The funeral for Bonnie's grandmother was beautiful and sentimental, so everything Bonnie had wanted and more for Sheila Bennett's final send-off.
Sheila had been a very colourful character in Mystic Falls, and every year on Halloween she'd had a tradition of telling these fantastic stories about witches which had fascinated the younger children, but had led to some of the adolescents calling her kooky because the way she told the stories had made it seemed like she'd believed in their very existence, which had of course opened her up to mockery. The adults took no notice of the stories, generally viewing her as just this warm hearted woman with a passion for the occult and supernatural, which had been part of her career, so most of the eulogies given had revolved around people's recollections of Sheila's scariest stories, and the way she'd made Halloween exciting year after year.
Bonnie stood there, resenting all the false sadness around her, because, truthfully, to everyone her grandmother had just been this crazy old lady, a borderline alcoholic even, because how could anyone sober believe there was any truth to what she was saying? Why was it people could only say nice things about someone after they'd passed on? How hard was it really to pay someone a compliment when they were actually alive to hear and accept it?
Caroline and Elena huddled themselves around, always on hand to be a shoulder to cry on, but Bonnie wasn't a big crier. She'd shed a few tears when she'd seen the coffin lowered into the ground, but after that she'd kept a solemn air around her, accepting people's condolences with an almost forced grace, aware of who'd mocked her grandmother and who hadn't, not really sure what to do with the various stories people told her about her grandmother – some of them sounding like absolute bullshit - except to put on a false smile and act like she couldn't tell the phonies from the sincere.
"This is so depressing," Caroline said thoughtlessly, before she instantly cringed. "Sorry... wrong choice of words."
"No, you're right," Bonnie agreed, surprising all three of them. "Grams would've hated this whole thing...and not just because it was her funeral. She would've wanted it to be a small private ceremony – just family and friends. My dad insisted on opening it up to the public though."
"Why?" Elena asked.
"Because he ignores people's wishes, and just makes a point of doing whatever he likes even though he's hardly ever home to know what people would've wanted," Bonnie spat out, suddenly close to tears again.
Instantly, Caroline and Elena threw their arms around her, and she surrendered to their fierce embrace, appreciating them more than she could ever say.
"I'm sure Rebekah is throwing a fit because we all missed training," she said, changing the subject in an effort to lighten the mood.
"Well the bitch can kiss my hundred dollar boots if she is," Caroline declared haughtily. "I wonder if she's ever lost anyone, because if she had she would understand why you might not be in the mood to be pushed around by an obnoxious, hot headed, cold blooded bitch."
"Her brother," Elena said thoughtlessly, with an air of absent-mindedness. "She lost her little brother."
Bonnie and Caroline gave Elena a simultaneous look of astonishment.
"How do you know that?"
"She told me." Sensing that wasn't going to be enough for her curious friends, Elena then added, "Look, she came to the bar the night I got hammered – beyond the norm, I mean – and she kind of... took care of me. We got talking and she let slip that information." She saw Caroline's look of inherent suspicion. "What?"
"She tells us nothing, yet she opens up to you?" Caroline's eyebrows knitted together with confusion. "I mean, no offence Elena, but what does she see in you worth opening up to?"
"Oh nice, Caroline!"
"I said no offence!"
"Adding the words 'no offence' to an offensive statement doesn't eradicate the offensiveness of said statement!"
"Now this... this my Grams would've liked," Bonnie mused to herself, amused despite herself. "She practically thrived on tension."
It worked as a tension breaker; Caroline and Elena smiled and shook their heads.
"Sheila was always one for drama," Elena agreed, chuckling softly.
"Her bedtime stories I swear to god could've given horror movie directors a run for their money," Bonnie reminisced. "My dad at one point insisted I wasn't ever going to stay the night around her house after I'd had a stream of nightmares involving burning witches fuelled by one of her stories." She shuddered at the memory. "I still have that dream sometimes."
"You know funerals shouldn't just be about celebrating the good parts about someone," Caroline said thoughtfully. "They should be about remembering that they weren't perfect, and yet we loved them anyway."
Bonnie's eyes swam with tears at that.
"Caroline Forbes, where did you come up with that? That's just so perfect!"
Caroline looped any arm through Bonnie's.
"I have my moments," she replied softly. "I might screw up – a lot – but sometimes I do say the right thing. Also, I think that might've been from a movie..."
"Kidding! I think..."
Elena and Bonnie chuckled, deciding the day Caroline changed was the day that life was simply not worth living anymore. Her inappropriate remarks, her borderline ditzy moments, her strength all just shone through one blonde haired package of just imperfect perfection.
"Want to hit the Grill and try and get to the booze before anyone else does?" Bonnie suggested.
"Best suggestion I've heard all day," Caroline announced.
"I'll buy the first round," Elena added.
"You bet you will, and then you can spill your guts as to how you've managed to get Rebekah to 'fess to you things that might actually make me hate her less," Caroline proclaimed.
Elena rolled her eyes, but smiled because Caroline could usually smell a good story a mile away – it was why she'd originally wanted to go into broadcast journalism before this vampire business had darkened their doorways – and if she wanted the truth, she had her ways of getting it, so maybe it was easier on this one occasion to just give it to her.
"Fine, but any judgmental comments and I'll put your old prom dress on E-Bay," she threatened humorously.
Caroline glared at her. "You wouldn't. That's an expensive, one-of-a-kind dress I hope to pass down to my daughter some day!"
"Providing you can find a man who you don't chew and then spit out alive first," Bonnie teased, joining in the banter.
Caroline rolled her eyes, before looking up to the sky and sighing theatrically.
"This is supposed to be your day, Sheila, and these two idiots are trying to upstage you. Now would be the time to send, like, a lightning bolt or something to frazzle their perfect hairdos." She waited patiently for a long minute and then sighed. "Yeah, nothing supernatural seems to be on my side today."
Bonnie let out a deep chuckle.
"You guys are the best," she said, throwing her arms around her friends. "Thanks for helping me smile today of all days. Grams always loved having you two over... though with you, Care, she said she could only handle you in small doses."
"Most people can't even handle that," Caroline smirked.
There was what appeared to be an appreciative rumble of thunder in the sky after that comment, provoking the girls to giggle, earning them some stern stares from the people around them, so they quickly stifled their laughs, adopted a sombre look, and then headed off in search of much needed liquor.
The moment she opened the door, Rebekah was acutely aware there was something different about the atmosphere inside.
Hefty men's cologne, which her keen nostrils detected in mere seconds, lingered in the corridor. There was also a kind of quiet to the house which felt unnatural, the ironic kind of silence you can only attribute to there being someone else in your house. She was also sure some items had been moved, like her hairbrush, which always lay in waiting on the side for her by the door, so she could quickly brush her hair before leaving, or after returning home. It always rested under the gold gilded mirror, where she could check her reflection for traces of imperfection. Vanity was her most human flaw, this she'd realised and appreciated over time, and she spent time, as a result, nurturing that flaw for the simple fact it made her feel human.
"Okay," she called, irritating tracing her voice. "You can come out, whoever you are. Breaking into a lady's house is just rude, and I hope you know I'll be breaking one bone in your body for every item I find missing."
"Aw, sis, why you gotta be that way?" leered an all too familiar voice.
She looked up, noticing Kol, her obnoxious brother – well, one of them anyway – leaning over the banister accompanying the stairs, his hair cropped, spiked and gelled so that he resembled some ghastly imitation of a generic boy band. He poked his tongue out, eyes glinting with mischief, and then he made a graceful leap over the banister to land playfully at her feet.
"Well, you certainly know how to make an entrance," she conceded begrudgingly.
"And you certainly know how to pay a man a compliment," he verbally sparred, giving a bow in jest.
"I wasn't paying you a compliment – merely stating a fact."
"Aw, Bex – you haven't changed a bit."
"So Niklaus released you from your latest spell in the box then," she noted, not sure whether to be pleased by that or concerned.
"Indeed, but he is as hell bent as ever on backing up his real family with a cluster of hybrid spawn," Kol said, making a disgusted face. "He's kept Finn in his box, though, which at least ensures a lack of dullness."
"That's our brother you speak ill of, mind your tongue!" she snapped.
He wagged his finger in her face.
"You made no valiant attempts to save him at any point, dear sister, so please get off that high horse of yours and join the rest of us as we fight in Nik's family style version of The Hunger Games." He looked at the expression on her face. "What? I happened to catch a glimpse of the film. Had lots of violence in it. My kind of film."
She shook her head, refraining from commenting.
"So Nik presumably sent you back to keep an eye on me, correct?" she said, again refraining herself from making a snarky comment at that.
"Correct, and he also wanted me, as your loving, doting brother, to make sure you stayed away from the boys in this town. Something about history repeating itself... yadda yadda yadda...he gave quite the speech on the matter. I managed to get the gist before tuning the rest of it out." Kol yawned pointedly. "But yes, in a word, I'm here to make sure you stay here until the ritual is completed. Elijah's dropping by too, and I'll be meeting up with him later on – oh, and some of Nik's friends from the 20s will be stopping by too."
"Nik had friends? In the 20s? Oh..." Rebekah scrunched up her nose with disgust as her own memory answered her questions. "The Salvatores. Does Nik really need all available hands for a stupid ritual no one but him even cares about?"
Kol shrugged. "Apparently he's not leaving anything to chance this time... not after what happened with Katerina."
Rebekah made a distasteful noise, and then raided her own alcohol cupboard, handing Kol a bottle before he could make any comment on her being a dreadful host. While they drank, she took the time to study her brother, noting he seemed to have no queries about the century he'd woken up in. Occasionally she noted him glancing at some object with curiosity, but she knew from experience if he was curious about something, he tended to find out for himself rather than asking. It had led to him offending a lot of people in the past simply because he couldn't be bothered with the usual rules of etiquette, or even simple manners.
"I've missed Elijah, I must say," she said quietly, "I'm assuming he's made his usual plea for our brother to behave, only for Nik to have completely ignored him?"
"Indeed, but Nik persuaded him to join his cause with the simplest of arguments that he never actually means – that doing this will finally make him happy, will finally let him enjoy his family." Kol made a noise of disbelief. "The day Nik shows any sign of appreciation for any of us, I'll swear off violence for a whole year."
Rebekah had to laugh at that, because it was true.
Niklaus, for all his intelligence, never seemed to be able to comprehend what he truly sought century after century had always been with him – family. He lusted for power and loyalty, but those two came with being in a family like theirs, so why he wanted more was beyond anyone's understanding. She didn't know what was worse – his behaviour, or the fact his family let him behave that way because it gave them an easier life.
"So how are the Salvatores these days?" she purred, settling into the cream coloured lounger chair she almost never used. "Stefan say anything about me?"
She wouldn't expect him to. Their fling in the 1920s had been just that – a fling. His switch had been off, and he'd been a hell of a dance partner, yet despite the fact they'd made a pretty good team, she'd had to say goodbye, and that was because of Niklaus.
It was always because of Niklaus her flings – her reckless grasps at finding love – never lasted longer than a breath, and that was the reason (among many) she resented him, yet the bond of family, their ties to a promise made a long time ago, kept her loyal to him, though she hated herself for that loyalty. Every time she convinced herself to break free, something – the threat of being daggered, maybe some half hearted desire to keep her family intact and on as good a term as it was humanly possible to be – always kept her from running. Maybe she was stupid, maybe she was naive... maybe it was some combination of the two states, but either way she knew she couldn't abandon her family.
"Not really, but he doesn't say much I listen to," Kol jested, smirking. "That Damon character isn't much more interesting. Likes to talk a big game though. I almost like him."
"He made fun of Elijah, so I had to snap his neck because that's my job."
Rebekah rolled her eyes.
"Boys," she groaned. "How do you get anything done without us women?"
Kol smirked as he loped an arm around her neck.
"You haven't changed," he repeated, "and I love it."
After the wake, arms looped clumsily around one another, Elena, Caroline and Bonnie started to walk back, half intoxicated, half nostalgic for the days when they'd remained otherwise blind to the true darkness the world concealed.
"Do you think your Grams knew?" Caroline asked, the end letter of certain words slurring a little. "'Bout vampires – d'ya think she knew?"
Bonnie contemplated that for a moment.
"I'm shure she probably did," she agreed. "She wash very clever like that."
"Wash?" Elena giggled at the pair of them. "You pair of intoxicated idiots, let's get you home."
"Why aren't you ash drunk ash ush?" Caroline whined. "Buzzkill Eleeeeenaaa..."
"Becaush – I mean because someone has to be the designated walker here."
"Grams always said you were the sensible one," Bonnie hiccuped, misery audible in her voice. "I miss her."
"At least her death wasn't down to supernatural causes," Elena pointed out, in a lame attempt at cheering her up.
Bonnie raised her shoulders and then dropped them in a pale imitation of a shrug.
"Doesn't suck any less, but you're right."
"Let's shnot talk about death anymore," Caroline slurred. "S'depressing."
"S'hmy Grams who died, I should be allowed to talk about her as much as I like," Bonnie shot back, alcohol stirring up some sort of bottled up rage she'd not tapped into beforehand, meaning even the most trivial of remarks was likely to set her off.
"Hey, hey... I'm not trying to offend..." Caroline began, but the damage was done.
"Yeah, you say that a lot, but guess what, you tend to do that anyway," Bonnie snapped, detaching herself from the group in an attempt to storm off.
"Guys," Elena became the peacemaker, inserting herself between the two of them in case a physical brawl broke out, "let's not do this. We've all drank a lot tonight, so let's all bear that in mind when..."
"Oh shut up, Miss Self-Righteous," Bonnie, surprisingly, turned on Elena. "Don't stick your nose into other people's business, okay?"
Elena blinked, instantly hurt, but she kept her cool, facing Bonnie's temper with a surprisingly even look.
"Bonnie, whatever you're really angry about, don't take it out on us, okay? We're here to help. Vent to us, not at us."
Bonnie didn't respond, the alcohol making her sway a little on the spot. A cold breeze sobered her up a little though, as she soon regained her balance, her eyes flickering from the cautious looking Caroline, to the calm Elena.
"I am pissed off," she admitted. "I hate this, what our lives are. I was in the church today, watching them talk about the way she died, how at least she went peacefully, and it just struck me that I was actually grateful for how she died. How twisted is that? It's the most normal thing that's happened in my life for a long time and it sucks."
She kicked a stray can nearby, and it made an unsettling loud noise as it bounced off the path and into the road, shattering the silence into shards which rooted themselves into their skins, opening the old wounds as well as creating new ones.
"She's right," Caroline spoke up, still clearly drunk but evidently affected by Bonnie's words all the same. "This wasn't how our lives were s'posed to be."
"No, it wasn't," Elena agreed despondently.
"You know I never told her about what we did," Bonnie said, sounding miserable. "She told me all her secrets about being a witch, and I just kept humouring her, never really believing it, you know? But if vampires can, and do, exist, why can't witches?" She shook her head, disgusted with herself. "Even with what I do, I still couldn't – can't - believe witches existed, and she probably died thinking I thought of her as being just as crazy as everyone else did."
"That's not true, you know. Look, we all want to believe the people we've lost died believing the best in us, even when we know they didn't, but in this case I have every faith Sheila was proud of you. I wouldn't have been surprised if she knew you hunted vampires, and I'm sure the reason she didn't say anything was because she knew you could handle it."
Bonnie's eyes filled with tears, and without another word she fell into Elena's arms, sobbing into her chest. Eventually, after struggling to walk over to them in her heels while still intoxicated, Caroline joined their little group, flinging her arms haphazardly around them, the three of them stood there in the cold, each silently thinking about the losses which at this point defined them, and defined what they did. They'd helped each other through these fundamental tragedies, but in the end these events had been brutal lessons, teaching them ways to keep themselves closed off to the world to protect their hearts.
Elena, in that moment, came to an epiphany about Rebekah, following this train of thought, and she was about to divulge this to the others when their attentions fell on a sleek SUV, which was an unusual sight in a suburban area such as this. Trailing behind it was a blue Camaro, a really attractive looking car, if slightly beaten down.
The SUV slid to an easy halt next to them, the windows pulled down to reveal a man with cropped hair peeking out, his eyes trailing over their bodies individually shamelessly. He looked young – perhaps around the mid twenties mark – but his eyes gave away a glimmer of something unidentifiable which reached into Elena's soul and shook it mercilessly.
"Ladies," he drawled, his eyes landing on Bonnie, who looked slightly surprised by the attention. "May we offer you a ride home?"
"Abso – " Caroline began, squealing at his attractiveness, attempting to barge forwards, but Elena and Bonnie held her back.
"No thank you," they said as one, ignoring their friend's sigh of disappointment.
"Really?" He focused his eyes on Bonnie's. "Come for a ride, darling. You look like you could do with a little fun."
Bonnie and Elena, who were much more sober than Caroline at this point, instantly stiffened.
They'd learned to recognise the signs of compulsion, and thank god they'd had the brilliant idea to craft jewellery laced with vervain, which they never failed to wear, as well as mixing it into every drink they had, almost religiously.
They were unarmed, alone for the most part, and that worried them, especially knowing that their reflexes were going to be less than up to scratch due to their alcohol intake.
"Kol," rebuked a voice that could've thawed ice itself, so smooth to the ears was it, and Elena found herself inexplicably drawn to the sound of it. "That's enough."
The one called Kol drew back, his brow furrowed at the resistance shown against his compulsion. Another head popped out next to him, bearing an apologetic expression.
Elena's eyes widened at the attractiveness of both brothers, the second bearing auburn hair which was neatly tucked at the back, yet strands still fell across his face. He appeared older, but not by a great margin, and dressed in a suit it was easy to assume they'd been out somewhere formal.
"I do apologise for my brother's behaviour," the second man said, his eyes drawn to Elena, something in his expression keeping her from running the other way, like he was inexplicably fascinated by her appearance, though for what reason she couldn't say. "He gets a little... promiscuous after dark."
"Promiscuous," she repeated in a clipped tone of voice, noting with some disturbance that the other brother seemed to be eyeing her now, undisguised mischief haunting his eyes. "Well, better keep him on a leash then. We need to be going."
She grabbed Bonnie and Caroline's hands and pulled them forwards, hoping against hope they hadn't spotted her discomfort and recognised it as fear, otherwise they could kiss their lives goodbye.
But instantly Kol was there in front of them, flashing them a smile they didn't have to be vampire hunters to instantly distrust.
"Kol – " the second brother warned.
"What's going on?" a third voice joined the mix, the driver of the Camaro, who'd presumably only stopped to view the action, striding forwards.
Elena's breath caught in her throat, and suddenly nothing mattered anymore. Her eyes locked with eyes a fiercely cold blue in colour, complimented with matted hair as dark as a raven's breast, the owner clad in dark clothes, which fitted his dark personality she supposed. He glanced at her, and recognition flashed in his eyes, and she felt a ball of fear coil itself in the pit of her stomach.
After all, it wasn't every day you looked into the eyes of your parents' killer.
"Please leave us alone," she managed to get out, directing this to the youngest looking man, who appeared amused by her comment.
Bonnie's hand slid effortlessly into Elena's, and she knew without saying a damn thing that her friend had picked up on her fear and knew what it meant. This small action gave her a tidal wave of courage.
"Now where would be the fun in that?" Kol practically purred, reaching out to touch her hair.
She struck his hand away, prompting him to narrow his eyes meaningfully, moving towards her in a manner which didn't suggest anything other than menacing intent.
"For God's sake," muttered his brother, out of the car without another word, grabbing his brother's arm. "Kol, remember why we're here and back off."
"I'm just chatting with these delightful ladies here," he protested, winking at Bonnie, who'd completely sobered up at these words, shuddering with clear revulsion. "Why must you spoil my fun, Elijah?"
"Please let us just walk away and we won't say anything to anyone," Elena pleaded, careful to keep up the facade that they were merely helpless girls walking back from a night out, even though at this point she knew at least one of the three males harassing them happened to know a little bit more about them - well, her anyway - than that.
The raven haired man stepped forward, eyes scrutinising her carefully, his intense hearing probably picking up the sounds of her erratic heartbeat, maybe even studying the way her eyes refused to leave his, every fibre in her body screaming at her to run but her feet unwilling to obey the order. Bonnie's hand remained firmly in hers, and even Caroline had joined their ranks, though she swayed a little, her eyes flickering to each individual in turn, the woman in her checking them out with no trace of subtlety whatsoever, while the hunter inside her finally wrestled up some sobriety.
"Have we met?" the dark haired man enquired, directing this towards Elena, head tilting sideways with a mocking air of curiosity that had her hands clenching into fists by her sides.
"I don't think so," she shot back at him, but all too late realised her snippy tone might as well have screamed 'I'M LYING!'
"I could've sworn I met a girl who looked exactly like you a few years back," he said, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "Beautiful she was too, a lot like you in that department..."
"Damon..." Elijah warned, looking from Kol, who was eyeing the whole encounter with malicious delight, to Elena – and was that a look of concern on his face? – to Damon, his hands outstretched as if preparing to break up a fight.
"She was a lovely girl," Damon continued as if Elijah hadn't spoken. "But I barely got to talk to her before I had to leave." He gave a too-theatrical-to-be-real sigh. "Such is the way of things."
She trembled, but didn't waver, standing resolute in the wake of his unfathomably cruel gaze.
"Back off," Bonnie suddenly intervened, stepping forwards, pouring her fear and anger into her words so that she practically yelled them, giving him an intense look to boot which suddenly had him backing away, clutching his head in pain as he crumpled before her, turned submissive by, incredible as it seemed, her stare.
Bonnie, stunned by what she seemed to be doing, then, in a vain attempt to repeat this trick turned her gaze on Kol and Elijah, who also recoiled in pain, before crumbling to the ground, clutching their heads, roaring in pain.
"What are you doing?" Caroline hissed, frightened back into full on soberness, rendered frozen by her best friend's frightening behaviour, even if it did seem to be saving their lives.
"I don't know," Bonnie retorted, but suddenly feeling the urge to flee, she grabbed both Caroline and Elena's hands and they ran off into the night before the vampires could regain their senses and chase after them.
Damon was first to recover, and he made an instantaneous attempt at chasing after them, but Elijah swiftly blocked him.
"You two fools almost blew our cover – in fact, I'm fairly sure you blatantly advertised it," he snapped.
"They knew already," Damon snapped back. "I could see it in the Gilbert girl's eyes – she remembers me. I don't know how, since I compelled the memory out of her head, but she remembers all the same."
"They might know who we are, but they don't know why we're here," Kol pointed out, not as miffed as his co-conspirators at how the night had panned out. "We still have the advantage."
"Maybe, but considering that their professions involve vampire slaying, I can assure you the next time we meet, it'll be on their terms," Elijah retorted coolly, dusting his suit down as he rose to his feet.
"You know, I don't think the little dark haired brat knows she's a witch," Damon said, his tone thoughtful. "I could see it in her eyes. She had no idea what she was doing."
"Her powers are only surfacing now?" Elijah appeared troubled by this information. "We should inform Niklaus of this. There may be something else at work here."
"This isn't exactly Harry Potter, Elijah. So what if the girl only just discovered her powers now? It's not like there's an age restriction. I once knew a witch who only found out on her death bed of her magical heritage," Kol said, sounding bored by the whole matter.
Elijah rounded on his brother.
"She shouldn't have been capable of that level of magic if she's only just discovering her powers. First time witches always start off with basic magic: making feathers float, lighting candles etc... No, this was something else...like she was channelling something...or someone."
"Maybe she had a guardian witch angel on her shoulder," Damon snickered.
Elijah fought the urge to roll his eyes...and failed.
"We need to stay away until the night of the sacrifice," he muttered. "That means restraining yourselves from your usual parlour tricks...both of you." He glared at Kol and Damon in turn. "Got it?"
Damon simply threw him a bored look and sauntered towards his Camaro, no affirmation leaving his lips to assure Elijah that he would be on his best behaviour.
"You're such a buzzkill," Kol informed Elijah, smirking as he clambered back into the SUV.
"And that, dear brother, is how I intend to remain until our business here is complete," Elijah informed him. "So do me the courtesy of making sure there is no buzz to kill, okay?"
"No promises, brother," Kol replied cheerfully. "I can already sense we're going to have a lot of fun with those three."
Elijah didn't answer; he just simply shook his head, climbed into the front seat and started the engine.