Disclaimer: I own nothing.

AN: I know this is late given the subject matter but I've been behind on TVD and didn't catch up until after the holiday. Plus, it's not Christmas for more than a week in the Orthodox church so ... yeah.

Wake-Up Call

The wheezing sound scraping up Stefan's throat to emerge in blood-splattering puffs of air isn't a result of the pain of Klaus' claws digging into his heart, but he hopes Klaus thinks it is. He really doesn't think things will go too well if Klaus realizes he's being laughed at because he looks like a soaked rat. Stefan takes deep breaths to stop the laughter, wincing as his lungs expand around Klaus' knuckles, and manages to say, "It was Caroline's idea."

The hand retracts, allowing Stefan to slide a few inches down the tiled wall. The spray from the shower has already soaked the legs of his pants and now washes away some of the blood.

"What, exactly, was Caroline's idea?" Klaus asks. He steps out of the shower entirely to strip off his sopping clothes.

"Throwing you in the shower. She thought you slept in the nude though so…"

Klaus perks up a little at that. Stefan rolls his eyes and pushes up to stand on his own power. He shuts off the water and snatches the nearest towel before Klaus can reach it.

"Don't. Seriously. Whatever perverted thoughts you're having involving Caroline, I don't want to know."

Stefan marches out of the bathroom, figuring he can borrow some of Kol's left behind things or even run back home for his own clothes if he has to.

"Whatever harebrained scheme you two have concocted now, I'll have no part in it," Klaus calls, his voice echoing oddly from the smaller room. "I'm taking a vacation."

"You don't think you can top assassinating the mayor by New Year's so you're not even gonna try?"

"Something like that, yes."

Stefan knows the second the smell hits Klaus. His footsteps stutter and he takes several audible sniffs of the air. Now that he's gotten wet, Stefan can tell the pine scent wasn't just clinging to him, it's filled the whole house in a few short hours. Mixed in with it are the warm, homey smells of turkey and potatoes and breads.

"What is going on?" Klaus asks evenly.

Stefan pulls his wet, bloodied shirt over his head as he turns and throws it at Klaus the instant he can see again. "Put some clothes on already! And what do you think's going on? Or has your blood binge gotten so bad you don't even know what day it is anymore?"

Klaus' face slowly lifts, the sharp, angry angles curving into a look of unkind humor. "You think I'm going to celebrate the birth of a child king destined to rule all Creation? Do you even know me, Stefan?"

"I don't care if Caroline wants us all to pile into her car and drive to Disneyworld just to spend eight straight hours on Small World! It's Christmas and the whole town's in mourning because you killed the mayor. Damon's up in the mountains with Jeremy killing vampires, Elena's with Matt and Bonnie trying to break the sire bond, Tyler's God only knows where, and this is Caroline's first Christmas since her dad died. Someone in this town has to be happy today. Someone. You'd think you'd be glad it's gonna be Caroline. So get dressed and put on your happy face because we are having Christmas dinner."

Stefan turns his back on Klaus' bemused expression and leaves for Kol's room, where he finds a lot of clothes that are too small. He tries them all on anyway, stretching shoulders and bursting seams as he goes. He falls on the bed as he forces on a pair of jeans, taking pleasure in the sound of stitching popping.

He's not even really mad at Klaus for killing Carol Lockwood. It's the mess with Elena and the fact that it's Christmas and he's sleeping in the Forbeses' guest bedroom and memories of Christmases spent with Lexi and the horrible truth that he hasn't spent a Christmas with his brother in over a century but he's going out of his way to spend it with Klaus.

A mass of cloth hits Stefan in the face and wraps around his head. He untangles himself and finds clothes fit for Christmas dinner that might actually fit him.

"Thanks," he says to Klaus.

"Thank you," Klaus says with a nod to the ruined clothes covering the floor. "I'll enjoy hearing Kol's screams of outrage when he comes back to find all of this."

Stefan smirks and gets dressed.

"Caroline cooks?" Klaus asks delicately.

Stefan nearly laughs at the frightened expression on his face. "No," he assures quickly. "But she does order pre-made meals and she's capable of turning on ovens and setting timers. Or so she says."

Klaus nods, reassured. He remains in the doorway, with arms crossed and a look of a man about to face a firing squad. Stefan sighs, drawing his attention. He is not going to endure an entire Christmas dinner with an overly-chipper Caroline trying to force happiness on everyone.

"All right, Scrooge, you are not going down there looking like bah humbug personified and I figure nothing will fill you with Christmas cheer quite like a story of someone else's pain-"

"You know me so well," Klaus says with a toothy grin.

"-so I'm going to tell you about the worst thing to happen to me today. It wasn't that Caroline made me stay up until two a.m. watching Christmas movies and then woke me up at four-thirty in the morning!"

From somewhere downstairs comes a yell of "Suck it up! You're supposed to be a creature of the night! Jeez."

Klaus is already smiling. Stefan rolls his eyes and continues, "by blasting the Hallelujah chorus through the earbuds she'd put on me while I slept. It wasn't that she dragged me out into the middle of the woods and that I had to follow her around for an hour in the dark while she looked for the perfect tree, which I then had to chop down by myself. It wasn't that she made me pull dozens of boxes of ornaments from not only her attic but my attic too because she wanted 'just the right combination' of ornaments for your stupid tree. It wasn't even that she sent me to wake you up because she was convinced you slept in the nude and I nearly got my heart ripped out."

He pauses, letting all of that sink in.

"No. The worst thing - the absolute worst thing to happen to me today - was that when I stumbled, still half-asleep out of Caroline's bathroom this morning, staring me right in the face was your stupid post-modern snowflake."

It takes a moment for the meaning to register with Klaus. When it does a grin so idiotic it almost makes Stefan sick spreads over his face.

"That's right," he says, patting Klaus on the shoulder. "She bought your dumb painting. So go down there and have a merry Christmas already."