A Night On The Town

[Disclaimer: I do not own The Vampire Diaries. No copyright infringement intended. I'm just borrowing brilliance and adding my own.]


15. 162 Candles Pt 1

I sniffed and hastily wiped away a stray tear. My thoughts were on an endless loop. Everything came back to Vicki and Jeremy. And the very worst part was that Jeremy had no clue what I was so sad about.

"So you're…fine?" I asked him, disguising the extent of my worry the best I could. "You're okay?"

Jeremy sighed heavily in impatience. "She's gone, Alex. I get it. She couldn't stay, but…I really think this is for the best."

I almost flinched. My words. Those are my words.

The guilt was eating at me. For the hundredth time, I wondered why I had agreed to it. I wondered why I had caved to Elena's wishes so easily. This was wrong. Jeremy saw Stefan kill her. He saw her die and now he couldn't even remember it. He couldn't remember anything.

Why did I agree to this?

Jeremy stuffed a school textbook into his backpack and zipped it up, slinging it over his shoulder. "Can you give me a ride to the station?"

I bobbed my head. "Yeah, Liz is questioning me, too."

He walked past me out of the kitchen and down the hall to the front door. "Hey," I heard him call up the stairs to Elena, who was just coming down.

"Morning," she greeted on a sigh.

As Jeremy stepped outside, I turned to Elena and leaned against the railing of the stairs. "Why did we do this, Elena?" I asked desperately. "Don't you know how wrong this is?"

She paused for a long moment before shrugging on her jacket and lifting her bag from the floor by the foot of the stairs. "You know why, Alex," was her only reply.

I heaved a tired sigh and followed her out the door.

It was a deceivingly beautiful day. The sun was out and there were a few scattered, very puffy clouds in the brilliantly blue sky. Unfortunately, I would be spending my morning at the police station talking about Vicki. Lying about Vicki.

The thing about lying was I absolutely hated doing it. But Damon actually made a good point last night. He told me, while he, Stefan and I were talking about the 'What now?' question, that I would need to get used to telling lies. He told me I needed to get in the habit of telling stories. All vampires needed that skill.

I hated that he was right. In a few decades, everyone I knew would be gone or dead. At some point, I would need to move on, find a new town to inhabit and a new life to live. That knowledge made me feel sick. The thought of everyone I knew dying while I still lived…

I shuddered and climbed in behind the wheel of my jeep. "Buckle up," I ordered my brother.

He rolled his eyes and complied. "So how long are you staying with Stefan and Damon?" he asked once we were on the road behind Elena.

I shrugged. "Not sure," I answered noncommittally.

He pressed harder. "Why exactly are you staying with them?"

I pursed my lips and thought up a good excuse. "I guess I just needed to take that step, you know? Move away from home without moving away from home."

"Just needed to get out of the house?" He nodded in understanding. "Yeah, I get it. France too far away for you?"

I blew out a breath and nodded. "You have no idea. It was like a whole other world. Too much too soon." I looked around widely as we entered the town square, which wasn't actually square. It was a circle. "Didn't take long to realize just how small Mystic Falls really is. Apparently, I like small."

I drove around the circle and turned down a side street next to the station. I parked in the side lot and killed the engine.

"Ready for this?" I asked him.

He shrugged and reached for the door handle. "Have to be, don't I?"

He slammed the car door behind him and rounded the large building to the front steps. I followed him, but lingered at the bottom of the steps for Elena, who'd parked on the street out front. We exchanged anxious looks before heading inside.

I was the last person to go into Liz's office. Everyone who came out said the same thing. Liz asked if any of us knew where Vicki could have gone, if she'd said where she was going, who else may know where she went. She wanted to know what Vicki's behavior had been like before her disappearance. Was she frightened, was she anxious, was she violent or paranoid?

All the answers were the same because this discussion was rehearsed. As for Matt and Jeremy, those answers were all they knew. Matt rarely saw her those last couple of days and Jeremy didn't remember.

My interrogation was a bit different. I took my seat in front of her desk, fully prepared to answer the same questions, but I never got them.

"I'm going to cut right to the chase, Alex," Liz said tiredly. Her professional demeanor was slipping. "Do you think it was a vampire?"

I blinked in surprise. "What?"

"Do you think a vampire killed or kidnapped Vicki Donovan?"

I straightened in my chair before forcing myself to relax again. I frowned and pressed my hands together, willing myself not to fidget. "What makes you think that's a possibility?"

"She was attacked several weeks ago. Maybe the vampire that attacked her wanted to finish what he started."

I furrowed my brows in thought and shook my head. "It's plausible, but I…I don't think so." Before she could speak, I continued, "Vicki has a drug problem. And she has a tendency to take off when she pleases."

I'm so going to hell for this.

Liz huffed and leaned back in her chair. "Just like her mother," she muttered, lifting a hand to pinch the bridge of her nose. "Why can't they just leave word with someone before taking off. It's irresponsible and chaotic for all of us."

It surprised me that she spoke this way to me. She was relaxed with me, treating me more like a confidant. She trusted me.

I truly despised myself.

I hesitated before asking, "Are you okay, Liz?"

She stared off into space for a while before answering, "I'm worried about Matt. Vicki was all he had left."

I thought about this for a moment before saying, "Matt has a tough life. His mother abandoned him and his sister has a drug problem. Constant worry. But he's not alone. He has some good friends and we take care of our friends. Elena and I...we're his family, too."

This seemed to be the right thing to say. I could feel her relief radiating off her. "Thank you, Alex."

I didn't linger any longer than I had to. I met Jeremy and Elena in the entrance hall of the building and we headed for the doors without a word. Stefan and Jenna were waiting on the steps for us. When we exited the building, they both straightened.

"Jeremy, you need a ride to school?" Jenna asked carefully, unsure of his mood.

He looked at me and asked, "You don't have classes today, do you?"

I shook my head.

"Thanks, Jenna. Don't want to waste her gas."

Our aunt snorted. "But my gas is expendable?"

"Hey, you offered," he pointed out with a smirk.

He was happy. He was sad, but happy too. This surprised me. I stared after them as they climbed into Jenna's Mini Cooper and pulled out onto the street.

That's why I agreed.

Jeremy was happy.

It's still wrong.

Stefan glanced between Elena and I. "You two okay?"

Elena stepped closer and spoke carefully. "I don't think the sheriff suspected anything. Jeremy had no memory at all. All he knew was what Damon made him know."

I knew from her tone that she agreed with me about it being wrong, but I also knew she didn't regret it. Seeing Jeremy happy was making it easier for me to accept.

Stefan dipped his head and said sincerely, "Thank you."

I wasn't entirely sure what he was thanking her for. For being cooperative? Maybe for taking it all in stride.

Or at least appearing to.

Elena shook her head slowly and glanced quickly at me before muttering, "I can't do this, Stefan. Every time I look at Matt or Jeremy, all I think is that Vicki is never gonna come back. And they'll never know why. Around you, people get hurt and people die and I just…I can't. It's just too much."

I turned away from them and descended the steps so they could have some privacy.

"Why don't we go somewhere and talk about it?" Stefan suggested, forcing himself to remain calm, but I felt his inner pain. Despair.

He was in love with my sister. And she was breaking up with him.

"No." Her tone was firm and final. "Stefan, you have to stay away from me."

Without another word, she walked away.

"Does the sheriff think it was a vampire?" Stefan asked as I parked my jeep in front of the boarding house.

I shrugged. "I told her I doubted it. She doesn't want to believe it was a vampire, but she knows it's likely."

He breathed heavily through his nose and opened his door to step out. I pulled my key from the ignition and pocketed it before following him to the house.

"We have to be extra careful from now on," he told me when he reached the porch. He climbed the steps and sat down on the stone railing. "If this…council thinks there are vampires in town, they'll be on the lookout. Make sure you make plenty of appearances around town during the day."

I nodded. "I will. Now that I'm on the council and Liz has personally seen me in the sunlight, she's ruled me out. She trusts me."

"Still, be careful." At these words, guilt washed over him. A lot of guilt. Enough to make me take a step back from the sheer force of it. "Oh, Alex…I'm so sorry. I was supposed to be helping you."

I shook my head and held up a hand. "No, Stefan. Don't feel guilty about that. Vicki needed help more than I did. I'm okay."

He didn't believe me. Not entirely, at least. "How are you doing? How is school? The Halloween party…that must've been too much for you. Are you okay?"

I shrugged. "It was shocking, but I'm over it. I was quite hungry afterwards." I smirked. "Two blood bags took care of it."

His eyes narrowed slightly. "And school?"

"School is fine. It's a lot of people, but being around them is making me stronger. I'm getting used to it."

His eyebrows rose and shook his head. "I envy you. Your self control is…admirable."

I grinned. "I'm awesome, I know."

He chuckled. "And how are your other…special abilities?"

I snorted. "Driving me a bit crazy, to be honest." I turned and sat next to him. "Sometimes I think those are more frustrating than the constant thirst for blood." I shook my head and elaborated, "I'm picking up on people's emotions so easily now. They sometimes affect me as if they are my own. And do you have any idea how many times a day a normal person lies? Every day? I'm losing my faith in humanity!"

He gave me a sympathetic smile. "But you're handling it?"

I started to nod, but stopped. "There's something else, but it's…I really don't know what it is. The night Vicki was turned I discovered something. Something about Elena that I never noticed before, but I have a feeling it's always been there. I've always been able to tell if she was afraid or in trouble. I chalked it up as a sisterly bond, but now…" I glanced sideways at him. "First it was when Damon came to the house and threatened her for his ring. I was across town looking for Vicki when I sensed that she was frightened. And then the next day when Vicki had Elena by the throat and at the Halloween party when she attacked her, I actually felt her pain. I felt the wood cut her side open and Vicki's teeth sink into her neck."

"As if it were happening to you?" He sounded surprised, but not overly shocked. I guessed he was used to hearing about such things. He was used to witches.

I nodded. "Like I was the one being thrown and bitten. I feel her pain, Stefan. I don't know why. I don't think it's a sister thing because I never feel Jeremy's pain. Only Elena's."

He took a moment to ponder it before suggesting, "Well, you're close. You've always been close, right? You've had your differences, but there's a bond there that you don't share with Jeremy. Maybe your strengthened magic has in turn strengthened that bond."

I hummed and shrugged. "That seems to be the only explanation. It's strange, though. Sometimes overwhelming. The need to protect her is indescribable." I breathed in deeply and placed my hands on my knees. "No more dreary talk, it's depressing…" I trailed off and inhaled again, sniffing the air. "Hey, is someone here? I smell perfume."

Stefan stood suddenly, a wide smile taking over his face. "There's someone I want you to meet."

He grabbed my hand and hauled me to my feet. I followed willingly, curious. It had been quite a while since I'd seen him this excited about anything. He dragged me into the parlor and called out, "Lexi!"

I turned when I heard footsteps on the stairs. My eyebrows rose when a tall, leggy blonde came waltzing down the hallway with a smile that matched Stefan's; wide and happy. She was a vampire. I knew it from her eyes. They were large and innocent, but there was age there, experience and memories. She had surprisingly soft features and a sense of trust that I immediately liked.

Her smiled faltered the briefest bit as she gave me a thorough once-over. Her head cocked to one side and she pointed one finger at me. "You look familiar."

A beat of awkward silence passed before Stefan spoke up. "Lexi, this is Alex. Alex, Lexi."

Lexi's smile returned and she came forward to shake my hand. "Sorry about that. I have a knack for stating the obvious."

I laughed softly and shrugged, reaching out to grasp her hand. "It's fine, but I don't think we've met before."

My hand tingled strangely from her touch. I felt trust, but I'd expected that. What I hadn't expected was a slew of images ranging from now to hundreds of years in the past. They flashed through my head so rapidly I couldn't really focus. I jerked backwards sharply, wrenching my hand from hers to clutch at my suddenly throbbing head.

I groaned in pain and stumbled backwards until I hit the couch. I lowered myself onto it and leaned forward to cradle my head.

"Alex, are you alright?" Stefan crouched down in front of me and reached for my wrists, pulling my hands from my face.

I grimaced, but nodded. "Fine. Too much." I groaned and shook my head slowly from side to side in an attempt to clear my head. The images were still coming, but slower.

"What's going on?" Lexi asked, bewildered.

I glanced at her apologetically. "You didn't do anything," I assured. "It's me. Sorry."

"She's a witch," Stefan explained.

I felt Lexi's shock. "A witch? That's not possible."

"No, not a witch. Just a little...psychic. Or whatever. It goes beyond the whole vampire mind-invasion, compelling thing." I pulled my wrists from Stefan's grasp and pressed my fingers against my temples. "You are a very old vampire, Lexi," I observed. "And you're a good one. That's refreshing."

Lexi took a seat in the chair adjacent to the couch and leaned forward, her bright brown eyes curious. "How are you still a witch? Your powers should have died with your human self."

I shrugged, ignoring the word witch, and lowered my hands to my lap. "Don't know. I'm an anomaly."

"No kidding." And then she smiled. "What did you see when you touched me?"

I huffed. "A lot. A lot of a lot." I took a deep breath and focused on the more organized images in my head. "I only saw what's recently been at the forefront of your mind. I saw a man…a human man. There were a lot of images of him. You spend a lot of your time with him…" I trailed off when a much more recent event became clearer.

"Teach me to be good," Damon said with a smirk aimed at Lexi. He started to lean in closer to her, but Lexi moved.

She shot up off the bed where they'd both been lying and in a blur of movement, she was leaning over him and had him by the throat.

"I'm older and that means stronger," she growled dangerously.

"Sorry," Damon wheezed as she squeezed tighter.

"Don't ruin my time with Stefan, because I'll hurt you. And you know I can do it!"

"Yeah," Damon choked with an attempt at a nod.

Lexi released him…

The vision faded.

I grinned at Lexi. "Oh, I really like you." At her questioning look, I explained, "I saw your conversation with Damon."

Her eyebrows rose in surprise, but her smile widened. "Yeah? Well, he deserved it."

"What happened with Damon?" Stefan asked warily.

"Don't worry, Stefan. It was nothing too bad," I assured him. "She put him in his place. 'Bout time someone did," I grumbled the last part, glowering at the floor.

I shook my head and pushed myself to my feet. "So, Lexi, what brings you to Mystic Falls? Besides Stefan?"

She clasped her hands together and shook her head once. "Just Stefan." She looked at the vampire who'd taken my vacated seat. "Let me guess, you didn't tell anyone what today is?" Before he could respond, she informed me, "It's Stefan one hundred and sixty-second birthday."

My eyes widened in shock and I whipped around to face him. "What? Why didn't you tell me?" I demanded.

He just shook his head and rolled his eyes.

"Well, we have to do something!" I exclaimed. "We have to celebrate!"

Lexi leapt up and nodded. "I second that."

"Come on, guys," Stefan protested. "I'm not really in the mood to celebrate."

"Why not?" Lexi asked incredulously.

I tilted my head at him and frowned as sadness passed over his face. "Ah." I nodded. "Uhm, if you'd rather have some time alone…"

"It's fine, Alex," he began as Lexi shot us both inquiring looks. "Just don't feel like celebrating."

"You're celebrating?" came Damon's voice. He stepped into the parlor and walked right up to me. "Celebrate with Lexi. I need to borrow Alex."

His hand curled around my upper arm and he tugged me toward the hallway without waiting for a reply.

"Damon," Stefan growled at him, but I waved him off. "I'll be right back, Stefan."

"No, you won't," Damon said. "I need your help with something."

I scoffed. "You need my help? Ha!"

He steered me toward the basement and I grew nervous. "Oh, sweet Jesus, are you going to kill me?"

He smirked at me but didn't reply. He pulled me down the stairs and into the room of vervain. He released my arm and walked over to a small box on the floor. "I've filled this with some vervain. I plan on giving it to the council."

My mind went blank for a stunned moment. When the blanket of shock lifted enough for me to speak, I exclaimed, "Are you insane?"

He smirked. "That's besides the point right now, Alex." He paused a beat before continuing, "I need you to get me in to see Liz Forbes. I need to be on the council."

I stared at him as if he'd sprouted another head. "Why would you want in on the council? I'm on it. I'll keep you informed if that's what you're worried about."

He shook his head. "I've been around a lot longer than you, Alex. I know how to stay hidden." He lifted the box. "This can only come from a Salvatore. The council will be suspicious if Zach gave it to you to give to them. They'd start searching for him and we can't have anyone searching for Zach, he being dead and all."

I frowned, my eyebrows pulling together in confusion. "I still don't get it. Why supply them with vervain in the first place?"

His smirk grew smug. "Yes, why would a vampire supply a secret vampire-slaying council with the most powerful vampire toxin?"

It clicked. "It would rule us out as vampires."

"That and the fact that they are still blissfully unaware of our daylight rings ensure our safety."

But my frown didn't lift. "How do you know they need vervain in the first place, Damon? They may have their own."

He clicked his tongue and shook his head once. "The night of the Halloween party, I spent most of my time at the Grill chatting up Carol Lockwood." He wiggled his eyebrows mischievously. "Turns out she's a bit of a lush with a particular weakness for dry martinis."

I arched a judgmental brow at him. "You got her drunk?"

"Hey, she was drunk long before I arrived," he defended before leaning toward me conspiratorially. "I don't think the mayor satisfies her at home."

I rolled my eyes. "Old news, Damon. He never has."

"Anyway," Damon said, wiggling the box. "I need you to get me in to see the Sheriff."

Even as half my brain was already spinning a believable story, I shook my head. "Damon, I really don't think anything I say or do—"

"Alex," he interrupted firmly. "Do you want to stay in Mystic Falls? Do you want to live here with your family without worrying about stakes and wooden bullets coming at you at every turn?"

I sighed and didn't reply.

"Exactly," he stated triumphantly. "Get me in to see her and I'll take over from there."

I took a deep, calming breath as one of Liz's deputies ushered me into her office for the second time today. I plastered a smile on my face when Liz looked up at me from her pile of paperwork. She looked confused, but she was smiling.

"Did you have something to add to your statement?" she asked curiously as she shuffled around some papers.

I shook my head. "No, actually. This is a different matter altogether." I glanced back through the doorway and held up a finger to Damon, who was sitting on a wooden bench in the outer room with his arms crossed impatiently. I closed the door and turned back to Liz. "This is about the council."

Surprise flitted across her face, which quickly turned serious. She straightened in her chair and gestured for me to sit opposite her. I took the seat while she asked, "Do you have questions? I know it's a lot to take in…"

I shook my head again. "No, no. This…well, actually, Liz…I know about vampires. I've known about them for awhile." I took another breath and said carefully, "And I know someone who knows even more about them than probably all of you."

Liz's eyes widened in surprise. She stared at me for a moment before nodding for me to continue.

"Zach taught Damon Salvatore everything he knew about the council," I lied easily. "He wanted Damon to take over when he eventually died. Zach didn't have any of his own children and Damon was kind of the closest thing." Shame stabbed at my insides at the twisted lie, but I swallowed it and pushed onward. "Damon actually has experience with vampires. He's had rather nasty dealings with them. And he would really like to help in any way that he can."

Liz thought over my words with a hesitant frown. "I'd have to meet him, Alex. The council is kept small for a reason. If too many people know about the existence of vampires…"

I held up my hands. "I know. I understand completely. But I think it would benefit all of us to have Damon on our side. All I ask is that you talk to him."

She pursed her lips and nodded a bit reluctantly. "Is he here?"

I nodded and stood up. I walked to the door and poked my head and hand through, gesturing to Damon with a crook of my finger.

I stepped aside as he crossed the threshold carrying the box of vervain. I closed the door behind him as Liz spoke.

"Mr. Salvatore, come on in. Alex tells me your uncle is out of town?"

Damon nodded and shifted from foot to foot. "Yes, he is. But I spoke with Zach just yesterday. He filled me in and asked if I could bring this to you."

He placed the box on top of Liz's papers and stepped back. Liz stared at the box with another frown before gesturing for us to sit. "Have a seat, both of you."

She pulled the box toward her as Damon pulled up a chair next to mine. She flipped open the box and peered inside, her eyes widening in surprise once more when she saw what lay within.

"Vervain." Her tone was weary.

"That's all we have at the moment," Damon explained. "I hope it's enough. And please forgive Alex for not mentioning it sooner. She was a little stunned to discover the existence of vampires in her own hometown."

I nodded along and let out a breath. "It was definitely a shock. I didn't really know what to think."

Liz closed the box and set it aside. She leaned back in her chair and studied us both. "It's a small circle. Founding families, a few city officials…"

Damon nodded and added for her, "And your deputies, of course, right?" When her frown only deepened, he moved on. "Are we any closer?"

Liz sighed, this time in distress. "I think our facts are wrong. We've always believed that vampires can only come out in the dark. What if that's changed?"

My sixth sense picked up on Damon's flash of anxiety, but I kept my eyes on Liz, widening my eyes in horror at what she was implying.

"Is that even possible?" I asked in disbelief.

Liz shrugged helplessly. "We've exhausted every other option. We have to consider the vampire may be walking around during the day. Right in front of us."

Damon hummed and nodded. "So what's the next step?"

"We're now looking at anyone new to town, since the deaths began. Should turn up a suspect or two."

Damon inclined his head again. "And I, of course, will do anything I can to help. I've been teaching Alex all that I know, passing on the wisdom."

"He's a very good teacher," I assured the sheriff. "He knows a lot about vampires."

"How much is that exactly?" she asked Damon, who leaned back in his chair.

"I've had a few run-ins with them, had instances where I thought I would never get out alive. I've learned their patterns and habits." He shook his head, his lips turning downward. "If they've discovered a way to walk in the sunlight, it's news to me. I've always known that to be impossible."

The phone on the desk started to ring and Liz straightened, reaching for it. With her hand resting on the phone, she looked at Damon. "Well, we can use all the help we can get. Thank you, Mr. Salvatore. And you, Alex. Thank you."

I gave her a smile and stood up.

When we exited the building, I let out a long breath and grumbled, "Congratulations, Damon. You've turned me into a liar."

He wrapped an arm around my shoulders and chuckled. "Had to happen eventually, sweetie."

I shot him a glare and reached into my pocket to pull out the phone that wasn't even vibrating yet. Damon looked down at it just us it lit up with a new message.

"Do you predict that thing going off every time?" he asked curiously.

I shrugged. "I'm not entirely sure. I hardly notice it anymore."

He snorted and snatched the phone from my hand, clicking on the blinking message.

"Damon!" I reached for the phone, but he held it up above his head.

"Oh, it's your sister. 'Need to talk. Very important.' Hm, is she always so demanding?" He smirked at me and tossed me my phone.

I shot him a dirty look before looking down at the message. I turned the phone off and pocketed it again. "Bye, Damon," I growled at him and set off toward my jeep.

It took me less than five minutes to reach my destination. Bonnie's car was sitting in the driveway when I pulled up to the house. I was feeling nervous, for several reasons. I was worried about what Elena had to say to me. I was terrified that she was going to say much the same thing she'd said to Stefan; she couldn't handle vampires. But knowing Bonnie was here made me feel a little better.

I walked into the house and called out my sisters' name.

"Up here!" Elena called out from I guessed to be her bedroom.

I took the stairs at a leisurely pace, which was the equivalent to a human pace, and made my way down the hall to her bedroom. I stepped through her slightly ajar door with a small smile on my face, then froze when I saw her and Bonnie sitting on the bed, which was covered with feathers.

I raised a quizzical eyebrow and asked, "Pillow fight?"

Elena had a stunned look about her. Her eyes were wide and curious and shocked. Bonnie was grinning widely, almost smugly. She looked satisfied, though there was a spark of apprehension in her eyes.

"Sorry, Alex," Bonnie said with an apologetic smile. "I had to tell her and then one thing led to another and you came up."

"What came up?" I asked, stepping further into the room.

"Do it again," Elena urged her excitedly.

Bonnie nodded and took a deep breath before focusing on the feathers resting on Elena's blankets. A few seconds of silence passed in which nothing happened…and then a dozen of the feathers floated up into the air. As if by magic.

I gaped in shock and plopped down on the bed next to Bonnie. I watched in amazement as the feathers swirled around us, several more rising off the bed to join the others. After another moment, they all drifted back down onto the bedspread.

"Grams was right all along, Alex," Bonnie told me with a grin.

I blew out a breath and nodded. "I can see that."

Elena shifted closer. "Bonnie told me about your abilities, Alex," she began hesitantly, but she couldn't mask her excitement. "I remember when we were younger, you made things happen. You brought dead flowers back to life and made lamps explode when you were angry. Do you…does that mean you're a witch, too?"

I automatically shook my head. "No."

Bonnie whacked my arm. "Alex, don't be stupid."

I rolled my eyes. "Hey, you don't see me making feathers float."

"Alex, I talked to Grams about this. She says that witches are servants of nature. It's our duty to protect the balance of nature, to do good with the magic we are given." She gave me a pointed look and added, "She says we're linked to nature, meaning we can commune with it and even manipulate it."

"As in bringing dead flowers back to life," Elena exclaimed with a knowing smile. "I really can't believe this. I can, but I can't."

My chest was tightening and making me uncomfortable. I'm not a witch. I can't be a witch. I can't handle another supernatural title.

"It's amazing," Bonnie said to Elena. "I've always been able to do these things and now I know why. I really thought Grams was out of it, you know. With the drinking and the Occult classes she teaches. I thought this was all make believe, but it's real."

Real… I shook my head and stared down at my hands. I recalled the day I made the flower come back to life quite clearly. Mom had been so sad to see it go and had thrown it out. I'd reached into the trashcan and held the wrinkled brown rose in my hands gently and prayed that the pretty red color would return to its petals. I'd felt a strange and exhilarating warmth spread from someplace deep inside of me toward my finger tips and watched in absolute joy and amazement as the brown wrinkles faded into smooth red.

When I had presented the flower to Mom a minute later, she'd recognized it by the pretty white ribbon Dad had tied around it for her. She had stared at the renewed petals for several long minutes, twisting it and turning it. I remember the awe in her eyes, the way her lips had parted to inhale deeply as she realized… And then she had pulled me onto her lap on the kitchen floor and held me tightly.

"You are so special, Alexandria. So very special."

Her words had filled me with even more joy.

"Witch…" I murmured to myself, stopping the conversation that had continued between Bonnie and Elena.

Their elated expressions faltered and Bonnie shifted closer to me, grasping my hand tightly. "Alex, you're still you," she assured me gently.

I nodded absently, my mind still whirring with this new very likely possibility. It wasn't like I hadn't known all along. I just had never wanted to accept it. I'd seen how people treated Bonnie's grandmother for teaching her Occult classes. I'd heard how they had talked. It all sounded so crazy and people treated it as if it was.

And I was a vampire. There was very little about myself that I didn't have to hide these days.

"This is a good thing," Bonnie told me. She gave my hand a squeeze and shifted even closer. "We're like protectors. Imagine all the good things we can do, Alex."

A part of me wanted to believe it, but how was it possible for me to be something so good and pure while also being a vampire? Bonnie had said when she first touched me after I'd been turned that I felt like death. How could I be two such conflicting things?