I don't know if someone's already written a variation of this, but I feel this opportunity is too great to miss. I poured myself into this so I hope you enjoy it. Some things are changed from canon, naturally. But it shouldn't matter.
Please let me know what you think.
Bob: I don't want to leave.
Charlotte: Then don't. Stay here with me. We'll start a jazz band.
Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola (2003)
A spool of light, unraveling gently before his eyes, bit by bit, bringing color back to his world. Air, fresh and marvelous, no longer liquid, no longer poisonous. Horizons opening wide in straight lines, stretching all the way to the end of the world. A sky, vast, empty, open, endless.
This was freedom.
He ran, maddened with relief, his legs moving in slow-motion, yet still going fast.
He was looking left and right in disbelief, astonished that everything was still there.
Mystic Falls had not sunk in the depths with him.
Mystic Falls was still here.
He blinked several times, trying to dispel the film that had covered his eyes. It was as if a spider had woven a fragile cobweb over his retina. He'd been in the dark for so long, everything was slightly different, slightly effaced. The edges seemed to be coming off, the way old wallpaper can't seem to stick to the wall anymore.
Here was the town square, but it looked unfinished, as if someone hadn't added the finishing touches.
There was the town chapel, too, City Hall, the small park near the Mystic Falls hospital, the library… All these buildings, all these places, they were peeling off, they were removing their contour.
But they were all here, one way or another, still standing, a sign that some things remained, and he was happy to see them, either way.
Out of nowhere, there was sound.
An engine rattling, growling, barking furiously behind him. He stopped and looked back.
The SUV drove straight into him.
Or rather, through him.
Stefan felt as if he were being torn apart, then put back together in the same instance.
And when he opened his eyes again, he was still there, still in the town square and the car had driven away.
He did not have time to wonder the hows and whys.
Next thing he knew, he was gasping, thrashing, pulling at his own body in vain, scratching the walls of his makeshift prison. And the all too familiar rush of water filled up his nostrils, his lungs, his mouth, his ears, every part of him that could be filled.
When darkness broke apart into light, he did not trust it anymore.
He still ran, but it was no longer a joyous movement. There was no relief. He ran, scared for himself, scared for what the next moment would bring. The air, he could breathe, the sky, he could see, the children, screaming and laughing, he could hear. There was nothing that escaped him. Yet he would escape from the world again somehow.
Were these his new hallucinations? Was this his new torture?
Getting to live for mere moments only to be sucked into the void again?
He could not imagine a more vivid hell.
First you were offered a platter of the finest dishes you could taste and then you had to watch as it was wrenched away. The only thing that was not taken from you was your hunger.
That stayed with you until the end of time.
He looked about him wildly, trying to take it all in as quickly as possible.
He stopped in front of Mystic High. Sixteen year-olds were sitting down on the grass, eating lunch. He had the urge to go up to them, just to hear people talking again, to hear voices that were not his, not the constant drum of accusations and strange whispers that always filled his head, but he realized he looked like a lunatic, a real mess. He would probably scare them off.
Before he had time to change his mind, the platter was wrenched away.
The third time, he tried to go home.
It was near dusk and everything was a deep and warming shade of red. As he ran up to the Salvatore boarding house, he saw Elena Gilbert walk out of the house, followed by his brother, Damon.
She was carrying two suitcases which she lifted easily into the trunk of her car.
She turned towards Damon, grinning and laughing at some quip he'd made, no doubt.
They shared a small, playful kiss. Then she pulled him to her and he wrapped his hands around her waist and they kissed for a longer stretch of time, long enough for Stefan to feel the familiar weight of water on his chest again.
He stopped running. He stopped, in the middle of the football field, and looked around him with a calmer gaze, the look of a man who knew he had moments left and needed to make the best of them. He remembered playing, he remembered winning, he remembered the envious looks, he remembered Elena cheering for him, he remembered not feeling altogether happy, but at least very much content, the most content he had ever been.
He took in a deep breath of air and closed his eyes.
When the water took him, he no longer felt such a shock.
He realized no one could see him. No one knew he was there. He had stopped at a gas station for some reason, and when he walked inside and someone knocked into him, that person – an elderly man – kept walking, stepping right through him, as if nothing had occurred, as if there was no one there. And there was no one there.
It wasn't so much shock as it was sadness.
From the first time he had emerged from his prison, he had felt this was too good to be true.
The question now was, would he rather stay dead in his underwater room, or live in short bursts as Mr. Nobody?
He didn't have a choice.
He walked into the Grill, expecting to see familiar faces. He knew he had to take this step and reacquaint himself with a world that was forcing itself on him.
The first pang was felt when he saw Matt Donovan at the counter. He was smiling in his usual, easy-going way and his face was illuminated by a tenderness that made Stefan turn away. He recognized some people he'd gone to high school with in the last years, sipping on their lukewarm drinks, minding their own business, having already forgotten they'd ever known or seen someone by the name Stefan Salvatore.
The second pang came when he suddenly noticed Jeremy sitting at a table in the corner. He was nursing a soda, looking downward, seemingly lost in his own thoughts.
And there, behind him, right behind his chair, a girl he felt he had not seen in a long time. A girl who was staring at Jeremy with a hopeless look in her eye.
She was trying to reach out to him, but the boy was somberly closed-off and no matter how hard she tried, there was nothing she could do. It would have been funny, if it weren't so tragic. It was as if he were watching a silent movie, an old gag comedy where the harangued mistress is pouncing on the indifferent, absent lover.
Suddenly, Bonnie Bennett lifted her head and caught Stefan staring.
When her eyebrows rose in surprise as his features became familiar to her, he knew, he realized with dread that she had seen him and could see him.
The third pang he did not have time to feel fully. He was cast back into the walls of water. But even in that state, that state between life and death, he remembered, he remembered Bonnie Bennett had died and he realized she would be the only person who would ever see him.
Because, just like her, he was a dead man walking.
The next time he was brought back, he almost wanted to close his eyes and wait to be taken away. He had to look for her, he knew he had to, but the mere idea of it made his stomach turn. How could he face her? How could he face the girl who had given up her life? What could he say to her that would make sense? What could he do to make it less real?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Because you couldn't say sorry to someone who was dead.
And there was no tip-toeing around the fact that she had committed suicide. For someone who would never be able to see her or talk to her again.
She can see me. She can talk to me.
Ultimately, the reason why Stefan Salvatore decided to look for her was not because he missed human contact. No. It was because she probably missed it more.
"Oh, God, Stefan! Oh, God! What happened to you? Why are you here? This isn't right! You can't be here! You can't be here!"
"That means – Oh God, no. No no no no no no -"
"Bonnie, Bonnie, please calm down! It's all right, it's okay."
"No, it's not!"
"Yes, it is."
"How can it be okay, Stefan? You weren't supposed to die!"
You weren't supposed to die, either.
"Bonnie, listen to me –"
"How can you be so calm? We have to do something! You can't be dead!"
How can you be so calm about your own death, Bonnie? How can you worry about me?
"It's hard to explain it right now and I can't tell you everything because any minute, I might disappear, but I'm not dead–"
"What do you mean disappear? Oh God, this can't be happening, this can't be happening!"
He could see tears smarting at the corner of her eyes and she furiously tried to wipe them away.
His heart broke. Even in her condition, Bonnie Bennett still felt someone's pain more vividly than her own.
She kept on babbling incoherently, telling him it was not right, not right at all, that he was supposed to be alive, that no one knew and they had to figure out a way to tell them and she had reached such a pitch of anguish that Stefan had to step in and grab her shoulders. He shook her lightly.
"You can touch me? I – I can't seem to touch anyone."
It was the first thing she was telling him in relation to herself, and not him.
That is why he let his hands linger on her shoulders.
"I can touch you," he said and with that last word a large intake of water rushed into his mouth.
Bonnie blinked in astonishment. He was gone.
But how was that possible?
Moments before, she had been staring into his eyes.
She could still feel his hands on her shoulder.
The confusion did not last long. When he appeared to her again, she was sitting on a bench with her head in her hands, rummaging over his last words to her.
I might disappear.
"Disappear to where?" she asked no one in particular.
She was too caught up in her own thoughts to notice him standing at the end of the road.
He saw her before she saw him.
She almost jumped out of her skin. He had sat down next to her.
She instantly got up.
"How did you do that? How did you – How are you back? What's going on?"
"Bonnie, I need you to calm down–"
"How is this possible?" she asked, raising her voice.
"It's possible because I'm not dead."
Bonnie gaped at him.
"I told you, but you wouldn't listen. I'm not dead. Well…not entirely."
"It's a long story, but the gist of it is that Silas locked me up in a safe and threw me in the lake. I've been trapped there since June. And…" he trailed off, suddenly losing the courage to tell her more. He knew he was going back to the water soon and he didn't want to talk about that place when he was here. This was his only respite from the burden of dying over and over again and even though Mystic Falls had prepared fresh miseries for him in the form of Elena and his older brother, he could still count on these brief minutes of freedom to alleviate him.
"Silas? He's still alive?" she asked, mystified.
Stefan nodded. "He's still alive and pretty pissed."
Stefan was startled. He had never heard Bonnie swear, not even mildly. It secretly amused him.
"He could be anyone," she continued, already miles away in her suppositions of whom Silas could impersonate next.
"Somehow I think he'll stick to his original form this time."
"His original form?"
"He showed it to me. I think he'll wear it for a while."
"How do you know that?"
Stefan paused. He was not ready to tell her. It was still new to him and he hadn't been able to process it. He couldn't even bring himself to think it.
"I...I guess I don't. Actually, he might take my appearance just to spite me. He seemed very happy to get rid of me."
Bonnie sat down next to him again.
"This is bad. This is all bad."
Stefan sighed. "I know. When is it ever good in Mystic Falls?"
Bonnie pinched the bridge of her nose.
"Why is this happening?"
Stefan looked down.
"I've asked myself the same question. Maybe we're cursed, you and I."
Bonnie nodded her head.
"Although, it's not exactly fair to say my fate has been equally miserable. You definitely got the shortest end of the stick," he added, watching her from the corner of his eye.
Bonnie glanced at him, startled, and he could tell he had taken her aback.
He was about to say more, but his time was up.
"…and you keep drowning, but since you're a vampire, you keep coming back to life," she surmised in horror.
"The irony is that my real comfort is drowning. When I drown, I die and I come here. When I wake up, I breathe in the water and it's just pain."
Bonnie winced. "God, I can't imagine how that feels."
"I think you do," he said quietly.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that you know very well what pain feels like."
Bonnie guarded her eyes. "I guess, but what you're describing –"
"Is not worse than trying to talk to a person who won't hear you."
Bonnie shrugged her shoulders in a self-deprecating manner.
"It's not his fault."
Stefan frowned. "I don't know, I feel it's someone's fault."
"Jeremy didn't ask to be saved, Stefan. He didn't ask for any of this. I did it, it was my choice."
"Sure, he didn't ask, but he should have known you would do it anyway. He knows you."
"Yes, he does know me, so he knew arguing against it would be pointless," she retaliated curtly.
Stefan sighed. "I didn't mean to imply – I'm sorry."
Bonnie shook her head. "Don't be. Any other person would say the same thing, that I'm insane or stupid or I'm playing the martyr card."
"I don't think people who play the martyr card actually go ahead and die, though."
Bonnie smiled a small smile and he felt a surge of relief to see it, her first smile.
"I can't explain to you why I did it, because honestly, sometimes, I can't explain it to myself, either. I get angry with myself so many times when I think about what I've done in the past and all the chances I missed. But I can't change who I am. I just can't. It's in my nature to be this way. Maybe I'm self-destructive. Maybe I'm trying to prove a point, but there must be something else driving me on."
This was the most Stefan had ever heard her talk about herself since he had met her and it astounded him how aware she was of herself. How attuned she was to her own character. And how truly rational in her irrationality.
"When I know I can do something, no matter how small, I just do it. No questions asked. Maybe it's duty or love, I don't know. I don't know, Stefan."
But when she turned her head, he was gone.
This time around when he saw her, he no longer felt dread. Not that they had said everything that could be said about her death or his, but somehow the ice had been broken, the initial steps had been taken and they could start talking more openly, without fear of the other.
They stood in front of her house. It was morning. She was waiting for her dad to leave the house, so she could get a good look at him.
Stefan remained quiet, even though he knew he was wasting precious time.
He didn't say things like You must miss him and You shouldn't do this to yourself, Bonnie.
All of this would have been pointless and hurtful.
This activity seemed to make her happy and that was that.
It was Bonnie who broke the silence.
"Do you dread having to go back every time?"
"Well…I can't say I've grown used to it, but it's a bit easier now."
He was lying of course. He was constantly terrified.
Bonnie grabbed his hand and squeezed it. She looked down.
"I'm so sorry, Stefan."
Stefan shook his head. "No, you should never be –"
Back in the water.
Mayor Hopkins walked out of the house. Bonnie blinked back the tears. She was alone again.
"I think I'm going insane doing nothing."
Stefan looked up at her.
It was night time.
They were sitting in the town square. She was pacing nervously.
"You are walking a lot," he said dryly.
Bonnie ignored him. "I mean this is ridiculous! You're trapped down there but you're still alive and technically, you could go back to living your life if someone actually realized you're there to begin with and yet, we can't tell anyone! We can't do anything about it!"
Stefan smiled bitterly. Bonnie Bennett, always on a mission to do something. She couldn't stand feeling useless.
"I thought Jeremy might be able to contact ghosts, I mean he did it once. I don't know why it's not working anymore. I've been trying to find an answer but…"
"Bonnie. If you could do something, I know you would. I believe you. But you and I have to come to terms with the fact that –"
"No, we're missing something, an important clue."
"No! About you! I mean, okay, maybe you and Damon are not on best terms right now, but he would have noticed his brother has disappeared and Caroline, she would have searched every nook and cranny for you, so no, there's something else here. I'm thinking Silas must have fooled them somehow."
Bonnie Bennett, always trying to see the good in people.
"I thought about that too, I thought about him pretending to be me. He could have told them any kind of story and they would have bought it. It's just that –"
"He's not you. The real you. So you think people close to you would have noticed."
Stefan knew what was coming and he shut his eyes as the flood engulfed him.
Stefan tried to pull her away.
"Bonnie, this is stupid, you're not actually –"
She yanked her hand back. "Oh yes, I am. I have to see it with my own eyes."
"You do realize you're acting like a crazy person. An actual crazy person, this time."
They were standing at the edge of the lake and Bonnie was about to dive in.
"I can be anywhere I want to be, I can go inside and find you."
"What's the use of doing that?"
"I just… I have an idea."
She took out what looked like a stopwatch.
"I have one minute and a half left."
She jumped in, without any warning.
Stefan knew nothing bad could happen to her, but he still had a bad feeling about the whole idea. What would be accomplished by her seeing him in that dreadful state? She would see a corpse, dead and locked in his makeshift coffin. What was the point? What was the point of witnessing something so grim?
Bonnie had a different outlook on things. For the first time since she had died, she felt not only useful, but powerful.
Nothing could ever harm her. She swam easily, walking through water as if it were air. The sun above guided her way but her eyes seemed trained for darkness. Finally, being a ghost was paying off in some ironic way.
She found the safe easily since it jutted out of the ground like a sea monster.
She closed her eyes and went inside the safe.
She placed a hand over her mouth. He was standing inches away but his body seemed miles apart. A floating Stefan, a grotesque shipwreck. It was something she would never unsee. But she had made her choice.
She waited. Any moment now.
When the gasp came, she was ready for him.
Stefan thrashed and screamed at first, but then he stopped, because she was there. And there had never been anyone else before.
She was there inside, with him. They were breathing in the same water.
She was staring at him, smiling patiently, her green eyes calming him, giving him something to hold onto, like an anchor in the sea. The water itself seemed to slow down.
Her cold hands came up to his face and suddenly, she was holding him, caressing the dead skin of his face.
"It's okay, it's okay," she spoke through bubbles of water. "I'm here."
He leaned into the touch and let the water in.
They didn't speak about it next time he showed up, but it was obviously there, like a third presence between them. He had died and he had not felt pain and he would never forget.
They were sitting in her living room, now. She was looking through old photo albums.
"How long does it take, then?" he asked.
"My time here. You had a stopwatch."
"Oh. Um, two minutes and fourteen seconds. Give or take a few."
Stefan nodded, as if that knowledge would somehow fix all his problems.
Bonnie was about to show him a photo she had accidentally taken of him on the field, but he had left again, to die painfully, this time.
"I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry…"
He kept at it until he felt his throat going raw. It was a litany, a prayer he kept chanting, only instead of losing its meaning with repetition, its power only increased.
Bonnie was crying next to him. She wouldn't let him touch her. She shied away when he tried to caress her shoulder, or place his palm over hers.
"I'm so sorry, Bonnie."
Somehow, hearing his voice made it bearable. Because crying didn't come easy to her.
But we all have to mourn ourselves, sometime.
Even after he was gone, she could still hear the I'm sorry's in her head.
They sat in complete silence, only holding hands. They were both thinking about something else, but their presences were connected somehow, on a higher plane. Bonnie was staring at the sunset. Stefan was staring at her.
For a brief, passing moment, he felt grateful for being there.
And then he couldn't feel her hand anymore.
At least we have each other.
Many times he was tempted to say it, but he knew it sounded kind of ridiculous.
Yes, it was a huge comfort that they had someone else to talk to, to listen to, someone who could see them and hear them, someone who could restore their sense of identity, but when you came down to it, that comfort was fleeting. And he couldn't prolong their moments together.
He imagined what it would have been like if she weren't there, if he were alone, roaming through Mystic Falls like a forgotten ghost for those short two and less-than-a-quarter minutes.
Whenever he thought about it, he felt awful. Not only because the prospect was too terrible to even contemplate, but mostly because he was actually happy Bonnie was here, happy that she was dead. He was being selfish.
"At least…" but the words died on his lips.
"You know, it's strange, because I would have seen Silas around town. If he still looks like you, if he's playing this giant ruse trying to fool everyone, you'd think we'd run into him at some point."
Stefan seemed to ponder her words.
"Unless you think he's impersonating someone else," Bonnie added. "That must be it. He's probably pretending to be someone else. But who?"
"No, I ... I know he's not."
Bonnie frowned. "What do you mean?"
Stefan was spared an answer. But the water made him realize how foolish he'd been. If he couldn't be honest with her, what was the point?
"It's what he told me."
"But how –"
"Qetsyiah apparently created a "shadow self", a Silas that could be killed."
"She created a doppelganger so she would restore balance to the universe."
"Right. Ah, you're a witch, of course you know what I'm talking about."
"But she was kidding herself, Stefan. It's a pretty lame loophole. It can't hold water – oh, sorry, I didn't mean to –"
"No, it's actually kind of funny."
"Anyway, she was wrong. She didn't need to create a shadow self. Silas has to be killable. Nature can't abide something which cannot die."
It messed with his mind a little. The idea that he might have never existed if Qetsyiah had figured out she had been wrong.
Bonnie didn't like to talk about her.
"Your line is directly connected to Qetsyiah, isn't it?"
"Unfortunately," she murmured.
Stefan wondered. He, in some capacity, was Silas and Bonnie, in some capacity, was Qetsyiah.
Maybe this was fate's twisted irony. Maybe this was the end game. Two people connected to two monsters, but the monsters were awake, while they were asleep.
Bonnie tried to pull him out of it, but it was like trying to reason with a child.
If she was irrational about the people she loved, he was irrational about Elena.
He had seen her again. This time sans Damon. But she was going to meet his brother soon so he knew what was coming. And he felt sick to his stomach.
"You have to accept that she's moved on."
"Why does everyone keep telling me that?"
"Because you're hurting yourself."
"Stop following Jeremy then," he said, his tone harsher than he'd meant it to be.
She turned and walked away, not waiting for him to disappear.
Two days passed. But on the third day, they returned to each other. No matter how upset you got with the other person, it didn't matter. They were all you had and you couldn't afford to let go. Ever.
"I know you're right. I know, deep down. And trust me, I've told her many times I'm not going to stand in her way, that I'm perfectly fine with it. She knew I wasn't, but she has no idea how angry I get sometimes. Because I knew, Bonnie. I knew from the moment my brother walked back into my life that something like this would happen. Don't tell me how. I just knew. I saw them together and I saw the disgust in her eyes, I saw how she was scared of him, but that didn't matter. She saw him. I only saw her. But she saw the both of us."
Bonnie was rubbing circles on his back, encouraging him in her quiet way to speak further, but he felt he had run out of words.
"It's okay to get angry," she whispered.
Her hand was cold.
"And it didn't make sense, you know? How he could still love Anna so much that I became the ghost and she became the real girl. Oh, the irony."
"Have to say, not one of Jer's best moments."
"He's human. Humans fall in love and some never get over it. He was young. She had a bigger impact on him. I have to - I have to come to terms with that."
"I know what you mean."
"But you won't, will you? You won't come to terms," she said with a sigh.
"I'll tell you when I know."
"Words are deceptive."
"Then you'll just know."
"Come on, you're acting like a baby. It's your house."
Stefan shook his head.
Bonnie rolled her eyes. She grabbed his hand and dragged him inside.
"This is going to help. Trust me."
"Bonnie, I know you mean well, but really, this is –"
"What you need right now. Come on. Damon is out, I checked. Jeremy's in school. Elena is miles away."
Stefan followed her reluctantly. He was counting the seconds he had left.
For once, he was actually looking forward to his death.
Bonnie wanted him to hurry up, but he was taking his time on purpose.
They only reached the second floor bedroom – his room – in time to see that it had remained exactly the same. She stepped inside the room. He couldn't follow. He was pulled back into the depths, but the last image he had was of Bonnie smiling, beckoning him inside.
They sat on his bed – this time he had plucked up the courage to go in – and she was flipping through an old book of his.
"It's the diary of this old man, a chemist who lived around these parts. He was trying to find the curative properties of blood. How ironic, right? Anyway, this was back in 1870. I found it by accident in the town's underground passages."
"You found this down there?"
"Well, it was locked in this small copper chest. I cracked it open. The only thing that got my interest was this."
"So, you pilfered a dead man's chest."
Stefan smiled wryly.
"Read the first page. The first words."
I write this for you, my darling Death, my elusive companion. May we meet on the day of your own death, so that I may put a flower on your grave. I know no one else will. For you see, my darling Death, no one else will be alive.
Bonnie shivered. "Wow. Spooky."
"I feel I can relate."
The sound was lovely. Wonderful, even. She laughed in such a peculiar way. If he had to describe it, he would say that she laughed so that laughter itself could exist. She laughed for him. She laughed for everyone.
He would never tire of it. It was so rare that sometimes he couldn't believe it. He cherished it, like a long lost memory that kept coming back to him in the curve of her lips and the crinkling of her eyes. He always tried to make her laugh. And it seemed to be working.
"I guess we both can," she spoke.
"Read the second paragraph."
If someone else should ever read this, then I won't be alone.
Bonnie looked up at him. He looked back.
Bonnie pushed the diary away.
"Stefan, no, I can't."
This wasn't some dead chemist's diary. This was his personal journal.
"Yes, you can."
"It's too private, it's too much –"
"Remember what our friend said?"
"This isn't the same."
Stefan shook his head. "Yes, it is. Read it. If you do, I won't be alone."
She did, she did read it and she cried. She laughed, too, but she cried even when she laughed.
She did not normally cry at books, but this one made her weep, because this was no book. This was Stefan, raw and real.
Flawed and brilliant, eternally misunderstood.
And she knew she was being silly, she knew he was just Stefan, not some romantic hero, but he had no idea how much he elevated himself in his own pages, even when he was his worst.
There were passages where he wondered whether he was living two lives, whether there were two people inside him and there were passages where he admitted he wanted to leave his body, he wanted to leave these two shadows, The Ripper and the Kind Vampire, leave them and be what he was meant to be, a different creature, free of any knowledge of himself, free of memory, free of a past, free of a future.
And here she could understand why only reading his words could bridge the gap between this new creature and herself.
He was no longer alone because someone knew his secret.
"You read it, I gather."
Bonnie would not look at him.
"You shouldn't have given it to me."
"Oh, my God, we've been so stupid! How did I not think of this?! We can simply write them something!"
They were sitting in her room, this time around, and Stefan was still not used to it. Everything here was Bonnie, from her dog-eared map of the world and her koala obsession, to her butterfly collection and the thick volumes on influential women of the past. Her pillows, arranged by shape and size on her tiny bed, most of them peach-colored or baby blue. Her curtains, white, with little pink ribbons drawn on them, clashing horribly with the rest of the room.
Her desk, where the Grimoire lay abandoned, watching her reproachfully.
"Here, let me show you," she said, getting up quickly and running to her desk.
She grabbed a pen and started writing on a piece of paper.
Stefan is trapped underwater, he needs help.
"There! We'll just write a message and leave it for Damon or Caroline or someone. God, we were idiots for not thinking about this before."
Stefan didn't have the heart to tell her he had thought about this before, had even tried.
Bonnie would find out on her own soon enough.
"No. No, no, no. What's happening? Why is it vanishing?"
"Stefan, it's gone! What I wrote is gone!"
"Bonnie, a dead person is writing on a piece of paper. Think about it. It's a paradox. If the person writing doesn't exist, the message doesn't either."
Bonnie shook her head.
"It can't be the only way. What if one of us wrote on the mirror in the bathroom with some lipstick or soap and you know, leave a message for Damon or Jeremy that way?"
Stefan made a face. "Come on, Bonnie. You know what would happen."
"Then why can we pick up objects and use them? Isn't that a paradox, too?"
"I don't get spirit world, either, Bonnie, but I bet that if you hold out this piece of paper to anyone else but me, they won't even see the piece of pa-"
Bonnie sighed. He was gone. She sat down on her bed.
It was becoming harder and harder to bear these absences.
"Your ceiling is nice," he observed blandly.
"You've seen so many ceilings."
They were lying on her bed, watching the progress of a small insect on the ceiling.
"Do you realize that thing is alive and we aren't?" she asked.
"Better dead than a fly, if you ask me."
Bonnie laughed and hit him on the shoulder.
"Look who's talking."
"I guess I wouldn't want to be fly. Unless I was a spy, that would come in handy. For getting information."
"A fly spy? I think you've stumbled upon a movie idea."
"Spy Fly – the Real Spy."
"Wow, that's a terrible tagline."
"I'm not very creative right now. Still getting over this whole "dead" thing."
"Spy Fly, the Spy that Flew Me."
"That's even more terrible."
"Spy Fly – You Never Know What Will Fly."
"Stop," Bonnie said, through fits of laughter.
"Spy Fly – The World's Biggest Small Danger."
"Oh, God, you're not even trying," she said, panting with laughter.
"Spy Fly –" he started again, but his words got stuck in his throat.
For a moment, Bonnie thought he had disappeared.
But no, he was still there, watching her.
"Your face when you laugh, it's just always –"
He was gone again. Bonnie reached out and touched the empty spot.
"Your bed is larger, I'll give you that."
Stefan smiled smugly.
"Only the best for me."
Bonnie shook her head, smiling. She was sitting cross-legged on the bed, counting the wrinkles in the sheets, trying to fool herself into thinking that this could last.
Stefan noticed her smile was fading. Something had made her sad.
Suddenly, he got a strange urge to pull her to him.
He grabbed her by the legs.
"What are you doing?"
She was almost straddling his lap. That's when he started tickling her.
Bonnie shrieked, laughing.
"Stooop, please stooooop, noooo, I'm super ticklish, stooooop!"
He didn't stop.
When he released her, it was only because he had been taken away.
She was panting, holding onto her stomach, still laughing.
But there were also tears in her eyes.
She hated when he left. She couldn't stand it.
"It's just annoying. One moment I'm laughing with you and the next you're dying. It's not right."
"It's what we have, Bonnie. I mean would you rather I didn't show up at all?"
No. God no.
Just so I wouldn't have to see you go.
Stefan tilted her chin up.
"At least we have each other."
There, he had said it. He had said what he had meant to say from the start.
Bonnie could count his eyelashes, he was so close.
She was caught up in an absurd thought. He has better eyelashes than mine.
She rolled her eyes at her own teenage vanity.
But then a new, more absurd thought turned her upside down.
I wish he would kiss me.
When he left her side, it was the one and only time she felt relieved.
For days she was quiet, unresponsive, taciturn. She was not being unpleasant or rude by any stretch, she answered his questions and smiled at his quips, but he sensed there was something off.
"You know you can tell me things, right? I mean I can't tell anybody else, if that's what you're afraid of," he teased.
She shook her head.
"I know, but it's nothing."
Stefan sighed. "You always say it's nothing. No one can tell when something's wrong with you."
Bonnie hesitated for a moment, before replying: "You did."
"So you are admitting something is wrong."
"Something is wrong with me, not you. And it's got nothing to do with you," she lied.
"What could possibly be wrong with you, other than the fact that you think something is wrong with you?"
"I'm…lying to myself, about certain things. More like being delusional, actually."
Stefan stared at her strangely.
"Is this about Jeremy?"
Bonnie turned away.
"You know you're driving me insane, right?"
Bonnie suppressed a sigh. It wasn't her fault she couldn't tell him, was it?
"Bonnie, this weird behavior has to stop. Tell me what's wrong. Please. It's weird being out of the loop."
He squeezed her hand.
She watched his fingers as they converged with hers, entwined in a strange embrace. She shivered.
"I just feel horrible every time you leave."
"I do too."
"I just can't handle it sometimes. I feel like one day you're not going to come back."
Stefan frowned. "What are you saying?"
Bonnie felt sick admitting this to him, but there was no other way.
"I'm saying I'm dreading the moment you're no longer dead. I'm saying, God – I'm saying I'm scared of when you'll be alive again. And you won't see me."
Stefan swallowed hard.
Bonnie buried her face in her hands.
He wanted to break this terrible silence, he wanted to tell her it wasn't true, that he would see her, that he would get through to her, but he was only lying to himself. This bond, whatever it meant, was going to end when he was on the other side. He had always known it somehow, had always dreaded it.
It felt like an unavoidable fall. A trap, set out to ensnare him.
And he realized, there were more prisons in this world than just a safe in a lake.
With the knowledge in mind that these might be their last days together, Stefan and Bonnie stopped talking like normal people did. They stopped doing things, like swinging in the park or playing with dogs or reading from his books – they stopped acting like people who were still alive. They stopped chasing around town, trying to find each other. They stopped counting down the seconds.
They only sat together now, in almost complete silence and stared at each other or held hands, frightened of what the next moment might bring.
It was strange how close they were now, like two people closed off from the world, two people who had only ever known each other.
It was their universe and theirs alone.
Her only rule had been that they stay at the boarding house. He had argued, but in the end, he had given in, because she didn't want to say goodbye to him in some strange, random place. She wanted it to mean something. His room was the next best thing.
"Will you be here, in this room, when I come back to it?" he asked and they both knew what he meant.
He wouldn't be able to see her once he was alive, but he'd have the knowledge she was there.
"As long as you want me to," she said.
He seemed puzzled by her gratitude.
She didn't elaborate. And he left her again.
"I have a new idea," she said, one evening, out of the blue.
Stefan raised his head.
"I don't think we have enough time now," she said, checking her watch, "but next time, I want you to trust me on something again."
"Don't tell me we're going back to the lake."
"No, this is a bit different."
"You've got to be kidding me."
"I'm dead serious. So serious that I'm getting in with you."
For a moment, Stefan wondered if she actually meant it. Bonnie Bennett had done many ludicrous things in her life, but this…
She pulled her blouse over her head and took off her socks.
Stefan's heart started beating wildly and his entire body stilled in anticipation.
But she didn't take off any other item of clothing and he tried to suppress the sudden and ridiculous pang of disappointment he felt.
What was wrong with him? He wanted to see her naked? What for?
She was beautiful, gorgeous even, but that was beside the point. Their bodies were superfluous.
Except they weren't.
She turned on the shower and extended her hand.
"Come on. In with me."
Stefan grimaced. "Why are you making me do this?"
"Just do it, we don't have time."
He begrudgingly got into the shower with her.
He wasn't ready for the sudden spray of warm water and when it hit his face directly, he froze and drew back, frightened.
Bonnie quickly took him in her arms and soothed him.
"It's just water, see? Nothing to be afraid of. It's only water. It can't harm you."
Gradually, he stopped feeling so tense.
Her wet body clung to him in a warm embrace and it gave him strength to look up and actually let the water run down his arms. He felt a jolt of something between exhilaration and terror.
"Let it soak you in. It can't kill you. I'm here. It can't harm you."
Stefan still seemed wary.
She suddenly turned off the tap. "See? See how easily I can make it go away?"
She turned it back on.
This time, he closed his eyes and let the warm water envelop him. She held him tight. And slowly, he relaxed. He wasn't afraid.
He had missed this feeling. He had missed this comfort.
Bonnie let him go, confident he could now do it alone.
But Stefan wasn't ready to let go. He pulled her back to him and hugged her tight.
She wrapped her hands around him.
"See? The water isn't bad, the water –"
When the rush of cold water replaced the warm, he didn't even feel it. He closed his eyes and he was serene.
"I'll bring you back. Somehow, I'll do it. I don't care what it takes. You hear me? I'm bringing you back."
Bonnie only smiled.
"Let's first see you alive. Then you can get on with whatever Stefan Salvatore mission you got planned."
"Just this for now. Just this until I bring you back."
"If anyone can do it -"
"It's all I'll do."
"What did you want to do, growing up?"
"You mean like a career?"
"Um. No idea, really."
"All kids have some idea of what they want to be growing up."
"Well, sorry, I guess I malfunctioned along the way."
"You really had no outlandish aspirations about becoming a magician or astronaut?"
"If I tell you, well, you'll think it's the lamest thing you've ever heard."
"Nothing can possibly sound lame anymore. Everything has appeal," he joked.
"Okay, suit yourself. I was five. I didn't know much about what was going on around me, obviously. I thought – I thought people don't get moms automatically. I thought it happened when you were older. I thought I had to do something really special or work really hard for it. I wanted to be ready for that. I was trying to prepare myself. Cuz what I really wanted was to become someone's daughter."
"God, that sounded so cheesy. Forget I said anything."
When she turned to him, he had already cupped her cheeks. It was something driven out of pure instinct. Almost like a reflex. Like how you got out of bed in the morning or brushed your teeth.
When someone made you feel this way, your natural reaction would be exactly like this.
There was nothing strange about it.
Bonnie didn't have time to react, though. She never had her chance to get out of bed and brush her teeth. He kissed her and his lips touched hers with such ease that she almost didn't feel it. When she opened her eyes, he was gone.
That was the worst death. Of his tens and hundreds of deaths before, this one made him fight the hardest. Because if he returned to life now, he would never see her again and he would never get to see the face she made when he kissed her again.
It was like the first time.
The relief, the exhilaration, the impossible thrill of moving, of running, of seeing the world in color, of hearing the wind, of smelling the trees.
But this time, he wasn't happy because he thought he was alive.
He was overjoyed that he was still dead.
And it didn't make any sense. He felt so happy he couldn't stand it.
And when he saw her sitting on their bench in the town square, his happiness became a strange object that flew out of him towards her.
He was happy she was dead too.
Bonnie jumped up when she saw him. She let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding.
Madly, insanely, terribly – they were happy about each other's death.
He closed the distance between them and kissed her fully on the lips. There was no hesitation anymore as she opened her mouth for him and wrapped her arms around his neck.
He would make this kiss last for the remaining two minutes he had left.
"Let's go back to your room. I told you we should stay there."
"As long as we continue what we were doing before."
"A bed is more comfortable, though."
"You have a point."
She snuggled in his chest, inhaling his smell. The smell of someone she no longer thought of as a friend. The smell of someone so familiar, she didn't think of him as a lover either.
He kissed the top of her head, his lips lingering on her soft hair, his arms wrapped around her body. His fingers sometimes moved playfully up and down her back, making her smile. He tilted her chin to kiss her.
"Every time I leave, you'll be here."
"You already know."
Bonnie waited. She never knew if he would come back to her. But she waited, either way. Because she had promised. And she couldn't have broken her promise if she tried.
Can you fall in love in two minutes and fourteen seconds?