"I shot a hybrid in the back and chopped his head off with a meat cleaver. Typical Sunday, huh?"

Jeremy turned down the sympathy and advice from his guardian and walked past Alaric resigned to his new life. The man let him go for a moment until something he'd said caught his attention.

"Wait, Jer. You said you shot him in the back, right? How did you shoot him in the back? My weapons were inside on the table."

"I, uh.. I already had a crossbow with me. I came up when he was facing Elena in the doorway"

"You already had a crossbow? One of mine?"

"Uh, yes sir", Alaric narrowed his eyes. He only heard a 'yes sir' from the kid when he knew he was in trouble.

"What exactly were you doing with one of my weapons, Jeremy?"

"Alaric, come on, it's been a long day..."

"You're not making it any shorter avoiding my question. Now tell me, what were you doing with a dangerous weapon? A dangerous weapon that does not belong to you and you had no permission to use" Jeremy sighed and crossed his arms. Alaric was used to the boy's stubbornness and took a step closer as a warning.

"Ric, okay! Me and Tyler were shooting it in the woods earlier. Just cans and stuff. And then when everything happened, I just kind of got mad. I went out into the woods to look for him. Look, I'm sorry I took your bow, but maybe you shouldn't just leave them out everywh-", Jeremy winced as he was grabbed by the collar and shoved into the passenger seat of his own truck.

"Keys.", Alaric growled, snatching them out of the teenager's hand and climbing into the driver's seat.

"Glad you're feeling better", Jeremy mumbled under his breath, not missing the glare he got from his guardian for the comment.

The ride to the apartment took eleven minutes, but it seemed much shorter to the teenager. He had been hoping it would last long enough for him to think of a valid excuse. When they pulled up at Alaric's apartment, Jeremy gave up hope for a lecture or a few days grounding. Alaric brought him to the apartment sometimes when he didn't want to upset Elena. He climbed out of the truck slowly, knowing what waited inside. Alaric was definitely a hands-off guardian, usually more like a roommate, but when he got angry... well, Jeremy had had enough nights sleeping on his stomach after a rough argument with Ric. He was not looking forward to another.

"Dammit", he mumbled again.

Alaric flicked on the lights in the apartment and went into the bedroom. Jeremy reluctantly made his way over to the couch and sat down. Biting his nails, he listened to Ric rummaging through drawers, probably searching for a belt.

"Come on Ric", he called to him when he heard another drawer shut, "I've been through a lot today. Do we really have to top it off with you beating my ass? I'm sorry. I won't touch your stuff"

Alaric appeared with a worn down ping pong paddle in his hand. He laid it on the table in front of Jeremy and sat on the seat across from him.

"This isn't about you touching my stuff and you know it. This is about you putting your life in danger. Playing with weapons. Flunking your classes. You're on a downward spiral, Jeremy"

"You sound just like Elana"

"Well, maybe Elana's right"

"Maybe it's none of your business"

"Maybe you need to tone down your attitude considering I'm already about to paddle your ass", Jeremy rolled his eyes and huffed, sitting back. Gritting his teeth, Alaric decided to try a different approach.

"Look, Jeremy. None of us want this for you. No one wants you to have to cut off heads and see ghosts, but you said it yourself. That's how things are now. But if you want to keep yourself sane, you've got to be rooted in some sort of normality. That's why I'm still teaching, why Elana and Bonnie and hell, even Caroline haven't let their grades slip", Jeremy looked at the ground. He understood what Alaric was saying and knew it was true. He cringed at the next words from his teacher's mouth.

"Now, if you can honestly tell me that you don't think you deserve this, I'll drive us home and leave it at that", the boy stayed silent.

"Yeah, that's what I thought. Take off the jeans and bend over the back of the sofa"

Jeremy obeyed, managing not to let his eyes water too much. He stared down vampires and killed hybrids, but the thought of one of Alaric's spankings made him want to crawl under the sofa and hide. Alaric tapped the paddle to his bottom for a moment before bringing it back down with a loud smack. Jeremy bit his lip and let out a groan as the paddle came down again. Alaric kept up the fast, steady rhythm of spanks. After a few minutes he started to get concerned. Usually Jeremy would have been sobbing by this point in the spanking, but the boy seemed to be using every bit of control he had not to cry. Ric had seen for weeks that Jeremy needed curbing and he'd been planning to give him a light spanking when he learned that he'd lost his job. But it wasn't just an attitude adjustment that he needed. He needed an outlet, a chance to let out all his emotions and a clean slate. But Alaric could see him fighting it with everything he had. He put down the paddle for a moment and Jeremy tried to raise himself off of the couch, only to be stopped by his guardian. He looked back to see Ric take off his belt.

"Wait, Ric. What are you doing"

"Spanking you", Alaric brought the belt down hard.

"Oww. Wait, no. Why am I getting... Ow. Wait, Ric, it hurts"

"It's supposed to hurt, Jeremy", he put more strength behind his swats as he heard Jeremy's voice start to break a little. He wanted this to be over as much as the kid.

"Alaric. It's, agh, it's owwwwwww. It's not fair"

"What's not fair, Jeremy?"

"It's owww... Pleease"

"What's not fair, Jeremy?"

"None of it, okay. Owwwww. Nothing is fair anymore", the boy finally broke down, sobbing over the back of the couch. Alaric put the belt aside and pulled Jeremy into a hug. He let him cry until he heard the sobs turn to sniffles. After a moment, Ric heard a mumble in his shirt. He pulled away from the teenager gently.

"What?"

"I said sorry"

"No need. You feel better?"

"My ass excepted?", Jeremy snorted

"Huh. I guess you do feel better. The attitude's back.", he pushed the boy's head, ruffling his hair a bit. Jeremy shifted away and let out a hiss at the motion, making Alaric chuckle. Jeremy smiled a bit in spite of himself.

"So, things are never going to be normal again, are they?", he asked, growing somber.

"Yeah, probably not. Look, Jeremy..."

"No. I think it's okay. I think I'm okay with it.", Alaric could see that he meant it, "I'm gonna go wash up a little. Can I use your shower?"

"Yeah, go ahead", Ric looked as he disappeared around the corner and wished for just one second that he didn't have to be okay with it. He wished he could have a chance to be a teenager, but this was life. And as Jeremy had put it earlier, it sucked. Alaric pulled out a bottle of bourbon and poured himself a drink.

Easier not to think about it.