A/N: Hello all. A big thanks to those of you who reviewed. It was nice to hear from you all again. Also a big welcome to all the people who alerted and favorite this story. I look forward to hearing what you all think of this chapter. Enjoy!


There was a strange suspension in the air as six pairs of eyes looked on in horror while Caroline's blood began to stain the floor a sickly red.

Then everything seemed to happen at once.

"What is wrong with you?!" Bonnie cried, glaring at Alaric and dropping to her knees beside Caroline, gently pushing her friend's hands aside.

Damon immediately barreled into Alaric, shoving him to the floor and disarming him, emptying the clip before throwing the gun aside in disgust.

"Oh my God…" Bonnie gasped when she saw the dark hole in the blonde's abdomen. She quickly ripped her apron off and pressed it frantically over the wound.

Alaric didn't even seem to register Damon's presence, all of his attention focused on the innocent young blonde slowly bleeding to death on the floor. All because of him. He crawled to his knees, a broken, keening noise coming from his throat.

"Bonnie?" Caroline muttered weakly, her eyelids fluttering as she slipped into unconsciousness.

Elena rushed to kneel on Caroline's other side.

"How bad is it?" She asked Bonnie.

Bonnie glanced up. Her glistening eyes filled with shock and sorrow told Elena everything she needed to know.

"No." Elena breathed.

Stefan strode forward with murder in his eyes, closing on Ric in two large steps. He would rip this interloper into bloody bits for hurting Caroline.

"Whoaaa, no you don't." Damon said, quickly stepping in front of his cousin, placing a restraining hand on his chest.

"Get out of my way Damon." Stefan snarled.

"No can do my friend. Now is not the time for that." Stefan snorted. Damon lowered his voice to a murmur. "Caroline needs you right now Stefan. She needs all of us."

Right on cue, Bonnie let out an anguished sob. "Damon!" She cried desperately. "We need you over here!"

Damon sent Stefan one last warning glance, before rushing to Bonnie's side.

Jeremy hung back awkwardly, not sure what to do. Should he be feeling guilty for giving Ric a reason to come here? Should he try and help? He settled for staying out of the way. He figured that was probably the best move what with that angry blonde man glaring at Alaric.

Bonnie barely spared Damon a glance when he fell to his knees beside her, all her attention centered on stopping the blood pouring out of Caroline's abdomen, soaking everything. Caroline's clothes, the carpet, Bonnie's hands, all were stained with the proof that the next few moments held Caroline's life in the balance.

Damon assessed the situation quickly, the blood barely affecting him as that cool detachment from medical school came right back to him.

"Bonnie, we need to get her to the infirmary. Now. A belly wound is nothing to sneeze at. I'll get her there. I need you to run, and I mean run and get my medical kit. It's buried at the back of the coat closet on the second floor landing. Go!" He ordered, scooping Caroline up in his arms.

Bonnie raced to obey.

"Stefan, stay here. Make sure Gilbert-junior and the teacher don't leave." He paused. "But don't hurt them. Just keep them here."

He didn't stay to make sure his orders were followed, striding quickly out the door and towards the infirmary. Elena trotted after him but he stopped her quickly.

"Elena, I need you to go and find out what happened to Elijah, Andie, and Rose. Get Elijah to me in the infirmary as quickly as you can." He commanded.

"Where the fuck were they in all of this anyway?" He griped.

"But I can help you!" Elena immediately argued.

"No…" He began.

"Yes I can Damon! I can do this okay, I…"

"Elena!" He interrupted. "I don't have time to argue with you. Caroline is dying as we speak and I need Elijah's help if I'm going to save her life. You will just be in my way. Now go find the others goddammit!" He told her coldly.

Elena flinched, ducking her head and nodding, before running off in the other direction.

Damon ignored the pang in his chest at her obvious hurt. He would berate himself for that later. He couldn't afford to be caught up in Elena right now like he was when the idiot teacher barged into his office. She was a dangerous distraction. Caroline's life was more important.

And it was slipping away with every drop of blood that hit the tile.


THUD.

THUD.

THUD.

THUD.

Elena imagined that she could hear each beat of Caroline's frantic heart with every slap her shoes made against the tile as she raced around the manor.

She burst through every door she saw, calling for Elijah, Andie, Rose. Damon was depending on her to find them. Caroline was depending on her.

Thud.

Thud.

Thud.

She had finally given up on the house and gone out to the grounds with still no sign of the missing trio.

She stopped, putting her hands on her knees and panting quietly, a sob catching in her throat and hot tears burning her eyes. How would she ever find them in time?

thud.

thud.

She suddenly heard a faint bang. Her body snapped erect and her head whipped back and forth. The action would have been comical if not for the seriousness of the situation.

She held her breath, ears straining. There! It was coming from the direction of the gatehouse. She broke into a sprint, skidding to a halt in front of the door, which was blocked by a wheelbarrow full of paving stones. The banging was definitely coming from there. Someone was throwing themselves into the door, trying to force it open.

She raced to move the wheelbarrow out of the way.

"Elijah?! Is that you?!" She called desperately.

The banging stopped and Elijah's cultured voice came through the door. "Elena? Get us out of here! There are trespassers on the property!"

thud

"I know!" She cried, yanking open the door. Elijah stood tall, his normally immaculate clothes and hair a wreck while Rose cradled an unconscious Andie's head in her lap. "We've stopped them but you have to come with me right now! Caroline was shot. Damon needs your help…she's dying Elijah."

Elijah and Rose both froze, Elijah's eyes becoming steely.

"Let's go."

... …..

Elijah and Elena raced ahead, leaving Rose to help Andie more slowly. They screeched to a halt outside the infirmary and Elijah ran inside without preamble, yelling for Damon and letting the door swing shut in Elena's face.

THUD


Elena paced nervously, impatient for some news…any news of how Caroline was. She couldn't seem to stay still. She had been waiting outside the infirmary for what felt like hours, barely able to hear a peep from the room behind the door.

She felt so useless. It was all her fault. Jeremy and Alaric came here for her and now Caroline was hanging onto life by a thread. Sweet, innocent Caroline, who never deserved to be hurt.

Elena slumped against the wall, sliding to the floor and sighing in defeat. She rested her forearms on her knees and dropped her head. Despite the direness of Caroline's situation, her mind ran back to those terrifying moments just before Caroline and Bonnie and Stefan had come into Damon's office…when Alaric had had his gun pointed at Damon.

Damon had just been standing there. Looking like he knew exactly what he was doing, but a part of her knew…if she hadn't stepped in when she did…well it was safe to say that Caroline wouldn't have been the only one to get shot.

She had seen it in Alaric's eyes. He had been ready to kill Damon. And for a crime he hadn't even committed. She shuddered.

For some reason the thought of Damon dead just left a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, like a lead weight had settled there. She shouldn't be feeling like that about Damon of all people, but…a world without Damon would just be…

Colorless.

Gray and lifeless and one less spark of someone truly alive. And she couldn't stand that.

The pounding of boots on tile shook her from her ruminations and she looked up to see a breathless Stefan heading towards her.

He came to a stop beside her, his eyes focused on the infirmary door, as if Caroline would waltz through the door healthy and whole if he just stared hard enough.

"How is she?" He asked.

"I don't know." She said sadly.

His shoulders slumped and he looked utterly defeated. She smiled sadly. He really did care about the feisty blonde. Caroline would be thrilled. That is, if she survived.

Something suddenly occurred to Elena.

"Aren't you supposed to be keeping an eye on my brother and Alaric?" She asked, concerned that the unhinged history teacher could be wandering around the boarding house.

Stefan waved a hand dismissively. "Some of the boys finally managed to show up. They're keeping an eye on them."

Elena froze. Salvatore flunkies 'keeping an eye' on her little brother? They could be doing God knows what to him right now, and she was just sitting here…

At Elena's fearful look Stefan realized his mistake.

"No, no, don't worry Elena. Shit. I'm sorry, I'm so useless right now. I just keep seeing Caroline with all that blood." He paused, taking a shuddering breath. "Rose is with them. She'll keep them in line. Your brother's fine."

Elena visibly relaxed at this, rising and putting a comforting hand on Stefan's flustered shoulder. They stood like that for a long time, eventually both sinking down to lean against opposite walls.

The hours passed slowly into the silent night.

After what felt like an eternity the door to the infirmary opened. Elena and Stefan shot to their feet, both waiting with bated breath for news.

A haggard Damon emerged. He looked like he had gone to hell and back again. He had worry lines littering his forehead, his eyes were dull and tired, and he had a fleck of blood staining his cheek.

He raised his eyes slowly to his cousin's as Stefan stared at him, not even breathing. Damon flicked his head in the direction of the infirmary. Stefan needed no second urging, rushing into the room, the door swinging quietly shut behind him.

He turned his exhausted eyes to Elena.

"Caroline?" She asked, her hazel eyes over-bright.

Damon sighed, sweeping his masses of black hair off of his forehead. "Caroline will be fine."

Elena let a breath she hadn't known she was holding out in a gust, a relieved smile gracing her beautiful face.

Damon was dumbstruck, his overworked brain struggling to process such perfection. With a great effort of will he managed to piece his scattered thoughts together.

"It was a near thing though. If Elijah hadn't gotten here when he did…I don't know if I could have saved her. Caroline owes you her life." Damon said.

She blushed, ducking her head and wringing her hands uncomfortably. "I didn't do anything. If anyone saved Caroline it was you. And Elijah."

She looked so innocent, standing there with her eyes on the ground, her clothes and hair disheveled with the horrors of the night. Suddenly Damon just wanted to convince her of her own worth.

He strode forward, cupping her soft cheek in his palm. She looked up at him, confused at the intimacy in his eyes.

He gazed deep into her stunning hazel orbs, doing whatever he could to convince her of his sincerity.

"I mean it. Caroline would be dead if not for you. And she wouldn't be the only one. We owe you our lives tonight. If you hadn't stepped in when you did Alaric would have killed me. He would have never known the truth. I would be dead."

She flinched, her eyes growing heated. "I wouldn't have let that happen."

His eyes widened, stunned. Again her freedom was practically handed to her on a silver platter, and she chose to protect him. Who was this girl? And what was she doing to his poor, damaged heart?

He brushed his thumb gently over the bruise forming on her forehead, pulling away as she winced slightly. "Did he hurt you?" He asked gently.

She looked at him, smiling softly. "I'm okay. I was a little more worried about you to be honest."

He grinned, preening. "Oh Elena, you should know better. No one would dare mar such a perfect male specimen."

She scoffed at his arrogance, looking at him with genuine amusement in her eyes, leaning into the hand still against her cheek.

The silence grew between them as they gazed at each other, his warm thumb gently caressing her face.

He broke the spell, taking his hand away and pulling back.

"I'm sorry. About earlier. I shouldn't have snapped at you."

She shook her head, ponytail bobbing behind her. "No. You were right. Caroline was dying and I was just keeping you from doing what you had to. Besides, you were under a lot of stress between my brother and Caroline and almost being killed."

He smiled sadly. "Still. I shouldn't have taken things out on you."

She was surprised. He was being so sensitive and responsible. She didn't recognize this Damon and she didn't know what to do about this attraction for him, so different from what she felt for him physically. She could fight the urge to jump him every time he gave her that panty-dropping smirk of his. But fighting their inexplicable emotional connection was an uphill battle. And she was quickly losing ground.

So she grinned, making light of things, defending her injured heart from this tempting man.

"Careful Damon. I'd almost believe you care." She joked, hiding from herself, from him, from what was growing between them.

His eyes snapped to hers at that, his expression angered…and a little hurt. How can she belittle what she learned about me, and what's been growing between us, these past few days? He thought furiously.

He had been so good lately, playing the tame, concerned host rather than being who he really was. A survivor. A predator. As if somehow that would absolve him from his monstrosity at their first meeting.

So…if the softer him couldn't convince her…well, he was nothing if not versatile.

In a sudden surge of energy fueled by his frustration, he rushed forward, trapping her between his body and the wall, making her gasp. His arms caged her head, as he stared intently down at her. Her eyes widened at the fire lighting his blue orbs and her knees quivered, threatening to spill her into him.

His hands slid to her shoulders as he brought his nose to her clavicle. He ran it along the column of her neck, inhaling deeply and grinning when her breath hitched in her throat. Fuck. She smelled so goddamn amazing, like sex and wine and acceptance and fuck it all, he wanted that.

His hands made their slow way down her arms, thumbs barely grazing the sides of her breasts in a cruel tease for them both. What he wouldn't give to cup those perfect globes in his palms right now. But now…this was about payback…and about making her see how wrong she was when she thought he was still the same person that kidnapped her with no care for her circumstances.

Her eyes fluttered shut at the sensation of his hands ghosting down her body, dark lashes staining her cheekbones. By the time his warm palms landed on her hips her breaths were throaty and needy and seemed to be connected straight to his cock. He had to end this quickly or he wouldn't be able to keep from taking her right now against the wall.

But she just felt so fucking fantastic.

She whimpered as he ran his hands back and forth, up and down from her thighs to her hips over and over again. He smirked lightly at her noises, watching her fingers scrabble for purchase against the smooth wall. He could sense how badly she wanted to touch him, how much she was fighting it. And he had been good for too long. It was time to have some fun, give this entirely too-desirable girl a taste of the rock-hard torture he went through every time he was in her presence.

She almost whined when he froze, effortlessly maintaining a mere centimeter of distance between them. Shit that was a fuck-hot noise. It took all his control to keep from plastering himself to her body and letting her feel his aching need for her. He took a breath, forcing himself to focus. She had said something about caring…and being careful…right.

"You're right Elena. I should be careful. You are most definitely dangerous." He rumbled, the gravelly tone of his voice stirring images of silk sheets and endless waves of carnal pleasure.

He barely brushed his lips over her collarbone and she sighed, unconsciously letting her head fall to the side in invitation. God, he should get a fucking medal for what he was about to do. He brought his head up until his lips hovered just above hers.

"But never make the mistake of thinking I don't care." He murmured, his breath teasing her lips in a near kiss.

"Goodnight Elena."

Her eyes flew open but he was already striding quickly down the hall. It was all she could do to lean against the wall, knees quivering, and watch him walk away.


Somehow the entire household reached an unspoken agreement to end things for the night, tottering to bed at the ripe old hour of 3:52 a.m.

Alaric and Jeremy were shown to separate guest rooms. As they were led down the hall Damon flicked his head at Rose, somehow communicating to her to post a guard on each of the invader's quarters. When Elena saw the guards she wanted to protest this treatment of her brother, but at the warning look Elijah gave her she shut her mouth. There would be time to convince them of Jeremy's good intentions.

Tomorrow was a new day after all.

The next morning they trickled slowly into the kitchen where Bonnie had laid out a light breakfast. They nibbled dully on sweet buns and fruit salad as they waited for everyone to be present so they could hear how Caroline was doing.

And so they could figure out how her attackers had managed to breach security so easily.

With Klaus on the loose and coming for them there would have to be some serious changes to the current security. The men had gotten comfortable, far too comfortable in Klaus' absence if two novices had managed to get past their defenses without detection.

Elijah was clearly furious. His fists were tight balls at his sides and his lips were a thin line. A vein throbbed in his neck. For such a reserved man, this was tantamount to going on an all-night bender.

Damon could relate. The defense of the whole compound fell to the two of them. If the Salvatore enforcers were getting lazy it was up to them to keep things running. His men should know better.

He would love to hear their explanation for how a high school history teacher and a runny nosed whelp had gotten past them. He grinned darkly. He was sure it would be enlightening for himself and his armsmaster.

Just like the weeklong boot camp style retraining session he had planned would be enlightening for his men.

The two of them had gone to collect Alaric and Jeremy from their confinement. They lead them now into the kitchen.

Upon entering, Damon immediately focused on Elena, wondering what her response to him would be after their meeting in the hall last night. He watched with interest as her eyes almost instantly, unerringly found his.

She hiccoughed in a deep breath and a delicious blush stained her cheeks. She ducked her head down, clearly trying to look at him without actually looking at him. He smirked. Oh yes, their little tryst last night had definitely affected her.

Good. Because it sure as fuck had left him needy as all get out.

Elena looked up when she heard her brother's voice, only to see him being escorted in by none other than Damon. Her mind immediately went to the previous night, remembering the way he touched her, the things he said. Her body burned in remembrance of how badly she had wanted him. She had been so far gone, just about ready to say fuck it and wrap her legs around his waist and never look back when he had pulled away and left her wanting.

What it was exactly that she wanted was a different story.

Because she was pretty sure she was beginning to fall for this ridiculous man, in more ways than one. Unfortunately, he seemed to only want her for her body. Not that she didn't sometimes wish he would just grab her and fuck her on most surfaces in the house already, because she did. But she was beginning to think that it would be entirely too easy to let herself want more from him.

Much more.

The kind of more a man like him would never be able to give her.

It was pitiful and an exercise in futility if she ever saw one.

She sighed, the lust that had been coiling through her cooling as quickly as it began. She looked up again to see not just Damon's eyes, but also Jeremy's on her.

And she realized how long it had been since she had seen her little brother.

She wanted to slap herself.

She immediately made her way towards him, only to be once again cut off.

"Ah, ah, ah Elena dearest," Damon warned, shaking a finger infuriatingly, "You two can have your epic reunion after we figure out how the hell they managed to not only get into our compound, but also incapacitate some of the most elite forces this side of the Atlantic…not that I'm bragging or anything." He finished with a wiggle of eyebrows.

Elena rolled her eyes. "Damon, I haven't seen my brother in almost two weeks. Can you at least give me a minute to appreciate the fact that he's alive?"

"I'll give you ten seconds." Damon retorted, leading the younger Gilbert toward a chair. "Nine…eight…" He counted down, before pressing the boy into his seat.

Elena sat down with a huff, crossing her arms and frowning furiously.

Damon made his way to his own chair, pursing his lips at her. "Oh come on pouty, no harm, no foul, right?"

Elena just glared at him.

Meanwhile, Alaric had also been led to a seat, his somewhat separate from the rest of the group. Elijah stood behind him, a warning hand on his shoulder as the others looked at him with varying levels of disapproval. He kept his eyes meekly on his lap, seemingly trying to make himself look as innocuous as possible.

Damon grinned at the teacher's discomfort. It was nice when the shoe was on the other foot.

"Alrighty!" He began brightly. "Let's get this show on the road."

"Caroline," He flicked his eyes to Ric, "you know, the blonde girl you shot for no reason, yeah, she's going to be fine."

The room let out a collective sigh of relief.

"Oh thank God." Bonnie breathed, clutching Rose's hand. Stefan clenched his fists, remembering the sight of her right after the operation, all bandages and tubes marring her perfect features.

"Luckily the bullet missed her vital organs, or that might not have been the case." Damon continued. "Between Elijah and I, we were able to patch her up. We're giving her sedatives intravenously along with her food. We'll let her sleep it off for a few days, then wake her up and see how she's doing."

"Now then." Damon said, leaning his elbows on his knees and steepling his fingers. "Why doesn't the daring duo tell us how they managed to sneak into the most well-guarded fortress on the east coast without raising a single alarm, hmm?" He asked, eyes flicking between Jeremy and Alaric.

The two remained quiet, looking at their laps.

"What, nothing to say? You had plenty to tell us last night."

"Jer, please, just tell him." Elena pleaded. "He'll let you go if you do."

Damon snorted.

Elena glared at him. "I promise he will. He owes me." She said, looking at Damon significantly.

Jeremy's head snapped up at that, his eyes flashing. "No shit he owes you. He owes both of us. He fucking took you from me. You think I'm just going to leave now that I found you? I'm not going anywhere without you Elena."

"Okay…" Damon interrupted. "As sweet as this family bonding is, I'm gonna need you to tell me how you got in here to find her at all." He ordered, his voice a little over-sweet.

Jeremy glared at him heatedly. "Why should I tell you anything asshole?"

"Don't ask questions, just spill." Damon growled, wishing he was close enough to slap this kid upside the head. Really, he should have planned the seating arrangements better.

Jeremy continued to stay sullenly silent, his lower lip sticking out petulantly.

"Jer, please. It's important okay? A bad person is coming and we need to know how you got in here so he can't get in the same way." Elena said gently.

His eyes flicked to his sister before all the fight seemed to go out of him.

"Klaus right?"

Elena's eyes widened.

"How do you know about that young man?" Elijah asked.

Jeremy's eyes flicked to Alaric.

"Soooo, the teacher has something to say huh?" Damon said. "Well, speak up, now's your chance."

Alaric looked up, his expression haggard. Elijah nudged him coldly. "Speak."

Alaric scrubbed at his face, sighing. "I have some…contacts that owe me. They keep me informed about the less-legal organizations around here. I was always hoping to hear something about Isobel. Not that it matters anymore. When I heard that Klaus was coming to town I knew our chances to get Elena out were about to become nonexistent. I knew we had to move fast if we were going to get her away before shit hit the fan between you two. But that's all I know."

"Okay…well that's…useless." Damon griped.

"So, then, how did you guys get in here so easily?" Rose asked.

"It wasn't easy actually. We went in the town archives and found some old blueprints of this place. We studied those every night during dinner, planning our route." Jeremy explained. "And we've been timing when the watches change and for how long they last whenever we could the last two weeks. There's an old service entrance in the wall on the south side, a wooden door completely overgrown by the forest. There was only ever one guard there. We snuck up and took him down with tranquilizer bullets and drug his body into the shadows, tying his wrists and ankles with zip ties. Actually, he's probably still there."

"Jer!" Elena exclaimed, shocked that her brother could be so casual about this.

He rolled his eyes. "Anyway, once we were past the wall it was easy. There are almost no guards on the ground so we just kept to the darkest patches, trank-ing and tying anyone we ran into."

"You were the one who shot us!" Bonnie exclaimed indignantly.

Jeremy grinned sheepishly at the dark beauty. "Yeah…sorry about that."

"So, what next?" Andie prompted, speaking up for the first time.

"Jeremy went in the back while I circled around front." Alaric said, continuing the story. "I found the three of you chatting over tea, so I put you to sleep and drug you in the gatehouse."

Damon smirked at this, eyes flicking mischievously to Elijah.

"Wow Eli, I can't believe you let a teacher get the drop on you like that." He teased.

Elijah's face was stiff with disapproval and embarrassment. "I was…distracted."

Alaric snorted derisively. "You're one to talk. 'Oh, I'm the terrifying Damon Salvatore, scourge of a hundred counties, going through women like underwear. I can't even reach my gun when I'm being held up by said teacher.'"

Bonnie giggled before quickly clapping a hand over her mouth.

Damon shut up, scowling at the older man. "Careful buddy." He growled. "And I don't wear underwear." He added, wiggling his eyebrows at Elena and grinning when she blushed.

"Besides, it took like three darts to take him down. I shot him once and he just kept coming for me." Alaric added, ignoring Damon completely.

"It's true." Rose added, smiling at the dapper spymaster. "He fought like an animal. I mean, things were a little blurry for me, but I saw that much. He was amazing."

If Damon didn't know better he would say Elijah blushed at Rose's gushing. Hmm. My guard captain and my head of household. Interesting. He filed that away as another way to mess with his spymaster before getting back to the conversation at hand.

"Okay, enough of the 'Let's Make Fun of Damon' game."

"But it's so much fun." Bonnie murmured, making him shoot her a glance. She stuck her tongue out at him.

"Fine, you'll all gang up on me, great, can we please get back to the story, hmm?" He griped.

"Well, there's not much more to tell." Alaric said. "I found you, I'm assuming Jeremy found the others, and you know the rest." He paused. "I should add, though, that I really am terribly sorry for what happened to the little blonde. I never…" he shuddered, "I never meant for something like that to happen to an innocent."

The room was quiet, their thoughts with Caroline.

"Well at least that tells us what we need to know to get ready for Klaus, right Damon? We can let them go now, right?" Elena prompted, breaking the silence, her tone making it sound like he didn't have a choice.

"Yeah fine." Damon grumbled. "I don't need anything else from them. As long as they stay out of my way I guess there's no need to give them any trouble."

"Whoooaaa, no way. I came all this way here for Elena, I'm not leaving without her. And what's all this 'we' need to get ready for Klaus huh? That seems like a Salvatore and Klaus problem to me. What's my sister got to do with it? Just let her go!" Jeremy argued.

"Jer," Elena began, "I'm not leaving Jer."

"What, why the fuck not?!"

"Because, they need my help to stop Klaus. These people are my friends and he's coming here to kill them Jer, to kill Damon. And Damon isn't…he's not who you think he is okay? You don't know the whole story."

"So tell it to me. C'mon Lennie, explain to me why I shouldn't just knock you out with a dart and lock you up at home until you shake off this delusional Stockholm syndrome you've developed." He demanded.

"Well, for one, because we wouldn't let you." Damon interjected. When Jeremy turned to growl at him, he held up a finger. "And for two, because Elena is literally the only person who can save this town Jeremy. Not just me, not just the Salvatore Group, this whole town. You think I'm a monster? I've got nothing on Klaus and his band of thugs. Do you really want to set them loose on the happy citizens of Mystic Falls?"

"Murderers and rapists, the whole lot." Elijah added, spitting with the force of his disapproval.

Jeremy looked around the room, as if weighing them to see if they were telling the truth. His eyes landed on his sister. The siblings seemed to share some kind of silent communication, Jeremy becoming stiffer and stiffer with every second.

"I'm not leaving Jer." Elena finally said.

He continued to look at her his eyes pleading.

"I'll consider her debt paid kid."

Elena looked at Damon, shock clear in her eyes.

"What?" She breathed.

Damon leaned forward, looking square at Jeremy. "If she does this, if she helps us stop this psychopath, I'll wipe her slate clean. She won't owe me a dime."

He glanced at Elena. "She'll be free."

Jeremy squinted at Damon, trying to tell if he was lying. He got up and marched over until he stood right in front of the raven-haired man. Then he extended his hand, looking at Damon expectantly.

Damon smirked, standing and shaking the kid's hand firmly.

Jeremy nodded, releasing Damon, before taking a deep breath and letting it out in a huff.

"Okay. Well, I'm helping."

"What, no way!" Elena cried, standing up and rushing over to her brother. "Jer you can't, it's too dangerous."

Jeremy frowned stubbornly. "As if I'd let my sister face a raging psychopath with only another raging psychopath as backup. If it's not too dangerous for you, it's not too dangerous for me. And I want the full story. I want to know why only my sister can do this."

"But…" Elena argued.

"Let the kid help, the more the merrier."

"Damon!" Elena exclaimed.

"I'll fill him in." Bonnie added.

"Bonnie!"

"Damon is right." Alaric interrupted. "Jeremy is smart and, if last night is any evidence, good in a fight. He'll be useful. And I can help too."

"You help me?" Damon drawled incredulously. "I don't know, it seems a little…unnatural."

Alaric rolled his eyes. "Just because I loathe and despise you for helping take my wife away from me doesn't mean I want to leave this town at the mercy of a grade A nut job. And if you think for one second I'm going to pass up the opportunity to stop the man who's after my wife…well, you're crazier than I thought."

Damon gave the teacher a long look before shrugging. "Okay…fair enough. It looks like we've got two new recruits gang. It's all so rah rah, go team, yeah!" He exclaimed, grinning with false enthusiasm.

All of them seemed relaxed with this newest crisis resolved and ready to move onto the real issue…Klaus.

All, that was, except Stefan.

A muscle ticked in Stefan's jaw. So that was how it was gonna be? He'd apologize, offer to help, and suddenly everything was hunky dory? Even after he almost killed Caroline? He had kept his mouth shut until now, but no more.

He got up, striding angrily to Ric, fisting the front of his shirt and lifting him up despite Elijah's protests.

"Listen up!" He spat. "Everyone else may have forgiven you, but I won't forget what you did to Caroline. One wrong move, one hint that you're going to try to hurt my cousin, or any of us, again, and I'll rip you to pieces. Got it?" He asked, shoving the older man back into his seat and striding to his own chair in a huff.

"Got it." Ric whispered, rubbing his throat.

The room was silent, apparently in shock after Stefan's uncharacteristically violent display until Damon interjected in his typical irreverent fashion.

"Weeell…now that that's all cleared up…anyone want to go shame the forces with me? It'll be fu-un." He sang, grinning mischievously.


The sleek black SUV pulled into the classical mansion bordering the edge of the tiny town. A team of cleaners and renovators had been working around the clock for the last week, opening the house up after its long vacancy. Now it stood pristine and bright, awaiting the family that had left it standing empty for so many years.

The staff stood in the drive, lined up in a panoply to greet their returning masters. Their eyes were turned towards the ground but they all flicked nervous glances at the car as it came to the end of the drive.

It ground to a stop before them and a tall blonde man exited the passenger side of the vehicle, his heavy black combat boots crunching on the gravel.

He looked around him, his light eyes examining all before him with a critical air, even the people.

"Pull the car around would you Tony?" He called over his shoulder. The driver nodded soundlessly, not replying. It's not like he could.

Tony was mute.

All of the servants were. After all, if they couldn't talk, they couldn't give up their masters' secrets.

The man walked forward, down the line of staff before him, his eyes weighing each of them and seeming to find them wanting.

He paused before the littlest one, a miniscule brunette with bobbing shoulder-length curls, probably barely fourteen. He smirked as he watched her quiver before him, her eyes wide and downcast.

He sighed, drawing a single finger along the side of her face, watching as her eyes closed in fear, until he could tilt her head up.

"Hello love." He said as she stared at him, a cornered antelope before the lion. He leaned forward, smirking as she tried not to recoil from him. They had learned never to do that.

"Be a dear and bring the bags in why don't you? There's a good girl. Rebekah and Kol will be along shortly and you know how they like a ready house." She nodded, her head bobbing jerkily, before scurrying off to obey.

He knew. They couldn't wait to escape him. Which made things all the more fun.

He walked away, airily dismissing the rest of the staff before going to climb the broad, grassy hill that sprouted behind the house just like he did every time he returned here.

By the time he reached the top it was evening. The setting sun lit up the town below in red as far as the eye could see. Red like fire. Red like blood. It seemed like a good omen. He would paint the town in both soon enough.

"Ah Mystic Falls." He breathed, his eyes lighting with nostalgia.

"It's good to be home."


A/N: YAY! We finally meet Klaus. Isn't he super creepy? To be clear, I started writing this before they started humanizing Klaus and everything, so he's gonna be a straight up, classic, bad guy nut-job version of himself. Which of course, means no Klaroline (obviously because of she and Steffie-pie in this fic). Don't get me wrong Klaroline shippers, I'm one of you. It's just not happening in this fic. Sorry.

Let me know what you think of Klaus' creepy household and Damon and Elena's little hallway confrontation! Also, how did you feel about the season premiere? Like? Dislike? I'm dying to know.

Hope you liked it!