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They begin walking up the dirt driveway, their hands still intertwined. The trees around them are bare, the dead leaves that fell off of them crunching below their feet. Kai notices the dilapidated lamp posts that still remain at the end of the road, and the pile of bricks at the bottom of the posts, clearly long forgotten about. He bites his tongue and continues walking. 

When his childhood home fully comes into view, Bonnie breathes out, “Wow.”

Toys were littered throughout the front yard despite it being winter, and Kai nearly trips over one of his sibling’s bicycles. He lets out a string of curses, and then, “Welcome to Portland, Oregon. Stomping grounds of Courtney Love, Tonya Harding, and tons of other awesome people. Most importantly: me.” He pulls a little on her arm to get her to follow him up the stairs. “This everything you were picturing?” 

Bonnie scoffs as she climbs the steps of the front porch. “No. I didn’t know rich people lived in the middle of nowhere.”

“I’m not rich. It’s just that being a doctor kind of runs in the family.” He replies.

“Sure, Kai. Any way you slice it, you’re rich. This is practically a mansion.”

Kai narrows his eyes as he notices the way she gripped his hand a little tighter and began chewing on her bottom lip. “When you have to divide the money between eight kids, it evens out. I wear cargo shorts, Bon, I’m not rich.”

“That’s just your poor sense of style. Look, can we just...”

“Get this over with?” She snaps her head over to him, clearly having the words taken right out of her mouth. Kai grins. “Yeah. Couldn’t agree more.”

He inhales, turning the doorknob slowly. The hinges squeak as the door opens, and as soon as Kai shuts it, the pitter-patter of feet thumping down the stairs fills their ears. “Kai!”

Kai lets go of Bonnie’s hand and his luggage to catch Liv, who ran and immediately jumped into his arms. He squeezes her tiny body tightly and feels Luke wrap around his knees. He laughs wholeheartedly, his entire being feeling warm as he clings onto his youngest siblings. Kai shifts Liv onto his right hip and leans down to ruffle Luke’s hair, who releases his grip on his leg. Four of his other siblings—Leah, Joey, Ethan, and Sophie—were still on the stairs with grins plastered on each of their faces. Jo appears at the end of the hallway, coming out of the door that leads to the kitchen and leaning up against the doorframe with an endearing smile. 

“Alright, alright, alright. There’s seven of you and one of her, so let’s do this as civilized as possible.” Kai gestures to the toddler that’s currently on his hip, and then to the one near his legs, and then to Bonnie (who looks bewildered, to say the least.) “Liv, Luke, this is my girlfriend, Bonnie. Bonnie, these are the twins, Liv and Luke.” He pointedly ignores how his mouth goes dry at the ‘G’ word. 

Bonnie waves, albeit a little awkwardly, at the children and smiles softly at them. “Hi! Nice to meet you two.” 

Liv hugs Kai a little tighter, and Luke hides behind his legs, which earns a laugh from Kai. “Luke is a little shy.” He turns his attention towards the smallest sibling on the stairs and makes a motion with his hand to come towards them. He obeys, smiling at Bonnie and revealing that he’s missing his two front teeth. “Bonnie, this is Ethan. Ethan, Bonnie.” 

“Hi, I’m seven.” He proceeds to stick up seven tiny fingers and wiggling them at Bonnie, which only makes her giggle.

“Is that so? I’m twenty-one. I turn twenty-two in February.” She shows him two digits on each hand.

“You’re old.” Ethan turns and skips down the hallway, disappearing from view.

Kai rolls his eyes and then gestures for another sibling to come forward. It’s the other boy, who has a pair of glasses sat low on his nose and the same devilish look that Kai usually has in his eyes. “Bonnie, Joey. Joey, Bonnie.” 

Joey shakes Bonnie’s hand firmly and smiles, showing off his braces. “Pleasure is all mine.” He pretends to hide his mouth from Kai and then whispers loudly. “I’m his favorite y’know, and if you ever want to dump his ass, I’m single.” Joey winks at her.

Kai swiftly kicks him right in the shin, only making his brother laugh. Without being told, the younger girl out of the two comes down the stairs next. “I’m Sophie.” She smiles brightly at Bonnie.

“Hi, I’m Bonnie. Nice to meet you.”

They shake hands, and then his sister mouths at him, She’s pretty, to which he replies, I know right? Bonnie (obviously) notices and tries to hide her blush.

Sophie goes back upstairs, and the final Parker sibling comes down to meet Bonnie. “I’m Leah.” She’s chubby, a pair of square glasses on her face and she has long brown hair that cascades down her entire back. Bonnie can tell right away that she likes her. 

“Hi, Leah. I’m Bonnie.” She smiles warmly at her. 

“It’s nice to meet you. I’ve, uh, heard a lot about you. Jo’s really excited to meet you.” Leah holds herself kind of awkwardly and is clearly nervous. 

“Aw, are you serious?” Kai complains. Leah smiles and walks back upstairs.

At the use of her name, Jo walks down the hallway. “What can I say? It’s all I’ve been looking forward to for the past month.” She turns her head away to yell. “Ric, honey, can you come out here?” 

“Hey, why don’t you guys go play. I’ll see you in a bit after I get settled, yeah?” Kai sets down Liv and she and Luke run off. “Well, sis, here she is. Can you get off my case now?”

“Jeez, Kai. Thanks for the warm welcome.” Bonnie drawls.

Jo barks out a laugh and extends her hand. “I think you and I are gonna get along just fine. I’m Jo, Kai’s twin, but hopefully you already knew that.”

“Oh, yeah. I’ve heard a lot about you.” Bonnie shakes her hand firmly.

“All good things, right?”

“No. Terrible, awful, horrible things.” Kai says.

Alaric appears at Jo’s side, a glass of bourbon in his hand as usual. Ignoring Kai’s comment, Jo says, “This is my boyfriend, Alaric.”

Bonnie shakes yet another hand and puts on yet another smile. Oh God, I still have to meet his dad, her brain not-so-kindly reminds her. “Hi, nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too, Bonnie.”

A devastatingly uncomfortable silence lasts for a few moments and then Kai says, “Okay. Well. We’re gonna go get settled in my room, and I’m going to shower because I smell like an airplane, and then I’ll introduce you to Dad, ‘kay? ‘Kay.”

Kai grabs Bonnie’s hand and picks up his luggage, then swiftly leads her to a door near the kitchen. He opens it, revealing a set of stairs. Bonnie tilts her head, a smile growing on her face. “Seriously?” Kai flicks on a light on the wall beside them.

“Not a word.” They walk down the wooden stairs, their suitcases clanging behind them and Bonnie chortling. “It’s a big house, okay? I don’t see what’s so funny.”

“Okay, okay. Fine. It’s definitely not funny.”

“Uh-huh.” They reach the bottom of the stairs, which only leads to a big, open area; to their left, a door. Straight ahead are washer and dryer machines and other miscellaneous storage items in cardboard boxes. Kai opens the door and dramatically presents Bonnie with his teenage bedroom. 

“Oh. Oh wow.” She pauses in the doorway as Kai throws his suitcases onto his bed and sits down on the edge, already beginning to unpack.

“What?” 

“It’s just very... you.” 

The first thing she notices is the walls: they’re painted a dark navy blue, and covered in posters. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, the list goes on. He has a bookcase tucked in the far right corner of his room, all six shelves filled with novels and comic books. She spots a few of the cute action figures she got him for his birthday and Christmas also on the shelves. He has a desk in the left corner. It’s mostly empty except for a picture frame of him, Jo, and a woman she can only assume is his mother. There’s also a record player collecting dust, the box of vinyl records on the other side of the room near his entertainment stand. 

Bonnie can’t help herself. She walks towards the desk and picks up the picture. “Is this...?”

He answers instantly. “Yeah.”

With her index finger, she traces the lines of his mother’s face; they have the same nose, jaw, and most notably, “You have her eyes.”

Kai ducks his head down, gluing his eyes to his hands which are currently picking at his nails harshly. The ghost of a smile traces his lips. “Yeah?”

She nods, setting the picture back down in its rightful place. Bonnie sits down next to him, the queen size bed shifting with both of their weights. “So, this is my bed, huh?”

In record time, Kai’s head snaps up to glare at her with those piercing blue eyes. “You were serious about that?”

Bonnie scowls, glaring right back at him. “Yes. I am not sleeping next to you.” She lowers her tone so no one hears them upstairs, all while jutting her index finger at him to accentuate her point. 

“Why not?” He whines. “I don’t want to sleep on the floor.” 

“It’s in the contract, Kai, and you signed the damn contract.”

He rolls his eyes. “We’ll discuss it later, honey. I need to shower.”

He stands with his bag of toiletries in hand and is already halfway to his bathroom door before she gets a word out. Bonnie begins following Kai, stamping her feet across the hardwood floors. “There’s nothing to discuss! You signed—”

She’s cut off by the sharp sound of the door slamming in her face. She reaches for the handle but is met with the sounds of a lock engaging and then the shower running. With a groan of defeat, Bonnie begins unpacking her clothes, but stops once she realizes that she doesn’t actually know where to store any of her belongings. There is a dresser in his room next to his bed: the one thing in the room she didn’t notice. Bonnie walks over to it to see if there’s anything in it, her fingers already on the knobs of the top drawer, when her eyes land on a lonely jewelry box atop the wooden dresser. She freezes, seemingly in a trance by the one thing she didn’t expect to be in Kai Parker’s room. Much like she did with the picture frame, her brain goes on autopilot and she finds her hands reaching out towards the jewelry box. She pulls it closer to her. It’s covered in dust, the intricate carvings in the wood nearly invisible to the naked eye. Bonnie’s fingers trace them, leaving clean streaks behind on the dark wood and dust covering her digits. She notices that there is a lock on the box, and this is when she hesitates. Her brows knit together as the gears turn in her head and they spew out decision after decision, question after question.

Bonnie’s curiosity gets the better of her and she lifts open the box.

She’s met with her own reflection, as there is a mirror on the top portion of it. The contents of the box aren’t really out of the ordinary - earrings, a few rings, bracelets, some necklaces, and a locket. One thing that catches her eye is a silver chain with a key attached to it. She’s seen this before, seen it wrapped around Kai’s neck and she always joked about what the key went to. Now she just feels a knot in her stomach as she held it in her hand; her Grams would probably tell her there was a lot of energy attached to it. Bad energy. Bonnie puts the necklace back in its spot, her fingers lingering on some of the rings. A lot of them are clearly not female rings—they’re bulky, thick silver and gold bands that remind her of the class ring she got when she graduated high school, only not as ugly. These must also be Kai’s, or maybe his father’s? She then notices a little compartment, like its own mini drawer, and pulls it open. There are only three rings in there; two wedding bands and an engagement ring. Bonnie’s heart sinks. Without thinking, she picks up the engagement ring and takes a good look at it. She was so mesmerized by the sheer size of the diamond on the ring, that she doesn’t hear the shower turn off or the bathroom door open behind her.

She hears it slam shut, though. She jumps and a chill involuntarily runs down her spine.

“Bonnie.” Kai’s tone is low. Dark.

She slowly turns around, her thumb and index finger still clutching the ring. “I-I’m...”

He’s shirtless with a towel tied around his hips, water droplets still running down his bare chest and he’s clean-shaven; two things that catch her off guard immediately. But more so, the fact that he is furious makes her flinch. One look at him and she knew she was fucked. 

He clenches his jaw and his nostrils flare as he inhales deeply. “What are you doing?

“I was unpacking, and I went to see if your drawers were empty and I-I got, er, distracted.”

Kai’s eyes drift down to the ring she’s holding, and if Bonnie thought he was furious before, it was nothing compared to the fire that ignited in his eyes. He clenches his fists, squeezes a few times, and unclenches. “I... am going to pretend that you aren’t touching my mother’s ring right now. I am going to grab some clothes, get dressed, and then we are going to go upstairs and introduce you to my father.” 

He swiftly grabs his entire suitcase and goes back into the bathroom, all while Bonnie is stunned into silence. Once the door shuts behind him, she swallows thickly and places the ring back in the exact spot she found it, shutting both the compartment and the jewelry box itself. To say that she feels terrible is an understatement. She sits on the bed with her head in her hands.

When Kai returns a moment later, Bonnie says, “I am so, so sorry.” Her words are a bit muffled because she can’t bring herself to look at him.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She lifts her head, a bit shocked at his crass attitude. “I know you said that you were going to pretend to forget about it, but seriously? I just wanted to apologize.”

His calm demeanor breaks a little and she can see the anger slipping out through the cracks. Kai purses his lips. “That wasn’t cool, Bonnie. That was fucked up, on so many levels that I’m not comfortable getting into right now.”

“I know it was and that’s why I’m trying to apologize!” Her voice can’t help but raise.

“I—” He pauses to regain his composure. “I know. I’m sorry, too. I just... I can’t do this right now. We are about to go meet my father and that is enough on my plate. We can talk after, okay?” The way he says the word ‘father’ alone is enough to make Bonnie shiver. 

She hesitates. “Wh-What’s up with your father?”

Kai bites the inside of his cheek hard enough to draw blood. “We... don’t get along. I’m not sure how he’ll be around you, or for these next few weeks in general, but I suppose we’ll find out.”

Bonnie has a million questions swirling through her head, though she only nods in response. 

The two walk back upstairs wordlessly, the tension in the air thick enough to cut with a knife. Kai is still radiating pure anger, whereas Bonnie is just a bundle of nerves. She was reasonably worried about his dad before, but now knowing that the two have a tarnished relationship? She was sure the pent up anxiety and nervousness were seeping out of her pores. 

When they reach the first floor, Jo is waiting for them on the other staircase like Kai’s other siblings were earlier. Her eyes are glued to her phone. He restrains a sigh at the sight of her. 

“Hey! You guys all settled in?” Jo asks, standing and putting her phone into one of her jean’s pockets. 

“Yup.” Kai says, clearly disinterested.

Jo’s eyes flick over to Bonnie, then back at her brother. “So, how does pizza sound for dinner?”

“Jo.”

“...Yeah?”

“Spit it out.”

She licks her lips and then purses them. “I just wanted to warn you about dad,” her voice is low as if she’s afraid someone will hear her. “He’s... drinking.”

Kai closes his eyes and runs a hand over his face in distress. “Of-fucking-course he is,” he continues walking down the hallway. “And pizza is fine, by the way. Just make sure you get the best flavor in the world!” He whips his head around and winks at Jo before disappearing behind the kitchen door. 

Bonnie follows, chuckling and shaking her head at her best friend. “Still can’t believe you love pineapple pizza. It’s a crime against humanity.”

“It’s delicious, is what it is.” He glances into the living room to search for his dad but only sees Liv, Luke, and Ethan watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on the couch. They don’t even notice them in the doorway, their eyes glued to the television. When Kai leaves the room, Bonnie lags behind. She’s taking note of the Christmas decorations, or rather the lack thereof. There are stockings lined across the fireplace’s mantle, with a string of white lights to accompany them, and already a few wrapped presents on a small table. No Christmas tree. 

She feels a tug on her pant leg. She looks down, seeing a familiar pair of blue eyes staring back up at her. “Did’ya see your stocking?” Liv asks. 

Bonnie frowns at the little girl. “No...?”

Liv grins, showing her baby teeth, and latches onto one of Bonnie’s fingers to lead her. Sure enough, hanging on a hook right next to Kai’s is a poorly decorated stocking that reads Bonnie. Her name is written in neat cursive, every other letter alternating between red and green. She guesses they used glitter glue, considering how much it sparkles. The base, however, is just a green triangle with a yellow blob at the tip of it, with colorful circles and black lines in the center. There are also squares at the bottom of it, which she can only assume are meant to be gifts. A giggle can’t help but escape her mouth. 

“Do ya like it? I made yours!” Liv exclaims, bouncing on the balls of her feet as she speaks. 

“I made Ric’s!” Luke yells from the couch. Bonnie looks at the stocking and a hand instinctively flew to her mouth to restrict a guffaw from coming out. Luke tried drawing Santa and reindeer, but it’s just a mess. 

“It was my idea,” Jo says from behind her. “I hope it doesn’t... weird you out or make you uncomfortable.” 

Bonnie turns, a smile still on her lips. Kai is next to Jo with an unreadable expression etched on his face and his sister is blushing, a hand nervously scratching her neck. “No! No... it’s perfectly fine.” She looks at Liv. “I love it.”

Liv beams, clearly happy with the results and goes back to sitting on the couch with her brothers. Bonnie walks back over to the older set of twins. “I’m glad that you like it,” Jo says sheepishly, the red tint not leaving her cheeks. “I didn’t realize until now how weird that could have been. You know, some people could have seen that as like a commitment thing and been totally freaked out, but Liv and Luke were just bored one day so I had them decorate stockings. But it’s fine since you and Ric both liked it so it’s fine. I’m totally rambling. I’ll shut up forever now.” She screws her eyes shut in embarrassment.

Wow, Jo is really cute, Bonnie’s brain supplies her. Her eyes slide over to Kai, who somehow looks equally if not more embarrassed. Too bad I only have eyes for one Parker. 

“Yeah, good thing that wasn’t a total disaster, huh, Josette?” 

Jo elbows her brother in his rib cage. “I ordered your nasty ass pizza by the way, you dick.” She grumbles and leaves them in the hallway.

Kai breathes out a laugh. “I apologize on behalf of my sister.” They make their way towards the kitchen. 

“Nah, she’s okay,” a cheeky grin develops on her lips. “She’s really cute. Too bad she’s with Ric.” She says, echoing her previous thoughts. 

Kai completely stops walking, his eyebrows raised and eyes widened. He closes them, puts a hand up. Inhales, exhales. It’s like he’s going through the five stages of grief right before her eyes. “I don’t even know what to say to that. Congratulations. You finally shut me up.” 

Bonnie laughs. They resume their walk, finally reaching the kitchen. She stands in front of Kai so he can’t get through. A delicate hand reaches up to touch his cheek. His skin is soft from his shaving cream; she can’t remember the last time she saw him without his sorry excuse for a beard. She likes it. She locks eyes with him.

Kai stops breathing.

Bonnie whispers, “I’m not single either though, am I?” She pats his cheek and takes away her hand, purposely dragging her nails along the smooth skin as she does so. It leaves him feeling red hot, his brain short-circuiting and his mouth involuntarily being left agape. Her eyes never leave his as she enters the doorway into the kitchen until she physically can’t look at him anymore. 

Kai needs a minute though. His heart is hammering away in his chest. How one tiny act, a sentence that hardly means anything but also everything at once, and a fucking cheek touch can leave him so turned on is an absolute mystery. Maybe she only did it to get his mind off of everything. God, he needs to get this shit under control before they sleep in the same room together, possibly in the same bed. Is he a teenager again?

He touches his cheek tenderly, then decides to go after Bonnie. Leah is in the kitchen, rinsing something out in the sink, and Bonnie is hunched over with her back to him doing... something. As he steps closer he sees that she’s petting a cat. “Kai Parker, why didn’t you tell me there was a cat here?” 

Kai scowls. He hates cats. He tells her exactly that. “Because I hate cats, and I didn’t think it was important. He’s Leah’s, anyways.” 

Bonnie turns her head to scowl right back at him. “Whatever you say, dog person.” Her tone of voice suggests that is somehow the worst thing in the world. She resumes petting the cat under his chin. “What’s this little guy’s name?” 

“Salem,” Leah pipes up. She’s facing them, her arms crossed over her chest and leaning against the sink. She appears and sounds confident, but once Bonnie and Kai turn their undivided attention to her she shrivels up. “You know, like the cat from Sabrina the Teenage Witch. ‘Cause they’re both black cats.” 

Bonnie nods furiously in understanding. “That’s so cute!” She gives Salem a few more ear rubs and then stands, brushing off the stray black hair that landed on her clothes. 

Leah smiles brightly. “Leah really likes stuff like that. Supernatural and the paranormal and such,” Kai cups a hand around his mouth and whispers loudly, “She even has a Ouija board. A real cliché, if you ask me.” Leah goes red and glares daggers at her brother.

Bonnie is completely unfazed, though. “Oh! Same here. Actually, my Grams tells me that I have ancestors that were from Salem. The-The town. Not your cat.” She clarifies. 

Leah laughs, her nervousness dissolving a bit. “That’s so cool. Were they escaping the witch trials?” 

Bonnie shrugs. “That’s what my Grams says, and she told me that I was a witch, but she was drunk. Maybe I am. It would explain why I can always tell whenever your brother is about to do something stupid.”

Kai makes a face at her. “This has been super fun and all but I think we’re gonna go talk to dad now. Do you know where he is?”

Leah rolls her eyes but juts a thumb behind her to where a window sits above the sink. “He went outside.”

He nods in response. “Thanks.” 

“Yup. Good luck.” 

Bonnie smiles politely to Leah as she and Kai exit the kitchen by using a door in the room. It leads to a patio area outside, where there is an inground pool installed. Bonnie doesn’t hold back her eye roll.

“I am not rich,” He mutters.

“Your pool says otherwise.” To their left is a dining area, with a large glass table and a lot of chairs. There’s also a bench, and that’s where Bonnie notices a middle-aged man with grey hair sitting. It’s completely dark out by now, but his hair makes him stick out like a sore thumb. His back is to them, a bottle of whiskey on the table in front of him. He holds a glass in his hand. Bonnie grips Kai’s arm. “You ready?”

He nods, silently preparing himself for what is about to come. She doesn’t let go of his arm, instead interlocking hers with his elbow. She holds her arm with her right hand, hugging herself for warmth. She wishes she brought a jacket, now that the sun has fully gone down and it’s cold outside. 

The pair closed the distance between them and the other man. “Dad?”

Joshua Parker is staring blankly ahead of him, barely even registering the sound of his eldest son’s voice. He takes a sip from his drink, then finally turns his head to look at them. His eyes are glassy and distant, his mind clearly somewhere else right now. “Kai,” He smiles tightly like it’s forced. “You’re finally here.”

“That I am. There’s, uh, someone I’d like you to meet.” Kai says awkwardly.

Joshua blinks. This is when it clicks in his brain that there is another person here, someone other than just him and his son. He automatically sits up straighter, setting down his glass on the table. “Oh! Hello, I’m Joshua Parker.” He extends a hand.

Bonnie untangles herself from Kai, taking his hand and shaking it. “I’m Bonnie Bennett.” She smiles brightly. 

Kai immediately grabs her arm and pulls her back to him the second he can. Maybe she can keep me anchored, he thinks. Stop me from ripping my dear old dad’s head off.

“It’s very nice to meet you.” His words are getting to the point where they’re starting to slur. Kai wonders how long he’s been out here. “Jo told me you were coming but I thought she was just pulling on my leg.” 

Kai’s face scrunches up in annoyance. “Well, she wasn’t.”

It grows eerily quiet for a moment. Joshua downs the rest of the whiskey, the ice clinking around in the glass. He hums, narrowing his eyes at his son. Then they slide over to Bonnie. “Your first girlfriend. If only your mom was here to see this; she always was better at this stuff than I was.”

The tone of his voice has an edge, one that Kai has grown used to over the years but still cuts him every time nonetheless. To Bonnie, it sounds normal. Perhaps even reminiscent. Kai used to be that naive too, but now he knows better. It’s blame. Resentment. 

Kai’s stare bores holes into his father’s skull. He only reaches for his bottle of alcohol, pouring himself another glass of the caramel-colored drink. Kai’s left fist clenches at his side, his nails digging into his palm. 

Bonnie’s grip on him tightens. “It was lovely meeting you, Mr. Parker, but Jo did mention something about pizza and we are just so exhausted from our flight.”

He smiles politely at her. “Please, call me Joshua. I’ll be inside soon.” He moves his head to look back out into the empty yard, into the darkness. 

They go back inside and are greeted by Jo who is in the kitchen getting paper plates and napkins. “Just in time! Pizza is out in the living room.”

When Jo is out of earshot, Bonnie turns to Kai. His nostrils are flaring and his fist is still balled up. “Are you okay?” She asks softly.

“As okay as I can be. I’ll cool down in a bit.” She leans down and grabs his fist with both of her hands, taking his fingers and loosening them back into a palm for him. She holds it for a second, the anger leaving him almost instantly. “Hey, thank you.” Kai whispers, unable to meet her eyes. He looks at their hands instead.

“Of course.” She smiles at him fondly, squeezing him.

Bonnie lets go, and he clears his throat. “All right then. Pizza time.”


About two and a half hours later, all four large boxes of pizza that Jo purchased are almost completely gone. Leah was the first one to disappear upstairs, leaving the second she finished eating. Joey was next; he got bored was the topic of discussion switched to more adult things, like college, work, and bills. 

The younger kids paid no attention to them, playing with each other and watching cartoons on the television. It was getting late, though, so Jo took them upstairs five minutes ago to get ready for bed. 

So that left only Kai, Bonnie, and Alaric in the living room. Bonnie and Kai were sitting on the loveseat, purposely too close to each other, with Alaric opposite of them on the couch. She and he were talking about occult studies, and how interesting and underrated the subject was, making Kai more bored by the second. His foot was resting on the coffee table in front of him, bouncing erratically.

“I’m gonna clean up a bit.” He stands abruptly, gathering the empty pizza boxes and dirty dishes on the table. Bonnie and Alaric don’t mind, their conversation not even being interrupted by him. 

Kai leaves the room, taking the garbage with him into the kitchen. He takes his time putting the dishes in the sink, not actually bothering to wash them, and taking care of the leftover food. There are five slices left of pepperoni, and he begins wrapping it up to put in the refrigerator. He takes solace in this brief moment of alone time, even if it is cleaning; he’s been on edge all night, if not because of his dad then because of Jo. Kai’s been waiting for her to bring up him and Bonnie, dreading it. But she hasn’t. They’ve talked about absolutely everything, everything but their relationship. It’s making him feel very anxious, the nerves welling up in his chest like a weight that is crushing him.

The sound of a door trying to be opened shakes him out of his thoughts. A few more turns of the doorknob and his father staggers into the kitchen. 

“There’s some pizza left if you want it,” Kai offers, holding up the slices to show them. His voice is small, and he feels like a child again.

“I’m fine.” He mumbles, staggering his way towards the kitchen door. 

“Are you sure? You should probably—”

“I said that I’m fine, Malachai!” He snaps, a hand smacking on the table to balance himself. 

Kai flinches, jumping back on instinct. 

His father sighs at the sight, rubbing a hand over his face. “I-I’m sorry. I just want to sleep it off.” 

Kai doesn’t make the mistake of arguing again, he instead lets his dad walk off into the hallway. God, he hasn’t missed this shit one bit. 

He’s putting the pizza away when Jo appears behind him. She must have heard the whole ordeal. He continues rummaging around in the fridge longer than a normal person would, hiding behind the refrigerator door because he didn’t want to face his clearly worried sister.“You okay?”

She walks over to the counters. Kai inhales deeply at the question, trying not to feel annoyed. “Yup.”

She then pulls out four wine glasses along with a huge bottle of white wine from the cabinets, holding out the alcohol as a peace offering for simply asking if her brother was okay. Kai nods, earning a wide grin from his sister. 

“This is a celebration,” Jo begins once they’re back out in the living room. “And a celebration calls for celebratory drinks, and that means I get to give a toast.”

Bonnie and Kai don’t really understand what she’s talking about, but they take the glasses of wine graciously and without objection. They’ve had a long, hard day.

Jo is still standing, and she raises her glass up near her head. “To Kai and Bonnie,” she begins, immediately earning a confused, and slightly uncomfortable, frown from her brother. “You two seem very happy, and that makes me happy.”

Bonnie shoots Kai a funny glance, and the uncomfortable look doesn’t leave his face. Ric stopped drinking and switched to water, but raises his plastic bottle with Bonnie and Kai nonetheless. They all take a sip—well, not Kai. Kai gulps down half of his drink.

“Oh, I’ve been meaning to ask. Where’s your Christmas tree?” Bonnie asks, gesturing around the empty living room.

Kai swallows his wine and answers plainly: “Family tradition. We’re getting it tomorrow.”

“What my brother means is, it’s always been a tradition to get our tree together so we wait until he gets here to put it up. Christmas is a big holiday around here. It was our mom’s favorite holiday, and we keep the spirit alive in her honor.” 

Kai stares blankly into his wine glass, nodding in acknowledgment. “Well, I think that’s lovely.” Bonnie answers.

“Do you have any plans after you graduate college?” Jo asks, trying to change the subject.

Kai panics until he realizes that the question was directed towards Bonnie. “I’m not entirely sure yet. I kind of want to travel before I settle down with a serious job. There are more places in the world than Mystic Falls, you know?”

Jo nods eagerly in agreement. “I completely understand. It’s on my bucket list, too. Have you been anywhere yet?”

“Yes, luckily Klaus was kind enough, and rich enough, to take our group of friends to England and Italy. We stayed in each place for an entire summer.” Bonnie answers.

Jo glares at Kai. “Was he invited?”

Bonnie darts her eyes to him and feels like she inadvertently opened a can of worms. Hesitantly, she says, “Yeah?”

“You had the opportunity to go to Italy and England and you didn’t go? Are you insane?” 

Kai shrugs nonchalantly, sipping more of his wine. “Eh, not my cup of tea. Pun intended.”

Jo rolls her eyes and shakes her head at her brother. “You’re an idiot. But I’m glad that you had fun, Bonnie.”

There’s a beat of awkward silence, then Alaric asks the question Kai’s been waiting all night for. “So, how did you two get together?”

Bonnie turns her head to look at him. She rubs his knee with her hand. “You want to tell the story, babe?” She narrows her eyes, seemingly challenging him.

His face goes slack and he tries not to react to the pet name. He then forces out a laugh and smiles tightly back at her. “Sure, babe.”

You’re fine. You practiced this so many times, he tells himself.

He downs the rest of his wine, sets down the empty glass and begins. “Well, Ric, I don’t know how much Josie here told you, but me and Bon have been friends for three years now. And I-I’ve always had a thing for her, but she was with Little Gilbert, and then during the summers I wouldn’t see her. When she came back from Italy and I went back to Whitmore, I took her on a nice drive and laid it all on the line. Luckily, I didn’t make a fool of myself and she likes me back.” He left out a few details in their little story because that was embarrassing enough. They didn’t need to know every part of their relationship, whether it’s fake or not. 

He risks a glance at Bonnie and sees that she’s staring right back at him with an unreadable expression. Kai’s eyes revert their gaze back to the table in front of them, and he reaches for more wine. “What about you two?”

Alaric chuckles at the question. Jo says, “Well, it’s not nearly as romantic as your story. But it sure is something.

She has a knowing smile on her lips as she nudges her boyfriend, who sighs. “Jo found me passed out in a bush.”

Bonnie stifles a laugh. “What?”

“No, it’s fine. You can laugh. It’s funny. It was the night before classes were about to begin, so a few buddies and I went out for drinks. I was on my way back to my apartment and... I must have fallen into the bush. I woke up in Jo’s bed, no recollection of how I got there.” He finishes his sentence off with a sheepish shrug. 

Josette laughs. “I finished up a volunteer shift at the hospital and was on my way to my dorm when I saw feet poking out of the bushes near the sidewalk. And sure enough, there was a man sleeping in the dirt. I had some water left in my purse, so I dumped it on his face to wake him up. I couldn’t leave him there, so I had to practically drag his drunk ass all the way back to my room.”

Ric’s cheeks were tinted pink, clearly embarrassed at the retelling of the story. “She slept on the floor, nursed my hangover. We spent the whole morning talking and it wasn’t until Jo told me she had to go to class that I realized I missed all my morning classes. Yeah, not a good first impression on my professors.”

“But a good first impression on me. When I came back, I didn’t expect him to be there, and definitely expect a thank you note taped to my lamp with his number. The rest is history.” Jo smiles lovingly at Alaric, threading their hands together.

Kai cringes, pulling a disgusted face.

Bonnie, however, basically swoons. “That’s a hell of a first meeting.”

“That’s one way to describe it,” Kai says. Bonnie just rolls her eyes at him.


They talk for another hour before Alaric announces that he should be getting home. Bonnie and Kai say their goodbyes and goodnights, before retreating back down to the basement. When going down the stairs, Bonnie nearly trips, and that’s when he realizes that she may be a bit drunk. He tells her so.

“Are you seriously drunk off of three glasses of wine?” Her hand is gripped onto his shirtsleeve for support.

Bonnie scoffs. “No. I’m buzzed, maybe tipsy, but not drunk.” 

Kai had five glasses and was feeling a tad intoxicated too, but that’s beside the point. He wasn’t a lightweight. “Whatever you say, boozehound.”

Even though he can’t see her eyes in the dimly lit staircase, he feels her rolling her eyes. “God, shut up. I’m tired I don’t want to do this right now.” 

Oh, that’s right. Wine-drunk Bonnie whines. How could I possibly forget? Partying with Bonnie over the years, he’s learned that she has different personalities for different alcohols. Wine makes her whiney, whiskey makes her sad, vodka makes her happy and clingy, and so on. “Okay. I’m tired, too. Let’s just go to bed, yeah?”

She tilts her head to flash him a dopey looking smile. “Thank you.”

They make it down the stairs in one piece, despite Bonnie’s best efforts to throw herself down them. She collapses on his bed the second it’s in her view, laying on both their luggage. 

“Bonnie, get up. I want to unpack before we sleep.” He tugs on one of her legs.

“No.”

He groans. “God, please, I will sleep on the floor if you just fucking get up.”

She sits up on her elbows to look at him. “You were sleeping on the floor anyways. Contract, remember?”

“Not without a fight. I’ll do it on my own volition if you just get up.” Kai puts a hand on his heart. “Scout’s honor.”

Bonnie pouts but gets off their luggage. They put away their clothes in Kai’s dresser, both of them getting two drawers each. Bonnie, not so shockingly, complains the whole time. When they’re done she excuses herself to the bathroom to get changed into her pajamas. Kai takes the empty room as an opportunity to make his bed on the floor, before realizing there are no spare blankets in his room. 

“Hey, I’ll be right back.” He says to the closed door. He doesn’t wait for a response, just leaves the room and takes the stairs two at a time. 

Kai’s searching a spare closet in the hallway when a voice startles him and he jumps. “What are you doing?”

It’s Jo, who laughs at him. “Bonnie’s cold. Wants another blanket.” He answers, not even bothering to look at her.

“Oh, okay. Well, goodnight. Sorry that I made you shit your pants.” She rubs his shoulder as she passes him to go upstairs.

“Yeah, yeah. Night, Josette.”

When he returns to his bedroom with two more blankets, Bonnie is already cozy in his bed, duvet up to her chin and lazily typing on her phone. 

“Cozy, are we?” He grumbles out as he lays one of the blankets down.

She watches him, not even attempting to hide her smug smile. “Yup.”

When he’s done, he grabs a loose pair of sweatpants from one of his designated drawers and pulls off his shirt, then his pants. Bonnie inhales sharply and stares at the white screen until he’s somewhat clothed.

Kai doesn’t hide his smug smile, either.

They get settled in their own respective beds without another word, except for a sleepy ‘goodnight’ that Bonnie uttered. Kai is sure that she had passed out from the wine and pure exhaustion, and is left staring at the ceiling swimming in his own thoughts. He’s doing his usual self-wallowing and despair routine until Bonnie whispers: “Kai?”

It’s so quiet, he thought he might have imagined it. But the way she shifted in bed, getting closer to the edge of the bed to be near him, told him otherwise. “Yeah?” He whispers back.

“I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am. For earlier. I know you didn’t want to talk about it then, and you still might not want to talk about it now, but we don’t have to. I just wanted to say it.”

“It’s okay. I’m sorry, too. I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that. I just... I don’t know.” He finishes with a sigh.

“I understand. I won’t ever do it again if you don’t want me to. Not the jewelry, y-your mom in general. Bring her up, that is.” She clarifies, closing her eyes in embarrassment as she waits for a response.

It’s dead silent for a second, the air seemingly being sucked out of the room by a vacuum. Kai doesn’t really know what to say, and Bonnie starts beating herself up internally. “Okay.” He eventually chokes out. “Thanks.”

Though on the surface, those two words don’t seem like much, but to Bonnie, it’s a clear step forward. “You’re welcome, Kai.” Maybe it was the alcohol, but she starts laughing and blurts out, “You kind of scared me. You were, like, serial killer calm. After that whole ‘palm’ thing you said at the airport, I really thought that was it for me.”

Kai sits up to look at her, his mouth actually left agape at her words. She’s upside down, her head near the foot of the bed and her feet at the top. She’s still giggling and puts a hand over her mouth to stifle them. He can’t help but start laughing, too. “Seriously? Oh my God. I was just trying not to get mad and freak out on you.”

“I know, but still! Calm Kai is a lot scarier than Angry Kai.”

His face falls as guilt wracks in his chest. He didn’t want to scare her or make her feel unsafe in any way.  Bonnie stops smiling and he lays back down. “I’m sorry again.”

“It’s okay. Really, Kai.” Her voice is genuine and he knows that she means it, but he still feels like shit about it.

“Stop apologizing, it wasn’t your fault.” He matches her genuinity, and he wants to change the subject. “So... how was today?”

She exhales. “I was so nervous, but I think it went well. Your family is really nice.”

He smiles. “They definitely love you. Except for Liv, she seems a little jealous. Joey just wants to steal you from me.”

Bonnie laughs loudly at that, the noise reverberating off the walls. “Yeah, he was making eyes at me when we were eating dinner. I might just have to take him up on that offer.”

Kai scrunches his nose up even though she can’t see him. “Gross, don’t even joke about that.” Bonnie just laughs harder. Despite being together all day, the two of them haven’t really been able to talk. To keep the conversation going, he questions: “What about your first flying experience? How was that?”

“A lot nicer than I thought it would be. The crowds were terrible, obviously, but the flight itself was nice. And you seemed well acquainted with that old woman. Do I have competition?” 

Kai chuckles. “She was sweet,” he hesitates before continuing. “Said that we reminded her of her and her late husband.”

“Wait, really?” The surprise in her voice is unprecedented.

“Yeah.”

The air is thick with words unsaid, the silence absolutely deafening. “Did you tell her we weren’t dating?”

“Yeah.” Kai wasn’t sure why he lied to the elderly woman in the first place, and he damn well wasn’t sure why he lied to Bonnie just now. “She said that it still applies since he was her best friend and that she wishes us well.”

“Oh,” She can’t help but sound a bit disappointed. “Well, that’s nice of her.” A yawn escapes her mouth involuntarily.

That’s a cop-out opportunity if he’s ever seen one. “Yeah, it’s getting late. We should go to sleep. Big day tomorrow.” He tries his best to sound lighthearted. “Goodnight, Bonnie.”

“Goodnight, Kai.”

They both pretend to go to sleep after that, a million thoughts running through their heads. They replay the events of today, think of the future and what’s to come, but the most prominent thought being that they wish Bonnie would just get over herself and let them share the damn bed.