The next two days go by way faster than Kai would have preferred. He and Bonnie spend the entirety of Thursday stacking books and reorganizing shelves, and he questioned more than once, “Hey, how hard do you think I would have to hit my head on these books in order to kill myself?” He could only work for ten minutes at a time before his microscopic attention span ran out and he had to go do something else, choosing to annoy Bonnie most of the time. He blared music from his phone and danced on the tables, theatrically narrated excerpts from random novels; he even tried playing Marco Polo with her. It was only once she had threatened to bail out on him that Kai cut it out, now working for thirty straight minutes until he had to fixate on something different. They worked for eight hours straight (with the exception of Kai’s dance and snack breaks, of course) before they were completely finished.
“I can’t believe you volunteered to do this. For free.” He had said after dramatically collapsing onto the carpeted floor.
“They’re a bunch of old ladies, Kai. It’s called being a nice person. You should try it sometime.”
Friday was spent packing and rehearsing some more. They went to each other’s dorm rooms and helped the other stuff their respective suitcases with clothes. Kai complains about practicing, claiming that they have it mastered, Bonnie claims to be annoyed with him, he makes a joke about her packing some lingerie, and it’s just like any normal day.
Except it isn’t, because Kai’s body feels like it’s on fire and his heart won’t stop beating irregularly fast. He isn’t sure when he flipped the switch in his brain to complete freak out mode, though he has a sneaking suspicion that it has to do with Bonnie. It’s always fucking Bonnie. The woman leaves his stomach in knots and his breaths a little too short and she doesn’t even realize she’s doing anything to him. It’s annoying and becoming more and more of a problem as Christmas approaches. All he can do for now is just hope and pray that this dumb anxiety goes away once their charade goes into full swing, but he knows damn well it’s just going to get worse from there.
This is how Kai spends most of his Friday night after Bonnie left his dorm room two hours ago. He lays in his bed staring at his ceiling overthinking every stupid scenario that runs through his head, tossing and turning. Everything about this is so unlike him it’s actually laughable; Kai Parker does not care. He trained himself and rewired his brain to look any bad situation in the eye and just shrug it off, or punch it in its dumb face. The fact that one woman can throw a wrench in everything he built up is upsetting and it’s downright humiliating that he’s reduced to a pile of emotions. Exhaustion catches up to him eventually and he falls asleep with his phone in his hand; a Google tab is open with the words ‘how to delete feelings’ typed, the question unsearched.
Someone banging loudly on his door startles him awake. Kai’s arm is asleep from the position he passed out in, and pressing the home button on his phone tells him that it’s dead. He silently curses, thinking that he overslept, but a sparse glance at his alarm clock tells him otherwise. The banging continues, and he groans as he hurriedly plugs in his phone. If it’s not Bonnie, he’s going to beat the fuck out of whoever is behind that door. He stamps over to it, swings it open, only to discover: “Damon fucking Salvatore.”
Kai goes to slam the door right in his stupidly handsome face, but Damon shoves his boot into the doorway before he has the chance. He grins devilishly at Kai, flashing his set of straight, pearly white teeth at him. “Nice to see you too, buddy.”
He tries to enter, but Kai doesn’t budge. “It’s not even four in the goddamn morning, what could you possibly want?”
Damon only smirks at him, and Kai would give anything to wipe it clean off his face. “Oh, right,” he shrugs, pushing past Kai with his shoulder a little harder than he needed to, and steps through the threshold. “I thought I’d drive you and Bon Bon to the airport.”
Kai grits his teeth, staying at his place with the door still open and his hand still on the doorknob. “We’re taking an Uber.”
“Psh, they overcharge you. Do you really wanna spend fifty bucks on a mediocre taxi when you have moi?” He stands by Kai’s desk, his ugly paws touching anything and everything on it.
“Yeah, sounds like heaven compared to the latter.” He grips the doorknob a little tighter.
Damon scowls at him. “Too bad,” He walks back over to him and pats him on the shoulder. “Be ready in fifteen. And for the love of God, put on some pants. No one wants to see that.” He leaves the room, and Kai tries not to explode. He fails and slams the door anyway, probably waking anyone that was still in the building, and definitely giving Damon the satisfaction.
Hate is a strong word, and it just so happens to be the very definition of how Kai feels towards Damon. Maybe if the circumstances were a little different they would be good friends, but as things stand right now, Kai loathes the man. They just never got along; Damon is weirdly overprotective of Bonnie and—even though they’re just friends—makes it his mission to let Kai know that he doesn’t deserve her. He doesn’t express his distaste towards Damon around Bonnie and tries to act on his best behavior whenever all of them hang out together, but only because he knows how much Damon means to her. He’s the older brother she never got to have and one of the people she cares the most about. And if that means that he has to endure a forty-five-minute car ride and another ‘if you hurt Bonnie I’ll rip your head off’ talk, then so be it.
Kai doesn’t bother showering, knowing that the long flight is going to make him feel disgusting. He’ll shower when he gets back to Portland. He pulls on the clothes he purposely left out of his suitcases, which is a pair of loose grey sweatpants and a white t-shirt, and messes around on his phone while he waits for Damon to return. The first thing he sees is the Google app still up and running. A rush of embarrassment runs through his veins like ice, and he closes out of it as fast as he can. Ten minutes pass, and when another knock hits his door he locks his phone.
Kai opens the door and expects nothing less than Damon barging right in, which is exactly what he does. “When are we hittin’ the road?” He asks, slipping on his worn-out pair of Vans.
Damon hums. “In about fifteen minutes. I thought we’d have a little chat first, mano a mano.” He makes himself comfortable, spreading his body across Kai’s bed on his side and leaning up on his elbow. Kai notes that he still has his boots on, and there’s now snow all over his floor.
Irritation bubbles up in his chest. “Jesus fucking Chr—”
Damon puts his free hand up, silencing Kai. “Enough with the back and forth, just shut up for a second.”
“So this isn’t about me and Bonnie? Because I’ve already heard it a thousand times before and I really don’t want to hear it again.” He retorts as his hands fly around in the air.
Damon’s mouth hangs open for a second. “Well, of course it’s about Bonnie,” Kai starts protesting again but he pushes forward anyway. “But it’s a different talk, you asshat.” His voice raises as he talks over Kai.
Kai frowns. “Oh,” He reels for a second, trying to process how they could possibly have a civilized conversation about Bonnie, of all things. “I’m listening.”
“Look, I don’t like you. I don’t trust you. I don’t think you’re good for Bonnie - hell, I know you’re not good for Bonnie,” Kai folds his arms and closes his eyes, trying to breathe steadily through his nose. “But you know how I feel already. For some fucking reason, Bonnie does trust you and she likes you enough to travel across the country for you. She’s helping you because she cares about you. It’s kind of her thing to do stupid shit to show people how much she loves them. You’re...” Damon sighs. “You’re her best friend.”
Kai’s eyebrows practically shoot up through the ceiling in surprise, but he keeps his mouth shut and waits for him to finish.
“And since you’re not actually dating, I just wanted to say that you’re... we’re cool.” He scratches at the black stubble that’s formed across his chin and jaw awkwardly.
Kai is stunned into silence, staring at Damon like a deer in headlights. Part of him (most of him) wants to tell Damon to fuck off back to hell where he belongs, but another part of him wants to call a temporary truce. He swallows, tightening the grip on his arms and nods at him. “Okay. We’re cool.”
Damon nods back. “Okay,” He stands, readjusting his leather jacket and slapping a palm onto Kai’s shoulder. “Now, I’m not the hugging type so, good talk. And if you hurt Bonnie...” He takes his index finger and swipes a line across his neck, making a noise that resembles choking.
“Right,” Kai chuckles a little at the fact that the good old Damon is back and shrugs his jacket on. “Can we go now? Or do you wanna have another heart to heart?” His voice has a teasing tone and holds little to no venom. It was kind of a refreshing change of pace between him and Damon.
The other man smiles at him. “Just when I was about to tell you about my traumatic childhood and my mommy issues.” Despite his sarcasm, Kai knows he isn’t joking. They definitely had more in common than he had thought.
He grabs his suitcase and his backpack, slinging his bag across his shoulders and pulling out the long handle on the case. Finally, he goes over to his desk and shoves his keys, phone, charger, and wallet into his jacket’s deep pockets. “Alright,” Kai says to no one in particular, running through his mental checklist one more time. “I’m ready.”
“Jesus,” Damon mumbles, exiting the room.
Kai follows him and locks the door behind him, closing it. “Shut up.” He’s too tired and it’s far too early to banter with Damon properly right now. The three and a half hours of sleep are slowly catching up to him, and he’s already dreaming of taking a nap on the car ride to the airport.
The walk over to Bonnie’s dorm is short, but Kai purposely makes it feel like an eternity for Damon. He drags his suitcase slowly, the wheels catch on the icy sidewalk and the plastic makes the most atrocious noise as it scratches on the gravel. He hums an annoying tune he made up on the fly and walks a little too slow. When they finally make it to the building, Damon hisses, “I take back everything. I hate you. We are not cool.”
Kai just grins at him maliciously in victory.
Damon’s beloved blue Camaro is parked out front in all its glory. He pops the trunk for Kai and starts walking to the entrance of the dormitory. Midway putting his luggage in, Kai yells, “Wait! Can you unlock the doors so I can get in?”
Damon keeps walking. “No.”
He’s already inside and Kai huffs in frustration. It’s not that cold out since Virginia isn’t exactly known for its harsh winters, but it’s cold enough that he can see his own breath. He slams the trunk shut and leans against the side of the car. This, of course, just makes him colder since the metal is freezing against his back. He crosses his arms, hugging himself for warmth as he waits for them. His head falls back and he stares blankly at the black, star littered sky above him, his eyes scanning for any possible constellations he can make out.
Kai is only able to find The Big Dipper and is searching for The Little Dipper when Bonnie speaks. “Whatcha doin’?” She asks, one of her brows arched in interest.
His head whips forward at the sound of her voice. She’s wearing a hoodie that’s a little too big for her and leggings, her dark brown hair tied up in a loose ponytail. She looks just as dead as Kai does, and he still can’t help but smile at the sight of her. “Damon locked me out of his car, so I’m trying to find constellations to pass the time.” He says simply. “Speaking of the devil, where is he?”
Bonnie cracks a knowing smile. “Oh, he’s grabbing my bags.”
Kai barks out a laugh. “You’re evil, Bonnie Bennett.”
She starts giggling too, and behind the glass door, Kai can see Damon struggling to open it. He resorts to using his foot to push it open, and once he’s out, he says, “Jesus, woman, how many clothes did you pack?”
“All of ‘em.” She replies simply, grabbing the smallest bag Damon is carrying from one of his hands. Kai decides to help and lifts the trunk open for them. Damon throws Bonnie’s luggage in, earning a yelp of protest from her.
“If you don’t like it, you can carry it yourself next time.” He says. He fishes for his keys in his pocket and unlocks the car. Kai reaches for the passenger side door at the same time Bonnie does. She narrows her eyes at him, challenging him, while both their hands are still on the handle.
“I call shotgun.” She says.
It doesn’t take long for Kai to give in. He sighs dramatically, breathing out, “Fine,” He removes his hand from hers and pouts like a child. “I didn’t want to sit next to Damon for nearly an hour anyway.”
Bonnie beams in success. She swings the door open and pulls the front seat forward so Kai can slide in the back. “After you.”
“Why thank you, m’lady.” Kai drawls, in a poor fake British accent. He can practically hear Damon’s eye-roll. He situates himself in the backseat and exclaims in surprise as he does so. If he thought the outside of the car was cold, it was no match to the leather seats. “God, can you please turn the heat on already?”
“Parker, if you complain one more time, or speak one more time for that matter, you’re walking all the way to the goddamn airport,” Damon says from the driver’s seat.
Kai opens his mouth to bite back, but Bonnie cuts in before he can. “Boys, play nice. Please.”
His mouth clamps shut, grumbling some half-assed insult directed towards Damon and snuggling up against the door, arms crossed in a huff. The engine roars to life and Kai is asleep within a few minutes, despite his head thudding against the cold window every time they hit a bump in the road.
“Kai,” Bonnie’s voice urges. A hand is on his shoulder, shaking him awake. She chuckles, and then, “We’re here. Get your ass up.”
He whines, but begrudgingly pries his eyes open nonetheless. He’s greeted by her warm, brown eyes immediately; they’re staring at him softly, much like how you would look at a dog when it’s being cute. She has a fond smile on her lips to match, and when his own eyes focus, she shifts hers away in embarrassment and removes her hand from his arm. He briefly thinks that he wouldn’t mind waking up to that every day, but as quick as it came, he buries it deep with all the other thoughts he has about Bonnie. She was bent over and leaning down to talk to Kai, but now she has retreated to behind the car with Damon, presumably getting their luggage. While Bonnie did leave the car door open and her seat pushed forward so he can get out, Damon’s car is old as shit so his seats aren’t in the best of shape and get stuck a lot. He pushes the passenger side seat forward with his foot for good measure and begins to climb out of the car. Halfway out, the seat begins sliding backward and he groans in annoyance and uses his left shoulder to try and push it back up again. His actions are fruitless, and he can feel himself getting stuck. Kai manages to get his right leg out of the car and with that he’s able to shove the rest of his body through the narrow space. His other foot gets caught on the way out, and while he’s trying to shimmy it free he feels the all too familiar sensation of being watched. Kai yanks out his foot, stumbling a little at the force, and whips his head around.
Bonnie and Damon are staring at him, amused and trying to stifle their laughter. “Having fun?” Damon teases.
“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. You know four-door cars do exist, right?” He slams the door shut and walks over to the rear of the car with Bonnie. They both grab their belongings and Kai offers to carry one of Bonnie’s bags since he has a free hand, and she happily hands it over to him. She then hugs Damon and says something to him that Kai can’t make out, then Damon makes his way over to him.
Kai can’t help but frown, confused at Damon’s formality. He extends his hand, and Kai reluctantly takes it. “Merry Christmas, Parker, and uh,” he closes his other hand on Kai’s shoulder and leans in, Damon’s mouth close to his ear. To Bonnie, it probably looks like some sort of awkward hug. “Take care of her, yeah?” Kai nods in understanding, rendered speechless once again. He returns the gesture though, one of his arms briefly wrapping around Damon’s back and slapping it a few times for effect.
When Damon lets go, Kai puts on his trademark smirk and quips, “Thought you weren’t the hugging type?”
Bonnie clears her throat, the two of them automatically turning their attention to her. “If you two are done having your little bonding moment, we really have to go.” She taps her wrist where a watch should be to emphasize her urgency, but a pleased smile is on her face anyway.
They wave goodbye to Damon one last time and then walk through the doors of the airport. They get about twenty feet away from the entrance before Bonnie asks, “What was that all about?”
“We’re cool now,” Kai answers plainly, trying to focus on navigating his way through the hundreds of people that are in the airport. It may be pretty early in the morning, but it’s three days before Christmas and it’s packed.
“Really?” She asks again, her voice raised so it carries over the commotion of panicked travelers.
“Well, I still think it’s weird that a nearly thirty-year-old, fully grown man spends all his time around a bunch of college students,” Bonnie nudges him with her elbow. “But, yeah, we’re cool. He’s gonna stop being such a dick and I’m gonna stop being an ‘asshat,’ as he so lovingly puts it.”
“Huh,” She says in surprise and a little bit in disbelief, but it gets lost in the noise. Louder, she continues, “Oh, I should probably mention I’ve never traveled anywhere before.”
They’re pushing through people now to get to the check-in desk. Bonnie is trailing behind, her eyes glued to the back of Kai’s head so she doesn’t lose him. “Oh boy, this should be one hell of a first experience, Bon.” They reach the desk and there’s a pretty long line.
Bonnie grimaces at his words. “Should I be worried?”
“No, it’s only the busiest traveling time of the year. You’ll be fine, just stick with me and we’ll get through it.” They move up in the line, and within a few more minutes they’re next. Kai hands the woman behind the desk his driver's license and Bonnie follows suit after, and the receptionist hands them their boarding passes. She then asks them if they have luggage and they give her all their suitcases, except for their carry on bags. Then they’re on their merry way to the security checkpoint.
“This isn’t so bad,” Bonnie says when they’re about halfway there. Some asshole bumps into her right after she says this, knocking her back and separating her from Kai. He curses, turning around immediately and trying to fight his way against the current of people. He eventually finds her a little ways back and grabs her hand, slotting their fingers together.
“You jinxed us,” He says, ignoring her questionable stare. He swallows feeling weirdly small under her gaze as they continue walking. “Jesus, are you afraid of my cooties? It’s so we don’t get separated again, Bon. Have you ever seen Home Alone?”
She doesn’t say anything but also doesn’t let go of his hand out of disgust like he expected her to. They make it to security, emptying their pockets and taking off their shoes. Their carry on bags go through the x-ray and then they do. Bonnie complains the whole time, and Kai is afraid she’s going to get arrested by TSA. They recollect their bags and other belongings and finally make their way to their departure gate. Kai doesn’t reach for her hand again, his ego still bruised from her confused face, but when Bonnie does reach for his, he is pleasantly surprised. She laces their fingers and rubs his thumb with hers, and if Kai was stupid enough he would say she did that affectionately.
“This goes against a rule, y’know.” He says while forcing back a smile.
“Did you even read the contract? It says hand holding is allowed, dumbass. And besides, this is for safety purposes.” She says as if he needs convincing.
“Oh, so I can hold your hand whenever I want then?”
She purses her lips. Kai had her caught in his trap and she knew it. “Technically? Yeah, you could.”
There’s an underlying question, and Kai isn’t exactly sure if he should push this. They reach the gate and take a seat at one of the uncomfortable plastic rows of chairs. She untangles their hands, setting them in her lap and she looks very tense. He internally debates with himself for a second before asking, “But?”
Bonnie hesitates and chews on her lip for a second. “Would you want to? Hold my hand, I mean.” Her cheeks turn crimson under his gaze.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what she’s really asking, and he also knows that she’s at risk of feeling more embarrassed, so he doesn’t take long to answer her. “Yeah,” He pauses and licks his lips, shifts in his seat a little. Now he’s the one who is vulnerable. “You have really nice palms.” He blurts out, feeling the need to direct her attention to something else.
“Palms?” She parrots, crinkling her nose. “You sound like a serial killer.”
“Yes, palms. They’re soft and I... like holding them.” His face is hot. It’s too hot in this damn airport. He looks anywhere that’s not Bonnie’s face, but he can still see her soften in his peripheral vision.
“What time are we boarding?” Her voice is softer but Kai can’t pinpoint if that’s a bad thing or not. He glances at his watch, his leg bouncing anxiously.
“It’s only 5:30. Our flight takes off at seven, it shouldn’t be that long.”
For the next forty minutes or so, the two of them sit on their phones while they wait to board their plane. The nonexistent awkwardness between them dissipates fastly and they show each other stupid videos that pop up on their phones and text the group chat to pass the time. The only members who are awake are Damon, Caroline, and Klaus. Kai privately texts Klaus about his mini freak out with the hand holding situation and calms down at his best friend’s words. Unbeknownst to him though, Bonnie is doing the same exact thing, and Caroline and Klaus are slowly going insane. Soon enough, their group number is called and they get on the plane. Kai lets Bonnie have the window seat because she doesn’t want to sit next to a stranger—though, neither does Kai—but he lets her have it anyway. They store their carry on bags underneath the seat in front of them and sit down, buckling up their seatbelts. The person who is seated next to him is an older woman, in her late sixties maybe, and Kai thanks God under his breath. At Thanksgiving, he had the biggest asshole who took up all the legroom and snored like crazy. The woman politely smiles at Kai when she sees him, and he returns the gesture.
When the plane takes off, Bonnie panics and grips Kai’s hand super tight. Afterward, she thanks him and he jokes that he thinks that she broke a few bones. He’s setting up a movie for them to watch when he hears Bonnie gasp to his right. He’s about to ask what’s wrong when he sees it. The sun is rising over the horizon, casting beautiful hues of orange, yellow, pink, and red over Bonnie’s features. He can’t really see the sunrise too well from where he’s sitting, but he thinks that his view is just fine. He would kick himself for thinking such a cheesy, romantic thought but his sleep-deprived brain allows it. Before he can think twice about it, he snaps a quick photo of Bonnie: her mouth is slightly agape as she stares at the scenery in front of her, her face illuminated and her right hand touching the window in awe. She’s so taken aback from the sight she doesn’t even realize he took the photo. She does finally acknowledge his presence when he leans into her space, trying to see out of the window. Bonnie scoots over a bit so he can get a good look.
“Isn’t that amazing?”
“Wow,” She really wasn’t kidding - the way that the horizon was spread out in front of them displaying the beautiful sun and the colorful clouds below it was truly breathtaking. “Just don’t look directly into the sun, Bon. I would prefer it if you didn’t burn out your eyes.”
She elbows him sharply against his side before fishing her phone from her pocket and snapping a picture, too. “What are we gonna watch?”
Bonnie suggests Love Actually and Kai would usually argue, but he knew he was going to pass out within five minutes and didn’t really care. He presses play, slouches in his seat to get comfortable, and to his surprise, Bonnie cuddles up next to him. She slides her left arm underneath his forearm, hesitantly pushing right against him and resting the side of her face against his bicep. Kai stares at the screen in front of him, focusing on the opening credits to the movie and ignoring Bonnie as best as he can. He knows that she felt him tense up the second she touched him; through all of their movie marathons, this has never happened. It doesn’t seem to phase her at all, though, since she falls asleep fifteen minutes later.
Kai is wide awake now, his inner turmoil stopping him from any possible rest. He—much to his amazement—watches the entirety of Love Actually and kind of enjoyed it, though he would never admit that to anyone. Halfway through the movie he accepted his fate and calmed down a bit. If he kept acting like this, he would never get through the next few weeks. It was getting old, and to be frank, really fucking stupid. The sooner he stopped pretending to not like her, the better. Right? Right. Definitely.
The old woman to his left taps his shoulder, trying to get his attention. Kai turns his head to look at her, and when he does she says, “You two are such a lovely couple.”
His face instantly goes red, but a wide smile blossoms, too. “Thank you!” He croons, but in a hushed tone to not wake Bonnie.
The woman smiles back at him, mirroring the same gesture the two of them did three hours ago. “How long have you been together?”
“Four years.” He lies. He’ll never see this woman again, so what’s the harm in a little white lie?
Kai didn’t know it was possible, but her smile grows wider and her eyes grow fonder. “That is so lovely. It reminds me of my husband and me when we were young. We met in college and...” She shrugs. “Love at first sight.” She finishes with a chuckle.
Kai laughs too, but it holds no actual humor and out of politeness. He pauses to glance down at Bonnie. “And it was just like that? You guys met and fell in love and had a wonderful life together?”
“Goodness, no. I’m afraid life isn’t that kind, at least to most. You two, on the other hand, are lucky. Love truly does conquer all.”
Kai clenches his jaw and swallows hard. “What happened?”
“With us?” She sighs, wistfully. “Jeez, where do I begin? We were young, stupid. Thought that we couldn’t do it. See, we had a lot of problems in the beginning. School got in the way, my parents didn’t like him, we got in fights and broke up, the list goes on and on. You name it, we went through it together.”
“Love conquers all,” She says again, like its written in the stars and the answer to all the questions in the universe. She narrows her eyes at him. “And, whatever the problem is, just tell her. I’m sure that she’ll forgive you... unless you did something very stupid.”
Kai laughs at that. “If you don’t mind my asking, I noticed that you’re flying alone. Your husband...?” He trails off, not wanting to be rude.
Her smile turns grim. “He passed five years ago. Brain cancer. I fly back home to visit him around the holidays. It was his favorite time of year. Like I said, life isn’t very kind.”
Shit. “Oh. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay. Even though I lost my Eli, couples like you two give me hope. I pray you two have a long, happy life together.” She smiles sweetly at him, then turns back to whatever she was watching on the screen in front of her.
Kai can’t help but feel bad now; he just lied to this poor widow who went through hell to be with him, only to lose him in the end. He sighs deeply and shakes his head, trying to forget about it for the time being. He’ll beat himself up for it later, he’s exhausted and can’t take being awake anymore. He shrinks down in his seat, moving as little as possible without waking Bonnie up to get comfortable. Before Kai drifts off, his head lolls to the side and rests on top of Bonnie’s.
He can faintly hear music.
He can’t make out what song is playing, or who sings it, but his entire being vibrates with the bass as it rumbles through the speakers. It’s a fast-paced electronic pop song, the kind of shit that Kai hates. He recognizes it; it’s on the tip of his tongue, he just can’t place it. He tries focusing on the melody—what little melody there is—yet his hearing won’t focus.
In a fit of frustration, he opens his eyes, and in contrast to the darkness he’s met with the whitest light he’s ever seen. It feels like he might go blind. He shuts them as quickly as he opened them. That annoying song is still fucking playing.
He feels around with his hands for something, anything, in front of him. It’s here where he realizes that he’s sitting and that there’s something strapped across his... oh.
He’s in a car.
His eyes fly open again in realization, and this time, opposed to the white light, he sees the long stretch of road laid in front of him. The music is coming from the radio, and he swiftly presses the knob to turn it off.
“What? Didn’t like that song?”
Kai’s heart stops. He feels it then, coursing through his veins like red hot heat just as he did on that fateful day: fear. “Mom?”
“Oh, come on, it wasn’t that bad. I know he’s not Cobain, but—”
She’s cut off by the same white light — Kai registers now that it’s headlights — except this time it’s accompanied with the telltale sound of screeching tires and a truck’s horn.
He wakes with a sharp gasp, his eyes shooting open as he tries to makes sense of his surroundings. He pants, trying to breathe normally again. He looks up, and that’s right, he’s on a plane. “You okay?” With Bonnie, he remembers.
“Yeah, sorry.” Kai isn’t sure why he’s apologizing, but he does it anyway. He sits up fully, wincing as he moves his neck, which cries out in pain. He rubs it absentmindedly as he looks over to her: she’s on her phone, headphones plugged in, one in her ear and one hanging out, music still blaring out of them. Oh.
“You talk in your sleep,” Bonnie acknowledges. She has a light tone to her voice but Kai can tell that it’s laced with worry.
He feels himself blanch at her words though, despite his best efforts to look calm, cool, and collected. “At least I don’t snore, eh?” Kai tries.
She laughs dryly, but respectively doesn’t push him. “How was the movie?”
“Cheesy. Good message, though. Also, Rick Grimes is a creep, and kind of an asshole.”
She laughs again, this time wholeheartedly, “Sorry I fell asleep. Your arm was just a really nice pillow.”
“Glad to be of service. Maybe I should start a business, sell myself as a giant human pillow. Billion-dollar company in the making, baby!” Kai flexes and kisses his bicep to make his point.
Bonnie scrunches her nose up at the sight. “Gross. Get someone hotter to be the pillow, and then you’ll be a billionaire.”
Kai scoffs at her, pressing a hand to his chest. “Rude.”
She beams at him in satisfaction. “Also, you woke up just in time. I think we land soon.” A moment later the pilot tells them just that over the intercom, the seatbelt sign coming to life and blinking at them. Sure, Bonnie may have broken a few bones gripping his hand while they took off, but landing? His entire hand was definitely broken now.
The next half hour is spent collecting their luggage and navigating their way through the crowded airport. Bonnie is right next to him the entire time, a tether between them that they silently agreed to not break in the meantime. They’re holding hands again, fingers slotted and fitted together like the world’s most fucked up puzzle pieces. “Bon, I’m so fucking hungry,” Kai complains as they walk past the makeshift food court. He can smell the food being cooked and it makes his stomach growl at him.
“I said that I’m so fucking hungry.” He repeats, a few octaves louder so she can hear him over the cacophony of people.
“Oh. So am I. But I really don’t want to be in this place any longer.”
Kai barks out a laugh of agreement, though Bonnie can’t hear it. His chest was bubbling with anxiety, and if he was prolonged to anymore human contact he might die. “We’re almost out. I think.”
They weren’t; another fifteen minutes pass and by the time they reach the doors and go outside, Kai’s skin is crawling and he feels a little nauseous.
Bonnie being Bonnie, she notices right away. She tentatively puts her free hand on his bicep and rubs it reassuringly, as a mother would to a crying child. “Hey, are you okay?”
He closes his eyes and inhales at the thought. “Yeah, yeah. I just have a tough time around crowds, is all. Let’s get the hell out of here, yeah?”
She nods, clear worry still etched onto her face. Bonnie wishes she wasn’t such an open book sometimes; it was in her nature to be concerned about all of her friends, and while most of them find that endearing, Kai on the other hand... Kai has expressed his distaste for that in the past.
On a Friday night in May of their freshman year, eight months or so after they first met, they all went to an end of the year party at the Whitmore House. It was thrown by Aaron Whitmore himself, whose parents were out of town, and pretty much the entire student body was there. The front lawn was filled, whereas the interior had people stuffed together like a can of sardines. Their group of friends had found a corner of the foyer, or living room, or den—whatever the fuck rich people called it—and made it their own. Caroline and Tyler were still together back then, snuggled up together on the loveseat, in their own little world. Klaus was keeping a respectable distance leaned up against the wall, arms crossed but still making eyes at Care every now and again. Stefan and Elena were sat next to each other on the couch, thighs touching and Stefan’s arm was draped across Elena’s shoulders. Kai was next to Klaus, not listening to a word anyone was saying and erratically tapping his fingers on his red solo cup, his eyes darting around the room. Matt was on his phone with a crooked smile on his face, distracted by whatever was on his screen. And Bonnie was sitting on Jeremy’s lap on one of the really comfortable reclining chairs. He had driven the few hours to surprise her and help take her mind off of the next few weeks, or so he claimed. (Now she knows he just wanted to party, and to see Vicki.) She was a little tipsy and swaying back and forth to the bumping music, despite it being muffled through the walls. Jeremy’s hands were on her hips, trying to hold her in place but failing.
They had been talking about final exams and what they were planning to do for the summer, the stuff that Bonnie was trying not to think about. It’s why she came to the party in the first place. “I can’t wait to go back home. I miss my parents.” Bonnie had heard Elena say. “Hey, what about you, Kai? You’ve been uncharacteristically quiet tonight.”
Everyone’s eyes, including Bonnie’s, fell on Kai now. His eyes widened once he realized that they were staring at him, waiting for him to respond. He took a quick sip of his drink for courage, shoving his other hand deep into one of his front jean pockets. “Um, I’m going back to Portland... I-I don’t know when though. I might stick around for a while.”
Bonnie frowned in confusion. This was a different side of Kai, he was flustered and nervous; she was so used to the snappy comments and the confidence that radiated from him. He looked so out of place and lost. “I’ve always wanted to visit Oregon. It looks so chill there, everyone’s a hippy, and like, didn’t they legalize weed there?” Caroline said, her words beginning to slur.
“Yeah, it’s just peachy,” Kai said. Klaus nudged him with his elbow.
A few more students began filing into the room now, filling it up more. Caroline squealed and dragged Tyler up with her to go dance or refill her drink. Bonnie didn’t miss how Kai retreated in, closing himself off with his arms and moving to the other side of the room, where Stefan and Elena were. The music got louder, presumably connecting to a speaker located somewhere in the other room. The conversation between their group started up again, Stefan talking about Italy or some shit, but Bonnie wasn’t listening. She was watching. Kai’s hands shook around his cup and sweat lined his brow, his eyes were closed and his head was against the wall. She noticed his chest was rising and falling slowly, like how it looks when you sleep. Even more people filed in; the room felt like a balloon swelling with air, and when someone bumped into Kai, it popped.
His eyes flew open in surprise as his drink got spilled all over his shirt, the unknown alcohol drenching him. Kai sees red.
“Hey, man, watch where you’re going.” It’s Aaron Whitmore.
“Me? You’re the one who bumped into me, you pretentious dickhead.” Bonnie saw Kai ball up his fist by his side. No one else has acknowledged what’s going on.
Aaron scoffed. “Do you know who you’re talking to?”
Kai wrinkled his nose, literally disgusted at how cliché this asshole is. He takes a step forward, his face inches from his. “Yes, you idiot. I’m talking to a pretentious dickhead.” He clenches his other fist, the one holding his plastic cup, and what little liquid was left in there has now been squeezed out.
Bonnie couldn’t see him, but she pictured Aaron smiling at him smugly before nodding once and punching Kai square in the nose. There was a collective gasp from the peanut gallery once they heard the blow land, and now everybody was paying attention. Bonnie went to stand, but Jeremy’s hands were still on her goddamn hips. She tried to wiggle free and whipped her head back to glare daggers at her boyfriend when she still couldn’t move. He just shook his head at her, his brown doe eyes silently telling her bad idea.
When she heard Kai laughing, she froze. The whole party, the whole goddamn world, seemed to stop. “What the fuck?” Aaron Whitmore questioned, starting to lower his raised fist.
“Oh, come on now, don’t be a pussy, Whitmore! Hit me again! Come on!” Kai was seething, his words slurred by the blood dripping into his mouth but still loaded with venom. He was still smiling, his teeth covered in crimson and looking like they belonged to a horror movie character. The gun is loaded, he just has to pull the trigger. “What? Daddy isn’t here to help you now so you’re too much of a little bitch to sack up? Poor little—” His words were punctuated by another blow to the face, this time on his right cheek, his malicious laughter filling the heavy silence again.
Klaus broke the fight up then, pushing Aaron away from Kai before he can knee him in the stomach. “A little bit of an unfair fight there, isn’t it mate?”
Jeremy said something to Bonnie, which brought her back to Earth. She craned her neck around so he can speak in her ear. “What?” He repeated himself, but once again Bonnie didn’t hear it because she caught Kai walking (more like sprinting) out of the room. “I-I’ll be right back.” She was finally able to free herself and practically shoved her drink at Jeremy, following Kai. She wasn’t able to see where he went, but she figured he went to the quietest area of the house which was the backyard. Bonnie slid the sliding door open to step outside, and sure enough, the outline of a man by the garden is captured by her searching eyes. The cool breeze of the late spring air hit her, instinctively crossing her arms for warmth. She walked down the porch steps and approached him slowly. If she was honest with herself she was a little afraid of Kai now, but that feeling quickly dissipated when she noticed his head in his hands. Bonnie had never seen him this defeated before.
Kai noticed there’s someone next to him, and brings his head up. “Klaus?” Bonnie’s heart dropped at the sight of him; a reddish-brown bruise was already blooming on his tear-stained cheeks and his eyes were swimming with tears she didn’t know he was capable of shedding. The bridge of his nose was purple and blood was still gushing from his nostrils. When he realized his mistake, he ran a harsh hand under his eyes and looked back down at his feet. “Oh, Jesus,” he mumbles.
She took a seat next to him on the bench that sat underneath a large tree, the coolness of the stone forming goosebumps on her bare legs. “I just wanted to make sure that you were okay.”
“Ah,” He sniffled and let out a dry chuckle that held absolutely no humor. “Yeah, I’m fine. Great, actually. Just got my ass kicked. On—” Kai abruptly stopped himself. “On a... a lovely Friday night.” He glanced up towards the dark cloudy sky, the moonlight shining through the cracks. He halfheartedly waved a hand around, then gave up and went back to holding his face.
Bonnie frowned. “From what I saw, you wanted to get your ass kicked.”
“Well, you saw correctly, then.”
“Look, Bonnie, I really don’t need your fucking judgment.” He snapped.
Bonnie couldn’t help but flinch at his tone. “I-I’m not judging, I just want to help.”
Kai met her eyes, his elbows still balancing on the tips of his knees. “You can’t help me, Bonnie, there is no helping me. I’m beyond helping. I don’t deserve to be helped. I deserve to get my ass kicked, and that’s what I got.” He said coldly.
“That’s not true, Kai, you—”
“You don’t know shit about me, Bonnie, okay? All I am to you and your friends is the new kid from Portland who slithered his way into the friend group. That’s all I am and that’s all I ever will be. That’s all I want to be, so I would appreciate it if from here on out you guys didn’t treat me like the freak who begged to get his ass beat.” The longer he spoke, the more and more his words became thick and strained.
She stood to leave, and she got about halfway back to the porch, when, “You know what? No. No.” Bonnie stamped back over to Kai, a manicured nail pointing furiously at him. He opened his mouth to speak, but she beat him to it. “I was going to roll over and let you be, since you’re clearly going through something, but that’s not the right thing to do. You need someone. You need a friend, and goddammit Kai Parker, you are my friend. No matter how fucked up you may be or how much you think that you don’t want it. And you do deserve help. You deserve love, not a punch in the face.”
“Wow. I can’t believe I’m stuck with all seven of you just because Klaus wants to fuck Caroline.”
Bonnie exhaled, shrinking back down to her normal, calm self. She was expecting a fight. She then tried to—and failed immediately—hide her smile. “Yeah. You’re damn right.”
For the first time all night, Kai had genuinely smiled.
Ever since that night, Bonnie knew that Kai was different. She had known the second she met him he was, but he was really different. He was unlike anyone she had ever known, and she loved that. She always loved a challenge, and that’s exactly what Kai was.
They rent a car from the rental place that is located conveniently across the street from the airport and are now in the parking lot of the closest McDonald’s. “Is the trunk unlocked?” Bonnie asks, unbuckling her seatbelt.
Kai presses the button to do so, exiting the car with her. “It is now. What do you need?”
“Clothes.” She says, like that answered his question and rummaging through their luggage.
She grabs her carry-on backpack and slams the trunk shut. “I am not meeting your family in this outfit. I look awful.”
Kai takes another look at her. Her hair is disheveled from the plane and her clothes are wrinkly, but her face. He almost never sees her like this; without a trace of makeup, her skin literally glowing in the sunlight, showing off the light dusting of freckles on her cheekbones. She’s beautiful. “Yeah, you do.”
She slaps him on the arm and they go inside. It’s mostly empty, since it’s nearly four in the afternoon, with the exception of a few patrons. A dead-looking teen with a septum piercing takes their order; Kai orders twenty McNuggets with a large fry and drink and Bonnie orders a Big Mac with a medium fry and drink. The cashier is chewing bubblegum, which Kai thinks is a health code violation, and she punches in their order and hands them their cups. He hands over his debit card, they fill up their drinks and sit down in a booth by a window.
“Twenty chicken McNuggets?” Bonnie asks as she stabs her iced tea with a straw.
“Yeah! I haven’t eaten in like, an entire day. And neither have you.”
“I don’t care about that part. I care about the fact that you’re a twenty-one-year-old grown man still eating chicken nuggets.” She tips her drink at him accusingly.
Kai sticks his nose up at her. “I'll have you know: chicken nuggs have no age limit, thank you very much.” The cashier calls their order number and he stands up, sauntering away dramatically to get their food.
They eat in silence for the most part, except for when Kai starts dipping his nuggets in any and all the sauces. Bonnie makes a face at him and says, “You’re disgusting.”
He makes a face back, dipping a nugget in ranch and making a show of biting into it, making light moaning noises. Her face grows more and more repulsed as he goes on. Once they’re finished eating, Bonnie throws out her trash and excuses herself to the bathroom to get changed. Kai tells her he’ll be outside and takes this time to check his phone.
First, he texts Jo.
Text me when you land
Text me. Please
hiya sis! sorry for the late response. we’re not dead! just didn’t have time to text u in the airport. we’ll be there in like an hour, see u soon
He skips the fifty messages from the group chat and goes to his private messages with Klaus.
Call me when you land.
are u still up?
His phone ringing half a second later answers his question.
“Hello?” Kai answers.
“Look, mate, I’m gonna cut to the chase. Is Bonnie around right now?”
Kai looks around, despite already knowing she isn’t. “No...”
“Excellent. Caroline is sleeping, by the way, so it’s just us. Let’s have a talk, shall we?” Klaus doesn’t wait for a response. “I have dealt with you moping around for four years over Bonnie. Now, I haven’t said anything because I’m a good friend and an even better boyfriend, but Caroline and I agreed that we’re over it. If you and Bonnie don’t get your shit together over this trip, I’m going to rip your throat out with my teeth.”
“Klaus, I—” He stops, running a hand through his hair and tugging at it angrily.
“It’s not that simple.”
“You guys are already fake dating! How bloody hard can it be? Hi, Bonnie, I’ve been in love with you since the second I met you. We’re already halfway there, let’s just finish it and have sex finally!” Klaus whisper-yells, impersonating him with an American accent.
Kai clenches his teeth. “You know why, Klaus.”
The other man sighs heavily, the noise crackling on the line. “Yeah. I do. And I understand. You know that I understand. All I’m saying is Bonnie probably will, too.” Klaus resists the biting urge to scream.
Kai scoffs. “So, what, I just lay it all out there on the line? Just like that?” He already had this conversation once today.
“Yes. I’m not saying it’s easy, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. But that means nothing once you’ve finally got the girl.” Klaus glances at Caroline sleeping peacefully in bed and smiles.
“Jesus Christ, okay. I’ll think about it,” he mumbles, rubbing his forehead. He sees Bonnie walking through the restaurant through the glass windows, walking towards the doors. “Alright, I’ve gotta go. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Bye, mate. Tell Bonnie I say hi, and good luck to both of you.” Kai suspects he isn’t talking about their plan but hangs up without saying anything else.
He pockets his phone and gives Bonnie his full attention. Her hair was down now, she applied a light layer of makeup and put on a cream-colored top and a pair of acid-washed jeans with... “Is that my flannel?”
She beams at him, walking over to the passenger side victoriously. “I may have stolen a few articles of clothing from you yesterday when we were packing.”
“A few? Oh my God.” He inserts the key into the ignition and twists it, starting the engine, ignoring how it felt to know Bonnie was wearing his shirt.
“Who was on the phone?”
“Klaus. He just wanted to check-in. He says hi and good luck.” He fiddles around with the car, turning on the Bluetooth and connecting it to his phone. He can feel Bonnie’s eyes on him, so he explains himself. “Made us a road trip playlist. It’s exactly one hour long and yes, it’s essential.”
“And before you complain, there are songs on here that we both like, okay? Not just my... edgy shit.” He gesticulates with one hand as he scrolls through his phone, pulling up the playlist and pressing play. The first song that comes on is All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey.
“Oh, God!” Bonnie repeats, laughing through her words as the song begins.
“See! Songs we both like!”
Bonnie learns quickly that every other song is a Christmas song, and the ones in between are songs he or she likes. They only get through three and a half songs before Bonnie takes control over his phone, skipping through a bunch until she finds one she likes. To her credit, she lasted a lot longer than Kai first anticipated. She turns down the volume.
Kai raises his eyebrow at her with a quick glance before turning his eyes back onto the road. “What?”
“When was your last date?”
“I don’t go on dates.”
“Okay, when was your last booty call?”
“I don’t...” He trails off with a sigh. “You make it sound so bad. I am a man, and I have needs, the itch gets scratched, et cetera.”
“I’m not saying it’s bad, I was just curious.” She shrugs a shoulder, staring out her window.
“Uh... three weeks ago or so.” He answers.
He chuckles. “Yeah, why do you sound so surprised?”
“I dunno. I figured you got laid all the time.”
“You figured wrong.” He hesitates, his thumbs tapping against the steering wheel to the beat of the song. “What about you?”
“What about me?”
“Oh, so you can ask me but I can’t ask you?”
“I... Fine. Thanksgiving.”
“Thanksgiv—You hooked up with someone?” Kai ignored the pang of jealousy that hit his heart.
“Unfortunately. It was a stupid fucking mistake.” She replied bitterly.
“Bon...” He turned his head to look at her. “Please tell me you didn’t.”
“I don’t want to assume, because that’s rude, but please tell me you didn’t.” The jealousy quickly becomes replaced with anger.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Bonnie, please tell me you didn’t hook up with Jeremy Gilbert over Thanksgiving break.” He clenches the steering wheel so tight his knuckles turn white.
“It was a stupid fucking mistake.” Kai just sighed angrily and stared out the windshield hard enough that it could shatter. “Hey, fuck you, okay? I don’t have to explain myself to you. You fuck anything that moves. And you have no right to be jealous.”
“I’m not jealous, Bon, I care about you! Jeremy Gilbert is a cheating asshole that doesn’t deserve you. I just... don’t want to see you get hurt by him again.” At least it’s not completely a lie.
She sighs heavily. “I know. I was just sad about my mom and he comforted me and we started talking and one thing led to another. I woke up the next morning and realized what happened and felt like shit. I don’t know how I could be that stupid.”
“I’m sorry,” He offers. After a hefty inhale, he breathes out, “I guess it’s only fair that I tell you I slept with Katherine.”
“We help each other out from time to time.”
“How long has this been going on?”
Kai scratches at his chin lazily. “Since we first met, so two years.”
The realization dawns on her, and she looks utterly horrified. “At Jeremy’s graduation party?”
Kai feels weirdly embarrassed, so he only nods.
“Oh my God, I think I’m gonna be sick.”
“You’re so dramatic. Her and Elena are only half-sisters.”
“They look so similar! You basically had sex my best friend! No, I’m sorry, you do it all the time, apparently!”
Kai can’t help but laugh at her. “Where was this energy when she and Damon went out?”
She completely froze and pursed her lips. Gotcha. “That’s different and you know it.”
“Hmm... maybe I just want to hear you say it.”
Bonnie stares out her window, watching the what seemed like thousands of pine trees fly by. “Damon is like a brother to me. While I wouldn’t be too thrilled my brother was dating my best friend’s doppelganger, it’s not as bad as...” Kai doesn’t miss the hesitation or strain that thickens on her vocal cords as she continues. His eyes slide over to see her, but she’s still facing the window. “My other best friend dating her.”
His heart involuntarily skips a beat, and a wide grin spreads across his lips. Thinking of her that way was one thing, hearing Damon say it was another, but Bonnie’s confirmation meant everything. Before he can put the brakes on his emotions, the words spill out of his mouth. “Best friend?” His voice is so gentle, so filled with awe like a child, so surprised.
She finally meets his gaze. “Yes, Kai. Of course.”
His eyes return to the road. A blush tints his cheeks, but Bonnie doesn’t notice. “You’re my best friend too, Bon. And, just so we’re clear, we never dated and we never will. It’s nothing more than just casual, fun sex. But... I can stop, if it grosses you out too much. I should have thought about it more before we, y’know.” He knows its a loaded question, one that has more meaning than the initial way he worded it. I can stop if you don’t want me sleeping with anyone because it hurts you more than you’d care to admit.
Bonnie doesn’t hesitate. “Yes, please. If you can keep it in your pants, that is.”
Kai wholeheartedly laughs, the sweet sound filling up the confines of the small car and he reaches out to turn up the volume on the radio, the conversation clearly over.
They arrive at Kai’s childhood home forty minutes later, pulling up the long stretch of dirt road that acted as the Parker family’s driveway, the car finally resting behind two others. One a white minivan, the other a newer model of SUV that belonged to Jo. Kai parked the car, pulls the key out of the ignition and turns in his seat to look at Bonnie. “Well, here we are.” He pops the trunk and unbuckles his seat belt, swiftly exiting the car. He starts grabbing the luggage from the back, and she doesn’t join him until a full minute passes. She grabs the bags Kai couldn’t and shuts the trunk, inhaling and exhaling deeply. She looks nervous. “Ready to be the most disgusting couple in history?” He offers her his free hand.
Bonnie takes it, squeezing it tightly. “Ready.”