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“Hello, Josette,” Kai drawled. “I was just thinking about you. What’s up?” He’s currently upside down on his bed, feet and legs leaning up against his wall. His roommate, Klaus, had already left to go back home to England for the holidays. He was alone with his thoughts about going back to Portland for Christmas when, as if on cue, Jo called him.

The woman on the other side of the phone tsked. “Were you thinking about the little bet we made over Thanksgiving? Because I was. That’s a crazy coincidence, Malachai. Maybe twins are telepathic. Unless, of course, you forgot about our bet.”

He smiled at the use of his full name, ignoring the blood pumping to his head. “How could I possibly forget?”

The bet. Kai didn’t forget, but he was really hoping that Jo did. When he traveled out west for Thanksgiving, Jo had brought a date. This hadn’t discouraged Kai; in fact, he was happy for his sister. Up until she did what she always did, and got him mad.

“Isn’t Alaric great?” She had said, her elbows atop the kitchen table, hands locked underneath her jaw as Kai loaded the dishes into the dishwasher. Jo was supposed to be helping him.

“Isn’t he a little old for you?”

She scoffed. “He’s 23, Kai.”

“With his name, the way he dresses and speaks? Could have fooled me,” he grabbed the nearest hand towel and dried his hands off. Turning around, he saw his sister’s displeased face. She looked like she had just eaten a load of sour candy. “Jesus, Jo, I'm just kidding. Yes, I like him. He seems like a good guy.” And Kai had meant it. He met all of Jo’s other boyfriends, and all of them were pretentious assholes. Alaric was the first he could actually tolerate.

A smile spread across her face, growing in size as Kai spoke. “Thanks, Kai,” and Jo had meant that, too. Her brother rarely liked anything, so his approval meant quite a bit to her. Yet, slowly, Kai watched as his sister’s smile morphed into something sinister. “Say, isn’t it funny how you’ve never brought a girl home?”

And just like that, the moment was ruined. Kai sighed and turned back around, throwing the towel over his shoulder as he did so. “Is that what this is about?”

Jo shrugged. “Not really. I just like bullying you relentlessly until you get pissed off.”

“Well, have you ever thought there was a reason why I don’t bring any girls around?” He put another plate into the dishwasher. “Wait, aren’t you supposed to be helping me?”

“Oh my God, Kai, are you gay?”

“What? No!”

She stood up, walking over to the sink next to Kai. In a hushed voice, she yells, “Well, that would explain a lot!”

He grabbed the towel that was hanging over his shoulder and threw it onto the counter. “God, Jo, I'm not gay!” His voice grew in volume and Kai immediately knew everyone in the house heard him. He could feel the blood heat up his face in embarrassment.

“Jeez, okay. So you just don’t have good luck with the ladies then?” Jo picked up a plate, rinsed off all the leftover food and handed it to Kai.

“That’s not much of an issue either.” He wanted nothing more than to be removed from this conversation.

“Then what is?”

“Can we just... stop talking about my love life?”

“Maybe it’s your anger management issue. Or your terrible taste in music,” Kai bit his tongue, trying not to prove her point. “Maybe it’s your tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Your overly dark sense of humor...”

“Didn’t realize you were a psychology major now at your big fancy medical school.” Kai interrupted.

“It’s probably your dumb sarcastic demeanor. Or maybe—”

“Everything alright in here?” Alaric asked from the doorway, nursing a glass of bourbon in his hand.

“Oh, just peachy, Ric. Hey, why don’t you help Jo finish cleaning up the kitchen? That’ll butter dad right up!” Kai threw the towel at Alaric and swiftly left the room, plopping himself down on the couch next to his youngest brother, Luke.

His father was in the loveseat, watching the football game and not even acknowledging his presence. Kai soon found out this wasn’t much better than the kitchen.

About fifteen minutes later, Kai’s anger had all but evaporated.

Later that evening, Jo had left to drive Alaric home. Kai was sitting at the kitchen table alone, eating his third slice of pumpkin pie. His younger siblings were sent to bed and it was safe to say that he was exhausted. The kids were already a lot to handle and Jo and her teasing really didn’t help.

It’s not that Kai has trouble with girls. He knows that he’s good looking and can be charismatic when he wants to be, not to mention he’s a pretty good lay; he just has trouble getting them to stay. He’s never had a relationship that has lasted longer than two months, and Jo takes every chance she can to remind him of that.

The front door of his childhood home slammed, knocking Kai out of his thoughts. He took another bite of pie. “Did you give Alaric a goodnight kiss for me?” He said, mouth full.

“Ha, ha. What was it you said earlier about not being gay?” Jo opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of water, then the cupboards for a fork and a plate.

“Touché,” Kai mumbled.

She sat down next to him and cut herself a piece of the pie, scooping it onto her plate. “Who needs love when you have good old reliable pumpkin pie, right?” She said, shoving a bite into her mouth.

“That’s what I’ve been saying, Josette,” he replied, smiling. Thanksgiving truly was his favorite holiday. In recent years, he was starting to believe it was because of the pumpkin pie.

“That was a joke, Malachai. You’re twenty-one and you’ve never had a serious girlfriend. get a grip.”

“Okay, here we go again,” he said, closing his eyes out of sheer annoyance. “I’ve had serious girlfriends before, they just didn’t get to the ‘meet your parents’ stage.” He stated, hoping his lie wasn’t blatantly obvious.

Jo’s eyebrows raised, her interest piqued. “Really?”

“Yeah, I’ve been going to Whitmore for four years. You seriously think that I'm not capable of getting at least one girl this entire time?” He hadn’t. Kai shifted in his seat but stopped himself once he remembered that’s a sign of lying.

“Yes.” Jo said simply, eating more pie afterward.

“You wound me.”

“Yeah? Good,” she paused to swallow. “So, name one girl you’ve dated.”

Not missing a beat, he said, “Bonnie.”

“How long did that last?” She responded flippantly.

Without thinking, Kai slowly put down his fork and said, “Well, we’ve been dating for about three months, so... ask me that at Christmas.”

Jo’s eyes widened, giving Kai exactly the reaction he was hoping for. “I’ll be damned,” he resumed eating his pie, shrugging. “Hey, is she the same Bonnie you told me about when you were a freshman?”

Kai nodded slowly. “How you remember that is beyond me, but yeah. We’ve been friends for a while and I’ve always liked her so I asked her out,” Jo nodded back, looking down at her plate as she did so. Kai watched her with narrowed eyes. “What? At a loss for words?”

“Yeah, actually. I just can’t believe some poor girl is stuck with your sorry ass. For the time being, though, right?”

Kai barked out a short laugh. “God, you’re ruthless. I think this one might last, though. Things are going swell.”

“And you say Alaric speaks like he’s fifty years old,” she ate her final bite of pie, chewed, swallowed, and looked right at Kai. “But why don’t you put your money where your mouth is, Kai? In a month at Christmas, bring Bonnie home. Let’s see if a relationship of yours can last for once.”

He looked right back into Jo’s eyes. “You’re on.” He stuck out his hand, and Jo shook it. She chuckled and left the kitchen.

For once, Kai lost his appetite for pumpkin pie.

And now, a month later, Kai was stuck between two choices and a hard place:

  1. Tell Jo that he and Bonnie broke up and that she won the bet.
  2. Tell Jo that he and Bonnie will be at Christmas dinner where he’ll accept his winning trophy. (This means he has to convince Bonnie to come with him, or hire a fake Bonnie to come with him.)

“I know a certain habit of yours is forgetting things. I didn’t want something this big to be one of them. So what’s the verdict?”

The mocking tone of her voice alone made the decision for him. “Well, sis, I hope you plan on telling dad that he has to set an extra spot at the table.”

“So she’s coming? The Bonnie Bennett is coming?”

Kai frowned and quickly sat up, his head feeling like it was a bobblehead as he did so. How does she know Bonnie’s last name?  “What?” is all he manages to say as he rubs one of his temples.

“Oh, curiosity got the best of me. I may have stalked her Facebook. Weird, there are no pictures of you two. You’re not even Facebook official.” Her tone is jovial, the words practically dripping with faux nonchalance. 

He pinches the bridge of his nose, restraining a sigh from escaping his mouth. Guess I'm taking the real deal, he thinks. “That’s a little creepy, Jo.”

“You avoided the question.”

“You didn’t even ask one.”

“True. Okay then, why aren’t you Facebook official?”

“This is why,” he says, an exasperated laugh leaving his mouth hastily.

She laughs. “Fair enough. Sorry,” she pauses. “Hey, for the record, I am really happy for you. All bets and teasing aside.”

He smiles genuinely. “Thanks, Jo.”

“So, when are you coming again?”

“Saturday, the 22nd,” he answers. It’s Tuesday night now. He has less than four days to convince Bonnie to be his fake girlfriend for almost three weeks. “Classes start up again on the 14th of January so we’re planning on leaving on the 10th, but at this rate probably way earlier.”

Jo laughs again. “If you or the weather in Portland doesn’t drive her out of here first, I'm sure our family will,” Kai starts laughing with her. “Well, I’ll let you go. It’s late over there and you should rest up for your first big getaway with Bonnie.”

He could hear the smile in her voice. “Hm, yeah, meeting my crazy family. So romantic.”

“Not to mention sleeping in your teenage bedroom.”

Kai grimaces. “Straight from a Nicholas Sparks novel.”

“Bye, Kai.”

“Bye, Josette.” With that, he hangs up and opens his messaging app.

(10:37 p.m.)

Kai:

Bonster, u up?

(10:39 p.m.)

Bonnie:

Yeah, why?

(10:39 p.m.)

Kai:

where are u

 i wanna talk it’s important

(10:40 p.m)

Bonnie:

Library.

(10:43 p.m)

Kai:

nerd

Luckily, the library isn’t that far away from his dorm. He walks the short distance, hugging himself to keep warm. Kai’s eyes are trained on the sidewalk, watching for any sneaky ice that will make him slip and fall. He can see his breath, wispy fog leaving his mouth every time he exhales.

He wonders why Bonnie is at the library this late, he could have sworn it closes relatively early. He finally reaches the building, but to his dismay, the door is locked when he tries to pull it open. Kai tries it a few more times. Giving up, he groans and whips out his phone.

(10:57 p.m.)

Kai:

??????? doors locked

A few seconds later, Bonnie’s face appears behind the glass door, holding a set of keys in her hand. She unlocks it, inviting Kai in. “I thought you sent me on a wild goose chase or something. Why are you here so late?” He walks over to the nearest table and shrugs off his jacket, setting on the back of a chair. Bonnie wanders off to a bookshelf, wherein the aisle a white cart stacked with books is.

“Yeah, sorry about that. I volunteered to lock up and rearrange the shelves and stuff for one of the librarians. They left town for Christmas so, here I am.” She explains, extending her hands out to show the vast sea of books around her.

“Why?” he asks, slowly walking over to her.

She shrugs. “I don’t have anything better to do.”

Distractedly, Kai’s fingers started to trace the spines of all the books. “No Christmas plans again?”

Bonnie shakes her head. “My dad offered to have dinner with my Grams, but it’s so sad and awkward without my mom. I’ve hated it for a while now so I don’t care for it. Neither does he, but he still pretends to.”

Kai knew about Bonnie’s family situation and it never failed to make him feel bad every time it was brought up. He tells her exactly this. “You tell me this every year and it always makes me...” He trails off with a sigh, not finding the right word.

“Guilty. Kai, I don’t want your pity. It’s fine.” She leans over to the cart of books that was parked behind her, searching for a particular one that needed to go back on the shelf.

“It’s not fine, Bonbon. But okay.” He quickly decides its best to leave the conversation there; Kai and Bonnie go from civil conversations to heated arguments in an instant and he could tell this could turn into one easily.

“So what did you want to ask me?” Bonnie questions, placing the book back in its rightful spot on the shelf.

“Do you want the short version or the long version?” He crosses his arms over his chest, trying to stop the anxiety from bubbling up and out of his mouth.

“Hmm, short version.”

He inhales a sharp breath. “Okay, I need you to be my fake girlfriend for two and a half weeks.”

Bonnie drops the book she was currently holding. Dumbfounded, her mouth left agape, the only word she can form is a meekly, “What? ” She regains her composure, then asks, “Kai Parker, are you asking me out?”

“N-No! Fake girlfriend, Bonnie, fake.” He repeats, flailing his arms around him in exasperation. He literally looks like a fish out of water.

“That’s still asking me out!” she retorts, voice raising. “God, please tell me the long version. I need to sit down for this.” Bonnie says, picking up the book she dropped and putting it back onto the cart. She then starts walking past Kai towards the table where his jacket is.

Kai doesn’t sit, though; another one of his bad habits is pacing excessively while he speaks. “Over Thanksgiving, my sister, Jo, got under my skin. She brought home a new boyfriend to meet our family and mocked me about how I haven’t brought a girl home in ages,” he spares Bonnie of the small ‘never brought one home ever’ detail and continues. “So she made a bet that I wouldn’t bring one over for Christmas. I refuse to be the laughingstock over break so, here I am.”

Bonnie narrows her eyes at him, reading the mess of a man that’s laid out in front of her. Her fingers dance across the tabletop, emitting a repetitive noise that would make any person go insane. “Why do I sense you’re not telling me something?”

Sense? " he parrots.

“My Grams totally thinks that I'm psychic. And I sense you missed a detail or two in the story.” Her scrutinizing gaze didn’t leave him. Was she enjoying this?

He stops pacing and purses his lips. Heat floods the back of his neck and even on the tips of his ears, but for some reason not his cheeks. “They’re not important.” He mutters, resuming his nervous tic.

“Come on, Kai, if we’re going to be a couple you have to tell me everything.” She mockingly coos.

“You’re the devil,” he suddenly hates where he stands. He feels vulnerable and on display, like a mannequin at a retail store, so he sits down across from her. “I’ve never brought a girl home. Not even in high school. Jo always brings a guy home, though, which really isn’t something to brag about but she does anyway,” Kai pauses to shrug. “None of my relationships have lasted longer than two months. I lied and told her I was seeing a girl named Bonnie for three months, she said I wouldn’t bring you home at Christmas, I said I would, we shook on it, and here I am.” His face was definitely red now.

“Why me?” Bonnie asked. She was still staring at him, a small smile on her face. Yep, she was definitely enjoying this.

“Your name was the first one that popped into my head. I had a whole plan but about an hour ago, but Jo threw a wrench in them. She fucking stalked my Facebook and found you,” he rolls his eyes in annoyance at the resurface information. “Can’t believe she did that.” He mutters.

“What was your plan?”

“Find a girl on Tinder or Craigslist, tell her that her name was now Bonnie for the next few weeks, have some good old casual sex in my old bed.” He shrugs it off as if that was normal.

Bonnie snorts. “But now Jo knows what I look like and you’re stuck with me.”

“Oh, don’t say it like that. This can be beneficial for both of us, Bonster.” Kai closes his eyes and rubs them hard. He feels so tired.

“How so? Casual sex in your old bed?” She responds, jokingly.

“Possibly. I was thinking maybe I do your laundry for a week, pay for anything you want over there, and whatever else your little heart desires. Fucking your brains out works too.”

Bonnie swallows hard, ignoring the sultry tone of his voice. She couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. “Please, I wouldn’t fuck you if you were the last man on earth.” She responds easily, despite the blood rushing to her cheeks.

“Ah, come on, it’s romantic. Going across the country together to where I grew up, pretending to be a couple. We’re already halfway there, might as well seal the deal. Literally.” He laughs at his own joke, head leaning back against the top of the chair as he did so.

So he was kidding. Thank God, Bonnie thinks. “Not happening.”

“Worth a shot. So, what? Are you in or not?” Kai asks, his face borderline serious, which is as serious as he can get.

“Maybe. You have to sweeten the deal a little more.”

“What’re you thinkin’?” His head was now laying in the palm of his left hand, causing his words to slur. She stands abruptly, pushing her chair back as she does so. Kai watches her walk over to the librarian’s desk. Bonnie searches for something, her fingers touching absolutely everything as she looks. He doesn’t even bother to ask her what she’s doing, he prefers watching her instead. But then he feels creepy, so he averts his eyes and closes them instead.

A loud slam causes his eyes to snap open. Bonnie sits back down, smirking at the sight of Kai jumping. “No sleeping,” she says. She’s holding a pen in between her fingers and opens the notebook she slammed onto the table. “We have a contract to write.”

Kai scoffs. “Seriously? We’re getting formal?”

“Yes.” She says simply as if it was obvious.

“Bonnie, we’re pretending to date. And you haven’t even agreed to it.” He replies, furrowing his brows.

“Yeah, because we have to come to terms with our agreement. And talk about rules.” She uncaps the pen and writes in neat cursive, ‘BonKai contract.’

Kai stifles a laugh. “Really? BonKai?”

“What? I think it has a nice ring to it,” She underlines it a few times, ignoring eye contact and continues. “So, I like the idea of you doing my laundry. Only for a week?” She tsks. “I don’t like that idea so much. How about three weeks?”

Kai nods slowly. “That’s fair. That’s how long you’re my girlfriend for anyways. So, that’s fine.” He scratches the back of his neck. My girlfriend.

Bonnie nods back and writes it down. “What’s the plan for transportation?”

“My dad got me an open round trip plane ticket thingy last month; We have an arrangement that I pay for Thanksgiving, he pays for Christmas. But the airport is an hour away from home so I usually take a rental car and drive it there,” he sighs. “If you pay for the ticket I can pay you back. In real money or in personal favors, whatever you prefer.” He finishes with a smirk.

That earns a trademarked Bonnie Bennett scoff. “Right. Yeah, I can pay for it. You can do what you mentioned before and buy me literally anything I want in Portland. And here.” She smiles at the thought of Kai being weighed down by tons of shopping bags and writes it down.

He nods, briefly wondering how on Earth he was going to pay for this. “Anything else?”

“Don’t tell Elena and Caroline about this. Or anyone else for that matter.” She begins jotting this down, too.

Kai frowns. “Fine. But can I ask why?”

Bonnie fidgets. “Our situation is a little hard to explain. And they’ll tease me about it. Among other things.”

He squints at her, watching her intently as she shifts in her seat uncomfortably. “Bonnie. We’re about to be in a relationship. You have to tell me everything. It’s what couples do.” He says slowly in an overly sincere voice like he was talking to a child.

She chuckles. “Care and Elena... they keep telling me I should ask you out. Or just sleep with you.”

Kai can’t help the huge grin that spreads across his face as he breaks out into a laughing fit. Bonnie just watches him, growing more embarrassed by the second. He notices this and tries to stop himself. “I'm not laughing at you,” he pauses to catch his breath. “Klaus says the same shit to me. All the time. It’s just funny to think that Caroline and Klaus plot our lives together at night. Like the fucking Parent Trap.” He bursts into another fit of giggles.

Bonnie starts laughing too, slowly growing in volume until she’s wheezing for air. In turn, this only makes them laugh harder.

Once they’ve calmed down, she finishes writing the sentence. “Is that it?” he asks, sniffling and wiping a tear from his eye.

She sighs contently. “I think so. Now for rules,” she continues writing down a shitload of rules. Nearly ten minutes pass by the time she’s done. Kai pretends to not be offended that she didn’t even ask him what he thought of them before she wrote them down. “Anything you wanna add?”

The list reads:

BONKAI CONTRACT

Terms:

  1. Kai does Bonnie’s laundry for three weeks.
  2. Bonnie pays for her plane ticket; Kai pays her back with food, clothes, etc.
  3. No telling their friends.
  4. Practice before leaving so they aren’t blind and look terrible in front of Kai’s family.

Rules:

  1. NO KISSING. Cheek kisses are allowed for show.
  2. Hand holding is allowed.
  3. NO BEDSHARING. Kai will sleep on the floor.
  4. No pet names (unless the situation allows it)
  5. Keep domesticity to the minimum.

He reads it over, chuckling every now and then. “I like the addition to term number four, That’s a good idea, Bon.” Kai picks up the pen and scribbles:

  1. No falling in love.

Bonnie laughs and rolls her eyes once she reads it. “I really don’t think that’s going to be an issue, Kai, but okay.” He shrugs, a smile lingering on his face. Bonnie was drawing something again, and Kai couldn’t help but sigh. “Oh, calm down. They’re not rules.” She slides the notepad back over to him.

“Seriously?” He asks. When she just blinks at him, he sighs and reads in a deep voice: “I, Bonnie Bennett, hereby agree to be,” he pauses. “I'm assuming I have to sign here,” Bonnie nods and he quickly signs the paper. He continues in his announcer's voice. “To be Malachai Parker’s fake girlfriend for two and a half weeks. I, Bonnie Bennett, will adhere and follow every single rule, and if I don’t, there will be severe consequences,” he sees the giant blank line ahead and scribbles his name again. “Severe consequences? That’s kind of hot,” before Bonnie has a chance to get a word out, he continues. “I, Malachai Parker, will also blah, blah, blah... more consequences... what’s the date? Signy sign... and done!”

Bonnie sighs. “Alright, then,” she extends her hand out. “Let’s shake on it, Mr. Parker.”

He smiles down at her hand. “This counts as hand-holding. Does the jury allow it?”

“Yes, jackass, just shake it. I wanna go home.”

He shakes her hand firmly, trying to ignore how natural and good her hand felt in his.

Chapter Text

Kai awakes the next morning, pulling himself from his blissful sleep reluctantly. He could easily roll over and welcome his well-needed slumber with open arms, but he was supposed to meet Bonnie to practice their little charade. He groans at the thought, pulling his pillow over his head to block out the annoying sunlight.

If he was honest with himself, the entire situation wasn’t that bad. He had a decent amount of faith that they could pull this off. Kai wasn’t worried about Jo or his family finding out he lied or fucking up the act, or Bonnie finding out embarrassing stories about his childhood. He was worried about his ‘feelings’ and how they might... evolve over Christmas break.

The thing is, Kai has liked Bonnie since the second he met her.

They met four years ago at the first frat party of their freshman year. Klaus had dragged him to it. He insisted that since he was an exchange student from England and Kai had just moved from Portland, this was a really good opportunity to meet people. Tired of arguing, Kai gave in, and an hour and thirty minutes later he was alone. He was nursing a red cup with some sort of alcohol mixture in it, but it tasted so bad he couldn’t bare taking another sip. Loud pop music was blaring in his ears, the walls thumping as horny college kids grinded on each other on the makeshift dance floor. It reeked of cheap weed and sweat, and right then Kai wanted nothing more than to be back in his dorm room. He leaned against the wall near the corner of the living room and decided that even though it tasted awful he might as well get a buzz. Taking a sip of his drink, he winced as he glanced around the house when a familiar face caught his eye.

Near the kitchen, some blonde girl was talking to Klaus, her head knocked back in what he assumed was laughter. Right, so she’s the reason he was dragged to this dumb fucking party. Anger rises in him, and Kai downs the rest of his drink in one go. He ignored the burning in his throat, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and began walking towards Klaus and the dumb broad. Kai pushed through the sea of hot bodies, earning complaints and curses thrown his way. When he got close, he noticed Klaus mutter, ‘oh, shit’ under his breath.

“Hey, Klaus! How’s it going?” Kai’s voice was dripping in false happiness with an even more fake smile plastered on his face.

“Kai!” Klaus replied through gritted teeth, smiling back and clasping a hand on his shoulder. He squeezed it hard.

“I was just going to get another drink and I noticed you over here,” he turned his attention toward the other blonde. “With her. Who’s this again?” 

She beamed at Kai, showing all her teeth. “Hi! I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Caroline Forbes.” Caroline extended her hand for him to shake, and Kai took it, shaking it gingerly. 

“That’s because you haven’t. Caroline, this is my roommate, Kai Parker.” Klaus said, folding his arms into his body.

“Nice to meet you.” She said warmly, and it kind of made Kai want to barf.

“Likewise,” he looked at Klaus. “I’ll leave you to it. I can take a hint.” He left them, entering the kitchen to pour himself another drink. There were a few people in there talking amongst themselves, and a couple was making out lazily in the corner. He scrunched his nose up at the sight. “Gross.” He muttered, taking the pitcher of the sorry excuse that the frat boys called a drink and poured out a heaping amount. He filled it almost up to the rim. He took a quick swig, hoping it would taste better but was only left with the same nasty result.

“Yeah, try dealing with them making out like that for two entire years.” Said a voice from behind him. Kai set the pitcher down and turned his head around to see quite possibly the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Her hair was cut short into a bob and she was wearing combat boots and a pair of overalls with a long-sleeved shirt underneath it.

He realized his mouth has gone dry, probably from his jaw being on the floor. He swallowed quickly and said, “Friends of yours, I take it?”

“Yeah, since high school, unfortunately. That’s Stefan and Elena. I’m Bonnie Bennett.”

Like any eighteen-year-old boy, he had immediately thought she was sexy. He spent the rest of the night in the kitchen with her, and the more they talked he found out that he loved that she could keep up with his witty remarks. Most times she would deliver even funnier comebacks than him. Over the years he figured out how she ticked, basic things she liked and disliked, and more complicated, intimate things. He knows how she takes her coffee and what songs she hated so he could skip them when they came on. Kai narrowed down her type in men and absolutely loathed every single boyfriend Bonnie had had, and he rerouted his brain into never acting like those men. Predictably, the relationships all ended and he was always there to comfort her as best as he could, which usually involved lots of alcohol.

Kai had always liked Bonnie, but he never pursued her, because he thought that feelings were dumb and so were relationships. He learned a lot about himself over the years: he was pretty good at hiding his feelings (even though Klaus tells him often hat he’s not) and yes, he was the jealous type, and yes, he was possessive over a woman he could never have. He was always the first person to leave parties or casual hangout sessions because being around Bonnie for more than three hours at a time was too fucking much. He distanced himself as much as he could without being a total dick about it. And Kai slept with tons of women to try and forget about Bonnie, but in the end, he just imagined it was her underneath him. Every time.

He was fucked.

And now he’s still stuck three years later with these stupid goddamn feelings, nibbling and tugging at his heartstrings every time Bonnie laughed at one of his jokes or smiled at him. He was stuck with this constant tightness in his chest when he was around her like a weight was on top of him and making it increasingly difficult for him to breathe. Kai knew that this was going to make pretending they were in a relationship easier because the feelings were already there. But he also knew this would make everything so, so much worse. Bonnie Bennett was going to be the death of him.

Kai shakes his head in annoyance and pinches the bridge of his nose. Remembering his sheer stupidity is starting to give him a headache. He rolls over to the opposite side of his bed where his phone lays, charging. After unplugging it, his eyes begin skimming through his notifications.
He had quite a few texts from Bonnie, and even more from the group chat everyone was in, and one from Jo. Kai sighs and decides to deal with the group chat first.

Klaus sent a picture early this morning of him kissing Caroline on the cheek in front of the fucking Eiffel Tower. Bonnie and Elena sent messages with various heart emojis and screaming how they couldn’t believe how cute they are and why didn’t you tell us you were going to Paris?!?!??

Damon sent an emoji of someone throwing up, and Matt and Stefan sent some sappy shit about how they were happy for them. Tyler didn’t respond. Yikes. Kai quickly began typing out a message.

(8:53 a.m.)

Kai:

i was rlly hoping the pda & not so discreet relationship bragging would end once you went overseas

(8:54 a.m.)

Klaus:

Sorry, not all of us can be single, brooding, assholes. :)

(8:54 a.m.)

Kai:

bite me.

He checks Jo’s message next, which is just about how excited she is and Kai purposefully does not reply to it. Finally, he reads Bonnie’s messages.

(1:03 a.m.)

Bonnie:

I just realized that I'm not going to be here to work in the library and those poor old ladies are going to come back to a mess.

Unless I do all the work before I leave. No one is going to be in there anyways bc it’s supposed to be closed.

Of course it’ll get done a lot faster if I had some help. ;)

(2:44 a.m.)

Bonnie:

wait...... how am I foing to disappear without Elena knowing???? I'm supposed to be going back to mystic falls too .

(2:47 am.)

Bonnie:

also. Klaus and Caroline are fuckign assholes but don’t tell her I said that

Kai sat up abruptly. Was she... drunk last night? Alone? He frowns, thinking, Why would she do that?

(8:58 a.m.)

Kai:

bonbon, did we get into some of the adult apple juice last night?

text me when you wake up and i’ll meet you at your dorm instead of the library

He sighed for what felt like the eightieth time that morning, which was far too many times for his liking. Kai removes his blanket cocoon and decides to shower. He stands and stretches, pads over to his desk and grabs his bag of toiletries. He doesn’t bother making his bed or putting on a shirt; the dorms are mostly empty with the exception of a few lingering souls, and he doesn’t have the energy this early in the morning to care if they see him wandering around in his boxers. So, he tries his best to ignore how fucking cold his feet are due to the hardwood floors and makes his journey towards the communal bathrooms. This was without a doubt the worst part of college in Kai's eyes: showering in public with a bunch of strangers. He had hated it in high school when it was just a quick rinse to rid himself of sweat and to smell a little better, and now he had to do the whole nine yards. It was literal torture. But now, Kai was walking to the showers with a faint smile on his lips. It was mostly because he knew he would finally be able to shower alone for once. But, he would be lying to himself if he said it wasn’t because the thought of Bonnie in so much distress over fake dating him made her drink copious amounts of alcohol to calm herself. He pictured her laying on the floor, spread eagle, as she realized she liked him and how awful these next weeks are going to be. Maybe she screamed into a pillow, denying it for a while but finally gave up and pulled out her hidden alcohol stash and going to town.

He couldn’t wait to tease her about it.

Kai took his sweet ass time in the shower, enjoying the hot water and not being anxious about someone barging in on him. He was also banking on Bonnie sleeping for another two or three hours, but checking his phone after his shower told him otherwise; she had texted him ten minutes ago.

(9:33 a.m.)

Bonnie:

Shut up you ass

Sorry (not really) for sleeping in. Text me before you get here and we can talk about our stupid plan all you want.

He looks at himself in the mirror. He needs to shave really bad; his stubble has grown out into his terrible version of a beard. But Bonnie awaits, and he has shit to do beforehand. Kai dries himself off quickly before throwing on his new pair of boxers. He grabs his phone, opening the messaging app and begins walking back down the hallway.

(9:45 a.m.)

Kai:

no problemo, bonster. i'm a little hurt you didn’t invite me to your party

i have to run a few errands but i should be there within the hour >:~)

(9:45 a.m.)

Bonnie:

You? Where could you possibly have to be? Also wtf is that smiley face

(9:46 a.m.)

Kai:

>>>>::::::~~~~~~))))))))

Typing out that last message almost caused him to walk past the door to his room. He scoffs once he realizes. Then, he gets dressed quickly, not wanting to miss the ten o’clock bus that takes him into town. Kai throws on a jacket and a beanie, knowing that his wet hair would freeze due to the cold air and leaves.


True to his word, an hour and some change later he’s standing outside of her door. Kai’s hands are full; he has a drink holder doing its rightful job and holding both of their hot coffees in one hand. His right hand is holding a paper bag from the same café containing a scone for her and a chocolate chip muffin for him. He also has a plastic bag from a gas station tied around his wrist; Kai had a sudden craving for pork rinds and bought some. He frowns, staring at the door in defeat once he realizes he cannot knock. He weighs his options, deciding they’re all too much work, and simply kicks his foot on the bottom of the door to do the trick. He kicks it super hard, for a second he thinks the door is going to fly off of the hinges.

From the inside, he can hear Bonnie curse at him and the door swings open a moment later. “Jesus, Kai,” she sees the food and snatches it from his grip. “You’re forgiven, I guess. But only because you brought food. You scared the shit out of me.”

“I couldn’t knock!” He retaliates, but there’s a huge grin on his face. “I guess I should have just screamed at you, then.” He mutters, walking past her and shrugging off his jacket. He sets it on the back of the chair at her desk, his curious eyes scanning the open textbooks and notebooks on top of it. His cheeks are red from the cold, along with the tips of his ears, and he couldn’t be gladder to finally be inside. Kai sits down onto the edge of Bonnie’s bed, but not before taking his coffee and his muffin with him.

Kai ignores her promptly rolling her eyes at him. “Where did you have to go?” She sits near the headboard, crossing her legs, coffee in hand. “Don’t get crumbs everywhere.”

He scowls, then pops a piece of muffin in his mouth. “I got snacks and I had to get my paycheck from the Scull.” Kai doesn’t mention the part where he picked up a load of extra shifts in preparation for her little shopping spree.

Bonnie nods, sipping her coffee. She winces a little at the heat. “Thanks,” an afterthought, she adds in, “Is this my favorite kind?”

“Yup.” He fidgets for a second. Not beating around the bush, he says, “So, why did you get drunk last night?” He waggles his eyebrows at her.

She scoffs and narrows her eyes at him. “I had a few drinks, I barely got drunk. I only slept in because I didn’t go to sleep until like, four,” she tries to say this nonchalantly but it just comes out defensively. “And I just... wanted to.” She finishes with a shrug and sips her drink to say that she is done talking about this.

But Kai isn’t. He could be completely wrong about this, though, and she could be telling the truth. He really wants to hold onto this possibility that Bonnie was just as worried about this as he was, for the same reasons. So he plays it safe, and simply hums and says, “Okay, Bon.”

Those two words were bait hanging in the air between them, and Kai was focusing on his chewing as he waited for her to either take it or swim away. Her mouth opens, closes. “What the hell does that mean?”

He tries and fails not to smile. “What?”

She straightens and replies, “Okay, Bon,” she says this in a deep, mocking tone - one that is clearly supposed to be him. “What is that?”

Kai barks out a laugh, leaning back against the wall and clasping his hands together. Bonnie arches one of her brows, not amused. He sighs wistfully. “I'm not judging you, or laughing at you. It’s just funny and...” he pauses, sparing a glance at her and smirks. This one look at her makes him fold; She actually looks kind of upset, but mostly confused. Her fingers are dancing on her coffee, waiting for him to respond. He decides that half of the truth will do. “You’re just so cute when you get worked up.”

Bonnie’s face contorts into surprise and she immediately goes beet red. She wasn’t a stranger to Kai flirting with her but it always left her reeling. She splutters for a second, and settles for saying, “Shut up!”

His smile grows. “And you’re even cuter when you’re embarrassed, Bon!” He notices the fondness and genuinity in his voice and falters, his cheeks turning red again but this time it wasn’t from the cold. Too far, you asshole, he thinks. Kai rips off another piece of his muffin and eats it. Mouth full, he asks, “So... Elena?”

Bonnie nods once and clears her throat. “Right. I don’t know how I forgot about this yesterday, but I agreed to Christmas dinner with the Gilberts.”

Kai raises his eyebrows as he swallows. “You agreed to that even after the whole Jeremy clusterfuck?”

She chuckles. “Yeah. I don’t really know why. Thank God I don’t have to deal with that awkwardness now.”

He hums in response. “Of course, except now you have to deal with a different awkwardness now. Spoiler alert: it’s fake dating me.”

She flashes him a fake smile. “Thanks, it completely slipped my mind.”

“You’re welcome. Well, it seems we have to break a rule already.” Kai finishes his muffin, rolls up the wrapper and tosses it in the direction of the trash can, yelling ‘Kobe!’ and missing completely.

Bonnie sighs but smiles at his idiocy nonetheless. “If I tell Elena, she’s just going to tell everyone.”

“Come on, you two have basically been best friends since birth. What’s the worst thing she could do? But, uh, maybe spare her a few details, though?” Kai says, bringing his knees up to his chest.

The ghost of a smirk tugs on the edges of her lips. “Fine. I’ll text her right now,” she pulls out her phone. “And come on, you know I can’t do that. It’s the best part of the story. Plus I get to tell her how pathetic you are.”

Kai knows that she’s joking, but the comment can’t help but sting him a little. He sips his coffee, focusing on that burn as opposed to the other funny feeling in his chest. “So you wrote the contract, are we writing a literal script today?”

“Hm, I figured we’ll just wing it.”

He frowns. “Really? We’re not being thorough?”

Bonnie just shrugs, her eyes still on her phone. She sends the text and draws her attention back to Kai. “If we follow a script it won’t be genuine, you know?” she freezes slightly. “Or at least as genuine as we can be. I feel like Jo is pretty smart if she went as far as to Googling me.”

“She was just curious.”

She arches an eyebrow, wondering how her friend can be so dumb. “Kai, come on. You talk about me and Elena being close since birth but you two literally shared the same womb. You think she doesn’t know you?”

Kai purses his lips. Curse Bonnie Bennett for being so ridiculously smart. “Fine. Yes, the thought crossed my mind that she sniffed out my bullshit story the second I told her. And yes, we’ll just wing it. Happy?”

She grins at him in satisfaction. “Yes. I love it when you tell me I'm right.”

“Well, it doesn’t happen very often, so.” He quips back. Bonnie’s phone starts ringing.

She pulls her bottom lip in between her teeth and chews on it as she reads the caller ID. “It’s Elena,” she puts the phone to her ear. “Hello?”

Due to their relatively close proximity, Kai can make out Elena’s voice. “Hey, I'm driving back to Mystic Falls with Stefan and I couldn’t read your text. What’s up?”

“Oh, um, I have to cancel on having Christmas dinner with you guys.” Bonnie scratches the back of her neck. She was really counting on being able to do this over text, and without Kai and Stefan listening intently.

“What? Why?”

“I'm, uh,” she meets Kai’s stare and locks eyes. She inhales, and finishes, “going to Portland with Kai.”

He can very clearly hear Elena now because she screams, “You’re what?!

Bonnie flinches and angles her head away from her phone. She bites back a sigh and replies, “I’ll explain why later when you’re not driving and I'm not... busy.”

“Busy?” Elena parrots. “Oh my God, are you with him right now?” She says the last bit in a loud whisper, even though Kai can still hear what she says clearly. He takes a sip of his coffee to hide his smile.

“Bye, Elena!” Bonnie says, and before she hangs up on her, Elena squeals. Bonnie tosses her phone back on her bed with a defeated groan and puts her head in her hands. Kai’s smile turns into a shit-eating grin as his face as he watches Bonnie go through the five stages of grief. “Not a word, Parker. Can we just get focus on the task at hand?” Her voice is muffled.

He hums in pleasure and nods, even though she can’t see him at the moment. “Okay. We’ll start with my siblings, basic Kai Parker knowledge, and then we’ll dive into our very elaborate back story.”

“Jesus Christ.” She mumbles.

Kai ignores her. “So, I have seven siblings, including Jo.”

“Seven?” She repeats. For once in her life, Bonnie is glad to be an only child.

“Yes. I know, try growing up with them. I know how thorough you are and how you’re a visual learner; should I draw a diagram?”

Bonnie pauses, considering it. “Actually, please do.” She slides off her bed, walking over to her desk and grabbing the notebook and pen on it.

He laughs, clearly amused. He takes it from her and begins drawing two squares and a line connecting them. “Of course, there’s my parents, Joshua and Ann Parker,” Kai swallows the lump already forming in his throat as he jots down their names. “But, uh, you won’t have to worry about my mom. She died four years ago.” He finds himself nodding, even though Bonnie didn’t say anything yet.

She leans forward and puts her hand on his knee. She gives it a squeeze, rubs it once, and removes it. He always fucking hated this. The pity, the awkward apologies and the inevitable ‘sorry for your loss.’ He finds her eyes, expecting a false sincerity and all the other things he hated in the brown eyes he’s grown to love.

Instead, her eyes are filled with sorrow and understanding. They’re watering, and at first, he doesn’t notice this, but the Christmas lights hanging in her room are reflecting off of her tears and makes it more prominent. His breath hitches at the sight, his own tears forming and fighting their way out. Bonnie reaches for Kai again, this time for his hand and she grabs it. She squeezes it, threads their fingers together. “Kai, I am so, so sorry.”

He wants to say that it’s fine, he’s over it. It’s been four years. He can’t do anything about it. It’s okay. But he can only nod, the lump in his throat still lodged there like a piece of food and he was going to choke any second now. He swallows, once, twice, his Adam’s apple bobbing. He settles for a shaky exhale, nodding again and closing his eyes. This is so frustrating. To simply say that he hates this is an understatement. This is uncharted territory for he and Bonnie; they don’t do emotions, let alone crying over his dead mom and fucking holding hands. Seriousness between them is nonexistent, and it’s one of the few things in Kai’s life he can depend on. And now he was ruining it with his blubbering.

But at the same time, he really doesn’t hate it. If he knew all it took for Bonnie to hold his hand was shedding a few tears for mommy dearest he would have mentioned it a long time ago. Kai focuses on the way their hands slot together perfectly, her warmth radiating over him. He always had cold hands for some reason. Maybe it was because Bonnie wasn’t there to warm them up. Kai smiles at the thought and begins rubbing circles over her knuckles.

Like a gift from the gods, Bonnie’s phone starts ringing again. It seems to snap them out of their trance, becoming hyper-aware of how close they really are. Bonnie untangles their hands with such a speed that it almost offends Kai, and retreats back to her side of the bed. He sniffles, wiping his eyes as heat runs to his cheeks. She clears her throat and then answers the phone. “Hello?” If the loud, high pitched voice yelling through the speaker didn’t indicate who it was, Bonnie muttering, “Jesus, Caroline!” did. She was speaking at a much higher volume than Elena was; Kai didn’t even have to focus his hearing to make out what she was saying.

“Tell me why I just got a call from Elena saying you were going across the country with Kai for Christmas and I didn’t know about it?” Caroline stresses every other word, trying to get her point across as if it wasn’t already crystal. Kai and Caroline didn’t have the strongest friendship; she was too perky and controlling for his tastes and he was too boring and dark for hers. He begins driving his attention on drawing the rest of his family tree, pretending that he couldn’t hear.

“Care, can we talk about this later? You, me, and Elena can Skype and I’ll tell you all about it. ‘Kay?”

“No, not 'kay! Why didn’t you tell me?” She presses.

“Because he asked me last night and the time difference and you’re with Klaus. And if you want to get technical, you didn’t tell me you were going to Paris!” Bonnie takes one look at Kai’s face, which was slightly amused but mostly annoyed, and says, “Look, Caroline, I'm busy right now. But I will tell you anything you want to know later, okay?”

“Fine,” quieter, Caroline says, “You know, Klaus and I have been trying to get you two together for years now.”

Bonnie ignores how fast she flushes. “Yes, I know. You guys aren’t exactly subtle about it,” a laugh rings out on the other line, a laugh Bonnie and Kai know very well now.

“Seriously, Klaus? Eavesdropping?”

“Not eavesdropping if you’re on speakerphone, love,” he replies.

“For fuck's sake. Bye, you assholes.”

“Bye, Bonnie! Have fun with Kaaaaaai—” Caroline says in a singsong mockingly sweet voice, and Bonnie cuts her off with a frustrated groan.

“The teasing is already too much and only Elena, Caroline, and Klaus know.”

“Damon is gonna give me so much shit,” Kai deadpans without looking up.

She giggles, literally giggles, and Kai could die happy right there. “Yeah, he is,” she continues laughing and he just smiles at her in what can only be described as awe. “So, is your little art project done?”

“Right. Yeah, here it is.” Kai hands it to her and she reads it over and over again, trying to process.

“Holy shit,” she breathes out. She scans it once more and then flips it upside down to hide it. Eyes closed, she recites, “Okay, let me see if I got it. It’s you, Jo, Leah, Joey, Sophie, Ethan, Luke, and Olivia.”

Kai nods, impressed. “Yup. Bonus points if you remembered their ages.”

“Oh, God, no,” Bonnie replies, earning a hearty laugh from him. “I know Olivia and Luke are twins and they’re five years old. That’s all I got.”

“Mind like a steel trap, huh, Bonster? Also, Olivia likes going by Liv.”

“Noted. Is it just you guys for the holidays?” she asks.

“Yeah. My Dad’s brother died before I was even born. They were twins. Twins run in the family,” he mentions offhandedly. “And my mom was an only child.”

“Grandparents?”

“All dead.”

“Sorry.” Bonnie nibbles on her bottom lip, feeling a bit awkward.

“Nothing to be sorry about. Honestly, I think it’s why my parents had so many kids. They wanted a big family and wanted us to have one, too,” Kai reassures. “Moving on to the Kai Parker anthology series! Time for all my greatest hits.” He clasps his hands together.

“This should be interesting. I realized yesterday that I don’t really know that much about you,” she admits.

He scratches his head. “Really?” She just nods. “Okay, we’ll start out easy. I’m assuming you know when my birthday is?”

“Your birthday? I know your birthday, dumbass. I was talking more about your life before you moved to Virginia.”

He pauses. His past, with the exception of the bare minimum, has been something he’s avoided talking about for three years. “Eh, it’s not important. And I’ll leave out stories because I'm sure you’ll get a load of those,” Hoping to divert her attention, he says, “But really? You don’t have to pretend to know my birthday. I get it, it's okay. God, I can’t believe you don’t even know your boyfriend’s birthday. I'm absolutely hurt, Bonnie Bennett.” Kai presses a hand to his chest in dramatization and scoffs.

“Fake boyfriend,” Bonnie corrects and rolls her eyes. “Your birthday is on June tenth. A Gemini; very fitting since you’re actually a twin, it seems like you have multiple personalities, and you never shut up.” She replies, listing them off on her fingers with a smirk on her lips.

He hums, pleased that his deflection worked. Kai scratches his head in faux thought. “Say, did you know that Geminis and Aquarians are supposed to be one of the most compatible astrological signs? My mind is a little foggy, but could you remember what star sign you are again Bonbon? It’s on the tip of my tongue...”

Bonnie purses her lips. “I never believed in astrology anyway.”

Then why did you bring it up? he thinks. Instead, he says, “Right. Okay then, you know my birthday. How much do you know about me? Well, post-Portland me, I guess.”

“I know you’re best friends with Klaus and the rest of us. You like to party but you’re always the first to leave. You love grunge from the ninties even though it’s terrible. You’re majoring in criminal justice, but you’re not gonna be a cop like Matt because that’s ‘boring.’” She air quotes this, using her designated voice for Kai Parker impressions. “You want to be the guy manhandling dead people. Whatever that’s called, I forget.” She continues droning on, Kai just staring at her dumbstruck. Bonnie recounts small details he never would have thought she would have remembered, like his hatred for pickles, his favorite movie, and of course, the ‘boring’ thing. He said that when they first met at that dumb party three fucking years ago. Granted, Kai can’t be too surprised she remembers this since it’s usually him remembering everything. He supposes he just isn’t used to someone else reminiscing about the little things.

“Forensic pathologist,” he points out once she’s done. That seems to be the only coherent thing he can say at the moment. “It’s just a suped-up word for a coroner, but you might want to know the technical term.”

“Forensic pathologist,” she repeats.

He nods once, clears his throat. “Well, I mean, yeah. That’s—yeah.”

Bonnie smiles in amusement at his sudden loss for words, something that happens rarely, but furrows her brows anyways. “What?”

“Nothing. I just never realized you actually listened when I went off on a tangent, talking about myself and stuff.” He goes red and scratches his neck, unknown what to do with his hands suddenly.

She just chuckles at him. “Kai, we’re friends. Things about you, that’s important stuff. If I didn’t know those things, what kind of friend would I be?”

“Well,” he starts. I’ve never known someone like you, Bonnie, his brain supplies for him. “If you want me to say that you’re right, that isn’t happening.”

“That’s okay. Knowing that you’re thinking it is enough,” she replies. “So, onto the whole... couple thing?”

He nods. “The story is that after years of being a pussy, I finally asked you out and we’ve been dating for four months. That’s all I told Jo, so we can make up stuff if you want.”

Bonnie laughs at his choice of words. “Okay, then we have to come up with a whole backstory. How did you do it?”

“Do what?”

“Ask me out.” She states like it was right in front of his face the whole time.

“Oh,” is all he says. This scenario has gone through his head multiple times, usually when he’s drunk or in the late hours of the night when he can’t sleep. Pretending to mull it over, he waits a few seconds and then, “It was a gesture of some sort. Nothing too romantic or cheesy, because I hate that shit, but it was enough to get my point across and show you how I felt. You, of course, said yes because how could you say no to this?” He chooses his words carefully, making sure he stays in the past because apparently, all this had already happened.

“What was the gesture?” Her voice is softer and distant, and Kai resists every urge he has to look at her. His facade might break if he does.

He takes a moment to pause again, to collect himself and his words. “Okay, um, I treated it just like any other day, but it was still special. I took you on a drive. I only played the music that you liked, which is the biggest gesture of all gestures. And uh, we stopped somewhere to get lunch. I just... told you. No bullshit or lying or stupid jokes. It was awful. And then you confessed you were madly in love with me. Then we made sweet, passionate love for a day straight.”

Bonnie throws her pillow at him, heat rising to her cheeks. “God, you’re so gross!”

A laugh escapes his lips, and he just smiles at her. “We’ll touch up on the details, but is that fairy tale good enough for your liking?”

She only nods, her fingers finding a loose thread on her comforter and tugging at it. “No complaints here. Except for the sex, obviously. I’d like to keep it as PG-13 as possible please.”

“No promises.”


Kai goes back to his dorm at seven o’clock. It took them three more hours to iron out all the wrinkles in their plan, and he even made flashcards for Bonnie so she can remember his siblings’ names. They ordered Chinese food after that and watched two movies to calm down and forget everything for a little while. It’s nothing that they aren’t familiar with; at least once a week they do this, whether it’s just them or with everyone. It gets old hanging around with couples all the time, so they silently agreed to treat themselves to some well deserved alone time. With each other.

He agrees to help her with the library, since Bonnie unofficially added it to their rules, and partially because he feels a little bad. They planned out the next three days; tomorrow will be spent in the library, Friday will be spent finishing whatever work they have left and then packing, and their flight leaves at seven in the morning on Saturday.

Now, before anything has even happened, Bonnie feels exhausted. She’s not so sure she can go through with this anymore, but she’s already in too deep and can’t back out now. Her laptop begins trilling. “Shit,” she says into her pillow. As soon as Kai left she flopped face-first into her bed and let out a guttural scream. She had been there ever since, thinking things over and completely forgot about the Skype date. Bonnie stands, sighing as she answers the call.

Caroline is wearing no makeup, her hair tied up in a loose bun and only a lamp is on to illuminate her features. “Hey!” She greets, smiling at the sight of Bonnie.

“Hi, Care,” Bonnie replies, not even coming close to the amount of energy Caroline has. To this day she still can’t figure out how she’s so upbeat all the time. “Is Elena coming on too?”

“Yeah, I was gonna call her next,” the sounds of a mouse clicking and typing fills the silence. “How have you been?”

“You’ve never been good at small talk, but I’ve been good.” The corners of her mouth go up anyways at her friend’s attempt.

“A girl can try,” a beat later Elena’s face pops up on the screen. “Hi!” Caroline crows.

“Hey, guys!”

“How was your drive, Elena?” Caroline asks.

Bonnie holds back rolling her eyes. “Okay, you guys can just ask, you know. That’s the whole reason we’re talking.”

“It’s not the whole reason, I miss you guys and I wanted to say hi!” Caroline retorts.

“Uh-huh.”

A second passes, and then, “Fine. Tell us everything.”

Bonnie does, highlighting over Kai being pathetic multiple times and telling them the details of the contract. Klaus comes out when he hears them talking and he gets the full story too. When Bonnie’s finished, it grows quiet, and Caroline nudges Klaus lightly.

“Right. I’m going to bed. It was nice seeing you girls.” He kisses Caroline’s forehead and leaves, and the blonde pointedly plugs in her headphones.

“Okay, onto the juicy details,” she starts. Whispering, she asks, “Do you like him?”

Elena grins happily at the question, and Bonnie sighs. “I don’t know. He’s so hard to read. We had a few moments, but either Caroline calling me ruins it or he makes a stupid joke and changes the subject.”

Caroline’s face turns into a scowl, and she’s about to defend herself when Elena speaks before she can. “What happened between you two?”

“Well,” Bonnie wants to respect Kai’s boundaries as much as she can, so she’s vague in her description: “He shared something really personal with me, and I comforted him. It was the first time he was... raw. He never really lets his guard down like that. When the phone rang, the walls went right back up.”

“I—”

“Care, I’m not blaming you, in fact, I think you saved me. I don’t know what would have happened if you didn’t.” That was one of the things that kept running rampant in Bonnie’s brain; was that a friend comforting a friend, or was it something more? How would they recover from that intense moment they shared had Caroline not called?

“Oh.” Was all Caroline said in response.

“What did you want to happen?” Elena asks.

“I’m not sure. I’ve been asking myself that question for years. I don’t know if I want more with Kai. It’s hard to know that when I feel like I don’t know him completely. And I’m afraid that on this trip, the real him will come out and I won’t like him.” Bonnie admits.

The other girls just nod, and Elena says, “That thing he told you, no one else knows right? Or at the very least none of us?”

“Yeah,”

Caroline picks up on where Elena’s going, but Bonnie’s still clueless. “Did he cry?”

“Yeah...”

Somehow, her best friends share a knowing look through a computer monitor. “You have nothing to be afraid of, Bonnie.”

“That’s the real Kai.” Elena agrees.

“If he trusts you enough to share that information with you, and he let those walls come down, you have nothing to be afraid of. I highly doubt the ‘real him’ is anyone you won’t like.”

“Dare I say... love? ” Elena teases.

Bonnie sighs, burying her face in her hands. “God, fuck you guys.”

Chapter Text

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.”

“How?”

“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.


It’s dark.

But... music?

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 melodywhat little melody there isyet 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.

“What?”

“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.”

“What?”

“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.

“Kai—”

Bonnie. Please.”

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.

“Why?”

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.

(1:27 p.m.)

Jo:

Text me when you land

(2:55 p.m.)

Jo:

Text me. Please

(4:03 p.m.)

Kai:

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.

(11:18 a.m.)

Klaus:

Call me when you land.

(4:04 p.m.)

Kai:

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.

“You what?”

“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.”

“Oh God—”

“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.

“Really?”

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.”

“Didn’t what?”

“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.”

“You what!?

“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.”

Chapter Text

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.