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Of Maidens and Monsters

Chapter Text

After a long day of dealing with the hurricane of endless bullshit that is Mystic Falls, all Bonnie wanted to do was to curl up with her old ass bestie and his old-ass bourbon. It was bad enough having to fight miscellaneous evil with her powers, but far worse when she had to do so with her own two hands. Thankfully most of the blood she was covered in was not her own, although that mixed blessed meant that she got to officially add "ax murderer of minor demons" to her resume. While Matt has always been a reliable second when evil needs vanquishing, what Bonnie wanted now was Damon. Unfortunately, with his brother on an extended vacation from his humanity, Damon was less available than usual.

One thing that was sure to spring him into action was her coming home covered in blood. He'd know by the smell that it wasn't hers, but the thought of her coming near his couch with it would be enough to set off a hurricane that guaranteed her a slot in his amazing shower, followed by the opportunity to wind up wrapped in his obscenely comfortable pajamas. Why a man who sleeps nude even has a super comfy pajama wardrobe she would never know, but her plan to wind up ensconced with them was both flawless and simple; a masterpiece if she'd say so herself. With a smile and a bounce in her step, Bonnie approached the door, electing not to bother with knocking since his supernatural senses would have told him that she was there as soon as the distinctly unmanly and energy efficient sound of her Prius announced her arrival.

Used to the door being unlocked she simply sauntered on in. Well, saunter is an optimistic word for what probably looked more like an exhausted lurch, but she didn't want to let on how bone tired she was. The fireplace was crackling merrily, so clearly he was home. "Damon!" she called. She expected him to appear right before her any second, or possibly behind her for effect, but several moments passed and no such luck. It wasn't Damon's usual habit to leave a guest waiting long for his appearance, he'd usually appear entirely nude except delicious smelling bubbles before he'd have someone waiting for him. That was strange. And strange was never good in Mystic Falls. The wheels in Bonnie's head started to turn, did she see his car out front? She didn't even think to look for it…

Torn between shaking that off and waiting for a few moments in case she had interrupted him or he simply didn't hear her because he was showering, Bonnie hesitate a few beats more in the foyer. She took a deep cleansing breath and consulted her instincts. Her gut told her to get the hell out of dodge so she whirled around and bounded for the door like a bat out of hell. No sooner than she begun to run towards the still open door did she find it shoved shut by a pale hand and herself pressed against it in a single, impossibly rapid movement. She had instinctively blinked when she started moving at an incredible speed. She could feel even without looking that the muscular body pressed against hers was not Damon's. As she opened her eyes to see Stefan's ring right in front of her face her heart dropped.

"What's the rush, Bon-bon?" he drawled in a chilling mockery of Damon's teasing cadence. He leaned in close to her bloody neck and took in a deep inhale. "You smell like dinner. Did you bring take-out for me?"

This was pretty much her worst nightmare. She'd dealt with plenty of blood-thirsty psychopaths in the last few years, but the Ripper of Monterrey is the only one that she didn't know how to deal with. Normally such a force of evil would be countered with a plan to slay or at least banish it, but because this creature's alter ego was Damon's little brother, she knew it wouldn't be that straightforward. If her life was on the line he would understand that she did what she had to do, but the light behind his eyes would go out without his little brother, and he would never look at her quite the same again. What is worst for a slayer of beasts than a beast she can't slay?

"Stefan, I'd really rather not...socialize with you right now," she started. "Least of all with you so close in my personal space." Without the benefit of her powers, frankly, she was in no shape to dispatch him at all. Which meant that her least favorite task was unavoidably upon her. It was time to reason with crazy.

She could feel him bristle behind her, which heavily implied she was already off to a bad start. "You NEVER want to 'socialize' with me, now do you Bon-bon? It has nothing to do with my humanity being on or off, ever since you met me you NEVER wanted anything to do with me, now did you?" He was escalating fairly rapidly from a low growl to a controlled rage. She could feel his chest rising and falling rapidly against her back as his hot breath fanned across her neck. "Unfortunately for you, I'm not really interested in being brushed off, so I'll make you a deal. You tell me what the fuck your problem has been with me since the day we met, and I will let you go. I can't kill you anyway since Damon might actually stake me and I'm in no mood to find out the hard way, but let's just say I know how to get an answer to a question without leaving anyone dead."

That was enough to prompt a proper shiver, that he could definitely feel seeing as he was pressed so intimately against her. "Mmmm," he groaned with what would have passed for a sultry chuckle under better circumstances. "Come on, Bonnie, are you game or not? The only thing I love more than ripping is torture. Although I have unintentionally cut my own entertainment short when I was just having too much fun."

"I'll tell you, but only if you get out of my personal space. I've been quite sufficiently molested for one evening." Vampires without their humanity have little incentive to lie, so she was pretty sure that he wouldn't kill her. With that out of the way, she was ready to cut the bullshit and have him stop literally breathing down her neck. Running would only get him excited to be chasing her, and cowering would get him excited to be scaring her.

As suddenly as he had appeared behind her he was suddenly on the couch looking as sedate and relaxed as if he had been there the entire time. "Fair enough, now your turn." All of the teasing and flirtatiousness from his tone earlier was gone and his face was the very picture of bored indifference you would expect from a creature with no emotions. But the fact that he was staring unblinkingly at her and his posture of subtly rapt attention belied his studied apathy. Any display of emotion was a hint that you were getting closer to their actual selves, so Bonnie chose her words carefully. Since somewhere deep within him he genuinely wanted to know the truth of why they had always been distant, she decided to bet on actual honesty. At least as close to honesty as she could get without setting him into a spiral of frustratingly heightened emotion.

"I'll be honest, but don't forget we made a deal," she began, pausing to gauge his reaction. He gave a curt nod and his facial expression remained serious, so she took another deep breath to summon her courage and soldiered on.

"When I first touched you, I felt the chill of the deaths you caused. I thought all I was feeling was death because you were a vampire, but I've never felt anything like it before or since."

"You mean you didn't feel the same when you touched Damon?" he interrupted. As his unreadable expression changed to one of bewilderment she decided to stay silent to let him process, or whatever it was he was doing. As he puzzled over her response, his face registered a range of emotions from confusion to frustration. There were many answers he was prepared to receive, but the one she actually delivered was not among them. He was entirely prepared for her to tell her that it was some annoying habit of his, maybe some obscure judgy thing. He didn't expect it would be something of a magical nature at all. Maybe Damon was onto something spending so much of his time with witches because apparently that well of crazy is deep. "That's ALL? Your witchy senses didn't like me?"

"It's It's not that exactly. It''s hard to explain the way a witch's intuition works. A witch's powers are connected to her and a part of her, but they have a mind of their own as well, complete with their own opinions and their own knowledge of things we can't consciously know. When you touched me, my powers told me not to trust you, and as I spent more time around you and saw what happened to people that did trust you, it validated my initial impression. Who you show yourself to be is usually a nice guy, and if that was all then…" she started to trail off fearing she might have said too much. He still looks just like the acquaintance of several years, but particularly at this moment he is not that man and this was no time for witchy chitchat.

"But who I really am is a monster" he finished, eyes bleeding black as veins snaked across his face that had otherwise drained entirely of expression. Bonnie started to get lightheaded because she was just not up to him losing his temper in any way, shape or form. He had never lost his temper with her before, and that was by design. She couldn't think well enough to even attempt to get away or make a move to defend herself and was rapidly getting lightheaded. Having had such a physically exhausting day before unwittingly stepping into that veritable gauntlet she drained of energy so quickly it was like someone had cut the gas line in her car. Just as the room started to blur and go dark she felt herself falling and then nothing.

Bonnie came to on the couch to see Stefan crouching close enough to her to keep a watch on her but far enough that she didn't feel immediate panic from his proximity. His brow was crinkled in broody concern, thank goddess. That means somehow her familiar, if not precisely beloved acquaintance was back. She didn't want to get excited too soon, though, so she decided to check. "Stefan," she asked quietly.

Stefan closed his eyes and lowered his head with a deep breath. Of course after having been rampaging amount of time that's hard to gauge at all in that state she wasn't quite sure what version of him was sitting before her. "Yeah, I'm me. I'm back. Whatever that counts for. I'm so sorry, Bonnie."

"I shouldn't have cornered you, threatened you, I'm sorry for everything I did to you tonight. But most of all, I'm sorry for all of the things that I didn't do in the years that I've known you. I never gave you a reason to trust me, I just quietly held onto resentment about the fact that you refused to. I'm so used to people hearing my story and telling them how tormented I feel and how much I try to be good and having them just treat me like I am good, no matter what I do or have done, that I started to believe my own press." He took a breath and looked at her properly. Even though he was feeling shame, he knew that he would never change this unless he stepped up for real. I never liked that you came to trust Damon and not me, but really, why me? I'm a monster. If I were you I wouldn't trust me either."

"Stefan…" Bonnie started, not really wanting to listen to a round of self-flagellation.

"Don't tell me I'm not. I didn't say that so that you could try to make me feel better or something, I said it because it's true. I've spent all of these years pretending that it's someone else, the Ripper is this other person that takes over me and I'm not responsible for the things he does and nobody should think less of me because of his actions. Stefan is a good guy that drinks animal blood and doesn't hurt people. Stefan has the hero hair. The Ripper is evil and Stefan needs to be saved from the Ripper. I'm the Ripper, and the Ripper is me. You're the only person that has ever really gotten that."

Bonnie's pretty face twisted into a puzzled frown. "That's what brought you back?"

"Well, what brought me back was seeing you faint at the sight of my fangs. You've never done anything like that before. To know that there is someone that knows me, someone that's been around me and knows my family and has seen me laugh and love, but I'm still secretly her worst fear just made me admit what I'd been hiding from for centuries; I am the Ripper. He's not someone different than me, I don't turn it off and become him and then become me again, I'm always the Ripper. That blood is always on my hands and I can't remove myself from what I've done. Other people might have believed me when I said I hated him and it wasn't me, but you saw straight through it the very day you met me."

"I'm just glad you're back to normal," Bonnie sighed.

"I promise you, I'm not back to normal and that's a good thing. I finally understand what it is that Damon loves so much about you." With a ghost of a smile, Stefan quickly stood up. "Damon's here. Tell him what happened."

"Wait," she started feeling a bit of panic setting in. "You want me to tell him that-"

"Tell him the truth. I'm going to get out of here but I'll be back in the morning. I know he'll be upset and I'll deal with that in the morning, but for tonight I don't really want to put you through...watching him probably turn me into a pinata."

Bonnie laughed, but he didn't. Accountability hurts sometimes...but that was for him to deal with tomorrow. For tonight Bonnie was fresh out of worries. Damon came in at a run, the combination of Bonnie's car in the driveway and Stefan speeding off being a very bad one.

"Are you alright?" he asked, his eyes wild(er than usual) with panic.

Bonnie simply smiled, "I'm better with you here, and I'll be better than that if you run me a bath."

Damon instantly forgot his worries at her smile and went to run a bath and get her favorite pajamas. Of course, he had no need to own some for himself, but he wasn't going to tell Bonnie he bought her pajamas.

Chapter Text

For Stefan Salvatore, leaving the boarding house had been a decision as immediate as it was obvious. Damon could be a hurricane at the best of time, and coming home to find a bloody Bonnie laid out on the couch was definitely not the best of times. He made the wise choice to give the situation a bit of space before his inevitable confrontation with Damon over his disgraceful behavior. The only problem with that plan was that the boarding house was not only Damon's home but also Stefan's. That meant that he now found himself with nowhere to spend the night.

The options he was left with were to either spend the night outside somewhere, compel someone, find a friend or pick up a one night stand and go back to her place. Compelling someone was something Stefan usually preferred to avoid, particularly when he was trying to maintain some semblance of sobriety; it's too tempting to take a bite if you've already compelled someone to be agreeable. The thought of trying to procure an invitation home with someone the good old fashioned way at a bar was even less appealing. Having managed to screw up both relationships he had attempted that year, Stefan was not feeling his most dashing. So...what friends did he have at this point?

Matt was definitely out. He would never let him in his home again after the last stunt he pulled. Donovan was so pissed that he actually transferred ownership of the house to someone else and then had them give it back to him to reset the invitations on his home. That required enough paperwork that it would have seemed pretty extreme if he hadn't eaten Matt's running buddy and picked a particularly unpleasant way to let him know that it was him that murdered Vickie. Having reached the end of his list of friends in town in impressive speed, Stefan found himself on the road to his last option. That option was Caroline Forbes...mother of two, ex-girlfriend and hopefully still his best friend.

Stefan spent a moment sitting in the car once he pulled up to her home. He took a deep breath to compose himself, said a quick prayer because who knows what's out there and maybe it'll help, then reached for his phone. Caroline wasn't a big fan of surprises, so it was not the time to push his luck by surprising her with his arrival. It took a few more seconds of brooding in her driveway, but he worked up his courage and called her number.

Surprisingly quickly his call was answered. "Stefan?" she queried timidly.

"Caroline," he breathed a sigh of relief.

"Are you? Is it? Ummm..." Caroline wanted to ask if he had flipped his switch but she wasn't sure how to phrase it in a way that wouldn't set him off if he hadn't.

Stefan easily picked up on that and put her out of her misery quickly. "I'm back, I'm sorry and um...I'm in your driveway."

Before Stefan could think, the lights were on in the living room, then the porch light, and then Caroline was standing on her front porch in possibly the cutest kimono he'd ever seen, with rollers in her hair and a pair of marabou kitten heels. Even with Stefan back in order, she didn't want to startle him, so she approached his car at a normal, human speed. "Stefan," she whispered while looking around sharply, "I'm glad you're back and all, but exactly are In the middle of the night?"

Stefan chuckled and ran his hands through his caramel locks. It seems no matter how much time passes, he never quite gets used to how quickly Caroline springs into alertness and gets right to the point. "I need somewhere to stay for the night."

Caroline's face scrunched into a puzzled little frown; Stefan lives in a house with a half dozen bedrooms. It's in no way obvious why he would need somewhere other than there to sleep. After turning her wheels for a moment, it dawned on her what must have happened. "Stefan, what did you do?"

Stefan gulped and averted his gaze. It wasn't that he didn't plan to tell Caroline, it was just that he didn't expect he'd have to do so before she let him in. As the seconds stretched and he tried to think of the best way to explain what happened, Caroline began to get antsy. She was clearly scanning for danger as she started to tap her prettily manicured nails against the driver's side door.

"Caroline, can you at least stop tapping impatiently," he huffed.

"Stefan, can you at least stop stalling before we get eaten?" she snapped.

"I had a conversation with Bonnie, she fainted, and my switch flipped ."

Caroline raised a thin blonde brow at that. Bonnie was not the sort of woman who was prone to fainting, and the Ripper of Monterrey was not much for conversation. "That sounds like, at best, a very abridged version of the truth. With that in mind, I feel like I'm being generous to even call that a truth."

"Abridged, but nothing major left out."

Caroline stood up, folded her arms and tried to wrangle her thoughts. The chances of him faking having flipped his switch back were pretty minimal, given that with his humanity off he certainly never cared enough about what anyone thought to bother to pretend. There was a lot of water under the bridge between them, but one night wasn't that much to ask.

"Stefan..." she answered slowly, "I'll let you in, because you are my friend and I didn't bring a crossbow, but once you get in this house and get some tea and rabbit blood in you, you are going to tell me what happened."

Stefan knew that was the best compromise he was getting out of her, and he honestly did kind of want to talk about what had happened. Turning on your humanity was a lot like waking from a particularly gruesome nightmare. You have lots of vague and terrible memories of things you can remember doing that don't quite feel real or attached to you as a person. Unfortunately, it was all very real and you are no less responsible for what you do when your humanity is off than you are responsible for what you do in full possession of it. She would be able to relate because she had recently flipped her own switch, and he would get the chance to unburden himself. That wasn't why she insisted he tell her what happened, but all things considered, it was a good deal. He accepted with a smile and followed her into her home.

Her home was as warm and welcoming as it had always been. Since he flipped his switch and made a mess of the friendship they were just getting back after their aborted effort a relationship he hadn't been there. The décor was much more child-friendly, but it was still a familiar space.

"I feel kind of silly dressed like this while you're fully clothed, so if you'd like to-"

"-Slip into something more comfortable?" he teased.

She flushed as much as a formerly living woman can and put her hands on her hips. "Pajamas, now. Since you're going to be disagreeable I'm making it an order and not a hospitable suggestion," she stated in her rapidly-improving mom voice with a dramatic roll of her eyes.

"Yes ma'am," he sassed. "Do I still have a drawer or will I have to get into some that look more like what you have on?"

Caroline laughed and shook her head. "For that comment, I should make you put on a nightgown. But to answer your question, yes you do still have a drawer." Caroline had gone back and forth in her mind about what to do with his things after he left with Valerie. Although their relationship really hadn't been working out, she knew his decision to do that was as much about the circumstances as it was anything personal between them. She also knew that when that matter was sorted he would come back.

Stefan smiled a little smile at the fact that she hadn't entirely purged all evidence of him from her space. Their friendship might be in even better shape than he would have dared to hope. With a bit of spring in his step, Stefan set about changing into some pajamas while Caroline headed to the kitchen to heat up the promised rabbit blood and tea. She wanted to make the tea properly in a kettle, but she knew that the blood would have to go in the microwave. While food and drink can be enjoying and comforting, blood is always the most urgent priority for a vampire, particularly one in a bit of crisis.

When she heard Stefan leave her bedroom, Caroline brought him his mug of rabbit blood as he made himself comfortable on the couch. "You don't want one yourself," Stefan asked as he made a manful effort to get the beverage down without discomfort showing on his face.

"Ugh! I'd rather die again than drink that," Caroline shot out quickly. "But I don't want to trigger you by drinking human blood in front of you, so I'll just stick to my tea for now."

Stefan sobered a bit at the oblique reminder of why he was there as opposed to his own giant and comfortable bed.

Caroline regretted that casual reference to his problem as soon as she made it. "Oh my god, Stefan! I'm so sorry! That sounded like a dig. It was not a dig..." she fretted in a torrent of rushed but emphatic whispers.

"You don't have to apologize, Care. I've been a pretty pathetic excuse for a vampire if you're worried you can't talk about, much less drink a bag of human blood in my presence without me spiraling right before your eyes. I've put a lot of my addiction issues onto you and made you feel responsible for keeping me from falling off the wagon, and I'm sorry for that. You've been a stand-up sober sponsor and even better at being the best friend I've ever had. Thank you for being there for me, but I can't in good conscience make being there for me mean endlessly being drug into my addictions and bullshit."

Caroline's eyes glittered just as bit as she found herself being melted by his earnest charm. "Stefan Salvatore, I've already told you that you don't have to apologize for no-humanity disasters. That's not really you."

That triggered one of those unpleasant flashes of crystal-clear humanity free recollection. "I can't speak for anyone else, but that is me, Caroline. As a matter of fact, that was what Bonnie and I were discussing.."

Caroline went from curious to concerned to alarmed at about the same points in the story that Bonnie had when she was living through it. By the time Stefan was done explaining what had happened, Caroline had almost as many questions as answers. Given that what triggered Stefan to flip his switch was someone that he wasn't particularly close to, that kind of brought them back to the drawing board about exactly what it is that triggers someone in that way. By the time they were bringing the conversation to a close, the sun was rising on a table with several empty bottles that once contained rabbit's blood and two vampires grateful that they don't actually need to sleep every day.

"Well Stefan, it's been a delight to host you, but Alaric is going to be here soon with the kids and I am in no mood for a lecture about you."

"A lecture? Because of my humanity or...what?"

"Or none of your not-my-boyfriend business, now scoot," she laughed while rolling her eyes. "Plus you told Bonnie you'd be back in the morning. Showing up bright and early with flowers and breakfast can only help your cause."

Stefan laughed, yawned and stretched. "Can I plead my immediate dismissal down to a quick shower?"

"You're pushing it, but...fine. Quick, and then you are gone, you understand?"

"Thanks, Care!" he beamed before giving grabbing her hand to give it a gentlemanly kiss and blurring off towards the master bedroom. That prompted her to roll her eyes for what might be the millionth time in the last day. She had a soft spot for a man with charm and that fellow clearly knew it.

In only a few minutes he was in front of her having dressed, showered and gotten into some fresh clothes, having clearly used his vampire speed to move things along. "So, how do I look?"

"You look good as always; immortality has its perks."

"Flattery will get you everywhere," he flirted. "I'll see you around, provided I don't find myself staked when I get home."

"Make sure they're yellow roses for friendship and you'll be fine."

Stefan gave Caroline a hug, took a deep breath of her scent and headed out. Caroline quickly set about taking a shower herself, fixing her hair and makeup and getting impeccably dressed. Looking the part seemed to help her feel more prepared in other areas of her life, so she held onto hope that it would help there. With Alaric was heavily scrutinizing her and her choices as a mother, the threat to take the kids was hanging over her all the time. Seeing Stefan's determination to set his life in order and earn a bit of redemption helped steel her spine.

For his part, Stefan was in no particular rush while buying flowers or breakfast, but once he was done with those tasks he knew he couldn't put off heading home any longer. He headed straight home from the Grille, knowing from living there about what time Bonnie usually had breakfast and walked up to the door and knocked. It was his own home, but after last night, it was probably for the best that he not surprise anyone. Damon came to the door, looked him up and down and folded his arms. Well...that was off to a tense start.

Chapter Text

The night before at the Salvatore boarding house:

Ordinarily, when his brother fell off the wagon, Damon made it his business to try to minimize the damage. But with hordes of demons ravaging the locals, he was forced to occasionally leave Stefan to his own devices. He realized that may have gone awry in the worst possible way, when he came home to find both Bonnie and Stefan's cars in the driveway, with Stefan speeding off immediately after his arrival. Instantly all of the worst-case scenarios for what that might mean flashed through his mind as he sloppily parked his car and rushed into the house. Even with his vampire speed, Damon felt that he had never moved slower in his life.

The sight he walked in on was a scene from his worst nightmare. Bonnie laying on the couch covered in blood was the worst thing he could imagine and his head was swimming. He belatedly took in that she seemed to be awake, so he started to try to piece together what was going on. "Are you alright?" he asked, diving to his knees at her side.

"I'm better with you here," she said as she made an afford to sit up properly. "And I'll be even better than that if you run me a bath."

Once he was assured she was alright, relief rushed through his body. Once the initial panic was over, however, he found himself immediately overwhelmed with the scent of demon blood; that answered another question. As disgusting as that was, he was so happy that it wasn't Bonnie's blood that he managed to only think of and not say that they would need a new couch. "I'll go run you a bath and grab some pajamas for you," he said as he scrunched his nose slightly at the offensive smell.

"I won't take offense at your face registering that I reek of demon guts."

"Your forgiving nature is why I love you," he teased with a kiss on her cheek before blurring upstairs. She rolled her weary eyes and leaned back against the back of the couch. As tired as she was, Bonnie knew that laying back down would quickly lead to falling asleep. If she fell asleep without a bath she would greatly regret it in the morning, so she yawned and stretched and just thought longingly of that giant tub filled with fragrant bubbles.

In no time at all, Damon was standing before her looking as attentive as a well-paid servant. "Are you ready for your bath, Miss Bennett?"

She dramatically flopped onto her back and placed her hand over her eyes. "Oh no, I couldn't. I'm too tired." It was always a treat when Damon was in a spoiling kind of mood.

His ever-present smirk grew into a lascivious grin as they fell into the steps of the same dance they'd been doing every evening for some time. His favorite part was when she would pretend that she was going to spend her evening doing anything other than taking a sudsy bubble bath with him and falling asleep in his bed. "I guess I'll have to come with you to make sure you don't fall asleep in the bath. And you'll be wanting to be carried upstairs, also?"

"Oh, could you?" she implored sweetly, clasping her weakly and fanning her long lashes at him.

"Anything for you, Bon Bon," he said as he hauled her easily into his arms and began carrying her to his bathroom at a sedate stroll.

Once they were both in the tub sipping on bourbon, Damon decided they she was relaxed enough that it would be a good time to find out exactly what had happened. "Bonnie...I noticed Stefan was speeding out of the driveway as I arrived. Do you have any idea why he might have been in such a hurry to leave?"

Her eyes widened and he could hear her swallow. "He flipped his switch and turned his humanity back on," she hedged.

"Gentle reminder that I'm a vampire, Bonnie; I can hear your heart pounding. That means you are not being entirely honest. No matter what you tell me, I'm not about to leave you here alone tonight, so come on, spill. What happened between you two that left you lying on the couch as he sped out of here like a bat out of hell?"

She sighed dramatically and downed a sizeable portion of bourbon. "He set me on the couch after I passed out."

Damon's eyes widened and his stomach flipped over. "Fainted? Why did you faint? Are you sick? Did he do something?"

"He cornered me and asked me why I was always avoiding him. I told him the truth and…" Bonnie had to pause to collect herself, even with a healthy amount of bourbon in her system.

Damon looked very grave and had unconsciously leaned quite close to her as she was talking. His posture made it apparent to Bonnie that he was feeling a lot of tension as well, so she picked up the pace to spare the both of them. "He started ranting and raving, the business with the fangs and veins started and honestly, the next thing I remember is waking up on the couch. Apparently that shook him out of…whatever was going on because when I woke up he was regular Stefan again."

Damon closed his eyes, leaned back, and schooled his features into a reasonable facsimile of calm. "And then he left? That's all?"

"He apologized, and then I guess he heard you pull up." She shrugged. "He said he'd be back to talk to you in the morning, and asked me to tell you what happened."

"That's a surprise. He flew out of here like a bat out of hell, so I thought I'd have to hunt him down after I saw to you."

"My guess is that he just didn't want me to have to deal with anymore drama tonight and he knew when you got hold of them there was going to be a problem."

"Well I'm glad that after almost eating you he decided to extend a bit of consideration."

That level of drama was enough to prompt a laugh from Bonnie. "I've had enough things try to eat me to be able to say definitively that he did not try to eat me, Damon. He was just acting out and as you can see," she gestured at her body, "I am entirely unharmed by the exchange."

Damon raked his eyes carefully around her shoulders, across her chest, and up her slender neck to her blushing face. It's easy to forget you are in a rather intimate situation once it becomes a part of your routine, but a heated glance from him was a heady reminder that they were wandering into uncharted territory. "You look as lovely and fully intact as always."

"Ever the charmer," she said with a sassy smirk.

He lifted her hand into his and kissed it. "I've heard ladies like to be charmed. Almost as much as they like to climb out of the tub when the start turning into prunes."

"I am tired, and now a bit drunk, but I do have one question before we head to bed. What did you get up to today? You were later than usual to arrive, and I noticed you seemed to be covered in almost as much blood as I was."

Damon distracted himself and attempted to distract her by taking his time kissing each of her fingers, then her palm, and then her wrist. Quickly gathering that he was going to likely kiss right up her arm like Gomez Adams, Bonnie took her hand back and patted his shoulder soothingly. He smiled wryly and looked her right in the eyes. "Cleaning up some of Stefan's mess, demon slaying, the usual…"

She was content to let him be vague about what cleaning up Stefan's messes entailed since he'd been doing that on his own for centuries, but the bit about demons prompted a head tilt. "Vampires can't kill demons; only mortals can. So what exactly happened with them?"

"Well, Enzo got captured by some so I went to rescue him." Bonnie rolled her eyes. Enzo was a nuisance she really should have left dead the first time. "We're pretty short-handed, so we need all hands on deck. Not to mention that guy will flip sides in a minute to save his sorry ass, so we can't leave him long as a captive."

"Fair enough. So what did they want with him?"

"They wanted to torture Valerie's whereabouts out of him." Bonnie gasped and clasped her chest. "Don't worry Bon, he didn't give her up and she's alright. Exactly why they were looking for her is tomorrow's problem, along with anything that isn't climbing into my giant, comfy bed." Everything immediate had been discussed and he didn't want to spend another moment rehashing the day when cool, clean sheets were calling his name.

Damon took her hands in his and stood up, taking her with him. Even knowing how many things they needed to do and how many asses they needed to kick in the morning, Damon still had the same smile on his face he did every evening he got to spend with Bonnie. She smiled back, and the rest of the evening was idle chitchat as they performed their nightly routines and both climbed into Damon's big four-poster bed. Bonnie had on pajamas and Damon had on a pair of boxer briefs, as usual.

"Damon?" she murmured in a quiet and sleepy voice.


"If you don't think you'll be able to stay calm with Stefan, take it outside. I hate antique shopping and you drag me along to do it again every time you two trash the living room."

Damon chuckled and shook his head in the darkness. "We're going to have to go anyway since the couch is already ruined."

Bonnie rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically. She knew he heard her and wasn't beating anyone up in the living room in the morning. "Good night, Damon."

Chapter Text

Damon woke with the first rays of dawn, as he always did. Even though he had possession of a daylight ring since the day he became a vampire, he still possessed the natural wariness of the sun that would not allow its rising to go unnoticed if he was resting in a place that received sunlight. As Bonnie didn't share that tendency, he often found himself awake long before she was. That time peaceful time that he cherished. Having spent most of his afterlife in crushing loneliness, he knew better than to take waking up next to a person that loved him for granted.

Knowing that he was expecting a visitor first thing in the morning, Damon regretfully extricated himself from the tangle of Bonnie's limbs, got dressed, and headed downstairs to wait for Stefan to arrive. No doubt this song and dance would play out the exact same way it had played out a dozen times over the centuries. Over and over again Stefan starved himself, ran thin on patience, snapped and then made a nightmarish disaster of everything around him. Damon was on eternal cleanup duty chasing behind him. Burying segments of bodies, compelling hundreds of people, concocting cover stories, faking evidence...all of that was old hat. Mostly, at least. Even as a vampire himself there were a few wreckages so absurd it still left an impression. Damon expected Stefan was going to apologize, be disgusted with himself, swear he didn't mean to do any of the crazy shit he always did, and then go into an endless shame spiral about how terribly all of his actions had affected him. The more they went through this cycle, the more frustrating it got.

At least the other times this had happened, Damon didn't really have much skin in the game. While he had been waiting for the comet, he had specifically avoided getting attached to any women. He had one woman he wanted, and while he eventually succumbed to loneliness enough to take on lovers for temporary entertainment, there was never anyone that it would really hurt him if Stefan lost his cool around them. That was then, and now everything was different. Bonnie was a living breathing woman that gave Damon everything he didn't even know he needed.

Damon had only been gone a few minutes when his absence woke Bonnie from her slumber. It was tempting to go back to sleep and simply leave the brothers to it, but she had a few things she would like to say to Stefan herself. More than that, if there was any hope in their confrontation ending in a way that didn't destroy the house and leave them with yet another decades-long resentment between them a moderator would be needed. Bonnie wasn't precisely eager to see Stefan, but putting on her big girl pants and doing what needed to be done had always been who Bonnie was and she was not going to change that because of a scare. Bonnie took her time getting ready, because she did not have Damon's ease with mornings, and they always got along better when they both had a bit of time to themselves before they tried to meaningfully interact.

"Good morning, Bon Bon. You look ravishing," Damon said with a flirty wiggle of his brows.

Bonnie smiled and walked over to get a cup of coffee. "Good morning to you too!"

"Sorry Bon, no coffee yet."

That was odd since nearly every morning Damon started coffee right away so that it would be ready when she woke up. "You've been down here for a bit, so I'm surprised." She looked at him searchingly, tilted her head, then a lightbulb went off in her head. She walked up to him and gently grabbed his chin. "But I shouldn't be; you're already drunk."

Damon's brows furrowed with irritation and he folded his arms defensively. "Did you really expect me to take on yet another round of Stefan's humanity bullshit sober?"

"Since it was eight o clock in the morning, yes. Yes, I did. Silly me for thinking that just maybe you would handle this like an adult."

Damon scoffed, grabbed the bottle of bourbon on the counter, filled another glass and defiantly downed it. "Clearly you didn't, or you wouldn't have come down to babysit."

Bonnie held out her hand expectantly and Damon poured another glass of bourbon and handed it to her. "That was obviously not what I was holding my hand out for. Give me the damn bottle Damon, you have clearly had enough."

"You take the glass and I'll surrender the bottle," he challenged.

Bonnie was finding her blood pressure rising rapidly. It was too early in the morning for her to deal with this nonsense. Especially without coffee. "Or you can just give me the damn bottle. Doing what I tell you always works."

Damon smirked at her and slowly lifted the bottle of bourbon towards his lips. "You know the game, Bonster. You always forfeit if you won't play."

Bonnie quickly waved her hands in a staying motion and took the glass. She knew from experience that she would rather have a glass herself than deal with Damon after he chugged a bottle of the stuff. Vampires had a much higher tolerance than a human, but they were no less annoying once they managed to get sufficiently sloshed. "You win, I'm having booze before breakfast. Now, how about you talk to me."

Damon set the bottle aside as promised, but he just glowered at her. She knew what the glowering was about, so with a roll of her eyes, she took a decently-sized swallow. He was officially in the kind of challenging mood where he was not giving an inch unless she did.

Apparently satisfied, he cleared his throat and his posture relaxed a bit. "Bonnie, you could have died last night."

"But I didn't. I'm here, I'm fine," she responded in a soothing tone.

He shook his head vigorously and frowned. "But how can we be sure that when-not if-he turns it off again that you'll still be fine?"

She nodded and sipped her bourbon as she took the time to think of a real answer to that question. It was obvious that this was no situation where an empty platitude would wrap everything up. They had been very much so living day-to-day, but it was starting to feel like Stefan's blood issue wasn't something they could afford to treat as an aberration. "Damon, you've turned yours off since I met you, but you haven't hurt me. Why is that?"

"That isn't strictly speaking true…"

Bonnie frowned and tried to think. "I'm quite sure I would remember you trying to eat me, Damon."

Damon laughed bitterly, "apparently not."

Then it hit her. "You're talking about when I was possessed by Emily? Your humanity was off then?"

"Yes, it was. And I hurt you. So, I don't think I'm qualified to give a very good answer on that."

Bonnie smiled gently and placed her hand on his chest. "That was a long time ago, Damon. You didn't know me, and I didn't know you. Hell, I wasn't even me at the time. Now stop brooding and come with me to the present, please. Since we have gotten close to each other, no matter what state you were in you haven't done me any harm. Why do you think that is?"

He smiled back down at her and said the only thing that came to his mind. "Because I couldn't live without you."

She blushed and avoided his gaze. "I'm sure you could. You've lived a long time without me."

He shook his head. "I've lived a long time not knowing you. But now that I do, you're stuck with me. But I'm not exactly sure how that translates to the issue at hand."

Bonnie laughed at the slow speed of Damon's drunken thoughts. "If getting to know me is why I'm safe from the worst your vampirism has to offer, then maybe what I need to do is get to know Stefan."

The thought of Stefan coming to know Bonnie the way he did sent a peculiar chill up Damon's spine. "There's not quite room for three in my bathtub, so I'm not sure that plan will hold up."

Between finishing that glass of bourbon on an empty stomach, and Damon's poorly concealed jealousy Bonnie found herself laughing out loud. "Must you be so dramatic? I just meant that it would probably even the odds if we hung out more." Damon was appropriately chagrined, and he started to laugh himself. Their tipsy giggling came to a screeching halt upon a knock on the door.

Damon looked at Bonnie and silently asked her if they could just ignore his brother outside. She raised an eyebrow and motioned towards the door. They were getting this the hell over with. Damon took a deep breath, shook himself vigorously, then trudged towards the door, dragging his feet the whole way. Bonnie had managed to temporarily talk him out of his poor mood, but the second he saw his brother with breakfast and flowers, it was back. He folded his arms and stared silently.

Stefan had expected a foul mood, so he ignored Damon's silent unhappiness and carried on as if it were any other morning. "Good morning, brother. Do you mind if I come in?"

Damon shrugged noncommittally and stepped aside. "It is your house, so I guess you can just do whatever you want."

It wasn't usually Damon's style to be passive aggressive, but Stefan let it go and went to the kitchen to get to work on breakfast. As soon as he saw Bonnie in the kitchen Damon's reaction made a bit more sense. He put on the best smile he could manage in the tense atmosphere and handed her the roses. "These are for you. As an apology, and hopefully as a gesture of friendship. I've never been much of a friend to you, but I would like to change that." He looked over at Damon whose glare had only deepened. "—If that's something you would like."

Bonnie accepted the flowers and quickly located a vase for them. "Thank you, Stefan. They're beautiful. In fact," she said with a glance towards Damon, "that very thing is exactly what Damon and I were discussing this morning."

Stefan's brow furrowed and he looked to Damon for confirmation. "More or less, Bon thinks you're less likely to go on a ripper binge and eat someone if you're friends." Bonnie rolled her eyes at Damon's bluntness but didn't precisely disagree.

"What Damon is saying as unpleasantly as he possibly can, is that vampires himself included, have a tendency to be partial towards people they're fond of. That mostly holds up even if they flip the switch. So, the best way to avoid a potential disaster like last night is to get to know each other better."

Stefan nodded thoughtfully. He had wanted to get closer to Bonnie in one way or another for a while, but that subconscious desire came bursting forth when he lost control of his impulses. Maybe actually doing that would at least solve one of his many problems. "Well, a good start to that is probably breakfast. No judgment, but maybe you two would like some French toast and coffee with your bourbon?"

That broke the ice enough to get them all laughing. Sharing a meal was unlikely to solve all of their problems, but it was a decent start to solving one of them.

Chapter Text

For his part, Stefan was finding the morning’s little get-together quite enlightening. With all of the various dramas in the last year keeping Stefan away from home most of the last year he had failed to notice exactly how close Bonnie and Damon had gotten. Watching Damon and Bonnie laugh, finish each other’s sentences and eat from each other’s plates was amusing, if unexpected. Watching them occasionally eat off one another’s plates and feed each other bits of this and that was honestly kind of shocking. They, however, had failed to give any indication they were acting unusual so Stefan politely failed to comment.

Bonnie had piled her food with mostly healthy fare, fresh fruit, whole wheat toast, some eggs. Damon, on the other hand, had a plate full of sticky, sweet food, with some nice greasy food to round it out. French toast with syrup, pancakes with whipped cream, bacon, sausage, the works. Damon wasn’t generally much for eating, but he was slowly savoring his breakfast with impressive relish. Very quickly Bonnie’s attention was shifted from her responsible and well-rounded breakfast to the paradise on Damon’s plate. As Damon’s pleased purring gave way to an occasional moan, Stefan was struggling to hang onto his laughter.

“Are you enjoying your breakfast, brother?” Stefan asked in a tone that was strained by his effort not to laugh out loud.

Damon paused his very impressive taunting of Bonnie to grant Stefan the gift of his attention. “Oh, it’s delicious. Normally I wouldn’t indulge but,” he returned his attention to Bonnie, “you have to give in to some of the pleasures in life, don’t you?”

Bonnie knew that she was not immortal and she would doubtless regret having a mountain of sugar and grease for breakfast, but her resolve was steadily crumbling. Damon just looked like he was having so much fun and even with the distant awareness he was likely teasing her on purpose at the back of her mind, she was still falling for it. “Damon, I’m going to have to run so much to work this off if I give in.”

Damon just smiled, stole a strawberry from her plate, dipped it in whipped cream and waved it in front of her mouth. “Or you can do no such thing,” he whispered with a saucy waggle of his eyebrows. “I won’t tell a soul.”

There was no way any woman would manage to resist Damon when he was doing a full court press, and Bonnie was but a mere mortal. She ate that fresh strawberry right out of his hands and licked the whipped cream off his fingers. Damon laughed and proceeded to repeat the process. For the fifth time, they had entirely forgotten Stefan was also at the table, not that he was keeping count.

Stefan had no interest in finding out how far that would carry on if he didn’t make his presence known, so he cleared his throat and cast about for something to say. “So…it’s been awhile since we were all in one place. How have you two been?”

Damon and Bonnie both shrugged. “We’re alive,” started Bonnie. “And that is better than the alternative,” Damon finished.

Stefan chuckled at that bittersweet sentiment. “I hope at some point we settle enough things that surviving isn’t as good at it gets for us.”

Bonnie looked pointedly at Damon’s French toast and then up at his face. “Would you just like my plate, Miss Bennett?” he asked in an exaggeratedly polite tone. She shook her head gently and smiled at him and he took the cue to give her another bite. Just one, because she was absolutely not going to gorge herself. How much Bonnie was enjoying doing just that registered clearly on her face.

“Well,” she started, “as long as you have decent company even that isn’t always so bad,” Bonnie added thoughtfully. Damon opened his mouth like he was about to contradict her, so she rushed on. “Not that I have any intention of repeating the experience anytime soon.”

Stefan was quickly piecing together what had transpired between them in his absence, but he was still a bit curious what their day to day was like. “Do you two usually start the day with bourbon, or was today a special occasion?” he asked.

“Today was a special occasion,” they answered in unison.

Stefan laughed and shook his head. “Dare I ask what the special occasion was?”

Bonnie answered with a dramatic eye roll that was nearly upstaged by the sigh that followed. “Damon was in a mood and he generally prefers not to drink alone.”

Stefan felt awfully stupid for even asking that question. They had been having such a cozy time he forgot the reason he had come to begin with. “I’m pretty sure I was the cause of that,” he said as the beginnings of a proper brood settled across his handsome features.

Bonnie knew very well that they were heading towards disaster right from that moment. “I think we’ve been doing just fine not discussing that all morning, wouldn’t you gentlemen say?” Bonnie, Damon and Stefan had all been performing a reasonable facsimile of people having a friendly meal.  Bonnie and Stefan were certainly doing a better job at it than Damon, but that was to be expected. He focused most of his attention on Bonnie and paid just enough attention to Stefan that he could avoid an accusation of outright rudeness. That was a rather precarious balance and Stefan was officially tipping it.

Unfortunately for all parties involved, once Stefan was in the mood for a thorough flogging there was no stopping him. “I can certainly understand why that might be…a sensitive subject. Honestly, I’ve spent so much of these last months making a general wreck of my life that I wouldn’t know where to start about any of it.”

Damon could feel the tell-tale tickle of involuntary laughter at the back of his throat, but he held it at bay. Mostly. He did cough a little. “Please, Stefan, regale us with your absurdly detailed accounts of your many shameful shames. We can make it a drinking game.”

Stefan glared. He did not appreciate Damon’s mirth in the face of his earnestness.

Damon feigned innocent bewilderment. “What?” he asked. “We’ve fed the human, I’m sure she can keep up.”

Bonnie squeezed her eyes shut and asked the spirits for patience. “Damon, don’t.” She gave Stefan a sympathetic look and patted his hand across the table. “There are worst things in the world than remorse.”

 That was enough to get Damon to entirely give up on keeping his composure and outright laugh. “Oh, you think that’s what this is? Remorse?” He laughed a bit more. “I’ll tell you what this is Bon,” he continued with a wink and a fake smile.

“—And just what is it, Damon? I’m dying to know,” Stefan spat with such fury that Bonnie’s stomach dropped just a bit.

Damon was entirely unimpressed with his offended displeasure. “This is the part where you get all tortured and angsty. So fucking guilty and heartbroken. And it’ll work on her.”

Stefan shook his head in angsty confusion. “What will work on her? What are you talking about?”

“Bonnie’s going to make you feel better for what you did to her. How could she do anything less?” Any traces of amusement completely vanished from Damon’s hardening expression. “I mean, how could she do anything less? You’re so sad and so eager to lay her bullshit at her feet. And she is such a nice girl.”

Bonnie glared at that bit about her being a nice girl.

“Sorry Bon,” he said grabbing her hand. “She’s a nice woman, so she won’t want to see you in pain. And fortunately for you, you won’t have to be. Even without you doing a goddamned thing, you’ll be absolved.”

Stefan’s offended honor brought him to a standing position with such speed and force he knocked his chair over. All that sudden motion caused Bonnie to flinch and subconsciously take Damon’s hand for comfort, but Damon was not affected all. He had known from the beginning that eventually any conversation he had with Stefan would work its way to exactly this moment. A glance at the grandfather clock confirmed that he was right, almost to the minute. Moments like this he wished Ric was still his best friend so he could win that bet.

Damon took his free hand that Bonnie was not holding and raised his glass in a mocking toast. “You never disappoint, Brother. Here’s the special occasion we were drinking for. Stefan’s biannual ‘make me feel better because I fucked you over’ speech.”

Bonnie was finding she was more affected than the previous evening’s dustup than she had expected she would be. Normally Stefan’s bullshit wouldn’t be enough to cause more than a minor headache. But Stefan’s anger was too reminiscent of her still-fresh close encounter with his worst half for her to deal with it placidly so soon. Her heart was pounding and she was finding herself starting to stare off into the middle distance.

Damon could hear her heartbeat pounding in his ears, and with his normal senses notice the increasing tension radiating from Bonnie. That was heightening his irritation in the direction of a full-blown rage, but he knew it was not the time to let his temper loose. Damon took a moment to focus on Bonnie and turned towards her and gently lifted her chin so she was looking at him. He gave her a little smile and squeezed her hand to help bring her to the present moment. With that matter settled, he turned to look at Stefan and addressed him with a deceptively calm tone. “We would appreciate it if you’d sit. Unless you were planning to leave, that is.”

Stefan felt about an inch tall, so he might as well sit. “If you’d like me to leave…”

Damon rolled his eyes and heaved a beleaguered sigh. “What I would like, Brother is for you to just pretend that when you hurt people it causes them pain. And that you care about their pain even half as much as you care about how people see you. Do you actually care that you could have hurt Bonnie, or just that you have yet again hurt your own feelings?”

Stefan knew he had earned that comment, so, with as much grace—and as little pouting—as he could manage, he sat back down. “I care that I could have hurt her,” Stefan said. But his lack of eye contact cast that statement into doubt.

Damon narrowed his eyes sharply at Stefan but continued to speak in a deliberately measured tone to avoid spooking Bonnie with another escalation. “Ordinarily I’d avoid speaking for Bonnie, but hopefully she will allow it right now,” he started before pausing to meet Bonnie’s eyes. She knew simply from a glance what he was about to say, so she nodded for him to continue. “You’re here right now, as opposed to locked in our cellar or strewn across the yard because Bonnie proposed a friendship as a solution. If you can’t manage to be civil unless we’re all lying, that’s fucking impossible. So, either do it or we’re going to have to figure. Something. Else. Out.”

Stefan involuntarily gulped at the way Damon said those last words. A cat definitely had his tongue and he couldn’t quite make himself say anything. The tense silence was starting to stretch when urgent knocking interrupted their exchange. In their lives that could mean almost anything, so Damon took a defensive stance and Bonnie grabbed the nearest weapon. That left Stefan to answer the door.

Stefan cautiously approached the door and opened it. Initially, he didn’t see anyone at all, and that was not a good sign. Suddenly something heavy struck him in the chest, and before he could react he found himself with his arms full of Valerie. The fact that she approached the house invisibly and then promptly lost consciousness in his arms did not bode well.

Stefan picked her up and shouted over his shoulder to Damon and Bonnie. “It’s Valerie! And she doesn’t look great.”

After depositing her on the couch, Stefan and Damon both went out front to see if she had been pursued or if anyone else was out there, while Bonnie heated up a cup of blood for Valerie. She set the cup down on the coffee table, sat down next to Valerie’s prone form and folded her arms. When Damon and Stefan’s quick survey found nothing, they came in. Bonnie was positively fuming at Damon and neither of them looked precisely surprised. It seems Stefan had missed yet another thing.

Chapter Text

Bonnie’s leaf green eyes narrowed into slits and her arms were folded. Damon knew that face; that face was trouble. “Damon, I need some help with the dishes,” she stated with no hint of a question. Damon’s normally quick wit was failing him and he just opened and closed his mouth a few times, every response dying on his lips before he delivered it.

While Damon was busy being drug into the dog house, Stefan had his own daunting task to tend to. Valerie was in an unmoving heap on the couch and that never meant anything good. She looked strangely unharmed to have arrived in apparent distress. Besides her strawberry blonde waves being in disarray and her grey clothes being askew she didn’t have a scratch on her. If not for her speedy descent into unconsciousness and bloody nose there would be no sign she had been doing anything but taking a run while overdressed. The first order of business when dealing with an injured vampire was always getting blood into their system and Stefan had no desire to find himself so near human blood at that point. Unfortunately, since it was not obvious what had happened to Valerie, the only way to be sure she survived at all was for him to get over it. Holding his breath in hopes not smelling the blood would help, he cut the blood bag open with a knife, sat down on the floor next to the couch and started to pour blood into her mouth as neatly as possible.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Bonnie had turned on the faucet. That always meant that it was time to have a private conversation in a house with vampire guests. When she brushed past Damon and turned on the blender as well, he swallowed thickly and would have blanched if he weren’t already dead. With that matter handled, Bonnie walked very close into Damon’s personal space, right in his chest. As much as he knew it was in his best interest to think quickly while she was this upset, he was finding it a struggle with her so close to him in such a snug fitting black sweater dress. When she reached for him he snapped out of his thoughts and paid attention. When she reached up behind his neck and pulled his face even closer to hers he flinched just a little.

“Remember last night, Damon? Bourbon, candles, bath?” she started.

Since it couldn’t hurt to at least try charm, Damon smirked a little. “I remember that quite well, Bon Bon.”

“Good. Good,” she said nodding at him, but not returning the smile. “Then surely you remember that I asked you if Enzo had given up Valerie.”

“—He said he didn’t,” Damon interrupted in his defense.

Bonnie tilted her head thoughtfully. That mannerism was a very familiar one for Damon, and it precipitated nothing good. “I asked you if he had given up Valerie and you said no. You also said that she was fine. Does she look fine to you, Damon?”

She was making him nervous, so he started to pace around the kitchen. “Are you trying to say that I lied to you?”

Bonnie blinked a few times and took several deep breaths. Doing her best to think of how much antique shopping would follow kicking Damon’s whole ass right in that kitchen, she remained still and silent for several seconds. Under just the right circumstances, seconds can seem like hours and Damon knew he tried the wrong tactic so quickly, but thought of a way to right that mistake so very slowly. As Bonnie was breathing deeply and her heart rate was picking up, Damon abandoned the task to think of the right thing to say and just plunged right in as anything would be better than nothing at this point. “Bonnie, I didn’t mean to accuse you…” he stuttered pathetically.

That was just the push Bonnie needed to find her voice again. “Oh, you were definitely not about to try to answer my question with a question and flip the blame around, now were you? That’s what you were definitely not doing, right Damon?”

He decided at that point it was probably better to just keep to the issue at hand. “No, I wasn’t. I was just about to tell you what I think happened with Valerie.”

Bonnie smiled and the tension in the room dissipated as quickly as it had formed. “I’m so glad you’re just going to explain why you didn’t mention that while technically she was still alive, obviously she needed our help and you knew that. It would just be a crying shame to have to fight about it, wouldn’t it?”

He shook his head and chuckled darkly. Nothing about her expression implied she wouldn’t have enjoyed interrogating his ass as much as any other way of getting the issue resolved. “Enzo has officially become a problem.”

Bonnie looked curious. “He hasn’t always been a problem, more or less our entire acquaintance with him?”

“I thought on the strength of our friendship, at least, there was some way to get along again. But this is enough lies from him,” he said. His blue eyes were thoughtful as he paused a moment and then apparently made a decision. “I’m going to handle it,” Damon started walking out of the kitchen, apparently feeling the conversation was finished. She followed behind him as he grabbed his jacket and was about to walk out of the door.

“What do you mean by ‘handle it, Damon?”

Damon stopped walking by the door and turned to face her. His face was as serious as she had ever seen it and she felt a bit of a chill. “You know what I mean, Bon Bon.” He gave her a kiss on the forehead, pulled her against his chest in a tight hug, and then was gone before she had a chance to say another word.

Bonnie just stared at the closed door in silence. Her brain was all over the place. Eventually, she remembered that there were other occupants in the house and she turned around to see how Valerie and Stefan were faring. Much to her pleasant surprise, Valerie had apparently awakened while they were having their discussion in the kitchen. “Just another normal day in the Salvatore household,” she said with a painfully false smile. “I’m glad you were able to make it here safely. If you’ll just give me a moment, I have a few things to handle in the kitchen.” Neither vampire missed the misty look in her eyes or the catch in her voice. Fortunately, they were both raised to be too polite to comment on such a thing, so they left her to turn off the sink and the blender and compose herself.

Bonnie was quite sure that Damon would physically survive what he was about to do but less sure how he’d feel emotionally after it was done. Damon has always been the sort of person to do things that need to be done, but that didn’t mean it didn’t affect him to do so. A half-century ago, he had needed to flip his switch to leave Enzo behind to save himself and move on with his life. It was unlikely he’d do something like that this time, but that was only one of many unpleasant ways a person not good at managing their emotion could messily attempt to do so.

Once she was done fretting and cleaning up after that disastrous breakfast she went into the living room to see how the rest of the household was faring. She was very curious what had sent someone as powerful as Valerie running for her life. Almost as curious as she was to know how Stefan was doing with the pile of empty blood bags next to Valerie beginning to form a tower. Bonnie’s eyes widened and she gestured at it.

“Oh! I’m terribly sorry, Bonnie. I’ve more or less tapped out your blood supplies. It’s rather difficult for us heretics, you see. We need blood in the same sense all vampires do, but even more than usual when we use a lot of magic because our magic feeds on our vampirism.”

“Gotcha,” Bonnie answered. “That makes all the sense in the world. I don’t drink blood, well at least not human blood, so it’s really not a problem for me. But if you feel up to it you might want to get a bit more for Damon later on; he’s likely to return hungry.”

Whatever discussion they had in the kitchen could not have been good. “Do you, by any chance know where Damon went?” he tried.

Bonnie shook her head just a bit too hard. “I have a pretty good guess, but I’m not totally sure. Valerie might have the answer to that, though.”

Valerie’s fussed with her grey sweater and tucked the hair falling in her eyes behind her ears. She looked alert and attentive if a bit uncertain. “Forgive me, but I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking me.”

“There was some matter with Enzo that Damon is going to handle. All I know about it is that Enzo was captured so that someone could figure out where you are, and he told Damon that he had not done so when Damon arrived to free him. Apparently, he lied. I have no idea why someone would be after you, but I was hoping you could enlighten me?”

Stefan bristled. “Valerie came here for our help, not to be interrogated.”

Bonnie merely rolled her eyes and waved him off. “She’s free to answer or not answer, but given that we have obviously committed ourselves to assisting with…whatever is going on with her, I don’t think it’s too much to ask what that is.”

Valerie turned to Stefan. “Thank you for so gallantly coming to my defense, but Bonnie is right. I’ve endangered you all by coming here,” Valerie stood up and was about to leave.

“Valerie, I was not asking you to leave. I’m as happy to help keep you safe as anyone else that has done the same for us at some time or another. That said, the running and urgent knocking strongly imply that whatever was after you is unlikely to simply give up the pursuit. I’d rather not have a nasty, lethal surprise at the door,” she finished with a look at Stefan. “But it wouldn’t be a surprise if I knew what that was.

Stefan didn’t appreciate the implication that he was a nasty, lethal surprise. But all things considered, he had no grounds to contest the assertion so he let it go. “If you’re not quite ready to talk about it, then you can have some rest while Bonnie and I see what we can do.”

As much as she would have preferred a more immediate answer, that was the right thing to say. “Of course, we have several guest bedrooms if you would like one.”

“I would greatly appreciate it. After I’ve had some rest I’ll be in much better shape to give a proper accounting of my ordeal.”

Bonnie gave the clearly shaken woman a hug and led her upstairs. Stefan felt an odd pang seeing a woman act as hostess in the boarding house after so long without one. She moved through the house with such ease and comfort, and he could hear her easily directing Valerie towards whatever she might need. He thought the worst thing about his inability to control his blood lust was the shame it brought him, but it seems that wasn’t it at all. The worst thing was the enforced loneliness. Even his own home and family weren’t quite familiar anymore. It seems that’s what happens when you leave for too long.

After a bit of time passed, Bonnie came downstairs and sat down next to him. “I guess it’s just you and me for now, isn’t it?”

Chapter Text

Awkward energy filled the boarding house. With Valerie resting, Stefan and Bonnie were left with only one another as companionship. There was so much to talk about and so little desire to be the first to break the silence. Stefan had taken to listening to Bonnie, and she was providing quite the symphony of nervous little noises. By the time Bonnie had sighed for the fifth time, crossed and uncrossed her legs for the seventh time, checked her phone four times and gotten up from the couch to pace nervously, Stefan was starting to slightly insane. When she began to tap her coffin-shaped black fingernails on the coffee table, he finally snapped. "Bonnie, we can't just sit here until he comes back or Valerie wakes up!"

She sighed yet again and raked her fingers through her chocolate waves. "Well, what should we be doing, then?"

Stefan wasn't really sure, but Damon would have been. Thinking of where Damon would start with an anxious Bonnie, he said the most Damon thing he could think of. "We should obviously be drinking bourbon."

"You're generally not much for bourbon," Bonnie said with a skeptical raise of her brow. "Particularly not so early in the day."

He smiled, got up from the couch and walked over to the sideboard and started filling a pair of glasses. "There are worse things than me doing something I wouldn't generally do. You could always be stuck in this house with me…doing what I usually do!" With an oddly familiar rakish smirk, he picked up his glass and gestured at her in a little toast.

Bonnie wasn't sure how that was going to turn out, but that wasn't nearly enough to convince her to turn down a perfectly good glass of bourbon. She walked over and picked up the second one and clinked it against his proffered glass. "Here's to our friendship," she said with just a hint of sarcasm.

"Here's to our friendship," he repeated in a sincerer tone. Sure, they didn't have a friendship yet, but Stefan was pretty hopeful they were going to get there one day. He and his brother had failed one another so many times over the years, but on this, he wouldn't fail. He was going to do what he needed to keep this woman safe, and what he needed to do was learn to care for the lovely creature in front of him. He'd had more challenging circumstances, to be sure.

Some light chit-chat, and quite a few more glasses of bourbon later, they were both feeling the effects. Centuries of vampirism had done little to correct Stefan's tendency to be a lightweight, so he was sinking just as quickly as she was. The bourbon had done a fantastic job of helping to clear the awkward air between them, so in no time at all, they had made themselves comfortable on the couch and struck up a good rapport. Bonnie sat facing him with her bare feet tucked neatly underneath her and Stefan decided to test a theory by putting his feet up on the coffee table.

She instinctively reacted to him putting his feet on the table. "Damon barely tolerates cups on these things without coasters," she chided.

Stefan put his feet on the floor and ran his hands through his hair in a mockery of his usual angst. "Oh no!" he exclaimed. Then, he looked around the room slowly and methodically, stroking his chin in thought. He even squinted for good measure, which prompted a chuckle from Bonnie. "Guess I'm lucky he's not here," he said with a small shrug. "And speaking of not here…" he prompted.

"Do we have to talk about the elephant in the room? We were getting along so well." Bonnie pouted and took a swig right out of the bottle.

He chuckled and shook his head. "I'm not sure if that was more uncanny or adorable."

Bonnie scrunched up her nose and rolled her eyes. "Oh god, you're getting mushy-friendly drunk! No wonder you don't usually drink…"

Stefan smiled brilliantly and looked at Bonnie like she had just hung the moon. "You already know I'm not above torture," he warned with a mischievous sparkle in his eyes. "I'll compliment you all day if I have to. Why talk about any of the crazy things going on around here when I can just talk about how lovely you look in that dress. Better yet, how much I've always wanted to be your friend. Or—"

"—I think I get what Grams meant about killing someone with kindness," she interrupted with an exaggerated shudder. "So, about Damon…we had a bit of a…very small…disagreement."

He put on a more serious expression. At least, he tried to. Stefan was too drunk to say this entirely without mirth. "When someone turns on a faucet and a blender, that's what it usually means," he said. "What was this disagreement about? Valerie?"

She nodded absently and took a deep breath. Once it became clear that he was going to merely continue looking at her intensely if she didn't speak, she looked away from him and reluctantly elaborated. "Technically it was." She motioned toward the stairs to remind him that she was actually there and mouthed the rest at him. He had a pretty good idea she wasn't safe last night, but he took Enzo at his word that she was.

Stefan felt a powerful rage well up in him and he got up and faced away from Bonnie just in case he was vamping out. He disliked Enzo in general, and he was particularly bothered by the idea he had something to do with harming Valerie. Their relationship history with one another was less than stellar, but he still felt an intense protective urge towards her. In spite of the anger he felt at that, he responded in identical silence. Why would anyone ever take that bastard at his word?

Bonnie shrugged. "To answer your earlier question," she replied out loud, "he left to tie up that loose end."

(Meanwhile on the road…)

Just as they were settling in, Damon arrived at his destination. He had left his car a few blocks away so that Enzo wouldn't hear him coming from a mile away on the off-chance he was still there. He had a good set of torture implements in his trunk, along with some vervained rope, gloves and an apron. If he was going to have an extended torture session, he found it easier to keep his patience if he didn't aggravate his OCD by soaking himself in congealing blood.

It seems fortune was smiling on him that day because the presence of Enzo's car hinted that he hadn't had the good sense to run. Either he hadn't anticipated Damon untangling his deception so quickly, or he had yet another lie up his sleeve to help him wiggle out of the last one. The former meant he was likely to make a break for It as soon as he figured out Damon was near, and the latter meant that he really thought Damon was a fool.

As he remained perfectly still in the dense woods, Damon silently contemplated his options. He had always been a man that did what needed to be done, but for some reason, it was always harder with Enzo. Well, he knew the reason, but he was loathe to admit it; falling for a cellmate was so cliché. The only thing more embarrassing than that is being unable to truly cut them loose when circumstances no longer force them together. He solved that problem temporarily by flipping his switch, but this time that wasn't an option. Time had turned Enzo into a dangerous enemy and Damon was going to have to finally bring himself to treat him like one.

With his mind made up and his priorities in order, Damon decided to go right to the front door and knock. Best-case scenario, he opens it. Worst-case, he runs.

"Damon, mate, I didn't expect to see you again so soon," Enzo offered in tepid greeting.

Damon could see over Enzo's shoulder that most of the house was already packed away in boxes and there was a half-filled suitcase open in the middle of the floor. "So, it seems. Leaving so soon?"

"I'm not one to spend too much time in the same place."

Given that Enzo had spent most of his life doing just that, Damon wouldn't exactly agree. But presumably, he meant he wasn't one to do so unless forced. Leaving that issue aside, Damon got right to the point. "Can I come in, or are you going to leave me out here like a stranger?" He topped it off with a charming smirk for good measure.

"Come on in," Enzo said with an answering smile. They hugged and commenced small talk. "So, what brings you to my humble abode?"

"Our friendship," Damon answered. As with many things Damon said, it wasn't quite the truth but it wasn't a lie either.

Enzo smirked and leered at Damon suggestively. "Did you just miss me then, love?"

Out of patience for wasting time, Damon disarmed him with a flirty smile and moved in close enough behind him that Enzo could feel his cool breath on his neck when he spoke. "Maybe," he murmured in a sultry whisper. In the back of Enzo's mind, his instincts were warning him to be wary, but he shook it off. Damon had never been a danger to him before, and the unspoken offer was just too tempting to turn down.

Damon took advantage of his closeness and wrapped one hand gently around Enzo's neck and trailed the other one lightly along his side. He wasn't exerting enough pressure to restrain him, but that could easily change in an instant. This was a familiar dance for a vampire in the mood to catch a victim without resorting to compulsion, but Enzo had never gotten to be free long enough to perfect the art. How easily Enzo was falling right into this trap had Damon fighting a temptation to laugh.

Enzo's mind was nowhere and everywhere at once. After spending so long so close, yet unable to touch Damon here he was. He'd done everything he could to get close to him, and now that tiresome masquerade was over. He didn't want his niece, his brother, his witch or certainly not his mother. What he had wanted all this time, but couldn't admit was Damon. And finally, he was getting what he wanted. When he felt Damon's lips against his neck his mind went entirely blank.

Unfortunately for Enzo, he was not getting what he bargained for. As soon as Damon had a taste he was ready to take a bite. And not a teasing nibble; he sunk his teeth deep into Enzo's neck as his hands that were already on him clamped into a vise-like grip. Vampire blood wasn't as rich as human blood, but there was still a certain thrill to draining someone good no matter what the particulars. Damon held on tight and swallowed Enzo's blood in great mouthfuls, relishing every second of it.

Just as Damon was starting to lose himself entirely in bloodlust, Enzo was starting to understand that he had been royally played. His body began struggling instinctively, but his mind was not getting the picture nearly fast enough for him to do much more than flail aimlessly and stutter out his dissent. "What? Why?"

Damon continued to steadily drain him for a bit longer, enjoying his futile struggles until they started to die down. Once Damon had drained his former friend enough that he was nearly unconscious he decided to answer his question. Enzo would be answering his soon enough, so it was only polite to give him that much. "Because you are a problem I've waited too long to take care of."

Chapter Text

Bonnie and Stefan went from mild chit-chat to a rowdy party of two in record time. They may have had a rough start, but the party was officially on. It seemed the secret ingredient for making Stefan comfortable was Van Halen, whereas for Bonnie it was bourbon. The latter was an easy-enough guess, but the former required quite a bit of guesswork and several genre-changes before it was discovered. By the time Bonnie had the good fortune to discover "Slippery When Wet" provoked Stefan to reveal yet a third alternative personality, they had crushed an entire bottle of bourbon and were working on the second one.

It could be argued this was a terrible idea, but nobody in their right mind would attempt to argue with them at all when they were in such a state. They had begun their enforced quality time carefully keeping a hush so that their house guest could rest, but that was long forgotten as the night wore on. Stefan was in rare form, regaling Bonnie with incredibly emotive lip-sync paired with suspiciously on-point air guitar. In the face of such impassioned performance, Bonnie was helpless to resist joining in with matching gusto.

They were about halfway through what Stefan would argue in this moment was one of the greatest guitar solos of all time, when the sound system suddenly exploded in an impressive display of pyrotechnics. Bonnie and Stefan snapped into the best semblance of battle-readiness their rapidly sobering drunkenness would permit. Bonnie grabbed the phoenix sword, and Stefan fanged out. It was Bonnie who first noticed Valerie at the top of the staircase looking as judgmental as any person in pajamas had a right to look. Valerie could scarcely believe the ridiculousness before her. There was nothing she liked about any of the terrible racket people in this time called music, but the nonsense blaring in the living room was worse than anything she had ever heard before. Refusing categorically to live on a prayer for another moment further, she folded her arms and proceeded to impose some order. "Oh, lovely! You're drunk," she directed at Bonnie. "I won't bother to ask, I'll simply assume you both are. Can you at least obliterate yourselves less loudly?"

While Stefan had a soft spot for Valerie, Bonnie could live without her if she was going to be a bother. Now she was being a bother. The fact that she was concerned when Valerie was in danger didn't mean Bonnie would magically have an overwhelming font of patience for her deciding to show out. "Is not destroying your host's property too modern of an expectation for me to expect you to know about?" Bonnie countered while waving the sword in her general direction. "I have very patiently tolerated many lapses based on your lack of knowledge of how the world operates in the twentieth century. Are we dealing with another one, or were you just hoping to intimidate us into compliance?"

Under no circumstances would Valerie be cowed by a mortal with a sword, so she held her ground. "Excuse me for presuming that dispensing with the niceties of consideration was simply how things were done in this madhouse," she fumed. "Carousing in the middle of the day, being in the company of a man in a blouse without pants. I walked in on such a ridiculous scene that I could be forgiven for being unsure if appropriateness was still a concept at all."

The only sound in the tense silence that followed that little outburst was the increasingly agitated gallop of Bonnie's heartbeat. Both vampires could hear it loud and clear, but Valerie was very confident she was in the right, so she was blissfully unconcerned. Who is she to be ordering me around? Stefan, on the other hand, was acutely aware of how quickly this situation could turn. Bonnie had gotten up from the couch and was walking towards the staircase and Valerie looked ready to put up a fight. Little did Valerie know, if she was going to do so, she would have to do it physically because a side effect of becoming a huntress was immunity to magic.

Stefan made the executive decision to step in before Valerie learned the hard way, and grabbed Bonnie by the wrist. When her angry green eyes snapped up to meet his own, he swallowed quickly. After the incident yesterday, him touching an armed Bonnie was not necessarily the best idea. "Bonnie, I'm sure Valerie's just upset because she had a trying day," he attempted. "She surely didn't mean anything by it, and I'll replace the sound system."

There was a long, tense silence before Bonnie responded one way or the other. "That was very nice of you to provide an excuse for her increasingly unpleasant behavior, but I think it's high time she excused herself. I'll decide for myself if she had a rough enough day that she doesn't owe me an apology once she tells me what the hell is going on." In general, the heretics had been a bother and she still wasn't sure if they wouldn't have been better off if she and Damon had stuck to their original plan of picking them off one by one then putting a stake in his crazy ass mother as well.

Bonnie's unshared thoughts showed on her face clearly enough for Valerie to decide to go with a strategic retreat. "Forgive me for my impetuousness," she offered. "Stefan is right, the stress of my ordeal has me acting in an embarrassingly overwrought manner. Your blouse is quite lovely."

"This is a sweater dress, Valerie," Bonnie explained with a dramatic eye roll. "And sure, you're forgiven for destroying the stereo. But if you're not going to tell us who is after you, or why, then I'm going to have to politely request that you leave." Even though Valerie was the very picture of contrition, Bonnie was over it.

Stefan and Valerie both turned equally shocked expressions towards Bonnie, but Stefan was the one who spoke. "Don't you think that's a bit much?" he asked. "She did apologize, and you did say that she was forgiven."

Bonnie shrugged, entirely unmoved. Ms. Tulle had officially spent any goodwill Bonnie had left over for her. "If it is, then I'll just leave myself. Call me when Damon returns." To clarify her seriousness, Bonnie immediately set to the task of gathering her things to leave. Even though her buzz was very effectively killed, a bit of sloppiness remained in her actions from the remnants of alcohol in her system. "If I can't even find out what it is that we should be expecting to kick in the door after her, then I have no interest in being here when god knows what arrives to finish the job it started."

Stefan knew that letting her leave would be a mistake. If he was going to keep his promise to protect Bonnie and make her a priority, then now would have to be the time. "Wait! Bonnie. You're right," he called out to stop her as she put the last of her things she was taking with her in her bag. There was no way that Damon was going to be understanding if he came home to find Stefan and Valerie here, but no Bonnie. He would be even less pleased to hear that Stefan allowed her to leave drunk, and heaven forbid him having to explain that while Damon was out shedding blood to solve the problem, Stefan couldn't even bring himself to ask Valerie what was going on, or let Bonnie do so.

Bonnie stopped packing her things and turned a steady stare in Stefan's direction, but in lieu of asking him what change his mind, she simply raised a sharp brow. She didn't move to unpack anything or sit back down. She simply waited for Stefan to offer some sort of explanation.

Stefan didn't disappoint. In response, he turned to Valerie. Although what little color was in Valerie's face had already drained with this pleasure, Stefan stayed the course. "I can't ask her to help protect you from an unknown enemy, and experience has taught me not to agree to take anything on blind. If you're going to stay here that we need to know what's going on."

Valerie in a shaky hand through her strawberry blonde waves and sighed. She'd been doing everything she could to avoid answering this question, but now there was no avoiding it. The answer to the question of who was after her and why is just as likely get her tossed out, but at this point better gamble was just to try telling the truth and see what happened. She expected that Stefan would be willing to help her no questions asked, but she hadn't counted on Bonnie refusing to do so. "All right, I will tell you the nature of how this…unpleasantness befell me."


Meanwhile, quite a bit of unpleasantness was about to befall Lorenzo St. James. Although Damon generally preferred efficiency to dramatic effect, torture was the rare occasion he made an exception to that rule. Patience rules the day when that's the method of choice, and the emotional stress of anticipation does as much work as physical pain. Given that he had quite of time to kill before Enzo healed enough from that draining to awake, Damon was already starting to tap into his stores of patience before things really got going.

In the meantime, he busied himself with setting the scene. He retrieved his torture implements from the car and neatly arranged them on tables. He put on a pair of gloves and soaked some of the absurd amounts of rope he had packed with vervain, then set the bottle aside for further use. Not wanting to play it too fast and loose with how much time he passed before securing his charge, he tied Enzo to one of his harder chairs with the vervain-soaked rope. When Enzo was still very much so unconscious after all of that, he started to tidy up Enzo's residence. The clutter was maddening, and if he had to spend the next day or to there, he'd rather not do so with evidence of Enzo's hoarding habit surrounding him.

When there were no more chores to busy himself with, Damon allowed himself to drift off in thought. As exhilarating as draining him had been, torturing him was bound to be a drag. The mix of having enough patience to not simply kill someone before they've given you what you need, and maintaining enough of a sense of urgency to discourage wasting of your time was not his area of greatest talent. Stefan was frighteningly good at that kind of thing, but Damon had stormed out dramatically before considering sending him on this errand and staying with Bonnie. He was well into his brooding when Enzo stirred, and he snapped himself out of his thoughts to give the matter at hand the attention it required.

"Really mate? If you wanted to seduce me and tie me up I'm sure we could have come to an agreement on the matter," Enzo groused, pulling just a bit at the vervain ropes that bound him to his own chair.

Damon smiled in response. "Under other circumstances, who knows? But right now, you're going to answer a few questions or..." he expansively called Enzo's attention to the incredible array of torture devices now scattered around his living room, "you could make things a bit harder on yourself but still answer my questions."

Enzo laughed as heartily as he could while still so weak and in pain from the vervain. "I'm pretty resistant to torture, so you might be here for a while, mate."

Rather than giving another sarcastic response, Damon was dead serious when he responded. "You don't have awhile. If you don't work your way around to being incredibly cooperative by the time the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, I'm going to simply kill you and figure it out for myself."

"If you were simply going to work with the threat of murder, all the...accessories seem rather unnecessary," Enzo pointed out with false bravado.

It seemed Damon was going to start right away because he put on a pair of gloves and stood. "It's not a very effective punishment for failure to cooperate if I kill you efficiently, now is it?" he asked rhetorically.

Enzo just swallowed painfully and decided against baiting him.

"Now, back to the matter at hand," Damon started in a tone that falsely portrayed calm. "My first question is why did they want Valerie. And your first choice is to answer that or select your favorite implement. If you don't choose, I'll choose for you."

This was starting to feel terribly like Augustine, and despite how much he thought he had become inured to the ravages of torture, Enzo's gut was roiling. "After all we've been through, you'd treat me like this, mate? Over a woman you barely know?" he demanded with more emotion in his voice than his pride would usually allow.

That was not the right answer either. Damon glared at him and responded coldly. "After all we've been through I would have thought you wouldn't have made it a point to betray me and go after my family. But luckily for you, that's not why I'm here."

Enzo raised a brow. "I can't recall the last time I've felt less lucky, but sure," he grumbled.

"You're stalling. Don't stall," Damon cut in sharply. He wasn't smiling and at this point, and he was seriously considering whether it was too soon for a targeted application of pain. Splitting the difference between waiting a bit longer and getting right to it, he rose from his chair and slowly approached Enzo. "Answer the question or pick which implement we start with."

Chapter Text

"I'm being beset by demons," Valerie answered without meeting anyone's gaze.

Bonnie huffed in frustration. "Well who isn't these days," she grumbled. "Care to be a bit more specific?"

Stefan was curious where this conversation was going, but he watched silently and let Bonnie take the lead. It had been awhile since he had eaten, so he was tired enough that he didn't want to waste any energy he didn't have to.

Valerie paced back and forth a bit and took several deep breaths. "Well…to be more specific… In an effort to return my family to me, I unintentionally released quite a few things other than them into our world."

Bonnie already didn't like that woman and she was just digging that hole deeper. She would've been certain right up until this moment. "All of these god-awful, absurd months of danger in the darkness have apparently been not only caused by you, but you had the unmitigated gall to come to us for help with? With anything? And that only come to us for help, but do so while actively lying to us about what's going on. You're a real piece of work." Bonnie was shaking with rage and the only reason she had run this woman through with the sword already is that she had the feeling that there was more to this story.

"Valerie… Were you successful?" Stefan asked quietly. At this point he wasn't angry, just exhausted. Partially because it been frustratingly tense dealing with the women's obvious dislike of one another, and partially because he was starting to get hungry. Bonnie's mind hadn't even gotten around to considering the question of whether or not Valerie had succeeded.

Valerie folded her arms and began to pace. "Honestly, I don't know."

Bonnie snapped and drew her sword and pointed it at Valerie for emphasis. "I suggest you figure it out. Fast. Stefan, could you be a dear and give her some blood so she can do a locator spell? While she's working on that, I'd like to have a quick chat."

Her tone brooked no disagreement, so Stefan grabbed a shot glass and filled it for Valerie. Not looking that gift horse in the mouth, Valerie took the proffered blood and scurried off in search of spell ingredients. While she was busy with that, Bonnie went to her trove of dark objects and lit the candle that would trap them inside the house. Nobody was leaving until Bonnie put out the flame. That lacked the dramatic flair of simply chaining Valerie up and putting her in the basement, but had the benefit of preventing them from knowing that their captive until they actually make an attempt to escape. With that business handled, Bonnie motioned for Stefan to follow her and headed upstairs. He nodded and did so agreeably.

She marched right into Stefan's bathroom and turned on the shower. "I know that we could just turn on the sink, but that would only be effective if I managed to keep my voice down. I'm pissed and I kind of want to scream."

Stefan raked his fingers through his hair and just kind of stared at her. His mind was reeling. It seemed they had just put their mother and the rest of the heretics in the ground, and now there was a possibility they were back. He wasn't sure if he would want to see her again, and if he did, just what he would say to her. An even worse thought was with Damon's reaction would be. "This is not good."

Bonnie could do nothing other than laugh at that. "It's not good that I've had to take on a full-time job as a demon slayer. It's a disaster that Mommy Dearest is back from the dead."

Even after all she had done, Lily was still his mother and had still brought him back from the brink so Stefan bristled a bit at Bonnie's blunt statement. "Tell me how you really feel about my mother…" he grumbled.

"Seriously?" Bonnie asked incredulously. As if she didn't already have enough to deal with. "I would apologize if she hadn't stabbed me in the neck, but..." He could fill in the rest on his own. While his gears were turning, she hopped up on the sink and crossed her legs. Something told her this conversation would be long enough she ought to get comfortable.

Stefan closed the door behind him and leaned his back against it. He was already tired and his hunger was just beginning to tip his mood from broody into irritated. "Fair enough," he snapped back at her. "But before we head too far into that discussion, we might as well wait for the results of Valerie's spell."

They'd never been lucky enough for the disaster of the day to simply be a false alarm, so Bonnie wasn't holding her breath. "Fine, let's pretend our next problem isn't your mother and her new friends."

"Thank you," Stefan answered with a small smile.

"So, taking the question of your extended family off the table, what're we gonna do with Valerie?" Bonnie asked, taking that little smile right back off his face.

All he could do was groan and knock the back of his head against the door in response.

Bonnie's gut was telling her that something was going on with Stefan. "Are you all right? I know this is all kind of a lot, but you've looked out of it all day. I meant to ask earlier, but..."

Stefan's unfocused gaze snapped to Bonnie in a bit of a panic. Having scared her half to death only a few days ago with his hunger, the last thing he wanted to do is bring it up now that they've managed some measure of comfort around one another. "Just the usual brooding," he joked.

Bonnie didn't actually believe that at all. Stefan was no better than Damon at successfully lying to her. She raised a suspicious brow and waited for him to actually answer.

Rather than doing so, he weighed a few different possibilities in his mind. All of a sudden he made up his mind and walked across the small space between them to stand right in front of her. Her eyes widened, and she instinctively leaned back having to move her hands out of her lap to catch himself. He gave no indication he noticed her discomfort and bit into his left wrist hard.

That action was more than successful at distracting Bonnie from her inquiry. "Stefan?"

"Just in case," he answered calmly. "I'd like to put faith in our house-guest not murdering you when we leave, but…"

Bonnie rolled her eyes and did her best to make a fast calculation. Heads, it's unnecessary and the blood is out of her system in a day or two. Tails, and it winds up being terribly necessary and at least she can rip Valerie's head off with her fangs and lived to tell Damon until he finally gets home. Besides personal discomfort there wasn't really a downside to taking him up on it, so she did.

Blood sharing always has potential to be a rather personal experience. Well, personal was the word he used to describe it to Elena, but that's woefully insufficient. It would've been much more accurate to say the blood sharing can be a powerfully sexual experience for a vampire. Stefan normally only found himself sharing his blood in situations that were life and death, so there was enough distraction not to get caught up in that. In this case, the only thing more distracting than her drinking his blood was how close she was to his body. That was definitely making it worse.

His blood tasted different than Damon's; that was to be expected. After all, was a different person besides that he was definitely not feeding himself adequately. Of all people, Bonnie had gotten herself into enough circumstances where she found herself drinking vampire blood that she could tell the difference. When this was over, she was going to have to make sure that Stefan ate unless she wanted another incident where he tried to eat her. But now wasn't the time or place, and apparently, she had been lost in thought long enough that the wounded had closed. Much to Stefan's genuine surprise, when she was done feeding she licked his wrist clean.

Bonnie was threatening to make him forget what they were trying to do entirely. He abruptly backed away from her toward the door, which was about as far away as he could get in small space. After a few seconds of collecting his breath and catching his thoughts, he met Bonnie's gaze.

"Are you ready?" She asked him with an amused smirk on her face. Apparently, he hadn't done as well as he hoped he had with concealing what was going through his mind. Another problem for another time.

Having decided the part of their conversation that needed to not be overheard was done with, Bonnie hopped down off the sink and walked over to shut off the shower. "Mind letting me out, Salvatore?" Bonnie asked as Stefan was still leaning against the closed door like they were going to stay in there all day.

"I did have one more question," he answered with narrowed eyes. "But I guess it'll have to wait. Let's check on our guest." Not quite the answer she had been expecting, but she put her game face on, picked up the sword and followed him.

He opened the door and motioned for her to pass him and then followed her towards the stairs. By the time they were halfway down, it was still dead silent besides them. Stefan didn't like that, so he grabbed Bonnie lightly by the arm to get her attention and silently mouthed his thoughts to her. It's too quiet. I can't even hear anything.

That was suspicious. Let's try this the easy way first. "Valerie! How's the spell coming?"

Still no answer. Bonnie wasn't too worried. There was no way she had left, and even if she had somehow managed to outsmart the candle their question was still answered. The only reason Valerie would take off on a tear without saying anything is if she had indeed found something when she did the locator spell. Stefan was more concerned with the silence, but before they could say much to each other about it, Bonnie's phone rang.

While they were dealing with that, Damon was dealing with Lorenzo St. John. The singular most annoying man he had ever met. He couldn't help but wonder how it is that nobody had murdered Enzo yet. He was snarky, self-centered and disloyal. In his long life, Damon had seen dozens of men cut down within decades but here is Enzo well after a century. Still (more or less) living, breathing and annoying the hell out of him.

Having his least-pleasant bloody slumber party to date with the man answered that question. He was still alive because he's manipulative as hell.

"Come on now, mate. We both know you don't really want to kill me. If you did, you would have already done so," Enzo drawled with far more certainty that someone wearing that much of their own blood should be able to summon.

Damon tensed, closed his eyes, and counted backward slowly. "Dead men tell no tales, and you've talked a lot but still haven't answered the fucking question that brought me here."

Mentally Enzo smiled at the obvious display of impatience. An impatient torturer that doesn't intend to kill you is someone you just need to wait out, and that was something he could do. "Maybe you're getting the wrong answers because you're asking the wrong questions, love."

Time-wasting, games, riddles, jokes, chit-chat. Damon was fed up enough to snap his neck and since Enzo was a vampire he could actually do so without jeopardizing his ability to get answers once he cooled his head. So he temporarily sated his need to murder this asshole by snapping his neck. He needed to think and more than that, he needed his Bon Bon. Besides the fact that he needed a bit of advice, it was also high time to make sure his brother hadn't eaten her.

It was tempting to get some space between himself and the person so annoying he made Damon feel like the prisoner, but he resisted that urge and just called while sitting right in front of him. He was unconscious, and when he finally started to stir he could simply hang up if the phonecall wasn't over by then. Unpredictable breaks from suffering created an anxious mental state that could be useful in a torture situation, but that didn't start to kick in until it had been ongoing for awhile. It took a very long time to get Stockholm Syndrome to set in well enough to turn a captive into an ally and he'd be damned if he stayed there that long. So full-court press it had to be.

As he hoped, Bonnie picked up his call very quickly.

"Damon," she breathed. "Are you alright?"

He groaned. "That's one word we can use for it..."

Recognizing frustration and not pain in his voice, Bonnie correctly intuited the problem. "What's the hold up?"

"Before I kill this guy, I need to know why he told me that particular lie. "

Of all the ridiculous reasons to wind up stuck in a house with Valerie and Stefan for days, this took the cake. "You wanted to know why Enzo lied to you? The only person that's spent more time lying to you and betraying you in this lifetime is Katherine."

"Exactly," he countered. "And it turned out that every time she did it there was a reason. And most of those reasons were trying to kill us."

"Fair enough," Bonnie granted with a sigh.

Not wanting to waste time as he had an unconscious captive, Damon cut to the chase. "What should I do?"

"Find out what it is that has him more frightened than you in a bad mood."

Damon raised a skeptical brow. "Frightened?"

"If he's risking you running out of your infamously-low patience and ripping his heart out, then that means he's worried about someone doing worse than that if he tells you the truth. Find out who that is."

His Bon was a genius; he knew he made the right call. "Thanks, Bon Bon," he offered warmly.

Bonnie flushed at his mushy gratitude. "Whatever, just get back here." Bonnie tactfully failed to mention they had just had a much more successful interrogation back home.

"Will do, Bon Bon. One more are you and Stefan getting along?"

Stefan took the phone. "We're doing fine, but we've got to be going," he answered.

"What's going on over there?" Damon demanded with a renewed sense of urgency.

Bonnie frowned at Stefan and put out her hand for her phone back. She was unsurprised to receive a device that Damon was growling on the other end of. "Damon..."

"Bon. Tell me the truth. What's happening?"

She sighed. She couldn't lie to him any better than he could lie to her. "You know how it is with houseguests," she answered evasively as the house suddenly went dark and Stefan pulled her protectively towards his chest. "We have to go deal with that. Be safe, Damon."