Klaus stood speechless with an unconscious Stefan in his arms as the others stared in horror. When the young vampire didn’t immediately come to, everyone seemed to realize this wasn’t just exhaustion.
Rebekah spoke first. “Nik? What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s burning up,” answered Nik. “Like he has a fever that knocked him out.”
“But we don’t get sick,” stated Caroline. She knew it was sort of stating the obvious but her confusion was evident.
Klaus lifted Stefan’s body and placed it on a couch in the closest sitting room as his siblings and Caroline followed. He kneeled beside his friend as Rebekah placed a hand on Stefan’s cheek.
“He does feel feverish.” She paused, puzzled. “Caroline’s right though. We don’t get sick. To get a vampire to pass out, you’d have to vervain them or kill them or…”
“Spell him,” interrupted Elijah.
“You think this is a spell, brother?” asked Klaus, turning his face towards Elijah while Caroline propped up pillows under Stefan’s head.
“I’m not certain,” answered Elijah. “It does seem the most likely possiblity.”
“How do we know for sure?” asked Caroline.
“Wait a few minutes to see if he revives,” said Elijah. “If Stefan remains unconscious, I can attempt to manipulate his self-conscious into telling me what’s going.”
Caroline’s face showed her confusion.
“When a vampire gives someone a dream,” explained Kol. “It’s a backwards way but sometimes we can make the dream tell us secrets instead of simply being a fantasy.”
“Oh. But what happens if Stefan doesn’t wake up and we can’t figure out what’s wrong?” worried Caroline.
“Cross your bridges when you get there, Caroline, not before,” said Elijah calmly. “Kol, will you get a fresh blood bag from the guest cooler? I want to be prepared if Stefan wakes up hungry.”
“Type A,” called Caroline after Kol. She knew he would still be able to hear her.
Kol was back within minutes, handing the bag to Elijah before sitting next to Caroline. A second later, Stefan jolted upwards on the couch, startling everyone and causing Klaus to jump backwards.
“Stefan?” asked Klaus cautiously.
Stefan’s eyes were wild and unfocused. He gazed unseeingly as though dazed. The Originals and Caroline watched, utterly baffled and unsure of how to respond to Stefan.
“Ripper,” whispered Stefan suddenly. “Ripper made a mess.”
“What’s he talking about?” said Caroline softly.
Elijah was just as puzzled as the rest of him. “I’m not sure.”
Klaus took a step back towards Stefan. “Stefan?” he asked hesitantly.
“Ripper made a mess!” screamed Stefan this time, though he seemed no more coherent.
“Where’s the mess, Stefan?” asked Klaus. “What happened?”
Caroline and Rebekah exchanged looks of concern, though Caroline was more horrified than the older vampire.
“Why would he be a ripper again?” asked Caroline, addressing no one in particular.
“I don’t know that he is,” answered Elijah. “Is this typical behavior of the Ripper version of Stefan?”
“No,” stated Rebekah firmly.
“This definitely isn’t the Ripper,” agreed Klaus. “Stefan was always in complete control then. To an extreme. This is something very different.”
They turned back to Stefan as he started muttering. “Clean up the mess, ripper. Can’t be messy, have to clean.”
The vampires were bewildered, trying to figure out what was going on, or what Stefan meant when he started clawing at his arms. Stefan scratched down his forearm, digging his nails in and peeling skin back as he went. Caroline nearly threw up in horror at the sight. As Klaus recovered, he yanked Stefan’s hand away.
“Stefan, stop it!” he yelled, trying to reach the vampire’s mind.
Stefan pulled his hand back with more strength than Klaus was prepared for and began muttering again. “See the mess, ripper. Time to clean.” He reached back towards the loose skin on his arm that wasn’t healing at typical vampire speed. His hand began to smooth the skin back over the wounds. “Put the pieces back together, ripper. Mustn’t leave a mess.”
“Fuck,” exclaimed Kol as Klaus again tried to pull Stefan’s hand away.
“That’s a spell if I ever saw one,” noted Elijah. “And a powerful one at that.”
“Pieces won’t go back,” said Stefan, batting harder at his arm. “Never mind, throw it away. Can’t keep the pieces.” He started ripping the skin away completely, saying again, “throw the pieces away. No mess for ripper.”
“That explains why the wounds aren’t healing faster,” said Elijah. “Stefan probably goes into these fits often and I’m guessing part of the spell is blocking his healing abilities.”
“So what do we do?” asked Caroline.
Elijah sat down again, watching Stefan run his hand over the wounds again. He’d stopped ripping at his flesh for the moment. “It look like he might be calming down, so let’s wait it out. Then maybe Stefan can talk to us and explain.”
Stefan was still muttering but it had been incoherent for a few minutes. Suddenly he was talking very loudly again. “This piece doesn’t go. Ripper, take out the bad piece. Doesn’t belong.” Both of Stefan’s hands moved upwards, and he began to jam them at his chest. “Take out the bad piece. Doesn’t go here. Ripper put the pieces back wrong,” he muttered.
Kol caught on the same time Klaus did. “Shit,”snapped Klaus. The two brothers leaped at Stefan, yanking his arms behind him.
Rebekah realized what he was doing a split second later. “He was trying to rip his heart out.”
“Dear god,” whispered Elijah quietly.
Everyone was still as Stefan fought against Klaus and Kol until after several minutes, he passed out again. Neither original let go of the vampire’s arms.
“We need to get to Mystic Falls,” said Klaus, his voice quivering with rage.
“Quickly,” agreed Elijah.
“I’m going,” said Caroline. “Those are my friends.”
Klaus didn’t even bother arguing. “One of us should stay with Stefan.”
“I will,” volunteered Rebekah. “Caroline wouldn’t be strong enough to fight him anyway.”
Stefan’s eyes opened just then and he blinked a few times at the Originals surrounding him. “Caroline,” he said weakly.
“I’m right here,” she answered, moving to stand in front of him. “Stefan what happened to you?”
“Witch,” he said, as Klaus slowly helped Stefan sit down again. “She showed up in Mystic Falls a few weeks ago and kidnapped Elena, taking some of her blood.”
“And this spell?” asked Elijah, hoping to get as many answers as possible while Stefan was coherent.
“The witch called it a test…and…a reminder.”
“How often does this happen?” questioned Klaus, still keeping a grip on Stefan, not wanting to risk anything without more details.
“Shit,” said Kol, his curse speaking for everyone. “How did you get to us?”
“I ran,” answered Stefan. “Lucy, a cousin of Bonnie’s, has been trying to help us but she isn’t strong enough to break the spell.”
“Is the spell on Damon too?” asked Rebekah.
Stefan shook his head. “Just me. But sometimes it makes me attack him too and his wounds don’t heal either. Plus he has to fight me so I don’t rip my heart out.” His voice shook. “Damon keeps getting weaker too. We thought we could beat the witch on our own but early this morning it took Matt shooting me with vervain while Damon fought me to stop it. I had my hands around my own heart when Matt got there.”
“Why didn’t Damon come here?” asked Elijah.
“Lucy was able to figure out how to pause the spell’s cycle for a few hours,” explained Stefan. “We figured if I managed to make it here, an unspelled Original could keep me from involuntary suicide.”
“And if Damon left, there was no one strong enough to stop you,” realized Klaus.
Stefan nodded. “I usually pass out before and after the spell hits. I was fighting it with everything I had those last few minutes to get to you.” He took a breath to continue and lapsed unconscious again, his head falling against Kol’s shoulder.
“I thought Stefan said he was usually coherent for an hour,” observed Rebekah, watching Stefan worriedly.
“I imagine Lucy pausing the spell left him more vulnerable,” theorized Elijah, though he too was concerned.
“Then let us figure out a plan quickly, brother,” insisted Klaus. “Before he gets worse.”
– – – – –
“Someone needs to stay and help Rebekah with Stefan,” said Caroline. They’d held Stefan back through two more fits while Elijah worked out a plan and it was clear that Stefan’s strength grew during them.
Elijah thought for only a moment, “Laurel.”
“Laurel?” questioned Klaus. “She hardly seems like the calming influence that Stefan needs right now.”
“I agree,” interjected Caroline. “Elijah, I really don’t see how Laurel is the right person to stay with Stefan.”
“She turned Lexi,” said Elijah in response.
“Never mind, that works for me,” said Klaus.
Caroline nodded her agreement. Both were curious as to how Elijah knew that but neither bothered to ask. Now wasn’t the time for useless questions.
“Excellent. I will have Kol stop by her place on his way to Mystic Falls.” Elijah walked out the door, assuming the matter was resolved and the others followed.
Kol was going to run at vampire speeds to Mystic Falls, grab Elena, and get her to a safe location before the others got there. He’d agreed not to take her far so they could return quickly, Elena’s compassion for her friends ensured that she wouldn’t let Kol go far. But Elijah & Klaus wanted her safe and away from this witch while they sorted out what was going on.
Klaus, Caroline, and Elijah were driving and even at Elijah’s high driving speeds, would take a good 5 hours to get there, allowing them to arrive a little after Kol.
Caroline looked at Rebekah, who stood on the front steps, before getting into the car. “Take care of him,” she said quietly, though her fears were still evident.
“Promise,” answered Rebekah.
– – – –
Late that night, Laurel sat with Stefan as he kept repeating the cycle. First he would pass out, then he would start tearing his own body apart before trying to put it back together. He always had about an hour of sanity before another round would hit. Rebekah had spent most of the evening holding Stefan’s arms away from him, fighting so he couldn’t rip his own heart out, something he’d tried twice. Neither vampire could imagine how Damon had managed to prevent Stefan from killing himself, not when Stefan was putting up a struggle even against Rebekah.
Once Laurel got to the mansion, she could see that the Original vampire was exhausted, both physically and mentally. Laurel urged her to get some rest, insisting that she would call her if necessary.
When the next moment of insanity started, Laurel gripped Stefan’s hands tightly and stared into his eyes. “You don’t need to put the ripper back together right now. Leave it alone.”
Stefan struggled but with less effort.
“Leave the mess, Stefan,” said Laurel again. “We’ll clean it up later.” She kept repeating the words as his struggle slowed until eventually Stefan was quiet. A few minutes later, she could see that the old Stefan was back.
“Who are you?” asked Stefan.
Laurel smiled. “I’m Laurel. Elijah asked me to help take care of you while they went to Mystic Falls. The boys are sorting out this witch problem.”
“Why isn’t Rebekah here anymore?”
“She needed help and Elijah thought you and I would get along,” replied Laurel.
Stefan raised an eyebrow.
“I turned Lexi Branson,” said Laurel in answer to Stefan’s unspoken question. “I believe Elijah assumed that connection would be helpful.”
“How do you know Elijah?” Like before, once the fit passed, Stefan was himself again, Which naturally meant he wanted answers.
“He turned me,” answered Laurel simply, handing Stefan a blood bag.
He took a long sip as he pondered that information. “I didn’t realize Elijah turned anyone into vampires.”
“It is difficult to picture,” agreed Laurel. “I was one of the last people he turned and that was over 400 years ago now.” Her voice regained some of its usual bubbly nature.
“Why did he stop?” asked Stefan.
“That is partly a question for Elijah,” replied Laurel. “But I can answer some of it. You’re aware that the Originals were created into vampires by their mother, not turned?”
“Yes,” said Stefan. “Esther was a very powerful witch. We had issues with her as well.”
Laurel continued. “A witch’s skills are carried down through the bloodline. While traditionally witches use the name for their maternal lineage, the men in the family also possess the same talents.”
“We met some warlocks actually,” interrupted Stefan. “I wasn’t a fan.”
“They called themselves warlocks?” asked Laurel, not waiting for an answer. “Stupid. The proper term is witch. True warlocks are part demon. Regardless, each of the Originals inherited their mother’s skill, though at this point most witches weren’t aware that the gift passed through the bloodlines. It was assumed to be a gift from the forces of nature, given only to a select few.”
Stefan interjected again. “I thought a witch couldn’t be a vampire though. Doesn’t it sever their ties to nature or something?”
“Most of the time yes,” answered Laurel. “But that’s if a witch is turned. The Mikaelson children were created into vampires and over time each one learned that they maintained certain elements of a witch’s powers. Elijah, for example, has a knack for persuading people to do what he wants, even if they know it isn’t the best idea. A witch can manipulate the elements of nature to accomplish their goals and Elijah’s ability is a variation of that.” She allowed Stefan time to process. “The issue for Elijah was when he discovered that for some unknown reason, he passed on variations of his particular gift to the vampires he turned.”
“But Finn did too,” stated Stefan, confused again.
“A fact that no one was really aware of for centuries. Finn only turned a few people, most of whom ended up dead at the hands of Klaus or Elijah after causing problems. Sage was the only vampire sired by Finn to survive,” clarified Laurel. “And once Klaus put Finn in that coffin, there weren’t any other sired vampires to help anyone notice.”
“You know about the coffins?” asked Stefan, momentarily sidenoting the discussion.
“Kol talks to much in certain situations,” she answered. “Anyway, Elijah started noticing that the people he turned seemed a bit more special. That turned problematic when a few tried to persuade Klaus to value their opinions over his. Elijah, not being a fan of insubordinance, ripped their hearts out and started researching.”
“So why don’t I have a gift, since Klaus is my bloodline ancestor?”
“Elijah’s best guess was that the dormant hybrid in Klaus kept him from passing that on,” said Laurel. “Once Elijah realized what his sires could do however, he stopped turning people. Out of respect, I only ever turned Lexi.”
Stefan thought he got it but still had more questions. “I know Rebekah though. She hasn’t stopped turning people and I can’t imagine that Kol did.”
“Kol tends to be fairly picky. He views most people as beneath him so it’s rare that he agrees to turn anyone. And more often than not he ends up killing them in a fit of rage. Rebekah can be equally picky.”
“So Elijah has a gift of persuasion, which decreases in strength down the bloodline. And I assume Finn could read minds if they were susceptible since he turned Sage and she could,” repeated Stefan, verifying that he understood.
“What about the others?” he asked.
Laurel picked up a blood bag for herself before answering. “I have no idea what Rebekah or Klaus can do. I only guessed at Finn’s because of a rather unpleasant encounter with that former lover.” She wrinkled her nose in distaste at the memory of Sage. “Cheap trash. Anyway, obviously I share Elijah’s gift, in a very small degree.”
“Kol likes to tell secrets after sex.” Laurel grinned, her tone indicating she’d gotten more than one secret out of Kol that way. “You know how witches have a sort of psychic sense and can tell when a supernatural is around? Or perhaps not psychic but a heightened supernatural sense is the better word.”
“Yes,” replied Stefan, still a little confused.
“Hmm, his is a bit harder to explain. As vampires, we have amplified hearing and speed. But the trick for most of us is that we have to choose to use it,” explained Laurel. “Now if we focus on hearing someone miles away, there’s a greater chance we can deduce if they’re supernatural based on their actions.”
Laurel thought how best to explain. “You have to choose to listen. Vampires don’t just automatically hear everything within miles. We have to stop and selectively listen. Kol doesn’t. That sense is always there. He has to tune people out because his mind naturally senses a supernatural presence and hears nearly everything going on around him.”
“So if there’s a threat…” Stefan was putting the pieces together.
“Kol will be the first to know,” finished Laurel. “I would imagine that’s why he was the one to get Elena out of Mystic Falls. He has the best chance of sensing the witch in time.”
“That’s a neat trick,” commented Stefan.
Stefan was quiet for a few minutes as he processed. “So what happens now? With everyone in Mystic Falls? I need to go back there.”
“You need to stay here,” said Laurel firmly. “You’re obviously no help to anyone and I can keep you from killing yourself or your brother. Until I get a call from Elijah, you are not to move from this couch.”
“And the insanity fits? Are those over now?” asked Stefan hopefully.
“I doubt it,” answered Laurel. “I can convince you that you don’t need to rip yourself apart but I can’t take away the underlying desire or break the spell.”
Stefan’s eyes lit up for a moment. “That’s what Lexi did!”
“You’ve been through this before?” queried Laurel. “With Lexi?”
“No,” Stefan shook his head. “When I was in a ripper stage though, Lexi would convince me I was desiccating, drying out from lack of blood.”
“Ah,” said Laurel, understanding. “And I assume you still had the ripper tendencies and the blood lust, you just didn’t need to go out of control to get it?”
“Yeah. Lexi would do that weird trick and I wouldn’t black out as a ripper as much. Little by little it would get better. She did that?” marveled Stefan.
Laurel nodded. “Lexi’s skill always was in being able to help other vampires control the bloodlust.” She picked up another blood bag and handed Stefan one, hoping the extra blood would start to heal him. Despite their conversation, Laurel had been watching carefully and while they weren’t getting worse, his wounds still weren’t healing. She needed that to change.
Stefan sipped at the bag slowly. “Will you tell me more about Lexi while we wait?” His eyes darkened just a touch. “I miss her.”
“I’d love to,” said Laurel with a smile. “There was this one year in Salem in 1690…”