Author's Note: Wow! Bet you thought you'd never see another update from me again! :P

I was planning on doing the clean break from TVD altogether. I was going to let this fic go and move on, after I'd posted the chapter notes and excerpts for you guys to let you know what was going to happen next. I never anticipated falling back in love with the story I wanted to write. I mean, when you put that much work into something, it would be a shame to let something as trivial as canon get in the way of your vision, amirite? As I was typing my "endgame" notes up to post, I accidentally started writing this chapter out without realizing it and before too long I just gave up on giving up! It's owed in no small part to you guys, as well. Without your support and encouragement I would have ragequit this fandom a long time ago.

I hope you'll find this chapter interesting. I had a good time writing some of the Stefan scenes… Let's just say that from now on he can probably be categorized as an unreliable narrator.

P.S. Apologies for typos; I'm tired and wanted to post this ASAP. I'll probably fix them tomorrow once I reread everything more thoroughly. I was just so excited to post this new chapter for you guys! Forgive me?

Disclaimer: Don't own anything but my words.


The air tasted of rain and ozone, the truth of a storm yet to come.

Stefan Salvatore eyed the low-hanging glow of the ruddy, ripe moon with an impatience he could not quite quell. The hunger, the thirst—it gnawed at his gut, eroding away until he panted with the ache of it. Disquiet had been his constant companion these past few months, and, he was beginning to notice, it grew ever stronger under the gravitational influence of the moon. It would have been ironic—a vampire displaying lycanthropic tendencies—save for his situation, something he was only just starting to realize was submerging him quite properly out of his depth.

At this hour, he should have been elsewhere, lost in dreams and visions; anywhere away from here.

But Stefan didn't have dreams. How would he? He didn't sleep. He couldn't.

Not anymore.

He was jolted out of his pensive broodings by a weak movement between his fingers. Looking down, Stefan glanced in mild annoyance at the person he currently had by the throat in a choking grip, still desperately clinging to life even as he painstakingly squeezed it out, second by second, through the man's esophagus. This particular prey had a significance about him; of late, the younger Salvatore prided himself in being more discerning in his victims. It was the excuse he gave for the increasingly large trail of bodies he left in his wake. A purveyor of justice, he could have fancied himself; that is, if he hadn't known what the darker, flip side of the coin held in store.

Stefan had followed the man in town earlier that evening. The pale, balding visiting businessman was a predator, a piece of scum in a world where Stefan knew the type; he had caught the man attempting to corner a local Scottish girl on the way back from the pub by the road that led to the highland. That was what fueled his anger now, evidenced by the windpipe-crushing force when Stefan's fingertips sank and pulled into the fleshy, purpling skin of his victim's neck.

Raking his free hand calmly through his sandy mess of hair, Stefan took a beat to stare hatefully down at the vermin in his grip before loosening it slightly. The man slid out of his grasp and fell, coughing and wheezing desperately, to the gravel below. Stefan grimaced out at the abandoned farmhouse behind them, listening once more to assure himself that they were completely alone. The wind whispering through the rushes was the only sound that met his ears, and his shoulders relaxed somewhat. Why he was so tense remained a mystery, even to him. It wasn't like he hadn't done this before, dozens of times. Slowly, deliberately, Stefan began rolling up his sleeves. The man on the ground couldn't speak through his coughing retches, but his eyes watered with fear all the same as he watched the clinical way in which Stefan prepared for what was unmistakably the man's death.

No compulsion on this one, he decided to himself. Stefan didn't use it on those who didn't deserve it. He wanted to see the would-be-rapist's face when he realized that there were monsters worse than he who prowled the night.

Monster. It was a label that he so casually applied to himself these days. Something Bonnie Bennett saw in him the moment she laid eyes upon him.

Turning to face the man full-on, Stefan closed his eyes momentarily, focusing on listening to the hummingbird thrum of the man's heartbeat as he hyperventilated. His fear was almost tangible in the air around him, and Stefan couldn't help the rush of excitement that flowed through the darkest part of him in anticipation of what was to come next.

Opening his mouth wide, Stefan's fangs descended from his gums, veins flowering across his eyelids and cheekbones as his eyes turned crimson. The ripper reveled in the dawning moment of sheer terror that unfurled itself across the man's face, seconds before he rushed him, sinking his canines into the man's neck. His teeth found purchase in the artery there and he guzzled, drinking in long, thirsty, greedy pulls with all the angry hunger of a child.

The man tried to scream, but all that came out was a hoarse gurgle that died off with a choke when Stefan snapped his neck with a quick pinch of his fingers at the top of the man's spine. Then he lowered his mouth again and continued to gorge himself on the man's blood.

She dreamt of a world gone to ash.

It fell in silence, drifting like off-color snow before settling in a fine coating across the forest floor. Her mouth tasted of it. Her skin stank of it. Her lashes grew heavy with it. It muffled her footsteps and all she could hear was her breathing, breathing, breathing, in and out and in and out. Her pants echoed funnily in the distance, fading and amplifying in crests and troughs like a radio being tuned.

She looked up to find the world a darker place. Clouds crackled and split across the sky like peeling paint and then the pieces fell, fell, lightly to the ground as bits of ash and soot. There was no sun, no moon, nor other indication of what the time of day was. It was only ash, and somehow Bonnie knew that this was what had become of the world in her absence. This is what she held in her future.

Ashes. Ashes and silence.

And, seamlessly, the dream shifted through the fog of her mind into the next stage. It was completely different from the first part of her dream, though she felt no disquiet at the change.

Her surroundings were some unknown interior, with artificial light barely illuminating the hands she raised in front of her to prove that she could still see.

She felt a hand around her waist, another threading through her hair and tugging back gently, until her neck was exposed. The hands were warm, strong… and their touch possessive as they ran along the bare strip of skin between her shirt hem and waistband. His touch was electrifying, her body reacting instantly to the draw of his skin against hers. She felt heat surging low in her belly, the first stirrings of anticipation and lust lacing her bloodstream as his breath fanned down the back of her neck, cool as the touch of his lips at her nape. It was enough to make her shiver, shuddering in the man's arms as he held her anchored to him.

As she touched the back of his wrist with her fingers she knew what she wanted. Knew with the fervor of someone who never knew what they wanted until now.

She wanted him.

She finally—finally—felt safe.

And then she looked down at the hand curved around her waist.

On the man's hand was a ring—one that she would recognize anywhere. Lapis lazuli and the silvered chrome of the metal band around the man's finger glittered up at her in the light and she knew. She knew.

"Oh God," she breathed, realization and horror turning her pulse to lead.

"It's you!"

Bonnie awoke, gasping and shuddering.

Her heart drilled into her sternum and for a moment of sheer, blinding fright, she had no idea where she was. Then the events of the past few days washed over her like acid, burning and toxic and making her eyes water as she struggled with the onslaught of memories. Squeezing her eyes shut, she lay there rigidly, in an unfamiliar bed with 1000-thread-count sheets and too-plush pillows. She twisted her fingers into the sheets, twisted them until her fingers were numb, focusing on the tingling pain instead of the frantic way her heart beat in her throat. The dregs of the dream that she had so jarringly woken from slipped through her sieve-like memory as always, maddeningly so even as she tried so desperately to remember the details—a faceless man, whose touch she craved; the world, asleep, quiet as the grave. Or was it burning? She couldn't remember anymore—but with each passing moment she remembered less and less of it. Soon, it was a mere shadow in her mind, interred along with the rest.

Finally, after what seemed like ages, her pulse leveled to a normal tempo. Slowly, one finger at a time, Bonnie let go of the bedsheet tangled in her hands and opened her eyes.

It was a while since Bonnie had had a panic attack. She didn't like them any more than she had before.

The faint moonlight coming in through the windows played shadows across the ceiling, gnarled and shifting into new shapes as she watched unblinking. Still trembling slightly, and feeling as exhausted as if she had never slept at all, Bonnie swung her legs over the side of the bed and hopped down, wincing as her bare feet skimmed the freezing cold wooden paneling of the bedroom floor. Rubbing her hands along her arms and glancing to the east through her window, Bonnie frowned at the dark of the world without, debating.

Finally, her restlessness got the best of her. Rising, she made her way to her bedroom door.

Stefan's hand was halfway to his mouth when suddenly he stopped and blinked. With a frown, he paused—he realized, with a jolt, he didn't remember what he had been thinking, or, for that matter, what he had been doing. Confusion marred the young vampire's features as he looked at the splayed paleness of his fingers—at the dark, tarlike blood covering them like paint. Somehow, he was kneeling instead of standing, as he had been moments before… but then Stefan looked up at the sky, at the lazy grey lines of the rainclouds cocooning a moon that was now a hot, bright circle high in its apex, and he knew that it hadn't been moments, but hours, since he last remembered anything.

He felt something in his mouth, half-chewed and heavy. Gagging, he held out his hand and spat into it. Something warm and clotted fell into it, trailing blood and saliva down his wrist. Stefan stared at it in silence for a moment.

Then, with a swooping shock that paralyzed him, he realized.

A choked "No!" fell from his lips in a hushed whisper, a fervent prayer to whatever foul patron god may have been watching his prodigal son that night.

Not again… Slowly, painfully, his gaze anchored downwards, and he took in all at once the sickening sight before him.

What he saw made a gasp rip its way from his mouth, echoing gratingly against the pounding drumroll of his heartbeat in his ears. Vision swimming, Stefan stumbled backwards across the ground on his haunches, leg flailing out and kicking the dead body at his feet in his efforts to distance himself from it as quickly as possible.

The man he had attacked—and the term "man" was a loose one, for it no longer described the pile of destroyed, jutting limbs and glistening musculature now exposed to the elements—everywhere, the corpse had been torn into, short of turning it inside out. And everywhere, bite marks into the man's flesh, where the body had been eaten, as if savaged by a wild animal.

Stefan wiped his mouth with the back of a shaking hand, managing to smear the blood in a brushstroke-like arc across the contour of his right cheek. For the first time in months, he felt flush with strength, almost sick with how full he was with it. And now, before his eyes, the tremor in his hands steadied. The sallow skin of his hands and arms, tinged with forking blue veins running beneath then, regained some color and vibrancy, some of their old vitality. He felt alive again.

And, for the first time, Stefan felt a very real, very palpable terror rising up inside of him. His hands, gore-covered, balled into fists at his sides and he gritted his teeth, afraid to move, afraid to make a sound for fear of waking up whatever was inside of him again to finish the half-consumed corpse at his feet.

Pressing a hand to his stomach, he felt the hunger, muted somewhat but already gnawing away again at his insides.

Oh, God. What was wrong with him?



The word was a niggling itch in his mind that grew stronger as it echoed, shifting inside his conscious and settling there, purring.

"Hungry," he whimpered to himself, digging his fingertips into the muscles of his abdomen, tearing the fabric of his tee shirt with the strength of his grip. He wanted to tear the hunger out, as if it were a living, beating thing he could strangle in his grip as well.


Stefan's hands started to shake. A huff of air passed his lips and his lips tugged to the side, a leering likeness of a grin.

"How does it feel?" It was his voice, but not his voice. "Monster." The last word came out in a hiss.

It wasn't him.

Not him.


Not him, not him, not—

Monster. Monster. Monster.

And he tilted his head back and laughed, laughed even as the tears sluiced down his cheeks to coat the bloody stretch of his lips. A thunderclap trembled its way into the ground, and he could feel it in his very fingertips even as his stomach quaked with the strength of his mirth and the ache of the cancerous hunger rotting inside of him. A drop of rain hit his cheek, indistinguishable from the wetness already there.

For some time, Stefan Salvatore laughed and laughed, and as the skies opened up, they wept with him.

Earlier that evening, as he was showing her around the surprisingly modest cottage, Klaus had told her that the house was perfectly safe, protected by wards, charms, spells and curses should anyone uninvited decide to come knocking. Bonnie had nodded like she believed him but deep down she kept thinking of Kol, and how he had given her the same exact speech back at the mansion.

Kol was dead now, a victim of his own false advertising.

Grabbing a random jacket hanging from the coatrack by the door, Bonnie carefully undid the latch for the front door. It swung inwards on silent hinges, for which she was grateful. A gust of tart, brisk sea air caught her around the knees and she shivered, shrugging into the jacket and tugging it snugly about her body. She then slipped out of the cottage and shut the door with a soft click.

The moonlight was modest tonight, filtering through a grate of fast-moving grey clouds that seemed to dapple her skin as she walked. The smell of earth and rain was potent in her nose, and she inhaled deeply, enjoying the richness of it, the dewy drops that peppered the bare of her legs as she walked, instinct guiding her.

Finally, she got to where she was headed and stopped suddenly. The view was incredible, even in the scant light of the moon.

The three of them truly had a kind of island unto themselves; the small, otherwise unpopulated inlet upon which they were perched was nothing compared to the wide, gasping sea crashing wave upon wave against the hard, unyielding rock of the cliff that jutted out over it. Foam and spray mingled in the chaotic air and the sound of lapping water and crushing tide was a wild kind of white noise that Bonnie welcomed to blanket the static of her thoughts.

It was in this place that she had hoped to find her calm, her center upon which to focus for the task she had set for herself. Wistfully, she stared at the waves pitching and heaving on the rocks below for a few moments longer before tearing her eyes away.

Now… Time to test if the asphodel was really out of her system.

Shaking her arms out with a flourish and rolling her shoulders, Bonnie turned back towards the cottage, taking a few steps away from the cliff side to plant her feet more firmly on the sandy, grass-covered soil. Her eyes fell closed as she splayed her fingers and raised her hands, concentrating on her senses—the cool of the breeze at her back and the salty scent of sea air in her lungs.

It was with an electrifying jolt that she collided with the warding magic around the house. Gooseflesh covered her arms and she let out a small, relieved breath. The asphodel was gone, and for the first time in a long time, she could touch her magic once more. A pleased smile curved her lips, genuine and so unfamiliar in the past few weeks that she smiled even more widely, just because she could.

Well, then, she thought to herself. Time to dust off the cobwebs.

Concentrating hard, Bonnie ran her mind over the smooth bindings of the spell, searching for cracks in its foundation. Unsurprisingly, she found none; whoever had worked for Klaus in warding the house had done everything they were supposed to do. However, though the protective magic was seamless, it was also a bit weaker than she would have liked. It was perfectly cast, but brute force magic could make short work of the spell if the wrong kind of enemy discovered this flaw.

Bowing her head, Bonnie clutched at the weaves of spellwork wrapped around the house and tugged mentally, tightening and threading over and under again to reinforce the blend. It was a simple enough task that even a garden variety witch could handle it without tiring; however, it still required enough discipline and concentration that Bonnie was sufficiently challenged.

She didn't know how long she worked there in the night, eyes closed and flickering beneath their eyelids as she tugged here, pulled there in her mind. However, when she was finally satisfied with the reinforced magic of the house, the moon was high and small in the sky. Bonnie's eyes opened, two slips of emerald shining in the dark. Her work here was done, and for the first time in a while, she felt in control of her own safekeeping.

Suddenly, something warm and wet dropped down from her nose and trickled over her lips. Brow furrowing, Bonnie brought a hand up to her face. Her fingertips came away red.

"No," Bonnie whispered to herself, shaking her head in disbelief. She hadn't had nosebleeds in… years. This was unbelievable. A spike of fear pushed searing adrenaline through her veins. A simple fortification spell, draining her so much?

The affirmative came in the way her vision began to swim without warning, causing her to mutter a quick, vehement "Shit," before her knees buckled out from under her. The world grew dim around the edges and she found her world upended and the ground fastly approaching.

Suddenly, with a breath of air at her neck to announce his presence, two hands encircled her waist, stopping her fall mere moments before she would have hit the ground. Bonnie found herself staring dazedly up at the ghostly pale visage of one Stefan Salvatore, who, for his part, looked as surprised to find her in his arms as she felt being there.

Her lips parted in surprise and blood dribbled into her mouth, coating her tongue with the bitter tang of iron. Stefan's gaze dropped to her lips and his eyes darkened slightly before flicking back up to hold her stare with his. They looked at each other for a moment, Bonnie struggling and failing to keep her vision from swimming. His fingertips accidentally brushed along the small of her neck and she couldn't help it—she shivered. His hands were like ice, but they left fire where they touched.

The silence stretched, and Bonnie felt herself growing warm under the heat of Stefan's gaze.

"You're wearing my jacket," Stefan voiced finally, lips thinning as if he had realized it for the first time.

Bonnie's brow creased and she swallowed hard, laboring to speak. "Go… fuck yourself… Salvatore," she gasped haltingly. Then her eyes rolled in the back of her head and she promptly passed out in Stefan's arms.

Bonnie woke on the table in the living room, a strange sense of dejà-vu washing over her as she gazed around at the drawing room area where she had awoken the day before, just as dazed and confused.

Immediately, her eyes were drawn to the vampire sitting with one long leg crossed elegantly over the other in the armchair directly in front of the fireplace. Klaus managed to make the careless array of his limbs look like an art form as he lounged in the chair before her. His long-lashed eyes brightened at the sight of Bonnie's return to consciousness and he sat forward somewhat in his chair.

"Welcome back, Bonnie," he stated simply, smile flirting with his lips before finally settling in the dimples of each cheek. For no reason other than his existence, Bonnie wanted to smack the look clean off his face.

Weak as she was, Bonnie managed a (pathetic, by her standards) grimace in the Original's general direction before looking around the room, anticipating correctly the presence of Klaus' insignificant other.

She could practically feel the click of their gazes as they locked together. Stefan's eyes narrowed as he focused on her. He was leaning against the granite mantelpiece of the fireplace with his narrow hips, one hand tucked into the pocket of his pants, the other clutching a glass with what seemed to be more force than necessary. Suddenly, the room was too hot for her. Bonnie gripped the table beneath her legs tightly with her hands and stared determinedly back at him, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of looking away first.

There was a long, pregnant pause in which the two of them glowered at each other. Finally, Stefan broke the silence.

"You passed out," he enunciated, once again treating her as if she were a child incapable of comprehending.

Bonnie scowled further, green eyes blazing while she hopped off the table and began to pace. "Yeah, because for some reason, my powers are completely stunted! I can't even light a candle right now." She flexed her fingers as if to demonstrate.

A stricken expression flickered across her delicate features, which Klaus perceptively caught before she glazed it over with a ripple of righteous anger. Though he knew it wasn't the first time the witch had lost touch with her powers, he was starting to get a sense of how lost she might be feeling without them, if the way her hands wrung as she paced were any indication. The thought was enough for a twinge of pity to rise up in him, unexpected and entirely unannounced. With an annoyed cant of his lips, Klaus quashed the feeling down before it got too ahead of itself. There was no use sympathizing with the girl; she was a tool to be used, no more.

The witch stopped pacing and sent a searing glare Stefan's way. "I wonder who may have drugged me in the past week. Maybe that might have something to do with it!" Bonnie accused hotly.

"Me?" For the first time, Stefan seemed to lose some of his nonchalant coolness, as if the accusation of his neglect whilst drugging her with the asphodel was too much to let slide. "I'm the reason you're an incompetent excuse for a Bennett witch nowadays? Ha!" With errant disdain, he tilted his head back and let out a peal of derisive laughter. He then went over to the window, where a decanter full of bourbon stood on an end table. Knuckles white, the younger Salvatore poured himself a generous drink with steady hands.

Bonnie gestured at her face, her upper lip still caked with dried blood. "I haven't had nose bleeds since high school, Stefan. The only variable that's changed here is you," she stabbed a finger in his direction, then turned to round on Klaus, "and let's not forget you."

Klaus raised a brow, delicately lacing his fingers together and watching the two of them argue. "Please, don't bring me into this."

Bonnie stalked towards his seat on the armchair whilst he watched her carefully. He expected more yelling, but when she spoke, it was with the deadest calm.

"Oh, you are in this," she declared, lips tugging back against her bared teeth with a fierceness that delighted him.

He cut her off before she could elaborate. "Why do you hate me so much, Bonnie?" Klaus' voice was light, as casual as he could manage.

Bonnie's fingers contracted into fists, disgust curling her lip as she spoke.

"You sure you got the time? Where should I begin? Past offences notwithstanding, my sorry, exhausted ass has been dragged—against my will, I might add—halfway across the continent, now around the world, just so I can help you find some stupid rock that's most likely some completely bullshit story in the first place. Demons, wights, God knows what else are now hunting us," Bonnie seethed, "And I've barely escaped with my life in the past few assassination attempts, no thanks to you. Now my magic is on the fritz because of your glorified guard dog—yeah, that's you, asshole," she spat at Stefan, who raised his glass of to her and winked before taking another sip, "And now you want me to help you some more?"

Taking a pause, she shook her head incredulously. She was breathing heavily, and she had no doubt she looked as deranged as she felt right now. "Look, I appreciate you bringing me back from wherever the hell my mind was at before. That was great. Two cookies for Klaus. But fucking really?" She threw her hands up in exasperation. "I'm out! I'm done. I am leaving. Right now." With great effort, she raised a hand and a small flame appeared in her hand, small enough not to be too draining, but bright and hot enough to give both vampires in the room pause.

Klaus clapped his hands together slowly, delighted by her little show. "There. Do you feel better now?" The vampire smiled infuriatingly at her over the tips of his fingers.

Her words came out in a snarl, dropping from her drawn lips like brimstone. "I'd feel better after a little game of 'what hurts the most?' I hope you don't like your balls where they are right now, because when I'm done with you, you will be wishing you were born a girl..."

Stefan let out a cough that sounded suspiciously like a stifled laugh. Two pairs of eyes whipped around to glare at him and he lifted a brow uncaringly, meeting each of their stares with a flat one of his own. Leaning back, he lifted his arms up and stretched, cracking the vertebrae in his back unnervingly loudly one by one as the hem of his shirt lifted, exposing hard planes of stomach and hipbone.

Klaus let out an exasperated sound before waving a dismissive hand. "You're free to leave, Bonnie. But I implore you—for the greater good, please, wait until tomorrow. Give me that much. I know you don't owe me anything," he hastily added, to quell Bonnie's thunderous expression, "But you are a Bennett witch. You owe the world—the innocent—your protection. I know that's unfair, but destiny rarely is."

Bonnie's hateful expression cracked enough for Klaus to see the curiosity that simmered in the jade depths of her gaze.

"Tomorrow morning. I promise. You will know as much as I do. Please, Bonnie," and his voice was plaintive enough to give her pause, "For all our sakes, stay one more night. If by this time tomorrow, you do not wish to stay of your own volition, you may walk out this door and disappear forever, and I will never darken your doorway again."

"Play me one more time, Klaus, and I'll make sure that the only doorway you darken is in hell," Bonnie spat.

She turned on her heel and, sparing a dark, accusing glance at Stefan, left the drawing room to disappear into the depths of the house.

It was only hours later, when the soft, hushed sounds of Bonnie's even breathing indicated that she was finally asleep in her bedroom, that the two vampires sat before the fireplace and broached the topic they had been skirting around since the moment they had arrived in Scotland.

Naturally, it was Klaus who first broke words.

"If what you've told me of the events at the mansion is true," Klaus said thoughtfully, "then we need to talk about Bonnie Bennett."

"No shit," Stefan grunted into his drink, downing the last of it before compulsively reaching to refill the glass. The dark amber liquid sloshed slightly as he brought the decanter down too hard on the rim.

Klaus steepled his fingers under his chin, eyes glittering with alertness. "The asphodel is not the problem," he deduced slowly. "Its effects are completely temporary; it should have passed out of her system days ago." He hmmed pensively. "A mental block, perhaps?"

Stefan's lip curled back into a bitter sneer. "No." He said simply, shaking his head slowly. "I know her. I know what a mental block looks like and this isn't it." He paused, chewing his lip. "She doesn't fear like she used to," he decided at last.

A sudden, sobering thought struck Klaus, and he cursed. Stefan raised his brows in amusement, waiting for the Original to give voice to his thoughts. "The wight. The mansion… Her powers. She must have…" Klaus waved his hand vaguely.

Amused, Stefan's voice echoed in his glass as he took another large swallow of his bourbon. It seared a path down his throat. "Go on," he quipped, words dripping with condescension. "You've almost got it."

Klaus' eyes flicked towards the younger Salvatore and he drew himself up from his armchair in a fluid motion, an unconscious move to put him on equal footing. "Tell me again. You said that when the wight began to feed on her soul, she started… glowing?"

A wry twist of his mouth kept the words from slipping out too emotively. "Like I said," Stefan said carefully, mulling over his words. "It wasn't a glow like a light, per se—it was more like a… feeling I got when I watched her. Like she had some sort of—" he gestured vaguely, scowling as he tried to find the right word, "—aura around her that I couldn't look away from." There was more to it than that, but whatever it was Stefan kept very much to himself. The way he felt when he saw her in that moment—body lifted from the floor, hair fanning about her face like a halo, light bending around her to refract like jewels midair as the wight began to feed upon her soul—it was too complicated to describe with words. It felt like death. It felt like life. It was… everything, and then…

Stefan cleared his throat, savagely chewing the inside of his lip to temper the tone of awe that managed to slip into his voice as he spoke. "And then…" Stefan's brow creased, and his gaze flicked up to Klaus'.

Klaus spread his hands impatiently. "And then?"

"I'm not sure what I saw, exactly. Bonnie sort of convulsed and then the room grew dark. Pitch dark, for a moment. Then there was some sort of shockwave, like a– a pulse of energy," Stefan drew his fingers through his hair, massaging his scalp in an agitated manner. "It was bright, it was… it was so painful I had to cover my eyes. When I looked back up, Bonnie was out cold and the creature, the wight…"

"Its shadow was seared into the floor, as if it had been vaporized on the spot," Klaus finished for him, nodding as if he had made Stefan tell the story a dozen times before.

Stefan grunted his acquiescence. "Not to mention the fact that she completely destroyed the centuries-old warding on the mansion with that one blast of magic. And knocked out the power grid for the entire town surrounding with the accompanying EMP blast." And this happened when she was unconscious, Stefan wanted to emphasize, Imagine what she would be capable of if she were at full power.

Klaus tapped a finger to his pursed lips. "That kind of magic… One wonders how much of it was required for her to perform something like that, albeit in an unconscious state. Enough to fry her circuits for a while, wouldn't you say?"

Stefan swilled his drink, slate eyes catching the light of the flames crackling in the hearth. "All I'm saying is that she has a lot more power than either of us realized. And to be honest I don't think Bonnie's aware of it. That makes her all the more dangerous," he added, as if it needed saying, "and I don't like not knowing why all of a sudden she has so much extra power."

Klaus blinked, frowning. "You are implying," he asked incredulously, "that she has acquired this great power through means other than natural ability?" Stefan remained pointedly silent. "She's a Bennett witch," Klaus argued, confusion lining his features. "Surely that is enough to explain the circumstances? Greatness is in her bloodline."

Stefan ignored him. "I don't think it's black magic," he mused, more to himself than the other vampire. "At least, it doesn't seem like it to me. Dark to dark, light to light—dark magic is incapable of purging a creature created from itself, right? It would go against its very nature. So it has to be something else. Is it a grimoire we don't know about?"

The Original shook his head. He did not know much of Stefan's familiarity with magic, but his own experiences with the dark arts in New Orleans alone had taught him enough to guess what Bonnie's magic was and wasn't. "No. Grimoires do not augment magic, only refine it. Perhaps," he ventured as a thought struck him, "she has bound her magic? Joined a coven? Covens, when bound, can pool their magic together," he reasoned, waving a hand as he spoke. "Perhaps she subconsciously was drawing upon her fellow witches' powers when she was being attacked. That would explain how she was able to channel such a significant amount of magical energy."

Stefan pinched the bridge of his nose, letting out a long stream of air through his gritted teeth. "That's possible, except Bonnie would never bind her magic. She wouldn't let anyone get close to the Bennett legacy; it's too dangerous. She would be the most powerful witch in her coven, hands down. That kind of ancient blood begets even older magic. There would be witches who would attempt to steal that from her—she wouldn't put herself in that position in the first place."

Klaus raised a brow at Stefan's detailed assessment of the Bennett witch, noting the manner with which he spoke. Stefan Salvatore was many things, but it seemed that when it came to Bonnie Bennett he was more observant than he appeared.

"In any case," Klaus amended, "we find ourselves at a distinct advantage. We alone know what Bonnie could be capable of. Her power could be just what we need to find the Stone before it's too late."

Stefan raised a brow wryly but chose to say nothing. They lapsed into a pensive silence, Klaus looking out the window at the faint hues of the sunrise to the east and Stefan gazing intently at the crackling flames in the fireplace, as if they could somehow divulge to him the answers to the many mysteries of the universe and the past few confusing, shocking weeks.

It was with a rueful intake of breath that, minutes later, Stefan broke the silence with his words, smooth as velvet but with an underlying venom.

"Sorry about your brother," Stefan murmured, eyes closed in what could have been a respectfully empathetic expression. He swirled the amber liquid in his glass rhythmically, face tilted slightly upwards as if pensive.

Klaus turned and gave him an appraising look. Finally, with an angry twitch of his lips, he shook his head. "No," he decided bitterly, lip curling, "you're not."

After a beat, Stefan's eyes slid open slowly, like a doll's, to regard the Original out of the corner of his vision. The smile that ghosted his face was not quite as chilling as the deadness, a constant presence in his eyes as he spoke.

"No, I'm not," he lightly agreed, tilting the glass of bourbon to his lips. His Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed in long pulls. Then, standing up and striding towards the fireplace, Stefan tossed the dregs of his drink into the blaze in an explosion of flame that flickered outward to lick the hem of his jeans. Then he turned on his heel and left the room without a backward glance, laughter echoing behind him as the door slammed shut with a dull boom.