The Rain King

By Terri Botta

Summary: Sequel to The Queen of Unintended Consequences. Six years after Damon leaves Elena with Klaus, he's called back to handle a delicate situation. An AU Season 3 fic.

A/N: Yes, I know, I JUST updated with Chapter 10 and here's 11 already. Because of what just happened on the show, I HAD to write this and get this out for all of you still in shock. Don;t get used to it as Ch 12 will probably be a bit of time in coming, although I know you'll want to kill me for the cliffhanger. As always, many thanks to my awesome betas Glamoured-by-Eric, Kate C, and Layla Reyne.


Chapter Eleven

Four days. He had four days of bliss. Four days of peace and happiness with Elena before the universe decided that he'd had enough, and it was time to kick him in the balls again.

She initiated nearly all of their lovemaking, giving him the eye at the most unexpected of moments, and he'd scramble to switch gears to get with the program. They'd made love in almost every room of the house and in the back of her car. He'd even taken her on top of the piano after she'd admitted that it had always been a fantasy of hers, and hell, he was the king of fantasy fulfillment.

He was lost in her warmth and scent, and he was deliriously happy. He should've known it would never last. Fate hated him, and it reminded him of that on a regular basis.

They were snuggled together in his bed after yet another night of loving, when his vampire senses alerted him to danger. He awoke from a dead sleep in full vamp mode, snarling and ready to defend his mate. His vision was red and unfocused as his eyes fell on a male intruder with a crossbow. He roared and lunged as the man fired, striking him in the shoulder with a vervain-tipped arrow. The blow failed to stop him, and he was on the man, fangs bared, rage burning through him like wildfire. He grabbed the asshole by the chin and prepared to twist his head off when Elena screamed.

"Damon! No! It's Ric!"

He curbed his strength at the last second, merely snapping his former friend's neck instead of messily decapitating him. It was a good thing, too, because he would never have been able to get that much blood out of the floor. Ric's body landed on the area rug with a heavy thud, and Damon shook his head enough to clear his vision and search for the Eternity Ring. He was immensely relieved when he saw that Ric was wearing it, but then seriously pissed off that the history teacher had tried to kill him in his own bed with Elena sleeping right next to him.

"Dick," he spat, kicking the body for good measure as he yanked the arrow out of his flesh. Damn, it stung like a bitch.

"Oh my God. Oh my God," Elena was babbling, as she crouched naked beside Ric's body and wept.

"He's wearing his ring, Elena," he pointed out since she seemed too distraught to process that fact.

Elena lifted the limp hand with the large signet ring and cried harder, but this time he could tell they were tears of relief.

"Oh, thank God. I don't know what we would've done if he hadn't been wearing it."

"Digging a grave in the garden to hide the body," he stated, gently pulling her away from her former guardian.

"Damon! He's our friend," she scolded.

"Friends do not sneak into friends' bedrooms at five in the morning and try to shoot them with crossbows, Elena."

"We don't know why he did that. Maybe he was compelled."

"Maybe, but I'm more inclined to think that he's still holding a grudge from the last time I snapped his neck."

"The night of the Founders' meeting?" she questioned guiltily.

"No, the night I came back to Mystic Falls after leaving you with Klaus."

"Oh," she said, dropping her eyes, but then asked, "What are we going to do?"

"We are not going to do anything," he replied, trying to sound stern. "I am going to carry Ric's body downstairs to the parlor and wait for him to wake up."

"What am I going to do?"

"I'd prefer it if you just stayed naked in bed, waiting for me, but somehow I doubt more sex is at the forefront of your mind right now," he answered, steering her towards the bed. She was resisting.

"Ass," she snapped.

"Yes, and you love it. You were telling me how much you loved it last night, remember?" he teased with a leer.

Much to his disappointment, she dug in her heels and refused to be herded back to bed. Instead, she stepped out of his grasp and turned to face him.

"Damon, don't do this," she begged.

He frowned. "Do what?"

"You know exactly what. You think you're going to get hurt, so you close yourself off, and get all snarky and cranky. Don't shut yourself off. I love you. Please don't push me away."

He sighed. She was right, of course. Ric coming back with his particular brand of "get away from Elena" was the last thing he wanted in an already stressful situation. He was already on the defensive.

"I'm sorry. You're right," he admitted.

She looked shocked. "I am?"

"Don't look so surprised. I have learned a thing or two in the last six years."

She smiled at him and pressed close, reaching for his hand. "So what are we going to do?"

"I don't know. All I know is the last time I saw Ric was the night I left Mystic Falls, and he vowed to kill me. Now he's back, and the first thing he tries to do is shoot me with an arrow. Seems pretty obvious to me." That wasn't true. The last time he'd seen Ric was the Battle of San Diego, but Ric hadn't seen him, and he'd purposely avoided him to keep it that way.

"We don't know that. We should see what he says when he wakes up. Let's get dressed, and we'll both go downstairs, okay?"

"Fine," he agreed.

They pulled on some clothes, a t-shirt and jeans for him and a soft sweat set for Elena, and she followed him as he carried Ric's body downstairs and dropped it unceremoniously on one of the couches in the parlor. It was oddly reminiscent of the day he'd killed Ric at the Founder's Party, but at least this time he wasn't nervously mixing a drink because he'd fucked up. No, this time snapping Ric's neck had been entirely justified.

Even lying there dead, Ric looked older. He was still scruffy and rough around the edges, but there were more lines on his face, and he wasn't as buff as he was six years ago. He smirked at the thought of cushy Californian life making his old friend soft.

But still, seeing him after all those years was bittersweet for Damon. On one hand, he was heartily glad to see Ric, because his presence meant there was hope for salvaging their friendship. On the other, Ric's greeting had been with a lethal weapon, and that didn't bode well for shared drunken binges in the near future.

He and Elena took up their vigil seated on the couch opposite the one where Ric was laid out. They waited for nearly an hour, Elena pressed next to him, her legs curled underneath her and her arm hooked into his, until he heard the first stirrings of Ric's heart. A second later, the man was gasping for breath as his eyes flew open wide, and he scrambled to sit up. Damon waited a beat or two before offering him the glass of alcohol.

"Here. We have to stop meeting like this, Ric. People will start to talk," he said, trying to keep his voice light.

Ric scowled and moved to shove the drink away, but Damon was faster and yanked it back before it could spill. He set the tumbler down on the table – on a coaster, of course.

"You killed me again, you bastard!" Ric accused, rubbing his neck.

"You were trying to shoot me while I was sleeping in my own bed. The fact that I didn't rip your head off is a testament to how much control I have," he answered.

"You deserved it, you piece of shit."

He was trying to come up with a witty comeback to that comment when Elena preempted him by throwing herself at the former history teacher.

"Ric! I missed you so much!" she cried with a sob.

Whatever hatred and anger the man might have felt for him melted away immediately, and Damon saw his face soften as he returned Elena's hug.

"Elena," Ric whispered with relief.

Elena pulled back to look Ric in the face. "It's so good to see you. It's been so long."

"It's good to see you too. I've missed you."

As the two humans embraced and smiled at each other, Damon felt a surge of anger and protective jealousy, and he had to fight the urge to rip Ric away from Elena. He quickly realized that he was seeing the other man as a rival and a potential threat to his mate. He tried to resist, but the beast in him was growling. He hadn't realized that he'd actually audibly growled until Elena stared at him in shock.

"Damon?" she asked worriedly, and he guessed he must have appeared very predatory because he could smell the scent of fear on her.

He shook his head, trying to rein in his protective instincts and tamp down his rage.

"I'm sorry. I need…" He stopped, trying to find the words to explain what was happening.

"Damon, what's wrong? Your fangs are down," Elena said. "Damon, it's Ric."

"I know, but…"

Realization dawned on her face, and she turned back to Ric. "He sees you as a rival. Quick, hug me like you would if I was your daughter."

"What?" Ric blurted.

"I'm pregnant. Damon's my partner and protector. You're another male. It's his instinct to drive other men away from me, but if he sees us as a father-daughter pair, he won't feel so threatened."

Trust his beautiful girl to figure out exactly what was going on and come up with a plan. God, he loved her. She might be Stepford Elena right now, but Stepford Elena was brilliant when it came to vampire management. He wondered if his Elena would be so astute.

"Unless you want me to break your neck again, I'd do as she says," he warned, trying to retract his fangs even as his beast urged him to maim and kill the other male who was touching his mate.

Elena hugged Ric, tucking her head under his chin, and he saw Ric hesitate for a moment before returning the hug. His beast growled and fumed, but he kept a leash on it, and he forced himself to watch as Ric kissed Elena on the forehead. He recognized the action as paternal, and he began to relax. Several long moments later, the desire to rip Ric's heart out faded completely, and the tension drained out of his shoulders.

"Okay. I'm okay," he announced with no small measure of relief. He hadn't wanted to hurt his former friend any more than he'd already had, especially when Ric's presence meant he had another chess piece in his master game against Klaus. He mentally added Ric to the board as a knight.

Elena smiled at him and gave Ric one more happy squeeze before sitting back. The other man cast him a suspicious glance.

"You good?" Ric asked him.

Damon took a deep breath and nodded, reaching to pour himself a drink. "Yeah. The urge to rip out your eyeballs and feed them to you is fading. Which is good coz we don't know how many Get Out of Dead Free cards that ring has in it, and I don't think we want to find out."

Ric gave him a measured look, and then turned to Elena, his eyes focused on her lower abdomen.

"So it's true then? Klaus had some guy knock you up so he could breed more doppelgangers?"

Elena placed a protective hand over her womb. "Yeah, it's true."

Ric glared at him. "Where were you when all this was happening?"

"In Italy, enjoying the local cuisine," he answered with a smirk and a salute of his drink.

Ric scowled and it looked like he was about to say something, when Elena put a hand on his chest to stop him. "Don't bait him. He's cranky when someone shoots him in the morning. What was that anyway? Did you want him to kill you?"

"He had it coming," Ric stated firmly.

Damon shrugged and took a drink. "Fair enough."

Elena snorted and rolled her eyes. "Quit with the pissing contest, both of you. Neither of you could have done anything to stop it, and Klaus would just have killed you if you'd tried. He killed one of my closest friends among the hybrids for trying to stop it; ripped her heart out right in front of me. Do you think I wanted to see him do that to either of you?"

They both had the decency to appear contrite, and Elena sighed before leaving Ric's side and returning to his. He put an arm around her immediately. She smelled like the other man, and he needed to cover it with his own scent. Elena leaned into him and rested her head on his shoulder.

"So… the two of you…" Ric tried, a pained note in his voice.

"I'm Damon's now," Elena replied.

Ric opened his mouth, but Damon shot him the "not now" glare, and it was a testament to the friendship they'd once shared that Ric recognized and honored it.

"I see."

"My scent was driving everyone crazy- his hybrids, his family members, even Stefan. They all kept trying to kill me, so Klaus gave me to Damon for my own protection."

She tilted her face to gaze adoringly at him, and he wanted to shoot himself in the head because he couldn't help mooning back at her like a lovesick sap.

"We're together now, and we're going to be a family," she added dreamily, still smiling up at him.

"Right, because murdering psychopaths make great boyfriends," Ric snapped.

"Ric," Elena warned.

"Sorry, sorry. Playing nice, promise!" the other man apologized, finally reaching for the drink Damon had poured him.

There was a crease in his former friend's forehead that suggested he had a headache, and Damon wondered if he should have mixed the other drink because it had aspirin in it. Then he got angry for feeling any sympathy for the guy who had just shot him and called him a murdering psychopath.

"So. What brings you to Mystic Falls, Ric?" he asked, putting added emphasis on the "k" sound.

"I heard you'd come back," the man replied, taking a swig of the whiskey. "What? I still have connections. I'm a Council Member, remember?"

"Who told you?" he demanded, wondering who else had been alerted to his presence there.

"Liz. She called to tell me she'd run into you and Elena at the food store. She knew how I was after… Elena disappeared. Frankly, I think she was looking for help in tracking down Caroline. She said you told her she and Tyler were last seen in Chicago."

He frowned. "I hope you discouraged her away from that suicide mission."

"I told her Caroline was a vampire and could take care of herself, and she'd only end up dead if she tried to find her. But, c'mon man, it's her daughter. You had to know what telling her that would do to her."

"She thought Caroline was dead. I thought I was helping by telling her she wasn't," he explained.

Ric made a sound of agreement and took another drink. "I get that, but you woke the sleeping giant, man."

"I'll deal with Liz if I have to, but for now, my focus is Elena."

"Yeah, I can see that."

There was an edge of disapproval in his voice that rubbed Damon the wrong way, and caused him to bristle. Elena responded by rubbing his chest to soothe him.

"Damon, I'm tired."

He gazed down at her and gave her his best "I'm a great boyfriend" smile. "Of course you are, baby. You're sleeping for two. Why don't you go back up to bed, and I'll join you in a little while?"

She frowned and tugged on his hand. "Why don't you come back to bed with me?"

He waggled his eyebrows at her. "Because if I did that, you wouldn't get any sleep."

She giggled and kissed him on the cheek. "Sounds good to me."

"No, no. You need your rest. Growing a new human being is hard work. Besides, Ric and I have a lot of catching up to do."

She wrinkled her nose in distaste, but he stopped her protest with a kiss.

"We'll play nice, I promise. No bloodshed, no broken furniture. Cross my heart," he assured her, with his "trust me" expression on his face.

"You won't kill him again?" she pressed.

He blanched, but nodded. "I promise."

She gave him a look that said she didn't believe him, but reluctantly rose to her feet.

"I'm trusting you to be the adult here," she said to Ric, wagging a finger at him.

"I'll behave and refrain from trying to kill him, for your sake," the other man promised.

"Thank you."

She bent down and gave Damon a tender kiss on the lips, and then she waved good night to Ric before heading out of the parlor towards the stairs. As soon as she was out of the room, Ric started to speak, but Damon put a finger to his lips, and Ric wisely remained quiet. He held the same finger up to signal Ric to wait as he listened for Elena's footsteps to go up the stairs, down the hall and into his bedroom. When he was certain that she was safely out of hearing range, he lowered his hand and turned to his former friend.

"She's been compelled," he said.

"And you're sleeping with her?" Ric shot back.

He shook his head. "It's not like that."

"Really? Because the only way Elena Gilbert would ever sleep with you is if she was compelled."

He snarled and counted to ten because, at that moment, he desperately wanted to punch Ric in the face, but he'd promised Elena no bloodshed.

'If I didn't break his nose, there'd be no blood…'

"It. Is. Not. Like. That," he insisted.

"Why don't you explain to me how it is then?"

"Klaus has compelled her to obey me and be the perfect vampire's girlfriend."

"Not hearing the part where your sleeping with her isn't rape."

He was on Ric in a flash, grasping the front of his shirt and lifting him up, his nose millimeters from his face. "I am not raping her. I love her. And she has given her consent."

"How can she if she's compelled?"

"We have work arounds. I can't break the compulsion the usual way because Klaus compelled her to vomit if she even smells vervain, and all the herbs I could use to break it otherwise are dangerous to the baby. But there are other ways to loosen its hold on her, and we've been using those."

"So was that her just now or the compulsion?"

He dropped Ric to the couch and ran a nervous hand through his hair. "The compulsion. She doesn't have complete control yet, but Klaus's hold on her is weakening. All the same, we can't talk freely around her until we're sure it's broken completely. I'm not convinced that she won't go tattling to Klaus."

"Are you serious?"

He sat on the edge of the cocktail table and reached for his drink. "Unfortunately, yes."

"And you still think sleeping with her is okay?"

"Like I said, she's given her consent."

"I don't believe it, and you shouldn't either, you ass. Are you so desperate to have her that you'd take advantage of her like that? You're a fucking son-of-a-bitch. I should've killed you when I had the chance."

He scowled and tried hard not to shatter the glass in his hand against Ric's face.

'No bloodshed. No bloodshed. No bloodshed.'

"What are you really doing here, Ric?" he demanded, changing the subject. There was no sense in trying to make him see the man when all he saw was the monster. The saddest part was that Ric had seen the man in the monster once, and his "friend" hadn't even acknowledged that he was there.

"To be honest, I thought I'd kill you and take Elena, but if Klaus has her mind fucked, I can't be sure she won't go all Patty Hearst on me and call Klaus."

"Smart man."

"But I am going to try to convince her to at least get away from you."

"Yeah, good luck with that."

"She'll listen to me. She always did. You're bad for her, and you know it. That's why you aren't killing me now," Ric challenged.

He vamped out and rounded on Ric again, grabbing the man by the neck and applying pressure to his chin.

"No, I'm not killing you because I promised Elena I wouldn't, and I don't want to disappoint her."

Ric had the good sense to be afraid. He knew as well as Damon did that the Eternity Ring was unlikely to bring him back if his head was ripped off.

"I'm also not locking you up in the basement, against my better judgment I might add, because I want to give you the benefit of the doubt that you aren't a complete moron. I could really use your help here, but if you're going to be a dick about it, I'll have no choice but to remove you from the equation. I've changed, Ric. I don't play games anymore. You get in my way, and you're dead."

With that he released Ric and let him collapse back onto the sofa again.

"Feel free to stick around. I've locked up the good stuff so go ahead and help yourself to what's left in the liquor cabinet. There're five extra bedrooms; crash in one if you want." He made a point of sniffing. "Smells like you need a shower, too. I'm going back to bed."

He left Ric half sprawled on the couch as he stalked out of the parlor in a snit, but his anger faded to grief as he made his way up the stairs. He desperately needed his Elena so he lit the coltsfoot as soon as he entered the bedroom and refreshed the rosemary oil in an infuser over the lamp. Elena was in bed. She'd changed out of her sweats into a sleeveless nightgown, but she wasn't asleep, and he didn't bother to undress as he went to her and buried his face in her hair. Her arms came around him, holding him close as a hand stroked his head.

"What did he say to you?" she tenderly whispered, her lips against the cusp of his ear. "Tell me, David."

David. Her codename to tell him that it was his Elena and not her alter ego. She must have been waiting just under the surface for her to have come out so soon. He squeezed his eyes shut, but he still felt the tears that leaked out.

"Nothing," he answered, but he knew she could hear the lie in the word.

"Don't lie to me. We're past that."

He couldn't look at her as he choked it out. "He thinks that I'm taking advantage of you."

Her hand in his hair stilled, and her body went stiff. "He said that?"

"The word rape was actually used," he confessed.

She gasped and moved her hands moved to his shoulders, pushing him back until she could see his face.

"You know that's not true, right?"

He nodded as he curled a lock of her hair around his finger.

"David, tell me you know that's not true."

"I know," he replied, but his eyes were still damp, and he didn't sound convinced even to himself.

Elena cupped his face and kissed him, her eyes soft and full of the love he'd never dared hope to see there shining for him.

"Baby, it isn't true. It isn't. I want you just as much as you want me."

"He said the only way you'd ever sleep with me is if you were compelled."

"I'm going to kick him in his judgmental balls, but right now you need to know that I'm here with you willingly and by my choice."

She kissed him again, before pushing him onto his back and crawling down towards his hips. She was unzipping his jeans with the clear intent to go down on him when he stopped her.

"No," he whispered harshly. He couldn't tell her why he didn't want her to continue, only that he wanted her in his arms right then, so he reached for her and prayed she would understand.

She honored his wish, but only enough to crawl back up his body and straddle him. Her hands grabbed the hem of his shirt, tugging it up, and he lifted his torso enough for her to pull it over his head. She dropped it to the floor and tossed her nightgown next to it.

She'd been naked under the thin satin, and now she sat astride him, curling over him as she stroked his hair, her eyes smoky and intent. His gaze moved down to her breasts, hovering not far from his face, and he ached to take one into his mouth, but he was frozen in place. This was her show. She was in control, and he was letting her do whatever she wanted to him.

She unzipped his jeans the rest of the way, and raised her body up enough to push the denim off his hips. He hadn't bothered with underwear, so her hand was on his length right away, lifting him into place as she lowered herself down onto him. He choked on a gasp as he was sheathed within her, and he gripped the sheets beneath him in both hands.

She rode him like she had something to prove, tightening her muscles around him with each down-stroke, and he clenched the pillows to keep himself from taking hold of her waist. It was insane. There was a potential enemy with access to all kinds of weapons in the house, and here he was allowing himself to be compromised by this Siren of a woman who he knew would eventually be the death of him. Yet, somehow, he didn't care because she was hot, tight, and wet around him, and he was the closest he had ever been to pure happiness in over a century.

"Elena…" he breathed, arching his hips up to meet her, matching his movements with hers in perfect time.

She bent back her spine until she was upright, her body stretched taut above him, as her hands found her own nipples and pinched them. He groaned and lost all sense of reason. He lifted his knees, kicking off his jeans in the process, and cupped her ass in his hands. She wrapped her arms around his head as he sat up, burying his face in her breasts and taking one hard nipple into his mouth. She still controlled their rhythm, moving on him as he gave her the support she needed to let loose, and they climbed together, moaning and gasping.

He heard her make the little half-purr, half-groan she always made right before she climaxed, and it was sexy as hell. Hearing it always made him twitch in anticipation of feeling her clench around him, and sure enough she bore down one more time and came when he hit her g-spot.

"Damon!" she shouted, shuddering in his embrace.

He growled and thrust up, pushing himself in as far as he could go before allowing himself to come with a strangled cry as his orgasm ripped through him. He held himself up for one more extended moment, then collapsed down to the mattress. Elena fell with him, covering him with her sweat-soaked body, his cock still inside her, and they lay there in a heap, slowly coming down from the high.

He was euphoric, his blood singing from his climax, and all he wanted to do was crawl inside her and never leave. Her breast was next to his face so he took her nipple into his mouth again, suckling gently. All too soon, she would be breastfeeding her newborn, and he was more than willing to help "prepare" her nipples to tolerate the baby's sucking. Besides, she liked it, and it turned her on, which usually led to more sex.

Not this time, however, as she groaned tiredly and rolled off him. He thought she was going to snuggle up to him, but she urged him to roll onto his side and tuck his head under her chin instead. He understood that she was trying to comfort cuddle him, and he didn't mind, so he pressed his cheek into the crook of her shoulder and draped an arm across her. He couldn't resist reaching up to palm one of her breasts and cup it in his hand, brushing his thumb over her nipple.

"Stop that," she said wearily.

"Stop what?" he asked, feigning innocence.

"Playing with my boob. I'm on to you, and I'm too tired for another round."

"Sorry. I can't help it. You have me well and truly snared by your feminine charms," he admitted, tucking his hand under the fold of her breast.

"Mmm hmmm, you sweet talking, bullshitter you."

"You caught me."

Her arm came around his shoulders, holding him close. "I know," she said, kissing his brow and stroking his hair tenderly. "I love you."

He could never get enough of hearing her say that, and he shivered every time she did. "I love you, too."

"We'll get through this, I promise. We survive. We always survive."

"Yes, we do," he agreed, closing his eyes and letting her scent and warmth lull him to sleep.

He woke three hours later to the sound of a car coming up the Boarding House's driveway. It was too far away for human ears to hear, but his heightened senses picked up on the sound of tires rolling on asphalt well before any vehicle would come into view. A glance at the clock revealed that it was after ten. He sat up in bed, smiling when he saw that he and Elena had switched positions, and now he was spooning her with his arm around her waist. His movement woke her, and she peered at him sleepily with half-closed eyes.

"Damon?"

"Someone's coming," he told her, already moving to get out of bed.

He dressed quickly, pulling on the jeans and t-shirt he wore earlier, and left the bedroom. Elena followed him shortly, clothed in the same sweats she had also worn after Ric's earlier intrusion, and he motioned for her to stay behind him as he moved silently down the steps. The car had stopped in front of the house and someone was getting out. There was only one heartbeat, slightly elevated, but the fumes from the car were obscuring the scent.

Ric was at the bottom of the stairs when he and Elena reached the landing. It appeared that he had heard the car, too, from wherever he'd been in the house. From his rumpled clothes and messy hair, Damon guessed he'd been sleeping on the couch. He put a finger to his lips to warn Ric to be quiet and motioned for him to protect Elena. Ric obeyed without question and drew Elena closer to him, putting her behind him as Damon moved closer to the door and reached for the sword that he kept in the umbrella stand in the entryway. He was pretty sure whatever he was facing was human and decapitation worked every time.

Footsteps approached the heavy wooden door, and Damon took the opportunity to throw it open before whoever it was could knock or reach for the knob. Who he saw standing there on the other side was one of the last people he'd expected to see, and he had to blink twice to make sure he wasn't hallucinating.

"Junior Gilbert?" he said with disbelief, as he took in the sight of Elena's younger brother standing there dressed in a brown leather bomber jacket and dark jeans.

"Jeremy?" Elena blurted, pushing past Ric to see who was in the doorway.

The younger Gilbert flashed a huge grin when he saw his sister and stepped into the house without so much as a wary glance at the vampire partially blocking his way.

"Elena."

"Jeremy!" Elena cried, as she ran to him and threw her arms around her brother.

Her hug was enthusiastically returned until Jeremy looked up and saw the former history teacher. "Ric?"

"Hey, Jer," Ric replied, sheepishly.

"When did you get here?" Junior asked.

The ex-teacher rubbed the back of his neck. "A few hours ago."

"He brought us a crossbow wake-up call," Damon said, closing the door and moving past the hugging siblings to enter the parlor. He was definitely going to need a drink for this family reunion.

Jeremy pried himself from Elena's arms and faced Ric, disappointment written all over his face. "Ric, man, I told you to wait for me to get here."

"You knew he was coming?" Damon questioned, pouring himself a hearty dose of bourbon.

"Yeah. He called me a couple of weeks ago to tell me you guys were back in Mystic Falls. I told him I'd come down after summer session at NYU was over," Jeremy answered.

Junior Gilbert was taller, broader, and had filled out rather nicely in the last six years, and he held himself with the confidence of someone who knew how to fight. Damon was impressed and very glad to see the younger man, although he wasn't about to admit it aloud. He added Jeremy to the chessboard as a rook and offered the young man a drink.

"Thanks," Jeremy said, accepting the tumbler of whiskey.

"So, to what do we owe this honor? I mean, I love a good family reunion and all, but what are you both doing here?" he asked.

"Damon, don't be an ass," Elena scolded. "Jeremy, it's so great to see you. I missed you so much."

She hugged her brother again, but his eyes met Damon's over her shoulder, and his expression was serious.

"It's wonderful to see you, too, sis. I've missed you, too, but Damon's right. This isn't a social call."

Elena pulled away from her brother and regarded him curiously, as Damon moved into a protective position just behind his mate. Jeremy looked nervous, and then his eyes took on a far away quality, as if he was listening to someone. When he came back from wherever he'd gone, he tightened his lips and gazed right at Damon.

"Bonnie says hi."


A/N: YES, I know Damon calls Jeremy "Little Gilbert" in the show, but here in the Queen/King universe, he calls him "Junior Gilbert."