Well I'm back with another chapter! Did you miss me?

First of all I want to thank those of you who left me a review; it's the only recognition I seem to get these days outside of being a wife and mother, so it's a nice reminder that I still have a lot to offer outside of that. Also, just another reminder that I have my own Facebook page. I posted quite a lot of insights into the final episode of the season, but even I couldn't possibly have predicted what we got in the end. Still, it could have been worse, Delena fans. Damon's got the girl, he just has to wait a human lifetime for her. And really, when you think about the whole immortality thing that's not that long at all. But still, Damon's not going to be in a good place emotionally, and that means that as soon as I'm done THIS fic (won't be long now) I'm going to treat you all to MY version of Dark Damon after The Spell. So if you're not following my page yet you might want to do that soon, because I'll be posting my updates on chapters and new fics on there and I know from talking to a few of my BFFs that the story alerts don't pop up in the email inbox right away. It can sometimes take over a day after I've posted a new chapter, and that's just not fair to all of you who have been waiting for years for these updates.

Okay, I'll shut up now so you can read. It's basically part 2 of my re-write of Plan B, so a lot of dialogue will seem familiar. I also tried to get this done as quickly as possible so we can move onto the good stuff.

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters blah blah blah

Chapter 18: Plan B (part 2)

Damon unceremoniously dropped Mason's limp, unconscious body onto the chair he'd placed in the center of the room for interrogation purposes. The plan had gone off without a hitch. Bonnie had played her part as the damsel in distress, pretending that she was trying to pull a table from the back of an open van, and Mason had taken the bait. Before he'd had time to figure out that it was a trap, the witch had worked her mojo and had him on the ground, clutching his head as if he was afraid it might explode. Having been on the receiving end of that little spell, Damon almost felt bad for him. But then he remembered that just a few days ago Mason had tried to kill both him and his brother and he'd involved Liz, which just added insult to injury! So while Mason was writhing on the ground, Damon had decided to simultaneously put him out of his misery and pay him back by kneeing him in the face; rendering him unconscious. Together he and Stefan had hauled him into the back of his truck, after which he had Bonnie climb into the passenger seat and they drove back to the boarding house in relative silence. Bonnie had only made ONE judgey comment when she'd asked if he really had to knee Mason in the face, to which Damon had shrugged and responded with a simple "nope", as if it didn't matter one way or the other. Sure, it had been a dick move, but Damon was well aware that he sometimes did things he didn't have to do. Also, Mason was a dick.

"Here's his bag," Bonnie said, dropping it on a chair. "As requested."

"Okay." Damon crouched down to spread out the drop cloth he'd placed beneath Mason's chair. "Grab that corner."

Bonnie did as asked, but looked up at Damon questioningly. "Why are we doing this?"

Damon rolled his eyes. "Because I don't want to get blood on the carpet," he said, as if that answer was obvious.

"I knew you were gonna say something like that," she frowned.

"Judging again."

With the rug sufficiently protected, Damon walked over to Mason's duffel bag, riffling through it until he found the chains he'd suspected might be in there. "Woah," he said, pulling them out and admiring the handiwork. "Looks like this guy's used to being tied up."

Bonnie didn't even smirk at his comment, which meant she was either all-business or hadn't picked up on the innuendo, or didn't care. She was thoroughly focused, closing her eyes and cupping her hands around Mason's head.

"What are you doing?"

"You're looking for a moonstone," Bonnie said simply. "I'm trying to help you find it."

"Oh, good, yeah! Find out if he gave it to Katherine." He wrapped the chains around Mason, securing him to the chair. "And find out where she is!" he added thoughtfully. "And find out what they're gonna do with it when they get it."

"Somewhere small. Dark," Bonnie murmured. "There's water."

"Like a sewer?" Damon wondered out loud, thankful that he was the one in charge of 'entertaining' their houseguest and not Stefan. No way in hell did he want to muck around in the sewers; he'd leave that bit of dirty work to his baby bro.

Bonnie shook her head. "No," she said, still concentrating hard on whatever it was she was able to see in Mason's head. "Like a well? That can't be right." She frowned. "Yeah," she confirmed. "It's a well."

"Why would it be in a well?" Damon asked, skeptically. Out of all the dumb places to hide the thing, a well was at the top of his list. But then again, at least it wasn't a sewer.

Bonnie lowered her hands, her eyes popping open again. "I told you," she said, a bit testily, "I only get what I get."

Mason let out a low grunt, starting to regain consciousness. Bonnie gasped, startled when his hand shot out and gripped her wrist. Damon quickly spurred into action, grabbing Mason's hand and prying it off Bonnie with ease. He must have grabbed her reflexively, Damon assumed, because he wasn't actually awake yet. Still, there was no need for the witch to stick around if they knew where the stone was, and besides, she probably wouldn't like what was going to happen next anyway.

"That's it," she said, standing up. "That's all I got." She made her way toward the hall. "I'm going to head back; let Stefan know what we found out."

"Hey, Judgey," Damon called after her.

She turned to look at him.

"Thank you," he said, sincere for once.

She walked out of the room without a word. Whether it was because she was still not sure whether or not he had actually made an effort to be nice, or if it was because his thanks had done little in her mind to redeem him, he didn't know; and he didn't really care, either. As long as she didn't attempt to fry his brain or burn him alive, she could go on pretending he didn't exist. Besides, he had more important things to worry about than whether or not Elena's friends liked him.

"Come on, Wolf Boy," Damon said, getting impatient. "Wake up."

No response. Damon shrugged. Well, if kneeing him in the face was enough to render him unconscious, maybe a fist to the face would be just the thing to wake him up again.

Bonnie had puzzled over the possible location of the moonstone during her short walk back to the Lockwood manor, but so far only one place had stood out in her mind. Unfortunately it had been so long since she'd been there, and the only other two people who knew about it were Elena and Caroline. Considering that she wasn't on speaking terms with the latter of the two, she was now debating whether or not to shoot a quick text to Elena and possibly arouse her suspicions or bite the bullet and just ask Caroline. Truthfully, Bonnie was a little tired of the freeze-out as well; she missed her best friend more than she cared to admit to anyone else, but how could she trust her when she had seen first-hand what Caroline was capable of doing to people when she lost control? All she had to do was picture the blood smeared all over her that night of the carnival to remind herself that her friend was a different person now.

"Hey," Caroline's cheerful voice greeted her. Bonnie hadn't even heard her approach, or maybe she just hadn't been paying attention.

"Hey," Bonnie replied awkwardly.

"I thought you were helping Elena with the costumes," Caroline said. "I was going to say hi earlier, but you know, with everything with Elena right now, things are a little awkward."

"Yeah," Bonnie agreed. "I was, earlier, but then I had to go take care of something. I'm actually looking for Stefan though, have you seen him?"

Caroline shook her head. "No, he's avoiding me right now, too."

Bonnie couldn't help but notice the pointed look when she said 'too' and managed an apologetic smile. "He probably just has a lot on his mind," she suggested.

"Probably," Caroline agreed. "Plus the whole being around Elena thing, maybe it's just awkward..."

"Yeah," Bonnie nodded, trying to be polite. She really didn't want to get into yet another discussion over Elena walking in on Caroline and Stefan; she'd had enough of that last night, thank you very much. "Anyway," she said, trying to change the subject, "I wanted to talk to you, too."

"Really?" Caroline brightened.

"It's about the moonstone," Bonnie explained. "I think I might have an idea where it is. You remember the well we used to play around when we were kids?"

"Yeah," Caroline said, confused.

"It's in the woods. Do you remember where?"

"On the edge of the old Lockwood property," Caroline replied. "Why?"

Bonnie pulled out her phone, sending a quick text to Stefan.

"I think that's where Mason's keeping the stone. I just sent a text to Stefan and told him to meet me there."

"I can come with you," Caroline offered.

"No, it's okay." The words came out before Bonnie could stop herself, and she immediately felt terrible when she saw the hurt in Caroline's expression. She knew she was being unfair; Caroline couldn't help what she was, after all. As for the whole sticky Elena situation,that hardly mattered at the moment. Katherine was still on the loose, and who knew how long it might take Stefan to see her text about the well.

"Sure," she said, offering an olive branch to her friend. Elena was right; Caroline needed her friends if she was to maintain any semblance of her humanity, and Bonnie needed her, too.

"So, what happened to Caroline," Matt asked. He and Elena were both sorting through the costumes and masks as Elena tried (unsuccessfully) to get her mind off of whatever it was Damon was doing that he felt he had to keep it from her. She had given up on him calling her back or answering her many texts, and while it annoyed the hell out of her, she knew why he was doing it. She couldn't really blame him for dodging her questions; he wanted to keep her safe. She supposed she should be happy that he cared so much, but at the same time all this waiting around for news was driving her crazy. She'd seen him leave with both Stefan and Bonnie over an hour ago, and only Stefan had come back shortly afterward. And since she couldn't exactly ask him what was going on (he'd probably just lie to her anyway) she was stuck on costume duty, trying to pretend that everything was okay. Damon would call when they found the moonstone, she reminded herself.

But that didn't explain the disappearance of Caroline or Bonnie, and the longer she went without so much as a text the more concerned she became that things weren't as simple as Damon had said they were.

"She had something else to do," Elena shrugged.

Matt frowned. "Is she seeing someone?" he blurted out.

Stefan chose that exact moment to set down another box of masks in front of Matt, deliberately avoiding Elena's gaze. She bit back the urge to say "I don't know; ask Stefan" and instead replied "If Caroline was seeing someone I think I'd know about it."

It wasn't a complete lie, and the way that Stefan seemed to visibly squirm without being too obvious was almost as satisfying as if she'd called him outright on his little indiscretion.

"Has anyone seen Mason?" Tyler asked loudly, suddenly walking into the room.

"He uh...he took off," Stefan said, doing his best to look nonchalant. "He said he wasn't sure when he'd be back."

"So weird," Tyler shrugged, walking back out of the room as quickly as he'd entered it.

Elena's mind, however, was reeling; if Mason was missing, that meant that the other plan had somehow failed and they were proceeding with what Damon had dubbed "Plan B". She tried not to think about it; she didn't want to picture Damon back at the boarding house and she certainly didn't want to know just what he was doing. She knew what Plan B meant; Mason might not be coming back. Ever.

Just then, Stefan's phone started buzzing in his pocket. He pulled it out, looked at the screen, and made a quick exit without a word.

She knew she should stay here with Matt. The sensible part of her mind was already arguing that there was nothing she could really do; but she couldn't quiet the other voice in her head that told her to follow him. Something was up, and if Damon wasn't going to tell her, then she would find out on her own.

She looked apologetically at Matt and he shrugged as if he wasn't the least bit surprised. "I'm not even gonna ask."

Damon twirled the end of the fire poker in the flames, watching as the metal turned a menacing shade of reddish orange. Mason rattled the chains furiously, trying to break free.

"Someone's feisty," Damon taunted.

Mason growled and struggled harder against his restraints, but for all his efforts all he managed to do was topple the chair backwards. Damon might have laughed at the comical scene if the situation had warranted it, but if he was to pull this off then he had to remain focused. As a soldier he'd learned that you couldn't show any sign of weakness to the enemy, and Mason was definitely the enemy. So instead of a sarcastic quip, Damon simply walked over to him, still holding the poker in his hands; his face was blank of all expression.

"What?" Mason asked, trying to look tough even as he stared up from the floor, completely helpless.

Without a word, Damon thrust the poker into Mason's chest, causing him to let out a scream.

"You can hurt." Damon said it as casually as if he was discussing the weather outside. "Good to know. I was afraid you were gonna be some beast mass with no affinity for pain."

He pulled down the collar of Mason's shirt to get a better look at his handiwork. The wound was ugly and raw from the second degree burns, but it was already starting to close up. Damon frowned. "Oh, but you heal quickly. Not good. Guess I'll just have to keep applying pain." He grabbed the back of the chair and effortlessly pulled it upright, then walked over to stick the poker back into the fire.

"So," he said conversationally. "Katherine. How do you know her? What is she up to?"

Mason glared at him and spat on the floor, refusing to say a word.

Damon had expected this, of course. Too bad for Mason, he wasn't the type to ask nicely twice.

"I have all day." He punctuated the statement by thrusting the poker into Mason's stomach, causing him to let out another scream through gritted teeth. Damon twisted it deeper, and then pulled it back out again.

"When did you two meet?" he continued his line of questioning, heating the poker in the flames in direct view of Mason. "Did she seduce you, tell you she loved you? You're supernatural, so she can't compel you. I'm sure she used her other charms," he added sardonically. "Katherine's good that way."

He looked up when he heard footsteps approaching from the hall and rolled his eyes. Jeremy Gilbert was standing in the doorway carrying a box full of Ric's research.

"I thought I told you to leave," Damon growled, annoyed at the interruption. The last thing he needed was for Elena's little brother to witness his interrogation.

"I found something in Ric's box of stuff."

"Ooh, "Damon said, more than a little curious. "What is it?"

Jeremy pulled out a folded handkerchief.

"I did some research on my phone," Jeremy explained. "It's a plant. Aconitum Vulparia. It grows in the mountainous areas of the northern hemisphere. Commonly known as aconite, blue rocket, and wolfsbane."

Damon pulled back the corner of the cloth. Nestled inside were a few sprigs of a plant very similar to vervain.

"What else did you read?" he asked, studying the plant curiously.

"Well every source says something different," Jeremy replied. "One myth says it causes lycanthropy, which sounds bogus. Another one says it protects people, and another one says, well, it's toxic."

Mason groaned audibly, giving Damon a pretty good idea which one was true.

"I'm guessing toxic," he said, looking over at Mason. He took the plant from Jeremy and stalked toward him, brandishing the weed like he had the hot poker.

"What's Katherine doing in Mystic Falls?" he asked, dangling the wolfsbane mere inches from Mason's face.

He didn't answer.

Damon brushed it across Mason's cheek in retaliation; Mason screamed as his skin burned everywhere the plant touched. Jeremy looked away, visibly uncomfortable; Damon pulled it away.

"Why is she here?" Damon tried again.

"She's here with me!" Mason shouted contemptuously. "Why? Are you jealous?"

Damon glared. He was getting more than a little fed up with Mason's lack of cooperation, but implying that Damon was actually jealous, well that was the wrong thing to say.

"How rude of me," he said in mock apology, " You know, I just realized, I didn't offer you anything to eat." He shoved the wolfsbane into Mason's mouth, effectively shutting him up.

"Yummy!" Damon said, just a little bit pleased with himself.

Mason coughed, spitting it up along with some of his blood from where the weed was no doubt burning holes in his mouth and tongue.

"Why do you want the moonstone?" Damon continued, unaffected by Mason's cries of pain.

"Screw you!" Mason spat.

"Ahhh!" Damon warned, ready to up the ante as far as torture went. "Wrong answer!"

"If he was gonna say anything he would have already," Jeremy pointed out.

Damon ignored him, still focused on Mason.

"I'm taking your eyes now," he warned.

"The well!" Mason blurted out. "You can find it there."

Damon rolled his eyes and held up the wolfsbane over Mason's face again, circling around his eyes.

"I know where it is," he said. "I want to know what it does and why you want it."

"I'm getting it for Katherine!" The threat of burning his eyeballs had made him more eager to talk.

"Why?" Damon pressed.

"She's gonna use it to lift the curse."

"Of the moon?" Damon scoffed. "Now why would a vampire help a werewolf break a curse that keeps them from turning whenever they want?"

"So I wouldn't have to turn anymore," Mason admitted, looking down as if he was exposing a great weakness.

"Why?" Damon asked again.

"Because she loves me."

Damon hadn't given Mason much credit when it came to intelligence, but he'd never considered he'd be that dense. The admission was so ridiculous that he laughed. "Now-now I get it," he smirked, amused at the cosmic joke that was being played out. The similarities between his human self and Mason were becoming clearer by the moment, and Damon almost pitied him. "You're just stupid! Katherine doesn't love you. She's using you, you moron!"

"I'm done talking," Mason said.

"Yes, you are," Damon replied grimly. "It's time to take a walk, Jeremy." He handed him the wolfsbane, then turned back to Mason.

"I'm staying," Jeremy insisted, proving to be as stubborn as his sister.

"No," Damon said firmly. "You should go."

"I'm staying, Damon. He's had enough!"

Mason turned his head to look at the younger boy. "Just help Tyler," he pleaded. "Don't let this happen to him."

Jeremy nodded his head, but made no indication that he was going to leave. Damon cursed the gods that continuously liked to test him at the worst possible moments. He'd promised Elena he wouldn't involve Jeremy in anything too dangerous or traumatizing, and so far he'd witnessed much more than Elena would have liked him to had she been here to see it. He would be damned if he was going to let him hang around for this though. In an instant he had Jeremy by the throat.

"You wanted to be a part of this?" he growled menacingly. "Well, here it is! Kill or be killed! The guy is a werewolf; he'd kill me the first chance he got! So, you suck it up, or leave!"

He released his hold causing Jeremy to stumble backward, coughing.

"He wants me to kill him, anyway." Damon rationalized. "Don't you, Mason? It really is a curse, isn't it?"

He made his way back to his captive, taking note of Jeremy's hurried footsteps racing down the hall and the slam of the door that signaled he had finally gotten the message and left.

"You know," Damon sighed, "I look at you and I see myself. A less dashing, less intelligent version."

"I love her," Mason said, pleadingly.

"Oh, I know!" Damon said, empathizing. "I've been where you are. But Katherine will just rip your heart out. Let me do it for her."

With that he plunged his hand deep into Mason's chest. This time Mason didn't scream; he simply let out a grunt just before his face went blank and his heart ceased beating in Damon's clenched fist.

Stefan approached the well and peered down into its depths. It was deep, and too dark to really see anything even with his enhanced vision. Bonnie hadn't arrived yet, but considering she was human and Stefan had raced here as quickly as he could, he wasn't surprised. He thankfully didn't have long to wait; a few minutes later she came into the clearing with Caroline following close behind. Stefan frowned; he had really done his best to avoid her all day, still unsure of where exactly things stood. He'd admitted he had feelings for her last night, but things were still far too complicated, not to mention he'd just broken up with Elena. It didn't seem right to move on so quickly, and Caroline wasn't the type of girl to sit around and wait for a decision; she would want answers. So Stefan had made the decision to avoid seeing her until he had those answers. He didn't want to lead her on, and he certainly didn't want to say the wrong thing and screw up any real chance at happiness with her either. And then there was the fact that now might not be the best time to make any major life altering decisions; after all, he was technically on the rebound. He'd been growing closer to Caroline specifically because of the wall that had been between him and Elena ever since she'd started developing feelings for Damon.

He'd known it for months; had tried his best to ignore it even as she continued to deny she felt anything but friendship toward his brother, but every look in his direction, every soft smile or embrace between them, it had been a slow torture for him to witness. Stefan knew that Damon was right; it was partly his fault and he couldn't exactly blame Damon for falling in love with her, nor could he blame her for opening her heart to him in the first place. Elena often saw the good in people even when they didn't see it in themselves; it was one of the many reasons why he'd fallen for her. He couldn't begrudge Damon that; not when loving Elena meant that he had finally begun to let himself feel again.

But did his acceptance of Damon's relationship with Elena mean that he was ready to move on with Caroline, or that they would actually work as a couple? He really didn't have a concrete answer for that; at least not right now. That was another thing that Damon had been annoyingly quick to point out; he would be the biggest jerk in the world if he continued to act like there was something between them before he knew for a fact that he was able to explore that something. And then there was the fact that his crazy ex girlfriend/sire had decided that he belonged to her and her alone; she'd killed Caroline once before simply to send a message to him and Damon (and possibly Elena as well). She could just as easily do it again if she felt that she was competition and had outlived her usefulness. That in itself was reason enough to keep his distance from her; if Katherine somehow figured out where the stone was hidden or learned that Caroline helped them retrieve it, she would retaliate against her. She'd become dangerously close to doing so already, when she'd shown up at the boarding house yesterday.

"You shouldn't be here," Stefan said.

Caroline shrugged. "I know, but I am."

"I told her she could help," Bonnie said, looking a little apologetic. "With Damon back at the house with Mason, I figured it wouldn't hurt to have a little bit more backup, just in case."

"Besides, what's the worst that could happen?" Caroline pointed out. "Nobody knows the stone is out here except us, and Bonnie can't hear as well as I can; I can at least be a lookout to make sure nobody's coming."

Stefan knew it was pointless to argue with her. He nodded his head, motioning for Caroline and Bonnie to come closer, and Caroline stood back while he lifted the grate and peered down the well.

"Do you see it?" she asked.

Stefan shook his head. "No, it's too far down, and pitch black." He climbed up onto the ledge, ready to jump when he felt a soft, tentative hand on his arm. Caroline licked her lips nervously, her eyes met his. "Hey," she said. "Be careful."

"I'll only be down there for a minute," he assured her.

In one fell swoop he leaped off the edge of the well and splashed into the icy water; it may as well have been acid. Stefan could do nothing more than scream as the pain hit him instantly; the sprigs of vervain coiling around his arms and legs and searing into his skin.

"Stefan?" Caroline called down to him, suddenly alarmed. "What happened? I'm coming down."

He looked up in time to see her about to climb down the well and shouted back to her in warning. "No!" he cried, still hissing in pain. "Vervain."

"Oh my god," she said, her voice trembling with panic. "Get out of there! NOW!"

If only it were that simple. Stefan could hardly move; the vervain was weakening him by the second. Mason must have anticipated that he or Damon would have tried to get the stone and had set a trap for them. Or he didn't trust Katherine as implicitly as they'd thought.

"Oh god," he cried as the vervain burned through his second layer of skin. If he stayed down here much longer he could wind up with third degree burns, or worse. "Help!"

"Stefan!" Caroline cried again, frantic. "What do I do? How do I get you out?"

She was close to tears now, so scared that he might die down there. Bonnie noticed a chain nearby and called to her. "Here, help me move this."

Caroline rushed over, lifting the rusted chain easily and tossed one end down the well. "Grab it," she called down to him.

Stefan didn't reply. Caroline called down to him again, unable to see. "Stefan? Stefan!" she screamed. "Can you hear me?"

No answer.

Oh god, she bit her lip, trying her best not to lose it right then and there. Stefan needed her to be strong right now; she would not fall apart.

"He's not answering," she cried. "Someone needs to go down there!"

Bonnie bit her lip, glancing toward the well nervously. It was so dark and narrow, and what if Caroline had trouble pulling them both up? But if she didn't go then Stefan would surely die down there, and they needed to get the stone.

Bonnie shook her head. "I can't," she protested. "I'm sorry, Care, but I'm not the best climber, and you know I'm claustrophobic."

"Well I can't do it," Caroline cried. "The well is full of vervain! Please, Bonnie!"

"I'll do it."

Caroline turned to see Elena standing a few feet away.

"Are you sure?" she asked, surprised that she would volunteer at all, considering everything that had happened.

Elena looked at her seriously. "I'm not just going to let him die down there!" She grabbed the chain and secured it around her waist.

Caroline held the other end of the chain as Bonnie helped Elena climb up onto the ledge of the well. "I got you, okay?" she assured her.

"Are you ready?" Bonnie asked.

"Yeah," Elena nodded.

Bonnie helped Elena into the opening of the well as Caroline gripped the chain tight to keep her from falling too fast. She let it slip only once, but luckily with her quick reflexes she was able to grasp it just in time.

"Sorry," she called down to her to let Elena know it wasn't intentional.

"It's okay," Elena called back. "Keep going."

Caroline lowered the chain the rest of the way and soon Elena found herself in pitch blackness. With one hand still gripping the chain to keep herself upright, Elena grasped the flashlight and turned it on. She shone it down like a searchlight, immediately spotting Stefan.

"Oh my god," she gasped in horror. His skin was blistered and red, his eyes closed, and he wasn't moving. It nearly stopped her heart with the shock of seeing him in such a state; she had to get him out now. She hurriedly unwrapped the chain from around her waist, dropped into the icy water with a loud splash, and waded toward Stefan's unconscious body.

"Elena," Caroline's terrified voice echoed down the well. "What's going on down there?"

Elena wrapped the chain around Stefan, securing him as best she could. "He's hurt bad," she replied. "Pull him up!"

Caroline reeled the chain up as quickly as she could, her eyes filling with tears as Stefan's head emerged from the well. She immediately pulled him to her, nearly toppling over backwards as she scrambled to drag his limp body down to the ground.

"Oh god, Stefan," she cried. He was in such bad shape she could barely recognize him. The vervain had eaten away most of the skin on his hands and there were angry red burns all over his face from where he must have fallen unconscious and touched the water. She stroked his hair, calling his name desperately to try to wake him up.

Bonnie unwrapped the chain from around his torso as Caroline continued to call to him.

"We still have to get Elena out of there," she reminded her.

Caroline bit her lip, but nodded. There wasn't much she could do for Stefan right now; he needed blood to heal, and they wouldn't be able to get him the help he needed until they were all safely back at the boarding house.

She stood up and helped Bonnie lower the chain down the well.

"Okay, Elena," she said. "We're ready for you.""

Hold on," Elena shouted back. "I need to find the stone."

She shone her flashlight over the walls of the well, peering into every small crevice she could find. The stone had to be down here, she reasoned with herself. Why else would Mason have gone to so much trouble to fill the well with vervain if it wasn't? She couldn't give up; not when Stefan had almost died in his attempt to get it.

"Hurry," Caroline cried.

Elena felt around in the water, blindly searching for something, anything resembling a stone or a box. She was not disappointed. Her hand came into contact with something hard and box-like, and she gripped hold of it.

"I think I found it!" she cried in triumph.

Unfortunately something else found her at that exact moment. She screamed as something long and wriggling coiled around her wrist, causing her to drop the flashlight she had been holding. She shook her wrist furiously, backing up against the wall of the well and away from the snake. The box was still in the crevice, wedged tightly between the cracks. She pulled at it, managing to dislodge it just as another snake slithered up her arm. She shook it off, grasped the chain and frantically wrapped it around her waist.

"Elena," Caroline called down to her, alerted by the screams. "What's going on?"

"I got it!" She shouted, tugging at the chain. "Come on. Bring me up!"

Another snake attempted to coil around her ankle as she was lifted out of the water, but thankfully it just missed her. Elena breathed a sigh of relief as she rose higher and further away from the snakes and stagnant water. She would probably have nightmares about it for weeks; not to mention she would have to shower about a million times to feel clean again.

Her relief at being out of the well faded instantly when she saw Stefan lying on the ground, still unconscious.

"Oh god, Stefan," she gasped, rushing to him.

It was as if everything that had happened in the last few days no longer mattered; Stefan was hurt, and he needed her help. She didn't have time to think about the implications of what she was doing; she simply grabbed the sharpest rock she could find and sliced into her hand, barely registering the pain as she brought her wrist to Stefan's lips.