Ever since the night Elena had been restored to him, Stefan had deeply buried the memories of Klaus' rampages with the hope of never again seeing the like again. Now, they were all rushing back. Elena whimpered softly, her fingers gripping onto his hand with a panicked intensity, and her body pressing closely to his side. She was beyond speaking, beyond voicing her terror, but both knew they understand one another. The house was in ruins, blood washed walls, furniture and floors, and the bodies lay scattered about like discarded dolls. Glassy eyes stared back, silently screaming their pain.
"This is interesting!" Ahead of them, a bright voice called herself out, completely unfazed by the violence and gore surrounding her. Stefan started in horror, his troubled dark eyes taken in a slender girl he knew well, crouched beside one poor dismembered child. She was so at ease, calmly surrounded by carnage with no apparent discomfort. For one brief moment, Stefan closed his eyes, willing his stomach not to lurch, before he looked at her again, this time noticing the angle of her head, and posture. Following her gaze upwards, he cringed.
underneath my lucid skin
the cold is lost, forgotten
Hours pass days pass time stands still
light gets dark & darkness fills
my secret hate forbidden..."
"At least he's lyrically inclined." She observed absently, as if to someone else nearby "Obscure quotes would be worse.". Thoughtfully she tilted her head, long gloriously bright hair swept down her back, very nearly falling into one of the puddles of blood on the floor. "He's changed one word, though. I think he was stretching."
"Ignoring your blatant sexism, cara… what album?" Stefan flinched, as another well-known speaker called out. Descending from the upper floor with a jump, rather than trusting the stairs, he prowled lazily into Stefan's line of sight. "It's not old." A very familiar predator to Stefan, his lithe movements were reminiscent of a panther. Black clothing accented the pure darkness of his hair, and made the black eyes gleam.
Turning, Damon Salvatore gave his young brother a mocking salute.
"Canadian." The girl responded, absently reaching out to close the dead child's eyes. "Sarah McLachlan, from the Fumbling to Ecstasy album. I think it's the album name we'll want to catalogue, not the lyrics."
"Of course." Damon purred silkily, his eyes still fixed on Stefan and Elena. "I think you might want to take a break, Bonnie. We have company."
Elena watched Bonnie rub her hands together furiously, the antibacterial soap in her palm lathering up thickly and spreading all over. The sheer normalacy of Bonnie's movements made it seem like this was a routine event, that she nightly came home, washed all the blood, all the gore, and all the death from her body, and then moved on with the trauma forgotten.
'I want to forget.' Elena thought, stifling back a wave of hysteria. Looking across the kitchen, she met Meredith's understanding gaze, before turning back to Bonnie. How could someone change so completely in two months? 'Our fault. We left, and she was alone.'
"I wasn't, you know. Not completely, at least." Bonnie said simply, her head still bent and examining the state of her palms. Turning her hands over, she studied her nails, picking at something beneath the nail bed on one hand with a nailbrush, and rinsing once again. Her manicure had never looked so good in all her life as it did now.
Meredith arched one perfect eyebrow in confusion. "Wasn't what, Bonnie?" Watching Stefan and Elena walk in the door with Bonnie and Damon in tow behind them had been quite the experience. Two years ago, Damon Salvatore had turned away from an offer of friendship and acceptance and disappeared. Meredith Sulez had thought she'd never see that man again. Actually, she had hoped never to see him again.
"Alone." The redhead finished simply, shaking water drops off her hands before reaching for a towel. "I had plenty of company after you left." There was no incrimination in her voice, but there was also no care for what they did or hadn't done.
Elena stared at Meredith helplessly, raising her shoulders in a shrug. 'Your turn!' The blond mouthed at the Asian girl. Meredith's mask of calm efficiency nearly dissolved, faint cracks appearing as Elena turned away. "When - when did Damon come back?" Meredith managed to ask, pleased that her voice didn't crack.
It was a logical question, she decided. In determining the time of Damon's return, they could pinpoint the cause of Bonnie's behaviour and, hopefully, reverse it. 'Oh, Alaric. I wish you'd come back with us!' Meredith wished silently, convinced the parapsychologist would have some insights on the situation. It was as if Bonnie had become an extension of Damon. Cold, very calculating in every action and completely indifferent to the people around her. What had happened to her?
Bonnie turned, leaning lazily against the counter rim, here dark eyes dancing with amusement. "I grew up, Meredith. I didn't become a cold, calculating monster. I just grew up and faced some realities. I coped with the situation. I was in danger, and I had to save myself." She paused, head tilting slightly, "You really shouldn't be so hard on Damon. It's not like you even really know the man."
THAT was annoying, Meredith decided. It was like Bonnie was reading their minds. Inexplicably, Bonnie suddenly smirked, pushing away from the sink. Walking towards the door behind Meredith's back, she paused beside her long-time childhood friend, and bent towards Meredith's ear.
"Who said I wasn't?" Bonnie whispered with a smile. Straightening, she flashed a smile at Elena, and pushed the door open. Even from the kitchen, the faint sound of the Salvatore boys arguing was clear, but once the door was open, their shouts were clear as day.
Elena and Meredith hadn't immediately followed her, Bonnie realized feeling the hallway behind her empty. Apparently, they felt the need to consult each other and compare notes. Once upon a time, that discussion would have included her as an active participant, not the subject. Ah well. After all these weeks of being alone with just Damon for support, being surrounded by her friends was leaving her on edge. Leaning against a wall, near the opening of the living room, she could see Damon sitting on the window edge, looking completely at ease in the verbal battlefield.
Stefan, Bonnie noticed, was pacing back and forth in front of his older brother, like some sort of caged animal. 'Eight weeks ago, I would have supported Stefan's side blindly.' Bonnie marveled at herself. It was incredible just how much of her world perception had changed.
"At least I didn't abandon her!" Damon retorted, making Bonnie realize how much greater HIS worldview had changed. Seven weeks ago, he had sauntered back into town with no concern for anyone beyond himself, and maybe, just maybe, Stefan. One attack, and several more sites of carnage like tonight had really changed them both. Still, it was nice to have someone defend her, and support her when she'd all but given up on her survival.
"We didn't abandon her!" Stefan protested.
"No? Did she ask you to stay? Did she tell you of her nightmares? Her visions? Did you listen?" Damon accused harshly. He already knew the answer to this, but Bonnie knew he was using his knowledge as a weapon to prove a point, not to hurt anyone. Stefan, sadly, would never realize that was his brother's motivation.
On the upside, Stefan was one of those poor benighted souls that couldn't tell a lie. No matter how he tried, he couldn't lie. He could tell superficial truths, but he could not out and out lie. It wasn't in his nature. "That's not the point. I'm supposed to cancel our plans because of Bonnie's nightmares?"
Bonnie winced. That really hadn't been the most tactful response, she murmured silently to herself, watching Damon's face darken. Damon was a good-guy in denial, in her opinion, though she knew better than to share it with him. He steadfastly claimed to be bad to the core, but if you were a friend, or an ally, he would take a stake for you. Or feed you his own blood knowing the risk of responsibility that could potentially follow.
"Yes." He hissed. "You should. She saved your life, or have you forgotten lying on your back with a stake in your chest and Klaus prancing about you in victory?" He stood up, now, the posture of calm indifference falling away in the wake of fury. He stalked towards his little brother like a jaguar ready to rip the throat out of the chosen prey. "Have you forgotten that she was psychic? Possibly the most powerful psychic you or I have ever encountered in our entire existence? That she managed to summon us to Fell's Church as a rank amateur, that she summoned Elena's spirit and the host of dead?"
"Elena did that..." Stefan protested weakly, taking backward steps as Damon advanced.
The other vampire just moved closer, his dark eyes black holes, and lips pulled away from his elongated teeth in a snarl. "Spare me. Elena summoned the host through Bonnie's power. The true dead have no power, and you well KNOW that."
"ABANDONED her!" Damon roared, his hands shooting out to grab and bury into Stefan's shirt. He gave his brother a fierce shake. "And you want to accuse me of something? Look after your own sins first, little brother. They're far more grievous than my own. "
Bonnie sighed, hearing the door behind her open in response to Damon's bellow. 'Just as it was getting interesting. There really isn't anymore good daytime drama. Ah well.' She pushed off the wall she was leaning on and stepped briskly into the room. One quick glance had Damon release his brother, and another had Stefan shut his mouth with an audible click. "Done playing?" She asked sweetly, giving both men another sweeping and stern look advising they stuck to their best behaviour.
Each nodded mutely, Stefan sheepish, Damon contained. Feeling Elena moving behind her, Bonnie walked across the room towards the fireplace, and sat down on the stone trim about the hearth. Daintily, she crossed one leg over the other, and waited for everyone else to assume their positions. "Where's Matt?" She asked socially, with a light tone of complete indifference given that she already suspected the answer.
Elena looked at Stefan, who glanced at Meredith, nominating her as speaker. "He, ah, took Kiera home." Meredith pinched at the bridge of her nose, apparently expecting some adverse reaction from those words.
Bonnie smirked. "Oh, how nice." She commented, completely insincerely. Kiera Keith had moved into Fell's Church precisely two weeks to the day after Klaus had been defeated, and Matt had dropped Bonnie like a hot potato. He was completely enthralled by the blonde girl, and had no time to spare on his loose-wheel friends. "So, did you all have fun in Europe? Maybe let Kiera in the club? Did you tell her your nasty little secrets and show her the hidden handshake?"
Another look was exchanged, but this time Stefan spoke, his eyes fixed on Damon the entire time. "No. She doesn't need to know, so we aren't telling her."
Damon snorted, but made no other comment. Head tilted back, he was studying the swirls of plaster on the ceiling as if it were the most fascinating display of art he'd ever seen. As engrossing and consuming of his thought as the smile on the Mona Lisa was to an art major.
"Meredith had asked when you'd come back to town." Bonnie continued airily, glancing at Damon. "I thought I'd wait until we were all together before we had that discussion."
Damon's head slowly tilted back down, his eyes meeting and holding hers for a long silent moment. "I see." Dark eyes narrowed slightly. "This should be fun."
Meredith was studying them with cool analytical eyes. Bonnie could feel her weighing the evidence and leaping to conclusions. Some of them, Bonnie smirked, might even be right. "We're all here, now." Meredith said quietly. "Perhaps we could begin?"
Damon leaned back into his chair, now totally relaxed. "Perhaps." He agreed congenially. "Ask your questions, and perhaps we'll be forthcoming." They had all the time in the world for this, he and Bonnie. More or less. Until the next attack happened. They'd already lost this evening for tracking down their little pet monster when Stefan and Elena had walked onto the scene. It would go to ground before morning, and possibly stay there until it's hunger roused it again in another fifteen to twenty hours. Plenty of time to deal with Stefan and Elena.
"How long have you been back in Fell's Church?" Stefan shot the question off directly, either ignoring or ignorant of Elena's gentle hand on his arm encouraging calm.
Damon glanced back at Bonnie, "Seven weeks?" He speculated.
The redhead shrugged. "There about. The first attack was almost nine weeks ago." Leaning back, she let the solid brass guard of the fireplace be the support for her body's reclining weight. Brown eyes flicked to the ceiling, her expression thoughtful. "Give or take a few days, I'd say seven weeks is about right."
Elena's rosebud lips parted in shock. "Oh, my God!" She exclaimed, her finger's sliding down to clutch at Stefan's hand. "Why didn't you call!"
"Why didn't you stay when I asked?" Bonnie countered rhetorically, in a neutral voice. "Why didn't you listen to me, or my predictions? Why was it so easy to blow me off, and ignore my visions?"
"We were expected to cancel a planned event based on a few dreams?" Meredith argued impassively. "Please be realistic, Bonnie."
Cold dead eyes, far more distant and fearsome than Damon's shifted to the Asian girl. "Oh, I am being realistic, Meredith. So realistic that I knew you would not have come if I had called. I had the proof of that in the weeks before you even left."
"You don't know that!" Stefan insisted. "We..."
"Weren't given the chance." Damon inserted smoothly. "Yes, yes. I believe that is already understood. Your previous actions, however, illustrate your lack of faith in both of us. Why should we have faith in you?" Without any urgency in the motions, he stood, smoothly shrugging out of his jacket and spreading it over the back of a chair.
Smiling, as if amused, he continued without looking at anyone. "Furthermore, you've already played judge and jury in the last two hours. As far as you are all concerned, with the notable exception of Bonnie, I am the killer here. I am the darkness over Fell's Church that waited for you all to depart before I went on a serial spree to make Jack the Ripper seem amateur." Returning to his seat, he tossed the threesome opposite him a mocking smile. "And, of course, my association with Bonnie is to throw you all of the right track, and as a bonus for me to gain access to her sweet little jugular."
Bonnie snorted, uncrossing her legs. Pulling the limbs into a sharp angle, she was like a beautiful gargoyle ready for flight. Dark red hair fell across the side of her face like a curtain, obscuring Stefan and Elena's view of her features.
Stefan frowned, the worry in his face unmistakable. "Have you?"
It was Bonnie who sprang up from her sitting posture, now very angry. Stalking towards the windows, she put her back and several meters between herself and her former friends. "What kind of question is that, Stefan Salvatore?" Hands, slim and pale, reached into the sheer curtains, tangling in them with such surprising violence. "Has Damon accused you of snacking off Elena? Or sharing blood with her?"
Damon glanced sharply at his brother and pseudo-sister-in law. Eyelids drooping lazily over his dark gaze, he almost smiled. 'Bonnie doesn't miss much, indeed.' The signs were unmistakable, the heightened brightness in Elena's eyes, and the slight change in her body temperature. Although, on a purely non-supernatural level, the silk scarf in the middle of summer was an obvious sign. "I don't even need to ask." He agreed silkily. "Do I, Stefan."
Elena shook her head, "What occurs between Stefan and I isn't important!" Her sweet voice rang out clear as a bell. "We want to know what's going on, here! Why you were at that... that... house, why Bonnie was with you, and what you're doing back in town!"
"Is that all?" Damon asked, vastly amused. "The answers, in order, are: because the killer attacked there, Bonnie found the site, and I was asked to come back." Standing, he brushed imaginary dust off his jeans, before clapping those hands together. "So, now if that's all, I believe Bonnie and I have some work to finish."
"Like Hell!" Stefan jumped up.
Bonnie chose that moment to spin away from the window, "Excuse me?" Her voice rose incredulously, but quietly.
"You're not going anywhere with him!" Stefan reaffirmed, his soul's white knight turning him into a chauvinist. "Not alone."
"I've been alone with him for seven straight weeks. While you were nowhere around, I was crawling around the bloodiest murder sites I've ever seen, closing the eyes of dead children, and counting body parts. I was looking for messages written in blood without knowing if the killer was nearby or not... and all the while I was in danger because I was with Damon?"
Intelligently, there was no answer Stefan could give, and everyone in the room knew it. Burning eyes glared up at his older brother, his fury at the awkward situation he was in, at the frustration of suspecting is brother was up to something and at the uselessness he felt was making his grip on his temper fragile.
Damon stared impassively back. "You have some say in Elena's actions, my brother." The vampire advised easily, "And you may have influence on Meredith by right what she allows, but do not presume to dictate the actions of others who have remained behind and fought to survive."
Meredith felt her skin rise, appalled by the turn of events. The way Damon seemed so righteously against them, it was like stepping into the twilight zone. He was the monster here, a killer with no conscience, and yet he was guilt-tripping them. Glancing at Bonnie, her goosebumps seemed to develop goosebumps. 'What happened here? What changed you, Bonnie?' She found herself thinking again.
"Everything that happened can't be explained. Won't be explained." Bonnie replied shortly, again as if Meredith had spoke her thoughts aloud. "And it..." The girl's voice trailed off suddenly, her head twisting to look back at the windows, a growing alarm spreading across her face.
It was like watching a slow motion film, Meredith realized in a daze, as Bonnie turned and took one step towards the window. Fragments of a seconds seemed to stretch out into minutes from the start of her actions the twisting of her body into a new direction and flow of her steps. But, Bonnie had scarcely taken a single step when the window shattered inwards, and a large bloody bundle dropped to the floor inches from Bonnie's feet.
The moment passed with Elena's scream. And while staring sightlessly at the bundle, Meredith began to realize it wasn't a bundle of rags that soaked into the carpets, but a terribly mangled body. Straggling blond hair caked with blood stuck to a blood-streaked gray face, dead eyes wide open and lips parted in a silent scream. The abdomen was ripped open with a huge jagged 'Y' incision, the organs and innards missing.
Bonnie scarcely gave the corpse a look. Ignoring the shouts of protest, she jumped over it, vaulting through the window without pause. Darting out into the night air, past the protections of the home, she paused, looking about for any sign of the killer. Nighttime chirps of crickets and the rich smell of the earth filled the air around her, masking even the scent of blood that had surrounded the body that now decorating Bonnie's living room.
Eyes narrowed, looking down at nothing in particular. It was odd, reaching out with other senses, but the strangeness of doing so was wearing off with each occasion that she made the effort. At first, it had seemed so hard, but now changing from depending on her human senses to the heightened instincts born of her own natural powers was so easy, but still odd.
The presence lingered, but felt weaker as if it was gone. Unless it was capable of hiding itself in this manner, it had already left after dropping off its little lovenote. That was the annoyance in this hunt, that neither Damon or Bonnie had been able to obtain a clear mark. The poems and carnage were reminiscent of Klaus, although Bonnie was convinced it wasn't the Ancient committing these murders.
"Bonnie, get back here!" Stefan was shouting, his voice becoming louder as he stepped outside of the house. "Klaus could be out here, still."
Bonnie tossed a look over her shoulder, rolling her eyes at the melodramatics. "It's not Klaus." She replied, almost amused. "And it's gone."
"You don't know that." Stefan insisted, his eyes scanning the darkness anxiously. A flash of yellow seemed to move behind Bonnie, and then disappeared. "Please, Bonnie..."
Bonnie froze, some instinct shouting warning. Bonnie dropped down to a crouch, throwing one leg back and turning swiftly, the extended limb acting like a tripwire. Feeling the presence behind her fall, she jumped back up, leveling a sharp kick to the midsection and following up with a kick to the head.
Klaus grinned up at the redhead, blood trickling from his nose. "Miss me?" He taunted. "I'll kill you first, girly. A thank you for what you did to me. And then I'll rip the hearts out of those boys." His long duster, ragged now, hung about lank shoulders. Even with hands reaching out like talons, there was a tremendous loss in muscle that could easily be identified. The wastage an assumed byproduct of two years in his prison.
Stefan ran to intervene, throwing his body between Klaus and Bonnie. Knees bent, fists raised, the younger vampire snarled baring his teeth to the Ancient in defiance.
Bonnie shook her head in disgust, judiciously taking a few steps back from the two fighters. She spared a quick glance back to the house, noting Damon was standing on the porch ready to intervene. With one hand, she waved him off, while the rest of her turning back to witness Klaus easily backhand Stefan
The younger vampire was weak, in vampiric terms. He habitually abstained from human blood, despite the apparent nibbles on his lovely Elena's neck, he still primarily fed on animal blood. The noble spirit was simply not well paired with the weaker body it inhabited.
"My turn, again." Bonnie murmured, wincing as Stefan landed in a particularly healthy wild rose bush. Boldly, she waited for Klaus to approach her, the gold in his eyes nearly as bright as the gleam of his teeth.
The hands reached out again like claws, but the only purchase he achieved was that of Bonnie's foot in his chest. The kick had strength to it, and was followed up with her knee to his groin. "Did you really think I'd fall for this?" Bonnie asked absently, the question not intended for Klaus.
Klaus roared defiance, his arm swinging to punch her in the stomach. Bonnie didn't really try to avoid the blow, but her hands shot out to catch his wrist as if it was a lever, his own momentum then able to steer her body to the side.
"You." She continued, her nails digging deep into an emaciated wrist. "Or more precisely, the real you is still imprisoned. I know this, the bastard that created you knows this, and only Stefan over there hasn't figured it out."
'Klaus' shrugged off her hands, turning to face her. "Really?" He taunted, opening his mouth to flash fangs at her. "Are you so sure?" Hands reached out to clutch her neck. "I feel real to me."
With his hands so occupied, he never had a chance to protect himself. Thrusting from her shoulders, she let her right hand curve into a spoon, slicing into 'Klaus'' chest and wrapping around his heart. With a savage jerk, she ripped the dead organ out, still cradling it her hand.
The Ancient's mouth worked in silent horror, the edges of his form fading rapidly with the heart outside of his body. A scream, ghostly for the lack of sound in it, echoed as the apparition faded with the heart in Bonnie's hand winking out of existence last.
Glancing over at the rose bushes, she smiled insincerely at Stefan, noting how the thorns had made a mess of his leather jacket. "And that concludes today's lessons on constructs." The sweetness of her voice at odds with the scene that had just past. "It was just to distract you."
Bonnie shook her head, walking back to the house with even steps. Meeting Damon's eyes, she shrugged. "Stefan mentioned Klaus, so our unwelcome visitor constructed Klaus for our amusement."
Damon nodded agreement. "So, he's a sorcerer in his spare time."
"Possibly." Bonnie frowned, looking past Damon to the dead body covered by a blanket. Bonnie and Meredith were standing clear away from it, studiously avoiding looking at the widening stain on the fabric and carpet. "But why wait until now to demonstrate that? And how did he know so much about Klaus to build something so realistic?"
Damon frowned, eyes staring down the street. "We are missing something key."
Stefan stomped onto the porch, pushing his way to stand between his brother and Bonnie. The dead body in the house disturbed him only in the sense it was a murder. The actual sight of death or the dead didn't upset him nearly as much as the cause of death. It was a wrong he'd been unable to prevent, in his eyes.
"It's from the house we were at earlier tonight." Bonnie tried to soothe him gently, her first act of kindness that evening. "There was nothing any of us could have done."
Stefan gaped at her. "You can't know that!"
Damon smiled, like a cat that'd caught the canary. "This is not the first time, little brother. Bonnie has been receiving these types of gifts for weeks now. Each one has been someone missing from the murder scene."
Elena and Meredith both choked. "Weeks?" Stefan asked, dark eyes wide with horror.
Bonnie shrugged, inured to these surprise presents by now. They still disgusted her, but the reality of the situation was that screaming would not stop another from arriving. Only hunting down the killer and destroying him or her would do that. "Yeah." She affirmed. "This is the first time it's been in my apartment, though. I guess I need to improve the wards."
Stefan glanced at Elena, noting the glazed look in her blue eyes. "I don't understand." He admitted, choosing to let his antagonism at Damon slide, for now. "Why is he so interested in you?"
Damon flicked a glance at Bonnie, "Why does a cat bring its owner dead mice?" Damon answered for her. Stepping back through the window, he approached the remains. Carefully bending down, he rolled the blanket around it, like that of a mummy, and then picked the bloody burden up. "It's a form of love."
Elena whimpered, looking away from Damon and staring at Bonnie. "But, why you?"
Bonnie shrugged, stepping wide as Damon stepped outside of the house, still carrying the corpse. "Why me?" She sighed. "I'm the victim that got away. It wants what can't have."