Disclaimer: I don't own anything you recognize here. If I did, this would be canon.

Chapter summary: Matt and Elena take temporary custody of a little boy who was found wandering in the woods near Mystic Falls. His arrival coincides with a new spate of animal attacks.

Chapter warning: torture of an OC who is (ambiguously) a bad guy.

The fact Liz Forbes accompanies child protective services to the Donovan house makes Elena feel cold, and ill. The woman is tall, professional-looking, with mousy hair swept in a bun; she doesn't look very warm, and Elena aches to take the frightened child from her right away.

She and Matt had signed up as foster parents prepared to adopt less than six weeks prior, with a warning it may never happen.


Liz pushes through the door, and the woman carrying the small, terrified boy on her hip, with his face buried against her chest follows behind.

"Mrs. Donovan," she says. "I'm Leslie Bates. And this is Jack. Jack?" The little boy turns his face towards Elena's, frightened and hopeful. Hair thick and dark, and a little shaggy, eyes green and haunted. He doesn't speak. Elena gives him a solid smile.

"I'm Elena," she tells him, softly. "And this is Matt, and Jenna." When she turns to her husband and daughter, Jenna's face is undisguised curiosity. Elena fought to keep her hopes down. "You're going to live with us, for now at least."

Jack's chin quivers, and he nods. Brave. Has to be, to have gotten this far.

It's the work of an hour to get Jack settled into the bed prepared for him. Elena sets up the baby monitor – Jack is about five, maybe six, but traumatized, presumably, and Elena wants to hear him if he wakes with nightmares. Matt has made coffee, and when Elena returns to the living room, she gratefully accepts a cup.

Leslie refuses, politely. "You have to consider him a special needs child. If you're not sure you can do this…"

Matt is firm. "No," he said. He turns to Liz. "What happened to him, Sheriff?"

"I'm not the Sheriff anymore, Matt," she insists. "We don't know much more than we did when I spoke to you this morning. He was found wandering in the woods, close to the highway. He's malnourished, sgratched and bruised from wandering in the woods – lucky it's warm, or he might not have made it – but he hasn't been abused. So far, he hasn't been reported missing, but obviously, he's missing." Liz sighed. "We have deputies… searching for clues. In a couple of days, we'll start putting his face out to the news networks."

"And he's only said his name?" Matt looks stricken, and Elena loves him for it.

Liz shakes her head. "His name was sewn into his clothes. So his parents do care. Elena… Matt… I don't think this will be long-term. Care for him…"

Leslie nods. "But don't get attached. We have every reason to believe he has a loving home. Assuming…"

Elena closes her hand over Matt's. "Assuming his parents are alive." She nods. "We get it, Liz. It's okay. Keep us informed."

Jack doesn't speak. He only eats when he has been coaxed and cajoled. He sleeps poorly, and wakes often. After a week, a child psychologist visits. He calls himself Dr Ed. He has strong features and sad grey eyes, and reminds Elena of a Kodiak bear. He spends an hour with Jack and then speaks quietly in the kitchen to Elena and Matt.

"Whatever happened… I don't think he remembers," he says, gently. "Which doesn't mean he won't. But he's intelligent. There's no reason to think he can't speak. He is choosing not to, for now, and that's okay." He pulls out a day planner. "I'm going to need to see him once a week. The cost is covered, but you'll have to bring him to me, from now on. I presume that won't be a problem?" His face is serious, peering at Elena and Matt as his hand hovers over the page. "Thursdays at four o'clock?"

Elena swallows, and nods. It won't be easy. She doesn't much care. Jack may not speak but when he holds her hand, he holds it tight. She wonders briefly if she could ask Damon and Alaric for some money, enable her to take a couple of months completely off work. She could take freelance gigs, they pay okay.

She can't ask and she won't ask. Matt places his hand on the small of her back. "Thursdays at four o'clock," he agrees, and Dr. Ed goes.

Lying in bed, Elena rests her cheek on Matt's chest. The light streams in the window, playing across his features, leeching the color from his eyes.

"Is this a mistake?"

Matt runs his hand over her arm. "Is what a mistake?"

"Jack. Can we do this?"

Matt is silent a long time. "We'll do a better job than most people would. We're not in it for the money."

Elena shakes her head. "The money is dire. Do you… " she swallows, hard. "Do you think there's any chance we'll be able to keep him?"

Matt spends a long time thinking about this, and Elena can follow the train of his thoughts with her own. The best thing would of course be to find his parents, alive and well and frantic with worry. The worst would be to lose him to the system, or to some living relative who can't see what an amazing little boy he is, because surely no one can see that the way Elena can.

Tears gather in her eyes.

"Let's just try to get some sleep," Matt says, and Elena rolls over, tucking herself against him like a little spoon against a big one. She sleeps, if fitfully.

Little changes, in two weeks; Jack still doesn't speak, though he plays with Jenna, a little, and keeps his eyes wide on hers as she explains in detail the intricacies of the Shadowhawk Babes (released a little over a year ago, they are kickass monster fighters little girls love because they have colorful outfits and long hair, and moms love because their bodies are little girl bodies, and not improbably proportioned Barbie bodies, and little boys love because they each have a war-cry that sounds when you press a button on their back, and marketers love because they generate a bajillion dollars a second in revenue) and their relationship to the newly released male counterparts, the Lightcrow Boys. "The leader of the Shadowhawks is Lali, and the leader of the boys is Tito, and they love each other. But they don't kiss because that's gross."

Jack nods his sincere agreement, and with an almost worshipful precision, presses the button on Lai's back that makes her scream 'HIIIII-YA!'

His eyes go wide, and Elena smiles.

"This is one of the monsters," Jenna says, and Elena continues to slice cheese for sandwiches. "When you press the button, he changes. His name is Louis. He's a werewolf."

When Jack presses the button, the wolf-face emerges from its latex prison.

Jack starts to scream.

The sound is so unexpected that Elena takes long seconds to work out what she is hearing. She drops the knife, vaguely aware that it has clattered to the ground, rushing into the living room to kneel by Jack, hold his arms. His eyes are white all the way around, and his cheeks are red. He is almost rigid with fear until Elena pulls him close, and then he fights, for a long moment, managing somehow to land a tiny fist in her eye.

And then he goes limp. Elena rubs circles into his back, making nonsensical shushing noises. Jenna remains sitting where she is, Lali still held tight in one hand. Once Jack has calmed in Elena's arms, Jenna takes her turn, weeping miserably until Elena has both children tucked against her.

They wear themselves out enough so they are both prepared to sleep a while. After tucking them both in, Elena sits on the couch with Louis, pressing the button in his back that makes his face change, over and over, and then hides him in a childproof drawer and starts to prepare dinner.

The children need comfort food, so there is macaroni and cheese, with some strategically concealed cauliflower and corn kernels, for them. Risotto for herself and Matt, the way Damon taught her to make it. Elena is starting to feel better, and the whole house smells like fried mushrooms, when there is a knock at the door.

Wiping her hands on a dish towel, and wiping tears from her eyes – they've been randomly assaulting her all afternoon – Elena checks the peep hole.

She opens the door. "Liz," she says.

Liz Forbes takes in Elena's tear-stained face, the shake in her hands, and pulls Elena in for a hug. Elena and Matt have no parents of their own to turn to, to say 'are we doing it right?', and Elena regrets it so much. She supposes Liz regrets that she herself will never be a grandmother.

Elena cries a little against Liz's shoulder, with Liz making reassuring noises. "How did you get a black eye?" she asks, and Elena stands up straighter.

"It's a really dumb story. Can I tell it to you in horrifying detail?"

Liz is technically off the clock, so she sits at the kitchen counter and Elena pours wine.

"Do you think…?"


Elena waits for Liz to disagree, tell her it's impossible, no werewolves have been seen in Mystic since 2011; but Liz studies her hands until Elena demands an explanation.

"We found two campers. A man and a woman. Dead. Animals attacks."

Elena shifts from foot to foot and sips her wine. "Vampires."

"No. Not vampires. But wolves…? Possibly." Liz shakes her head. "Or, you know, actual animals. I'm not going to tell you what condition the bodies were in, but it could have been actual animal attacks." She shudders.

"The people you found. Are they. Could they be…?"

"Very unlikely. They look too young. But we don't have IDs yet." Liz shifts in her seat. "Full moon was over a week ago."

Elena sucks air through her teeth. "Hybrids, then." They are silent, and Elena tops up the glasses, holding ice to the eye she didn't know she had bruised, stirring the risotto carefully.

Liz nods. "Or actual animals."

Elena nods. "Or actual animals."

"I thought I'd call Damon and Alaric." Liz sighs. "But not yet. Not until we know."

Elena scrunches her nose. "I'll do it." She speaks to them a few times a week and explaining why she hasn't told them they've taken in a second child will be interesting – really, she's just afraid she's going to lose Jack, can hardly bear to talk about him, but it's a major omission.

"I think that's a good idea. Only…"

Elena sighs. "What, Liz?"

"They have to keep a low profile. They can't be back. Jackson Fell is obsessed. He's been going through records. Even sniffing around the boarding house." Liz looks vaguely sheepish. "But I can't… The Council doesn't know about hybrids. They don't even know about werewolves."

"They wouldn't stand a chance against hybrids or wolves anyway. I'm amazed they haven't all been killed by vampires." Elena nods. She knows why, of course; Damon, Alaric, Stefan. "And no one recognizes Jack yet?" She tries to keep the treacherous hope from her voice but it sneaks in.

"No one." Liz sips at the wine.

Perhaps it is because she knows people who are not aging, and will never age, but Elena notices every sign of the process on other people; the lines around Liz's eyes seem greater in number every day. "Can I count on you to call the boys? Maybe just prime them – Meredith Fell is doing the autopsies tomorrow. After that…"

The boys. Eternal boys, in a way. Elena looks to be the same age as Alaric, now.

Elena agrees, and Liz stands to leave, just as Matt arrives home. Liz bids them both farewell, and Elena tells Matt about the day; the toy, the tiny fist.

"Was he trying to hurt you?" Matt is worried, but Matt is always worried; he worries all day about his apathetic students, and comes home to worry about his wife, and his daughter, and the little boy he's falling in love with just as surely as Elena is.

"He was just throwing himself around." Elena feels tears threaten again, and blinks them away. Matt tucks a long, curly tendril of hair behind her ear, and pulls her close. "He was scared, Matt. I think he was remembering something."

"Tomorrow's Thursday," Matt says. "Psychologist."

Elena pulls away, and returns to the pots. "Yes. Dr Ed. Dr Ed will make everything better." And she continues, with Liz's part of the story, dead campers, animal attacks.

"So you and Liz think hybrids killed… But aren't they…" Matt shakes his head, frustrated, and Elena knows he is asking himself for the hundredth time why they haven't put Mystic Falls in the rear view mirror and left it behind permanently. "They're friends, right? With Tyler and Jeremy? And Damon and Alaric?"

"Well. Damon and Alaric win a lot of money off them at poker." Elena rolls her eyes. Matt is not in the mood to be made to laugh. "Anyway, that's only the pack in Tennessee. I have no idea how many other wolves Klaus turned. And they might still have that sire bond thing. You know?"

Jenna and Jack choose that moment to descend the stairs, the late afternoon sun making them look for all the world like a pair of sleepy children. Jenna has Jack's hand neatly tucked in her own, and appears to be yawning, while assisting him to navigate the stairs.

Elena's heart melts, and Matt's does, too, again.

After dinner, cleaning up, trying to calm Jenna down – Jenna insists she has had enough sleep so that she can sit up and watch television if she wants, she is a big sister now, there is another knock on the door.

Matt answers it, while Elena speaks in an urgent whisper to Jenna. "Big sisters have to be a good example by going to bed when they're told to," and she is supremely irritated by the knock on the door, as it is distracting Matt, and she's had a long day, and she needs his help, and, and.

"We can save you up to two hundred dollars a year on your electricity. I imagine a growing family like yours could find something to do with that cash in your pocket."

"Look, man, this is a really bad -"

"It really won't take long."

Elena marches across to the door. "Have you got a card? A brochure? We'll call you."

The man smiles. He's attractive. Mid-twenties, in a well-cut suit, and his teeth are very white, meeting his bright blonde hair and blue eyes in a very Aryan salute. "I'm fresh out. I can sign you up in just a few minutes. Listen, why don't you invite me in -"

So he's heard of them, but he hasn't heard enough. Elena has the crossbow from its concealed place by the door and pointed right at his heart before he can finish his sentence.

Jenna and Jack have fallen silent. Matt has stepped away from the door and is rounding them towards the living room. Jenna doesn't even protest.

The man's smile falters.

Elena is shocked at how calm she sounds. "Get away from my family."

"There's no need to…"

"I said get away from my family." Elena draws back on the bow.

The man – vampire, hybrid, werewolf, whatever he is, would be standing in a puddle of his own urine by now, if he was human. But instead, his lip is curled back, revealing teeth. "I don't want to hurt you or your family." He narrows his eyes. "I've come for the boy."

"The boy is my family," Elena says, and shuts the door.

There is a long, shocked silence in the Donovan house. Elena watches through the peephole as the man turns, irritated, tension running through his frame like electricity, down the steps and into the night.

"Mommy," Jenna says, awed, "are you a Shadowhawk Babe?"

Alaric packs clothing, including the Kevlar riding gear he had forgotten all about. Bought years ago for the hybrid turf war and thank god he hasn't just thrown it out, but from time to time Damon makes noises about buying motorcycles and it makes sense to just keep it there in the back of the cupboard and why won't Damon just answer his motherfucking phone?

There are still plenty of weapons at the boarding house. This is great because it means they can fly, don't have to carry weapons, and that saves time. And Alaric has tickets booked for less than two hours from now, all the way to Charlottesville; an overnight flight to New York first, and they'll arrive in Charlottesville in time to pick up a rental car and be in Mystic before eleven tomorrow morning.

Alaric throws two large sports duffels into the boot of his truck (far less likely to get stolen or vandalized in the long-term parking at the airport than Damon's hot little Camaro) and drives the ten blocks to the bar.

Damon is sitting in the back corner with three other guys, playing poker, and with a grin on his face Alaric regrets he's going to have to wipe off. Damon meets his eyes and smiles, and returns to the game. Alaric approaches the bar.

"Harry." Harry turns, with a slow smile. "Damon and I are gonna be out of town for a while. Do whatever needs doing. And don't fuck up."

"Mon capitan," Harry agrees. "Everything okay?"

No, nothing's okay. "Fine. We just won't be reachable." Harry gives a knowing smile, a smile that says 'sexcapades', and Alaric resists the urge to smack it off him, before approaching Damon's table.

"We have to go," he says. "Now."

"But honey, I'm winning." The lazy smirk, the cock of his chin.

"Got a call from Mystic."

Damon looks up at last, no smile left on his face. In fact, he look furious, which is fucking awesome. He folds his hand and pushes his considerable winnings into the centre of the table. "Sorry, kids. Divvy that up. I'm out."

Alaric loves Damon an awful lot, in that moment.

He has half the story explained by the time they get to the truck, and the rest long before they hit the main drag on the way out to the airport.

Damon frowns. "Is it weird that I'm mostly thinking they got another kid and didn't tell us?"

Alaric shrugs. "Tell you the truth I just keep imagining Elena pulling a crossbow on a door-to-door salesman and trying not to laugh."

"Can she shoot?"

"Not like Jeremy can. But better than average." Alaric curses everything they do to stay under the radar because they will be pushing it to make this flight, but it's impossible – impossible – to speed these days and not get caught and under the radar is the only way to live. As if Damon can read his thoughts he reaches out, places a careful hand on Alaric's shoulder.

"Chill," he says. "We'll get there."

And Damon calls Elena, and keeps her on speakerphone; and calls Liz, who is far too old for this shit (and that sort of breaks Alaric's heart a little, and makes him miss the days when the three of them – or four, on days when Carol didn't have a stick up her ass, used to drink too much, at the boarding house, at the Lockwood mansion, at the Grill) and Liz says Meredith, who has a seven year old son of her own has gone back to the hospital to do the autopsy. It's not finished yet.

"But the tooth marks are too big to be from an actual wolf." Liz sounds sick; the first time around she maybe found this kind of cool, but now, it's only terrifying. She knows what it all looks like, now.

"Fucking hybrids," Damon says, as Alaric parks the truck. "We'll call you from Charlottesville."

"It could be a werewolf." Alaric frowns.

"If it was just a werewolf it wouldn't have needed an invitation to get into the house. Come on." He pulls the duffels from the boot, and hands one to Alaric. After ensuring the car is locked, they head for the terminal.

On the plane they are tense, and Alaric holds Damon's hand, tight, because the Worst Feeling In The World is not knowing the plot when you're about to jump into the story. A flight attendant gives them an incredulous, fond look. They're always friendlier in first class.

"You do know there hasn't been a plane crash in nine years?" he says. "Anywhere in the world? You couldn't crash one of these things if you tried to."

"Not worried about crashing," Alaric says, gnashing his teeth. "It's what's on the other end."

He leans in a little, and grins. "I'll do my level best to get you both drunk enough so you can sleep through the flight," he promises, and slips away down the aisle.

All things considered, he does a good job, for someone who has carefully clocked the wedding rings and knows not be so much as a blow job will eventuate from being this friendly. Briefly, Alaric thinks (as he does, when he is feeling self-indulgent) that when this kid (okay, so mid-twenties, but Alaric's standards for 'kid' have changed) falls in love he's going to be able to get married in part because of him and Damon, and he grips Damon's hand a little tighter, there in his own lap.

Somehow, they are both able to sleep; after all, they need to prepare for the coming fight.

At the Donovan house, things are tense. A police car is parked on the street – what a cop is supposed to do, Alaric doesn't know, but it's there. Hell, maybe the Council is better prepared these days. Elena bits back tears as she nestles her face into Alaric's shoulder, while Jenna does her level best to beat Damon to death with her tiny fists, a delighted look on her face.

She's so grown up. And equally delighted to see Alaric, to whom she announces, "Mommy is a Shadowhawk Babe."

Alaric has no idea what that means, so he nods. "She is, huh?"

"She's gonna teach me how to use a bow and arrow like Robin Hood. He can't be a Shadowhawk because he's a boy. But he can be a Lightcrow."

Alaric can't disagree with this either, so he cocks his chin toward the living room, and asks Jenna, "you gonna introduce me to your friend?"

Jack is sitting with Matt and hasn't come to the door, because Jack is shaking, terrified, and Matt wants to give him a moment to get used to the new faces before he is introduced. Matt gives a friendly, exhausted smile. Jenna takes Alaric by the hand and leads him to them both.

"This is Jack. He's not my brother but he might be one day."

Matt wants to correct her, and doesn't. Alaric crouches down, so he is below Jack's eye-level, and holds a hand out to shake.

It's when Jack's little heart starts to race and he lifts his tiny hand to be closed in Alaric's that Alaric smells it; rich, earthy blood in his veins. Familiar, somehow, and not. It's not a regular human scent. He suspects he has flared his nostrils, a touch, but his eyes do not betray him. He shakes Jack's hand solemnly.

"Hello," he says. "I'm Alaric. You can call me Ric."

"He doesn't talk," Jenna supplies helpfully; "but it's not because he's stupid or anything."

(One day Jenna will be a teenager and Alaric doesn't envy Matt and Elena that at all, because much as he loves his goddaughter, she is going to be a handful.)

"Jenna!" Matt says.

"Mommy told me he's not stupid! Are you, Jack?"

Jack continues to hold Alaric's eyes. Alaric has to fight not to turn away. "That's Damon," he says, pointing his thumb over his shoulder.

Jack looks up at Damon, eyes wide and bright, and nods very seriously, turning to look at Alaric again.

Alaric stands, and returns to the kitchen.

"What are you going to do?" Elena asks.

Damon shrugs. "First stop is the boarding house. We'll get weapons. Wolfsbane. We'll cook it up here, for grenades -"

"No," Alaric says. "We'll do it at the house. We'll be back in a few hours. We'll stay here tonight."

"I'll make up the guest room."

"We won't be sleeping," Damon says, wrinkling his nose, and still looking at Alaric like he's crazy. He won't argue, though, so much of their communication these days in non-verbal they'd never contradict each other in public about anything but food, booze or sex. "We'll be creeping around like a pair of…" he flicks eyes sideways, to where Jenna is gazing adoringly at him, big smile on her face. "Like a pair of policemen," he finishes, and hauls Jenna up onto his hip.

"We'll see you when you get back, then," Elena says. "Please, well before dark?"

"Well before dark," Alaric promises, and they go.

In the car Damon turns piercing silver-grey eyes on Alaric and frowns. "The fuck was that about? Why not do the grenades here? I don't like them being on their own. It's not like hybrids have to wait until the sun -"


It's hard to explain some of the things Alaric knows, sometimes, and he's never been sure how much Damon knows or suspects of this. He could explain. The redheaded vampire at Mardi Gras. Knowing a vampire was in the house, the night Rebecca abducted them. Bonnie's Jack (and he'll always be that, now, he was 'Jack' last week but now there's Jack and 'Bonnie's Jack') – Damon didn't even know he was a witch, until Alaric mentioned him weeks later.

("Bonnie's slice of Africa? He's a witch?"

"Nice, Damon."

"Not being racist. That accent? Hey, do you know if it's true, about black guys?"


"No," Damon had said. "No. Bonnie makes my teeth ache. I got nothing off him."

"Bonnie comes from the most powerful bloodline of witches on the continent. She's a forest fire. He's a candle." And Damon had been intrigued enough by that conversation to demand to be allowed to eat whipped cream off Alaric's body for the next fifteen minutes but not enough to have given it another moment's thought in, what, six years? Seven?)

"Do you know if people from the werewolf bloodlines get sick from wolfsbane? Or is it just after the curse has been triggered?"

Damon snorts. "I'll just ring all my friends who don't know yet if they're werewolves, find out for you. What a fucking stupid question. How would I know?"

Alaric narrows his eyes. "You need to eat." Grumpy Damon alert, awesome.

"So do you." Fair. But Damon is still waiting for an explanation. "That kid's a wolf," Alaric says.

Damon is silent for a long time, and then snickers. "You're reaching."

"I'm not. I can smell it on him."

"What six year old kid could possibly have killed someone?"

"I mean his bloodline, you complete dick." They need to eat. Need to eat urgently. Should have done it in Charlottesville.

"You can't possibly know that."

"You can't possibly make a fog roll in. And yet."

Damon frowns. "Hitchhikers," he says, and they pull over; snack, and see the pair home safely. Calmed again, watching as the guys slip into a house on the same street as Alaric's old loft, Alaric takes Damon's elbow.

"Kid's a werewolf," he says again.

Damon frowns, holding Alaric's eyes, and then simply accepts it. "So we make grenades at the boarding house." And then something bright flashes across his face, because they miss the boarding house, both of them do.

Damon throws the door open with a flourish. "Home sweet home," he says, smirking, reclaiming the space, reasserting his dominion. Alaric can't actually read Damon's thoughts, but he knows it has occurred to Damon that they should do something to rechristen the place with pheromones and sweat.

There's not time for anything more than a shower, but they make it a memorable one. Drying off, and dressing again, Damon gazes sadly at the bed.

"I miss that bed. That's a good bed."

"It's a bed, Damon," Alaric says, pulling a fresh t-shirt over his head.

"It would start to explain why there are hybrids after him," Damon says, as he stirs the pot. It's strong. Alaric has to admit he actually likes the smell; it's a little bitter and a little sweet. Brings back memories, too, Damon getting irritable because Alaric is cooking up vervain in the loft and he can't go near the place for a day or so, until the fumes are well and truly gone. Showering, scrubbing himself raw, shampooing his hair; Damon sniffing suspiciously at him until he's quite sure none of the toxic stuff remains anywhere on Alaric.

"Which means his parents are probably dead, somewhere," Alaric admits. "Poor kid."

"Could do worse for replacements," Damon says. He ignores Alaric's eye roll. They have to let the liquid cool, so they wander around the house for a while, reacquainting themselves with favorite spots, and end up, unsurprisingly, sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace.

There's no fire, no ash, even. It's been properly cleaned out. Looks a little sad, like that. Alaric sips at a glass of bourbon and rubs Damon's shoulder. "But how do you know?" Damon wants to know.

"There's a smell." Alaric shakes his head. "Rich blood. Meat. Something like that."

"And witches…"

"Just like what we get with Bonnie, just milder."

"You can spot vampires, too, can't you? Fuck me but that could have come in handy over the years." He shakes his head. "I met someone else who could do that, once. Long time ago." Sounds a little wistful.

Alaric shrugs. "Can't control crows."

"I wish you could. We could go flying together." Damon grins. "Weapons in the car and then we'll pack the grenades."

There's a knock on the door, then. Liz Forbes, looking improbably old; she's only, what, sixty? But time is accelerating, it seems sometimes. She hugs Damon, hugs Alaric, and then spreads the photographs and autopsy results over the table.

"Meredith Fell says it was three hybrids. Two males and a female."

"And are these Jack's parents?" Alaric really, really hopes not, because the photos are shocking. At least vampires have a little decorum.

That's a lie, mostly.

Liz shakes her head. "Definitely not. Rudimentary blood typing says no." She looks hopeful. "Do you think you can find them?"

"We'll stay at the Donovans' tonight. Head out tomorrow and see if we can catch the scent from where you found the bodies. Sound like a plan?" Damon slings his hand over Alaric's hip, and Liz nods gratefully.

"Can you have a good look at the photos? See if there's anything we might have missed? We still don't have IDs."

Alaric agrees, leaning over the table.


Damon rolls his eyes. "We'll stay out of town. You know, we could kill that Jackson kid. Surely that would save some time. Bet it'd make your job easier."

Liz says nothing, just glares.

Damon makes a disgusted noise. "Relax, Liz. I'm joking. Like, ninety percent joking."

Alaric suspects it is something rather less than ninety percent, but he shakes his head, and picks up a photograph, examining it closely. "Fucking horrible," he breathes. "We'll try."

"Thanks," Liz says, and passes a rucksack; "blood bags. You want to get them refrigerated ASAP. Same rules apply, boys. I won't have you hunting in Mystic Falls."

Touching, and not worth an argument. They'll be fine.

It takes over ninety minutes to pack the wolfsbane grenades, make up a couple of dozen darts and a handful of syringes, and fill the car with weapons and bourbon (blood bags or not, they need to keep the edge off the cravings) and head back to the Donovan house. By the time they get there it's dinner time. The kids are eating already, Jenna chattering away at sixty miles a minute and Jack eating methodically, eyes wide on his (not sister) little friend.

When they are watching Ice Age 11 in front of the television, quiet at last, the grownups sit at the dining table and speak quietly over their own meal. Damon shoots Alaric several looks; he wants to know if Alaric is going to tell Matt and Elena what he knows.

He won't. Doesn't even meet Damon's eye. He talks about the bar, instead, about life in San Francisco, about the weapons they've brought, their plan for tomorrow. He asks Matt about teaching, Elena about Jack, about Jenna.

They're eating spaghetti Bolognese, Damon's recipe – Alaric recognizes it – and Damon compliments Elena on a job well done because it is thick, and rich, and tasty. Elena smiles a half-smile.

"Had a good teacher," she says. "All my best recipes are yours."

Damon looks smug.

Around eleven, Matt and Elena go to bed, and Alaric and Damon set up to sit quiet as mice in the living room where they can see anyone approach from the front of the house.

It's a long and uneventful night. No one comes. They don't speak, don't breathe. Occasionally they sip at their glasses of bourbon, careful not to let themselves become impaired; and as the sun comes up, Damon stretches and groans and complains.

"This is going to take forever," he says. "We should do something to bring them out. Maybe put the kid in a nice cage in the middle of the front garden?"

"Nice," Elena says, coming down the stairs. "Don't you dare say that in front of Jack. He'd probably have a heart attack." She starts a pot of coffee. Reaching into the drawer to find a filter, she finds the toy. Alaric watches as she presses the button in his back, making the wolf face push forward.

"That's the creepiest thing I've ever seen," Damon declares, frowning. He takes it from Elena's hand, and presses the button over and over. "And… scary accurate."

Alaric takes it, studying it for a good long time.

It is scary accurate.

There has been no rain; this is good. The scent trail is murky, initially, with police, and paramedics, and puke, but they spiral out until the path is clear.

The path towards the kill site is a bad path; they would have come through as wolves, in the underbrush, and it is thick and scraggly. In the other direction, there is a little blood splatter – almost impossible to notice, for anyone without either vampire senses or a UV light, and it heads deeper into the forest again.

Alaric shakes his head. "No. We should go the other way. We need to know where they came from. Not where they were going."

"This way's easier," Damon grumbles, shifting irritably in his Kevlar. But they push through, scratches on their hands and faces healing as quickly as they receive them. They follow the scent – getting harder, now, and the wind is picking up, for a couple of hours.

A stronger scent suddenly starts to come through. Blood, meat. Blood splatter starts to appear on the ground again. They follow that more quickly, another mile or so, the scent vanishing occasionally when the wind takes it, an then coming back again. They push through one last screen of trees.

And find a camper van.

How a camper van got here, Alaric can't imagine. There's no car, and no number plate. The door is open, torn half off its pathetic hinges, really, and the scent of death is strong. Alaric unsheathes a large knife, but knows there is nothing here alive.

"Ah, gross," Damon says, stepping inside.

"Jack's parents?" Alaric follows him.

"I'd guess so. I can smell the kid in here, too. And look." There are children's toys on a table.

"How could a kid get away from this?"

The dead bodies have very little meat left, and the clothes are in bloody tatters; their faces are in good shape, though, if dead and bloated. Not much to eat there. Alaric crouches to take photographs with his phone, avoiding as much carnage as possible, and calls Liz.

"Think we found the parents," he says. "I'm sending photos of their faces."

"Geotag them," Liz says, sighing. "We'll send out reinforcements."

The next few hours are pretty unpleasant, Damon and Alaric enduring curious stares from various deputies, though it's nice to see Meredith, for the first time in a few years; she looks good, happy, if tired. Being a mom and the Council's cleaner and a doctor can't be easy.

"At least I don't have to lose paperwork, this time," she says. "No question this was an animal attack."

Liz steps out of the trailer looking stricken and with a framed photograph in her hand. The dead people in the trailer, and a little boy who, while at least a year younger, is undoubtedly Jack. He is beaming at the camera. Innocent, happy with his parents.

It makes Alaric's heart hurt.

"What will happen to him?"

Liz shrugs. "We have enough to ID them, now. If he has family he'll go to them. Or the Donovans can apply for custody, try to adopt him. Why would anyone have targeted them? Specifically?"

"What makes you think they were targeted at all?" Meredith wants to know. "Looks like a hit 'n' run to me."

"Only one possibility," Alaric says. "They're after the kid. They came after him at the Donovans' place. They must have come after him here, too."

"But why?"

Alaric shrugs, and Damon shrugs, and they head back into town.

Vampires need sleep. They don't need a lot of sleep, but they need sleep. Damon and Alaric catch a few hours in the Donovans' spare room, rising in time to eat and drain a few blood bags and sniff around the edges of the property line. All they can smell can be explained by the visit two nights ago.

"I almost wish they'd do something," Elena admits. "I know they'll be coming back. Waiting is the worst."

Damon and Alaric agree. They're getting irritable, feeling useless. "They'll be back. Now we've found…" Alaric flicks his eyes towards Jack, who is listening to Jenna talk. And talk and talk. "They can't stay in the area much longer."

Damon agrees, and nods, from where he is standing, there by the window. "Tonight's the night," he says.

When everyone has gone to bed Damon and Alaric step outside, onto the porch. The light remains off. Damon walks in one direction around the house and Alaric in the other, each checking the fence line, sniffing for anything that doesn't belong.

Damon is almost back at the front door when he grabs his neck, and grunts, and sways, and collapses to the ground. Obviously shot with a dart. One of the hybrids – the one Elena has already met, Alaric assumes, as he has very white blond hair – is on Damon, on the ground, before Alaric can get there; both blurring.

The hybrid brings a hand up to stake Damon and just as Alaric gets there – the whole thing takes under a second, and yet forever – and Damon's hand shoots up, taking the man by the throat.

"Gotcha," he says, and Alaric breaks his arm, making him cry out, drop the stake.

He is silent a second later, with his bloodstream full of wolfsbane. In the street there is a screeching of tires, and a car pulls away.

Once they have the guy hog-tied in the trunk of the rental car (he'd better not throw up or bleed) Damon and Alaric inject him with two more syringes full of wolfsbane – enough to keep him down for at least a couple of hours – they go back inside the house and watch, waiting to see if his friends will come back for him. Alaric has a window open a notch, wolfsbane dart gun resting on the window frame. He's very still, waiting. Two kinds of bait now; a little boy and a fallen friend.

"Where did the dart hit you?" Alaric asks; his heart has only just begun to slow down.

"In the chest. Bounced right off the Kevlar. These things are genius. We should take him back to the boarding house," Damon whispers. From where he is, at the front door, squinting through the peephole, no one else would be able to hear him, at that volume. "So we can make him scream. Not sure that would go down well on this street."

Alaric nods. The sun comes up at last, and Alaric goes outside to pump their shiny new friend full of poison again. His eyes are sort of open. He looks sick, and angry, and makes a pathetic attempt to shift away.

Alaric pauses, and leans over the open trunk. "You wanna tell me your name?"

"Fuck you," he says, eyeing the syringe. He speaks like his mouth is full of cotton wool.

"That's a funny name."

A narrowing of bright blue eyes. "Justin."

Alaric nods. "I'm sorry about your arm, Justin. I don't like torturing people to get what I need," he says. "I really don't." The look in the man's eyes is cautious, but angry. "My partner, though? He really likes it. And he hasn't had much of a chance to flex his muscles in a while. Last time was a hybrid too, actually. I'll tell you about it, right before I ask you what you want with Jack. Which will be right before he starts his reenactment. See you in an hour or so."

Alaric closes the trunk and heads inside for coffee.

Once the story has been relayed to Elena and Matt, Elena starts to cry. "He's just a little boy," she says. "What could they possibly want with him?" Matt puts his arms around her.

Damon and Alaric share a long look.

"You have to tell them," Damon says.

Alaric lets his shoulders slump. "Damon…"

Matt looks angry. "Tell us. Whatever it is."

"Just don't panic, okay?"

"Quickest way to get people panicking is saying don't panic, Ric. Just tell us."

"He's from a werewolf bloodline," Alaric admits at last. "Doesn't mean he'll become one. You guys know that. To trip the curse you have to be responsible for another person's death and the chances of that happening are slim to none." He casts a worried glance at the stairs, thinking about big ears on small children. "You can't worry about it. It'll never happen."

He knows as well as they do that it could, though.

"We're going to take Justin to the boarding house for a chat." Alaric grins with only one side of his face. "We'll let you know what we find out."

In the car, Damon drives, and following a stroke of brilliance, Alaric calls Tyler. He's less than pleased with a phone call before seven in the morning.

"Can werewolves have children?"

He can hear Tyler rubbing his eyes. "No. Not once the trigger's cursed… I mean," and he yawns, "once the curse is triggered, no. Why?"

"Uh, can't really talk about it at the moment, Ty…"

"… call me at six-oh-fuck you in the morning and…"

"… It's life and death. Thanks, Ty," and he hangs up, before he can get an earful of abuse.

"That's your theory?" Damon wants to know. "You think they want to raise him?"

"Yeah, I do. I think they want to raise him, and probably, when they think he's old enough, they'll make sure he turns. And then they'll come looking for…" Alaric nods in the direction of the trunk. "If they know who she is. They might not."

Damon shakes his head. "Weird. The lack of need for birth control of any kind is one of my favorite things about being a vampire."

"Yeah," Alaric agrees. "I can't imagine wanting to bring a child into this life. But Damon… werewolves age. Hybrids age. Maybe that makes them want more of a normal life."

"Normal? I prefer being the eternal stud," Damon mutters under his breath, as they arrive at the boarding house.

It's been less than twenty minutes. Alaric held Justin's mouth open while Damon forced wolfsbane into it and held Justin's mouth closed, and now Justin is crying, hard, with Damon crouched in front of him.

Alaric feels sick and he hopes Damon does as well.

"Karen's my sister, man," he sobs. "She wants a kid. What am I supposed to do?"

Damon takes Justin's hand and though it is a patently false gesture of comfort Justin does quiet down a bit. Alaric encourages him to tip his head back. He gratefully accepts water to rinse his mouth, and Alaric presents a bucket to spit into, and the look of gratitude on the guy's face – and he's, what, thirty five? – must have been a teenager himself, when Klaus turned him into a hybrid – is sort of sickening.

"I get that," Damon says. False friend. Justin will take what he can get. "And the other guy with you – he's her boyfriend?"

Justin nods. "Husband."

"Why Jack?"

Justin looks up again, defiant.

Damon holds his eyes for a while, and then stands. In the corner of a room there is a bottle of strong wolfsbane tea, and a large water pistol. Damon makes a great show of filling it up. "You know, Justin," he says, voice a drawl, almost understanding. "I get it. You got caught up in something. Bet she made you kill someone, right? When you were a teenager?"

He tests the water pistol. Justin allows a small nod, casting his eyes down into his lap, and lets out another sob.

It's a myth that if you're tough enough, you can withstand torture. It's a myth that you can learn to. Of course, it's also a lie that torture will necessarily get the truth; if someone genuinely doesn't have an answer they will lie, make anything up, anything to stop the pain.

If they have the truth… they won't try to lie, for long.

"There's no real reason you have to die, Justin. You can tell us everything you know and we'll let you go. You can just run. Run as far and as fast as you can." Damon squirts Justin's hand with the water pistol, and Justin screams again. "Next one goes in your eye," Damon says.

"Jack's mother was Mark's sister."

Alaric and Damon meet each other's eyes. Somehow this is that much worse; Alaric can read it on Damon's face, the thought of killing Stefan because Stefan had something Damon wanted…


"They're psychos," Justin admits. Tears pouring down his face. "They have no souls. Maybe I don't either. I don't know."

Damon puts the water pistol aside and Justin breathes a little easier.

"Where can we find them?" Alaric asks.

"No idea." Damon makes a disgusted noise in his throat, and Justin protests. "I mean it. We've been staying somewhere different every night."

"That's very unfortunate," Damon says. He reaches for the water pistol. Sick to his stomach, Alaric holds Justin's head still. "Any clues?"

Weirdly, Justin relaxes. Alaric can feel it. In his neck, in the set of his jaw.

"I heard you in the car," Justin says. "The bitch. In the house back there. With the crossbow."

Damon tenses and Alaric tenses and everything is suddenly very tense. Damon narrows his eyes.

"She's the one, right? It's her blood we need? She's the doppelgänger," he clarifies. "Ha. Karen and Mark would…" He lets his head roll back against Alaric's hand and laughs harder. "Not just them. That's a secret I could sell for millions. I'd better hope I make it out of here alive, huh?"

He sits up again, and Alaric releases his head. Moves to stand in front of him, next to Damon.

Justin chuckles, and then more than that. Lets his head roll back, his mouth open, and he issues a full-throated laugh.

Damon shakes his head. "Okay, man," he says. "You asked for it." And Damon's hand shoots out faster than fast and Justin's heart is in Damon's hand and there is no more laughing.

Damon drops the heart into the bucket, a little spit and wolfsbane in the bottom of it now.

"I need a shower," he says.

Alaric waits two minutes, three, and then unties the ropes. He lets Justin's cooling body drop to the floor and carries the chair out into the corridor. He finds a sheet in the adjacent cellar and spends long, fumbling minutes wrapping Justin's body. And then he goes upstairs to their bedroom, their bathroom.

Damon is under the shower, the steam building around him. He has his head pressed against the cool tile, the hot water running over the knots of his spine.

Alaric stands by the shower stall, arms crossed over his chest.

"Are you alright?"

"Well, I just tortured and killed a guy I felt genuinely sorry for," Damon says, not moving.

"He obviously wanted you to kill him."

"Obviously." Damon turns off the water, and Alaric passes him a towel. "Fun part is we're not done yet." Damon starts to rub himself dry, and knots the towel around his waist. "Where the fuck are we even going to find them?"

"Same place we found him," Alaric says. "The Donovans. They have to come back tonight."

They leave Justin's body where it is, for now.

"One down, three to go," Damon says, sauntering into the Donovans. Elena bows her head, and Matt rubs reassuring circles into her back.

"Did you find out what they want?"

"A family," Alaric says. "He's the other guy's nephew." No point in trying to sugarcoat it.

"I can't listen to this," Elena says, heading into the living room to sit with Jack and Jenna. Jack tenses, and it obviously hurts her, but Elena helps with a castle of building blocks. Alaric notices that he, Matt, and Damon are watching with equal intensity.

Matt speaks. "He's seeing a psychologist," he says.

"How's that going?" Damon answers, incredulous.

Matt shrugs. "No idea how it's supposed to be going. He's not talking." He shifts his weight. "I know that much. Damon. You know you sort of owe me, right?"

Damon shrugs, and Alaric tenses. Always figured this would come eventually. Damon turned Matt's sister Vicki and yeah there's fair chance he would have lost her eventually anyway, lost her to drugs or despair, but instead Damon turned her into a vampire and Stefan killed her.

Matt accepts Damon's part in their lives. As a devoted protector of Elena and Jenna. But yeah. Maybe Damon owes Matt a Thing.

"Could you… compel him? To be alright?" Matt doesn't even know how to ask, what to ask for. But he's asking.

Damon stills. "No."

"No?" Matt's pissed and Alaric is about to jump in.

"Can't compel a kid. I've tried. What?" he asks, in response to Alaric's disgusted grunt. "Their parents tell them to shut up all the time. I just say it with a little more conviction."

Matt slumps again because he was prepared to argue with 'won't', not with 'can't'.

"Maybe Ric could."

Alaric's head whips around. "What?"

"You're better at it than me." He looks up at Matt. "He can't make fog, though. Or. You know. Control crows, or cook Italian food." It's intended to be flippant. It doesn't sound that way.


"I've tried to compel a kid before. Didn't work. You maybe have a shot." Still he hasn't looked up. Eyes trained on Jack and Jenna and Elena, who has started to listen, and is shooting a look which is somehow both hopeful and angry.

"I can't compel a kid. What if I fu- -udge it up?" Alaric shakes his head. "It's… it's out of the question, Damon."

Matt argues. "It's not out of the question. You couldn't make it worse. Look at him."

Elena stands, and crosses to the kitchen. She grabs Alaric's hand. "Try." Tears well in her eyes. "Try. For me."

Neither Alaric nor Damon are really capable of saying no to Elena Gilbert. And with her eyes all wide like that, she's Elena Gilbert again, no question.

Alaric feels genuinely ill.

"He's a sick kid, Elena." Alaric speaks low, quiet.

"How much worse could it be?"

"I have no idea and neither do you."

Elena takes Alaric's hand."Please, Ric. Please."

Jenna is tucked in, with a solemn promise that Jack isn't going to be sitting up all night eating ice cream. She gives up because the emotional energy in the room is exhausting for everyone. Jack seems nervous, keen to follow up the stairs, but perhaps he is used to being told what to do, because when Elena tells him to wait, he holds her eyes a moment and then settles back onto the ground, tiny hands in a fist in his lap.

Elena sits behind him on the couch, and places a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Alaric sits on the ground in front of him. Jack looks up.

"Listen to me," Alaric says, with a touch of eye flare.

Jack's eyes go wide and dull.

Oh, fuck.

"Lift your right arm in the air."

Jack complies. Alaric's heart beats hard in his chest.

"Tell me what happened, Jack. Before they found you."

"The wolf-people came and killed mommy and daddy and I was in the closet under the clothes. And first they had mean faces and then they were wolves."

Elena's eyes spill over with tears.

"Do you know who they are?"

Jack nods. "One of the wolf-men is my uncle Mark," he says, and he look so sad. "I don't know what mommy did wrong."

It is strange, Alaric thinks; not that he has given a lot of thought to what Jack's voice might sound like but he still thinks it doesn't sound the way he thought it would; a little rasping. Perhaps it's because he's been silent for weeks.

"Did you see?"

"I heard." Jack nods. "And I tried to count to a thousand and I couldn't and I woke up and mommy and daddy were gotten eaten in the van and the wolf-men were gone and I went for a walk. You have to walk in a straight line."

Alaric pauses for a long moment, and looks up to see Elena covering her eyes with her hand, sobbing silently.

Behind her, Damon wears a fierce, fond look. He nods at Alaric.

"Jack." Jack looks up. "You won't remember, anymore. You won't remember what happened. Your parents loved you and they disappeared and now you have Elena and Matt."

Jack nods.

"You talk, you play. You're okay." Alaric shudders. He wishes suddenly that he had days or weeks to plan this. The words seem wrong. "They love you. You're safe here."

"They love me," Jack confirms, looking calm.

Alaric drops the compulsion. Jack looks confused, but he tips his head back, meeting Elena's eyes. "I'm sleepy," he says, and Elena pulls him into her lap. Holds him tight, holds him close. Jack settles against her, and when Alaric looks up, he sees that Matt is behind them, and that Damon has backed right into the kitchen, uncomfortable about being present for a family moment so intense.

"Goodnight," Elena says, though it's not yet nine, and she and Matt and Jack all go upstairs. Matt carries Jack, who nestles against him, looking for the first time like nothing more or less than a little boy.

Alaric meets Damon in the kitchen.

"That was awesome," Damon says, airily. He takes a few steps forward, pinning Alaric against the counter.

"I compelled that kid to forget his own parents and instantly recover from a trauma he should have been given time to deal with," Alaric disagrees, though he presses his hands to Damon's chest, following the line of muscles until his fingers reach Damon's hips. "We're deep in grays here."

They wait; they watch. No one comes to the house. Eventually the sun pinks up the horizon. A little while later Alaric hears doors open and close, and hears giggling; Jenna enjoying the newfound chattiness she's hoped for from her new brother. It warms his heart, dispels some of the unease he has been feeling about what he did. Damon disappears upstairs to shower, and Alaric makes coffee, starts splitting bagels for breakfast.

When Damon comes back Alaric showers, long and slow, letting the water warm him. He dries off and re-dresses in the same clothes, and is surprised by Jenna and Jack standing outside the bathroom door; "Boo!" they say in unison, and Alaric leaps back, pretending to be scared.

Their laughter is glorious.

"I hope you left some hot water," Elena says, poaching eggs as Damon fries up bacon. Jenna and Jack outline their plans to start the real life Shadowhawk Babes and Lightcrow Boys and Alaric has to shake his head against the perfect domesticity of it all; because it is false. The other two are still out there, somewhere.

Damon keeps talking. "We'll just stay here today. All day. Coming at you during the day is a hell of a lot riskier but they have to be getting desperate by now." Alaric butters bagels, readying plates, so the whole fantastic cooked breakfast bonanza comes together perfectly, timed to the second, because Damon is most definitely the king of breakfast. "Or, we all go somewhere. Head out to the falls. If they're watching the house, they'll follow us, and that would actually be a good place to -" Damon casts a look at the children. "- arrest them. No one around."

"Nowhere we can get safe," either, Matt protests. "At least here, we -"

"They'll burn the house down," Alaric says. "You'll grab the kids and coming running out and then… uh, we'll never get to arrest them."

"Like the ladybird song!" Jenna says at the top of her lungs, and they all silently agree not to speak even indirectly of the dire situation they're in with children present, ever again.

Halfway through breakfast, there is a knock on the door. Alaric checks the peephole with a dart gun held low at his hip, but it's Liz, looking a strange combination of relieved and furious. "I need to speak to you and Damon," she says, and the three congregate on the porch.

"Do I really need to talk to you about disposing of bodies?"

Damon frowns. "No one's gonna find him in the basement of the boarding house. What's your problem?"

"My problem? My problem is you two chuckleheads leaving bodies in the parking lot of the sheriff's station."

Damon looks indignant. "What? We didn't – we wouldn't – wait, bodies? Plural? Guy with very pale hair and -"

It's Liz's turn to frown. "No. The woman had very pale hair…"

"Woman? Start from the beginning." Alaric crosses his arms.

Liz explains quickly that she got a call from one of the deputies that there were two dead bodies in the parking lot; she had instructed him to cover them up, set a perimeter and keep trying to call the Sheriff. When she arrived, she saw the sick, stone-grey faces, the dirty black veins, and knew they had to be the hybrids.

She and Meredith were in the process of fucking up the paperwork so the bodies were cremated as infectious waste ASAP.

Alaric explains; the relationship between them all, Jack's parents as well; the motivation for taking Jack, his uncle in the basement of the boarding house.

"Which leaves us with one question." Damon grits his teeth, flares his nostrils. Eyes wide and bright silver. "Who? Liz. Is there anyone on the Council who…"

Liz shakes her head. "No one. No one who could have done that."

Damon rarely looks a gift horse in the mouth. "Cheering," he says. "We'll deal with the third one. You know, Mystic Falls needs a hog farm."

Liz sighs. "I don't like it. If you get any ideas…"

"I have an idea," Alaric says, and opens the door. "Coffee. Orange juice. A bagel."

Two more days in Mystic Falls, reacquainting themselves with favored places in the boarding house and burying Justin's body in the woods, and Damon and Alaric return to San Francisco. They head straight to the bar from the airport and arrive as it's starting to get busy. Everything is well in hand.

Harry nods and waves from his place behind the bar. "You guys, uh, got flowers. They were delivered a couple of hours ago. They're in the office."


Yes, it's definitely a bunch of flowers. A huge, expensive-looking bunch of flowers. Heavy-headed lilies expertly wired to stay upright. Tulips and Gerber daisies, and it's taking up half of the office.

"The fuck?" Damon frowns. "Elena wouldn't…"

"No," Alaric says, pulling out a card, tucked neatly into the cellophane wrap. He reads it and groans, passing it to Damon. "She wouldn't."

"Dear Damon and Ric, you… oh, fuck me. You owe me. Love K, xoxo."

Damon and Alaric look at each other for a long moment. "I guess that's her way of saying 'I know where you live'. What do you think she wants?"

And Damon leans, silver eyes bright and quick, and molds his mouth to Alaric's, kissing him hard. "I don't care what she wants," he promises, and Alaric kisses him back.

A/N: Sorry I didn't get a chapter out last week, guys. I think I really need to say that from now on I'll be publishing most Sundays instead of every Sunday - I don't want to either publish stuff I'm not happy with or let this start to feel like a chore, and I am trying to focus on my original fiction more than I have been.

Plus, the chapters keep wanting to be looong, the bastards.

Thanks for your continued support - I will catch up on unanswered reviews this week, I promise!


PS are we friends on twitter? WE'RE NOT? Oh no! I am PleaseBeKidding.