Stefan had noticed early on when Bella greeted him at the door that something was different about the girl. As nice as she was to him, he was able to sense the slight deception in that her carefully worded answers to his questions about the region. Admittedly, she was good. He had asked her about her college life and was listening to her try to avoid speaking about herself as little as possible when Alaric and Jeremy returned.
He was grateful that she excused herself quickly to the refuge the house provided while they caught up outside and he laid out everything he had out to Alaric’s dismay. As sympathetic as he was to what he was trying to do in stepping in to her father’s shoes, he would eventually need to learn that Bella was a grown woman and did not need a new father.
Once he had his permission, Stefan nodded and pulled out his cell phone, dialing out. He closed his eyes as he raised the device to his ear and waited. He almost believed he would get the voicemail but at the last moment, the phone was answered to both his relief and dismay.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of this call, brother? I haven’t drained any cheerleaders since you’ve been gone, but I’m sorely tempted if I have to babysit Elena and Barbie much longer. Where the hell are you?” Damon’s voice echoed over the phone.
“I’m – helping out a friend with a problem. I just got here and realized it’s a little bigger than we thought it was. Any chance that you’re up for a trip?” he asked, rubbing his temple to try to hold back the headache that would come inevitably.
“What problem you got? You’re a badass vamp Steffie. You should be able to handle whatever it is. Just drain a human or two, and you’ll be top notch!”
“Damon. I’m being serious. This is something that I think your expertise is warranted. I didn’t know what it was until I got here but – please just… will you come? We’ll give you all the details when you get here.”
Stefan could hear him exhale over the phone line before he replied. “And what the hell am I supposed to do with the girls? You know they are bound to find themselves into some pile of shit without one of us to be here to pull them out.”
Sighing, he ran his hand through his hair. “Figure out a way to get Jenna to okay Elena coming out. Compel her if you have to. Bring them. Bonnie, too. We may need her help as well.”
“What-? What the hell kind of problem did you find that you need a witch and me for?” Damon demanded.
“Believe me, if I thought I could handle it I would but you’ll find out when you get here. Get a flight to Seattle as soon as possible. Send me the info and I’ll be there to pick you all up.”
“Stefan. Give me something right now otherwise you can forget it. This isn’t like you to be asking favors of me. Of all the people you could come to? How many turned you down before you called little ol’ moi?”
“No one. Just you, alright? We’re helping out Alaric…” Stefan offered, refusing to give more information.
Damon was silent for a minute. “Fine. I’ll get us all out there. Last he said, he was going to Washington to help family with a funeral. What the hell does he need vampire help for?”
“You’ll see. I need to get back before his niece gets more suspicious of me than she already is,” the younger Salvatore muttered as he glanced back towards the house where the girl peered out the window at him.
“Intriguing. Alright, count me in. I’ll get back to you when I know the deets,” Damon said cheerfully before hanging up, leaving his brother with a grimace on his face.
He slowly made his way back to the house where Alaric was waiting on the front steps. Neither man appeared happy despite the outward display they put on. “He’s going to be a headache, isn’t he?”
Stefan shrugged a shoulder, feeling unsure. “It’s hard to say. Knowing how he is, more than likely but you and I both know that he has his moments of surprising us. She means a lot to you so he’ll help. I don’t have any worries about that.”
Nodding, Alaric waved him into the house. “Let’s worry about it when he gets here I guess. I’m betting we have two, maybe three days until he arrives so let’s enjoy the peace while we can.”
The vampire couldn’t help but let out a small laugh as he followed his friend inside. “Yep. Things are bound to get interesting. That’s for certain.”
Over the following two days, things were fairly quiet around the house as the boys watched how Bella frequently disappeared from the house at random times. Alaric had gotten Jeremy enrolled in the local school with Stefan’s help, even though the school was technically closed for the holiday break.
By the time Stefan left Forks to head up to Seattle, he attempted to compel the girl but was surprised when it didn’t take. It relieved and scared him at the same time. At least he knew his brother wouldn’t be able to pull anything with her when he got in but it also meant if she did learn more than she was meant to, they wouldn’t be able to make her forget. The drive was long and allowed him to think about Bella and how she could be involved with Cold Ones.
He was still at a loss when he saw his brother walk through the terminal at the airport with their friends and his own girlfriend – whom he hadn’t anticipated on.
With a tight smile on his face, even though he was happy to see Elena, he welcomed her hug as she ran up to him. His eyes met with Damon’s questioningly. “Why did you bring the girls?”
The man merely shrugged his leather clad shoulder as he hoisted his carry on over his shoulder. “Like you could talk Barbie out of anything and once Elena found out, that was the end of it. Witchy was a stowaway, I think. I didn’t invite any of them along.”
Elena rolled her eyes as she hung herself from Stefan’s side. “I did. You two were willing to leave us back home to come and help out Alaric with his family issue and we wanted to help, whatever it is. It’s not fair to leave us out,” she scolded. “and considering that you actually requested Damon, of all people, to come out after everything, well, it had us curious.”
Damon gave his brother a cocky smile as he walked by him to head towards the doors. “Hey! We have to get our bags!” Caroline yelled after him.
“No one told you to come with, Barbie!” he called back as he kept walking, sliding a pair of sunglasses on that he didn’t need as he peered out at the overcast sky once he cleared the doors.
Sighing, Stefan turned back to the girls as they stared at him waiting. “Let’s go get your bags. Is Jenna really okay with you being out here, too?”
“I replaced her vervain so that she went the day without it and compelled her to let me come along. So are you going to tell us why we flew across the country or what?” Elena asked.
His jaw clenched at the deceitful actions his girlfriend pulled that could potentially put their entire group in more danger than they might already be in. Knowing that it was too late, he said nothing in response as he turned to start walking towards baggage claim. Bonnie had managed to catch his gaze with a curious and concerned look to which he shook his head slightly. The airport was not the place to be discussing what he’d been up to, and even the ride back to Forks, he knew wasn’t going to be pleasant.
By the time the four made it outside, Damon had already disappeared. Despite the girls looking around and trying to call his phone, Stefan merely continued walking to the car. “Don’t bother. He probably decided to go ahead just to avoid us,” he announced, reaching their rental and eyeing them from across the roof of the car. “he knows where he is supposed to go.”
Elena pouted as she ended the call, the ringing obvious that the recipient was ignoring her call. “Fine, but you have to tell us what the hell is going on. All these secrets usually get us into more trouble Stefan,” she said as she got into the car.
He didn’t respond as he slid into the driver’s side and started the engine. Thinking about what he would say and what Alaric would want to share, he was torn in his loyalties as his friend had come to him first for his help in his new problem.
Damon walked slowly through the trees, carefully stepping over fallen logs as he looks around. He had caught a whiff of a sweet scent and chose to follow it. A while later, a grimace marred his features as the smell of wet dog filled the air. He exhaled sharply through his nose, trying to clear his nose from the smell. The trees began to thin and he picked up his pace, seeing a light from ahead, most likely from the sun.
‘Damn green everywhere blocks out everything…’ He thought bitterly then considered it as he thought about the rainy region further. ‘Ideal breeding grounds…’
He stopped where he was, stretching his hearing out until he picked up a single human heartbeat. Looking in the area where it originated, he was careful as he began to walk away in the opposite direction, keeping at a pace that whomever it may be would easily catch up with him. A smile came to his lips as a female voice cursed under her breath and the faint scent of blood reached his senses, causing him to stop short again to breath it in deeply. If the Cold Ones that had been around had discovered this girl, he was surprised to learn that this human was still alive with such a delicious aroma.
Blinking as he debated about the potential meal or continuing on with investigating the area, the decision was taken out of his hands as a gorgeous brunette limped through the trees. He turned to look at her more closely, her hand covering the large scrape that she’d obviously suffered on the fallen branches and trunks.
Damon stared at her curiously until she stumbled close enough to look up and notice that she was not alone in the vast woods. His lips pulled back into a smirk. “Hello there,” he murmured.
She tensed as she stared back at him, her eyes darting around as if looking for anyone else. “Um, hi? Who are you?” she asked, her nervous demeanor relaxing up a bit as she gathered up some courage to face the imposing stranger.
“I could ask the same of you. I doubt the woods is a safe place for a pretty thing like you to be prancing around in. Obviously,” he grinned slightly as he waved his hand towards her leg causing her to look down when she seemed confused and insulted.
“I don’t think so. I’m from the area. You aren’t. How about you tell me why you’re prancing around where you don’t belong?” she smarted back as she leveled large, dark eyes on him.
Damon’s lips quirked at the corner as he fought down the rising attraction to the bravery she displayed. “Hm,” he hummed as he looked back at her with his blue eyes. “And just how is it that I don’t belong? Do I need a special invitation to explore the woods around Forks?”
She rolled her eyes before shaking her head. “These woods aren’t the safest place to be if you aren’t from around here you know. You should really head back to wherever you were going.”
“Awe, don’t worry about me princess. I can take care of myself,” he said as he looked around at the trees surrounding them. “I’m Damon, if you’re interested,” he added, his stark blue eyes flashing back to her amid his black hair and clothing.
“I’m not,” she said easily, turning away from him as she begun to walk away. “Just be on your way Damon. It’s not good to be around here – or me.”
“Now I don’t believe that princess, but I’ll head on to my buddy for now. Maybe I’ll see you again one day,” he grinned as he walked backwards, increasing the space between them. “See you around gorgeous!”
She ignored him as she continued to stumble her way out of the woods to the road where she had her car parked. He could see even from the distance how she was continuously scanning the area, as if she was waiting for some unseen threat to jump out at any moment before she got into the vehicle and drove off. The girl’s behavior struck him as odd, but he was more concerned about the wet dog and Cold One scents that stuck to the woods worse than the creation he left in New Orleans decades before with a sire bond.
If there was nothing that annoyed him more than Stefan and his girlfriend pretending to be happy in front of him, it was Cold Ones thinking they were real vampires. With the human girl out of the way, he took a more in depth tour of the woods around the area. He was careful to stay away when the scent of the dogs grew heavier, not interested particularly in getting into a tussle with one. The last thing he really wanted was to have to beg a Mikaelson for a favor and be in his debt – if his cure even worked as the scent was different than the wolves he had previously dealt with.
In avoiding the stronger scent line, seemingly marking a border territory, Damon started back towards where he had picked up the stronger of the Cold One scents. Though they were faded, their ‘cousins’ particular brand of odor had the tendency to linger much longer for their kind to pick up. As he cleared the treeline to the drive, his face scrunched in disgust at the house he found. Shaking his head, he wanted to strangle his brother for getting him into whatever it was that was going on with Alaric and his family.
Deciding to take his time in making his way over to the address that Stefan had given him, he picked up his duffle and began walking. His mind struggled as it turned over numerous thoughts and possibilities as to what might drive such a large coven away.
When Bella pulled up in front of her house, she was surprised to see Stefan back with a group of people, whom she assumed were his friends, not realizing she was out for that long. Stepping out of the car she shot a questioning glance at her uncle, who was making his way towards her.
“What’s going on Uncle Ric?” she asked as she kept her eyes on the girls questioningly.
Alaric let out a sigh and ran a hand over the back of his head. “The one girl is Jeremy’s sister and Stefan’s girlfriend. She didn’t like it too much that we didn’t include her in everything so she insisted on coming out, against every argument I could come up with. The other two are friends. They tend to go everywhere together,” he tried to explain quietly.
Her eyes jumped from one girl to the next as she watched Stefan talking to them. The blond and brunette returning her stare during their own conversations. “We don’t have enough room here for everyone,” she commented under her breath, her anger starting to peek through her calm facade. “What the hell were they thinking?!”
He swallowed as he tried to smooth the situation over. Thinking quickly, he looked over at the small group. “Stefan can easily get a room at the motel with his brother. Jeremy can go stay with them while the girls stay with us. How does that sound?”
Bella’s voice only continued to climb in octaves as she found that option not pleasing either. Mainly because she’d started to become fond of Jeremy and if anything were to happen to him, she’d never forgive herself. “No. And Stefan’s brother? How many more are coming to fucking Forks?!” she screeched as she stared at her uncle with wide eyes. “This is the worst fucking vacation spot in the world! Inside a week I’ve seen more new faces than I can count on one hand in this town than I’ve ever seen in this place my entire life!”
Movement from the corner of her eyes caught her attention, making her head snap over to look at Stefan who shook his head slightly while his girlfriend watched them with a bored expression on her face.
A slow clapping came from behind her, forcing her to turn around to see who had the audacity to piss her off even more. As her eyes narrowed on the culprit, Alaric let out a sigh. “Damon, now isn’t the time.”
“I don’t know about that,” he grinned in response, although he kept his sight trained on Bella. “I like that fire. I happen to think that Princess here has a point. After all, we’re the ones intruding on your stomping grounds. I’m betting that at no point since Alaric and Baby Gilbert got here, none of them bothered to ask for your say in their visitors. Right?”
Bella stared at Damon, the ire that had been ready to fly off her tongue stunned frozen at his words. He wasn’t wrong. At all. In fact, he had hit home much more than he even knew. Swallowing back her irritation with the intruders to her home, she glared back her uncle. “Jeremy and Damon can stay here. The rest can find somewhere else,” she announced finally before storming into the house and slamming the door behind her.
“Well – that went better than I thought it would,” Alaric laughed nervously as he looked around. Turning his attention to the man that he was surprised to have garnered his niece’s acceptance, he raised a curious brow. “I suppose you’re invited inside now. Just be careful around Bella. She’s still dealing with Charlie’s death.”
“Not a problem, Uncle Ric,” he smirked as he sauntered past Stefan and Elena, wagging his eyebrows playfully. Taking a dramatic step through the doorway, he turned to lean against the door jam. Looking over his shoulder quickly, he made sure that Bella wasn’t within hearing range on the floor. Pointing upwards, he silently asked if the windows were open before he spoke aloud.
Stefan glanced up to find Bella in her bedroom window, which was shut tight, but glaring down at them and sighed. “No, but she is watching us.”
“Oh I don’t doubt that. Somehow I think you tried something that pissed her off for her to be so willing to kick your saintly ass out. But that’s neither here, nor there. It is a good thing however that Witchy came along. Did you bring your grimoire?” Damon continued as he focused on Bonnie.
She looked confused as her hand slipped down to hold her satchel closer to herself. “Yes…” she voiced slowly. “Why do you want to know?”
He only nodded and eyed the area. “Can you see if you can come up with some sort of protection spell on the house – and your hotel room? Something that will keep out or repel Cold Ones.”
“Cold Ones? What the hell are those?” she asked, looking over to Stefan who only met Damon’s eyes and nodded slightly.
“Seems that our Princess upstairs has a lot of secrets and I think it has to do with them. They are another breed of vampire – if you can call them that. Unfortunately, they don’t need an invitation into your home like we do, so we will have to find another way of keeping them away until we figure out just what kind of mess she has going on,” he ventured with a shrug of a shoulder.
Elena didn’t seem to like anything about the situation. As she listened to Damon trying to take charge and Alaric’s niece so quick to throw Stefan out to the curb to take in a wildcard such as him, she shook her head defiantly. “I think we should just go back home. She obviously doesn’t want our help if she doesn’t trust anyone, even her own family, to share her problems with. It’s bad enough that she invited Damon in without even knowing a thing! If she really knew…I doubt she would have been so quick to accept a mons-”
“I wouldn’t finish that sentence if I were you, Gilbert,” Damon sneered, his stance straightening up to prepare for a fight.
“Hey now! Relax! Both of you!” Caroline interrupted as she moved up to the porch to try to hold him back. “Elena – that was uncalled for and for all we know, she doesn’t think that we know anything about this world so cut her some slack.”
“No. No, let’s hear her out. She’s just upset because Bella didn’t bow down and welcome her like the doppelganger royalty she thinks she is. News flash Elena, you transitioned. Your blood isn’t important anymore to Klaus. Get over it!”
Elena looked over at Alaric, her eyes wet with unshed tears as she tried to shake her head in denial. “That’s not true!”
“Honestly Elena, right now, I don’t give a shit,” he said tiredly. “If you want to go back home, no one is stopping you. Bella didn’t extend an invitation to you so you would have to go to the motel tonight at least. It might be a good idea right now if just for everyone to cool down.”
Damon and Caroline both turned to look towards the stairs as footsteps sounded as the human girl began to come down. Her face was still tense, anger still flooding her veins as she pushed past them at the door. She paused briefly as she took in the change of positions, seemingly as if there was a shift in alliances since she had gone inside.
Stefan stood with his girlfriend, his hands around her arms. She could easily tell that on the surface it appeared to look as if he was comforting her, but she too saw that it was also in restraint. The dark skinned girl stood off to the side of them, looking conflicted. Jeremy and Alaric had both begun to move closer to the house where she turned to find the blond attempting to push Damon back, while trying to give her a friendly smile in the process.
The irritation she felt fell slightly but she shook it off when she heard the old engine of her friend’s car coming down the road. “I’m going to the reservation. I might crash there for the night. I don’t know yet,” she grumbled loud enough for her uncle to hear. “If I stay, this one can stay here,” she said as she jutted her thumb to Caroline. “I don’t trust the others, especially Stefan. They can catch crabs at the motel tonight.”
There was a stretch of silence as Elena’s face grew red and Damon and Caroline’s laughter filled the air. The two were laughing still when Bella’s friend pulled up to the house and she jumped into the passenger side, giving the group a small wave of her fingers before pulling away.
Damon had begun to calm in his amusement as he stared after the car, the stench of the wet dog having hit them with a renewed force. He looked to Caroline for her reaction, her face scrunched up in disgust. “I think I’m going to throw up. Remind me to never beg my mom for a pet again,” she gagged.
“What the hell was that?” Elena mumbled behind her hand. The odor seemingly enough to break her of her attitude for the moment.
“That is the other issue. There seems to be some other creature here that Bella is familiar with, or at least in their human form. She comes back smelling of them frequently,” Stefan explained. “I’m just going to go inside and get my things so that we can go find a room.”
Alaric nodded. “Bonnie? What do you want to do?”
The young witch looked at her friend apologetically. “I’ll crash here tonight. I need to get more information about these Cold Ones if I’m going to do this spell. We can figure things out more tomorrow as far as arrangements are concerned.”
“I may have an idea for that but give me some time to work it out. I want to get more information first,” Damon said as he frowned, looking off towards the woods.
“Damon?” Stefan pushed, having heard the everything. “What…?”
“Not now. I need to look into something first. Just put up with the motel for now. Trust me,” he said before turning and going into the house. He stopped in the living room and let out a sigh. Shaking his head, he didn’t know where to begin.
It wasn’t long before the others began to say their goodbyes to Stefan and Elena outside and filtered into the house. The girl was still upset at not being the center of attention, no matter how adamantly she denied it. He knew she was so much like her predecessor that it was terrifying.
He sat in the armchair that held Bella’s scent the strongest, a faint smile on his lips as he thought about the scene he had walked in upon. Resting his chin in his hand, he watched as his friends soon made themselves comfortable for the conversation that needed to be had.
“Alright. Let’s get on with this. Stefan said that you were the one that I needed to call when he came out here. What exactly is a Cold One?” Alaric asked as he crossed his arms over his chest.
“Another type of vampire. Younger than our kind, but a pain in the ass to kill. You have to quite literally tear them apart and burn them,” Damon said as he matched his friend’s heated gaze with one of his own. “And they can have gifts which can make it all the more complicated.”
“Gifts? Like your compulsion?” Bonnie asked.
He started to nod before shrugging. “From what I understand, when one of them turn, the strongest attribute they have manifests in some form after. The Cold One that I knew had a thing about humans and well – he didn’t have any special gifts other than being easy prey as a pansy. I’ve heard of others that can make you feel pain just by looking at you. Much like Witchy’s voodoo mind trick. Another who can read every thought you had just but touching you. I’m sure there are more – dangerous gifts out there as well.”
“Any reason why these Cold Ones might be after Bella?” Alaric asked as his face had paled at the information he was hearing.
“Not a clue. Best guess, she crossed paths with one and managed to escape their hunt. It can really piss off any vampire when a meal gets away. Another possibility is that she could be potentially gifted and they wanted to turn her – again getting away. Only she can tell us at this point,” Damon pointed out. “There is no use in speculating. It’s late for us. You guys go get some sleep while I work on this spell with Witchy. We can figure this shit out some more tomorrow.”
“Sounds good. I need to head out and stock up on more food anyway. Make yourselves at home. Just – don’t go snooping any more than necessary please,” Alaric pleaded as he grabbed his keys and headed back out the door.
Bonnie waited until Jeremy left the room with Caroline to show her to Bella’s room before she pulled out her grimoire. “I hope you know what you’re doing Damon,” she muttered, concern and fear coloring her voice.
He looked up at her in understanding. “So do I, Witchy. So do I.”