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The Return: Midnight (Chapter 6)

Bonnie couldn't get to sleep after Damon's words to her.

She wanted to talk to Meredith, but there was an unseeing, unhearing lump in Meredith's bed.

The only thing she could think of was to go down to the kitchen and huddle up with a cup of cocoa in the den, alone with her misery. Bonnie wasn't good at being alone with herself.

But as it turned out, when she got to the bottom floor, she didn't head for the kitchen after al . She went straight to the den. Everything was dark and strange-looking in the silent dimness. Turning on one light would just make everything else even darker. But she managed, with shaking fingers, to twist the switch of the standing lamp beside the couch. Now if only she could find a book or something…

She was holding on to her pil ow as if it were a teddy bear, when Damon's voice beside her said, "Poor little redbird.

You shouldn't be up so late, you know."

Bonnie started and bit her lip.

"I hope you're not stil hurting,"she said coldly, very much on her dignity, which she suspected was not very convincing.

But what was she supposed to do?

The truth was that Bonnie had absolutely no chance of winning a duel of wits with Damon – and she knew it.

Damon wanted to say, "Hurting? To a vampire, a human fleabite like that was…"

But unfortunately he was a human too. And it did hurt.

Not for long, he promised himself, looking at Bonnie.

"I thought you never wanted to see me again,"she said, chin trembling. It almost seemed too cruel to make use of a vulnerable little redbird. But what choice did he have?

I'l make it up to her somehow, someday – I swear it, he thought. And at least I can make it pleasant now.

"That wasn't what I said,"he replied, hoping that Bonnie wouldn't remember exactly what he had said. If he could just Influence the trembling woman-child before him…but he couldn't. He was a human now.

"You told me you would kil me."

"Look, I'd just been knocked down by a human. I don't suppose you know what that means, but it hasn't happened to me since I was twelve years old, and stil an original human boy."

Bonnie's chin kept trembling, but the tears had stopped. You are bravest when you're scared, Damon thought.

"I'm more worried about the others,"he said.

"Others?"Bonnie blinked.

"In five hundred years of life, one tends to make a remarkable amount of enemies. I don't know; maybe it's just me. Or maybe it's the simple little fact of being a vampire."

"Oh. Oh, no!"Bonnie cried.

"What does it matter, little redbird? Long or short, life seems al too brief."

"But – Damon – "

"Don't fret, kitten. Have one of Nature's remedies."Damon pul ed out of his breast pocket a smal flask that smel ed unquestionably of Black Magic.

"Oh – you saved it! How clever of you!"

"Try a taste? Ladies – strike that – young women first."

"Oh, I don't know. I used to get awful y sil y on that."

"The world is sil y. Life is sil y. Especial y when you've been doomed six times before breakfast."Damon opened the flask.

"Oh, al right!"Clearly thril ed by the notion of "drinking with Damon,"Bonnie took a very dainty sip.

Damon choked to cover a laugh. "You'd better take bigger swigs, redbird. Or it's going to take al night before I get a turn."

Bonnie took a deep breath, and then a deep draft. After about three of those, Damon decided she was ready.

Bonnie's giggles were nonstop now. "I think…Do I think I've had enough now?"

"What colors do you see out here?"

"Pink? Violet? Is that right? Isn't it nighttime?"

"Wel , perhaps the Northern Lights are paying us a visit. But you're right, I should get you into bed."

"Oh, no! Oh, yes! Oh, no! Nonono yes!"

"Shh."

"SHHHHHH!"

Terrific, Damon thought; I've overdone it.

"I meant, get you into a bed,"he said firmly. "Just you. Here, I'l walk you to the first-floor bedroom."

"Because I might fal on the stairs?"

"You might say that. And this bedroom is much nicer than the one you share with Meredith. Now you just go to sleep and don't tel anyone about our rendezvous."

"Not even Elena?"

"Not even anybody. Or I might get angry at you."

"Oh, no! I won't, Damon: I swear on your life!"

"That's – pretty accurate,"Damon said. "Good night."

Moonlight cocooned the house. Fog misted the moonlight. A slender, hooded dark figure took advantage of shadows so skil ful y that it would have passed unnoticed even if someone had been watching out for it – and no one was.

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