Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Hunters: Moonsong Chapter Forty-One

It seemed like he and Bonnie had been waiting forever in the tiny back office of the library, Matt thought. They had strained to catch a sound, to try and learn anything at al about what was happening down there. Bonnie paced, wringing her hands and biting her lips, and he leaned against the wal , head lowered, and kept a good grip on Samantha's stave. Just in case. He knew about al the doors and passages and tunnels down there, many of which he had no idea where they led, but he didn't realize the soundproofing was so good. They hadn't heard a thing. Then suddenly the trapdoor was pushing up, and Matt tensed, raising the stave, until he saw Elena's face. Meredith, Elena, Stefan, and Damon climbed out, covered in blood, but basical y fine, if the eager way Elena and Meredith were tel ing Bonnie what happened, their words tumbling over each other, was any indication. â€Å"Ethan's dead,† Stefan told Matt. â€Å"There were some other Vitales down there in the fight, but none of the pledges. He'd sent them out to hunt.† Matt felt sick and weirdly happy at the same time. He'd pictured them dead at Damon and Stefan's hands, Chloe, al his friends from pledging. But they weren't. Not dead, not real y. But transformed, vampires now. â€Å"You're going to hunt them,† he said, aiming his words at Stefan and Damon, and at Meredith, too. She nodded, her face resolved, and Damon looked away. â€Å"We have to,† Stefan told him. â€Å"You know that.† Matt stared hard at his shoes. â€Å"Yeah,† he said, â€Å"I know. But, if you get a chance, maybe talk to some of them? If you can, if they're reasonable and no one's in danger? Maybe they could learn to live without kil ing people. If you showed them how, Stefan.† He rubbed at the back of his neck. â€Å"Chloe was †¦ special. And the other pledges, they were good people. They didn't know what they were getting into. They deserve a chance.† Everyone was silent, and, after a moment, Matt looked up to find Stefan regarding him, his eyes dark green with sympathy, his mouth pul ed taut in lines of pain. â€Å"I'l do my best,† he said kindly. â€Å"I can promise you that. But new vampires – vampires in general, real y – can be unpredictable. We might not be able to save any of them, and our priority has to be the innocent. We will try, though.† Matt nodded. His mouth tasted sour and his eyes burned. He was beginning to realize just how tired he was. â€Å"That's about the best I can expect,† he said roughly. â€Å"Thank you.† â€Å"So there's a whole room ful of dead vampires down there?† Bonnie asked, wrinkling her nose in disgust. â€Å"Pretty much,† said Elena. â€Å"We chained the doors closed again, but I wish we could close the chamber off more permanently. Someone's going to go down there eventual y, and the last thing this campus needs is another murder investigation, or another gruesome legend.† â€Å"Ta-da!† Bonnie said, grinning brightly and pul ing a little bag out of her pocket. â€Å"Final y something I can do.† She held the bag up. â€Å"Remember al the hours Mrs. Flowers made me spend studying herbs? Well, I know spel s for locking and warding, and I've got the herbs to use right here. I thought they might come in handy, as soon as Matt told us we were going to a secret underground chamber.† She looked so pleased with herself that Matt had to smile a little despite the heaviness inside him at the thought of Chloe and the others somewhere out in the night. â€Å"They might not work for more than a day or two,† she added modestly, â€Å"but they'l definitely discourage people from investigating the trapdoor for that long.† â€Å"You're a wonder, Bonnie,† Elena said, and spontaneously hugged her. Stefan nodded. â€Å"We can get rid of the bodies tomorrow,† he said. â€Å"It's too close to dawn to do it now.† Bonnie got right to work, sprinkling dried plants across the trapdoor. â€Å"Hyssop, Solomon's seal, and damiana leaves,† she said when she saw Matt watching her. â€Å"They're for strengthening of locks, protection from evil, and general protection. Mrs. Flowers dril ed me on this stuff so much I final y got them al down. It's too bad I didn't have her helping me with my homework in high school. Maybe I would have learned some of those French verbs.† Damon was watching them, his eyes half hooded. â€Å"We should look for the new vampires, too,† he said. â€Å"You know vampires aren't pack animals. They won't hunt together for long. Once they split up, we can pick them off,† he told Stefan. â€Å"I'm coming, too,† Meredith said. She looked at Damon chal engingly. â€Å"I'l just walk Matt home and then meet up with you both.† Damon smiled, a peculiarly warm smile that Matt had never seen him direct at Meredith before. â€Å"I was talking to you, too, hunter,† he said. â€Å"You've gotten better.† After a second, she smiled back, a humorous twist of her lips, and Matt thought he saw something that might be the beginnings of friendship flickering between them. â€Å"So the Vitales were definitely behind al the murders and disappearances?† Matt asked Stefan, feeling sick. How could he have spent so much time with Ethan and not suspected that he was a murderer? Bonnie's face went so white that her few freckles showed like little dark dots on plain paper. And then her color came flooding back, her cheeks and ears turning a bright pink. She climbed unsteadily to her feet. â€Å"I should go see Zander,† she said. â€Å"Hey,† Matt said, alarmed, and moved to block the door. â€Å"There's stil a whole bunch of vampires outside, Bonnie. Wait for somebody to walk you over.† â€Å"Not to mention that you have other commitments,† Damon said dryly, looking meaningful y at the herbs scattered across the trapdoor. â€Å"After you work your witchy mojo, then you can go see your pet.† â€Å"We're sorry, Bonnie,† Meredith said, shifting uncomfortably from one foot to another. â€Å"We should have trusted you to know a good guy when you saw one.† â€Å"Right! Al is forgiven,† Bonnie said brightly, and plopped down in front of the trapdoor again. â€Å"I just need to say the spel .† She ran her hands through the herbs. â€Å"Existo signum,† she muttered. â€Å"Servo quis est intus.† As she scooped some of the herbs back into her bag, Bonnie kept smiling, and stopping, and staring into space, and then bouncing a little. Matt smiled at her tiredly. Good for Bonnie. Someone ought to have a happy ending. He felt a strong, thin hand take his and turned to see Meredith beside him. She smiled sympathetical y at him. Nearby, Elena laid her hand tentatively on Stefan's arm, and they both had their eyes on Bonnie. Damon stood stil , watching them al with an almost fond expression. Matt leaned against Meredith, comforted. No matter what happened, at least they were together. His true friends were with him; he had come home to them at last. The sun was low in the east when Bonnie climbed up the fire escape, her feet clanging on each step. As she came over the side of the building, she saw Zander sitting with his back against the rough concrete wal at the edge of the roof. He turned to stare at her as she came toward him. â€Å"Hi,† she said. She'd been so excited to see him on her way over here, enough so that Elena and Meredith got over their guilt and started to laugh at her, but now she felt weird and uncomfortable, like her head was too big. It was, she realized, total y possible that he wouldn't want to talk to her. After al , she'd accused him of being a murderer, which was a pretty big mistake for a girlfriend to make. â€Å"Hi,† he said slowly. There was a long pause, and then he patted the concrete next to him. â€Å"Want to sit down?† he asked. â€Å"I'm just watching the sky.† He hesitated. â€Å"Ful moon in a couple of days.† Mentioning the ful moon felt like a chal enge, and Bonnie settled next to him, then squeezed her hands together and jumped right in. â€Å"I'm sorry I cal ed you a kil er,† she said. â€Å"I know now that I was wrong to accuse you of being responsible for the deaths on campus. I should have trusted you more. Please accept my apology,† she finished in a little rush. â€Å"Because I miss you.† â€Å"I miss you, too,† Zander said. â€Å"And I understand it was a shock.† â€Å"Seriously, though, Zander,† Bonnie said, and shoved him a little with her hip. â€Å"You just tel me you're a werewolf? Did you get bitten when you were a kid or something? Because I know getting bitten is the only way to become a werewolf without kil ing someone. And, okay, I know you're not the kil er now, but Meredith saw you with a girl who'd just been attacked. And †¦ and you had bruises, real y bad bruises everywhere. I think I had every right to think something was hinky with you.† â€Å"Hinky?† Zander laughed a little, but there was an edge of sadness to it, Bonnie thought. â€Å"I guess it's kind of hinky, if you want to put it that way.† â€Å"Can you explain?† Bonnie asked. â€Å"Okay, I'l try,† Zander said thoughtful y. He reached down and took her hand, turning it over in his and playing with her fingers, pul ing them lightly. â€Å"As you apparently know, most werewolves are created either by being bitten, or by having the werewolf virus in their family and activating it by kil ing someone in a special ritual. So, either a terrible attack, which usual y screws the victim up, or a deliberate act of evil to grab the power of the wolf.† He grimaced. â€Å"It kind of explains why werewolves have such a bad reputation. But there's another kind of werewolf.† He glanced at Bonnie with a sort of shy pride. â€Å"I come from the Original pack of werewolves.† Original. Bonnie's mind raced. Immortal, she thought, and remembered Klaus, who had never been a human. â€Å"So†¦ you're real y old, then?† she asked hesitantly. It was fine, she guessed, for Elena to date guys who had seen centuries go by. Romantic, even. Sort of. Despite the crush she'd had on Damon, though, Bonnie always pictured dating someone close to her own age. Even Meredith's cute, smart Alaric seemed kind of old to her, and he was only in his twenties. Zander snorted with sudden laughter and squeezed her hand tight. â€Å"No!† he said. â€Å"I just turned twenty last month! Werewolves aren't like that – we're alive. We live, we die. We're like everybody else, we just†¦Ã¢â‚¬  â€Å"Turn into superstrong, superfast wolves,† Bonnie said tartly. â€Å"Yeah, fine,† Zander said. â€Å"Point taken. Anyway, the Original pack is like, the original family of werewolves. Most werewolves are infected by some kind of mystical virus. It can be passed down, but it's dormant. The Original pack is descended from the very first werewolves, the ones that were cavemen except during the ful moon. It's in our genes. We're different from regular werewolves. We can stop ourselves from changing if we need to. We can learn to change when the moon's not ful , too, although it's difficult.† â€Å"If you can stop yourself from changing, do some of you stop being werewolves?† Bonnie asked. Zander pul ed her closer. â€Å"We would never stop being werewolves, even if we never changed at al . It's who we are. And it hurts to not change when the moon is ful . It's like it sings to us, and the song gets louder and clearer the closer it gets to being ful . We're aching to change by the time it happens.† â€Å"Wow,† said Bonnie. Then her eyes widened. â€Å"So, al your friends are members of the Original pack, too? Like, you're al related?† â€Å"Um,† Zander said. â€Å"I guess. But the relationship can go back pretty far – it's not like we're al first cousins or anything.† â€Å"Weird,† Bonnie said. â€Å"Okay, Original pack, got it.† She snuggled her head comfortably against Zander's shoulder. â€Å"Tel me the rest.† â€Å"Okay,† Zander said again. He pushed his hair out of his eyes and wrapped one arm around Bonnie. It was getting a little cold sitting on the concrete, and she nestled grateful y against the warmth of his side. â€Å"So, Dalcrest is on what's sort of a hot spot for paranormal activity. There's these things cal ed ley lines, see†¦Ã¢â‚¬  â€Å"Already know it,† Bonnie said briskly. â€Å"Go on with your part.† Zander stared at her. â€Å"O †¦ kay,† he said slowly. â€Å"Anyway, the High Wolf Council sends some of us to Dalcrest every year as students. So that we can monitor any dangers. We're kind of like watchdogs, I guess. The original watchdogs.† Bonnie snorted. â€Å"The High Wolf Council.† Zander poked her in the ribs. â€Å"Shut up, it's not funny,† he said. â€Å"They're very important.† Bonnie giggled again, and he elbowed her gently. â€Å"So, with al the disappearances and attacks, things have been bad on campus this year,† he continued, sobering. â€Å"Much worse than they usual y are. We've been investigating. A pack of vampires in a secret society on campus is behind it, and we've been fighting them off and protecting people when we can. But we're not as strong as they are, except at the ful moon, even if we change. And so the bruises. And your friend seeing me guarding a girl who'd just been attacked.† â€Å"Don't worry. We took care of the Vitale Society tonight,† Bonnie said smugly. â€Å"Well, the leader at least, and some of the others,† she amended. â€Å"There's stil a bunch of vampires on campus, but we'l get rid of them.† Zander turned and stared at her for a long moment before he spoke. â€Å"I think,† he said at last in a careful y neutral voice, â€Å"that it's your turn to explain.† Bonnie wasn't actual y that great at properly organized, logical explanations, but she did her best, going back and forth in time, adding side notes and remembering things as she went along. She told him about Stefan and Damon, and how everything had changed when the vampire brothers came to Fel ‘s Church last year and Elena fel in love with them. She told him about Meredith's sacred duty as a vampire hunter, and she told him about her own psychic visions and her training as a witch. She left a lot of stuff out – everything about the Dark Dimension, and Elena's bargain with the Guardians, for instance, because that was real y confusing, and maybe she should tel him about it later so he didn't just overload – but the tel ing stil took a long time. â€Å"Huh,† Zander said when she was finished, and then he laughed. â€Å"What?† Bonnie asked. â€Å"You're a weird girl,† Zander said. â€Å"Pretty heroic, though.† Bonnie pushed her face into his neck, happily breathing in the essential Zander smel of him: fabric softener, worn cotton, and clean guy. â€Å"You're weird,† she said, and then, admiringly, â€Å"and the real hero. You've been fighting off vampire attacks for weeks and weeks, to protect everybody.† â€Å"We're quite a pair,† Zander said. â€Å"Yeah,† Bonnie said. She sat up and faced him, then reached out and ran her hand through his soft pale hair, pul ing his head closer to her. â€Å"Stil ,† she said, just before their lips touched, â€Å"normal is overrated.†

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