(A/N): Hope you all enjoy this third and final installment. Originally donated to the Fandom4Autism charity compilation.
This Left Feels Right: Mystic Falls
"It's just weird is all I'm saying," Elena huffed as she obligingly walked into the Mystic Grill as Stefan held the door open for her.
Stefan sighed, frowning at the back of her head as he followed her in. "I understand you're worried, Elena, but this is Damon we're talking about. He's fine."
Feeling a mite defensive at the placating tone, Elena's shoulders tightened as her eyes scanned the crowd for her friends. Spying them in a corner booth, she marched over not bothering to check if Stefan followed. "So he just gets some call and ups and disappears – is that normal? I mean, it's been almost two months now. He has responsibilities here and he just abandoned us all like a bad habit."
Sliding into the booth, Elena greeted Bonnie and Caroline with a wan smile.
Again, Stefan gave a sardonic, closed lip smile as he said once more, "This is Damon we're talking about – are you really that surprised?"
The tightening in her eyes told them all that she actually was surprised. A part of her really couldn't comprehend just what could tear Damon away from Mystic Falls when he'd been all but their self-appointed leader as of late. Sure he caused more than his share of problems, but it was also him getting his hands dirty for her sake; him making tough decisions that had to be made even though no one else was comfortable making them because of their uncompromising sense of morality.
Out of all of them, Damon was the only one willing to get his hands dirty and because of his mysterious and extended absence, their plans for staving off Elijah and dealing with the still unseen Klaus had all but stalled. They all knew it, too. Their booth remained uncomfortably silent as each of them came to terms with their predicament. Whether they liked the vampire or not, Damon had actually done more to help them than any one of them had done for him and was likely their best chance of solving their current woes.
More than that, Elena actually missed the guy. As quick as the thought formed, though, she brushed it aside, refusing to accept it or analyze the faint stirring of emotion the realization provoked.
For a moment, each of them got lost in their thoughts and the only sound amongst the awkward group was stilted shifting and a dull slurp as Caroline finished her drink.
"Well this sucks," Caroline said, setting her drink down with a thud that had an ice cube jumping out of her glass. "Elijah is lurking who knows where, Katherine is running around causing trouble, who knows when this Klaus guy is gonna get here... and we've got nothing, absolutely nothing to go on. Our enforcer has up and left us to fend for ourselves."
"Fend for yourselves doing what?" Matt asked, coming up to swipe away some of their dirty dishes.
Caroline clammed up. "Um, fend for ourselves socially what with the thing – the gathering thing – and reasons."
Pity tugged at Elena's heart. Caroline had been doing her best to protect Matt – their only friend not in the supernatural know – but to say things had been tense between them was like saying the sky was blue.
"Right," he drew out looking almost amused at her pathetic cover-up even if hurt tinted resentment began to simmer in his baby blues. "Because that's believable."
Caroline floundered for a response, but Matt ignored her and proceeded to gather up a few more plates. He'd turned away from them, feeling like an outsider amongst those he'd once considered friends and more, but in doing so he caught sight of Tyler trying to mack on a girl he didn't recognize.
"What's so funny?" Elena asked, trying to salvage the situation with a distraction.
Matt shook his head. "Looks like Tyler is doing his best Damon impersonation on some girl by the pool tables..." with that, he wandered off to get back to work.
A derisive snort sounded. "That dog wishes he had half of my style," a darkly amused voice pointed out.
Slapping a hand to her heart in order to keep it from leaping out of her chest, Elena turned and gasped out, "Damon!"
A small tendril of pleasure unfurled in her gut at the sight of him and she ruthlessly smothered that under a cocktail of annoyance and anger.
"Where the hell have you been?" she snapped, eyes flashing.
To her surprise, his gaze only fell on her for a moment before dismissing her entirely as he turned to face out at the slowly growing crowd milling about.
"Damon?" she prompted and gave an internal wince at how she sounded like a nagging housewife.
"Oh I'm sorry, Elena – I wasn't aware that you were my keeper and I had to check in with you if I wanted to have a life of my own. How silly of me."
He spoke dryly with his attention only half on her as his ice blue eyes continued to roam over people milling around the pool tables. His eyes crinkled at what he spied as he fended off one of his grins.
Curious despite feeling annoyed at being so casually dismissed by a man who'd all but once declared his love for her, Elena turned and followed the direction of his gaze. It was pointless. The Mystic Grill had reached that point on a Friday evening where just about the entire town had started streaming in and whatever it was that had prompted the warm, genuinely happy light in Damon's eyes was impossible for her to determine.
Knowing him, it was probably some sorority girl he planned on sinking his teeth into later...
"Damon," Stefan cut in, giving Elena an undecipherable look as she continued to try to catch Damon's eyes. "You up and left after a mysterious phone call – did you forget about what's going on here? About Klaus and the sacrifice? About Katherine and her schemes? Whether you like it or not you have a duty to us and this town now. Where the hell have you been?"
"Out," he answered vaguely, head twisting around to get a better look at whatever it was that'd captured his attention so fiercely.
"Figures," Bonnie muttered. "We're here trying to stop the curse from being broken and save Elena's life and you were out probably on a murder spree."
Finally looking away from the one corner of the bar, Damon turned to Bonnie with a smirk. "No need to feel left out, Witchy. I swear I sent you a 'wish you were here' postcard," he stopped and leaned towards her, eyes flashing with dark humor as she automatically flinched back. "Guess it got lost in the mail."
"There's something different about you," Stefan announced suddenly, eyes squinting at Damon thoughtfully.
"Is there?" Damon turned to him airily. "Well, I did start using a new shampoo..."
Not even addressing the quip, Stefan leaned forward and inhaled deeply through his nose, frowning. "You smell... different. Like you but with something else mixed in there, too. Is that strawberries? Flowers?"
"Are you saying I smell like a girl?" Damon smirked. It sounded like an amused snide, but Elena spied a little light in his eyes suggesting he was actually excited by the idea.
"What is that?" Stefan ignored him, inhaling again. "Damon – where have you been? Who have you been with?"
"Oh – you're back," Tyler deadpanned as he came up to the table, his smarmy grin dying when he took in Damon leaning against their table.
Inwardly thanking the werewolf for his timing as she was sure Damon was preparing another zinger to rile them all up, Elena turned to Tyler and frowned, saying, "What's with you?" He was still looking mighty proud of himself despite eying Damon like a bug that needed to be squashed with the bottom of his shoe.
In the grand scheme of things, Elena supposed keeping her friend from running off with Jules had been the one good thing that Damon's absence allowed. She doubted Tyler would've been willing to hear them out if Damon had been present, constantly needling him and goading him into anger.
At her question, Tyler perked back up. "I just scored some chick's number," he grinned.
Rolling her eyes, Elena spied a napkin he was gripping like a winning lotto ticket.
"Not really sure now is the time for that sort of thing," she said with humoring censure.
Tyler gave her a wide-eyed stare. "There's always the time for a girl with an ass like that, Elena."
Standing taller, Damon eyed the wolf. Elena thought she heard a faint rumble in his chest and while his expression remained one of his patented affable looks of sarcasm, Elena thought his eyes glittered a tad colder than normal at her friend.
"Hm-m," Damon hummed. "I'll have to agree with the puppy there – it is quite an ass, isn't it?"
Spying the admiring look he shot in the still unseen girl's direction, Tyler defensively pulled the napkin to his chest with a, "Dude – I saw her first."
"Did you now... dude?" he sneered. "Because I'm willing to put money on that not being true. What's her name anyway?
"Not that it's any of your business," Tyler ground out. "But her name's Jenny."
An immediate and rude snort of amusement came from Damon. "Oh really, piccina..." Elena heard him mumble, not that she knew what he was saying. She could tell Stefan heard him too, though, because his still present frown deepened as he continued to study his brother like he was one of those bugs pinned to a matte in a science class.
"Jenny, huh?" Damon continued to taunt. "And you got her number... Did she play hard to get, fido? Maybe say she happened to already have a guy – is she really Jessie's girl?"
"What the hell are you even talking about?"
"Uh-oh," Caroline suddenly leaned forward, the proverbial lightbulb illuminating her features. "Mind if I see that number, Ty? I'll give it right back."
Fingers clutched possessively over said napkin but he slowly outstretched his hand and relinquished it to her. She read it quickly and despite feeling a bit bad for it, she couldn't help but give a small giggle.
"Hate to be the bearer of bad news," she smiled kindly and a little pityingly at him, sliding the napkin back over. "But she might as well be Stacy's mom, Ty. That's not her number."
"What are you talking about? Of course it's her number."
Damon shook his head and said, "Let me guess – 867-5309?"
Tyler glared and eyed the napkin to check. "What the hell, man?!" he snapped, confirming it for them all.
"Calm down, Tommy Tutone," Damon snickered. "I'll show you how it's done."
Before any of them could speak, he pushed off the table to make his way over to the mystery girl.
Sputtering into her glass, Elena hissed, "Really? He just gets back and now he ditches us for another fuck and feed?!"
"Damn Elena," Caroline shot her a look. "Tell us how you really feel."
Sighing, she tried to catch sight of Damon but the crowd well and truly hid him from her prying eyes. "I'm sorry – I just. I just can't take much more of this. Katherine, Klaus... the sacrifice. I'm at my wit's end here and he's just screwing around to make a point."
Stefan remained curiously silent, head tilted and a look of concentration pursing his lips. Recognizing the expression as to be one he wore when using his supernatural hearing to parse through sounds in a crowded area, Elena asked him, "Well, anything from Casanova?"
"I think," Stefan said slowly, keen eyes spying a mop of raven hair as his ears burned with the small snippets he could hear. "I don't think things will be quite the same around here anymore."
"Come again?" Elena asked, annoyed at his vagueness.
Giving her a tightlipped smile, Stefan clarified, "I'm saying that Damon isn't the same anymore. If I'm right about things then his priorities have well and truly shifted and I'm not sure we can count on him to be in our corner. At least not as much as he would have been before."
"What are you going on about, Stefan? I mean, I know he upped and disappeared for a bit but he's not that different," Elena scoffed. "Still annoying as ever."
A loud, feminine squeal broke the dull ruckus of the bar, reaching even Elena's human ears. The playful sound was immediately followed by a deep chuckle that she recognized as Damon even if she'd never heard him so... it was hard to find even the right word. Happy? Pleased?
Blissful – she decided on, frowning. Even as Elena turned and caught sight of a girl with chocolate hair wrapped around Damon's back as he bounced her towards the exit, the adjective dropped into her mind like a brick breaking the steady surface of a pond. Tainted even as it was by the din of other people talking and making their casual commotion, Damon's chuckle had found them and he sounded absolutely blissful.
Wide eyes caught her friend's as Elena mentally wondered if they'd heard the sound too... The look they shared told her they had and that they'd all reached the same conclusion as her.
Turning back to Stefan and hoping for some sort of explanation, Elena refused to focus on the sharp pain in her chest that had twanged at the sight of Damon leaving the Grill with another girl without so much of a backwards glance to her.
Stefan pressed his lips into another false smile. "I do believe my brother has met his mate."
Mate, the word echoed in Elena's mind and for some reason it filled her insides with dread.
Moaning as her back hit the front of the door, Bella sighed in relief as Damon's body immediately pressed against her. The weight of him against her, his every inch lined up along her, was equally reassuring and arousing. She'd no clue how she'd lasted that long without it.
"Too long, piccina," he echoed her thoughts and murmured against her lips. His teeth came out to play and clamped teasingly on her lower lip before he soothed the nip by sucking on it, his tongue soothing the playful bite.
"Yes," she agreed, her hands unashamedly running up his arms before burying into his hair. She gave a sharp tug, pulling his head back and exposing his throat to her, causing him to groan in appreciation. There at the base of his neck was a silvery white scar on his otherwise unmarked body. The sight of it was as reassuring as his presence against her and it filled her with both pride and desire to see her mark there for all to see.
Mine. My mate, she thought as her tongue slipped along his neck to trace along her bite-mark.
After abandoning the Cullens to their Volturi justice, Bella hadn't been all too surprised when Damon had come clean about their connection. She supposed some primal part of her had always known that they belonged to each other and though a part of her rebelled at the thought of being owned by anyone, even Damon, it was equally soothed by the fact that it was a two-way street.
As soon as he'd reassured her that the claim went both ways, another idea had popped into her mind and gripped her heart in a steely fist.
"Bella?" he frowned as the color slipped away from her cheeks and she froze in his arms. "Isabella?"
"Damon," she whispered, hands trembling at her sides as she fought both a sense of horror and the need to reach out and touch him.
"Tell me, piccina. Tell me so I can make it better."
The order had an underlying plea to it.
Her mouth had gone dry so she roughly swallowed before whispering, "Is that the only reason why you're with me? Why you even bothered to pluck me out of Forks and bring me to Volterra? Because of some sort of stupid supernatural mate bond?"
Of all the responses she would've expected, him rolling his eyes at her with a long-suffering sigh was not near the top of the list. It was on there – she knew Damon extremely well – but she thought he'd have valued his neck more. As her anger surged at the casual dismissal, she opened her mouth to snap at him only to glare as Damon's hand slapped over it before she could speak.
"Easy there, tiger," he soothed. "Just because what you're saying is utter bull shit doesn't mean I don't get why you're upset. Do I look like the kind of guy to buy into that mystic hippie crap?"
Taking a page out of his book, she'd rolled her eyes at him pointedly.
"Ease up there, piccina. Before I even recognized the connection for what it was I knew I wanted you. Hot, sexy little thing you were – I'd never seen anyone as glorious as you that day when I came to the Cullens' house and saw you beating the ever living shit out of their lawn gnomes. A vengeful little valkyrie."
Before she could do something childish like lick the palm of his hand to get him to ease up his hold, his eyes turned the softest she'd ever seen them. His hand slipped off her mouth, the tips of his fingers tracing her lips as he smiled vaguely. "Don't you see? When we first met I didn't see my mate – I saw a kindred spirit. The bond is nothing but a security blanket for us – reassurance because of our similar histories. Put whatever label on it you want but the bottom line is you have me and will always have me. No matter what eternity throws at us, I will forever be by your side. We don't have to be alone anymore."
He'd then proceeded to kiss her worries away.
A week later and Bella grew bored of Edward's puppy eyes whenever she was unfortunate enough to cross paths with him and despite Aro offering to have said eyes forcibly removed and burned, she and Damon decided it was time to leave. They'd said goodbye to the brothers who reminded Damon once more of his deal with them.
Before they could leave, however, Marcus had nodded her over to him. She suspected Damon had mentioned her worries to him because with no preamble, he said, "Despite what the term implies, a mating is not entirely a supernatural tie bringing to random beings together. The magic is there, of course, particularly for your kind as it is magic that triggered your existence. But it is not a random selection process based on mere chance. Life and experience has shaped and molded you into the being you are and the basis of your being has found you a companion of similar nature. A companion who understands you because life and experience has shaped and molded him into your ideal counterpart. This is a blessing, young one. Not an obligation."
With that, he placed a cold hand over hers and squeezed before nodding farewell and walking away. It'd been the most she'd ever heard him speak and recognizing him as one who spoke only when necessary, she decided to heed his wisdom and let go of her lingering doubt.
The next week of sightseeing throughout Italy had been glorious – perfect even – if not for the lingering loose ends in Mystic Falls. Throwing on her big girl panties, Bella told Damon that was where she wanted to go next. That she would help him sort out the last of his issues back at home and then maybe they could find a deserted island to occupy for a year or ten.
He'd been resistant, especially as he mention Katherine, Klaus and a whole other list of reasons why not to go back.
"That's my past, piccina. I have you now – I don't ever have to go back there," he'd told her.
But she knew better. There was certainly no love loss for the majority of people in that little town, but Bella knew underneath all the anger and resentment, Damon truly still cared for his younger brother. He never would have made the deal with the Volturi otherwise and certainly would be honoring it even to this day.
So she stubbornly insisted and recognizing a lost cause, Damon had given in.
Now he'd hauled her out of the Mystic Grill after poking his brother and his friends with a proverbial stick, pushing her into the front door of the house they'd quickly realized she could not enter.
"Well hell," Damon said when he remembered the house was now in Elena's name and Bella had yet to have been invited in. "Guess we're gonna become exhibitionists, piccina."
"Again?" she teased, running a hand along the front of his jeans.
"Always," he threw back, hand slipping up the back of her shirt and making its way to her bra.
Before he reached his goal, however, a shocked, vaguely scandalized shout of his name had them freezing.
"Hm-m," Bella teased. "Talk about bad timing."
"No such thing as bad timing," Damon murmured back, kissing her once more.
"Damon!" the voice called out again.
He pulled away and looked over his shoulder, snapping, "Do you mind here? There's only one woman I want to hear crying out my name and it isn't you."
Glancing over his shoulder, Bella spied the little group he'd been antagonizing at the Grill, recognizing the girl who broken them apart to be Elena. "She looks a little jealous, don't she?" Bella joked.
"Of course she is – women would kill to be you right now, little Bella. Luckily for you, you've got me to protect you."
"My hero," she deadpanned.
"Seriously?" Elena chimed in again.
"Do I look like I'm joking?" Damon through back snidely before giving the girl an overly sweet smile, saying, "Actually, why don't you make yourself useful and invite Isabella in. She and I were in the middle of something."
"You pop up from out of the blue after abandoning us to do who knows what and you expect to breeze back in here like it was nothing?" Elena spat.
"Whoa now, cupcake," Bella said, pining the girl with a glare. "Don't be talking shit you know nothing about."
"One can say the same for you," the blonde haired vampire by the girl's side chimed in.
"It's no wonder you didn't want to come back, Damon – what with this welcome committee."
"I think we should all take a deep breath and calm down," the male vampire she knew to be Stefan interjected.
"Get your little human back on her leash then. Damon doesn't answer to any one of you, especially her."
"I so love it when you talk dirty, Isabella," Damon whispered in her ear, giving her lobe a friendly nip before he said again, "Any day now Elena."
The fuming girl uttered an invitation grudgingly and Damon wasted no time sweeping her up into his home, annoyance prickling the back of his mind when the others followed.
"Look," Stefan said, ever the mediator. "Clearly when you left some things happened... am I right in saying that this is your mate, Damon?"
"Damn straight," Damon allowed, giving Tyler a cocky glare. "You snooze you loose, fido."
"Okay," Stefan jumped in again before the werewolf could retort. "All that aside, you have to know how serious things are here. Katherine is out of the tomb and causing trouble. Elijah is an atom bomb about to go off and we're no closer to finding out about Klaus and how to save Elena from him. I don't know why you up and left so suddenly and I know you can't control when you find your mate, but Damon, now is not the time for mind games."
"For once, we agree," Damon airily announced, walking over to the liquor cabinet and pouring a glass for himself and Bella. Handing her the glass, he winked in silent cheers to her.
"Gee thanks, no one else needs a drink right about now," Caroline huffed.
Damon turned to her. "You've got hands, don't you? I'm not your garçon. If you're thirsty, get it yourself."
Bella found herself thankful for the bourbon because as the group prattled on it became clear they were expecting Damon to somehow bail them out. They had a laundry list of problems that he was in no way responsible for and yet there was a not so subtle insinuation that it was his responsibility to solve them. Out of respect, Bella maintained her tongue and allowed Damon to bait and taunt them as she frowned into her glass before tossing it back and then throwing it against the wall.
The clattering as the tumbler shattered stopped the steadily rising voices.
"So here's what we're gonna do," Bella announced now that she had everyone's attention. "You all are going to stop blaming Damon for your problems and if we're feeling generous we'll try to help you out with this sacrifice thing."
"Damon did start most of our problems," the witch shot back.
"Oh I call B.S. on that... If anything, Elena is the cause of your problems. Whether or not Damon is even here, she's still the doppleganger and still the reason this supernatural showdown is about to commence. I blame that bitch Katherine too, naturally."
"Regardless," Stefan said. "He cause a lot of problems and it's responsibility to make things right."
"Oh like you're one to talk," she hissed, causing Stefan to step back at the venom dripping from the words.
"Easy piccina," Damon murmured, his hand slipping into hers and squeezing reassuringly. "Don't waste your breath."
"No Damon. I get that he's your brother and you feel some sort of obligation to him but he's a damned hypocrite. You're still paying for his past mistakes while cleaning up after his Ripper binges and he doesn't even acknowledge it. Doesn't even treat you with common decency. We'll sort out this mess and give you the closure you deserve but after this you're taking me to Hawaii."
A small smile upturned his lips. "Hm-m, white sandy beaches, you in a bikini... you got it, piccina."
"Good – now you go have your heart-to-heart with your brother and I'm going upstairs for a nap before I kill one of his little friends. Especially that fool girl who had her chance with you and is now acting like a jealous girlfriend as if you betrayed her somehow. So help me, Damon, I won't be held responsible for my actions if she keeps shooting off that fool mouth of hers."
She turned to the stairs, determined to sniff out which room was his to follow through with her words when a slow clapping started.
"Well, well. This one has balls – I'll give you that."
A swirl of voices and movement and then Bella felt herself being slammed up against a wall. Time froze as eyes clashed. For a long moment, Bella could only stare, unable to comprehend who was holding her threateningly up against a wall, a stake raised to her chest. Her eyes flickered to Elena, the vampire holding her, then back again twice more before it clicked.
"Katherine, I presume?" she ground out.
From the corner of her eye, she saw Damon inching closer, mindful of the stake the bitch had pressed against her.
"I see my reputation proceeds me," Katherine grinned coyly.
"Yeah, not so sure I'd be proud of that," and taking her shot, she slammed her head into Katherine's and wrestled out from under her.
While the bitch was older and therefore stronger, it was clear she hadn't expected Bella to be trained in fighting. But Bella had spent her nights in Volterra not only discovering the joys of Damon's body, but learning from each member of the guard... though not the captain, Demetri. After Damon had torn off his arm for getting fresh with her he'd been sure to steer clear of her.
Using what she'd learned, Bella reversed the pin and snatched the stake out of Katherine's grip after punching her n the throat. Without hesitating, she seized her opening and plunged the stake into the bitch's frozen heart, watching dispassionately as her skin turned grey and her eyes widened in shocked horror.
A long moment of silence passed.
"Well then – that's one thing off your little list of problems," Bella announced as she accepted Damon's hand and rose to her feet. "Call us if Elijah or Klaus shows up."
Leaving the group gaping behind her, she headed towards the stairs. Her foot had barely touched the first step before Damon was behind her, sweeping her up into his arms and running her to his room.
She patiently allowed him to look every inch of her over, knowing that regardless of her bravado she really had just gotten lucky in being able to kill the bitch.
"I'm fine," she whispered, knowing he needed the reassurance.
His eyes flew to hers and she saw both the pride and fear there.
"I know," she said, hands smoothing over his face. "But I'm fine," she murmured once more, sitting up to place a kiss to his lips. "We're fine."
"We're fine," he agreed finally, hands making quick work of their clothes as his mouth crashed down to hers as he hungrily sought physical reassurance of her wellbeing.
"More than fine," she nearly purred as his hands found that sweet spot between her legs.
"Yessss," he hissed as his skin rubbed against hers. "Now where were we before we were interrupted, piccina?"
Smiling, Bella stretched her hand out and gripped his cock in her hand, squeezing and twisting her wrist ever so slightly. Rewarded with his moan of pleasure, she said, "How about I just show you?"
To which he eagerly agreed to.
Fine, she thought again as their bodies fell together in a well rehearsed dance. No matter what life threw at them, Bella knew she and Damon would be just fine so long as they had each other.
(A/N): Thanks for reading - hope you enjoyed it :)
Piccina - Italian term of endearment meaning 'little one' or 'little girl.'