyes popped and darken, her true face finally pushing thru. Jed would never not be freaked out at it. He tossed her two bags to start with. The desperate gulps would probably happen for awhile. She finished the two in bags almost instantly. She looked at him expectantly for a third. Jed hurriedly tossed it to her, not wanting her feral gaze on him longer than it needs to be.

This bag went at a slower pace. Almost like she was savoring it in some way. The veins around her eyes slowly started receding and her irises slowly morphed back into her usual brown hue. Her skin even looked less pale and sickly.

"I really needed that."

Her voice was raspy from the lack of use (and screaming of the previous night). She tossed the bag on the floor. Which Jed promptly picked up and started muttering about being kind to the environment. Penelope ignored him for the time being brought her arm up to wipe the blood off her face and chin. She stained the sleeve of her favorite flannel with blood.

She leaned back against the wall feeling her body course with energy once more.

"You good?"

"I think so."

"Cool. Now can you tell me what the hell happened. I almost told Clarke something was wrong!"

Her eyes widened finally understanding the severity of the situation and how worried he must've been. It also warmed her heart on how he had her back.

"To be honest..I have no idea. But I think I fucked a succubus."


Previously on.. 

"No I literally died Hope."
---
After dropping the bomb of her unexpected demise on Hope, who remained dumb struck, Josie ran out of the cafe. She felt like she couldn't breathe, her visions was starting to blur. Instinctually she knew she was on the verge of a panic attack. She felt her grasp on her control slowly splintering. And she refused to lose it in public, in public where other people could get hurt.

So Josie pushed her body to go faster. She didn't care if the locals looked at her funny for running thru town in full uniform, turtle neck and leather jacket. She was a Saltzman after all, she was used to them looking at her weirdly.

She tried focusing on the sound of her feet against the pavement. The rhythmic foot falls and the burning in her calves was somewhat distracting her from the burning in her chest. But she could feel the residual magic, from the night before, crawling under her skin trying to find a way out. The idea was enticing, the panic could easily be channeled out of her body.

She shook her head aggressively like she was trying to dislodge the idea of using magic out of her mind. Pushing her body harder feeling the muscles in her already tired body contract, she knew she only had a small headstart over Hope once it all sinks in. Once it sinks in that she's...dead.

Josie cut thru the park, a short cut home, it was also quite quiet around this hour. Which meant she'd less likely burn a human to a crisp if she lost control. She turned on to a path that was slightly covered with overgrown branches, she'd end up a few houses down from hers.

By then she hoped the panic didn't completely over take her. She could feel her lungs fighting for air but no matter how much she tried to gulp down it felt like she wasn't filling them and her vision was starting to blur. As the greenery started to morph into, patches of indistinguishable green hues. She nearly got a branch to the face as she neared the end of the pathway.

She just needed to make it home. Make it home before Hope. So she pushed her body into a full sprint. If she got home, she was safe. She could shatter and break everything she felt like as long as she got home. She could implode or explode as she pleaded. She just needed to get home. She started focusing on her footsteps and her destinations.

Right-home-left. Right-home-left. Right-home-left. Right-home-left. Right-home-left. Right-home-left.

She kept repeating it like a mantra until she hit the steps of her backdoor. Stretching up to the ledge above it to get the key. Cursing as her trembling fingers let the key fall. She wanted to blast the lock off the door at this point. But she managed to get it open before losing it. Closing the door.

"Apné sà mene." She sealed the house barring anyone entrance. She casted a soundproofing spell as well for good measure.

She was home. She was safe. Everyone else was safe. She was ok.

Except she wasn't. She was dead. Josie had danced with death far too many times not to know what she tasted like. She felt the magic being ripped from her being, the twist of bones and the inevitable crunch as it broke. And the nothingness, complete darkness and the floating emptiness of an untethered soul. She died.

The realization finally driven home, caused the tempered storm to rage once more. The nearest vase exploded into hundreds of tiny shards scattering on her regularly pristine floors. Watching them fall was oddly comforting. So she set her eyes on the mirror on the wall across from her.

She felt all of the foreign magic inside of her and she concentrated on purging out of her system. She needed a clear mind and the addicting quality of it was making her feel out of control. So she concentrated and purged it out of her system, manifesting a ball of energy between her hands. She watched as the hues change color from her regular red fiery output to a deep burgundy then finally morphing into a vibrant violet.

She got lost in the swirls of color for a moment. Wondering why it suddenly changed colors and coming to the conclusion that it had something to do with her death. Which angered her once more. With a war cry she threw the ball of magic across the room into the mirror. Shattering it into confetti like pieces, warping the frame and and making a sizable crack in the wall.

Finally the electric urgency that was coursing thru her was calm. The weight on her chest was removed, her lungs still ached some. She still felt utterly lost and spiraling, but she had control once more (even though she was holding onto it with her fingertips).
---
It took Hope a solid couple of minutes to really process the bomb Josie had dropped on her. Josie, her best friend died. But she looked very much alive, she was literally breathing right in front of her. Which really isn't supposed to be a hard concept for her to understand because she herself was a supernatural trifecta. But Josie was dead and that was mind boggling.

Mostly due to her not having any information on what happened the night before or how she even died. Was it a merge thing? Was it a side effect of her past with Hunters blood? Was she killed by a vampire? Hope was utterly lost and confused. She was also extremely scared.

Hope didn't want to acknowledge the possibility of her losing Josie. Because she wasn't they would figure it out and it would all be ok. She wouldn't accept anything less from this situation.

It took her a solid minute to realize Josie had left the cafe, before she too was out and running. She would've normally used her speed to catch up with the brunette Saltzman but it being only 5 PM it was too risky with the many humans milling the streets. She knew where the taller girl was heading, but it might be better if she took her car. Plus she needed M.G on stand by.

She called him as soon as she got in her car.

"Hey Hope did you find Josie?"

"Yea I did. I'm going to need you on stand by M.G."

"What's going on? Is Josie ok?"

"I'm not sure. But in case of anything. I'll call you when I know more." She ended the call and continue her way to the brunette's house.

She probably broke a few, see all, speeding laws on her way there. But nothing was going to stand in her way today. She was at her house in record time and hoped she still somehow beat Josie there. Throwing the car in park she was out and racing up the steps of the porch. Trying the door finding it locked, she muttered Dissera portus only to be pushed slightly back. Meaning Josie was inside and had a boundary spell up.

"Josie c'mon let me in!" She yelled hoping for some reaction. And was met with silence. She tried looking into the window but she couldn't see her.

What she did see was a violet fireball like thing being thrown across the room. She saw the residual burst and the shower of shards falling on the floor. She felt the vibration of the impact shake the window frame. Yet no sign of Josie.

For a half hour she stood outside the door trying every counter spell and some offensive spells to try and get thru the barrier but nothing. She tried calling her phone but received no answer. Growing extremely agitated and frustrated as the time went on. She was running out of options. And she was getting desperate.

However before she could concoct a really stupid plan. The barrier was dropped and the door flew open causing Hope to stumble into Josie. She stared up in shock at the younger girl.

Josie looked nothing like she did in the cafe. In place of the exhausted disheveled brunette, stood a put-together determined version of Josie. Gaze cold and calculating and gone was the normal resting pout, her lips set in a grim line. This Josie meant business. And Hope had only seen her a few times. It always ended in flames. To say she was worried was an understatement.

She watched the leather jacket and map she had clutched in her hands. Josie had done a locator spell it seems and she was on the proverbial hunt.

"You're going to insist on coming along aren't you?"

Hope nodded dumbly.

"Fine. Let's go." She said exasperated.

"I'm calling for back up."

"If you must. But my dad and Lizzie can't know yet. And please no Landon." Hope ignored the 'my day is already insufferable as is' she muttered under her breath.

She called M.G as soon as they were situated in the car.

"Hey M.G can you meet us about 3 miles out? Just you and Kaleb don't tell Alaric anything or Lizzie."

"Hope you're worrying me what's going on."

"We'll explain when we get there."

"Ok."
---
They drove in silence for awhile, Hope kept stealing glances at Josie. Josie's face remained impassive not acknowledging the obvious tension rolling off of Hope. It was starting to annoy her though.

"How are you so calm right now? You're- you."

"Died. I'm aware."

"Then how are you alive right now?"

"Well it's one of three things. It's a Merge thing, a golem thing or Petra was a vampire and I'm transitioning."

Granted Hope had come up with two of the same possibilities, she was still shell shocked with how void of any emotional reaction Josie said it with.

"Again how are you so calm?!"

"What do you want me to be Hope? None of those options are particularly making me happy right now."

Josie's impassive mask started to crack. Her fear and anger, mostly anger was starting to radiate off her. Hope was just happy she was feeling and saying something.

"So why do you think Petra is a vampire did she feed on you?"

"I technically fed on her."

"Elaborate, because if she didn't feed how'd you die."

"Neck snap. I know Petra has to at least be magical because I siphoned magic from her. And I siphoned a lot, it was addicting. I think I triggered her fight or flight instincts and crack went my neck."

Hope stared at her in disbelief.

"Eyes on the road Hope. I'd rather not have to die again." Dying in a car crash seemed less enjoyable than dying mid orgasm in Josie's opinion.

"I don't know if you're nonchalant attitude is a coping mechanism for yourself or a form of comfort for me, but it's kind of working. But how are you transitioning if there wasn't any blood involved?"

"I didn't say that. The sex was...rough to say the least. There were a few bloody bites here and there."

Josie tried to keep her tone as flippant as possible but she couldn't stop the blush from coloring her cheeks. Talking about her sex life was never her thing, much less with her sort of ex.

"Mixing blood with a one night stand is never a smart choice."

It was literally the worst dumbest most irresponsible choice Hope thought. She was thinking about the fact that Josie felt free and open enough to be with this Petra in such a way, that she never was with her. She didn't even know Josie was into rough sex like that. And given their history she should've known...right?

Hope turned her focus on the road. Now was not the time to get wrapped up in misplaced jealousy. Not that there would ever be the right time for her. She didn't have any right to be. She had Landon after all. Thankfully Josie didn't entertain her obvious jab so they drove to their destination in silence.
---
When they pulled up to the side of the road, 3 miles out from the Salvatore building they watched four figures come out of the woods.

"Just what my day needed. Rocky and Bullwinkle."

Josie grumbled under her breath as she watched Rafael and Landon making their way to the car, with Kaleb and M.G in tow. Hope had to stifle her laugh but she too was annoyed with their appearance.

When M.G got closer he raised his arms in a 'I come in peace' manner. But it was Rafael that spoke up first.

"Sorry for crashing, but I overheard M and Kay talkin' and it sounded like you were in trouble Jos'. So I forced my way in to the OP."

Josie couldn't bring herself to be angry with him. He genuinely cared about her and went into protective mode. So she smiled softly at him in reassuring him it was ok. M.G sighed in relief glad that the potential conflict was resolved quietly. Landon on the other hand went right to Hope and kissed her in greeting. Kaleb rolled his eyes at his actions.

"Hey Josie do you mind sitting in the back with the guys. It'll be to cramped with the four of us."

"No Jo-."

Before Hope could argue against him Josie was already making her way out of the car.

"That's probably why your ass wasn't invited. Anyway Jo come here been a while without a pretty thing on my lap." Kaleb joked trying to diffuse the tension.

Once everyone was situated in the car, a little uncomfortable in the back seat but not completely terrible. Josie sat in the middle of on Kaleb and had her legs outstretched on Raf's.

"Uh so what's the mission? It sounded serious." M.G asked wondering why Hope acted so weird on the phone.

"We're going to find Josie's hook up, Petra, from last night-" Hope was interrupted by the round of high fives. "-who might be a vampire." The backseat got even more hyped. "That killed her." And it was silent once more.

"Accidentally killed me. It wasn't her fault." Josie grumbled in Petra's defense.

"You're a vamp now?!"

"You died?"

"I keep telling you to stay away from the white devils Jo."

"She's not white Kaleb. There's a little foreign influence in there."

"With a name like Petra there's no way she's not a snow queen."

"Not actually her name but I digress. We have about 6 hours to find her."

"Wait you didn't drink human blood yet to finish the transition?" M.G asked shocked.

"No. I'm not sure if she is a vampire, or if me coming to life was a Merge thing or.." she trailed off not wanting to set Landon off.

"Or if it's a Malivore thing." He finished bitterly.

"Yea so I didn't want to subject myself to blood without having too because it sounds disgusting. No offense guys."

"None taken Josie." M.G said squeezing her hand in comfort and solidarity.

Hope finally started the car and started heading east as Josie instructed. The car was fairly quiet as all of them contemplated Josie's predicament.

"So how did you die Josie?" Kaleb asked. Wondering how she got 'accidentally' killed. And why they weren't completely up in arms about it.

"I-it uh doesn't matter." She said blushing.

"A chokehold." Hope teased wincing at the glare Josie sent her thru the rear view mirror.

"But Hope said she was a hookup?" Rafael asked confused. A chorus of "OH." Came from the backseat as they realized what Hope was implying.

"So you were the white devil in this scenario Saltzman."

Kaleb teased her lightly. Raf offered her a small smile in understanding and M.G gave her hand another squeeze. She was glad they were understanding and that she wasn't being judged or being shamed for her interests.

"I don't get it."

Everyone groaned at the ever present slowness that Landon seemed to possess. Hope squeezed his hand in comfort and interlaced their fingers. Josie would be lying if she said the sight still didn't make her chest ache.

Chapter Text

Two hours. It had been two hours since the self proclaimed 'super squad' had gotten lost in the woods.

"I swear we've been passed this tree at least six times..or was it that one? We should start marking the trees."

"Started doing that an hour ago M.G and we've passed both those trees four times now."

Rafael pointed out to M.G showing him the lines he marked into the tree bark. The other's hearing this came to a halt as well. Turning to inspect that he indeed had marked the trees.

Josie let out a frustrated groan leaning against a larger tree and sinking down. She was exhausted and they were going in literal circles. Lost in the middle of nowhere in search of what she was starting to think wasn't just a potential vampire one night stand. Turning on her flashlight she checked the map and saw that both the map and magically enhanced compass were pointing into the direction they were going. Which made absolutely no sense.

"Are you sure you did that spell correctly Josie?! " Landon questioned.

All eyes snapped to Josie. Kaleb shook his head whispering to M.G how 'she's going to light him up like a firecracker'. Rafael seeing that the situation could lead to his brother being turned into a pile of ash, moved slightly to stand in Josie's line of sight and block Landon. Not that it helped. Josie was back on her feet map and compass forgotten in an instance.

"What are you implying Landon? That I don't know how to do a simple locator spell?!"

"No I'm sure that's not what he meant J-" M.G's attempt at smoothing out the situation was interrupted by Landon.

"Well we've been lost for 2 hours following your map literally in circles. Something is definitely wrong with your 'spell casting'."

"Did this mo'fucker really air quote Saltzman? We all dying now."

Kaleb dramatically threw his hand up and shook his head exasperated at the audacity of that bitch. His outburst however went unnoticed as everyone was focused on Josie's darkening expression.

"What is your problem?!" She spat through clenched teeth.

"My problem is that you're letting your ego get in the way. Just admit you didn't do it right and let Hope do it. Instead of wasting our time!"

"Landon that's enough! Josie-"

"Josie hasn't practiced or done any magic in a year! She obviously did something wrong or maybe this Petra thing isn't-"

"Landon I said that's enough!"

Hope's voice felt like it bounced off every tree around them and vibrated between them. Hearing the anger in his girlfriend's words and the utter rage that was radiating from Josie, Landon finally understood that he had said far too much. So whatever else he was ready to lash out was swallowed back down with a fearful gulp.

Seeing that Landon was silenced and wasn't gearing up for another tirade she turned to Josie. For the second time that day she was confronted by her two least favorite Saltzman expressions. Josie's eyes were widened in shock and hurt. Like she caught an unexpected knife to the back, which was exactly what she felt like. A knife Hope accidentally armed Landon with.

"Josie I-"

"No. I don't want to hear it Hope. You can all go. I'll figure it out on my own!"

The hurt was quickly replaced with the guarded coldness that always made Hope's skin crawl. Josie picked up the discarded map and compass and started going in the direction they were heading before. Rafael tried to block her path but she blasted him into a tree and disappeared into the darkness of the forest as the rest were processing what had happened.

"What the hell just happened?" M.G asked as he moved to check on a dazed Rafael.

"I don't know but there's definitely nothing wrong with her magic, stupid." Kaleb said while smacking Landon upside the head.

"I'm going to go after her." Hope said.

"Of course you are." "No you aren't."

Both Landon and Kaleb spoke up at the same time. Landon walked off and went to have a seat on a fallen bark, like a child. Hope ignored his tantrum and turned to Kaleb ready to question him.

"What do you mean I'm not."

"Well Mikaelson exactly that. I'on know what all that was about but you better let her cool down. Before Georgia experiences a California type wildfire."

"No." Hope turned to follow Josie. But Kaleb blocked her path.

"Funny that's exactly what I said." Hope tried to side step Kaleb but he wouldn't budge.

"Move Kaleb." She tried shoving passed him yet he stood his ground. Crossing his arms over his chest. Showing her that he wasn't about to back down. Neither did she. She kept trying to move past him.

"Enough!" Rafael roared as he finally found his bearings. He got to his feet still grasping his ribs, hoping the soreness would ease soon. Josie's defensive spells really packed a punch and she definitely left her mark everytime. He made his way to the tribrid and vampire still squaring off. Neither showing signs of backing down.

"Hope. Kaleb is right we need to give Josie some time to cool off."

"Yea she's obviously in a volatile state, she could hurt you."

"Boy if you don't shut your mouth."

"Be quiet Landon!"

"Anyway we need to figure out what hell is going on. Because there's nothing wrong with Josie's magic. And we're kind of on a time crunch."

Rafael stared Hope down, asking her to argue with him as well. He saw her eyes flicker. Her wolf was raging at being told no, but he knew mentioning the literal timer that could potentially be the end of their shared friend, would win out.

"I uh actually have a theory on the getting lost thing." M.G said coming closer to the three.

"Well spit it out Milton."

"Ease up Mikaelson, I'm not going to tell you again."

Hope apologized sufficiently chastised by Kaleb. M.G nodded in acknowledgment and started explaining his theory.
---
Josie sat at the edge of a ravine. A ravine that wasn't supposed to be here according to the map. But here it was. She just assumed that it was due to stream cutting erosion that once led to Steven's Quarry. She could see the bottom which was approximately a six to seven feet and deep 20 feet across in some areas. It was jagged and filled with differing sized boulders. It looked scarier under the darkness of night.

Normally a sight like this, along with the fact that she was sitting at the edge, would've spiked her anxiety to an uncontrollable degree. However it was oddly comforting tonight. It probably was the fact that a fall into this ravine would surely spell the end. It would prove any normal person's mortality. And for a moment her instinct to fear stepping over the edge reminded her of her own. Or better said the mortality she hoped she still had.

Instinctually Josie knew her revival had nothing to do with the merge. It being tied to Malivore was possible, but highly unlikely. Petra was definitely a vampire. The bleeding lip and several other bloody bites, would qualify as enough blood to guarentee her transitioning after death. Josie was still confused on why she acted so reckless the night before. Being carefree was out of character for her.

Turning into what she assumes is a heretic really wasn't a part of the plan. It was more of a last resort she was never planning to go through with if it came down to it. She just didn't want it to be true. She'd much rather Petra be some super strength witch and her revival had something to with do some weird golem lore. Maybe she was part Phoenix now, without the inconvenience of fire and ash. It would also piss Landon off since he'd no longer have his precious 'I'm a one of a kind snowflake' badge of honor.

At the thought of Landon, Josie came back to why she was originally seated at the ravine. She felt the hurt and anger bubble up inside her once more. She couldn't believe he had the audacity to come at her like that. When all he's good for is was coming back like a karmic boomerang with some monstrous plague. Granted the monstrous plagues stopped once his mud donor was dealt with. But he was still practically useless.

However that wasn't the root of her hurt and anger. It was the fact that Hope told him things, things Josie told her in confidence. Things that shouldn't have been repeated to anyone, especially not to boy wonder. And yet they were shared and promptly thrown in her face. In front of her -their friends that were completely unaware of anything being wrong with her. She wondered how much Landon knew, how extensive were Hope's broken promises?

Just the the thought of it made her feel the most alone she'd ever felt. Hope was no longer her safe haven. If Josie was honest with herself she'd realize that Hope hadn't been for awhile. Not since Landon. Yet some of her darkest secrets still had a home with Hope, well they used to.

Deciding she didn't like her line of thoughts, Josie decided to go join them again. At least Kaleb's never ending humor could keep her thoughts from going into a depressive spiral. Getting off the forest floor she almost knocked down a cairn she hadn't noticed before.

"Odd to find a cairn so far out. There's no path insight. Or any natives in the area."

Josie stared at the stack of rocks in confusion. She knew of there significance but it being here made zero sense to her. Looking around she found 2 more stacks further away around the ravines edge. The precariously piled rocks kind of looked an indicator of a perimeter.

"It all makes sense now."

Josie muttered in amazement. Just to test if her theory was correct she tried to siphon magic from the cairn. And her hunch was confirmed right away. There was a strong magical signature emitting from it. This was why they kept going in circles. They were stuck in a mirage of sorts.

The strength of the spell had her in awe. Knowing that the use of cairns meant that the spell caster used several binding spells and runes just to keep the spell going so long. She also read once that some practitioners can tie spirits to their runes if they were carved into something solid, like rocks.

"How am I going to unravel this, without setting off the alarm or defensive traps, if there are any?"

She studied the cairns paying attention to how they were stacked to find any clue as to how to disarm the spell. Each cairn was of similar height, each had an almost identical grey flat stone in the stack. The grey stones were at different heights within the crains. Josie hoped that meant a 1, 2, 3 kind of order in breaking the spell.

Concentrating on the magical signatures, she could tell which one was radiating the most magic.

"Ok so I'll siphon the magic out of the weakest one and work my way up to the stronger one." She mumbled to herself, psyching herself up. Knowing one misstep could translate to a tethered soul trying to kill her or something equally terrifying.

Getting to work on slowly extracting the magic from the cairns. The magic felt familiar but was way to tainted by the earthiness of the runes own magic to place where from. The first one was drained rather quickly. She knocked the cairn down for good measure. Sighing in relief that no demon emerged from it. The second cairn went a bit slower, she almost caused it to collapse because she got overzealous. Thankfully it didn't. Knocking it down. She quickly started on to the third.

The adrenaline and magic coursing through had her feeling high like nothing else. The runes definitely had an odd quality to them. Like a bitterness, it reminded her of drinking cough medicine as a kid. It tasted weird but it soothed the ache. The runes' magic felt like a hug from a stranger during tragedy, foreign yet exactly what she needed at the time.

Her concentration wavered as she heard the sound of rapid footsteps nearing her. The crain shook and the rock at the top swayed. She stopped siphoning immediately and stared anxiously to see if it would collapse. Sighing in relief when it stays in place.

"Josie!?" M.G called out.

"Over here." She replied leading them to where she was.

"Josie we- M.G figured out why we've been going in circles." Rafael said as they got closer.

"That we're stuck in a mirage of sorts perpetually going around in circles?" Josie asked dryly.

"Yes..and that the spell is making us turn on eachother so we split up so that whatever evil creatures domain we've walked into can eat us." M.G added in his over the top way.

Josie couldn't help but smile. She loved that he never lost his child wonderment and imagination. Him trying to make Landon's outburst seem like a side effect of a spell on the other hand was something she was definitely less2 fond of.

"The turning on and betraying eachother was intentional M." She made eye contact with Hope as she said it. Driving it home that she considered it a betrayal of her trust.

"Completely unrelated but what are you doing to them rocks?" Kaleb asked trying to swerve Josie's attention.

"This is actually the last rune acting as a seal to the mirage spell. I'm siphoning the magic out of the rune to render it useless." She explained.

"Last? How many were there?" Hope asked.

"Three in total."

"That's a lot of magic...can't we break the spell by physically destroying the rune?"

Josie rolled her eyes in annoyance.

"Of course I thought of that, I'm not as incompetent as some of you might believe. Cairns are normally tied to honoring the dead in some native cultures, they could've easily tied a soul to these runes."

"Even more reason for you to stop siphoning from it!" Hope moved to stop Josie from siphoning from the rune.

Muttering Passim under her breath she pushed Hope slightly backwards. She upped her siphoning trying to drain it faster. The crain started to shake slightly.

Landon didn't take to kindly to her pushing Hope back. M.G saw the anger morphing his features and held him back before he did something stupid.

"Let me go M.G." he tried to force out of the hold.

"Hold him." Kaleb told M.G. He himself moved to stand between Hope and Josie.

"Hope let Josie do her thing." He tried to suggest calmly.

"She shouldn't be siphoning this much magic after literally dying! We don't know what it could do to her."

Hope was distressed and no one was listening to her. Granted the four guys had no idea why she was, not the real reason anyway. Josie was being reckless and a reckless Josie was a dangerous one. And she's not sure to whom in this case.

"I know what I'm doing Hope."

"Then why is that thing shaking like there's an earthquake going on?!"

"Landon shut up. Or so help me God I'll throw you into the ravine myself!"

Rafael said getting into the other boy's face. Hope using Kaleb being distracted by the war of words currently going on with the brothers, side stepped his guard. And ran to Josie grabbing her hand.

"There has to be another way Josie. You can't do this-." The again remained unsaid but the implication wasn't lost to Josie as it managed to break her concentration.

Josie and Hope stared with bated breath as the crain shook and collapsed to the forest floor. The silver stone that was in fact the rune slid closest to them. They could see the crest marked in blood still glowing.

"Why are y'all staring at it destroy it."

Hope and Josie scrambled to their feet at Kaleb's voice. Raising their hands to start the incantation.

"Universa Ruina In Tenebras Ra Damis Infini-"

Before the two could finish the incantation they were all magically blasted back by the rune. A blinding glow surging from the stone. An animal like growl followed.

Once the glow receded the group was confronted with a large man with glowing eyes, in what looked like to army fatigues. He was foaming at the mouth looking at them like they were his next meal.

"That's a big ghost." M.G said in disbelief.

"Spread out now!" Rafael yelled noticing that the man was preparing to charge at them.

They all scrambled to their feet trying to spread out as much as possible to not give it a clear target. Rafael remained in the middle, the spirit's direct line of sight. The spirit seemed to scent the air curiously.

"Anyone with any ideas on how to fight a spirit." M.G asked distress cracking his voice.

"Phasmatos Morsinus Pyrox Allum!" Hope yelled the incantation. Watching in growing horror as the pain infliction seemed go right thru the spirit like wind.

"Was something supposed to happen?!"

Josie muttered "Vados." under her breath and raised her arms in the air. Several stones started to levitate off the ground, Josie waited until she had about 12 in the air before crossing her arms. Hurtling all the stones at the spirit. They started exploding as they neared their intended target. Startling the spirit causing him to phase into his physical form and out. Some of the exploding stones catching fire to his fatigues, but being quickly extinguished as she he phased back into his metaphysical form.

"I think you just pissed him off more Jo." Raf said eyeing the man getting ready to charge at one of them.

"Definitely..but now we know he can phase in and out of a physical form. Which is really bad news for us."

"So uh what's the plan?!" Landon asked ready to run right back into the woods rather be preptually lost than face the man in front of them.

"Disorientate and when you can attack. And..well avoid getting attacked back?" Hope commanded unsurely.

And what's they did. Or the very least tried to. They gave it their best but they couldn't over power him. If one of them attacked, they'd move right through him and he'd hit another one knocking the air out of them. None of the two witches' arsenal of offensive spells seemed to be able to actually do him any harm.

"How do we kill this thing?"

The answering growl from the man before them made their eyes widen in horror.

"Is it me or does that fucker look like he about to phase?!"

"Shit. Kaleb and M.G take Landon and spread out inward."

"You stupid if you think we're leaving y'all."

"Kaleb go! We don't know what his bite can do." Rafael snarled. He wasn't sure what a spirit bite from a werewolf could do and he was in no mood to find out.

Kaleb nodded in understanding and grabbed Landon and went further into the woods they came from. M.G wasn't so quick to leave. Not wanting to leave his best friend in a situation like this. Josie mouthed to him to go. That she'd be ok. Nodding he finally disappeared into the woods.

"Ok so what's the plan? Because six of us didn't make a scratch and three of us seems even less likely." Hope asked ducking from a wild punch.

Josie looked passed the man to the rune. Knowing that their only shot was destroying the stone. Throwing caution to the wind Josie dived for the stone.

"Igna-" before she could finish the spell she was flung backwards. She grunted as slid across the floor. Feeling the gravel scrape against her body and sharp pain blooming in her ribcage.

"Josie!" Both Rafael and Hope yelled simultaneously both rushing towards her.

Hope was stopped by a hard kick to her solar plexus followed by an equally unexpected uppercut that sent her flying back and hitting the ground hard. Hope's vision blurred and her head throbbed. The blow to the solar plexus made it hard for her to catch her breath.

Rafael taking the spirit by surprise, just as he finished upper cutting Hope, still in his physical form. Snarling he speared him to the ground.

Getting a few good hits in before finding himself flat on his back. The man's eyes wilder up close, snarling as delivered clubbing blows to Rafael. Raf felt the hits busting his lip and giving him a deep cut on his left eyebrow. And the man kept wailing not giving him a chance to put up a proper defense. There was a stream of blood running down his face. He tried bucking him off but didn't have much luck.

He couldn't pinpoint if it was the vulnerability of his position or the hard blows to the head, but one of them had his mind flashing back to childhood memories he'd desperately tried to shake. He was in trouble and there's wasn't much more he could withstand. And just as his vision started to blur and more dark spots began appearing. The wailing stopped.

Josie had finally gotten back to her feet. Her ribcage was aching and her physical strength felt like it was crumbling. But seeing Hope get laid out and watching Rafael getting repeatedly hit she managed to muster up enough adrenaline to charge at them. Using the same technique Kaleb and Raf taught her when they were teaching her how to be their kicker. She charged at the pair as the man was far too focused on beating the hell out of Raf. She visualized the football in place of his head and prayed she didn't miss.

Her foot made contact with the side of his head. The force would've probably knocked a normal being out. But it only dazed him. She didn't give him much chance to shake it off. Levitating him and then sending him crashing to the floor away from Rafael. She quickly casted a binding spell to keep him there.

As she moved to stand over him she could see his features becoming more animal than man. His teeth were elongated, fangs gleaming in the moonlight as he snarled at her. He was trashing around violently, the binding spell was as weak as she felt and wouldn't hold him for much longer. She had one chance to end this. Or they wouldn't make it. And her friends weren't going to suffer that faith because of her.

She waited and watched as the man kept trashing. She could feel the power of the spell fading so she raised her arms in preparation. Spell on her tongue. Waiting for the right moment.

His facial expression and body movement gave it away instantly once the spell broke. She saw his eyes glow brighter, a hunter knowing he had his prey.

"Ignalusa!" She roared arms raised aiming for his chest. She felt the magic in her turn into molten heat as it moved through her body. Her hands glowing in as flames and heat started to flow from them. Some of them reached out and lit his jacket on fire. He trashed around trying escape it and that's when the binding spell snapped.

He became translucent just like she expected him to and she channeled every ounce of magic into the fire ball she conjured and sent it hurling through his chest. Right on the rune he was laying on. He trashed around more violently as the flames engulfed the rune, essentially destroying it. His face fully turned into that of a feral wolf, howling in agony.

Josie was running out of magic to fuel her improvised flamethrower and wasn't sure how much more would need. But she saw the mark of the rune disappearing and the spirit seemed like he was fading. Then it happened the silver stone cracked in half. Releasing another burst of light that caused Josie to stumble back and fall.

The spirit roared and shifted fully into his wolf form charging at her. For the second time in 24 hours felt teeth grazing her jugular as the wolf tried to bite her. She felt its paw on her chest unnaturally hot and stinging her skin, even through the layers of clothing she was wearing.

He disappeared with a piercing howl.

"What the actual fuck." Josie stared up at the night sky trying to wrap her mind around what had just transpired.

Hope groaned in pain as she stirred awake. Which had Josie springing into action.

"Kaleb! M.G!" She called for them.

She was closer to Raf and didn't think her legs could carry her to Hope. So she crawled to him, all the while wincing as her ribs ached. Rafael's face covered with blood. Josie felt guilt constrict her heart. It was her fault he was hurt she thought.

Reaching out with her hand to heal the cut above his eyebrows. But he flinched away from her. Arms coming up to protect himself.

"I'm sorry please stop." He whimpered sounding nothing like the self confident guy Josie knew him as.

"Raf it's me Josie. I just want to heal the cut." She tried to keep her voice as soothing as possible and her movements as not threatening as possible. Slowly he lowered his arms.

Just then the trio made there way back towards them. Landon in dramatic fashion ran towards Hope, yelling her name. This caused Rafael to flinch away and whimper again.

"Shh, it's ok. Let me help. You're ok Raf." She soothed him once again.

"Kaleb can you borrow me your sweater." She asked needing something to wipe up the blood from his face.

"M give her your sweater."

"She asked for yours though."

"Yeah, but this is my favorite one."

"But so is-"

"Literally any sweater will do."

Kaleb motioned for M.G to hand over his sweater. Which he did grumbling about it. Josie tried to keep her anger in check at them taking so long. She didn't want to trigger Rafael anymore than he already was.

Getting the sweater she started wiping the blood away so she could get a better look at the gash on his forehead. She kept reassuring him that he was ok. She knew as soon as the wound was healed he'd feel less vulnerable. She figured whatever spell was in place slowed down his and Hope's healing factor.

Healing the wound with what little magic she had left. She felt absolutely drained and tired. She needed a nap. Rafael finally seemed to be coming back to himself. His breathing evened out and his shoulders seemed less tense. He even let her unfurl one of his fists and let her squeeze it reassuringly.

"You're ok. C'mon we have eachother."

Kaleb and M.G helped them to their feet. Josie had to lean on M.G with how bad her ribs hurt, she also didn't trust to keep her upright.

Seeing his bestfriend in so much pain made M.G wish he had stayed and fought. Maybe he and Kaleb could've changed something, prevented their friends from getting so beaten down.

"We shouldn't have left."

"That thing shifted into a wolf. I'm glad you did. I never wanted anyone to get hurt."

She looked at Rafael leaning on Kaleb, head probably still spinning. Hope was somehow on her feet clutching her ribs. Josie could see the bruise blooming on her chin from where she received the uppercut. M.G watched the guilt run across her face and he knew she'd blame herself.

"Hey it wasn't your fault." He tried reassuring her. He could tell it didn't do much to change her mindset. In her current state she couldn't muster up a believable smile. She just squeezed his side in acknowledgment.

"So now that baldy the angry ghost is taken care of...what now?" Kaleb asked.

"Honestly we should just go back to school. Josie could have some blood to finish the transition or figure out whatever happened to her. And we can get back up to deal with whatever danger this Petra might be."

Hope wasn't used to being so out of her depth. They were going into some powerful being's den blind. Not knowing what or who they might encounter. And judging by the guard dog they just faced the owners were just as ruthless, if not more. They needed to regroup and be better equipped. As much she hated to say it they needed Alaric and Dorian.

"I told you I didn't want my dad or Lizzie to know. You guys can go, but I'm seeing this thru. I need answers."

They had gotten this far and she wasn't ready to give up now. Josie didn't know why she felt the need to find Petra. Was it to let her know she sired someone?

She didn't blame her for killing her. There was some resentment because it was forcing her to make a choice she had at least another year to think about. She logically knew the resentment was ill placed and she was projecting it so she didn't have to deal in her own role.

Josie was having an extremely hard time pinning the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that were going on inside her down. Which she was definitely blaming on the transition and not on the fact she never actually learned how to process her emotions.

"Why are you so set on doing it this way?! We barely beat that thing." Hope argued shocked at Josie's outright resistance.

"I had it handled. If you had just listened to me it wouldn't have gotten so dangerous." Josie spoke through gritted teeth. She was getting tired of Hope questioning her every move.

"I'm sorry for looking out for you? You've siphoned more in the last 24 hours than you have in a year! What if you relapse? Do you ever stop to think about yourself Josie?!"

"You know better than anyone that I don't Hope."

M.G was taken back by the shift in Josie's entire demeanor. There was no warmth radiating off of her like it was moments before, when she was reassuring him or Rafael. He didn't know what Hope meant with relapsing but it definitely wasn't something Josie wanted to hear.

"That was different." Hope said defensively. Looking like Josie had physically struck her.

"Only difference is that I was doing it for you right?"

Kaleb's eyes widened. He was used to hearing that tone from the blonde Saltzman. That was the tone that let you know that she went for someone's jugular. And judging by the expression on Hope's face Josie had done exactly that. He watched as Josie went over to her discarded map at the edge of the ravine.

Hope felt like she got super kicked right in the gut once more. Her fear of losing Josie was manifesting in the worst way. She kept saying the wrong things and undermining her. It's not that she wanted Josie to feel incompetent or that she didn't believe in her. She just didn't want her to be in a position where she lost herself again. Where she could lose her again. Yet all she'd managed to do in the last 24 hours was push her further away.

"Josie you sure about this?" Rafael asked breaking the tense silence.

Josie turned to look at her friends. Rafael and Hope were still not a hundred percent, but they definitely looked better. Kaleb and M.G looked ready for anything. Landon was still fretting over Hope. She ignored the twinge of jealousy in her chest and tried to be happy he cared so much about her. She didn't want any of them to get hurt, not because of her.

"There's no way you guys will let me go it alone?"

"Hell no." Was the resounding answer from the group of guys.

Sighing internally.

"Then I'm sure of this."

She stared at the compass confused. As it keeps pointing straight forward. Across the ravine. Which made no sense to her.

"This ravine shouldn't be here. It's not on the map. And Petra is according to the map not far out from where we are. But there's no sign of life in the tree lines that I can see."

She explained to them. Hoping that one of them would have some ideas. She barely had energy to stay up right much less to think.

"I mean the ravine could be stream erosion." Landon tried to supply helpfully.

"Yea but ranger's would've come across in the last 5 years at least and maps are updated yearly." Rafael chimed in.

"So the consensus is that this ravine should not be hear. But I thought the spells last seal was broken?" Kaleb asked wondering if the spell was still in tact.

"The ravine could be an illusion. Like a curtain." M.G added.

"How do we break that I didn't see anymore cairns."

Hope had moved away from Landon and grabbed a medium sized rock and threw it at the ravine. The rock disappeared into thin air.

"It's a veil of some sorts. Probably a different spell or method keeping it up. Whoever put that spell up is probably waiting on us to pass thru. Are you guys sure about this." Hope inquired still incredibly wary of going in to the situation not knowing what they might be facing.

"We came this far. And it's not like we are storming in there on some colonizer shit. We just want to talk to this Petra chick." Rafael said confidently. Smiling reassuringly to Josie. Just trying to convey that they had her back.

"Speaking of colonizers. You two aren't allowed to talk." Kaleb said addressing Landon and Hope.

"Why the hell not?!" He asked offended.

"Because emo Ken you and mint condition Lara Croft scream entitled whites and will definitely escalate a misunderstanding to a hostile situation." Kaleb explained condescendingly.

Hope and Landon both wore offended expressions at his statement. While Raf, M.G and Josie tried to stifle their grins.

"Ok let's do this guys."

They lined up at the edge of the ravine. Hands clasped together. Josie between Raf and M.G. Kaleb in the middle next to Hope and Landon on the other end.

"On three."

"You guys sure about this? What if we plummet to our deaths?" Landon asked nervously.

"Then you'll wake up in a pile of ash. Three!" Kaleb said and they all took a step forward walking thru the veil.
---
Each of them opened their eyes a little fearfully. Checking to see if everyone made it thru. Looking around Josie was glad to see her friends were all safely there with her. Her relief was short lived as she felt cold metal pressed at the back of her throat. Watching from her peripherals she could see that they all had a some form of weapon pressed against them.

A man walked out of the shadows holding what looked to be an assault rifle. Decked in a leather jacket much like the one Josie currently wore. The bearded man eyed them cautiously. Like he was sizing up how much of a threat they might be pose.

"Who are you and why are you here?" He asked looking towards a shaking Landon.

"We're a-uh looking for a vampire named Petra."

Josie watched the man's grip tighten around the gun. She felt the cold metal press harder against her skin. Judging by how Rafael stiffened, it was happening to him as well. She squeezed both his and M.G's hands in solidarity.

"There aren't any vampires named anything close to Petra here. I'll give you one more chance before I light you all up."

"I met her at the bar last night. She's about yay high. Dark brown hair. She-"

"This is not explaining why you are here!" He interrupted. Getting into Josie's face.

Thankfully Josie still had a hold of Rafael. She felt him ready to step in front of her. But she squeezed hard enough to leave crescent shaped in his hand. To keep him where he was.

"I died last night. The woman from the bar is the last person I was with. I tracked her leather jacket to here. We didn't mean any trouble, I just want answers."

The man kept eye contact for awhile. Making Josie feel even more uncomfortable. He took a step back contemplating on whether or not to believe her.

"We still don't have any Petra's here. And how would I know you aren't bait and there's not some more you coming to attack us?"

"Her name isn't actually Petra. I couldn't actually remember it." She explained.

"And there's no one else besides us or anyone that knows we're out here." M.G added nervously. Which caused Hope to groan, they were definitely screwed now.

The man smirked at that. Before he could react to it. Another man appeared from the shadows. Josie recognized him instantly from the hospital. The guy she'd bumped into near the lab.

"Perimeter and surroundings are secure."

"I guess you were telling the truth on that one. Any proof to the rest of your story?" The man seemed more at ease now that he knew it was just them. The pressure of the guns to their backs lessened slightly.

"Can I give you the jacket?"

The man gestured her forward and she took the jacket off handing it over to him. He inspected the jacket eyes widening. Recognizing instantly whose it was. The man from the hospital seemed to recognize it as well. Turning to pay attention to Josie more closely. Shock and confusion coloring his expression.

"You're her. You're Penelope's succubus." He said like he just figured out an intense game of whodunit.

Penelope. A beautiful name for a beautiful face Josie thought.
---
Josie hadn't felt this alone in a long time. It had more to with the significance of today and not having many people to share it with. She had woken up to a notification from the sobriety counter app. She was one year clean. She instantly felt the urge to share the news with Lizzie and her parents. However that would require her to explain why she was one year clean to begin with.

She'd gotten an congratulatory email from Emma and her counselor. Her friend Tandy promised drinks as soon as she could make it to Mystic Falls. At least she had drinks with Hope to look forward too. Though she didn't receive any texts from her but she assumed she was busy at the school.

Milestones were the hardest parts of recovery for her. It made her happy to know she was doing better, but it added an extra weight to her shoulders for the remainder of the day. Made the dark cloud always looming over her more present. Made the fake smile even more tiring to maintain. No one knew what she hid behind the facade. Milestone days just amplified all of her emotions and everyday struggles to the point she felt like she was drowning.

But she soldiered on and made it thru the day. She still hadn't heard from Hope but she readied herself to meet her at the bar anyway. She felt a little overdressed for the town bar, but she wanted to look cute for Hope. She didn't spend to much time dwelling on the why and what she hoped to get from looking cute for her sort of ex that was in a happy relationship.

She made it to the bar a few minutes later then planned. But she didn't see Hope anywhere outside.Thinking she herself was running late she decided to call and let her know not to rush and that she'd be inside. A giggling Hope answered the call.

"Hello."

"Hey Hope I just got to the bar. I'll grab a table for us." There was a pregnant pause on Hope's end.

"Shit I had meant to call you. Something uh-came up at Salvatore. Your dad needs help with some urgent research."

"Oh. It's ok." Josie tried to keep her obvious disappointment out of her voice.

"We can get drinks another time."

Agreeing and wishing her the best of luck. She sighs and wonders what she should do now that her plans were nonexistent. Celebrating her one year milestone alone seemed fitting, she'd been alone for most of the journey anyway.

She could also check in with what the boys were doing and at least have some fun tonight.

To M.G ⍟: hey are you busy helping my dad and hope?

From ⍟: Sup Jo. Last I heard Hope is off to a concert with Landon and your dad and Dorian have sealed themselves in the library. Why?

Hope bailed on her. Hope bailed on her to go to a concert with Landon. When she was the one who insisted that they celebrate this stupid 'milestone' in the first place. She felt a whirlwind of emotions and her control slipping. She needed a drink. Or a few.

She made her way into the bar heading straight to th counter. The bar was still pretty quiet given how early it was and it being a week day. There were some guys playing pool and another group watching some game in their designated corner. There was only one woman in the bar seated at the far corner at the counter. She had dark brown hair with a leather jacket on the back of her barstool. For some reason she'd felt the urge to sit near her, fighting it she went and had a seat on the opposite of the end of the bar.

"Can I have two shots of vodka." She asked situating herself in her seat.

"Any chasers?" The bartender asked.

She shook her head in answer. He quickly poured them both and set it before her. She took out her phone and snapped a picture captioning it :"to one year clean. Enjoy your concert! Cheers🥂" sent it to Hope and promptly turned her phone off. Knocking back both shots in quick succession. Wincing at the burn.

She receded into her mind aggressively pouting at the wall across from her. Her thoughts were a jumbled mess. She couldn't focus on one train of thought so she just let them run rampant. Blurring together, drowning out the rest of the bar.

She was startled out of her head when another shot glass was placed in front of her.

"I didn't order another drink."

"I did."

A smooth female voice said from right next to her, which scared her causing her to jump slightly and turning erratically. She accidentally knocked the woman's drink on to her shirt.

"Oh shit I'm sorry!" She grabbed the bartender's offered napkin and started dabbing at the stranger's blouse.

"Don't worry about it it's just vodka. And I shouldn't have snuck up on you."

The stranger said not seeming all that bothered by the fact that Josie soaked her white blouse in vodka. Or that she was furiously dabbing at her smooth sculpted -not that Josie was paying attention to that anyway- stomach. Josie hadn't felt that flustered in awhile. And she hadn't even seen the woman's face!

"I really am sorry regardless. And uh thank you for the drink." Josie felt the heat rising in her cheeks as her voice shook nervously. She kept her eyes trained on the wet spot she was still unnecessarily trying to dry.

The bartender poured the woman another shot and sat it on the counter moving away to attend to the other patrons.

"Do you mind if I join you?"

"No not at all." Josie grabbed the shot glass in desperate need of some liquid courage.

She turned to the woman to cheers with her. The shot glass she promptly let fall, spilling the contents on the woman's black pants. She thought she'd been mentally prepared for how beautiful she might've been. She wasn't. The minute she made eye contact with mischievous hazel eyes all mental preparation was gone, to the point that she lost use of her hands apparently.

The woman was beautiful. Josie couldn't even put into words. She was alluring like dark powerful magic, but simultaneously gave off a comforting warmth like her trusted fire spells. Josie was just entranced.

"Do you spill drinks on everyone that buys you one?" The woman teased lightly. Smirking because she could see the effect she was having on the taller brunette.

"Only the extremely pretty ones apparently." Josie blurted out without much thought. She could feel the tips of her ears heat up out of embarrassment.

"I guess I can't be mad at that. But I feel like you owe me your name at least."

"Josie Saltzman. And I'm really sorry once again." Josie tried desperately not to get lost in her once more, she was definitely losing the battle.

"Really it's ok. I think it's cute Josie." The moment she said her name, Josie conceded the war. The way her name sounded coming from her mouth, made her knees weak. And she was so thankful to be seated.

"I'm Penelope Park by the way."

Penelope Park. Josie sounded the name out in her head. It was regal and beautiful. A beautiful name for such a beautiful face. Penelope's laugh brought her out of her musings. Josie was instantly beet red.

"I said that out loud didn't I?" Penelope nodded in answer still laughing. Josie groaned and dropped her head on the counter.

"Can I get two more shots?"

"Are you going to spill some more on me?" Her smirk and seductive tone made Josie's thighs tremble.

"Make it three please."
---

*sneak peak*

"Hope why did you punch her?!" Josie asked angrily. Staring at a semi smug Hope. 

"I think it's pretty clear here why your girlfriend Holly punched me JoJo." Penelope sneered in Hope's direction. 

"She's not my girlfriend." 

"She's not her girlfriend." 

Both Landon and Josie spoke at the same time. Confusing the other parties in the tent. Even Penelope looked thrown for a loop definitely under the impression that Hope was Josie's girlfriend. 

"Then why'd you hit me Harper?" 

"You killed my best friend you deserve more than a punch!" 

"Hope I told you it was my fault not hers!"  

Chapter Text

"You're her. You're Penelope's."

Kept playing in Josie's mind. It was oddly comforting to be considered someone's something. Which was way too much way too soon, for her liking. And she wrote it off as her being emotionally raw and vulnerable from everything that had transpired. She didn't want to really dig deeper into her apparent connection to this vampire, Penelope.

They were currently being led deeper into the woods by the group that held them at gun point. The rifles were no longer threateningly pressed into their back. They were still being brandished as a warning. She was still between Raf and M.G as they were led to what she assumed was their camp.

"Did you tell Pen to meet us in the meeting hall?" The leader asked the guy from the hospital.

"Yes and the rest of camp is still secured."

Josie wondered how big their 'camp' was and why they chose to settle here of all places. They seemed well organized, like a strong pack. Which made her question how Penelope ended up with them. Vampires and Wolves didn't generally run together. She wondered if there were more vampires. And who the hell was their witch or warlock. She'd love to learn from them.

Josie and the group were back on high alert as they neared what had to be the meeting hall. They were all in awe at the large tent before them. The structure large and imposing. The super squad stared at in awe it seemed like something out of a dystopian movie or show.

Before they entered the tent the leader halted the group. He dismissed the rest of the group only leaving himself and Jed.

"I am giving you all the benefit of the doubt. But any wrong step, it will end extremely bad for you pups."

He warned menacingly. They were inclined to believe them. There was just something in his eyes. Cold and determined. He was capable of ending them on the spot if he seemed them a threat. So they all nodded slightly in acknowledgment. Receiving said acknowledgment he turned and continued into the tent, leaving them to follow.

"Hey P, we found your succubus or rather she found us I guess." Jed joked walking into the meeting hall.

There was that statement again, the implication that Josie was hers. It filled Josie with an odd sort of comfort. While it caused a dangerous combination of jealousy and rage to course through Hope. She wasn't particularly fond of the implied claim this 'Penelope' had and would have once Josie completes the transition.

Josie was her..own person Hope thought, she couldn't stand the idea of her being reduced like that. To a literal stranger. At least that was what she was telling herself, to make her feel less guilty for having such feelings. She was with Landon after all. And she was happy. Definitely happy.

As the super squad entered the tent they were shocked at how big it was from the inside. Something right out of Harry Potter but somehow still grounded in reality. They looked around in awe at the grandness of it all. Two thrones appeared to be centered at the front. The meeting hall looked like it could seat up to a 100 people.

Which was a red flag to Hope. Why would a 100 plus supernaturals make camp in Mystic Falls and not inform them? What were they planning, were they settling down here? There was just so much unknown about 'Penelope' and these people. Could they trust them? Hope definitely didn't trust Penelope that's for damn sure.

Everyone's eyes settled on two figures that appeared from behind the thrones. Had Josie fucked a queen of some sorts? As they came clearer into view, Kaleb let out an appreciative whistle.

"You always make me proud Josie." He said under his breath.

Rafael and M.G nodded in agreement. Appraising the women before them. Josie who had already felt her cheeks getting hot as soon as she laid eyes on Penelope, felt the heat rise to her ears.

Flashes of the night before blended with reality. Those eyes, her smiles, those little smirks. Josie's mind was swimming between reality and memories. It felt harder to breathe or rather she hadn't taken a breath since laying eyes on Penelope. Josie couldn't recall one person that had ever made her feel so, so intensely.

Moving her eyes to the woman besides Penelope. The woman was about Josie's height, but far more intimidating. She had an old soul quality to her, it surprisingly was not due to the snow white pixie cut she had. It was definitely her eyes Josie concluded. They were eyes of a vulture, always vigilant always seeking. Making eye contact with made her skin crawl, she could feel her trying dissect her. Assess what threat she posed. Did she pose one?

"Hey JoJo." Penelope greeted as she got close enough. Josie promptly forgot how to breathe once more.

She tried to force her brain to form words but just stood there gaping at the woman before her. Hope watched the interaction between them, rage building inside her. Watching her sort of ex become a shy stuttering blushing mess over Penelope was grating her nerves in unimaginable ways. The fact that Penelope was as beautiful as Josie thought she was didn't help matters at all.

"Uh- Hey Penelope?" Josie stuttered out unsurely. The smile she got in reply caused something she wasn't quite ready to name bloom in her chest.

"I didn't think I'd be seeing you so soon."

"Well unforseen circumstances and all that." Hope replied annoyed at the woman blatantly checking out Josie and flirting with her. She didn't acknowledge them.

Judging by the realization painted across Penelope's face she definitely forgot that there were others present. From the moment her eyes fell on Josie it was all she thought of.

"How rude of me. This is Gaia. Jed and Murphy I'm sure you've been acquainted." She pointed each person out, who just nodded in acknowledgment.

"I'm Kaleb, this is Rafael, M.G, Landon and Hope-"

"Mikaelson." Hope interjected staring Penelope down. Squaring her shoulders and standing straight.

She was met with slight confusion at her hostility but no one moved an inch at the mention of her last name. Which was a first, she was used to the disdain or outright hatred from most supernaturals. Some even feared her just for her last name. Even if they've never had actual dealings with her father. Being met with outright indifference was jarring. Did they not know of the Mikaelsons or did they not fear them? Neither scenario eased her growing fear of them.

"Ok then." Penelope said essentially dismissing her outburst and focusing her attention back on Josie.

"Since we're all acquainted what brings you all by? And how'd you find us?" Gaia asked tone as inquisitive as her gaze.

"Locator spell on P's jacket led them straight to us." Murphy finally spoke up handing over the jacket.

"Doesn't explain why they're here." Gaia said expectantly.

"Well we wanted to find out if Penelope was a vampire."

"I am, why?" Penelope said confused as what it was leading to.

"Oh fuck." Josie muttered under her breath. There was the confirmation she hadn't wanted to hear. Penelope was a vampire.

Which meant that she was in transition, she had literal hours to make a decision on whether to die or become a heretic. Instinctually she had always known what was going on, she just didn't want it to be true. She felt her world crumbling. This wasn't how she wanted it to go. Or expected it to go.

She was supposed to have another year of some semblance of normalcy. Another year to get her self control together. Work thru all her issues that would make becoming a vampire unpredictable and difficult. She had another year to choose on whether she'd live after the merge or not. Now she had to make that choice now. It won't just affect her, no matter what she chooses now.

The obvious distress on Josie's face confused Penelope and further enraged Hope. Hope's anger started morphing her thoughts. Blaming Penelope for Josie's distress and her pain. If it wasn't for her Josie would've been turned by her. In that moment every ounce of Hope felt like Penelope ruined everything, most importantly she ruined Josie.

Much like everyone else Penelope was focused on Josie, so Hope's slow volcanic rise went unnoticed to her. There was something akin to worry blooming in her chest. Which took her slightly by surprise, Penelope Park did not care about anyone but her family. Josie Saltzman was nowhere near family, so why did she care so much?

Trying to shake off the sudden intensity of her emotions, she tried to play off her worry in a flirtatious manner.

"Does me being a vampire affect last night differently?" She asked smirking. Causing Hope's anger to grow a little more.

"You could say that." Murphy said sarcastically. Making Penelope turn to him confused.

The way his tone seemed to make light of the situation and the utter lack of awareness of her actions. Something in Hope snapped.

The tribrid charged at the unsuspecting vampire and tackled her to the ground. And unloaded as much of her anger as she could. Before she was harshly removed with magic and held in stasis in the air.

She looks around to find who casted the spell to find Josie holding the spell in place. Murphy and Jed were back to brandishing their rifles. Gaia had to daggers twirling in her hands glaring at her friends. Penelope stood up wiping the blood from her busted lip. A glimpse of her true face coming out to play. Watching the blood trickle down her chin made her feel fulfilled.

"Hope why did you punch her?!" Josie asked angrily. Staring at a semi smug Hope. 

"I think it's pretty clear here why your girlfriend Holly punched me JoJo." Penelope sneered in Hope's direction. 

"She's not my girlfriend." 

"She's not her girlfriend!" 

Both Landon and Josie spoke at the same time. Confusing the other parties in the tent. Even Penelope looked thrown for a loop definitely under the impression that Hope was Josie's girlfriend. 

"Then why'd you hit me Harper?" 

"You killed my best friend you deserve more than a punch!" 

"Hope I told you it was my fault not hers!" Snapped an irate Josie.

"Wait! Back up. What the hell does she mean with I killed you?"

"Exactly that you dumb bi-" before Hope could finish her sentence Josie silenced her.

"I'll explain if you would all please lower your weapons. It wasn't our intention to cause you harm."

Josie was practically pleading. She could feel M.G and Landon's fear as they looked to and fro between the pairs. While Kaleb and Rafael's lust for a fight was getting out of control, antagonizing Murphy and Jed further.

Penelope looked at Gaia seeking counsel on whether they should or not. Gaia shook her, they had already given them the benefit of the doubt they weren't about to do it again. She looked at Jed who seemed conflicted. Murphy had that look in his eyes, no matter what he said he'd been missing the high that came with a good fight or death.

She turned back to a haggard looking Josie. Her eyes pleading for another chance, also swirling with fear. She felt the overwhelming urge to soothe every ache and worry the taller girl would have. Which was odd, but it swayed her decision.

"Put them away." Met with some resistance from Gaia and Murphy she repeated herself. "Put them away now!"

Before the supersqaud could process Gaia had hidden her daggers once more. Landon would've preferred her keeping them where they could see them. Murphy and Jed lowered their rifles and moved closer to their pack mates. Kaleb and Raf moved into a more defensive stance. They were still puffing out their chests and trying to look menacing.

"Explain." Penelope prompted curtly once the hostility was semi diffused.

"In short I died last night. Not your fault at all. Really it was mine. I got overwhelmed and lost control. I siphoned from you and during that well I guess you instinctually reacted and well.." Josie trailed off awkwardly. Refusing to make eye contact with Penelope.

"Her neck went-" Kaleb cracked his knuckles for emphasis. "And she died."

"That can't be right, when I left you were asleep, snoring, very much alive." Penelope said confused.

"I'd probably started transitioning by then. The amount I siphoned from you probably knocked you out."

"Is this why she was asleep for hours?" Jed inquired.

"You were asleep for hours? What the hell did you to her?" The last question was directed to Josie as she took a menacing step forward.

Josie shrunk back in fear. She wasn't prepared for the fire in those eyes. Both Rafael and Kaleb step in front of Josie as a warning to Gaia. Who just bared her canines. Not backing down.

"Back off Walmart Storm." Kaleb said showcasing his own.

Gaia's face contorted into a snarl, but before she could leap forward Penelope reached out and grabbed her forearm. Trying to coax her back.

"Gai. I'm fine. Look at me I'm all good. Now let her finish."

Josie felt a pang of jealousy as she watched the interaction. She wanted her worries to be soothed by Penelope like that. The softness of her tone felt like a gentle caress to her soul. She found herself wishing that gentleness was directed at her.

Gaia had begrudgingly returned to her earlier position at Penelope's side. Still glaring intensely at them. Well mostly glaring at Kaleb, which Josie was grateful for.

"Explain quickly before I lose every ounce of my restraint." She ordered.

"I'm sure we can find a supernatural straight jacket to help with that." Kaleb muttered under his breath. Which earned him a smack from M.G, a semi chuckle from Murphy and a growl from Gaia.

"I'm a siphoner. I can essentially absorb magic from other beings. When I lost control I was absorbing the magic that was tied to your vampirism."

"So you fed on her and almost killed her?!"

"She's not the one who died!" A then free from the silencing spell Hope, yelled. She felt Josie's concentration slip so she broke the spell keeping her frozen in the air. Before she could even settle on her feet she was flanked by Raf and M.G keeping her in place.

"Look I'm sorry I lost control, you're right it could've been a potentially lethal and I'm sorry." She addressed Penelope and Gaia with the utmost sincerity she could muster. Which seemed to appease Gaia.

"Ok I believe you. But it's still not explaining how you were turned. If Penelope didn't feed." Gaia observed out loud.

"A bloody lip..oh my God. I sired you?" Penelope's tone went from realization to complete disbelief within seconds.

Josie nodded in reply. Taking in the looks in the room. Both Jed and Gaia were looking at Penelope in worried anticipation, Murphy seemed conflicted and Penelope looked distraught for the lack of a better word. Josie couldn't quite pinpoint it for sure, but Penelope seemed like she was on the brink of a panic attack.

Josie's observation wasn't entirely wrong. Penelope felt like everything had stop moving. She'd sired someone after she'd sworn she'd never do it again. She mentally berated herself on how irresponsible she had acted the night prior. She couldn't walk down this path once again.

Though logically she knew Josie wasn't Ellie, but what would stop her from inevitably hating Penelope for turning her unwillingly. Or if she were lucky Josie would like nothing to do with her and her life could go on unchanged. She chose to ignore the way her chest constricted at the thought of Josie up and disappearing. Before she could spiral deeper Murphy spoke up keeping her present.

"Then why are you here? Is this some 'you're the daddy' kind of thing?"

"I had to be sure if she was a vampire and I wasn't revived due to something else. I needed to know."

"So what now?" Penelope asked. Her voice the softest Josie's ever heard it.

"I don't know..?"

"Do you guys have blood by any chance? Since we know what's going on now Josie can complete the transition." M.G who had been quiet during this whole ordeal spoke up.

Jed nodded and said he'd be right back with some as he left the meeting hall. Murphy blended into the background, he no longer regarded them as threats. He was still being actively vigilant. Penelope still seemed to be out of sorts and was holding Gaia's hand like it was her life line.

Kaleb went up to Gaia to apologize for his earlier comments, which took her by surprise. She nodded in acknowledgment of it but said nothing. Kaleb then went over to Raf and M.G who were looking after at a still very volatile Hope. Landon was trying to calm her down to no avail.

Josie on the other hand was no longer mentally or emotionally present. Her body felt heavy and it was taking way too much energy from her just to stay up right. So she took a seat on the floor leaning against one pillars of the tents structure. Rafael noticed her disoriented state and asked if she was ok.

"I'm fine just tired." She said waving him off.

She was in fact not ok. It was do or die now and she still had no idea on what she actually wanted. She wasn't ready to die, she was prepared for the inevitability of it sure, but she didn't expect it then. She had things she wanted to do. Like fix her relationship with her parents and Lizzie. Spend time with her bestfriends, watch them find people worthy of them. Or just see them find happiness whatever it may be.

She wanted to let Lizzie know that the distance wasn't entirely her fault. She missed her twin so much, she just didn't know how to reach out to her. She knew Lizzie would blame her and probably hate her if she'd also have to become a heretic. She was strongly against the idea. And it was almost certain they wouldn't find a loophole in the merge. She couldn't possibly put Lizzie in this situation.

She could just die now. She was strongly leaning towards dying in a year anyway. She didn't have much to actually live for, which she was aware was her depression talking but she also didn't see her finding fulfillment as a heretic. Becoming a vampire, came with hunger for blood and not the greatest impulse control. Then add her present issues of lack of self control and struggling addiction to it. She'd be a walking chemical bomb, and she'd probably scar everyone when she exploded.

Josie's mind continued to delve into deeper darker thoughts. Penelope noticed that she wasn't actually present in real time, her eyes weren't actually focused anything and looked empty. She knew it wasn't her place but she went over to the taller brunette anyway.

Josie was pulled from her thoughts by Penelope softly calling her name. When she refocused on her surroundings she saw Penelope crouched before her.

"Hey P." The use of the nickname brought a soft smile to Penelope's face.

"I'm really sorry this happened Jo."

"Don't it was really my fault I lost control." Josie rushed to ease her guilt.

"But I was equally irresponsible. I got way to caught up and way to drunk. At least some of that irresponsible behavior worked out for the best or you'd be dead dead." Penelope tried to make light of the situation.

"Yea.." Josie couldn't help thinking that dying and staying dead would've been a far better outcome.

Penelope watched the emotions flash across Josie's face as she struggled to keep her face impassive. It didn't sit well with her how she didn't seem to very happy.

"Jo..do you want to become a vampire?" Penelope braced herself for the answer. She wasn't sure of how she'd live with herself if another person hated her for forcing them into this life.

"I don't...know." Josie tacked on the last part on unsurely.

Her answer drew the attention from everyone in the room, besides Landon, who were eavesdropping on their conversation.

"What do you mean you don't know?"

Hope asked. Voice at it's highest pitch sounding like she was on the brink of hysteria again. If the situation wasn't so dire Josie would point out how much she looked like Lizzie in the moment. Since she isolated herself so much they had found solace in eachother, to the point they even had shared mannerisms.

Hope would be there for Lizzie. Hope would be there for their dad. She was already a staple in the Saltzman/Forbes household. Josie hadn't been for so long. But they would have eachother to grieve her absence. They would be ok and they'd get thru it together. And that solidified her decision.

As she was going to share said decision, Jed came running in with blood bags, a traveling mug and an assortment of straws.

"Hey I didn't know how you'd want to drink it. Like cold or warm since it's your first time. Figured the mug was good if you were squeamish or needed to make it more humane. Couldn't find any straws which is why I took so long."

"You're the one who wanted to save the turtles." Murphy pointed out.

"Explains why I found straws in your tent then, also why do you have so many bendy straws? Anyway do you want it in the mug?"

Josie shook her head no. Jed flung the cup backwards almost hitting an unsuspecting Landon in the face.

"Ok so cold or hot?" She shook her head again. Confusing everyone.

"What does that mean?"

Jed looked at Penelope confused. She shrugged not knowing what was going on with Josie either. She seemed catatonic at this point. The rest of the super squad crowded around them, degrees of worry on each of their faces. Penelope tried grabbing Josie's hand, but she flinched from her grasp.

"I-I don't want the blood." She whispered quietly. Which shocked everyone.

"Jo...you need the blood to finish the transition." M.G spoke softly, his voice shaking slightly.

"No. I don't want to." She said more firmly, a little louder this time.

"Josie if you don't complete the transition.." Hope trailed off the end of her sentence getting stuck in her throat. It was still echoed loud and clear to everyone in the tent. Josie was going to die.

"Little Saltz we didn't almost die trying to fight a shapeshifting ghost so you could die in the last quarter."

Kaleb tried to keep his demeanor consistent but he was panicking and thinking of ways to sway her decision. Trying to appeal to her guilt was low even for him. But he would do whatever it took. The little flicker of guilt he saw flash across her features, filled him with hope. Said hope was however shortlived as she seemed to shrugg it off.

"Is there some reason you do not wish to become a vampire?" Gaia asked. Her voice still sharp but somehow the softest it had ever been that night.

Josie didn't react. In her mind no one would truly understand her reasoning.

"We're not all that bad. You know a lot of it is bad propaganda." Murphy added trying to ease the fears he thought Josie might have.

"I know that. 2 of my bestfriends are vampires." Josie answered slightly choked up from the tears she refused to let fall. She didn't want to leave them.

"Your dying argument really had to be I have bla- vamp friends? I expected that from your dad." Kaleb said which set Rafael off.

"Not everything is a fucking joke, man!"
He snarled pushing him backwards.

"Well is sure as fuck feels that way. Why drag us all here. Have us battling some dumb shit and just to choose to die in the end huh? This is a fucking joke."

He yelled back returning the shove twice as hard, which Rafael wasn't quite prepared for sending him flying back to the tents entrance.

While each word was screamed into Raf's face, they all hit their intended target with ferocity. Josie felt like each word, formed with every ounce of hurt and anger Kaleb was currently feeling, was like a punch to the body. Seeing him and Raf projecting all their pain that she was causing, on eachother, because of her broke something inside her.

M.G moved to break them up once Raf threw the first punch. He was quickly pushed out of the way as Kaleb tackled Raf to the floor. The vampire and werewolf continued scuffling on the ground trying to get the upper hand.

"Can you both stop this?!" Hope asked wanting them to focus on the thing most pressing.

She went over but was pushed down by M.G who was knocked back by an irate Rafael. Which caused Landon to get mixed into the situation and the scuffle became hard to follow. But Landon was sidelined quickly with a possible broken nose. It was getting out of hand fast. The others looked at eachother wondering how to break the mess up.

Jed had an impulsive idea. He fired his rifle into the roof of the tent startling everyone in it and causing other members of their pack to swarm into the tent. Josie took her chance and left the tent during the resulting confusion.

"ENOUGH!" Gaia yelled voice echoing over the commotion.

Murphy motion for the other members to leave, that they had the situation under control. He grabbed Rafael by the back of the neck and held him in place. Jed did the same to Kaleb.

"You guys need to chill the fuck out." Murphy told them.

"I would if you'd get your hands up and off me." Raf tried shrugging out of his hold. Murphy squeezed harder in retaliation.

"Neither of you are angry at eachother so why are you wasting time fighting?" Gaia asked them staring each one of them down.

Her words got to Kaleb first. They could all see the moment the anger and fight left his body, quickly replaced with hopelessness and sadness. His shoulders sagging with the heaviness of it all.

"Look man I'm sorry."

"I am too. It was never really about what you said."

Seeing that the boys had made amends Murphy and Jed released them.

"Happy you idiots worked it out. Now can we focus on Josie?" Hope asked them.

"Uh guys where is Josie?" M.G asked not seeing her in the tent.

"She slipped out once the other guys came rushing in." Landon spoke up from his place still clutching his nose.

"And you didn't say anything?!" Rafael was held back by Murphy once more.

"When was I supposed to? When you were breaking my nose? Or when that lunatic was shooting a rifle at us?"

"It was actually at the roof. Gonna suck if it rains too." Jed defended himself.

"And I was the one that broke your nose. Glad I could retaliate in advance for your stupidity." Kaleb said sarcastically.

"That's enough. I'm tired of whatever macho 'I'll express my emotions thru anger and shit' y'all have going on. We need to find Josie and get her to drink the blood." Hope ordered.

Penelope who had remained quiet up to that point decided to chime in.

"I think you should let her have a moment to think."

"You don't get to put your five cents in. This all your fault to begin with." Hope spat at her. Moving to get in her face.

"I'm just saying give her some time. Give yourself time to go about this calmly." Penelope tried to remain impassive but she was slowly losing her patience with Hope.

"No offense Petra, sorry Penelope. We're kind of on a time crunch. We have no accurate time since her actual death we have about 2 hours left and that's generous." M.G tried to be diplomatic and hoped Penelope would see their reasoning.

"You're on a time crunch to force your friend to stay alive because you don't want her to die, am I getting that right? Have any of you thought of why she doesn't want to?"

Her words struck a cord in the guys who looked ashamed and perplexed. They hadn't thought further past she was choosing to die.

"She can tell us that herself. You have nothing to contribute." Hope glared at her trying to get her point across. Penelope however did not waiver and kept her expression impassive.

"Guilting or forcing her into completing the transition isn't going to help matters. Just because you can't let go of your selfish entitlement to her existence doesn't mean you can force her to do this."

"Hope, Penelope is-" M.G attempted to reason but was cut off by Hope.

"Penelope is the reason my bestfriend is on the brink of death right now." She spat before turning back to the guys motioning for them to follow her.

"She will live to resent you if you go in there guns blazing to make her do what you selfishly want. Take some time and think this thru." She made eye contact with the boys trying to reason with them. They seemed torn on what to do.

Hope who had kept her back towards Penelope started laughing darkly and shaking her head.

"You're right about one thing Penelope. There is definitely going to be a lot of resentment going around...all of it coming back to you."

She paused and turned around swinging her fist back in a wild arch, with the intention of hitting Penelope in the face. Penelope took a step back making her miss and throwing her off balance. She grabbed Hope's out stretched arm snapping it back, then tripped her.

Before they could process Penelope had Hope face first pressed into the ground. Her full weight resting on the twisted arm.

"I let you get away with it the first time Hollyn, I will not let it repeat." She growled into Hope's ear. "You pups will stay here and make peace that no matter what happens it's not your choice and what you want is not what matters. Making this choice for someone or coercing them into it, because you selfishly want to hold on to them." She pauses taking a breath.

"It never ends well." Only her pack mates truly understood the weight behind her words.

---
She ordered them to seal them in, which thankfully none of the super squad decided to protest. Gaia and Jed agreed to keep watch on them. Murphy left to double check the camp and keep their younger pups in line. She knew he was probably going to call Emori so she made him swear he'd have her back and not say anything. She couldn't let this get back to the Hedas yet.

She threw one last look at group of young pups. The three that she liked looked so utterly crushed. Penelope felt sympathy bloom in heart for them. She had long come to the conclusion that Josie meant a lot to them. The way they were ready to fight on her behalf spoke volumes. She hoped they wouldn't be losing her.

She knew how destructive an unexpected loss was and how it could wreak havoc on people's emotions. It was probably even more intense for young supernaturals. She hated that she was the catalyst of it all.

She also hated how irresponsible she'd been the night before. Getting so drunk, which was still confusing to her given that she had supernatural tolerance. But Penelope chalked the inconsistency to another weird thing about the town. Regardless sharing blood even under the influence was something she'd ever done with a human. There was just something about Josie that made her throw caution to the wind.

Penelope wasn't the biggest fan of that effect the younger witch had on her. It was yet another odd similarity she shared with Ellie. Her brain couldn't seem to stop drawing comparisons between the two. It was like history was repeating itself and it was yet again all her fault.

Though in Josie's case it felt worse, because Josie was loved. She had actual bonds with her friends. She had a family. Penelope's mind flashed to when they traded stories about their siblings. Granted Jed wasn't her actual sibling but he was the closest thing she'd ever get to having a brother. She couldn't shake the little smile Josie had when she spoke about Lizzie. The sadness in her eyes didn't quite match it, but Josie somehow managed to radiate every ounce of love she had for Lizzie.

As she mentally went down the list of reasons Josie had to stay, she felt dread creep in as she thought about what could possibly outweigh them. Penelope started to question what she got herself into and if she repair the damage. In the same breath she wondered if she'd manage to keep her own sanity at the end of it.

"God where's Monty when you need a therapist." She muttered bitterly.

She took another moment to compose herself because she felt emotionally raw. When she felt like everything was under control, for the time being, she set off in search for the siphoner. Josie couldn't have left the camp, so she'd have to be around somewhere. She headed towards South side of camp. She thought about the time constraint, she needed to find her quick.

Penelope stopped and whistled loudly. She waited for a moment until she heard a familiar cry in answer. She whistled once more and waited for the sound of wings flapping in the distance. She was confused when she didn't hear two different sets of wings. But she didn't have to wait long until a large Harpy Eagle broke thru the treeline. Flying towards her and landing on right before her.

"Hey Tildey, where's your hatchling mhmm?" She crouched before the majestic bird petting her lightly.

The bird just turned it's head into the direction from which it came. Purring and preening under her human's attention.

"You left your hatchling behind?" She questioned. She got a cry in reply.

"You already found her huh? Show me where Tildey."

The bird looked at her expectantly.

"You can go exploring tomorrow I promise now show me Mathilde."

The eagle seemed to be content hearing Penelope's promise. She turned and took flight once again. Leaving Penelope to follow behind her at super speed. Tildey led her to the outskirts of camp to a clearing. Penelope stopped before entering staying shadowed in the treeline, while Tildey landed a couple of feet away from Josie.

Penelope watched as a seated Josie barely acknowledged the Harpy. Only looking back when the hatchling in her lap let out a cry to her mother. But however remained still just running her fingers over the hatchlings feathers.

From her vantage point Penelope was taken a back by how angelic she looked under the moonlight. So at peace. She wondered how she looked truly happy, would her smile-

"I can sense your magical signature Penelope." Josie interrupted her thoughts.

"How were you sure it was me?"

"Tasted it once but it's unforgettable."

Penelope made her way to the brunette settling next to her on the ground. They stayed in silence for a few minutes until Penelope broke the silence.

"We're going to have to talk about it."

"I'd rather not?"

"To bad JoJo."

"Fine. What about."

"The why."

"Why what Pen?" She said playing dumb.

"Why choose to die Josie?" Penelope asked annoyed by the back and forth.

"It's complicated."

"You have an hour before I drag you back to your friends no matter if it's to say your goodbyes or drink some blood from a cup." Penelope said with finality.

"You're not going to do some big speech or try to change my mind?"

"No JoJo. Unlike your friends I've learned that you can't will someone to live a long time ago. No matter how much you want them to."

Penelope said dejectedly. Josie made eye contact and felt like the sadness in her eyes would swallow her whole. Penelope took a deep breath trying to compose herself. Before grabbing the hand that wasn't petting the hatchling.

"I'm offering you the chance to be heard and say what you're obviously afraid of. No expectations. I just want to hear what you have in your heart."

 

 

Chapter Text

"...I just want to hear what you have in your heart."

Josie stared into Penelope's eyes trying to find her true intentions. All she found was complete sincerity. Which was somehow even more confusing. Josie couldn't fathom why Penelope would care so much, about her of all people.

"Why do you care so much?"

Penelope sighed. The younger girl was not attempting to make this easy she thought, pushing back at every turn. She would've found her challenging nature cute, maybe even hot, if the situation wasn't so dire. Her penetrating gaze even left Penelope feeling conflicted.

She couldn't quite explain why she cared so much, she just felt oddly connected to her. She knew if she admitted that, Josie would interpret everything she said onward as just another person that would say anything to sway her decision. Penelope's intentions were to be as impartial as she possibly could. So she went with the partial truth that kept her toeing the line and kept her emotions from being scrutinized.

"To be completely honest it's to assuage my own guilt. And to offer you a last Penance before you join the afterlife." She said stone faced.

Josie held her gaze for a second. Searching if it were the truth. Penelope couldn't really tell if she found what she was looking for, her expression gave nothing away. After a beat Josie turned her head looking ahead once again. For a moment Penelope felt she'd failed.

"I'm not religious. And this is certainly not your fault. No matter how Hope's sees it." She said quietly. Going back to playing with the hatchlings feathers.

"You saying that doesn't really stop me or your friends from thinking it." She joked.

"I'll never consider this your fault. My opinion on it is the only one that matters." There was no doubting the sincerity in Josie's voice and accompanied comfort of tightened grip on her hand, Penelope was assured that she truly meant it.

Which confused the hell out of her. How was she so caring about everyone around her, but was still so very willing to just leave them all behind. Penelope realized that there was so much laying beneath the surface of the cute stuttering girl who could become a vixen at the flip of a switch, she had met the night before. There was just something so enigmatic about her.

"Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Like what JoJo?"

"Bewildered I guess is the right word." Josie explained.

Penelope let out a dry chuckle. "It's accurate because I was just thinking about how you make zero sense." Josie gave her a confused look. And the hatchling chirped in what Penelope assumed was solidarity.

"Is this about them believing it's your fault? I can write a message about how they shouldn't prosecute you for it, because you caught me slipping and that I died a G." Penelope gave her an unimpressed look. "Tough crowd. Kaleb would get a kick out of that." Penelope watched as the little smile she had, while telling her joke slowly disappear, at the mention of Kaleb.

"That's exactly what I meant." Penelope said frustrated. "Your commitment to dying, but the obvious unwillingness to leave your friends behind. You're also super caring I assume to everyone around you. Yet there's this complete disregard for yourself. You make no sense."

They fell into a tense silence. Josie was contemplating Penelope's words. She realized all her friends probably felt that way as well. She hadn't made sense to anyone in so long, always only being partly honest. Always hiding some facet of herself for the sake of not burdening everyone. Telling Penelope the truth a complete stranger, albeit one she knew quite intimately, was enticing. Maybe she could get something more than just a lighter chest out of it.

"I'll take your offer of one last Penance if you give me something in return for bearing my naked soul to assuage your guilt and sate your curiosity."

Penelope kept her expression stone faced. She didn't want to let her shock put her at any more of a disadvantage than she already was. She wasn't a fan of Josie having the upper hand. But she was also extremely intrigued. She could hear Lexa's voice in her head saying: "Curiosity will be the death of you yongon much like your sire's."

"Name your price Saltzman." She said feigning indifference.

"I'll tell you the truth if you promise to wipe my friends' memory of the last 24 hours when I die."

Penelope couldn't stop the look astonishment that crossed her features. Josie thought it was oddly cute.

"Uh JoJo I don't know if you noticed but I'm a vampire-"

"A vampire with access to very powerful magic. Gaia and your magical signature were all over the cairns. So please don't try to play me." Josie said cutting off the lie Penelope was going to try and feed her.

"Why? Why ask me to do that?"

"To be honest. I didn't think you'd agree to it, seemed like a good loophole to keep my story to myself. And if you did agree to it, I'd at least leave a less bitter memory in their minds."

"But I'd be left remembering all this and be haunted about how I killed you-"

"Once more you didn't kill me, it was an accident. I could've actually killed you when I lost control Penelope." Josie interrupted her again.

"But that's not what happened was it. I didn't die. And I don't get how you're so nonchalant about all this. Because if it was the other way around I know you wouldn't be this casually indifferent."

Penelope's frustration was at an all time high and she grew tired of the deflective indifferent bravado the younger girl was hiding behind of. Her tone was harsh to the point she even frightened the hatchling. Who let out a scared cry that caused Tildey shriek in return. The Hatchling left it's place between Josie's legs and flew to it's mother. Josie pouted slightly waving it goodbye.

Josie let out a breath and turned to Penelope. Studying her. There was something about her that made Josie want to please her, lessen her frustrations, take her guilt. It scared her. She'd only ever felt that way about Hope. And that hadn't ended horribly. She was still nursing that crack in her heart.

Penelope wasn't entitled to her answer, to her story. But Josie wanted to tell her everything. The added bonus of probably dying afterwards meant she wouldn't live to be disappointed by her or see her inevitably forget about her and move on. She had one last chance to be unapologetically herself with someone who actually wanted to listen.

"I'm indifferent to my death..because I've been preparing for it since I was sixteen. Granted I was thinking I'd have another year. But it was inevitable so I guess I'm not having the usual normal reactions."

"Your ability to shock me is unmatched. I have no idea what to say. But judging by your own slight disbelief you haven't really ever admitted it to anyone even yourself." Penelope said after a moment of taking it all in.

Josie let out a humorless laugh. "You're not entirely wrong. I've never said it outloud. Not even in therapy. Been fairly conscious of it though."

"So why is or was your death inevitable? Seems pretty predetermined." Penelope asked.

"I'm one of the last surviving members of my coven. It's only Lizzie and I. And there's this thing called the Merge that happens to sets of twins in my coven when they turn twenty two. The stronger sibling absorbs the other and becomes the leader of the coven."

"So some harry potter type thing where neither can live while the other survives?" Penelope asked in disbelief. Josie nodded in answer.

"That's fucked up..So you were going to sacrifice yourself for your twin guarentee that she'd be the one to survive? That's even more fucked up. Did you guys try to find a loophole?"

Penelope was trying to wrap her brain around the fact that Josie had made the decision to die at sixteen. And for such altruistic reasons. It was an equally scary and admirable trait.

"There was a loophole either ingesting Hope or my mom's before the merge began and then becoming a heretic."

"Definitely pegged her for a wolf for how much she was literally marking her territory like a dog." Penelope said dryly. Josie gave her an unimpressed look.

"Hope's actually a tribrid so you're not entirely wrong. But besides the point. There was no other solution that we've found so far." Josie explained trying to remain on subject.

Penelope stowed the information for another time. She could probably really get under Hope's skin with some creative jokes.

"Ok so since you're already a heretic can't you do the loophole with Lizzie?" Penelope inquired.

"No I'm not going to force that choice on her." Josie said with a determined look.

"So you'd rather deprive her of her twin?" Penelope prodded.

"Death is inevitable Pen. It's happening early, she'll be ok. She'll have people to help her deal with the loss. They'll all be ok with time."

"I don't see why you haven't just called her and talked about the situation. Dying seems a tad bit overdramatic." Penelope tried to point out the holes in her reasoning.

"She never wanted to become a vampire. I'm not going to force it on her because of an unforeseen development! It wouldn't be fair and I refuse to do that to her." Josie said trying to make Penelope understand why.

"I think she'd change her mind if she knew what was going on. If she loves you half as much as you love her I don't see why this would be such a problem."

Penelope argued back trying to figure out why Josie was so dead set on dying. There had to be more, what was she hiding? Why was she so committed to hiding it? Penelope kept questioning to herself as she watched Josie's frustration grow. The younger girl got up and started pacing.

"You don't understand!"

"Then make me understand. Because I don't know why you're desperately trying to make your choice make sense when there's other avenues!"

Penelope matched Josie's tone. Growing annoyed with her outburst and obvious withholding of information. Instinctually she knew she wasn't entitled to it, but Josie kept giving her crumbs and she didn't know where it was leading. But she felt perpetually lost.

"Lizzie never wanted to be a vampire. The lack of impulse control, the humanity switch it was something that sent crippling fear through her. She never wanted to be in the position where she could hurt anyone like that. I can't do-"

"She could learn to control those Josie we aren't just creatures ruled by blood lust! We aren't just evil creatures." Penelope said defensively. Getting angry at what she thought Josie was implying.

"I know that! Our mom is proof of that to both of us, believe me. But we won't be normal vampires, we'll still be siphoners. That urge to consume is going to double for us and even more dangerous, because we can still perform magic on our own." Josie ranted on starting to work herself into a panic attack with every word she spoke.

"And on top of all that, Lizzie's bipolar. She spent years since diagnosis scared of what she could do, I'm not going to let her fear herself for the rest of her life just because I screwed up."

Josie got lost in her feelings muttering to herself instead of addressing Penelope. Though Penelope wasn't sure she was addressing her to begin with. Penelope was at a lost for what to do. Finally understanding some of the siphoner's fear. And they were valid to her, to the 'I'll do everything for my people' side of herself it sounded like something she'd do.

Penelope had never felt so conflicted. On one hand she'd sworn to never force or involve herself in this decision with anyone again. On the other, she had this unexplainable feeling that Josie wasn't meant to die. But Josie didn't see the choice as hers, only thinking about everyone else.

"Your family deserves a better goodbye than this, Josie. You deserve a better end than this."

"This is probably the best thing that could've happened. It'll be easier to accept that I died like this then during the merge. I'll save Lizzie and my parents a lot of guilt. Sure they'll be angry but they'll mourn and move on."

Penelope was stunted once again. She couldn't argue with sound logic. So she asked the only thing Josie hadn't addressed yet.

"What about you?"

"What do you mean?"

"What about you. You've talked about how this will affect everyone else but what about you?" Penelope pressed on.

"I'll just die." Josie said flatly.

"What about you? You said you thought you'd have another year. What did you plan for the next year?" Penelope refused to admit defeat. She saw Josie faltering slightly in her resolve by the look in her eyes.

"What does it matter? I'm dead."

"Humor me. Part of the whole last penance."

"I don't know why I'm doing this."

"You think I'm insanely hot and you are trying to assuage my guilt remember." Penelope said a matter of factly.

Josie gave her an unimpressed look. Penelope motioned for her to continue.

"I can leave."

"I'll chase you JoJo."

"I can kill you."

"I'll kill you again."

"Can it be like last time?"

"Tell me what I want to know and I just might."

Josie broke her hard faced demeanor with a small smile. "You're something else Penelope Park."

Penelope patted the ground beside her urging her to have a seat once more. Josie relented and joined her. Instantly feeling calmer being seated near the vampire.

"I would've mended broken relationships, specially with my family. We haven't been particularly close lately."

"Because of the merge?"

"No because of me actually. I spent a lot of time isolating myself that those bonds are kind deteriorating. So I'd try to fix them. Travel, see someplaces I've always wanted to. Go on a roadtrip and have Lizzie bruise my arm because of that stupid buggy game. Get Kaleb to finally admit his feelings. Find a cure maybe-"

"You're still looking for cure or were planning to find one?" Penelope interrupted.

"I mean obviously? I wouldn't risk Lizzie's kids going thru this too." Josie answer giving Penelope a duh expression.

"You don't get it do you. The way you talked about the things you still wanted to do. That look in your eye. You wanted to live to-"

"Can you stop trying to tell me how I feel? I wanted to fix the things that I broke. Make sure my friends and family had better memories to remember me by. My death was and is inevitable." Josie cut her off annoyed that Penelope was trying to tell her about herself.

"What if you had found a cure for it? What then? What if you could still find it?" Penelope wasn't backing down.

"My parent's hadn't in twenty plus years, it was unlikely anyway. And it doesn't matter now."

"Because you'd be a vampire? Are you bipolar as well? Is that why you're scared?"

"I'm not bipolar. And yes because of me being a vampire."

"Seriously conditional immortality and enhanced instincts not something you're into?" Penelope asked feigning shock.

"Never has been to be honest. Too much of a risk to be considered a possibility." Josie said as something dark thoughts crossed mind.

"What could you possibly be so afraid of? The blood thing isn't so bad."

The silence stretched out between them. Penelope thought Josie had probably gotten tired of replying to her. And probably conserving the last of her energy. Penelope sighed internally trying to accept that she couldn't change her mind.

"I am afraid of me." The actual fear Penelope saw in Josie's eyes made her believe the siphoner had actual reason to be.

Before she could ask her about it Josie got up.

"I'm ready to say goodbye now."
---

Chapter Text

"I'm ready to say goodbye now."
---
The pair walked in a tense silence back towards the center of the camp. Penelope wasn't sure if she'd ever felt a silence so weighted before. She could tell by the thoughtful crease of the siphoner's eyebrows she was going over what exactly to say to her friends. Compartmentalizing her emotions and preparing herself for the inevitable.

Penelope was silently trying to grapple with her own feelings. She was disappointed in herself for not changing the girl's mind. She felt defeated in a way she hadn't felt since Ellie. Which made everything turned on it's head inside her.

Penelope had sworn never to turn anyone without their expressed consent again. Not after how Ellie took to being a vampire. A part of her, the hopeful part, screamed that Josie would be nothing like Ellie. Josie would be powerful, beautiful, something great. Penelope didn't know how she knew, just she couldn't shake the feeling that Josie was meant for more.

She continued to steal glances at Josie as they neared the meeting tent. She watched as Josie's body tensed, shoulders squared, fist clenched and jaw set in determination. It looked like she was preparing for battle. The comparison held some validity because Josie was going to leave several broken people in that tent. She was going to leave an emotional warzone for Penelope to pick up the pieces off.

And yet Penelope couldn't find it within herself to be angry at her. She was sad for her, pitied her even. Josie was going to personally watch herself break her loved ones' hearts and that seemed like the harshest punishment she'd have to pay for the choice she made.

They arrived at the meeting tent. The tent looking more imposing then the first time she entered it. Josie paused as Penelope broke the perimeter spell they had in place. Josie stared on hesitantly, wondering if she could do it, if she should do it.

"I'd tell you take your time, but if you truly want to offer them a farewell don't dawdle." Penelope urged her gently.

"You're not coming in?"

"No I think I'll stay out here. Someone is going to have to stop hurricane Hanna from tearing thru camp." Penelope joked, trying to deflect from the fact that she didn't want to witness the trainwreck that was about to happen.

Josie nodded in understanding. Taking a deep breath to center herself, Josie entered the tent.
---
M.G was the first one to notice Josie entering the tent. Rushing to his feet and making his way towards her, wrapping her in a joyous hug. Completely misreading her actual intentions.

"I knew you'd change your mind." He whispered his hold tightening around her.

Josie felt guilt rise up inside her. Her reply felt like acid crawling up her throat, constricting her windpipe, tainting every intake. Josie wanted to swallow it, swallow the truth and her feelings like she always did. Swallow it all and shoulder on for another year until the merge.

She should do that, a part of her yelled. But she knew she couldn't hold it in without imploding and taking everyone else with her. She was going to slip up, she could taste the relapse, almost as clear as she could feel her control splintering.

Stepping out of his embrace Josie met M.G's eyes.

"I'm sorry M. I'm so sorry."

Her voice cracking as she whispered the words. Hoping that the softer she spoke, the less impactful they'd be when he registered why she was apologizing. It didn't. The way he flinched away and seemed to shatter, made it seem like each word was uttered with the shrill of a banshee. The impact was nuclear.

"No, no please Jos-" he pleaded tears starting to well up in his eyes. She just shook her head, wrapping her arms around herself trying to keep herself together.

M.G retreated backwards near the others. Who were watching on, various degrees of devastated and disbelief. And once again Josie wanted to take it all back, swallow it down and bury it. Soldier on for them. But she thought about everything that could go wrong, that those expressions could easily be morphed into anger and fear. And she reassured herself that she was making the right choice.

"You can't do this Josie! I won't let you!" Hope came barreling forward.

Eyes wide and desperate. Josie had seen that look before. She was staring down Malivore ready to take a nose dive. Hope was capable of doing anything when desperate. Josie watched her wearily trying to anticipate what she'd do.

"I made my choice Hope I'm sorry."

"No you don't get to do that. You didn't let me jump in to Malivore-"

"It's not the same, that was a dumb idea H-"

"If that was dumb this is fucking moronic Josie. You don't have to die, just like I didn't have to jump!" Hope yelled pointing out the hypocrisy. Trying to appeal to reason.

Josie somehow managed to swallow the I want to. And went for a less truthful answer. "It's for the best."

"For who?!"

"For everyone Hope." Josie couldn't look at her directly so she focused on at a spot above her head.

"Josie it's not please don't do this. Think about your parents and Lizzie. What about us?" Hope implored.

Josie remained silent. Questioning why she didn't just take her last breath in the clearing. Why draw this out, to offer them some hollowed gesture of an explanation. A proper goodbye. A message to send on. She should've just sent a mass text.

"Don't ignore this, don't ignore me. You can't run from everything Josie."

Hope's desperation was turning into anger. If she couldn't appeal to sense, she was going to do everything to get Josie to acknowledge what she was doing. Even if it meant getting a rise out of her.

"I'm actually confronting this head on and making the best decision possible." Josie replied calmly not taking the bait.

"You can't do this. There's so much left I need to fix, that I need you to forgive me for." Hope went back to pleading.

Josie made the mistake of making eye contact. She saw the tears swirling in those baby blues. Josie could never handle a sad eyed Hope. If it were any other situation she would do everything in her power to make it better. But she couldn't do the one thing that would take her sadness away.

"I can't Hope I'm sorry."

"You can't or you won't?!" Hope accused.

"I have to." Josie pleaded with her eyes for understanding. For forgiveness.

"You DON'T! Whatever it is you're running from we can face it together."

"NO. We can't, you can't save me from this Hope." Josie hated that she was making this so hard on her.

"Because you won't let us. You never let anyone help. You don't always have to be the martyr." Hope kept arguing trying to make her see the light.

"I'm sorry." Was all she said. Wiping the tears running down Hope's cheeks.

"I can't do this. I can't see you die, when you could just live! Please just change your mind for me, for us, for your family. Plea-se." Hope's voice was shaking and the words were getting stuck in her throat. She felt helpless, like she was drowning with no water.

She stared at Josie, the person that had always kept her a float, the silent presence thru the harshest storms. She was always the one Hope turned to. And Hope was losing her, she didn't want to accept it.

"This is goodbye Hope, I'm so sorry."

"Fuck you and your sorry." Hope said coldly tears, streaming uncontrollably. She pushed passed Josie and out the tent.

Josie stumbled backwards at the brute force Hope pushed past her. She knew Hope was on the verge of shifting. And she wanted to chase after, so she didn't get herself or anyone hurt. But for once she wouldn't be able to calm Hope down, her presence would just make it worse.
---
Hope burst out the tent. Eyes shifting from bloodshot blues to gleaming yellows. She wanted to tear everything apart. She thought she was over this phase in her life, that her curse was lifted. But here she was losing another crucial person. And it felt like she was losing her parents yet again. Her wolf was raging, she felt it's pained howl wanting to rip thru her chest.

Penelope watched on from a distance. Contemplating Hope's threat level and how to engage with her, without getting bitten by a grieving werewolf. But as she watched the girl's hands start to shake violently she had to act fast.

"That is not good." She mumbled eyeing the younger girl.

Moving from her perch she crossed the distance quickly. She didn't use her enhanced speed because she didn't want to startle the werewolf. Moving into her peripherals, she tried to look as non threatening as possible.

"Safe to assume you didn't convince her either?" She asked.

At the sound of Penelope's voice, and the way her words in registered in Hope's mind. Everything she was feeling morphed into anger. Anger was easier to decipher, anger was easier to displace. It was easier to blame someone else in anger then process her own guilt. And who better for her to blame then the cause of her friends death.

"This is all your fault!" She screamed whirling around to punch Penelope. Who easily dodged the wild right hook.

"I told you it wasn't going to happen again."

"I'm going to kill you for killing her." Hope growled, canines sharpening as her eyes flashed dangerously.

Penelope rolled her eyes and sighed. "Fine. I'll give you one attempt, how about that halsey?"

Hope snarled and charged at the vampire. Going for a spear and changing her mind mid stride. Picking up Penelope and essentially preforming a spinebuster. She slammed the brunette with as much force as she possibly could. Penelope felt her breath escape, and a sharp pain bloom in her ribs and back. But she recovered quickly enough to block the onslaught of Hope's fists.

None of Hope's punches were making an impact. And Penelope wasn't retaliating or putting much of an effort into defending. Which frustrated Hope, because it felt like something Josie would do. Something Josie had done.

Penelope on the other hand was waiting for that frustration to break her concentration. Before Hope could blink Penelope had her on her back. Arms extended above her head, in a tight grip.
Hope tried bucking her off, but Penelope held on.

"Are you done pup? Or do you have any more of your self hatred to project on me?"

"Fuck you!" Hope snarled.

"Guess not."

Hope wiggled until she found enough leverage to reverse their positions. And she started to try and land punches once more. This time screaming accusations at Penelope, with tears running down her face.

"You killed her." Punch.
"I hate you." Punch.
"She's going to die." Punch.
"I can't lose her." Punch.

"I ca-n't."

Hope's emotions got the best of her and she broke down in tears. Moving off Penelope she collapsed on the floor shaking with sobs.

Penelope was glad she stopped trying to fight, mostly because her patience was wearing thin and she was thirty seconds of actually retaliating and hurting Hope. She was however at a lost on how to proceed with the crying.

"This is not the way I saw any of this going. I was supposed to turn Josie." Hope spoke up once she got her breathing under control.

"If it makes you feel any better, I don't think she would've gone thru with it then either."

Hope gaped at her dumbfounded.

"How the fuck would that make me feel any better?" She asked angrily.

"Just a different perspective. She never wanted this. She might've went thru the transition in the end just to save her sister and you the guilt of her death being your failure and her fault. She doesn't want this life Hope." Penelope explained.

Hope was stunted. She'd never stopped to think that maybe Josie really didn't want this. Lizzie spoke up about her not wanting to become a vampire first, or maybe she was just louder. Josie had become the one that would have to become a vampire. No one asked her how she felt, because the intention was that both of them survive the merge by any means necessary.

"So her only option is dying? How is that fair?"

"Well life is generally unfair." Penelope shrugged.

"You don't get it because you don't know us, her. Josie deserves to live out of all of us she's the one that truly lived the least. She was always overlooked or being the self sacrificing martyr. She deserves more than just dying early."

Penelope listened in silence as Hope emotionally ranted and worked thru her feelings. It made her inner conflict raged on. She could stop this she thought. It would be easy. Josie deserved more right?

"She saved me in more ways that I can count over the years and now I can't even save her." Hope said dejected.

"Do you think she really wants to die or she feels like she has to?" Hope asks Penelope after some thought.

"To be honest a little bit of both. She's afraid of what she'd be as a vampire. I don't think she feels like there's much she feels attached to, to want to live as that right now." Penelope answered.

"I could've, no should've done so much differently. I saw her drifting, she pushed everyone so far away. And I thought she working thru stuff, in hindsight she was probably softening the blow of the inevitable. I should've reached out. She never left my side no matter how hard I pushed. I should've-"

"Hindsight is 20/20. And it's not all your fault. She was probably great at hiding that she was ever troubled-"

"You have no idea." Hope grumbled in agreement.

"All I'm saying is you can't let the should've, could've stuff eat you alive. Communication is a two way street." Penelope tried imparting the wisdom she'd learn over the years.

It had taken her a longtime to learn that particular lesson. Sometimes days it was still a struggle. Like right then in particular. She was Hope at one point. The desperation to want to save someone that didn't want to be saved.

But something inside her kept whispering Josie wasn't Ellie. It got louder with every little new piece of Josie she learned about.

It made her want to do something stupid. Stupid wouldn't even begin to cover it, Clarke and Lexa would be pissed as hell. She'd need to get Gaia involved. Josie could actually be more like Ellie than not. Josie would hate her.

Josie potentially hating her was by far the worst consequence to her crazy idea. Well second worse, if Murphy's law had any say in it.

"Do you think she'd be dangerous?" Penelope asked Hope needing another perspective.

"Like a ripper? You can't forsee stuff like that, but she's already dangerous, all of us are. But she won't hurt anyone, unless they're threatening someone she cares about." Hope said. She was confident that Josie would never intentionally hurt innocent people.

"So why would she fear herself?"

"I don't trust people with as much power as we have that don't fear their capabilities a little. They either don't know every facet of themselves or are truly dangerous."

Penelope felt solidified with each one of Hope's responses.

"Would you still do anything to stop her from dying?" Penelope asked wanting to see if she'd come to terms with it.

"I'd sell my own soul in a heartbeat."

They were interrupted when M.G came storming out of the tent. True face in full force. Penelope knew that feeling of helplessness well. She used to want to tear the world apart from frustration. She watched as M.G went towards one of the larger trees and started using the trunk as a punching bag. Bark splitting his knuckles.

"M.G stop!" Hope ran to stop the younger boy.

"No. It's just not fucking fair!" He pummeled the tree more, working his way into cutting to it's center.

"M.G please you're hurting yourself. It's not going to help anything." Hope urged, trying to get him to stop.

"I'm just so..so argh!" He yelled as he power punched his way into the center of the tree. He broke down in sobs. Body shaking violently.

Penelope watched on heartbroken as Hope tried her best to comfort M.G. Consequences be damned she thought.

Hope watched on as Penelope turned and whispered something to Gaia, who had raced out after M.G in case reinforcements were needed. Gaia looked shocked and reluctant, but Penelope seemed to sway her. Both of them set off determinedly into opposite directions.
---
In the tent it was still as tense as ever. Kaleb was now the one staring Josie down. Angry expression on his face. Josie's eyes were bloodshot by now and her lips were quivering.

"Is all this heartbreak worth it?" Kaleb asked.

"It has to be."

"If your ex boo and full blown crying puppy faced M didn't sway your mind I know my tough hard ass won't be able to change it. I'll miss you Saltzman. You're also my favorite Saltzman. Now who am I going to go to for advice?" Kaleb wrapped Josie up in a bear hug.

"I'm sorry Kay. I'm sure Lizzie would tell you to lose the Jordans and kiss him already." Josie whispered into his chest.

"These are Lebron's Jo. You wound me. And you right I probably should. Life's too short apparently even for supernatural beings."

"I love you Kaleb, you'll always be the him to my mojo jojo." She gave him a kiss on the cheek as they untangled eachother.

"I love you too JoJo."

Ever the tough guy he wiped his tears and cleared his throat. He straightened his shoulders trying to look like the weight of the sadness wasn't crushing him. He walked towards the tents exit, before pausing turning back to Josie.

"Hey, Josie. Keep an eye out for us?"

"Always." She promised.

Josie watched on as he walked out. 3 down 1 more to go she thought. She took a deep breath and wiped her face. She didn't want to face Rafael with tears she cried for someone else, they all deserved their own goodbyes.

Feeling somewhat ready to face Rafael she turned around to face him, just to encounter a nervous Landon. There was still some bruising around his nose which made him look even more of that strung out tired look he was known for. He was fidgeting nervously under her confused gaze.

"I know I uh haven't been the nicest guy to you in a longtime. And I won't disrespect you by pleading on my behalf. But please reconsider for Hope and Rafael. And everyone else really. But you're important to the two most important people in my life. And I don't think I can pick up the pieces if you're gone. So please uh reconsider for them."

Josie was stunned. She hadn't really expected much from Landon. But him stumbling thru a speech pleading for the people he loved, who they both loved equally was something she could never imagine. She was touched by it.

"Thank you Landon. This means more than I can say."

He nodded in understanding. Placing his hand on her shoulder as he moved to leave.

"Seriously reconsider."

Rafael and Josie watched on in silence as he left.

"Well that was unexpected." Rafael spoke up first. Voice unnaturally quiet and tight.

Josie met his eyes, tears freely flowing down his face. She was proud of his growth, he was more in tune with his emotions. More open about them.

He walked up to her wrapping her up in a hug. Just holding her close. And his silent approach broke something in her. She sobbed uncontrollably into his chest apologizing repeatedly. To him and everyone else. He held her as she broke down.

"It's ok Josie. I don't understand or am ok with your choice. But I know you've thought of every outcome before getting to this point." He spoke softly.

It made her sob harder. Rafael and Kaleb offered her reluctant acceptance, because they had trust in her for making the choice she thought was best.

"It wasn't easy, I don't want to leave you guys. But I-I can't live like this Raf. I just can't. I'm so sorry for putting you thru this." She whispered.

Rafael wanted to beg her to transition. Beg her to stay. It was just that there was no guarantee that she'd be happy. So he decided to heed Penelope's warning and hope for the best.

"It'll be ok at some point. I'll miss you so much. I don't what's after this, but I hope you find peace and happiness." He sealed his wishes with a soft kiss to her forehead.

"I hope you find that too Rafael, even if you always feel like you deserve it. But you do. It's a been a pleasure to see you grow into the man you are today."

He held on for a bit longer. Just enjoying his last moment with one of his biggest supporters. Before he turned to leave the tent as well. Leaving Josie alone with her thoughts and feelings.

She asked Jed, who had remained in the tent to keep an eye on them, for a pen and paper so she could write something out to her family. She waited trying to keep her mind as empty as possible, not feeling up to torturing herself with her thoughts.

She took a seat on the floor eyes closed, trying to fight off the headache all the crying had caused. She just wanted all the pain to go away. Her eyes shot open once she heard footsteps once again entering the tent. But she was surprised to see Penelope making her way towards her.
---
Penelope raced to her tent in search for the things she'd need. Preparing everything she needed with precision, not wanting any screw ups. As she got everything she'd need her eyes fell on a rock she was using to show Maddie simple rune spells. Reactivating the rune, she put it in her pocket and gathered the rest of her supplies.

She went in search for Gaia. Finding her in her tent brewing the thing she'd ask for.

"Hey how's it going?" She inquired looking at her reading from an old worn book.

"It's coming a long. I think it'll do, the binding of the spell is unpredictable I don't know how it'll hold up against five people." Gaia explained.

"It just has to hold for now, maybe we can fix it later."

"Are you sure about this?" Gaia asked her seriously.

"To be honest no. But there's something in me refusing to let things go like this." Penelope answered honestly.

"Your instincts aren't usually wrong."

"They better not be now. It's just no one should live with that much pain." Gaia nodded in agreement.

"I have faith in this working out." The stone in Penelope's pants vibrated violently against her thigh. Penelope couldn't help but smile.

"I'll owe you for this. If the Hedas don't literally desiccate me." Penelope joked.

The brew was ready a few minutes later. They prepared it and took it to the super squad that were huddled outside the tent. They watched as Landon was attempting to comfort a checked out Hope. M.G was huddled between Kaleb and Rafael trying to support eachother. Penelope felt her heart twinge for them.

"All right Heidi, it's time to sell your soul."

Hope stood at attention immediately. While the others stared on confused and a bit scared at Penelope. The selling of souls part leaving them suspicious.

"What do I have to do?" Hope asked no hesitation or fear.

"Do as Gaia says." Was all Penelope said as she walked towards the tent.
---
"Hey JoJo." Penelope greeted Josie.

"Hey is everything ok?" Josie asked. Which made Penelope roll her eyes. Nothing was ok, but her concern was cute.

"You done with your goodbyes?" She asked ignoring the question.

"Seems that way. I was just going to write my parents and Lizzie a goodbye letter."

"You might not have to. Remember that promise you asked for? Gaia came thru." Penelope told her.

"So you let me go through all of that for nothing?!" Josie asked angrily.

"To be honest I wasn't sure about doing it, still not." Penelope said vaguely.

"Why are you playing with me like this?" Josie asked jumping to her feet, eyes blazing.

"I'm not it's just a big decision." Penelope shrugged, which pissed Josie off more.

"What do you want Penelope?"

"For you to answer a few questions honestly." Penelope said nonchalantly.

"This again? I already did the last Penance." Josie was annoyed beyond belief.

"Humor me JoJo. It's only two questions. Promise."

"Fine." She grumbled. Pouting at the shorter girl.

"Ok first off would you say you're a forgiving person?"

"Within reason but yes I'll probably forgive someone I care about for just about anything." Josie answered suspiciously. Eyeing the vampire wearily.

"Ok on to the next one. Do you really want to die Josie?" Penelope's face lost all of it's teasing nature as her eyes stared into Josie's.

"We've been over this, it's the best choi-"

"I asked, do you want to die?"

"Yes ok. Is that what you wanted to hear? I want to die!" Josie all but screamed into Penelope's face. Refusing to break eye contact.

Penelope remained silent waiting. Keeping eye contact in as well. Trying to uncover what those eyes were hiding. If she was actually being honest. Just as she was ready to break eye contact, the stone in her pocket jostled slightly. Humming slightly against her thigh.

"That's exactly what I wanted to hear." She said finally throwing Josie for a loop in confusion.

"I hope you'll forgive me."

"I already told you I don't blame you for this." Josie reassured.

"Not for that. For this."

Josie quickly felt several light pinches at different areas of her body. Looking down to see empty needles sticking out of every major artery point.

Rage exploded thru Josie's veins mingling in with the foreign blood rushing through her. She felt everything changing. She was suddenly physically aware of every hair on her body.

"What the fuck did you do?!" She growled ready to light a fire under Penelope's ass.

Penelope who you used her enhanced speed and strength to grapple Josie into a sleeper hold. Josie tried to shake her off but Penelope's experience kept her in place. She took the last needle she had and pricked her in the throat for good measure.

"I did what I felt I had to do. I hope you forgive me." Penelope whispered.

"Fuck you let me go." Josie growled, dark veins starting to protrude from her eyes. And Penelope could see the hint of fangs starting to gleam. The transition was complete.

"You did ask for it to be like last time."

Was the last thing Josie heard before everything went dark once again.

Chapter Text

Josie felt like she was floating. It was utterly silent for the first time in a long time. She waded around in the darkness unobstructed but also unmoving. She felt nothing and aware of nothing. She at peace.

Until the nothingness started to feel like a prison. Loneliness started creeping in taunting her. She tried to move away from it but in the pitch blackness of it all she couldn't tell if she was moving further away or closer to it. After a moment it became clear that she wasn't moving at all, it was coiling around her.

Which after awhile perpetual loneliness didn't feel so bad. An odd company in the pervasive darkness and emptiness. She felt a little less hollowed. Until the loneliness started constricting her like a snake that caught it's prey. Air became scarce quickly, but death did not come to save her.

She didn't know how long she remained suspended in that state of dying. She was so tightly held that she couldn't even find it in herself to scream. She couldn't move or see. It felt like forever, or mere agonizing moments. She couldn't tell anymore. She just wanted it to end.

Suddenly the atmosphere around her seemed to vibrate, a low rumble emanating from all around her. It reminded her of muffled laughter. She wasn't sure if she her deduction was right but she's definitely hadn't ever felt something so sinister.
---
"You mean to tell me you killed my daughter." Alaric stated angrily, accusing gaze fixed on Penelope. "And you five went off on a wild goose chase, fought a sentient ghost werewolf and put yourselves in extreme danger by going into a camp stacked with unknown supernaturals. Did I miss something?"

"Well for one I didn't kill your daughter. It really was a freak accident." Penelope defended herself.

"A freak accident, I have yet to hear any context to." Alaric seethed vein in his forehead popping.

"If she wants to tell you, she will, it's not my place." Penelope said not fazed by his anger.

"You killed my daughter and now it's not your place to say how or why?!" Alaric was quickly held back by Caroline as he moved to get in Penelope's face.

"Josie died during their one night stand, ok? Can you please stop with angry white dude schtick? None of us are dead..well Josie is undead now, but you get the point."

Kaleb spoke up before Penelope could. He had grown tired of the back and forth and he knew Alaric was one sentence away from pissing the new comers off. It earned him a sharp elbow to the gut from Hope, but he felt it was worth it.

"Not really how I wanted that to go." Penelope muttered under her breath.

"What Alaric was trying to say, you five should've come to us. It was irresponsible, thankfully none of you got hurt."

A round of mumbled apologies came from the younger crew. Who seemed chastised enough by the matriarch. Penelope and co watched on in intrigue trying to decipher the leaders and their dynamics.

"Now that, that's settled. Who are you, what brings you to Mystic Falls and friends or foe?" Caroline asked eyeing Gaia, Penelope and Jed down.

"They killed our daughter do you really think their new to town strangers that want to be friends?" Alaric asked, tone condescending and accusatory.

"It was an accident." Penelope was growing annoyed with the man's obvious disdain towards her. Granted she understood, but his daughter wasn't dead dead. He was running a school for supernaturals for fucks sakes.

"Unforeseen developments aside. We are not your enemy. We actually came to town to enroll one of our clan members into your school." Gaia spoke up. Trying to sound as diplomatic as possible.

"My dau-" Hope muttered a silencing spell effectively cutting off, what was surely going to be another killed my daughter spiel.

Caroline gave her a grateful smile, while he glared and made hand signals demanding she get rid of the spell. She didn't.

"Are you the clan leader? Or are they aware of this development?" Caroline asked.

"They aren't." A newcomer spoke up from behind them.

Hope watched as the trio's expression changed from shock to instant fear. She watched their synchronized reactions with intrigue. Jed aside, everyone they'd encountered were all viable threats, confident with the aura of 'I can and will kill you'. Yet, there they were wincing, frightened by someone's voice. It made her fear the newcomers instantly, to the point she didn't turn to face them. She waited in baited breath, as did everyone else.

"Lexa, Clarke these are your clan members?" Caroline asked.

"H-hey Heda's what are you guys doing here." Jed asked, eyes downcasted as he stuttered.

Hope was surprised to see the blonde and brunette couple that was at the school earlier in the day. Though the icy tone was unrecognizable from when she'd heard them speak the first time. She watched as the brunette, Lexa, studied the room intently before settling on her people.

"Maddi saw the rover pull up and called, interrupting our date, wondering why we came back. Since it obviously wasn't us we came to check it out. It would be in your best interest to fill us in quickly."

Lexa spoke, stone faced green eyed piercing gaze focused on her members. Clarke looked around more passively, but equally as intimidating. Hope was just glad neither gaze settled on hers.

"Penelope accidentally turned the headmaster's daughter." Gaia blurted out, uncharacteristically.

Hope's money was definitely on Jed to be the one to break first. Or for them to be a united front, judging by Penelope's affronted expression she probably had the same expectations.

It was eerily quiet as everyone seemed to be waiting on the leaders' reaction. Penelope's expression could be described as: the moment you realize the crash is inevitable so you just mentally prepare yourself for the collision. The collision didn't come. Not in the way everyone one expected anyway.

Everyone expected the Alpha to explode or react chaotically. Lexa however remained impassive and cold. It was hard to tell of she'd even registered what Gaia said or that she even cared. It was however the passive blonde vampire that reacted.

Clarke became laser focused on Penelope, blue eyes barely concealing her outrage. Hope watched intently as her muscles muscles seemed to tense, her fists tightly clenched. Hope found herself bracing for the collision as well.

"Outside now." Clarke barked in a clipped tone. Eyes not leaving Penelope. Her shift in mood, felt like it sucked the warmth out of the room. Leaving the aura eerie. Penelope followed her silently as she stormed out the room.

"While that happens can someone give me context? And some of you need to be healed." Lexa's tone remained indifferent as she took a seat and motioned for Gaia to begin assessing the damages. Lexa's eyes scanned the room once more before her eyes settled on Hope.

"You seem to be your group's leader come and tell me what took place."
---
Penelope followed Clarke out of the school a few meters out of earshot near the cover of the treeline. She could see the muscle in her jawline jumping, it was actually in tune with the pulsing vein in her forehead.

"Please tell me it's not how it sounds?" Clarke questioned.

"It's actually a lot worse." Penelope said, ducking her head sheepishly.

"Please tell me this is not another..-" Clarke trailed off. But the implication was felt. And Penelope reacted defensively.

"Josie isn't Ellie! I swore I wouldn't make that mistake and I didn't, not with her."

Clarke's gaze softened. She'd never blamed Penelope for Ellie. She was angry that her pup was put in that position, because she had a big heart. Plus no one could've possibly anticipated how bad the Ellie situation became.

"Tell me what happened." Clarke settled down on the floor and Penelope followed. Taking a deep breath.

"I met her at the bar in town. I needed a drink, well a couple. She did too apparently. We got drunk or I was drunk on her. We got a room at the hotel a few blocks away. I just got lost in the moment, there was some blood exchange during. Something went wrong near the end, she lost control of her magic. She's a siphoner, I reacted instinctively and I guess I killed her. But she took a lot out of me and I passed out. When I woke up I was disoriented but she was breathing, so I dipped. Called Jed to pick me up and I passed out again after." Penelope recounted the night prior, while Clarke listened attentively.

"So it was a night of rough sex between two consenting supernaturals beings, that took an unexpected turn? That's not so bad Pen. Sounds like a great way to go and be turned." Clarke joked lightly. Feeling relieved thinking that was the entire situation.

"That's not the bad part. Josie didn't want to be a vampire." Penelope replied softly.

"So she's dying? No Gaia said you she was turned. Penelope what did you do?"

Penelope recounted everything else that had happened up to that point. She could feel Clarke tensing with every word deeper into her version of events. Hearing it back made her realize how impulsive and irrational she'd acted. Judging by the anger and disappointment radiating off Clarke she was in agreement.

Once Penelope finished the pair sat in silence as Clarke processed.

"She expressed in great detail that she didn't want to become a vampire. And you turned her anyway?!" Penelope flinched even tho she was prepared for the outburst.

"She didn't want to die, the stone vibrated she was lying." She argued, trying to both defend and convince Clarke. And to some extent herself.

"She also didn't want to be a vampire. It doesn't matter what the stone did, it was her choice and you made it for her! This really is Ellie all over again."

"Josie isn't Ellie okay?! She thought dying would save her sister. She was always the one sacrificing herself. She deserves to have a life." Penelope was now completely on the defensive.

"And what now Penelope did you think about that? Does your decision save her sister or condemn her to death or vampirism. Something she also didn't want. You took the opportunity to save her sister from her, how do you think she's going to react?"

Clarke questioned her, spitting out accusations and questions at a rapid pace. Tearing thru each defense Penelope and causing her to begin to question her decision.

"So I just had to let her die? She isn't even 21, I thought life was supposed to be about more than just surviving."

"This isn't about that Pen. I know why you did it, I understand why you did it. It still doesn't change the fact, that she didn't want this! It doesn't change the fact that every choice you've made up to this point is going to make the life, you so desperately want her to live, all the harder."

Clarke didn't back down. She knew Penelope's heart was in the right place. But it was all heart and that's why her choice was so misguided.

"I can help her-"

"How?! Are you going to find the cure to some coven curse they haven't been able to find since the existence of said curse? And by some miracle if you find a way to break it, she still doesn't want to live her life like a vampire." Clarke continued.

"That can change." Penelope said, voice small and unsure. Not as strong as it was before Clarke started hitting with the truth.

"You can't make her want to live Pen."

"I know that. I just want her to have another chance. She deserves to have a chance at actually living."

"Ok. I know your heart was in the right place, but it wasn't your place. It still isn't. But you've weaved yourself into her story, and us by association. I'll have your back like I always do and I'll help. This Josie better worth the work.." Clarke trailed off swallowing the last part of her sentence.

"She is." Penelope assured with a watery smile. Though her mind was anxious filled thoughts chasing eachother, about how Josie has to be worth it. She most likely wouldn't be able to survive another Ellie in any way, shape or form.

"Let's head back to the surely irate vampire that's going to be waking up soon."

As the pair made their way back to the school. Clarke stared at the imposing structure that was supposed to be a new beginning in her eyes for Madi. Now becoming so much more. And she wasn't sure if it was all good. She sent a small prayer to the powers that be.

She prayed that Josie was worth the inevitable heartbreak, but also prayed she was as mending as Penelope believed her to be. There were already way to many hearts attached to the girls wellbeing.
---
As the pair made their way back into the school. They were almost barreled into by Jed running at full speed.

"Slow down boy. Where's the fire?" Clarke asked him worried by his expression.

"Funny you should say that. There isn't one..yet. But Josie just woke up and she's threatening to light this place up if you don't show up."

"She wastes no time in being a handful I see." Clarke deadpanned as she watched Penelope speed off to where they had placed Josie.
---
Penelope raced down to the cellar. But she was met with everyone near standing outside the entrance. Alaric was the first to notice.

"Finally you show up. Now tell me Penelope why is the first person who my daughter asks for the person that killed her?" He asked accusingly, arms crossed over his chest eyes set in an inquisitive glare. Penelope guessed he was trying to seem intimidating.

"I see you've unfortunately found your voice yet again." She said sidestepping him entirely.

"And maybe because I'm her sire, just a thought." She threw over her shoulder as she headed for the door. Her expression set in determination, with a hint of her true face. Which made everyone loitering in the hallway part like the red sea.

Centering herself from before calling out to be let in.

"Let me in JoJo."

The door cracking open was the only acknowledgment she received. Penelope walked in, once she was over the threshold the door was slammed and sealed behind her.

Within seconds she found herself with her back pressed up against the wall by the throat. With a seething siphoner all but snarling in her face. She kept her composure however. Which pissed Josie off even more.

"You know JoJo if you wanted to choke me and press me against a wall, all you had to do was ask. I would've gladly switched places." Penelope offered with her patented lopsided smirk.

Josie let go of her instantly. Penelope couldn't decipher her expression, but it looked like Josie's snarl was caught somewhere between regret, disgust and anger. Due to her being a pup, she quickly settled on anger yet again. Penelope always wondered why anger seemed to be their default setting, like couldn't it be the need for belly rubs instead?

"This isn't funny. My life is not some joke you can orchestrate to fit whatever punchline your brain seems to come up with." Josie said glaring at Penelope.

And in her in defense she was right. Penelope using humor in hopes to diffuse these situations weren't helping with Josie. She realized that, but she still didn't want to deal with this head on.

"I apologize that wasn't appropriate."

"You want to know what was inappropriate? You playing God with my life and forcing me into something I explicitly told you I didn't want." Josie seethed.

"I'm not apologizing for that." Cue angry outburst.

"Why the fuck not?! You had no right." Like clockwork, Penelope thought.

"I didn't. And life is probably going to prove to me over and over again that I shouldn't have. But I'm not sorry that I did."

"Why?"

"This world needs the selfless and the selfish to keep spinning. I happen to be the latter."

"So I'm alive to keep the balance in the force so you can stroke your own ego Yoda?"

The reference went over Penelope's head, Josie wasn't even sure she used it right only ever half paying attention during M.G's Star Wars marathons. Penelope chose to ignore the interruption.

"You're selfless. Everyone's wellbeing, happiness, safety comes before your own. At the expense of your own. So I made the selfish choice, because you would never choose yourself."

Penelope's gaze unwavering and every word spoken with intention. Her choice might not have been the best choice, but she would defend it to her last breath for it being the right one.

"You don't know me Penelope, my death was finally my selfish choice. I chose me and you decided that, that wasn't the right choice. So you condemned me to a life I didn't want, taking every problem I had and multiplied it tenfold."

They fell into a tense stare off. Both saying their peace, both trying to convince the other, trying to convince themselves. Trying to push as much guilt and blame one whoever was the most wrong. But it just all came to a stale mate, neither wanting to admit their choice wasn't the right one.

Penelope needed her choice to be right, she couldn't possibly live with the fall out if she wasn't. Josie felt robbed from an escape that she believed would've been the least painful exit from the living plane. Now with immortality on her side an accidental death was unlikely, harder to feed to her parents, to Lizzie. She couldn't hide behind events outside her control.

"I'm not sorry. But I'll definitely stick around to help."

"You've done more than enough. Please just go, forget about me and go to wherever it is you came from."

"Can't. You're my pup and it's my responsibility to see you thru all this." She awkwardly motioned with her arms in Josie's general direction.

"I said go." Josie moved into Penelope's personal space using her height to seem threatening as she glared down at Penelope. Black bleeding into her irises.

Penelope just stared her down unflinching.

"No."

Penelope watched in fascination as Josie's features morph into something new. The girl was definitely animated when she wasn't hiding behind her facade.

It was foreign, the emotions she was feeling weren't something she was used to feeling. Penelope could tell, because something about her facial expression just didn't seem to fit her face. The energy she felt encompassing her space didn't feel like it belonged to the girl she'd met the night before.

"I hate you."

Penelope was so focused on her face that she watched her mouth form the words, and it looked so clumsy. Like she hadn't ever uttered those syllables in that succession before. Her tone was registered as an afterthought. Rasped and trembling, like she had to scrape the recesses of her gut to get it out.

It didn't sound real. It didn't look real. More like a botched voiceover. But yet in the silence. The stone didn't even quiver. Maybe it sounded so foreign, because she didn't want it to be true. Or because when Ellie said that it ended in a bloodbath.

Yet she had to save face, she had to keep the upper hand. At least seem like she had the control and strength this storm. So with a small smile, and what she hoped was guarded eyes.

"I know."

She tilted her head in an obvious challenge. Inviting Josie to react to continue on in anger, because she'll handle her tantrum until she was blue in the face. When Josie just stared at her blankly and studiously. She took it as a win.

"Good. Now time for being a vampire 101. Have a seat while I get you caught up."