Actions

Work Header

One Thing

Chapter Text

~ The Vampire Diaries ~

Stefan returned to the Boarding House after hunting on his way back from Elena's. The animal blood tasted especially good fresh and warm from the source, as opposed to the butcher blood he'd been drinking over the weekend that Elena and Bonnie had gotten him. It was also a wise precaution to fill up on blood before his first encounter with Damon after his brother decided to play a very poor game of Operation on him.

Coming home through the woods, Stefan didn't notice the white Chevrolet Tahoe parked off to the side down a ways the long drive, but he did spot Damon's soft-top in the drive.

Stefan took a deep breath as he stepped through the front door, wondering if Damon would be any better state to talk—when the sent of fresh, human blood assailed his vampire senses. Despite just having consumed four rabbits, the sent of human blood made the back of his jaw ache with hunger.

He should have known better than to think it was a good idea to leave Damon alone the same day he found out about Katherine, but he'd let the girls convince him. Not that he protested hard. He just felt so helpless to do anything that could mend the pain and anger that the other vampire was feeling. He was guilty. He was out enjoying himself while his brother was broken-hearted. And this was punishment for being so useless when Damon needed him. He sped through the house, easily following the mouth-watering scent.

Stefan found Damon in the cozy sitting room, at the sideboard pouring himself a drink so board and casual as if the body of person wasn't lying dead on the rug in front of the burning fire, a stake sticking from his abdomen.

"No!" Stefan shouted as he recognized the man with horror. "Ric!" he flashed to the man's side, cradling his head, checking for a pulse in his neck even as the silence of a heartbeat rang painfully in his ears. "Ric?" he begged helplessly, stroking his cheek.

"Interesting," Damon mused, watching the scene curiously as he took a sip from his freshly poured tumbler.

Stefan snapped his gaze away from Alaric's slack, open-eyed face, and to his glib brother. "What did you do? Why? You said--"

"He tried to kill me, brother. What was I supposed to do?" he asked innocently. "Let him?"

"You didn't have to kill him!" Stefan shouted. The scent of the blood lost its meaning to his anger and unrestrained grief.

"He's the one that tried to kill me," Damon touched his chest with his drink in question, "So why am I the one getting yelled at? That was his stake, you know. He brought that with him and it's not some hastily-made, arts-and-craft stake either. He knew, Stefan. He had to go."

"He saw you kill his wife! He knew what you were because you kill and you don't care—not the trauma or the pain you leave behind." He accused rightfully.

"You knew he was after me?" Damon said with some bite. "And you didn't think to tell me?"

"I was dealing with it," Stefan said weakly, guilt and shame hitting him hard. No; he'd spent the weekend with Bonnie and Elena, having fun and forgetting. Shirking his responsibilities.

"No." He stood to loom over them and said in strict disappointment at his brother: "This was me taking care of it—after you failed to." Damon kicked Alaric's foot, jostling his body.

"Don't touch him!" Stefan snarled with a flash of vamp-face.

Damon raised his dark brow in surprise at the unexpected response, before his expression smoothed out and a grin spread. "Ooh, does Saint Stefan have a thing for Teacher? Does Elena know? She'll be so heartbroken to know her former beau likes to take to bed with sin. Is that why you broke it off, I wonder."

"Why?" Stefan asked him, his face back to normal, searching, pleading as he rose to his feet and faced his amused brother; ignoring his comments. "Why do you have to be like this? Why can't it be like before, when we were human? Why can't we just be brothers again? I'm sorry, Damon." He grasped Damon's shoulders, squeezing desperately. "I'm sorry that I forced you to turn when I knew you wanted to die, that we were supposed to die together. But after I turned, I was scared, I didn't want to be alone—I just wanted my big brother." Stefan could see the cracks twitching away at his expression as Damon stood stiff under his brother's hands. "Please, Damon." Tears burned the back of his eyes. "Why can't we be brothers again?"

"I'm not angry at you for turning me, Stefan." Damon told him softly, looking back. "Maybe at the very beginning, but you were right, being a vampire felt fantastic. And then I was actually grateful after Emily told me that the spell worked."

Stefan shook his head in confusion. "Then wh--"

"Katherine." And his soft and sad expression snapped to one of twisted hate, fury, and hurt so sharply that Stefan stepped back in shock. "I loved her. I gave up everything for her. Would do anything for her. But it wasn't good enough, it's never enough—because she wanted you!" he hurled his glass across the room, shattering it on the opposing wall, alcohol running down the wall. "She was giving you her blood behind my back. It was just supposed to be the two of us, her and me. Not you! But she chose you! Everyone always chooses you, brother!"

It took him a moment to speak. "I chose you," Stefan whispered, broken, but Damon had already sped away. Stefan stared forlornly after his brother for a moment before he turned his attention back to Alaric. He dropped down back onto the floor, pulling the man into his lap. "I'm so sorry, Ric." He whispered and wrapped a shaky hand around the stake handle in his abdomen, throwing it into the fire behind him, hearing the wet blood sizzle and pop.

The scent renewed as blood eked from the unplugged wound. But the blood wasn't even calling to him—the switch was. Just a bit of darkness, just some quiet.

This never should of happened. "I should have been here." He laid his cheek against Alaric's forehead, tears dribbling from his eyes. He just wanted to hold him for a minute; he still felt so warm but the vampire knew it was just the proximity of the fire.

Death didn't follow in Damon's wake, it followed Stefan. Wherever Stefan went, people starting dying unnaturally and suddenly thereafter. It was Stefan that brought along with him the shadows of death. Stefan was the curse.

He just wanted it to end, just wanted it to stop.

There was a abrupt sharp, choking gasp and suddenly Alaric was jolting in his arms—alive! Stefan jerked back in surprise, watching the man look wild-eyed as he coughed and scrambled at his wound—which was healed. Alaric looked rapidly around in panic and confusion until his gaze found Stefan's shocked one.

"What happened?"

"You were dead. And now you aren't." Stefan said numbly, "Damon must have turned you."

But Alaric was shaking his head rapidly. "No. No. He couldn't have."

"He didn't feed you any of his blood?"

He remembered dying, drowning in his own blood as Damon watched. He could still feel the shadow pains of it, even if the wound was no longer there. But he was positive that Damon never gave him any blood. "No." He swallowed.

"Then how--?"

"My ring!" Alaric said suddenly. "It-- it has to be. Isobel said that it would protect me from the things that go bump in the night and never to take it off. That must be it." He looked at it in amazement.

Stefan took the man's hand and examined the ring. It was gaudy, just like his and Damon's daylight rings. "It must be imbued with magic." He whispered. Thank you, Isobel! He would be internally grateful towards the woman. Stefan squeezed his hand, looking back into his blue eyes.

"Hey, it--"

Stefan pressed his lips against Ric's, suddenly, firmly, expressing his immense relief and gratitude, before he pulled. "Sorry," he apologized as Alaric stared at him.

"No, no." Alaric gave his a little shake, tongue flickering over his lips. "It's... fine. Ahem," he cleared his throat, just seeming to realize that he was in the teen's lap. "I should-- I should probably go." Alaric clambered from the vampire's lap and Stefan sped to his feet, pulling the man up.

"I don't think that's a good idea," Stefan told him.

"Stefan, I just came back from the dead. I'm tired and hungry, and just want to drink and not think about the fact that I have to wake up at 6 tomorrow morning and deal with a bunch of teenagers for 8 hours."

"Exactly." Stefan agreed. "You just came back from the dead, Ric. That's not normal." Alaric gave him a pointed look. "Even where vampires are concerned. This isn't a vampire-thing, this is a witch-thing."

"What do you suggest then?"

"You shouldn't be alone for 24 hours at least. Think of it as concussion-watch—except you can drink alcohol and sleep."

"I can't just stay here, Stefan." Alaric said with exasperation. "Your brother literally just killed me," he pulled at his ruined shirt with a cringe, missing the look that crossed the vampire's face.

"I'm not going to try and excuse what Damon did," Stefan replied quietly, Alaric looked up at him. "You can trust me, Ric. I won't let Damon hurt you. I won't fail next time." His hands clenched into fists and he turned before the man could discern the pain in his eyes.

Alaric found himself following the vampire up the stairs and into his bedroom. "I do trust you, Stefan." He said and watched some of the strain leave the back of his shoulders at the confession.

It was large and spacious, all the furniture looked antique but well-cared for with an en suite. Stefan went in search of something that would fit his slightly broader shoulders.

Alaric avoided looking at his bed and instead his gaze was drawn to a bookcase by the door that was crammed full of old leather-bound journals. He traced the cracked spines as he squinted to read the faded dates. 2004. 1973. 1950. 1920. 1872. His astonish grew as he continued to find diminishing years amid the disorganization. 1868. "Just how old are you?!" he blurted, turning.

"Perpetually 17 for the last 145 years, at your service." Stefan gave him a bow with a slight hand flourish, holding out a folded shirt to the man.

"That means you were turned in..." Alaric took it distractedly as he quickly did the math, "1864! You were alive when Jonathan Gilbert wrote that journal, weren't you?" Stefan nodded. "That's incredible. The things you've seen, the things you've experienced. You've actually lived through history! It's no wonder you know so much about it."

"You pick up a few things," Stefan shrugged, enjoying the excitement sparking in Alaric eyes. No need to divulge the pain, misery, longing, loneliness and loss because it hadn't been all that. Sometimes, he'd have these moments that made it all worth it—like now, actually.

"You've got to tell me sometime," Alaric said. "The stories you must have!"

"Sure," the teen smiled.

"At least you look like that." Alaric gestured at him, eyes flickering, referring to his age remark. "I had glasses and bad skin when I was your age; you never would have slept with me back then," he chuckled.

"Don't sell yourself short, Ric." Stefan said quietly as the man passed him to the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.

While Alaric changed and cleaned off the blood, Stefan flashed down to the wine cellar and grabbed a couple bottles of the good, hard stuff and some glasses. He was back before the man was done in the bathroom.

Alaric came out wearing Stefan's shirt, holding his own. The vampire swallowed as he saw him. "What should I do with this?" he questioned.

"Here," Stefan grabbed the plastic lining from his small trash can and went over, holding it open for him and careful not to breathe. Now that he wasn't overloaded with other emotions to drown out the call of hunger, it was starting to claw back to the surface even if it was just from the dry blood coating the shirt. Alaric's blood smelled amazing and he didn't want to think of the man as a happy-meal.

Stefan tied it tightly and opened the doors to the balcony, stepping out. Alaric watched with interest as the vampire calculated, staring into the pitch darkness and drew his hand back. He lobbed the plastic bag into the distance and a moment later a faint metal clang sounded as the trash found the garbage can across the lot, exhaling.

"That's impressive," the teacher remarked, but Stefan could see the silent question in his blue eyes as he came back into the room, closing the doors.

"Your blood; the smell of it was starting to make me stir-crazy." He explained quietly, feeling the shame slink in. "I've never been good around blood."

"Right," he tapped his nose, "A vampire, I remember." Stefan gave a soft chuckle and head shake. "So how do you feed?" Alaric asked curiously as they sat at the small writing desk and Stefan poured them drinks.

"Strict animal diet." Stefan reported. "It's like vegetarianism for vampires." He clinked his glass against Ric's before downing the entire glass while Alaric took a moderate swallow of his. Stefan refilled.

"Isn't that like trying to put a lion on a diet of fruit?"

"Close." He was slower with this glass. "Being a vampire—with the blood, the craving, the hunger... it's like being a drug addict. So you have to find that level, you drink, you feed, you sustain yourself, but you don't indulge—you refuse the call of the blood, the blood haze." He swallowed against his dry throat and finished off his cup, topping Alaric's as continued distraction. "I've never been good at resisting," he admitted, staring at the table top instead of Alaric. This was stuff he hadn't even really told Elena. "I'm just one of those unlucky vampires that are really susceptible to its call. So, in order to function properly, I take animal blood—like methadone. It keeps me functioning though obviously not as effective as human blood, it's not our natural diet so it makes me weaker, more susceptible to pain and takes me longer to heal." He took a sip and looked up, "But it keeps me at my most human, gives me the most control."

"That sounds tough, Stefan." Alaric finally said after a moment, finishing off his glass. This was not the response he had been expecting to get, not that he expected to die and come back to life either, or be sitting across from his one-night-stand, turned student, turned vampire. Guess it was one of those nights.

"So, the floor is yours, Ric." Stefan said instead. "Ask me anything you want."

Alaric blinked in surprise, definitely another invitation he hadn't expected. When he started on this hunt for the vampire that killed his wife and found Mystic Falls crawling with mysterious animal attacks, he never expected to find himself friendly with the creatures he intended to kill (not that he had intention of killing Stefan), let alone get the opportunity to question them.

The starving historian inside of him was salivating at actually talking to someone who experienced it. If that personal Gilbert Journal was porn, then this was participation. But all that could wait for now; there were more pressing present issues that needed answers.

"The journal that was taken, those vampires that wanted to release those other vampires..."

"You don't have to worry about that," Stefan reassured, putting his hand over Alaric's on the table, giving it a brief squeeze. "We got the information that we needed from the journal you copied; it was a grimoire that held the spell to break open the tomb that was underneath the burned church."

"Fell's Church, from the journal?" Alaric asked. Stefan nodded. "All the history books claim that it was union soldiers that were killed in the church fire but it was these vampires, wasn't it?"

"Yeah."

"So you destroyed this... grimoire," he waved his hand, "So the tomb couldn't be opened."

"No. We opened the tomb."

"I'm sorry, you what?!" Ric exclaimed, jumping to his feet. "You let the vampires out."

"No. Hey." Stefan stood and stepped around the table, he grasped Alaric's shoulders. "There was no danger. They were desiccated. They're all dead, Ric. None got out. I killed them with fire. The vampires who were trying to open it are all dead, too. There's no more danger. And we blocked the entrance so no drunk and hapless teenagers can get into trouble."

"You could have led with that," Alaric huffed, smiling nervously at him.

"Sorry." Stefan drop his hands, them brushing briefly down Alaric's biceps.

"Who's this 'we'?" he wondered after a moment.

"Me, Damon." He paused. "Elena." He could trust Alaric. "A--"

"Your girlfriend?" Alaric asked—to clarify and nothing else. He wanted the facts.

Stefan couldn't help the small smile that twitched at the corner of his mouth. "Ex-girlfriend. We broke up, but are still good friends." He ignored the whispered of doubt so quiet at the back of his mind.

"So she knows that you're--? I mean obviously if she was at the church with you." He was babbling like an idiot. "Is that why you broke up?" he cringed. This should be territory that he ought to be steering away from, not towards. "Sorry. That's not--"

Stefan gave his head a little shake. He said softly, "I broke it off. Being a vampire was a part of it, not that she cared. I love her, but I just can't love her like that."

"Ah." Alaric swallowed as he watched Stefan, something fluttering at the hollow in his throat. They gazed at each other for a moment before the teacher cleared his throat awkwardly. "Sorry. I interrupted you again. Before, I mean."

"And a couple witches who didn't want those vampires getting out into Mystic Falls just as much as the rest of us." Stefan picked up the thread easily.

"Obviously." Alaric agreed.

Stefan chuckled, "Obviously. It's always good to have the witches on your side."

"You said before that this was magic," Alaric raised his right hand and rubbed at the ring on his finger thoughtfully.

"I could ask." The vampire offered. "See if they'd agree to meet you."

"Or maybe that's just jinxing the whole thing," he mused.

"We don't know if this was just a one-off, Ric. Personally, I don't want to find out. It's better to be sure—especially with your... extracurricular job."

"You're right, it could come in handy. It certainly did tonight,"

"Are you sure you're okay?" Stefan asked. "You're not feeling dizzy or residual pain? Anything like that?"

"I really am fine, Stefan." He clapped the worried vampire on the shoulder. "It's been a long night and I'm just tired. It's going to be a long couple weeks with the Founder's Parade and everything. I just need some sleep." He started for the door with every intention of heading back to his apartment.

"You are definitely not driving in your condition." Stefan protested, stopping him. The hand on Alaric's chest was a stubborn force. It was such a relief to finally feel the man's heartbeat through his chest instead of just listening to it with his vamp-hearing. That previous silence had been so jarring he was nearly second away from turning it off before the ring brought Ric back. "You can take my bed. I'll make sure you get up early enough not to be late for class." He promised. "Please."

"Stefan--"

"Don't look so worried," the teen tried to joke. "My presence in the bed isn't part of the deal."

"This is really messed up, Stefan," Alaric confessed, laying his hand over Stefan's on his chest. "When we slept together, I thought you were human. If I had known--"

"I know." His voice came out slightly rough around the lump in his throat, the pain in his chest. Fought to not let Ric see it on his face. The man did not need his brooding teenage vampire identity issues.

He went to pull his hand away but Alaric squeezed it, preventing him. "No. Stop. Yes," he sighed, "If I had known you were a vampire, I never would have slept with you, just tried to kill you. The only experience I've had with vampires is your brother killing my wife. But you were human to me before you were a vampire. I got to know the real Stefan Salvatore, am still getting to know him. You. And I'm glad. Though to be fair, I also never would have slept with you had I known you were only 17 years old," he added in wry ambivalence.

Stefan stroked his cheek with his free hand. "I'm glad you're not dead, Ric. Or undead. Just... alive. Vampirism isn't all that the fantasy books and movies make it out to be." He dropped his hand from Alaric's cheek and slipped his hand reluctantly out from beneath the one pressed against the man's chest. "Goodnight, Ric." He turned and started for the door.

Alaric felt helpless as he watched the vampire's retreating back and blurted: "Did you mean it?"

Stefan stopped but didn't turn around. "Mean what?"

"When we were together," he said after a slight hesitation. "That you hadn't been with someone for decades?" the brunette gave a slight nod. "Why me?"

Stefan furrowed his brow in confusion but he answered truthfully. "I couldn't help myself. I sat in on your lecture and just watching you up on that stage—it was magnetizing. I had to be near you, I needed to. Just talk to you, just for a bit." He gave a half shrug, a cover for himself more than anything. He hadn't felt the want pull at him so hard for a very long time, to be with someone—then he returned home everything got all muddled with Elena(-looking-like-Katherine).

Stefan was not expecting it, so when Alaric grabbed his arm and spun him around, the vampire stumbled lightly into the man and into his lips—that hadn't been a consequence, but the teacher's intention.

Stefan couldn't help but sink into it instantly. The warmth, the taste that tingled against his lips as Ric flicked his tongue against them. He should put a stop to it, Ric must be in shock (like that kiss downstairs when the teacher had come back to life in his arms) and then with the drink. Just one more minute, he let his own want take command of his action.

Dying (and coming back) did tend to put things into perspective. And Alaric was acting on it. His normal human response went out the window the night he saw a vampire kill his wife and dedicated the last two years looking for them. Well, he found them and like everything in the world and life, things were not always what you expected them to be. He never expected to sleep with a seventeen year old, or see the teen again. He never expected to die and come back to life. He never expected to want to sleep with a vampire, but he was willing to make an exception for this vampire.

"Ric--"

"I'm as mature as I look, Stefan."

Stefan gave a light chuckle, searching the man's eye as he slowly closed the distance. Alaric waited and let him come, letting out an exhale through his nose as they finally connected. Stefan guided the man backwards into his room and towards his bed, his hands finding their way under the hem, stroking up his torso, dragging the material up. They broke the kiss for Stefan to pull the borrowed shirt off and drop it to the floor.

The rapid beat of Alaric's heart and the smell of his arousal fuelled Stefan's desire and hard cock. He pushed the man back onto his bed, kissing down the jumping pulse in his neck, across his chest, paying reverent attention to the right side of his torso where Alaric healed from his death, before the vampire trailed his lips and tongue further down.

He started to undo the man's fly when he was pushed away.

"Your turn," Alaric told him, working on his own confinement.

With a smirk, Stefan stripped from his shirt and pants to the approving gaze of the teacher. Both naked and erect, Alaric grasped his wrist and pulled the teen on the bed on top of him, kissing as he rolled them over and gave Stefan a similar treatment.

Stefan twisted his torso, scrabbling at the drawer in his bedside stand, yanking it open with enough strength to almost send the whole thing crashing onto the floor. He groped blindly inside, his focus shattering as Alaric continued to stroke and tease his throbbing cock with feather-light touches. He tossed the small bottle of oil onto the bed and continued to try to valiantly search for a condom he was sure he was never going to find but attempted to for Ric's conscious. Stefan didn't care, he would much rather feel the man inside him without the latex barrier; he was a vampire, he was clean, he could neither transmit nor contract even if Alaric was positive. The only value they held for the vampire was that it was a easier clean-up afterwards. It wasn't like you could catch vampirism through anal sex.

"Uhh!" Stefan cried out as Alaric pushed a slicked finger into his entrance and started to pump. He fumbled with the drawer before abandoning it all together as he begged for another finger and Ric obliged him. Alaric peppered the inside of his thighs with kisses, his stubble brushing against the skin as he crooked his fingers, finding that bundle of nerves inside the vampire, enjoying the faint flush on his chest. He added a third. "Nh."

Alaric finally pulled his fingers out and coated his cock with a few pumps of the same oiled hand, sighing at his own touch. Stefan watched with hungry eyes as the man guided his cock to his slicked and stretched entrance. The weeping head of his cock breached and he slowly started to push in—it was maddening!

Stefan wrapped his legs low around the dirty-blond's hips and pulled the teacher forward swiftly. Their groans collided as they were skin-on-skin and no space between.

"Shit, Stefan!"

"Mgh." Stefan's head fell back onto the pillow as Alaric grasped his taut thighs and started to thrust.

After feeling only pain, grief, and worry for so many consecutive days, this was exactly what the doctor called for. Connection and release. Intimacy. He reached above his head with one arm, bracing his palm against the thick oak headboard; his other reached for Alaric, needing some kind of other physical anchor between them besides the beautiful man's cock thrusting inside him.

"Ric!" he gasped, chest arching up as the man stroked his prostate. He could feel the want building, the urge to pull Alaric close, bury his face in the man's neck—bury his fangs into the pulsing, engorged artery. If you bite it just right, you could control the flow. He could feel the burn of thirst in the back of his throat, the veins starting to pulse around his eyes. Shit! Stefan grabbed the extra pillow next to him and pressed over his face as Alaric stroke him again and he lost control over his face.

"Stefan. Stefan." Alaric panted, slowing. "I can't with your face shoved in a pillow, it's disconcerting. C'mon." He tugged at the case, with reluctance, Stefan let him pull it away and immediately crossed his arms over his altered vampire face, struggling to 'put it away' as Alaric continued in a torturously slow pace. "Stefan." He could see the teen's fangs peeking out as he panted and the human leaned down, nuzzling his square jaw before he carefully kissed the fanged mouth.

Stefan let out a low groan, kissing back. His arms slowly dropping away and wrapped around his neck, fingers shoving into his short dirty-blond cut. He felt his fangs retract and his eyes cleared, gyrating his hips in clear order and Alaric started to pick up the pace again. The man pulled back for breath and he gazed into the lust-blown green irises.

Alaric was close. He wanted Stefan with him in climax so he grabbed the vampire's neglected cock between them and started to jerk the teen off in time with the thrusts. He reached his peak first, grunting Stefan's name into his chest. Stefan followed a instant later as warmth flooded him, ejaculating between their sweaty bodies as he cried out into Ric's hair.

Alaric slumped on top of the bushed vampire, spent and sated. He lazily kissed his collarbone as he finally, finally felt the night catch up to him, his eyes dropping.

"You planning to fall asleep right here?" Stefan mused, peeking down at his lover's face as his heartbeat slowed and his breaths evened.

"Mm." Alaric nodded. "That would be great." But he summoned enough energy to careful pull himself out of Stefan and roll off him onto the empty side of the bed. Hands over his head, his body arched as he stretch and slumped even more happily into the bed as Stefan wiped them clean with tissue. "Thanks," he mumbled and Stefan smiled as he watched him.

"Go to sleep, Ric." He whispered, pressing a kiss to his mouth as he pulled the blanket over the naked man. Alaric could do nothing but follow the instruction.

Stefan flitted from the bed to turn off the lights and lock his bedroom door and briefly to the bathroom before he was back under the blankets and pressed against Ric's side. He watched the man through the darkness before his own tiredness claimed him.

...

Alaric's nose twitched as a familiar scent wafted towards the slumbering man, calling to him. His nose was already gravitating toward the delicious scent, his still half-asleep body having no choice but to follow. His hand reached blindly until another took it gently and guided it to the full mug and brought it to his lips. Alaric took that first blissful swallow of strong, steaming, pure black caffeine. It coursed through his veins like a second blood source. He finally opened his eyes to find Stefan, with perfectly styled hair and already dressed for the day, perched on the edge of the bed giving him a amused smile.

"What if I had been a bad vampire?" Stefan teased.

"Then I would know that my Stefan perished valiantly in the attempt to protect my life," Alaric returned in the same note, sipping from the mug, blue dancing over the rim.

"Perished, hm?" Stefan wondered lightly even as his chest fluttered at being his anything. "Not simply incapacitated?"

"I assumed that was the only way a 'bad vampire' would have made it that far,"

And the teacher was right. "Now shower," he threw a thumb toward the en suite, "You have class to teach... Mr Saltzman." Stefan gave the man a leer as he said his name huskily and watched his blue irises be overtaken by pupils. He chuckled and stood up. "There will be more coffee for you when you get out," the teen enticed knowingly, which kicked the teacher into gear. He bit the inside of his cheek as he watch the human walk across his room naked.

While Alaric was in the shower, Stefan went downstairs to the kitchen to refill Ric's cup and refresh his own, while he put something in the toaster so the teacher would have something to line his stomach. When he'd woken up an hour before Alaric's wake-up call, he stretched out his senses but couldn't find his brother's presence in the house. Damon hadn't come home after their fight and Stefan was worried (50/50 of Damon lashing out and hurting an innocent bystander; and simply for his brother). Damon had swore to him that he wasn't going to tear through town and tear out everyone's throats; the vampire had kept to that promise aside from the incident with Alaric. While unhappy with his brother, he could understand that he was not at fault; Alaric had attacked him with the intent to stake. The fact that Alaric came back to life and was still human was a huge point in Damon's favour right now.

Stefan drank his coffee as he waited for the toaster. He thought it would be better to get Alaric out of the Boarding House before Damon came back. Of course he was going to have to tell his brother that Alaric came back to life, it's not like he wouldn't find out eventually either—the teen knew he wasn't going to be very chuff. And he was going to talk to Bonnie about the ring. He thought it best to keep whatever he had with Ric on the quiet; he knew Elena still had hope that once he worked through his feeling on the whole Katherine look-alike thing, that they would get back together. He hated to hurt her but he didn’t foresee that ever happening.

The toaster popped and he got a plate; taking it and the coffee back upstairs. Alaric was just stepping from the bathroom, hair dark with wetness, wearing his pants from yesterday and Stefan's borrowed shirt.

Stefan handed over cup and plate. "Coffee, as promised."

He took a drink of coffee before he looked down at the plate. "Pop tarts?" Alaric raised his eyebrows.

Stefan raised one of his own in return, "What, you don't like Pop tarts?"

"What? No, I do!" he held the plate closer. "It was just a question." He finished them in a couple minutes; he was starving! "Thank you."

Stefan flashed back down to the kitchen with the dishes while Alaric put on his shoes and went down the stairs at a more human pace. He pulled up short in the front hall as he came face-to-face with his sort-of murderer who had just returned to the Boarding House.

A flash of surprise went through the vampire's vivid blue eyes before his control took back over. "I killed you. You're supposed to be dead." Damon circled the man slowly like a shark, dissecting.

Alaric forced himself calm. He had the ring on his side if it came to it. "You're not very good at killing people, are you?"

"Is that a challenge?" Damon growled into his ear as he came back around to face him.

"Back off, Damon." Stefan warned, appearing behind his brother.

Damon didn't move. "Did baby brother make a bampi out of you?"

"What the hell is a bampie?" Alaric asked, but Damon ignored him, focusing his hearing tuning into the presence of his pumping heart.

"No, he's too saintly for that," Damon answered his own question, eyeing the dirty-blond intently. "No, this is a very interesting twist—you're still human. I know I killed you, I watched you die. So what the hell are you?"

"Like I said: you don't seem very good at that." Alaric told him.

Damon regarded him, secretly impressed and gave him a smirk. "You're two-for-two, Teacher. You sure have my little brother wrapped around your little finger. Count yourself lucky... but if you try and come at me again, I'll kill you—again—and make sure you stay that way."

"Whatever you say, man." Alaric stepped around Damon and passed Stefan, and through the front door.

Stefan was giving his brother a stony glower and Damon returned it with a glare of his own. The message was clear from either vampire: We'll talk later! Stefan departed after the teacher but Damon spoke anyways at a regular volume, knowing his brother would hear:

"Was that your shirt, Stefan? So naughty! Do you think Elena will recognize it?"

~ T V D ~

When Stefan arrived at the school (separately from Ric of course, the teacher taking his car back to his apartment to change and get his things before heading to the high school; and the vampire took a jaunt through the woods for a couple squirrels before flitting to school), he could tell by the look on Elena's face and the way she came rocked up onto her toes at the sight of him, that she wanted to ask how it went with Damon (Bonnie was a little more subtle with a frown at the corner of her lips), but there wasn't time to talk before the bell rang and they had to get to class.

...

Stefan let Elena corral him at lunch, an arm looped through his, to the picnic table outside for lunch with Bonnie and told them the gist of what he came home to. Alaric going after Damon for killing his wife; Damon killing Alaric; Alaric coming back to life because of the ring.

"Well, that lasted a full day." Bonnie deadpanned, not at all surprised. No, what was intriguing was this ring that apparently brought their history teacher back to life.

Elena seemed slightly conflicted. "He's alright?"

He wasn't 100% on who she was asking for, so he answered for the man on his mind. "Ric seems to be." Stefan said; definitely seemed very robust thrusting into him last night. "I'm hoping."

"Ric?" Elena raised a plucked brow.

Stefan cleared his throat. "My brother killed him and he came back to life in my arms, I think that promotes us to a first name basis." He turned back to Bonnie, "Do you think you could look through Emily's grimoire, see if you can find out anything about the ring?"

"It's worth a shot," the witch nodded. "So what are you going to do about Damon?"

"I'm going to talk to him."

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Elena shared a doubtful glance with her friend. "The last time you tried that, he tore out your liver."

Stefan reached out and rubbed her back. "I'll be fine, Elena. He just needs to process."

...

Stefan was forced to wait until the end-of-day bell before he could tell Alaric that Bonnie was on it as soon as she got home and would call with the news.

It was like he was a fish swimming against the flow as students streamed down the halls to the front doors of the school, eager not to spend one more minute in this institution. They had no idea! Stefan was 145 years old and had enrolled himself through countless high schools and universities to expand his mind, learn something new, curve the boredom so he didn't go off the handle. They should count themselves lucky that they just had four short years before they could really move on in their lives, not live in the same continuing cycle that the vampire was stuck in eternity for.

The scent of blood hit him like a jolt and he reacted instinctively, flitting the rest of the way to the history classroom despite stragglers in the halls where it was coming from. He slammed through the door, causing Alaric to jump and spin around to him in surprise, a wade of saturated tissues pressed to his nose.

"What happened?" he was in front of the man in an instant, protective hand on his shoulder, gaze hunting around the empty room for some invisible enemy. "Are you okay?"

Alaric blinked at him. "I'm alright, Stefan. It's nothing sinister, just a bloody nose."

"Nothing sinister? Just a nosebleed?" Stefan repeated. "You came back from the dead last night, Ric. There is no 'just' in this situation."

"I get nosebleeds sometimes, Stefan." Alaric assured him, giving the wrist on his shoulder a squeeze. "I'm human, it happens." He lowered the hand at his nose, throwing the tissues in the dustbin next to the desk. He took a clean tissue and wiped at his nose, it just came back with faint streaks of residual blood. "See, it's already stopped."

Stefan cupped his cheek, checking for himself before nodded. He sighed. "Sorry if I came at you strong, but seeing as the last time I smelt your blood, you were dead... I think it was warranted."

Ric gave a slight chuckle. "I get it."

"I came to--" Stefan cut himself off and turned his head to the side toward the open door, listening intently. He could recognize Elena's quickly retreating treads anywhere. He was careless in his fear when he'd smelt Ric's blood, left the classroom door open, zeroed in on the man and forgot his surroundings. Elena muse have seen them, well, how they were right now, standing so intimately together. He closed his eyes briefly in guilt.

"What is it, what's wrong?" Alaric questioned.

Stefan gave his head a little shake and turned back to the man. "Elena. She saw us."

"Shit." Alaric cussed and took an immediate step back from him, causing Stefan's hands to drop and disconnecting them.

Stefan felt the distance like a wide chasm that he needed to close between them immediately. "Ric--" he started to reach for the man, but Alaric didn't see it as he paced away in disquiet out of reach.

Stefan leaned back heavily on the edge of the teacher's desk, hands gripping the wood edges with white-knuckles as he stared at the toes of his boots. His head throbbed while he ignored the hungry itch scratching the back of his throat as the air held a lingering undertone of Ric's blood coming from the dustbin next to him.

"I'm sorry, Stefan." Alaric suddenly said and Stefan looked up at the man, his brow furrowed in confusion, his green eyes with a spark of hope as he straightened. "I screwed up. You might have been alive for over 145 years, Stefan, but it doesn't change the fact that you're still just a 17 year old kid. I'm 33 years old, I'm the adult and I never should have let last night go on as it did. I'd just come back from being dead; I was in shock and to be honest... jealous when you brought Elena up. It was petty and it was unacceptable. I knew that there were still residual feeling from the first time at Duke and your recent break-up, as well as being upset about what happened with your brother…"

Stefan started to shake his head helplessly; he could talk to Elena, make her understand. The second time meant something. They were no longer strangers. They did it knowing full-well what the other was. It hadn't been some one-night-stand where they knew they would never see each other. He tried to speak, to stop the man from continuing but the lump in his throat was powerful and it crushed his vocal cords leaving him unable to get the words out.

"I appreciate your concern, but it can go no further this time." Alaric said quietly, but firmly, swallowing as he watched the light dim in the vampire's bright green eyes. "What I said the first time at the Grill still stands—has to stand."

Stefan stood. He wanted to say so many things, but all that came out was a dull missive, "I have to go, Damon's expecting me. I came to tell you that I talked to my witch, she's going to look into the ring, make sure that it's safe." Original message relayed, he could only bear to look at the man for a moment before he turned and walked out of the classroom. As soon as he turned out of sight, he ran, his pounding steps echoing through the empty hallways. As the school doors slammed shut behind him, the loud clap swallowed Alaric's own shout of frustration and despair as he lashed out and booted the dustbin across the classroom. As soon as Stefan hit the pavement outside, he bolted at vamp-speed, he just ran with no predestined location in mind.

He wanted to run fast enough that he could leave the pain behind, but he knew that it wasn't a feat possible in the physical sense, this was all internal, invisible inside of him yet such a tangible pain—and all of it controlled with one simple switch.

Stefan did it again; he let his heart overtake his head and he paid the price.

Emily was right when she told him that vampirism could only ever be a curse for him. Even when he turned off his switch, he still felt the guilt as he ripped his victims apart and was compelled to piece them back together in a macabre display of normality. Even as the Ripper he knew the guilt, shame, and suffering he would endure once he turned his humanity back on and so that was the thing that compelled him to keep the switch off and the Ripper in the driver's seat. It was a vicious cycle for him, but without Lexi, who would be able to snap him back next time?

When he finally stumbled to a halt on loose earth and grass, he was at the last place he expected to stop running at. The quarry where Emily had taken him and Damon to safety as they awoke in transition. Before that, it was where Damon had taken him to teach him how to swim. Where they swam and fooled around on those sweltering summer days. He had such good memories of his childhood with Damon here, his best-friend as well as his big brother, his hero. But those memories were back lashed with the worst one in his vampiric life, an hour after he was turned with their father's blood, it was here where Stefan made Damon drink and broke their brotherhood.

Damon was right; he always was in the end. They should have died, faded into death together.

Fiddling with the daylight ring on his finger, he let his head fall back and stared up into the blazing, burning sun glaring brightly down on him. "I'm sorry." He whispered.

He dropped his hand and hung his head, squeezing his eyes closed as sunspots clouded his vision. He pressed his finger and thumb pads roughly against the organs as they healed. He'd had many such despairing moments in the last 145 years that he had contemplated just taking off the ring, stepping into the sun and letting it consume him in the hellfire that he deserved for all the pain, suffering, and death he had caused—starting with his brother.

Though in these rare but present moments, there was one thing that always stopped him. Damon. On the handful of times where he was in such dark despair, Damon would come to keep his promise of an eternity of misery. There was always (and will ever) be a part of him that Damon appeared and stopped him because he didn't want to lose Stefan as much as Stefan couldn't bear to lose him; and then there was the part as Damon told it: "How can I give you an eternity of misery if you are dead, little brother? Stop being so selfish."

Stefan headed back towards the Boarding House through the wood at a human pace. If he couldn't be with Elena how she wanted, if he couldn't be with Alaric how he wanted, the vampire was determined that he would have his brother back. 145 years of separation was long enough.

...

"I'm home," Stefan said needlessly as he walked into the Boarding House.

Damon made no response, but the teen vampire knew he was there even without using his heightened senses and went straight for the main parlor which was both the brothers' favoured room. The dark brother was lounging in the large leather chair by the fire, a tumbler of bourbon in hand.

"So, how's the boyfriend?" Damon asked, watching his brother go to the cabinet and pour himself a glass of whiskey. "Did it get a little tense in history class?"

"Damon, please." He sighed, sitting heavily on the couch. "Can you just drop it?"

The dark-haired vampire gave a dramatic sigh of his own. "A hunter is after me and he can't die, Stefan. That is of great interest to me."

"Please don't kill him," Stefan beseeched his brother. "He's not going to come after you again. Just leave him alone, you've already killed him once. That's enough."

"Tell me how he's alive, Stefan." Damon glowered at him.

Stefan sighed and took a drink. "It's his ring. There's some kind of enchantment on it. I asked Bonnie to look at Emily's grimoire, see if there's anything in there."

"Fucking witches," Damon drummed his fingers on the chair arm in annoyance. "Always judging, interfering, and screwing us over. Should have killed her myself when I had the chance."

Stefan exhale heavily and sat forward to put his glass on the on the side table. "Damon--"

"Uh-uh," Damon stopped him with a pointed finger. "I'm not in the mood for more of your preaching, Saint Stefan."

Stefan stood in frustration, hands clenched at his sides as he let his annoyance at his brother and his own hurt lash out of him for brief instant before he could rein it in and shove it back like always, "Why can't you just let it go for once?! Why does it always have to be 'food', below you, or your enemy? Aren't you tire--"

Damon sped to his feet and in front of Stefan in an instant. "I hate to have to repeat myself, Stefan."

"Can't you just let her go, for your own sake?" Stefan petitioned him; he didn't even have to say her name, for his brother to instantly know who he was referring to. "She already stole 146 years of your life, Damon. And every second you devote to getting your revenge on her, she's winning. You'll never find her--"

"I haven't been looking for her." He hissed. "I'm like a hound with the sent of blood and fear. You of all people should know that about me better than anyone. I'll have her soon enough."

"--not unless she lets you," Stefan ignored him and continued on, "Not unless she needs something or to play more of her fucking games. She doesn't deserve the attention you give her. Let her go. Stay here. Live your life—not to hunt her down, not to punish me—but for yourself." He gripped Damon's shoulder, looking desperately into the ice-blue eyes. "This is our home, Damon. This can be our home again. You and me--"

"And settle for your sloppy seconds?" he scoffed. "I don't think so. This is your sick little game of house you're trying play at, brother." He shrugged the vampire's hand off. "I like the magnifying glass and anthill much better." He flopped back into the leather chair, finishing off his drink.

Stefan just stood there, staring at his brother. His undead body leached at the heat waves emitting from the fire, but he simply felt empty and cold. Damon sat there, almost expectantly, waiting for him to persist. His brother had asked him several times through their years as vampires why Stefan bothered, what was the point, it never went anywhere but towards his own misery. I will always fight for you, was the brunette's vehement response each time, but Stefan just didn't think he had anything left to give.

All that determination he had scrounged together on the way back to the Boarding House from the falls, that lifeline—withered and shrunk, turned brittle and crumbled. "I'm tired, Damon." Stefan finally whispered, hollow.

He turned and started to leave when Damon suddenly jumped up, grabbed him and pinned him against the wall next to the doorway, his arm across Stefan's chest like a steel bar.

Damon gazed intently at him with narrow, piercing, (worried???) eyes. "What the hell is wrong you? Still too little to sit at the grown-ups table, Stefy?"

"Just screw off, Damon." Stefan managed to shove his brother off him and back a step. "You can rest easy, The Stefan Suffering season is at the apex so just put your feet up, enjoy the show. Use this little respite in the writer's room to come up with some new, consuming misery for next season. Or who knows," he gave a sneer, "Maybe this is finally the series ending." He turned for the doorway.

"Stefan--?" Damon went to grab him, but Stefan flitted out the room and upstairs, slamming his bedroom door shut. "Stefan!"

Stefan locked the door behind him, leaning heavily back against the thick wood as his energy was sapped. If he expected Damon to come kicking the door down, he would have been wrong. Instead, he heard Damon leave through the front door, get into his Camaro Convertible and speed off down the drive.

He pushed from the door and his gaze went instantly, involuntarily to his bed. It was still unkempt from the previous night and this morning. His chest tightened as he approached, unable to stop himself as he stripped and crawled under the sheets.

He was just torturing himself. He consciously knew it, that this would not help ease the pain, yet he did it anyway, the memories flooding through him. His chest shuttered and heaved in silent, suppressed sobs, refusing to let the empty house echo his sorrow back at him mockingly. He bet Alaric wasn't in bed, losing control.

He never learned, no matter how many times he went through the same motions and expected different results. It was hard when the scars were not visible.

Damon was right, he did this to himself—every single time.

He couldn't even be bothered with the energy to write in his journal and he knew that that was a bad sign. Cocooned in the blankets, haunted by Ric's lingering scent, he fell into a restless sleep until the bright rays of the sunrise cut through his open curtain and blinded him awake.

When he climbed from bed, he made it straight away, smoothing out the wrinkles like wiping the memories away (if only it were that easy), before he showered and dressed. He passed Damon on the stair, who was giving him a look that he hadn't seen for such along time on his brother's face that he couldn't even put a name on it.

He started across the lot, bag strap looped over his neck when he heard a clang, his eyes followed his ears and they zeroed in on the garbage cans on the grass, one was knocked over and he could see a grey, fury body tearing into a plastic bag. Stefan flitted over, grabbing the racoon by the scruff of its neck; it screeched and hissed at him, its body writhing and whipping as it tried to get free of his grip.

He ignored it and toed the bag with his boot and saw the blood-stained material of Alaric's torn shirt. He vamped out and his teeth tore into the crazed animal viciously in a rage response and suddenly there was utter silence.

Stefan tried to stumble back from himself as it felt like he was suddenly coming back to himself out of some weird out-of-body episode. He had the foul taste of the garbage-eating racoon's blood coating his mouth and was holding the poor animal dead in his hand. The vampire quickly righted the garbage can, put the torn bag back in, and lay the body on top, replacing the lid like some macabre memorial.

His hands shook as he stepped back, spitting out the foul blood and wiping at his mouth. He felt ill and he wasn't sure if it was the act, the blood, or both. He didn't see his brother watching from the window as he moved away from the cans and started back down the drive. Stefan knew that it was probably not a good idea to go into town in his current unstable condition, let alone to school where two emotional triggers were waiting with a lot of collateral walking around, but he couldn't stay in the Boarding House where another (more in his face) prompt was.

So he walked down the side of the road toward town and school at human speed, using the time and peaceful open space to collect himself as the occasional vehicle whizzed by him. God, he wished Lexi was still alive, she'd know exactly what he needed to anchor him and not go off the deep end. But she was gone and never coming back.

He needed to talk to Elena, apologize. He should have went after her yesterday, but maybe it was better that he hadn't. He knew she would feel angry, betrayed, hurt, sad... and he just didn't think he could have dealt with it, been understanding, sympathetic with his own raging and crushed emotions. Plus, and he was ashamed to admit it, he was furious at the teenage girl—if she hadn't come back for god-knows what reason, Stefan was incoherently sure that Alaric never would of had a 'touch of conscious' about their relationship.

It was always something. His age. His vampirism. His sex. Stefan could never seem to win.

So entrapped in his inner turmoil the vampire didn't pay attention to the fast-closing rumble of the truck engine—too close. All he knew was that a moment later there was such pain as the left side of his back was struck with something fast and with force—his ribs shattering, broken splinters perforating soft tissue as he was flung from the side of the road down the embankment to lay at the edge of the wood that lined the road. Stefan let out a raspy, wet groan, registering that he must have broke his back for lack of pain and movement below his waist, before the black spots in his vision swarmed him into 'death'.

...

Stefan came back at the prompting of something soft, warm, and moist brushing intermittedly, but determinedly against any given space of his face. He grunted, feeling the entirety of his pain as he remembered being thrown from the side of the road. Someone must have clipped him as they drove by, they must have kept going or Stefan was sure he would have woke up in a metal drawer. With a bit of effort, and a grunt he managed to wiggle his toes; his spine must be on the mend. The soft petting on his face stopped abruptly with a puff of warm air and the vampire opened his eyes in surprise to find himself staring into a pair of deep brown, soulful eyes.

The large, ragged, wild mutt was on alert, slightly crouched as they regarded each other. It must have came upon him and thought to make a meal out of him. It was ironic, poor thing. Stefan slowly raised his hand, his recently healed skin smeared with blood. The dog's nose twitched and it dipped its muzzle forward, lured by the scent of his blood. It's warm tongue lapped at his fingers.

Somehow, he'd managed to entice the creature into his arms as he continue to let the dog lick the blood from his skin. He'd always avoided feeding on domestic house pets, that largely centered on dogs and cats—dogs and cats in general, actually. Even as the Ripper, he could tear through humans like... a dog with a chew toy ironically, but somehow he could never go after a dog or cat even if he'd been willing to drink animal blood without his humanity to hold him back.

But he needed to feed. He needed the blood. Needed to heal properly, to make the pain go away. Only when he felt the sharp nip of the mutt's canines at his neck, did his fangs descend from his aching gums and he bit into the muscled, fur-covered neck of the mutt. The dog yelped loud and sharp at the pain in his ear and he cringed. The animal's natural flight/fight instinct kicked in and it started growling, snapping and bucking in his arms. But he was stronger than the weakening animal, even injured, as warm blood flooded his mouth and awakened his hunger, making him drink deeper.

He carded his fingers through the mutt's long tangled fur, soothing the panicked animal as he continued to drink. Its struggle weakened, subsiding until it lay heavy in his arms, chest heaving; its racket turning into low whimpers and whines until even those turned to silence as the dog's heart gave out and the blood stopped pumping.

But Stefan wasn't done, he needed more and he knew the mammal still had more to give. He pushed his hand up under the ribcage and into the canine's chest, his hand wrapping around the unmoving, hollow muscular organ and massaged it, coaxing every last drop of blood he could get through its veins and into his hungry belly.

The vampire finally pulled back, his fangs retracting as he picked the stray hairs stuck to his wet tongue and lips. Stefan felt briefly sated from the larger than normal feeding before the nutrients of the blood went towards the conclusion of healing his broken body and cessation of the provided pain.

He was melancholic as he gazed down into the close-eyes, slack muzzled face of the wild mutt in his arm; it was the way of life—he'd feed from the animal as surely as it attempted to do him in order to survive. It just so happened that the teen vampire was the stronger of the pair.

He had no idea how his vampire blood might affect the animal upon death, so Stefan ripped the mutt's heart out, ensuring that it did not come back in some sort of animalistic vampire state. Surprisingly there was only blood around his mouth and covering his hand and wrist that had been in the dog's chest cavity. He picked the carcass up, cracking his newly healed spine as he straightened. He took the animal beyond the tree line and gave it a proper kind of burial.

He didn't even think of heading back to the Boarding House, he didn't see the reason. His clothes were only slightly battered from the fall, the strap on his satchel broken but that was no cause for concern; it simply appeared as if he'd been roughhousing on the grass. This feeding was a clear, conscious choice, unlike the episode that had overtaken him at the garbage cans with the racoon with Alaric's bloody shirt—that had been some act of savage territorial response. But he felt more in control now, confident and calm as he blurred down the road.

Without even having to check his cell for the time, he could already tell by the sun favouring the west that it was hours passed noon. School would be out (thankfully), so he headed for the Gilbert house, slowing to a human speed as he hit the neighbourhood.

He threw out his senses as he approached the house, Jenna's Mini wasn't in the drive and there didn't appear to be anyone home. The vampire wasn't going to let that deter him. Stefan went around the side of the house, and pulled himself into the tree that grew outside Elena's window, jumped the short distance to it, hanging onto the outside sill as he pushed the window open and climbed it.

This was not the first time he'd done this. Closing the window, he sat on the cushioned stool at her dressing table to wait. The inside frame of the mirror was framed with photos: of her parents, Jeremy, Jenna, a group shot with her, Bonnie and Caroline, even one with her and Matt. And then there was a picture of him. He was surprised he never noticed it before. She must have taken it of him when he was unaware.

He'd never been very good with getting his picture taken now that he was a vampire. It was kind of counterintuitive as a vampire, especially if you wanted to returned to a certain place. It must have been when they'd just gotten together; he looked happy, optimistic. Now? His green gaze shifted from the picture to his reflection in the mirror. It had taken 14.6 decades but that sanguinity that had encompassed his move through undead life was finally diminished—it had taken the span of four days.

He was pulled away as he heard Jenna's car and shortly after the front door as Jenna, Elena, and Jeremy returned home. Jeremy went to the living room, turning on the TV, Jenna went to the kitchen calling for a vote on super, the siblings shouted out differing answers and Jenna decided chicken and rice as Elena came upstairs.

She opened the door and spotted Stefan, freezing mid-step in the doorway.

"Hey," he said quietly.

The sound of his voice unfroze her and her lips pursed as she quickly closed her bedroom door behind her. "What are you doing here?"

"To talk, explain." He said, following her movements as she tossed her bag at the foot of her bed.

"What's there to explain," Elena said stiffly.

He stood. "I know you saw us, Elena. Me and... Ric." He ignored the ache in his chest as he said his name and watched her shoulders tense the same in response.

"You have a thing with Mr Saltzman. What else is there to say?" she sat on the edge of her bed, taking off her sneakers, doing everything she could not to look over at him.

"I'm sorry." He told her sincerely and she looked over at him in surprise. So much for that then. "It hasn't even been two weeks since I broke it off with you, I didn't mean to hurt you."

She stared at him. "How did it happen? He'd only been here a couple weeks. I didn't even know that you liked... guys, too." She said awkwardly, uncomfortably.

Stefan's hands tightened into fists at his sides, shoulders stiff as he regarded the girl. He didn't think Elena was homophobic; maybe it was just because it was him. "145 years is a long time, Elena. If you think that doesn't change you, then you're wrong." Sex wasn't something he indulged in often and sex with a man was even more rare; but sometimes, like with Ric, it was something that he desperately needed.

"He's too old for you anyway." She remarked, standing.

"I'm a 162, Elena." He gave an incredulous scoff. "It's the other way around, I think."

But Elena shook her head. "You're still only 17 years old, Stefan." She unwittingly repeated what Alaric had used to break this thing between them. "He's our teacher, you're his student. It's not appropriate. You should date people your own age—our age."

What about mentally? he wanted to demand. What about maturity? He felt so old, he was so old. He'd lived through so much, experienced so much in his undead life. There was no way a innocent child could understand, could contend. He needed a man, he needed an adult. He wanted Ric.

Somehow, he couldn't seem to correct her that he and Alaric were no longer together, if they had ever truly been together in the first place. It hadn't even been long enough to think about even bringing up the question. It just was.

"I was wrong," she said suddenly, "When I said that I understood. I don't. I don't understand why we can't be together. We love each other. Is it because I'm human? Then I'll become a vampire," she said determinedly. "You can change me and you won't have to worry about losing control around me." She closed the distance between them. "We can be together forever." She laid her palms on his chest, gazing up at him as he stared back at her in horror to this solution. "You and me."

"Elena, n--" was all he was able to choke out.

She sneezed. "Sorry," she said in embarrassment. She furrowed her brows. "Are you covered in dog hairs?" she took a step back as she sneezed again. She pressed the back of her wrist to her nose. "I'm allergic."

"Sorry," he immediately stepped back.

She shook her head, grabbing some tissue from her nightstand and blowing her nose. "Why are you covered in dog hair?" she squinted at him, taking in the soiled tint of his appearance for the first time. "Actually, why does it look like you've been rolling around in the dirt with a dog?"

Stefan licked his lips, pulling his t-shirt away from him as he looked down at it. His first instinct was to fib, he knew she would be horrified by it. But when he looked back up at her, thought about her turning, it was the last thing he should do. "It was some stray, wild mutt in the woods. Someone hit me with their car earlier, I had to feed."

He could see the worry and concern bloom on her face, before it was quickly cut across her face with something else that he didn't think he would have been able to catch if he wasn't a vampire as the previous sentence sunk in. The teen girl dabbed her watering eyes with the tissue, using it as a shield as she quickly schooled her features; but it was too late, he'd already seen it—dismay, revulsion, sickness.

"Just say it, Elena." He accused snarkily. "'That's terrible. How could you? You're a monster!'--"

"That wasn't what I was going to say," she protested.

"I'm a vampire, Elena." He reminded her. "That's the only reason I can be standing here saying this to you right now in the first place—either because I was born in 1846 or because I never would have been able to survive that hit and run if I'd been human in the first place—left down the embankment at the side of the road like I was nothing... broken spine, shattered ribcage, splintered bones, punctured lung. I was essentially dead, I experienced that death, Elena. A rabbit or two wouldn't have healed me properly; I needed more blood that the dog gave me. It wasn't so different from me; I was an injured, easy meal. If I hadn't acted when I did, it would have.

"I'm a vampire," he repeated, "That's what we do. We feed on live things, blood. If it's not dogs or fluffy bunnies, then it's humans, peopleyou!"

"You're trying to scare me," Elena accused, crossing her arms.

"Yes!" he shouted at her and she couldn't stop the slight flinch at his sudden outburst.

He wanted to hate her, but he could never do that. He wanted to snatch the vervain-filled locket from around her slim neck and compel her to not want to be with him, to stop loving him in a way he could never properly return, to have a normal life—but he couldn't mess with her mind, memories or heart like that even if he was at full capacity of his Power. He would not manipulate her (even if it was for her own good) like Katherine had to him.

He sighed, shoulders slumping slightly. "You've watch me kill in front of you and you didn't show as much horror as you did when I told you I fed on a dog." He forced his fists to unclench at his sides. "I love you, you're right, I do, I just can't love you the way that you want me to, Elena. I just can't, I wish so much that I could because you deserve that." Stefen beseeched her to understand, "But I will never and can never turn you into a vampire. You deserve to live a life, kids, happiness. You'd never get that with me..." He held his breath, staring at her, his green eyes silently pleading that she finally understand.

"I don't know that I can be friends with you and not be with you." Elena confessed finally in a hurt whisper, her brown eyes shiny this time from unshed tears and not allergies. "It's too hard, it hurts too much. You should go, Stefan." She went to her bedroom door and opened it. "I need time, space."

Stefan looked sadly at her for a moment before he nodded in acceptance. "I really am sorry, Elena." He whispered as he moved passed her in the door. She said nothing as she followed him down the stair. He glanced over his shoulder at her miserably as he headed for the front door, only to pull up short as a blond man stood there when a second before seemingly not. He must have arrived while he was talking with Elena because he hadn't noticed him earlier when the other's returned home.

"And who would you be?" the blond man asked.

"Oh, Stefan!" Jenna looked at him in surprise as she came out of the kitchen. "Did you just get here?"

Stefan shook his head. "He was just leaving, Jenna." Elena answered for him.

"Are you sure?" the woman asked. "Supper's almost finished—I could put down another plate?"

"Thank you for the offer, Jenna, but I should really get going." Stefan told her politely, his intention clear but the unnamed man continued to unobtrusively block the front door.

He stuck his hand out. "John Gilbert, Elena and Jeremy's uncle. Stefan, was it?"

"Stefan Salvatore." Stefan automatically grasped his hand in a shake.

"Salvatore. Any relation to old Zach Salvatore up at the Boarding House?" John held his hand firmly, his ring cutting into his hand.

Stefan felt the hair on his nape raise on end and felt uncomfortable under the man's blue-eyed scrutiny. "My uncle." Stefan wanted to pull his hand free, but it was like he was paralyzed by the man's grip, his vampire strength sapped.

"I have to stop by sometime, say hello. It's been a while since I've been back home."

"Sorry to say it will be a while longer. Zach moved away over two months ago for work." It was the lie that bloomed when Damon charmed his way in with the Mayor's wife and the town Sherriff to get into the Founders Council after Damon killed Zach in a fit of rage when Stefan locked his brother in the cellar. Stefan lay their uncle to rest in the family crypt.

"Ah, that's too bad--"

"Like I said," Elena interrupted, grasping Stefan's arm and pulling the vampire out of John's hold as she glared at her annoying uncle, "Stefan was just leaving."

"Right. Sorry 'bout that." John smiled apologetically and even opened the door for Elena to usher the teen out.

Stefan stumbled a little down the porch steps, feeling like he had sea legs as he looked back to Elena shutting the door promptly. That had been... disconcerting to say the least. He didn't pay any attention to the dark blue, recently washed truck that was parked behind Jenna's Mini in the drive.

This had gone nothing like he had hoped it would. He wanted to mend the rift between him and Elena but found out that his misgivings were proven right—Elena wanted to be with him, at a concerning level. He never should have gotten with the girl romantically. When he compelled her to forget him after he pulled her from the sinking SUV at Whickery Bridge, he should have left it at that. He had selfishly trashed her normal life, broken her heart.

A familiar blue Prius pulled up alongside him on the sidewalk. "Bonnie?" he ducked down to spot the teen witch through the open window.

"Hey, wanna ride?" She leaned across the empty passenger seat and opened the door; it was a rhetorical question—Bonnie wanted to talk. "Come on." She sat back as he pulled it open and sat, his broken satchel going into the footwell. "Seatbelt," she reminded him. "Safety first. Even vampires can break their backs flying through the windshield."

Stefan snorted quietly at that. "Don't I know it." But he clipped the strap across his chest and waist.

"What do you mean?" Bonnie shot him a look from the corner of her eye before she pulled from the curb and back into the empty residential street.

"I was hit by a car this morning on my way to school." He looked out the window. "Killed me for a while."

"What?" she exclaimed in concern, "Are you okay?"

"It's fine, my meal just walked right up to me." He said. He heard her sharp intake of breath and turned to look at her aghast expression. "Not the person who hit me, they just kept driving."

"That's terrible," she said.

"It was probably better that way." Stefan assured. "No, it was some wild mutt that thought I tasted good."

"Oh." She said disconcertingly.

"It was a first for me too," he said softly.

"Are you okay?"

"It's been a difficult last few days," he admitted.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Bonnie offered.

"I'm surprised that Elena didn't call you last night."

"What do you mean? Did something happen?" Stefan sighed. "Stefan?"

"Ric--" he started.

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about." Bonnie interrupted. "But your phone's been going straight to voicemail."

"Why?" Stefan straightened, turning towards her. "Did you find something?"

Bonnie nodded. "It looks like Emily was the one that spelled the ring to bring back the wearer from the dead. There wasn't anything really about the effects of it, but I think it's safe to assume prolonged use—meaning dying and the ring bringing you back—would have some sort of influence. I mean, he's human, when he dies, he goes over to the other side, crosses over. You're not usually supposed to come back after that, especially with magic. I already told this to Mr Saltzman at school today—be careful and try not to die. Especially if it‘s not by a supernatural force, otherwise he will stay that way."

"Good advice," Stefan swallowed against his dry throat, still worried that maybe that nosebleed was more than just a nosebleed. Trying to distract himself, he fished his cell from his jeans pocket. The screen was cracked and the screen stayed black when he tried to activate it. "Must have broke in the crash, I'll have to get a new one." He put it in his bag.

"Stefan?" she prompted at a four way stop.

"I knew Ric before he came to Mystic Falls as a history teacher," he admitted. Bonnie felt like the only one that he could talk to right now; he trusted her with himself so vulnerable and open.

"You did?"

Stefan nodded. "It was just before the summer, I was passing through North Carolina on my return home to Mystic Falls, I ended up at Duke U. and sat in on one of his lectures." Stefan gave a small smile. "He was a professor there. I introduced myself—well, a simile of a human version of myself—we got to talking over food and one thing led to another." He waited for the shock, the outrage, disgust. But when he looked her, her expression was open, curious, and the raise of her curved brow silently prompted him to continue his story. "I was gone before he woke up and went home. I never expected to see him again."

"And then he showed up here as the new history teacher," she nodded knowingly.

"Yeah. He realized I was seventeen and horrified. I accepted that he wanted nothing to happen, even if I might have. I was fine like that, it was better that way. But then he saw and recognized Damon at the '50's dance while we were trying to lure that vampire out who had a thing about Katherine. He made the connection, found out I was Damon's brother, put the pieces together that I was a vampire as well."

"How did he take that?" she asked.

"He almost killed me."

"What?" Bonnie jerked the wheel, quickly correcting it, shooting him a look.

"He didn't seem to want to, I just caught him by surprise when he was expecting trouble and was ready for it. He told me about Damon and his wife, I tried to warn him away from Damon for his own safety. But he really helped us out, it was his copies of the Gilbert Journal that lead us to Emily's grimoire.

"He went after Damon anyway—and I don't blame him." He said quietly. "Damon killed him and that was it, I thought I'd lost him and it was all my fault."

"Stefan," Bonnie chided in protest. "It wasn't your fault--"

"I should have done more." Stefan denied. "He never should have died. It was only by the stroke of providence that Ric was wearing that ring. When he gasped to life in my arms, I thought Damon had turned him. And I hated myself for how glad I was that my brother gave him our curse, but Damon didn't—Ric was alive, his heart beat, he was still human." He took a shuddering breath. "But then I was worried, you know, about the ring. I'd never seen a ring before that could bring people back from death, even if it was magic. I didn't know what kind of affect that would have on him, so I thought I should keep an eye on him for 24 hours at least."

"That was smart," Bonnie encouraged quietly, but Stefan shook his head.

"I should have let him go home like he wanted to, sleep off the shock in his own peace. He would have been safer there from Damon than he was at the Boarding House with me. But I talked him reluctantly into it. I was selfish, just like Damon always says."

"You're the most selfless person that I know, Stefan, alive or undead."

Stefan snorted. "That's because you only know the two of us. We slept together again, Bonnie! It was so stupid, but I couldn't have stopped myself even if I wanted to—and I didn't. I shouldn't have let it happen; it was the shock, the adrenaline—that need to do something to prove to yourself that you're actually alive."

"Is that what you believe?" she asked him.

He blinked at her, surprised she asked that. No one ever asked him, they just told him and that was that. "I-- I don't know," he confessed slowly a moment later. "Maybe, it's better that way." He gave his head a shake and forced himself not to get sidetracked with that can of worms; he'd already made his choice on the matter. "I went to find Ric after school yesterday, tell him that you were looking into it, but I found him with his nose bleeding and I freaked out," She nodded her head understandably, "Elena saw us." He squeezed his eyes closed briefly. "And Ric... he realized what happened was a mistake, that it never should of happened, that it was inappropriate."

"I'm so sorry, Stefan." Bonnie whispered sympathetically.

Stefan cleared his throat. "So I spiralled a little, had another fight with Damon, a restless night of sleep. Got hit by a car and fed on a dog. I went to Elena's to explain, but I don't think I fixed anything, just made it worse. I broke her heart—again. She kicked me out. I think it's better that way," he whispered brokenly.

"Stefan--" Bonnie quickly, pulled over the car to the side of the road, throwing it into park. She unclipped her seatbelt and twisted in her seat. "Stefan, hey." She put a hand on his knee, "Don't say that--"

"It's true!" Stefan said firmly. All the hurt and pain, the hard truths that he'd drowned into silence with the mutt's blood, were now bobbing back to the surface aggressively with the violent undercurrent of his heightened emotion as he verbally stripped away his own shields. "I never should have gotten involved, with either of them—any of you. I've gotten so many people hurt and killed. I was kidding myself to think that I could come back, make this my home again, create a life here, be with people. To think that I could be normal, have relationships—the relationship… love." His voice broke on the word and her own chest ached for him. "It's different for you, Bonnie, your relationship with the supernatural and that is a great thing. I am so grateful for that," he put his cool hand over hers on his knee and squeezed it. "You get to live. And I've finally realized where I belong." He let go of her hand with pained reluctance. "You should check in on Elena, make sure she's okay, that she doesn't do something reckless." Stefan advised softly, one hand reaching for his bag, the other to press the belt release. His intention of leaving was very clear and the witch reacted fast, instinctively.

"Seguro." Bonnie chanted suddenly and the locks on all the doors engaged, Stefan's seatbelt locked and the clip jammed, there was even an invisible force field over the open window to prevent from escaping that way—which he felt desperate enough to try at the moment. To run.

"Bonnie, what are you doing?" he questioned her when it looked he wasn't going anywhere any time soon, not until she willed it.

"I'm not going to let you run away, Stefan." She told him with sincere ferocity and determination. "You're my friend—even if you are a vampire," she teased with a wink.

"It's always good to have a witch on your side," Stefan whispered with a small smile and watery eyes as he looked at the teenage witch in veneration, appreciation; he didn't know what he could have done to grant such devotion from the witch but knew that he would never do something to break it.

She gave him a smile. "You're not alone. If you don't have it in you to fight right now, then I will do it for you."

"You're an amazing person, Bonnie Bennett. Don't let anyone ever tell you anything else, and if they try—just show them how kick-ass you are."

"I have an idea," she brightened, shifting in her seat with confidence as she turned on the blinker, did up her seatbelt and pulled into traffic.

"What?"

"It's a surprise,"

He didn't question her further; he trusted her. Lexi, I really wish you could have met Bonnie; I think you two would have been friends. A force to reckon with, unstoppable in keeping me in line, Stefan thought to his oldest friend as he watched one of his newest. I must have done something right somewhere along the line to have the two of you come into my life when I needed you the most.

tbc...

~ The Vampire Diaries ~