Chapter 15: The Incredible Power of Beautiful Undergarments


Stefan blasts into the living room and he's wrist-deep in Silas's internal organs before I can even pass him a weapon.

Silas screams, blood vessels bursting in his eyes while I watch, Ric's stake a dead-center hit on his heart that won't do a damn thing against Silas's weird witchy immortality.

"Break his neck," I yelp, fists straining against the compulsion that keeps me from helping. "Don't waste time playing hot potato with his goddamn kidneys, we need him unconscious!"

"You can't…" Silas gasps out, "harm…me."

Stefan jerks his hand out of his doppelganger's belly, growling with frustration as he tries to attack again and can't.

"Oh for hell's sake," Ric complains, and blurs to the fallen doppelganger.

"Stop!" Silas orders and Ric is stuck with one hand on the point of his enemy's chin and one on the back of his head. Veins ripple across his cheekbones in vicious frustration.

"You won't hurt me in any way," Silas orders, his voice weak. "Now pull the stake out."

Ric grasps the stake, and just for a second I hope he can resist again, but then the weapon jerks free and Ric just stares down at the bloody wood, a vein pulsing angrily in his temple.

With a tired sigh, I flop down on the step that divides the foyer from the living room. "Why the fuck do I bother with rugs, anyway?" I ask of no one in particular.

Silas winces, the pain distorting his features into a horrific mask. "Mini Me," he rasps. "Get me some blood bags. Fast."

Disgust twists in my stomach as Stefan rushes to do his bidding.

"Buy a ruler, ass hat," I sneer. "You're the same fucking size."

"Well, clearly, the obedient one is the lesser creature," Silas says with a laugh that twists into a groan. "With a bit of a ham-handed approach to abdominal surgery. No future in medicine for that one." His chuckle gargles and bubbles through the blood flooding his chest. "No future at all, really."

I grimace, reminding myself not to plan anything. If there were ever a time to be impulsive, it would be when facing a mind-reading psychopath with super compulsion.

Instead I look away and think of a garter belt the blue of the evening sky, edged with braided ribbons the exact hue of black vengeance.

Elena's world-class collection of undergarments could take my mind off anything, including thoughts that will give away my intentions to the fuck-witted Stefan clone currently bleeding through my favorite oriental rug.

Stefan returns with freshly washed hands and blood bags and Silas bites into one, sucking it dry before he orders Stefan to get him a glass. Stefan throws me a glance as he heads for the kitchen and I nod in silent agreement. We're going to wreck some shit before the end of the day, mind control be damned.

Silas pushes up to a sitting position, his chest already mostly healed, and looks suspiciously at Ric. "I ordered you not to harm me the last time you tried to break my neck, when you were newly delivered from my frenemies on the Other Side. How exactly did you manage to fight my mind control when an entire town of Virginians couldn't resist me?"

"My dark side isn't running the show right now," Ric says with a quick, angry tilt of his head. "So it really doesn't matter what you compelled him to do."

To keep from considering the problems and possibilities of Ric's dual personalities, I let my thoughts blossom into a blush pink push up bra with a smug purple bow right in that lucky spot in the center.

"Damon, you have a really filthy mind, you know that?" Silas says. A faint line forms between his eyebrows.

"Trust me, you're not the first to think so." I echo Ric's words dryly as I push back to my feet, my good mood nearly restored.

Once I pass where Silas is sitting on the floor, I pull out my phone and start texting, concentrating as hard as I can on a corset I bought Elena this summer. It has delicate, midnight-toned blooms of lillies etched in the lace that stretches between the bones of the bodice. It is held closed with a fragile lacing of ribbons that slide softly between my fingers. That corset is a masterpiece of an undergarment and it needs to stay safely tucked away, in a drawer far from this living room.

"Ah-ah-ah," Silas chides. "Bring the phone to me, Damon. My little play won't be any fun without all my puppets. I wasn't expecting Elena to be in Mystic Falls already, but that's highly convenient. When do you expect her home?"

"I don't know," I answer honestly as my body turns itself away from the drink cart and back toward Silas, my thumb pulling back from the send button before I can warn her away from the house.

I focus on slick satin ribbons, strong and flexible, and I clamp down on every muscle between my hip and my ankle. Thanks to way too much time on my hands and more academic degrees than I want to admit to having, I know all their names and I'm silently screaming them, a drill sergeant battling a full scale mutiny of the troops.

Iliopsoas, Iliacus, rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius…

My steps slow.

Silas smiles. "We'll have to make sure she has something interesting to come home to, now won't we?"

"The fuck we will," I growl. Ric looks over at me, the darkness in his face matching my own.

Tibialis anterior, peroneus tertius, extensor hallucis longus…

My feet stop.

Every inch of my body quivers with the force of will I'm exerting to stay still, but I don't move.

Silas frowns at me. Stefan chooses that moment to return with a Burger King plastic refill cup that Jeremy must have brought home. Stefan offers it with a politely ironic smile to Silas, whose lip curls back away from the sight.

I fucking love my brother.

My right foot moves at the momentary slip in my concentration and I slam it back down with a protesting creak of the hardwood.

"Damon," Silas says deliberately. "Bring me your phone."

Adrenaline shocks through me, along with the knowledge of whose number is in my phone. I clench my mind shut around a picture of tiny, lacy shorts, glowing red like a warning.

My fist tightens on the device and at the first crack of plastic, Silas jumps up and rushes to me, but he's not strong enough to pry it out of my hand and ends up just tugging futilely at my fingers.

"Give it!" Silas snaps.

I drop the phone so fast that he stumbles backward, clutching it to his chest. "See, Stef? That's what it would have been like if we had a bratty little sister."

"Hmm," Stefan considers. "I think I'm glad we skipped that."

"Very mature behavior for a vampire from the Civil War era," Silas complains, examining my phone for damage.

"Maturity really isn't my strong suit," I bite off, my mood souring all over again when I see the screen on my phone is still working.

"I hadn't noticed that you had a strong suit." Silas continues scrolling though phone menus.

"Defeating supervillains." I flare my eyes at him. "It's kind of my thing."

He looks up at that and smirks, unconcerned. "Have you ever noticed it's not very smart to provoke an immensely powerful being who can make you do exactly what he wants?"

"I hadn't heard that." I tilt my head earnestly. "Say, should I be taking notes?"

His smile tightens and his eyes go flat. He returns his attention to the phone and Ric tosses me a warning look.

"Ah ha!" Silas smiles. "Just what I was hoping for."

"Somehow that doesn't sound like good news," Ric mutters.

"Okay!" Silas drops my phone into his pocket and claps his hands together. The pull of his mind control begins to ripple through the room before he even starts to speak. "Let's save a little time and do this all together, like one big happy family. Now, do any of you know where Katherine is?"

"With Jeremy and Matt somewhere," Ric says, and Stefan nods his agreement.

"That is supremely unhelpful," Silas informs us. "But even if you don't know exactly, I bet someone has a guess," he says pointedly.

Stefan just shrugs, but words start pouring out of me before I can even form a strategy for how to stop them.

"They were at Whitmore the day before yesterday so they can't be very far away yet. Jeremy and Matt haven't traveled too much outside of the southeast, except for Jeremy's one trip to Denver, and Jeremy wouldn't want to put his family friends in danger by holing up with them. They won't go south, because Katherine despises humidity. Says it ruins her hair. Which means they probably went north or possibly east. Jeremy would like the beaches, Katherine would like the concealment of the crowds near the coast, but Matt hates driving in traffic in his new truck."

I shrug automatically.

"Most likely, he got overruled. My bet? Northeast, a little over a day's drive at no more than ten hours a day because they probably stop to eat a lot, given Katherine's newly human appetite and Jeremy's teenager metabolism. Which would put them somewhere on the Jersey shore."

By the time I finish, I'm wondering if Silas would stop me before I could bite my own fucking tongue off.

"Wow," Ric says into the silence. "I wish I could say this is the first time I've wished you were a just a little dumber."

"Tell me about it," Stefan says darkly.

Silas's smile widens. "Safe and on the road," he reads out of my received text messages. "From a number not saved to contacts. I wonder who that could be." He pushes the call button and strolls back over to where his second blood bag and Burger King cup wait on the rug.

"Hey, Damon," Jeremy answers cheerfully. "Did you know that organic celery snacks get stuck in your teeth and make you look all nasty?"

I can hear Katherine's irritated voice in the background. "If we have time to stop for Red Bull, I don't see how we don't have time to stop for dental floss."

"Can you two give it a rest already?" Matt's shoulders slump. "Katherine, there's dental floss in my bag. I'll pull over at the next exit and get some out for you, okay?"

"Hello, Jeremy," Silas says. "This is Silas, not to be confused with my gullible and less witty doppelganger, Stefan."

"Silas," Jeremy says, the smile gone from his voice. "What do you want? Where's Damon?"

"Damon is right here, waiting patiently to do my bidding since he is not immune to my overwhelming mental powers, much as he would like to think he is."

Silas tucks the phone between his ear and his shoulder as he pops the seal on the blood bag and pours it into the plastic to go cup.

"And what I want," he says with a careless smile, "is for you to turn that truck around and bring me the cure slash blood bag that's currently packaged as a freaky carbon copy of my one true love, Amara."

"That's not going to happen," Jeremy states, sounding determined. "Katherine's a person, not a bottle of medicine. I'm not going to let you kill her just so you can hang out with your old girlfriend."

"Well, that's a little hypocritical," Silas says, "considering your girlfriend, Bonnie, killed thirty-six hybrids, witches and humans to harness enough power to bring you back from the dead."

He drops the empty blood bag on my ruined rug and looks over at Stefan.

"Can I get a straw for this cup? It's a little big." He gives the flexible plastic an experimental squeeze. "Though it is satisfyingly durable. It's nice to know that people have learned to make stronger dishware in two thousand years, even if they haven't gotten any smarter or less predictable."

"We don't have a straw," Stefan says mildly, and I doubt Silas can tell by his tone that he's just this side of Ripper-binge furious.

"Bonnie didn't kill any of those people," Jeremy hisses through the phone speaker. "She only helped you drop the veil because you coerced her. And guess what, Silas? You're not going to force me to do shit."

"Hey, do you know how I made her help me?" Silas says, wrinkling his forehead and pretending to think. "Seems like it was by threatening the people that she– Hello? Are you there?" He pulls the phone away from his ear, frowning at it. "Little punk hung up on me. Unbelievable."

"Rebellious teenagers," Ric says, shaking his head in mock sympathy.

Silas presses the button to call back and we listen to it ring. "You'd think he'd be more helpful, since I only want the cure so I can kill myself." He waves his plastic cup, the dark line of sloshing blood faintly visible behind an advertisement for The Incredible Hulk. "Why wouldn't Jeremy want to help get rid of me?"

"Probably because he's not an idiot," Ric says. "You're evil. You can't be trusted."

Silas frowns at him, looking a little hurt.

I shake my head. "Really, Silas? You think we're going to buy that whole die-to-be-with-your-one-true-love crap? What's your real plan?"

An electronic voice informs Silas that the voicemail box for this number hasn't been set up yet. He hangs up with an annoyed look at the phone.

"The problem with you," he says, tipping his cup in my direction. "Is that you've never been so in love with somebody that you would risk everything, even your immortal existence, to be with them."

My eye twitches. "Oh, woe is me."

"Look, you didn't lock me in a safe and then compel me to stay in Mystic Falls just so you could take the cure and die for good," Stefan says. "So what is it you actually want?"

I raise an eyebrow. That was a pretty decent bluff for my brother, whose poker face couldn't win him a game of Go Fish with a preschooler.

"Well, since all you malleable-minded minions are going to help me, I'm happy to tell you," Silas says, his ironically deadpan voice making it sound like the joke that it isn't. "I'm pretty evil, as your failed vampire hunter friend pointed out. But Amara wasn't evil. She was kind, generous, empathetic…" Silas lists off. "Actually surprisingly flawless in every way. She would hate that because of our undying love, there are vampires preying on humans all over the world, and star crossed doppelgangers made in our image, falling in love over and over and over again…"

He cocks his head with a smile that is probably supposed to be charming and instead makes me feel like I've eaten bad sushi.

"I don't want her to be upset with me when I join her in the eternal afterlife, now do I?"

Stefan crosses his arms uncomfortably, and Ric and I swap a quick glance.

"So what does that have to do with my brother?" I demand. "Buy Amara some damn diamonds, tell her she's beautiful, and cross your fingers for makeup sex."

"I need two doppelgangers to sacrifice in a spell to make sure no other doppelgangers are born," Silas says, taking a sip of blood. "I have to have Elena and Stefan for that. I can't very well use Katherine, since I have to suck her dry for the cure. Also, I want to make sure I have her with me before I head to the Big Easy to kill off the Original family."

He smiles, looking immensely pleased with himself.

"That way, when the spell and the Original massacre are done, I can take the cure and kill myself before any bereaved friends of vampires can organize themselves to take revenge on me."

"So basically you're going to kill us and everyone we've ever loved, as well as every other vampire on earth, before you commit suicide?" Stefan asks incredulously.

"You really are a crazy son of a bitch, aren't you?" Ric says, raising an eyebrow.

"Ironically," Silas says, "Jeremy should survive, since he's not a vampire or a doppelganger." He cocks his head. "See? There's a silver lining."

"Super," I say flatly.

I'm going to dismantle this fucker into a 3-D jigsaw puzzle that will take about a millennium to put back together, and I'm not ruling out the use of battery acid for part of the process.

I cross my arms. "So tell me, oh mighty Wizard of Oz. How do you think you're going to take out the Originals, considering you'd be hard pressed to win an arm wrestling match with the captain of the Mystic Falls cheerleading squad?"

"Oh, I won't be a witch again until after I drain Katherine," Silas says, his good humor not dented by my sarcasm. "Until then, I'm an evil psychic mastermind so it's not as if I have to do it myself."

Ric heads for the drink cart.

"Actually, I think I'm going to compel you and your highly expendable vampire hunting buddy to do it for me," Silas announces. "After all, no one has managed to get rid of a single Original in all these centuries and yet your little friends have finished off two in a single year, three if you consider you got Mikael killed as well. That's an impressive body count for a distinctly average group of supernaturals."

I glance at Ric's back, wondering if Qetsiyah and Esther knew Silas's plan all along and that's why they haven't revoked Ric's Land of the Living visa yet.

"Don't know if you've heard, but you can't just kill an Original without a special weapon," Stefan comments. "And most of those have been destroyed."

"Oh, I think there is enough white oak left to do the job if we're efficient." Silas smiles. "And don't worry, Stefan. While I was in New Orleans, I got my hands on the last white oak stake and a handy extra witch for doing my doppelganger spell. So you'll be dead before your brother and I have to deal with the Originals." He beams at Ric. "Qetsiyah will be furious when she realizes she gave me the perfect tool to help end the vampire race forever, and that I will finish the job she always intended to do. After all, you are the one vampire strong enough to fight Originals, and guaranteed not to shrivel up and die if you stake your grandsire."

My fingers twitch with a strong desire to punch the smile off his face. Instead, I take a firm hold on my temper and try to buy us a little time.

"You can mind control everyone you can see and you still can't manage to find Katherine without our help?" I sneer. "Wow, that's sad."

"Well, I had a girl who was going to find Katherine for me," he says, shrugging, "but first I had to pretend to be her grungy nomadic boyfriend and talk her people into an underhanded land deal, and I'd rather not get that close to an angry mob of Travelers. They're unfortunately immune to my mind control and they keep sticking me back in that tomb every time I escape." Silas waves his hand. "Old drama. Doesn't matter. Because now that I have all of you, I can spend a diverting afternoon convincing Jeremy to bring Katherine to me. Then I can stash her in the trunk and head to New Orleans to sacrifice some doppelgangers, and all the rest of these pitiful, animal-fanged, blood sucking copies of me."

I hold very still, but my mind is anything but the blank I wish it was. It is tormenting me that Elena and Stefan will die first. Even if none of us last a full day beyond this moment, it seems unbearably cruel that I will have to watch them die first.

If I've learned anything from all the shit I've gotten myself into, it's that if you stall long enough, you can turn around even the most dire of circumstances. But if Stefan and Elena are sacrificed first, I won't have long enough to find a way around Silas's mind control.

Silas takes another sip of blood and looks down at my phone.

"Now, torturing Elena would get Jeremy home the fastest, but someone else will have to be the appetizer, since she's out running errands." He purses his lips thoughtfully, then tilts the phone in Ric's direction just as my friend is turning around with two brimming glasses in his hands.

I recognize the color: it's my favorite scotch for expedient drunkenness. For those special days when you have a vengeful immortal bent on creative pain infliction and you just don't have time to fuck around with vampire metabolism.

"You," Silas says to Ric, "obviously need some lessons in properly tormenting vampires." He grins. "Fortunately for you, my unique talents make me something of a virtuoso in that area." He fumbles for a moment until he figures out how to open a text message on my phone.

Ric stops at my side and hands me a scotch.

Right now, I don't have to force thoughts out of my mind because they are all of weapons. Weapons and the corresponding injuries that they'll be giving to the walking personality disorder currently texting on my phone.

Silas looks up at me. "Well, you certainly don't need any lessons on torture. That'll come in handy." He grins. "Even I might run out of ideas if it takes Jeremy ten or twenty hours to drive back here."

Stefan glances at me, but I don't meet his eyes.

We're stuck with his batshit crazy doppelganger, whom none of us can attack, and Elena is going to end up right in the middle of this unless she engages in some serious impulse shopping. I'm fresh out of ideas and thanks to Silas's little brain microscope trick, I'm fired from cooking up any more. So barring an attack of compulsion-bypassing impulsive brilliance, I'm thinking we're all about to have a really shitty couple of days.

I take a long drink of scotch and swallow it all at once to let the burn combat the icy stiffness of my gut.

Silas starts typing in his text message, reading aloud as he goes. "Dearest Jeremy. Until you get here with Katherine… Hey is it a C or a K?" His eyes flick to Stefan and he bobs a nod in response to whatever Stefan is thinking. "Right, K. Until you get here with Katherine, I'll be torturing…damn autocorrect," he grumbles, backspacing and retyping, "your friend comma…" He glances over at Ric. "How do you spell your name?"

Ric just stares at him, hard-eyed and motionless. And then he takes a sip of scotch.

"Fine," Silas says. "Be like that. Backspace comma, and we'll just call it plural friends." He smiles, pleased with himself, and hits send.

Stefan's chin jerks up just slightly and I look at him.

"Run," he mouths, but Silas raises a hand.

"Nope, sorry, no running." I can feel the suggestion settling heavy over my body, and I test the edges of it, thinking.

The more direct the wording, the harder it is to fight. I can feel my body wanting to obey him, but I can change my focus if I work at it.

"Good try, Stefan," Silas encourages. "Well, actually not, but I thought it would be polite to say."

" 'Cause we are living in a material world…" As my phone starts to ring, Stefan's eyebrows go up and everybody looks at me. Ric snickers. "And I am a material girl."

Apparently when I heard Elena sneak out of bed last night to mess with my phone, she didn't quite figure out how to set the new ringtone for just her calls.

"Madonna!" Silas exclaims. "I didn't expect you to have such good taste in music, Damon." He touches the button to accept the call. "Hello, Jeremy. I thought that might change your mind."

"We're coming," he says tightly. I wait for Katherine's protests in the background, but all I hear is the sound of a truck engine. "You don't have to hurt anybody."

"Well, then you'd better drive fast," Silas says. "Oh, but not too quickly. You don't want to get pulled over and arrested for excessive speeding, since none of you are able to compel a police officer. But stay on the line. I've got a little drive time entertainment for you." He lifts his chin and gestures to the three of us. "You all, follow me."

Ric finishes his drink.

I raise my voice and say, "Jeremy, hang up the damn phone."

My muscles strain to follow Silas but he didn't put a time limit on the command and I push back against it, seeing how long I can wait before I have to move. My toes curl anxiously inside my boots and my whole body feels twitchy.

"It really doesn't matter," Silas explains good naturedly to Jeremy. "Whether you listen or not, they'll be in terrible pain. You see, I need them to do something for me, and to do that they need their limbs. But for vampires, skin grows back far more quickly. No matter how often you peel it off."

I can hear Jeremy's breathing through the phone, and it's jerky, unbalanced.

Silas turns his back and starts walking. I take a step forward automatically and then slam my fist down into my thigh, trying to stop. Stefan and Ric are right behind Silas, moving unquestioningly. But I've seen Elena do this when she nearly lit me and her dorm room on fire. I know I can break his compulsion. I just need to find the right tactic.

And Jeremy doesn't need to be a part of any of this shit.

I raise my voice again, biting off a single word at barely less than a shout. "Katherine!"

There's a scuffling noise from the phone speaker, fading as Silas gets further away from me. And then a click when the line goes dead. I smile fiercely. My ex-girlfriend may be a bitch, but at least she's a practical bitch.

Silas sighs and puts the phone in his pocket, beckoning to me. "You're making my life very difficult, Damon. Come along now."

The pressure inside my legs redoubles, every tendon twanging with tension, energy screaming to be put into motion. Stillness is like sandpaper across my nerve endings.

"Come watch you torture my best friend?" I say casually. "No thanks. I've got a good book going." I hook a thumb toward the couch and lift my foot, trying to force it in that direction. My boot hovers, quivering against the conflicting demands.

"Follow me now," Silas hisses, his green eyes alight in a way that Stefan's never are until he's about two blondes and a brunette into a long night of drinking.

I am walking.

I'm choking on every step but I can't stop delivering myself right into his terribly familiar hands.

He grins, his good humor restored. "Besides, weren't you paying attention during the evil mastermind speech? I'm not going to torture them, Damon. You are."