Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.
"So all we have to do is find four coffins and voila- no one else on your family's Christmas list has to die."
Caroline is feeling frustrated with a side of helpless.
It's a feeling she doesn't like, and not for the first time she wishes she'd insisted that she get to join in for the road trip. Of course then Jeremy would be left unprotected and Tyler would be under Klaus' 'protection' with no one there to talk some sense into him, and it's this that makes Caroline sigh in defeat, knowing that it's necessary she stay behind.
Her relationship with the hybrid still isn't perfect, but at the very least she understands that he loves her, would do anything for her, and having him in her life is better than the alternative. This way she can make sure that Klaus doesn't force his influence any deeper into Tyler's psyche, and she can still keep him safe.
Her other charge, however, is proving to be more of a challenge.
Jeremy seems to be hell bent on finding a way to kill Klaus, and he isn't exactly being subtle about it. They've discussed the possibilities ad nauseum, and their cause is starting to look just a little more hopeless each time Jeremy brings it up. They've already thrown out the idea of hitting up Duke to talk to Isobel's old research assistant. Possibly getting shot with a crossbow? No thanks. Caroline doesn't want any bloody holes in her clothes, and Jeremy's pretty sure that Alaric's already exhausted everything from that avenue anyway. With Bonnie gone, contacting any witches for help is pretty damned impossible. She knows that the sacrificed witches haven't been very cooperative with Bonnie lately, but she's hoping that Emily might still be hanging around town somewhere. Given that the other alternative is to undagger Rebekah and beg for her forgiveness, Caroline's definitely leaning towards help of the witchy persuasion.
That's how she and Jeremy end up traipsing through the woods just before noon, coming up on the rundown mansion in the middle of nowhere. It's still as creepy and decrepit as always, and Jeremy actually feels a bit nervous about entering. The last time he was here, the witches weren't too happy about their power being used to bring him back to life.
"Are you sure we can't reason with Rebekah?" he asks Caroline in a last-ditch effort to avoid the witch mansion.
She firmly shakes her head, her blonde curls tumbling past her shoulders. "Not gonna happen, sorry. Evil blood sluts are not high on my list of people who might help us take down Klaus. She'll get all pissy that Elena daggered her, and whine about betrayal, and then try and rip my head off or something. And I like having my head on my shoulders, thanks."
Sighing, Jeremy trudges forward, feeling a shiver run up his spine as he crosses the veranda. Caroline senses his hesitation and bravely takes the lead, heading straight into the house. She goes right to the room filled with candles where Bonnie brought Jeremy back to life, and sits directly in the center. Jeremy sits down across from her, still feeling uneasy at being back inside the mansion.
Cracking a small smile at Jeremy, she says, "Thanks for coming with me."
"We're in this together, Caroline. All of us."
She closes her eyes, and begins to plead out loud for Emily's spirit to help them.
Three hours later and they're still trudging through the woods, but in a different direction this time. The witch house was a failure. Caroline had hoped that Emily might knock something over to indicate she was there or find some way to communicate, but neither of them saw or felt anything. Jeremy had suggested the ruins of the old Salvatore mansion, thinking that Emily spent a lot of time there with Katherine and maybe that might tie her ghost to a location. That too had been fruitless, so they were now coming up on their last hope: the tomb.
It's their last hope, but they both feel that the powerful spell to trap the tomb vampires was enough to forge a link with Emily's spirit. At this point it doesn't hurt to try, though as they make their way through the woods Jeremy can't help but think they have a better shot at reasoning with Rebekah than they do getting Emily's ghost to not only appear but offer them helpful advice.
"I'm hoping there's enough residual magic lying around that it'll help us reach Emily," Caroline explains as they reach the stone staircase into the ground. "If you see or feel or hear anything at all, and I don't react to it, it's going to be her."
"This isn't my first time around with ghosts, Caroline," Jeremy reminds her as they reach the bottom of the stairs. It's eerie now, being in the tomb. There's no sign of life and the last time Jeremy was down here, Katherine was trying her damndest to rip his throat out.
Again, they settle onto the ground and concentrate, determined to find a way to make contact.
"Emily Bennett, I call on you," Caroline says into the empty air, concentrating as hard as she can. Her eyes are squeezed shut and her grip on Jeremy's hands is tight.
Doing his best to remain relaxed, Jeremy tries to keep his mind open. His eyes dart around the tomb as Caroline continues to plead for Emily's ghost to help them. For a few moments it seems like they aren't getting anywhere, and then Jeremy's eyes fix on a spot just behind Caroline's shoulder. At first it seems like a speck of dust swirling in the air, but it begins to grow and stretch into a misty figure. Jeremy's eyes widen as the figure solidifies enough for him to recognize the face, and he can't believe his eyes.
Standing behind Caroline is the filmy apparition of Emily Bennett.
About fifteen minutes into their hike, Alaric realizes something important while looking at the map and presses his lips together in irritation. "Uh, guys?" he says to get everyone's attention, halting his movements. "Just a thought, but maybe before we set out next time we might wanna take a look at the scale on the map..."
Damon tilts his head and furrows his brows as he marches straight to Alaric and grabs the map out of his hand. He quickly does the calculations in his head and groans. "Really? Okay. How about the three of you stay here, and I'll be back in a few hours."
"What's the problem?" Elena asks.
"I didn't realize how far this cave actually is... it's about a 6 or 7 hour hike from here." Alaric admits sheepishly.
Bonnie moves to stand next to Damon and analyzes the map for a moment. "Going alone isn't an option, Damon. There's another way." She points out the service road that follows around the edge of the park.
"Or you can all stay back at the car, maybe get something to eat, and I'll go deal with this myself!" Damon insists again.
Elena takes the map away from him, folds it and tucks it into her pocket. "Not happening, Damon. We're doing this together, and there's no way we're letting you go off into an unknown cave by yourself." He opens his mouth to argue and Elena covers it with her hand. "No arguments. It'll take us what, maybe a little more than half an hour to walk back to the parking lot and then drive closer? And then maybe another half hour to get to the actual cave? Do the math, Damon. Even if you speed there and back it'd still probably take more time than it will for us all to go together. And I'm not letting you go alone."
He glares at her for a moment, and then lets his tongue lick a slow line across her palm.
"Oh my god, what are you, three?" she exclaims as she yanks her hand back. Damon smirks at her, and she relaxes her shoulders. "Please?"
He relents, and she sees it in his eyes. They turn and head back to the vehicle, with Bonnie and Alaric trailing behind them.
A little over an hour later (and after much grumbling between Damon and Ric about the history teacher's inability to properly read a map during the drive), the foursome stands at the bottom of a steep hill facing the mouth of the cavern.
"So, who wants to be the first inside the deep, mysterious cavern?" the vampire asks with a waggle of his eyebrows.
Ric crows, "That's what she said!" not missing a beat.
Damon just looks at him, exasperated. "God dammit, Ric!" He lasts for all of three seconds before he grins, and his friend knows he's forgiven for failing to read the map earlier.
Given that he's the strongest fighter of their group, Damon takes up the lead while Ric brings up the rear. Everyone is armed, be it with physical weapons or supernatural abilities, and they cautiously make their way into the cavern. The air is chilly, the stone walls damp, and they are moving slowly to make sure they don't miss anything.
Not a single foot of the cavern walls goes unexplored, with everyone looking for any sign of a disturbance. Elena and Damon are taking one side of the wall while Bonnie and Alaric are focused on the other. After what feels like forever, Elena notices a large slab ahead of them that doesn't quite seem to fit in with the rest of the jagged rock face. She points it out to Damon who investigates further and discovers scratch marks along the stone next to it.
"I think we found something," Elena says to Ric and Bonnie, prompting them to join them.
"It reminds me of the giant stone covering the entrance to the tomb under the church ruins," Bonnie points out.
Taking a moment to focus, the vampire hears nothing but silence surrounding them. Damon nods. "Right, so I'll move it and Ric can handle whatever comes out of it. I don't hear anything behind it, so Stefan must have taken off before we got here."
"You think you can just slide it aside while I stand here, guns blazing?" Ric asks in disbelief. "Are you kidding me? You're the strongest fighter we have and who knows how Stefan might have booby trapped this thing. You go first!"
"There's a few flaws in your plan there, Ric," the vampire says arrogantly. "First, no one else is strong enough to move this rock. Second, if some sort of wood comes hurtling out it could kill me. You, on the other hand, have a magic ring and the option of vampire blood to heal whatever doesn't kill you. Third," he pauses to smirk, "are you really telling me that you're not capable of handling a room full of daggered Originals and whatever lame bunny-trapping snares my baby brother may have left behind?"
Bonnie pushes her way between the men and examines the rock closely, almost as if she's in a trance. Before Ric can make a smartass reply she holds up her hand to silence him.
The witch can sense the magic surrounding them and somehow (she can't even explain it) she can feel the Originals behind the rock. She's not entirely familiar with the traces of power she feels, but knows that it belongs to a spell she's yet to come across.
"There's a spell," she says, "I'm not sure exactly what it does, but what I recognize doesn't feel evil. The coffins are definitely in there, though."
Elena sighs in relief. "Great, we know where they are. Now we can call Klaus, tell him where to find his family, and be done with this. Stefan has to be nearby, I'm sure we can find him before Klaus gets here."
Alaric begins shaking his head. "Absolutely not. We don't tell Klaus anything until we've tracked down Stefan and even then I vote we take the time to come up with a better plan. Do we really want to just hand over more Originals and Stefan?"
Before the argument can continue, Damon grips the sides of the slab and pulls it out of the way. Everyone freezes before breathing a sigh of relief that no wooden projectiles come flying out. Damon cautiously peers into the opening, and sees the gleam of polished wood.
"I told you I felt them in there," Bonnie points out.
"It's just coffins, how do we know there's even anything in them?" Damon argues.
Armed with a flashlight and his crossbow, Ric takes a step inside the doorway as he says "Stay out here, Damon. We can't risk you being trapped by whatever this spell might be."
"It doesn't feel like that," the witch reminds him.
"Still. I'm not taking that chance." Taking great care with his movements, he steps towards the first coffin and cautiously lifts the lid. Inside is Elijah, daggered and gray. The following two coffins also contain daggered Originals, both men and unfamiliar. "These must be the other two brothers. Judging by their clothes they've been gone a long time."
Elena lets out a confused huff. "This doesn't add up." Three pairs of eyes land on her, waiting for further explanation. "When Rebekah was telling me about their family history, she said there was one sibling lost in the old world, one killed in the new world. That left her, Klaus, Elijah and the two she didn't give me names for. Klaus doesn't even know I daggered Rebekah, and she's still back at the boarding house. Stefan wouldn't take an empty coffin, but everyone else is dead. Klaus' werewolf father is dead and he killed their mother."
"What about Papa Original?" Damon asks. "He burned when Klaus staked him, but maybe he's carting the ashes around in a coffin for sentimental reasons."
"Klaus loathed Mikael," Elena replies, "He wouldn't be carting around whatever's left of him."
As they try to figure out who could possibly be in the fourth coffin, Alaric sets his crossbow on the last coffin he checked and moves to the fourth one. He grabs at the edge of the lid to lift it, but it doesn't budge. "Guys, it won't open." He says through clenched teeth, pushing as hard as he can.
"Maybe its spelled shut?" Bonnie offers, coming up beside Alaric. As she holds her hands over the wood and tries to feel for a spell, Damon and Elena watch in trepidation from the outer cavern. "It feels like really strong magic, but I can't tell what it is. I need more time to figure it out."
Ric and Bonnie exit the smaller room and Damon slides the rock slab back into place. "Klaus is not getting that fourth coffin," he states, determined. "I don't know what's in it, but I don't trust him enough to let him have it."
"That's fine," Elena agrees, "We don't have to do that right now, though. Stefan can't be far, why don't we find something to eat and then go looking for him?"
Bonnie's stomach lets out a growl, breaking the tension over the coffins and making Ric laugh.
"Sounds like a plan." Ric could use something to eat as well, and he's sure lunch would be good for Elena.
The foursome heads back to the mouth of the cavern, debating the pros and cons of undaggering Elijah as they go. Elena is the only one who is convinced it's a good idea; Damon is furious she's even considering it, and both Alaric and Bonnie are done putting their trust in the Original. As far as they're concerned, he's proven he doesn't deserve it.
"Don't you get it? Elijah will want revenge on Klaus once he realizes everything that's happened. He doesn't know that Klaus was the one to kill their mother, that Mikael is dead or that we have Rebekah. He'll help us, I know it."
"Not happening, and not up for discussion right now, Elena." Damon retorts as they approach the vehicle. "Can we please focus on finding a place to stay for the night? I highly doubt we're going to find Stefan by nightfall, and I refuse to sleep in the car."
"There's the hotel back by the visitors centre," Bonnie reminds him helpfully.
The vampire rolls his eyes. "Have you met me? We are not staying in a place like that. I have standards." He whips out his phone and his thumbs practically fly across the screen. "Looks like the nearest place with decent sheets is in Bowling Green. We can go get some rooms, get something to eat, and then go looking for my brother. I for one would like a shower; I feel all grimy after being in that cave."
"You seriously want to drive that far?" Bonnie asks.
Damon narrows his eyes at her. "I don't know about you, witch, but I have no intention of sleeping in a half star shitty motel on the side of the highway that rents by the hour. Just because we're on a mission to drag my psychopath brother back to Boarding House Basement Rehab doesn't mean we can't sleep in a comfortable bed. Besides, there's a huge medical centre there and unless you're offering up a vein I'll be needing to replenish my blood supply."
"You don't have to be an ass about it," Bonnie spits.
Ric moves between the two of them, his arms spread to keep them at a distance from one another. "Children, please! Comfy beds and blood for the vampire is a win-win situation, so can we just go? I'm starving."
With a huff Bonnie gets into the back seat and buckles in, slamming the door behind her. Alaric hops in on the other side, leaving Damon and Elena standing on the gravel.
He notes that she looks unhappy with him, and sighs. "Elijah isn't going anywhere; you and I can discuss this later, okay?" She just raises an eyebrow at him. "Judgy back there is getting on my nerves," he admits by way of explanation, "so can we revisit this undaggering the dick who betrayed us idea after I've had something to eat?"
"Fine." Elena says evenly, getting in the SUV.
Goddamn infuriating woman, Damon thinks to himself as he gets behind the wheel and points the SUV in the direction of Bowling Green.
By the time they reach the city, the humans are grumbling for food and Damon drops them off a few blocks from the medical centre where there seems to be a high concentration of restaurants. While he's in the middle of pilfering blood bags he receives a text from Elena telling him they're at a place called Mariah's and would he join them when he's done? He sends her a quick reply indicating he'll be there shortly, and exits the building at vampire speed with his now-full cooler in tow.
In a few short minutes he's parked at the restaurant and heading inside, his blue eyes searching the restaurant for Elena. Once he's zeroed in on the trio he crosses the room in seconds and is pleasantly surprised to see an empty space next to Elena and a glass of bourbon waiting for him.
"Why Ric, are you trying to get me drunk?" he teases as he slides into his seat, assuming the teacher had the foresight to order him a beverage (not to mention he's the only one at the table legally able to do so).
"It was Elena's idea; she thought you could use it." Ric answers, pointing across the table at the brunette.
He catches her eye and she shrugs. "I thought it might help you calm down."
With a smile he lifts the glass in a mock toast and swallows some of the amber liquid. "You thought right."
The tension amongst the group eases as they enjoy their meal and then load back into the SUV, heading for a hotel. In less than ten minutes Damon pulls into the parking lot of the Hilton Garden Inn and puts the vehicle in park.
"I was hoping for a real Hilton, but apparently this is the best this town has to offer," Damon gripes as he gets out of his seat and heads into the lobby. As he approaches the front desk he smiles at the girl behind it, making her blush. "I need two rooms for tonight, and possibly a few nights after as well."
The girl is obviously in awe of his looks, but still asks for photo ID and a credit card. Damon produces both and waits as she tap tap taps away at her keyboard. After a few moments her face registers surprise, and immediately she turns up her smile. "It seems you're in luck, Mr. Salvatore. I'd be happy to upgrade both your rooms to junior suites to acknowledge your Diamond status."
It takes Damon a moment before he remembers the HHonors membership from however many years ago when he was staying at a real Hilton on a drunken bender. "That's fine for one of the rooms, but I'd really prefer two beds in the other." He hears the doors opening behind him and the sounds of luggage rolling across the floor, and hopes that Ric was nice enough to grab his bag from the trunk as well.
The desk clerk acknowledges his request and types a few more things into her computer. "In lieu of the upgrade on the second room I'd like to offer you some complimentary breakfast coupons," she says, pulling out a small pad of paper. "How many are there in your party?"
"Just four," Damon says with another charming smile.
"Excellent. Our availability is wide open for the rest of the week so I'll set your rooms up for one night now and if you need to extend your stay please don't hesitate to let us know." She slides two key packets across the counter to him with the breakfast coupons.
Making a show of leaning a bit closer to lean her name tag, Damon smirks, "Why thank you, Jessica."
As he saunters back to the group, Elena is glaring at him with disapproval in her eyes.
"What?" he asks, unsure what he did wrong this time.
"You compelled her!" Elena hisses at him as she tows her luggage down the hall.
Damon scoffs. "I did not! Did you not see me give her my Visa and driver's license?"
Elena shakes her head. "I didn't even know you had a driver's license. How'd you pull that off?"
"When you've been around as long as I have you learn a thing or two about how to acquire necessary identification. How else am I supposed to manage my finances? I can't compel everybody, and it's not like I keep a vault under the house filled with stacks of cash. And that's beside the point, why do you think I compelled her?"
"She wouldn't stop smiling, and she gave you free upgrades and breakfast." The brunette pouts.
Damon rolls his eyes. "Seriously? Believe it or not, Elena, some women find me attractive without any prompting from me. As for the upgrade and breakfast, I apparently have a rewards membership I forgot about. I let her upgrade the room you are sharing with the witch and kept the regular room for myself and Ric. She gave me breakfast coupons for the regular room."
Elena flushes, embarrassed. "I'm sorry," she says. "I just assumed..."
"Why do you assume I'm doing something bad when you keep telling me I can be good? It's like you want me to fail." He stops outside a room and hands her a key packet while Alaric and Bonnie catch up. "Enjoy your upgraded room. If you and Bonnie decide to have a pillow fight in tiny pjs please let me know."
He leaves the brunette standing there with pink cheeks and her mouth open in shock. The next room over is his, and he motions for Alaric to follow him.
In the room she's sharing with Bonnie, Elena quickly freshens up and offers her friend the shower. She gets comfy on the king sized bed and flips on the TV, browsing channels. Her muscles are crying out for her to give the Jacuzzi tub a try, but she just wants to keep herself entertained while everyone else cleans up. The sooner they find Stefan the sooner all of this will be over, and as far as Elena's concerned that day can't come soon enough.
There's nothing but daytime talk shows on (and Elena doesn't know how many times she can take hearing Maury announce 'you ARE/ARE NOT the father!' before her head will explode), so she elects to visit Damon. At the very least she can make sure he knows she feels bad for assuming the worst, and maybe make some progress on the idea of reviving Elijah.
In the time it takes Elena to clean up and peruse the joys of daytime television, Damon has long since showered, sending Ric into the bathroom for his turn. He's just pulling on his jeans when there's a knock at the door to the room. Without batting an eyelash he crosses to the door, shirtless. It's either Elena, and he's positive the effect his body has on her will result in making her flustered or even more apologetic... or it's Bonnie, and the witch is likely to give him an aneurysm. He hopes for Elena, and opens the door.
Staring back at him is the brunette, her hair straight and shining, and a relaxed smile that reaches her chocolate eyes. For a moment her smile disarms him and he thinks she actually has come to apologize again, and then he realizes that something is missing about her.
A/N: Your reviews last chapter were amazing, thank you everyone! I'm glad that a few spoke out in favour of the non-Delena moments, and while my plot is mainly D/E centric there are a few key things that happen without them around. It won't be quick for them to get together, but also keep in mind that since this story has started it's only been about 24 hours. Klaus appears in the Grill, everyone meets that night, the foursome take off that night with Damon driving all night, and they arrive in Kentucky the next morning. Where we're leaving off it's about mid-afternoon, so for that short a time period they've been doing pretty well.
A question for you guys though; who do you think is in that 4th coffin? Hubby and I have been debating which is more likely, the Original Witch or the Original Petrova, and I'm intrigued to see what you think!
On an unrelated note, I had a plot bunny stuck in my head last week and ended up posting a Delena one-shot that may be turning into a two-shot in the next week or so. It's called 'Something There' and is just a fun little near-future fic involving D/E getting together in a fairytale sort of situation. Feel free to check it out!