A/N: This project will be a multi-chapter work dedicated to Mystic Falls' favorite pastime (no, not killing in formal-wear): day-drinking. Think short story collection rather than novel, as each "chapter" will actually be a stand-alone story told from different points of view. I will stay in canon for the duration but anticipate moving around chronologically. I envision visits from characters past, expanded views on some of my favorite scenes from earlier episodes, and fill-in-the-blank moments I like to imagine took place during commercial breaks. If you have any suggestions or requests, feel free to let me know. "Justified" should be here, since it was the first day-drinking story I wrote, but since I posted that as a one-shot, this next-first one is Damon's POV from "The Rager." Rated M for language and maybe smuttiness later. Huge shout-out to CreepingMuse, who I can't thank enough for being such an encouraging (and honest) beta. Raise your glasses, mates! Cheers.

Ticking Time Bombs

Fan-fucking-tastic. Yeah. I could've gone with something more subtle. I really don't need to be bludgeoned over the head with the idea that no matter what I do (I can either stand still and wait for a vampire hunter to come home and kill me, or I can move and blow myself up), I'm fucked. Thanks, universe. Really feelin' the love.

I'm smarter than this. I really am despite all evidence to the contrary, seeing as how I'm skewered like a kabob. Thank Christ this sadistic fuck didn't vervain his arrow tips, or then I'd really be in trouble. How did I not see this coming? Of course an experienced hunter wouldn't allow just anyone to walk into his not-so-secret lair.

It was the trailer that threw me off. How can you have any respect for someone who lives in a fucking trailer? That, and I admit to being distracted and off my game.

Fucking Stefan. Yes, I'm grateful he made sure I wasn't dead before cold-cocking me, but I had to tweeze out all those fucking bullet splinters myself, which wasn't a great way to spend my evening. And then he pulled that stupid stunt with the lanterns. Let's all cry and feel our pain and set it free and pretend we're Japanese instead of actually doing something real, like, I don't know, keep Tyler Lockwood from getting his venom jacked in the hospital. Thanks, Stefan. That was time well spent. And then he has the fucking balls to accuse me of being dramatic? Me? Oh, and he wants to help, but first he's going to show Elena how to have fun.

I'm all about fun. Fun is my middle name. But Stefan? Hmmm. Let's see, the only time Stefan ever truly has fun is when he's up to his own eyebrows in the bloody hole where someone's head used to be. I swear to fucking god, the only time he's not brooding is when he's ripping someone apart. And you know what, it's not just Elena's transition that's been depressing. It's this whole godforsaken town. It was depressing as all fuck when we were alive, and guess what? It hasn't changed. Why do I insist on calling Mystic Falls home when the world is filled with much better locations? Oh right: I do stupid things. Like come back because I think I love someone and am deluded enough to believe I can save her, except, as it turns out, she didn't need to be rescued, and she doesn't want me. And then I inconveniently fall in love with another girl who's in love with my brother because the first go 'round wasn't enough fun. I did my fucking best to keep her safe, but I couldn't protect her from herself. What can you do about a girl with a death wish? And now she's another vampire who doesn't want me.

Good riddance, Mystic Falls. I can't wait until you are a distant memory in my rear-view mirror.

You know how as soon as you know you can't move you feel the need to scratch your nose or sneeze? Yeah. That's me. Which is why I damn near answer Elena's call, just for something to do to distract me until the cavalry arrives. 'Cause an arrow through the chest isn't enough pain for one morning. How's that for subtle metaphor? I haven't even eaten breakfast, for fuck's sake. And oh, yeah, she's having a real good time with Stefan right now if she's calling me.

Great fucking day when the best thing you have going for you is one of the two arrows was only a nick to the thigh and easy enough to rip out without detonating a bomb. I'm walking on sunshine.

When my phone rings again, I roll my eyes at baby vampires with no impulse control. Except it's Jeremy, who never calls me.

"What happened?" I demand.

"Why does everyone always think something's wrong?" he asks. Normally, this sort of time-wasting would piss me off, but for the moment, distractions welcome.

"Because something is always wrong. And you don't like me enough for a friendly chat. Spill."

"The hunter's at school."

I appreciate his getting right to the point. "Dammit." Shit. Fuck. Shit. Dammit. Fuck.

"Basically. How soon can you get here?"

"I'm a little tied up at the moment," I say. "Call Stefan."

"He's here."

"Then why are you calling me?"

"Well, he knows the guy's here. He saw him too. But he and Caroline and Elena had a physics test."

I clench my fist so tightly I damn near break another phone. Stefan's idea of showing Elena a good time involves making sure all her homework is complete? What a fucking idiot.

"He has several college degrees," I snap.

"I just thought you'd know what to do." he says.

I breathe as deeply as I dare to without blowing myself up and try not to think about the fact that Jeremy thinks he can depend on me. Talk about proverbial arrows through the chest. What a fucking nightmare. I want to climb out of my own skin.

"He says," Jeremy continues in my silence. "The hunter guy? That because I can see his invisible tattoo, that I'm a hunter too. That's what he called it, a hunter's mark. I guess that's why no one else sees it but me? I thought it was maybe like the ghosts. But he said I could be a hunter if I wanted. It was really weird. I thought he was a social worker or something, only he wants to train me to kill vampires. Oh, and I know where he lives."

Who'd have thought Jeremy fucking Gilbert would be asking me what he should do when someone shows up and offers to teach him how to torment and kill vampires. I snapped the kid's neck not too long ago. What is it with Gilberts and their unflinching ability to forgive? It's obnoxious. No one's that nice. But if Conner's talking to Jeremy, wanting to turn him into a trusty side-kick...

Yeah, this is good. I can work with this. And let's not forget Jeremy isn't nearly as helpless or naive as Elena likes to think. The kid has mad-skills with a meat cleaver.

"Already figured out his address," I say. "But thanks for the tip. Is everyone okay?"

"There was a thing with Rebekah in history. Stefan said something about a pencil? And Elena is... I don't even know. Matt's acting weird, like maybe he's sick, and Tyler didn't come today and he's being all secretive about why..."

"Is anyone injured?" I interrupt. God spare me further proof that high school is indeed hell. "Dead? In more immediate danger than usual?"

"No. Not that I know about."

"Good. Go to class. I'll call you back."

"Why?" he says, all petulant teenager again, reminding me he's just a little kid.

"Ditch, then. I don't care. Just don't get killed in the next couple of hours."

"Are you trying to be a dick?"

"No, it just comes naturally." I hear Meredith's car down the road. About fucking time.

I sigh. Ric really cared about Jeremy. And he's lost just as many people as Elena, and now the only person he has left is dead-ish and probably trying really hard to not rip out his throat and suck him dry while he sleeps.

"I'm glad you called," I say more kindly. It's not even entirely untrue. "And I'm going to need your help to catch this douchebag. I'll call you back with the plan."

"Yeah?" He sounds all hopeful, like he's really pleased I'm saying he can risk his life. Again. Fuck me. How the hell did Ric do this?

"Yeah."

I hang up when Meredith's car comes to a stop outside the trailer.

Meredith wasn't my first choice. No, that would be Ric, who I've taken to speaking to every night through six feet of dirt. Nor is she my second choice, but Stefan, despite his "I'll help" would be too complicated at the moment on account of a little blood sharing amongst friends. It's like accusing someone of making out while doing CPR. It was a life-or-death situation, I was totally justified, and in the end, it hurt me a lot more than it hurt him. Cry me a river, Stefan.

I wouldn't have thought Meredith was anywhere on my list of people to call for help. Actually, I never even wanted a list of people to call. Before I moved back here, I was perfectly independent. I didn't need side-kicks or partners in crime or a fickle brother who will save me and then punch me in the face. Now I've gone all soft and needy, and it's disgusting. But here she is. Desperate times and all.

Meredith turns off her car but doesn't get out right away. I hope she's looking around, taking in the surroundings, making sure she's not walking into a trap. With any luck, being a Fell and long-time blood-jacker of vampires taught her a thing or two about self-defense. She finally walks over to the trailer, and I carefully shift my weight to counter her movement as she climbs inside. Fucking trailers.

"Why were you being so cryptic?" she asks.

"Come in. Close the door." I hear her heart hammer as she takes in the scene, me stuck through with an arrow with a taut wire attached to a bomb. Yeah, doc. Get the big picture. Absorb. Use that big brain of yours.

"Tell me that is not a bomb," she whispers, as if speaking loudly will spontaneously detonate it.

"Okay," I say. Christ, there's just the one to deal with now. At least it's not bombs, as in plural. "It's a kitten. It's an adorable, exploding kitten." I can't see her, but I imagine she'd hit me right about now if there weren't the chance we'd both end up in very small, fiery pieces.

"Why didn't you call your brother?" she asks.

Oh, way to the get to the white-hot center, sexy psycho doctor. What, just because Ric was my friend she thinks she gets to play shrink? I don't need a shrink, goddammit. I need a surgeon's steady hands.

I don't know who I hate the most right now, but I'm pretty sure I'm beating out all the competition.


We don't blow up. I'm calling it a success because... well... I just am, dammit.

"Let's get out of here," Meredith says, putting her arm around my waist and trying to help me down the steps.

"No need," I say, shrugging her off and pocketing the suicide letter Pastor Young wrote to his daughter. We need to find out if she never got it, or if she got it and handed it over to this fuckhead. Add that to the list of shit we don't know.

"Damon, you don't have to pretend to be so tough all the time."

Actually, doc, I do. I glare at her.

"Just because Ric told you things he shouldn't have doesn't mean you get to repeat them. Got it?"

"It's your own fault for confiding in a chatty drunk," she replies without hesitating. Feisty. Smart. Fast on her feet. Handy with a big fucking knife. I like that in a woman.

I grin. "Touche."

"I'm not sorry I took your blood," she blurts out, as if she's been thinking about it for a while now and waiting for a chance to get it off her chest. "Just so you know. In case you're waiting for an apology."

"I'm not much on apologizing myself," I say. And yeah, I was pissed about that, but since it means Elena's alive-ish, as far as I'm concerned, all's well that ends well. I'd tap a vein for that any day, no roofies required. Not that I'll ever tell Meredith that. Besides, I have bigger fish to fry.

She looks around and realizes that I ran here before nodding towards her car. "Want a lift?"

"Yeah. I've had better mornings." I bite my tongue so hard I taste blood so I don't moan when I get into the car. She's looking at me like a doctor, all professional and concerned, so I pull out my flask and offer her a drink. She shakes her head. "Oh come on. It's bourbon, not blood. Like you said, Ric was a chatty drunk. I know some of your secrets too."

"I don't think it's a secret that I day-drink. Most of the good citizens of Mystic Falls do. And you look like you could use blood a lot more than you could use the bourbon."

I shrug. "You keep a stash handy? Ric was always good for a couple bags on ice in the backseat."

She snatches the flask from my hand and swallows while navigating the winding path back to the road. Not a polite little sip either. And she doesn't even flinch. Damn. I like that in a woman too. "Donated blood is for humans who need it," she says, all serious and insulted. "I'm offering. Me. Just this once. I'll consider us even. I don't like owing debts."

I know just what she means. I retrieve my flask and take a swallow.

"I appreciate the gesture," I say. "But I'll make it home. And I happen to like people owing me. I'll save it for a rainy day."

She nods. "The headstone is really beautiful," she says, abruptly changing topics. "Who'd you compel to get it done so quickly?"

"How do you know it was me? Could've been lots of people."

She gives me an annoyed look. "Ric trusted you, so I'm going to trust you too. You really don't have to act like the bad guy."

"I am bad," I correct her. "I killed him."

"I know."

"Twice. And at the time, I wasn't sorry. And then I didn't kill him when I should have."

"I know that too," she whispers.

"So actually, I am bad." I don't need her fucking permission or absolution or pity. None of it.

She takes back the flask and raises it to her lips. "Maybe we all are," she mutters so quietly I almost didn't hear her. She swallows and hands the flask back to me, and we drive in silence the rest of the way. Elena's car is in the driveway when Meredith pulls up, but there's no sign of Stefan or his motorcycle.

"Oh great." I offer Meredith the last pull in the flask.

"Need more help?" she asks.

"No. I got this one."


I can hear her tossing my room before I even open the door. I don't shut it quietly, either. I stand in the entryway and listen, and it's just Elena in the house, throwing my shit around. Books, clothes, a belt that lands with a metallic thud, a couple pairs of shoes. No sign of Stefan. Oh yeah. She's having a fun time.

I go down to the basement for a blood bag. I take a couple extra and toss them in the fridge in the kitchen 'cause I have a feeling I'm going to need them. I refill my flask in the parlor. I'm not quiet about any of this. She's so focused she didn't hear Meredith's car, didn't hear me clomping around the house, and I wear boots. I stomp up the stairs at a human pace, all but hollering her name, and she doesn't even notice me standing in the doorway less than two feet away.

What is Stefan teaching her? Sure as shit he isn't showing her how to feed properly or listen or not get ambushed. If I were the hunter, she'd be dead. For real this time. Then again, who am I to talk? I have a hole in my chest that's rather painfully knitting itself back together.

"I hope you plan on cleaning this up," I say.

She jumps and has the decency to look guilty. "I need bourbon," she lies. She's a goddamn terrible liar. "To get through Rebekah's party. Yours is better than Stefan's."

Freudian slip much, Elena? We all know mine is better than Stefan's, and not just my choice of booze.

"Hmmmm," I say, like I'm considering her request, but mostly I'm just gleaning every little detail I can from her. She's not even dressed like Elena. She exchanged hunger and grief for rage. Way to go, Stefan. Teach her to channel all that vampire emotion into rage, and she is fucking pissed. She's looks better since feeding from Matt at the memorial, a sight I don't know if I never want to see again or watch in slow-motion playback over and over. I hope she's not exclusively feeding from him, or he'll drop like a fly. Given what she doesn't know about being a vampire could maybe squeeze into the Grand Canyon, I'm going to assume she doesn't realize you can't drink more than a sip from the same person with any kind of regularity. Good job, Stefan. Killing her ex-boyfriend and childhood friend won't traumatize her at all.

"Top drawer of the dresser," I say.

"Thanks," she says. She huffs over, all indignant school girl, which I appreciate even though she pisses me off and makes me feel all worried and protective, which makes me even more pissed off because Stefan's fist reminded me it's not my place to worry about or protect her. I pull the flask from my pocket and swallow. Thank god I refilled it because this girl drives me to drink.

"You keep alcohol in your underwear drawer?" she asks disdainfully, her fingertip hooked around my most modest and unattractive pair. Then again, I usually don't wear underwear, so it's my least attended to item of clothing.

"No," I scoff. "But you weren't looking for alcohol, were you?" I unbutton my shirt.

Dammit. Another John Varvatos ruined. Two in two days. I've gone through more shirts in a year than I did in the previous fifty.

Fuck.

My un-life is ironic because if she'd actually been looking for the alcohol she claims she is, she would've found what she's looking for, and I wouldn't have to refold most of my wardrobe and repair the broken spines of several first editions.

"Do you actually think I'd leave the last remaining white oak stake where any vampire could just walk in and take it?" I ask while inspecting the healing wound. It's still tender, but give it another couple of minutes, and I'll be able to shower and get on with my plan to kill this motherfucker.

"What happened to you?" she asks in a tone that's far more annoyed than concerned. Never mind I was the one who saved her from eating the Grille. Never mind that she called me, not Stefan, and I came running, literally running, with a new dress that was better than the one she ruined in the first place. Nope. That's just Damon doing his part in the Protect Elena Gilbert Effort.

Fuck me for caring.

"Hunter mishap."

"You know he was in my school today?" She says it like it's somehow my fault.

I'm not the one pretending to be a high school student. I was actually trying to get rid of the asshole while you were taking your physics test. Blame Stefan for the lack of security. Oh right, except nothing is ever Stefan's fault. He's the good brother. And yeah, I feel fine. Thanks for the concern over the blood drying a little too close to my heart for comfort.

"Yep," I answer. "Jeremy told me."

"Why were you talking to Jeremy?" She has her hip all cocked out, in full righteous indignation mode. She looks so much like Katherine right now it's scary. I'm so pissed off I almost tell her that, just to see what happens.

"Don't worry about it." I've never let anything happen to you, Elena, and I won't let anything happen to him either. Yes, I killed him that one time. It didn't take. I said I was sorry, and I never fucking apologize, so let's move on.

"Damon, don't bring him into this."

I take off my shirt, standing far too close to her. I dare her to lick the dried blood. She wants to. I can see it in her eyes, the way her pupils dilate. She licks her lips and bites the bottom one. Her lips are all red and plump and shiny... Now that would be a not depressing way to spend the rest of the day. But holy fuck this girl is the biggest cock tease ever. At least Katherine delivered.

"Perish the thought he might actually be useful, Elena?" I snark instead. I save the kid the wrath of a newborn vampire and don't tell her he's the one who called me.

I purposefully unbuckle my belt because if she is in this room for another second I will have her, because both of us desperately need it, but we can't have it, so she needs to go. Now. Yesterday. Get away from me. Except she's staring, not taking the hint. I need her to walk away. Take all that anger and get the fuck out.

"You staying for the show?" I prompt.

Since I'm not wearing underwear at the moment, it would indeed be a quite a show because my dick doesn't seem to care that I'm pissed at her and she looks like Katherine, but she's still Elena, and Elena is always technically Stefan's girl. Nope. Doesn't care at all. I'm so hard it hurts, and it just wants what it wants.

She flinches when I unsnap my pants, tearing her eyes away as she huffs out.

"I'm finding that stake," she shouts over her shoulder, forgetting she doesn't have to raise her voice anymore. I can hear just fine, and so can she.

"You go right ahead and do that," I answer conversationally.

I know you can hear me, and I hope you listened because I mean it. You can find it. I gave you a clue, Elena.

Think.

Think. Think.

You can do this, Elena. You can still be you and be a vampire. I promise. Don't let the anger consume you. Push through it. Be Elena. We spent the summer super-sleuthing for Stefan, and we've solved all kinds of mysteries and problems. This is easy: you were looking for alcohol, and I sent you somewhere I don't keep alcohol. Are you too pissed off and in a flutter over my delicates, or are you going to focus and realize the stake is where I actually do keep the alcohol? I listen as she stalls at the bottom of the stairs, still angry and overwhelmed and desperately wanting her prize.

I can tell when she gets it. The eureka moment. There's my clever girl.

She flashes to the bar in the parlor. There, in the back, wrapped in a dark cloth because the metal from Ric's ring is too fucking shiny to conceal well, that's where I put the stake. I wouldn't let just anyone have it, and now I'll have to think of a different place to keep it. The bar was so convenient because it always seems like Originals are crashing through the windows when I'm trying to enjoy a nightcap.

But I'm leaving town anyway, so it doesn't matter because it's coming with me.

I'll let her have it, for a little while at least. Like I care if Rebekah and all her vampire spawn bite the dust. Not that she'll actually do it. She is still Elena, no matter how pissed off or how much she resembles Katherine right now. She'll hold it and think about it and maybe go so far as to plan how she'll pull it off. She'll think she feels better. And just maybe the illusion will be enough to satisfy her, and she'll be able to get her head out of her ass for two seconds and realize rage isn't her thing. Yeah, there's loads to be pissed off about, but speaking from experience, rage doesn't make anything better and regret follows hot on its heels.

Plus, I'll have to get it back from her before I leave. I'm not giving anyone that stake. I don't care how edible she looks dressed for school. I'm merely allowing her to borrow it for the afternoon as a public service, which means I have a reason to go to her house later. Before I leave. Not that I need a reason because she doesn't deserve a goodbye after this little stunt, but still.

The details of the plan come to me in the shower. I fucking love my shower. It's the one thing in Mystic Falls I'll miss. We need to set a trap because I can be ironic too, motherfucker. All I need are some side-kicks. I'm fresh out of the trusty ones, so un-trusty will have to do. Desperate times. I grab my phone and dial, dripping water all over the floor because I am so ready to blow this joint. Pun intended.

"Damon?" Meredith asks.

"What do you know, doc? It looks like rain."