Author: tmbreck / eclectic_tongue / eclectic / Lilbreck
Characters: Ben McKittrick, Bonnie Bennett, Caroline Forbes, Elizabeth Forbes, John Gilbert, Maddox
Word Count: 3,138
A/N: A huge thanks, as always, goes to my wonderful beta velvetwhip. This time more so than others, since she's being forced to read fanfic for a show she has no interest in watching. Though I list a lot of characters, and some of them actually do get dialog, some of them just pass through.
Sheriff Forbes was doing everything she could to avoid going home today, including the paperwork which she hated with a passion. She absolutely loved her daughter, fangs and all, but Liz was just never a beauty pageant kind of a person and didn't think she could handle getting pulled into that world today. If she went home that was exactly what would happen though, the same way it had been happening for the past two weeks.Caroline had explained to her that, although she had become Miss Mystic Falls before, there were things she could do better this time around. Liz was doing everything to forget how her daughter had stumbled over what to call that other time as it had just left her confused. Another thing she was trying to forget was her failed attempt at explaining to her daughter that she didn't have to try and be better. The look of bewilderment on her face as if she didn't understand that she was good enough as she was had broken Liz's heart and left her feeling guilty. She supposed she deserved these little reminders that she hadn't always been a good mother, that maybe she was part of the reason her daughter was convinced she had to work so hard just to be good enough.Liz had quickly decided to head back home to try doing the motherly thing and find a way that she could connect to the beauty queen side of her daughter. Before she could even stand up from her desk, however, there was a knock on the office door and the slight squeak of the hinges as it opened. Looking up she felt ready to kick herself for not deciding to go home at least five minutes earlier."John, I didn't know you were back in town."That was a lie, of course. Caroline had warned her that John Gilbert was probably going to be coming to town to cause trouble, but knowing that hadn't really prepared her for having to deal with him. Everything about him – from his smarmy smile to his condescending attitude— rubbed her the wrong way. To be honest, she had disliked him since they were children and forced to interact as their families went about council business. She watched as he closed the door, casually strolled into the room, and then proceeded to lounge in the chair across from her desk as if he owned the place; she came to the conclusion that he was still an absolute asshole."Well, Liz, when I found out my town discovered a tomb full of vampires and didn't bother telling me, I just had to come and find out what was going on."Even knowing he was lying to cover his real reason for being here, she was still pissed off."We had a situation and we took care of it. You weren't needed and, quite frankly, you weren't wanted."Even before she saw his eyebrows raise and heard the amused huff from him, she knew what was coming."Really, you took care of it? And what if I were to tell you that three of the vampires you supposedly 'took care of' escaped and one was trying to buy my brother's office?"Had she not been prepared, his little jab might have left her feeling defensive and confused as to how he knew that any of the vampires had gotten out let alone who they were. She was prepared, though, and so she simply gave him an indulgent smile and answered in a faux sweet voice, "I'd say it was two vampires and that they didn't escape. I let them out. I'd then ask if you were aware that there were about seven other vampires in town aside from those two."For a moment John looked absolutely dumbstruck. It was not an attractive look. Unfortunately, he managed to recover and quickly went on the attack."I'm almost eager to hear what the council is going to say when they find out that one of their members, their very own Sheriff in fact, is siding with vampires."It was moments like these that Liz was grateful that her daughter had already been through this and was able to feed her information that she wouldn't normally have."They're not going to know about it. You see, if they did, then they would potentially kill the vampires in this town. If that were to happen then there would be no one here left to negotiate with Klaus for Elena's survival. None of us would want that, now, would we?"She couldn't remember ever feeling this level of gratification. One-upping John Gilbert gave her a very visceral feeling of satisfaction that almost had her baring her teeth at him. Some of that must have shown through in her expression, because he kept quiet as she stood and walked around her desk to lean against it and tower over him."I understand what it's like to want to protect your child." At his surprised expression, she only gave a nod to let him know that she was aware he was Elena's father while she continued on without missing a beat."What you need to understand is that Klaus already knows that Elena not only exists, but that she's here in Mystic Falls. We have a plan to ensure that she walks away from this alive and human, and with very little in the way of a real body count. She's already agreed to it."Liz could see he was getting ready to interrupt, so she quickly stopped him."You don't need to know what the plan is. Right now, what you need to do is run on back to Isobel and tell her to back off, and tell Katherine that saving her is part of the plan so as long as she provides us with all the information she has. We'll be expecting her call."Liz pulled one of Caroline's light pink business cards out of her wallet –there were some very helpful aspects to having a well-prepared daughter—and handed it to a now slightly bemused John. He got up to leave but, before he could open the door, she stopped him."We didn't tell Elena that you're her father or that Isobel is a vampire. We thought that would be better coming from you."As John closed the office door, Liz let out a deep sigh. At least she'd have an excuse to give Caroline for why she was so late coming home.Back at home, though, Caroline hadn't even been thinking about her mother not having arrived yet. She had been bouncing ideas off of and venting to Bonnie all day. The result? As much as Bonnie loved Caroline, she needed a break."Sweetie, if you know Jeffery is going to be a bad partner for this, why not choose someone else?"At this all the fight seemed to leave Caroline and she collapsed onto the chair. Sitting across from the frustrated future Miss Mystic Falls –because, honestly, who besides Caroline could doubt it?—her friend felt at a loss to help."I know I shouldn't be all worked over this pageant. It's just… I can't stand the waiting!"At this, Caroline sprang back up to her feet and started pacing at what Bonnie was sure was a faster-than-human speed."We've got the spell to bring back Elena, and you and your Grams have already figured out how to make it work for the werewolf and me. We're all ready to go except now we have to wait to hear from Katherine and for Mason to show up. If I don't focus on something else, I'm going to lose my mind!"Bonnie noticed that, even in her worked-up state, Caroline didn't mention the other spell that she and Grams had been working on. When it was first brought up Grams had been dead set against it and there had been many heated arguments. She had mostly stayed out of the discussion, partly because she could see Caroline's point, but also because she knew Grams would come around. And she had, of course, but things still got tense when it was brought up. Even thinking about it now had her on edge, so she quickly pushed the thought away.Of course, it wouldn't have been possible to think about the spell, or anything, even if she had wanted to because Caroline's frustrated pacing was far too distracting. She had also taken to mumbling to herself –Bonnie was convinced she had heard something about making sure she had a dress followed by something that sounded suspiciously like 'Cinderella fetish'— and her hand movements were getting more and more wild. In fact, the rocking chair had almost gone flying at one point.When Caroline walked passed the couch where she was sitting, Bonnie grabbed her hand and stood up. With her friend finally still long enough to get a good look at her face, she could tell that Caroline really was near the breaking point. Taking a deep breath and plastering on a smile, she did her best to help her friend cope."Have you thought of asking Harper or Lee? Those vampire reflexes should at least pay off in some decent dancing, shouldn't they? Or… maybe even Ben?"Before Caroline could answer, her cell phone rang. Snatching it off the coffee table, she rolled her eyes when she saw the screen. Looking at Bonnie, she said, "It's Maddox," and then picked up.As Bonnie listened to one side of the conversation, she began to wonder what exactly Klaus had in mind when he'd planted Maddox among them. While Caroline was pretty sure he was there for recon only, Bonnie couldn't help but think that he was up to something more than that. She had noticed that he had been trying more and more lately to get time alone with Caroline. If she didn't know that he had been sent there, she would think he had developed a crush on her friend.Bonnie's thoughts came back to the here and now when she noticed an almost evil glint in Caroline's eye. Whatever she was about to say or wrangle Maddox into, she almost felt sorry for the guy."So… you wanna spend time together and get to know me for Ben's sake? Okay, Maddox, we can do that. Just one question, can you dance at all?"For all that he worked for a vicious vampire, Bonnie truly did feel sorry for him in that moment. As Caroline smiled and told him that she would be over at his place tomorrow, she wondered if the poor idiot knew what he was in for. One day under Caroline's control would probably send him running back to Klaus for mercy.But all that pity didn't stop her from smiling as Caroline hung up the phone, however, and saying, "You know I'm going to be right there to watch every second of this, right?"She might have still have been angry over the fact that –in another timeline, reality, or whatever—he had kidnapped her friend to be a sacrifice. Before Caroline could answer, though, they heard the front door open. Soon after, Sheriff Forbes stopped in the entry to the living room. As she slid her jacket off, Bonnie could see that she had something on her mind. Taking a deep breath, Liz walked into the room and draped her jacket over the back of the couch."I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that John Gilbert won't be telling the council that there are vampires in town and that I'm working with them. The bad news is that John Gilbert is in town."After Liz told them exactly what happened –Caroline pressing her for even the smallest details the entire time—Bonnie made her escape. She thought she should feel bad for leaving Caroline's mother to deal with her pageant planning, but given that something was happening on the supernatural front, she had a feeling that things would be less stressful for her friend now.The next day, as they drove to Ben and Maddox's house –and how weird was it that he went to the expense of buying a house instead of renting one or even renting an apartment?—her feeling seemed to be right. Caroline was smiling easier and her whole body just seemed so much more relaxed. Of course, it could be the thought of 'torturing' Maddox that was putting her in this mood, but Bonnie wasn't planning on judging her for that.Nearly an hour after they arrived –and three or four direct insults later— she still wasn't judging. It wasn't that Caroline was being particularly mean, she was just being Caroline. She expected perfection from herself and damn near perfection from those around her. Although, at the end of the day, she would still tell you that you did a great job even if she had spent the whole time telling you everything you were doing wrong. You either learned to love it or you learned to avoid working with her.During a break in the practice she was sitting on a stool at the kitchen bar while Caroline was sitting on one of the chairs they had pushed back against the wall to make room for dancing. Ben and Maddox had just come back in the room when Caroline surprised her with a question from seemingly out of nowhere."Bonnie, your Grams broke Damon's link with his crow before she let it go, right?""Yeah, she wouldn't have let that poor thing go without breaking it," she replied as she turned to look at her friend.Caroline, however, wasn't looking at her. In fact, she was frozen in place and staring at the window. Bonnie turned to see what she was looking at and saw, on the other side of the glass, a black crow staring just as intently back at Caroline."I mean… that might not even be the same crow."Okay, it was a lame denial, but the look Caroline turned on her was a bit much. Bonnie watched as her friend looked back toward the bird at the window for a moment and then, seeming to come to a decision, nodded her head and walked toward it. Maddox seemed to figure out what she was doing just as the window started to lift, if the inarticulate and slightly confused sounding noises coming from him were anything to judge by.Caroline ignored his objections and let the bird in. Bonnie had expected it to either stay outside –possibly even fly off—or race in and fly around the room. What she wasn't prepared for, however, was for it to casually strut across the window sill and hop gently to the floor at Caroline's feet. It stared at Caroline for a bit and then turned its piercing eyes to her. It struck Bonnie then that the bird hadn't made a sound at all."Aren't crows usually… noisier?"The bird tilted its head at the sound of Bonnie's voice and then began to slowly walk toward her, its head bobbing in time with its steps. Taking her eyes off the crow, she glanced at Caroline who just then seemed to register the question. Staring at the bird, she answered in a voice that could easily be mistaken for distracted, "Damon didn't like his pets to talk much."With a sudden sick feeling in the back of her throat, she realized that Caroline wasn't necessarily referring to animals when she said 'his pets'. Before the disgust, guilt, and anger could really build from that thought, however, Caroline was suddenly on the move and apparently coming up with a plan to figure out what was going on. Even as she made her way to the refrigerator, she was calling out orders."Bonnie, you need to call your Grams and find out if there's any way to make sure Damon hasn't somehow reconnected with our friend here. I'll go ahead and call Stefan so he can check in on his brother and make sure he's not getting up to anything. And Ben," Caroline was holding a half-rotten looking bag of what may have been some sort of vegetable that she had just taken from the fridge, "you need to make a quick run to the store and pick up some fresh fruits, vegetables, and some sort of meat."Ben didn't waste any time in rushing out the door, though he did spare the crow at least one suspicious glance. Maddox, on the other hand, was staring between the bird and Caroline with a very calculating expression on his face. If Caroline noticed it, she didn't give any indication. Bonnie did notice and she didn't like it one bit, but she didn't have any time to worry about it right now because she had to call Grams.While she was being reassured that the bond had been broken and then quickly walked through how to check to make sure the link was still severed and hadn't been reestablished –through which process the crow remained remarkably still—she could hear Caroline in the background essentially bullying Stefan into checking on his brother. At some point the boy was really going to have to figure out to just do what they said without arguing.By the time they were both off the phone and had the furniture set back to rights, Ben had come back with a grocery bag full of food. In short order, Caroline had a small bunch of grapes rinsed, separated, and placed in a bowl on the counter for the crow. Now they were all just sitting around watching the bird delicately pick out the grapes and eat them one by one.While Bonnie didn't remember Caroline saying anything about a crow when she talked about what she had already been through, it was possible she had simply… forgotten it. Okay, that wasn't likely, but still… While she couldn't come right out and say 'hey, did the crow do this weird stuff the other time you lived through this', she could ask in a roundabout way.Hoping she came off as casual and not all 'I'm trying to say something without saying it', she asked, "Were you expecting something like this?"Just then the crow turned to Caroline and gave a soft caw, nothing like the harsh tones she was used to hearing from the crows that would occasionally pass through town. Her friend stared at the bird for a second before answering."No, I wasn't. But I don't think this is just a coincidence. The bird's here for a reason."As much as she would like to deny it, Bonnie was pretty sure that Caroline was right.