title: the fire that was starting to spark (is starting to go out)
category: vampire diaries (tv)
genre: angst/friendship/romance
ship: bonnie/damon ; damon/elena
rating: high pg-13/teen (character death; violence)
word count: 4,770
summary: Bonnie has been struggling with being home, scared that eventually she'll have to lay down her life again and greet Death like a constant companion. While Damon assures her it won't be like before, when he's finally put to the test, what choice does he make?

the fire that was starting to spark (is starting to go out)

Bonnie knew it long before she was ready to admit it. She spent far too many nights in the prison world asking herself why and how. Why did she love him? How could she love him? But she did. She loved the parts of him riddled with cobwebs and shadows; the good in him that he seemed intent on pretending never existed. She saw through it. Saw through the bourbon-colored film that dressed his idea of who he was, drowning him in regret and mistakes. She couldn't wash those away; they were his to carry and make amends for. But she saw the other parts of him too; the parts that missed his brother and wished he'd made better choices and wondered what his great, great niece might look like if he hadn't killed her and her mother before she could greet the world. Regret was a state of being for Damon. He lived and breathed it, used it as an excuse not to hold himself up to a higher standard. It was in him to do better, to be better, but the fear of eventually making another mistake, of not living up to expectation, constantly kicked any progress out from under him.

Maybe she loved broken things; things just as fractured and lost as she felt. She was better off than him in some ways; she knew she was good; she stood by a lot of her decisions, even when they ended in her pain or her death. She had her own laundry list of regrets, beginning and ending with the deaths of her Grams and her father. Her grief threaded through her veins, pushing her forward, making her stronger even as it chained her to her heartache. She kept her hope because it was all she had; she hoped for herself and her friends and even for him, because he had none. Her Grams always told her not to pity those who couldn't want more for themselves, but to believe enough for the both of you. She imagined that probably wasn't a sentiment Sheila Bennett would apply to vampires, having an ingrained distaste for them. But Bonnie had seen the best and worst of all too many of them, and those she called friend had carved out a special place in her heart, making hating them impossible.

So she believed in Damon, even when he showed her the darkest parts of himself. She saw the grief and the regret that mired his every drunken night, desperate to get away from the memories that plagued him, the belief that it was his hell they were trapped in. And in the process of keeping her hope, she fell for him. For the man who stole money from the bank in Monopoly. Who made those awful pancakes, every day, smiling at her like it was some kind of inside joke. Who sang off-key to every 90's hit ever made and danced like an old man with no rhythm. She fell in love with the way his eyes looked brighter when he smiled and how easy he was to laugh, even on the days when she couldn't stand waking up. She loved the way he called her Bon-Bon and how he made Miss Cuddles dance with him whenever she refused. She loved those plaid shirts he wore, barely buttoned, and the spicy scent of his body wash. She loved that little flip his hair made when he didn't bother brushing it and the way he tugged on her hair when he was bored and he wanted her attention. And she loved how he never quite knew what to say to make her feel better, so sometimes he would just hold her hand or pat her shoulder or distract her with some pointless errand ("You know what we need? Pork rinds. C'mon, I'll even let you drive.").

She fell in love with him when the world around her was empty and the only person she had to rely on was someone she never thought could be a friend. She sent him home, left herself bleeding on the cave floor, and she told herself it was okay, it was the right thing to do, maybe he would come back. She believed in him, even as she thought she was dying, as she let her one chance at freedom and hope slip through her bloody fingers. And for weeks, trying and failing to avoid Kai before being left alone completely, she held onto that hope. She held on to the memory of him, trusting, despite everything, that somehow he might still come back. But it wasn't him. And she could have laughed at herself for thinking it would be. Because wasn't that always the way of it? She had to get herself home. She had to save herself. There was no knight in shining armor coming to her rescue. It was all on her, yet again.

She told herself it was okay, at first. He was happy to have her back and she was happy to be home. It didn't matter that she spooked when people got too close and loud noises made her jump. PTSD kept her awake at night, terrified that when she closed her eyes, she would open them to find herself back in the prison world, dying on a cave floor or in the yard of Kai's childhood home or in the garage at the boarding house. Bitterness welled up inside her, chewing away at her insides, reminding her that no one came, no one got her out, no one cared. She drowned her fear and her uncertainty in school and the false promise that she was okay, she was getting better, she was coping. But Caroline was on a humanity-less tear, Stefan joining her, she was in love with her best friend's boyfriend, and his mother wanted to use her to bring back her witchpire family and potentially release Kai. It felt like every time she made any progress, it was destroyed by a swooping reality check, and she was so tired.

Tired of wanting more and getting nothing. Tired of trying so hard to have a normal life and having it discarded daily; Death courting her at every turn. Tired of falling for someone who just barely called her friend. Tired of coming in second to someone she loved, laying down her life and the lives of everyone she cared about in the process. Tired of being told she should.

God, she was just exhausted.

And nobody noticed, or cared, or intervened.

To be honest, she wasn't sure why she went to him. Sometimes she just missed his voice; missed having his energy around her. In all reality, Damon wouldn't be at the top of her list of people who could help her through a mini-breakdown. But when it all started to pile up, she found herself in her car, headed back for Mystic Falls and walking into the boarding house, searching him out. Unsurprisingly, he was in the living room, standing by the drink cart.

"Hey," he greeted her over his shoulder. She must have looked more distressed then she thought, because he followed it up with a, "You okay?"

She swallowed, nodding jerkily. "Yeah. Fine."

"You sure?" he asked, arching an eyebrow. "You look a little rough around the edges, Bon-Bon."

Folding her arms over her chest defensively, she hoped her voice didn't sound as rough as it felt when she replied, "Just what a girl likes to hear."

He held his hands up in surrender. "My bad. You want me to lie?"

"It's nothing; I just needed a break from Whitmore. Thought I'd come home, see what was happening."

He grinned then. "You're in luck. I just popped The Bodyguard in and I've topped up my bourbon supply." He wiggled his eyebrows as he held up a bottle. "Interested?"

She stepped down into the living room, eyes darting around curiously. "Elena's not here?"

"Nope. She's got a big test or… something." He shrugged. "Anyway, she's nose deep in her books tonight. So, what do you say? Spare a night for your bestie?"

She snorted, even as her chest warmed up at the moniker. "Is that what you are?"

"What? I haven't earned the title yet?" He offered her a glass and reached for his own before tapping the rim against hers. "Cheers."

Half-smiling, she sipped at her drink. "You said something about The Bodyguard? I thought you were tired of it."

Shrugging, he tipped his head, asking her to follow, and started for the stairs. "I'm feeling nostalgic."

"For the prison world?" She followed him up, her hand sliding over the banister, and down the hall to his bedroom. It felt like ages since she'd been there, having spent many of their 'movie marathons' sprawled out on his bed, watching his top-of-the-line (for 1994) television with built-in VCR. His system was much more updated in this day and age. "Would've thought you'd be glad to be out of there."

"Oh, I am," he agreed, before dropping his drink on the end table beside his bed and fiddling around in search of the remote. "But you've gotta admit, we got a few good things out of it."

Putting her own drink down, she shrugged her jacket off. "Sure. What would my life be without Kai in it?" she scoffed, taking a seat on the edge of the bed and toeing her shoes off.

Damon grabbed up the remote from beside the television and joined her, his back against the headboard, a pillow tucked behind him. "Screw Kai," he dismissed. "You got me out of the deal. Which, if you think about it, might just make it worth it."

"What? Dying?" She raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

"You don't think I'm worth dying for?" He pressed a hand to his chest rather dramatically. "I'm hurt."

Snorting, she wiggled back to lean against the headboard beside him, their arms brushing. She swallowed back the shiver that attempted to run through her and grabbed up her bourbon, twisting it around in her fingers. "I don't know if I'd go so far as saying it was worth dying, but… I'm glad. That we had that time together." She glanced at him from the corner of her eyes. "I didn't really understand you, your motivations, for a long time, but I do now."

"Do you?" He turned to her, mouth turned up faintly. "You got me all figured out, Bon-Bon?"

"I do." She nodded seriously. "Four months is a long time. I bet I know you better than most people."

He stared at her searchingly, his brow furrowed, and seemed to think it over. "Hm. Maybe you do."

She watched him, before glancing away. "Does that bother you?"

"Should it?"

"Well, you do like your damaged, mysterious shtick…"

He laughed throatily. "Is that what we're calling it?"

"You have issues. A lot of them. I think they started long before you ever became a vampire and, I don't know, maybe it heightened all of it. Those feelings of being disposable and not good enough. You fear of being abandoned. And I'm sure a hundred and fifty years of being rejected and told you were awful and irredeemable didn't do much to change that thinking. So, what are you supposed to think about yourself when everyone you care about constantly tells you that you're not worth it? Not worth loving or staying for or saving…" Her eyes fell to her lap. "I think I know a little about that."

He was quiet for a long moment, and she tensed, wondering if maybe she'd made everything a lot heavier than she should have. But these things, these thoughts, had been weighing on her for a while, and it was nice to let them out.

"That how you feel?" he wondered, his voice lower than usual.

"I…" Her voice cracked. "I feel lost, mostly. And alone. I thought the worst it could get was in the prison world, when there was no one around, but I was wrong. I can be just as lonely surrounded by people. And I am. Every day, I wake up wondering if today is the day I'm going to have to save someone, or sacrifice myself, or if anyone's even going to remember I'm here." She glanced at him, offering a trembling smile as tears bit at her eyes. "Sometimes I don't think I'm really here, and it terrifies me."

He stared back at her, his throat bobbing as he swallowed.

"But the worst part…" Her breath caught in her throat. "The worst part is that if I am here, then what's the point? What's the point of being back when nobody cares?"

"I care."

She shook her head, closing her eyes tight. "Don't. Don't say it because you feel bad or you want me to stop crying or you don't know what else to say. Don't say it because it's the right thing to say."

"I'm not," he denied. At her unconvinced face, he frowned, reaching for her hand and squeezing it tightly, drawing her eyes back to his. "I know I've been busy with all of this stuff with Stefan and my mom and the cure, but… I wasn't kidding before. You're the closest thing I've got to a best friend. And when you were over there, when everything I tried to get you back failed, I… I was lost. After everything you did, the one time you need me and I can't deliver… I didn't know what to do. It's usually us, you know? We're the ones that make the plans and fix the problems and without you here to help, we were like sitting ducks."

Bonnie licked her lips, looking down at his hand covering hers. "Do you remember that talk we had, when we were sitting in front of the fire, and you told me that just once you wanted someone to pick you? That sometimes you wondered what would have happened if Elena wasn't turned. If you would have spent the rest of her life trying to convince her you were the better choice…"

He nodded slowly.

She took a deep breath, and let it out on a shaky sigh. "I know what that feels like. When everyone you want to care looks past you for someone else. When they walk away and give you excuses and pick someone over you. My dad picked his job and my mom picked her new life and her new son. And Jeremy picked a dead ex-girlfriend." She turned her eyes up as she let out a wet, strangled laugh. "And every time Elena's been in danger, I did my best to get in the way, to help her, to save her… And maybe some of that was just who I am, maybe it was just ingrained in me to put others first, but sometimes I think I'm doing it because just once… Just once I want someone to pull me back from that edge and tell me no. That I don't have to. That I shouldn't. That my life matters just as much." She stared up at him searchingly. "You know?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I think I do." He watched her a long moment, his thumb rubbing over her knuckles. "Guess we've got more in common than you ever expected, huh?"

She smiled. "Yeah. I guess so."

He reached up, swiping at a tear trickling down her cheek. "I know I'm the guy who made a lot of those bad choices in the past, who sent you off to pull the Hail Mary even when we weren't sure you'd survive it… but I'd like to think I'm not the same guy I was. That maybe this time around, I'll make better choices."

Her eyes fell for a moment, catching on his hand, his fingers still pressed to her face. She looked up then, meeting his eyes, pale blue and just as charged as her own. "I hope so too."

Damon inhaled deeply, letting it out on a heavy sigh.

Bonnie swallowed, and shook her head, attempting a smile. "Not what you were hoping for when you asked me to stay, huh?"

Mouth ticking up at the corner, he let out a snort of a laugh. He stretched his fingers back and tucked her hair behind her ear, thumb rubbing along the hinge of her jaw. "You have a track record of surprising me."

"Is that a good thing?"

He shrugged, admitting, "Sometimes."

Reaching over, she shoved his shoulder. "Thanks."

He grinned at her, unapologetic. "You ready for The Bodyguard now?"

"I'm always ready for Kevin Costner," she told him.

Scrunching up his nose, he shook his head. "Gross."

"Please! Like you don't drool over Whitney."

"Whitney's an icon," he defended.

Laughter bubbled up from her chest as she shook her head.

His smile softened as he gazed at her a moment longer. "You gonna be okay?" he wondered.

She swallowed thickly, before nodding. "Maybe. I think so."

"You'll say something if you aren't? No bottling it up anymore?" He searched her eyes, demanding honesty.

"I will try to talk about it," she offered, shrugging at his frown. "I'm not used to laying out all the cards."

"I can be persistent," he warned. "Like a bloodhound. I see anything off about you, and I'll be the first person signing up for 'talk Bonnie off the ledge' duty."

Her lips twitched. "Noted."

"Okay. As long as that's established..." He sat back then, grabbing up the remote to press Play. "I want to hear you hitting the high notes," he told her.

"Only if you stop trying."

"Hey!" he exclaimed. "My singing is impeccable."

"Your singing is terrible."


Chuckling under her breath, Bonnie turned toward the TV, feeling lighter than she had in weeks.

She should have known it couldn't last.

Lily was just as persistent as her son. In order to get her 'family' out, she was willing to do whatever it took, and it appeared that Enzo was too. The full moon was on them quicker than expected, and the next thing Bonnie knew, she was standing in the living room of the boarding house, a fire roaring in the grate and an ultimatum at her feet.

Bonnie couldn't begin to guess what Enzo's reasons for acting as Lily's muscle could be, but he appeared to be enjoying himself, holding a vervained and weak Elena in his arms, a knife pressed to her throat. "C'mon then, let's get this show on the road, hm? Or do I need to carve out Elena here's pretty heart?"

"If you kill her, you lose your leverage," Bonnie said, looking between him and Lily. "And then I have no reason not to burn you both to a crisp."

"Those are strong words," Lily acknowledged, hands folded together demurely. "But, from what I've heard, sacrifice is in your nature. Are you truly ready to allow your friend to die?"

Bonnie ground her teeth together, looking from Lily to Enzo, who was smirking delightedly, pressing the knife down enough that a sliver of blood pearled against Elena's neck.

Elena's eyes shot wide and her mouth fell open. "Bonnie," she gasped.

Bonnie wondered if it was cry for help or a 'don't do it, please.' But Elena followed it up with nothing, leaving Bonnie to fill in the blanks, and she could guess what they would be.

"If I help you, you'll let those things out… They'll terrorize this town, and when they're done here, they'll tear apart the rest of the world." Bonnie looked back to Lily, shaking her head. "I can't risk that."

"And if I were to promise you that I would be able to control them? That we learned how to control the blood thirst… What then?"

Raising her chin, she said, "And I should just take your word for it…? I can't do that. I can't be the reason those things get out. I won't."

"So you would let her die, your best friend?" Lily asked, her eyes narrowed curiously.

Bonnie swallowed thickly. "You don't have to do this. Elena has nothing to do with any of this. I'm sorry that you lost your friends, I'm sorry that you were stuck over there for so long, but you have a chance now… To be better than what you were, to be a mother to your sons…"

Lily's eyes darted away briefly. "They're not just my friends; they're my family. What would you do, Bonnie, to have your family back? What lengths would you go to?"

A well of emotion burned her throat. "I can't have my family."

"But if you could…? Would you sacrifice the life of one to get them back?" She tipped her head, staring at Bonnie speculatively. "It was her fault, wasn't it? Why you lost your grandmother, your parents? Lorenzo told me of your loss, your sacrifice…"

Bonnie winced.

"Do you remember that pain? When your family was rendered forfeit for one person? Do you remember that hollow feeling inside of you that nothing could fill?" She shook her head. "Would you force that upon me as well?"

Lips trembling, Bonnie said, "My family never hurt anybody. They didn't kill thousands of people. And if I could bring them back, they would never want me to do it at the expense of someone else."

"Then you are a better person than I," Lily admitted, raising her chin. "Unfortunately for you, I am not so sacrificial." She waved a hand toward Enzo. "I regret this, truly I do."

Enzo dug the knife in deeper against Elena's throat, causing her to cry out in pain.

A whoosh of air at her back told her Damon was there, taking in the situation frantically.

"Damon," Lily greeted. "So good of you to join us, son."

"What the hell are you doing?" he barked.

"I think the answer to that is quite obvious." Lily waved a hand toward Enzo and Elena. "It's simple, really. Your friend Bonnie takes me back for my family and Lorenzo will release your beloved Elena. Quite unfortunately, Bonnie has made it clear that she cannot condone releasing my people. She forces my hand, I regret."

"Mother… don't do this. We can find another way," Damon gritted out. "Please."

Lily stared at him, her face unmoved. "I haven't been your mother for a very long time. My family, my real family, is waiting for me. And the only way I can have them is through your witch. I wish it were not this way, truly I do. But there is no other option here. Bonnie will return my family to me, or I will be forced to end Elena's life. And then your friend Caroline will follow. And Stefan after her. And you, if I must. Whomever it costs until she returns them to me."

Bonnie' lip curled in a snarl. "I'll kill you first," she vowed, before turning her gaze toward Enzo. "And when you beg me to spare you, I won't even blink."

Enzo's smirk only widened. "I like this side of you, Bonnie. Quite fetching, I must say." His hand tightened in Elena's hair, yanking her head back. "Decision's made then, hm?" Blood spurted down Elena's chest and Bonnie flinched as Damon lurched forward, stopping when it only seemed to hurry Enzo's hand.

"Stop!" he shouted, his expression twisted painfully.

Lily turned to Bonnie. "This is your choice."

Damon whirled to face her, his eyes darting over Bonnie's face. "Bonnie, please."

She stared back at him, her heart clenching. "If I go with them, it's over for me. Do you get that? They need me to get there and they need my blood to get back, but that's it… So not only will I be dead, but I'll be releasing those monsters to wreak havoc back here. Is that what you want?" Swallowing tightly, she felt tears bite at her eyes. "They will kill me, Damon," she whispered thickly.

Was it wrong, she wondered, to want him to choose her? That was his girlfriend, the self-proclaimed love of his life, kneeling there. But hadn't he said things could be different? That she wouldn't be the proverbial neck on the chopping block every time. And she'd believed him, hadn't she? She'd let herself believe that it could be better. That she might actually survive this time. That someone might choose her. And she knew it wasn't fair, that the scales were so clearly tipped out of her favor, but still... She hoped.

His chest heaved, hands balled up into fists, indecision warring on his face. He turned around, looking at his mother, and then to Elena, kneeling on the floor, eyes fluttered half-closed, her skin a chalky color. His shoulders tensed, and when he looked back, Bonnie knew he had made his decision. She knew that, once again, she was on the losing side of the equation. Once again, she was worth sacrificing.

She didn't think it would hurt as much as it did. It had happened so often already, she should be used to it. But seeing it in his eyes, seeing the hollow apology that lined his tormented face, she felt defeat weigh across her body. A breath left her heavily, almost a laugh, because how ridiculous she was to think it could ever be any different? This was her lot in life. This would be her legacy. The girl who died too much, who sacrificed herself too often, who nobody bothered to save.

Nodding, she licked her lips, feeling her heart crack open and the tears finally break free, falling quietly.

"It's Elena."

"Right." Resignation colored her voice. She stared at him a moment longer; this stupid, awful boy she'd recklessly let herself believe in and hope for. And for what? To remind herself what disappointment and abandonment felt like? As if she could ever forget.

She stepped forward, pausing at his side when his hand reached for her elbow and squeezed. There was no hope in her now, no restless twist of heart expecting him to change his mind. He looked down at her, searching her face, and she wondered if this was how he would remember her. If she would haunt him like the others had. If, when he died, this moment would be his true hell.

"I was wrong," she whispered thickly.

His brow furrowed, lips parting in a silent question.

As a tear slipped down her cheek, she said, "I don't know you at all."

With that, she stepped away, her arm slipping from his fingers. She walked to Lily in a daze, every step feeling like a nail in the coffin, thumping along with her trembling heart. She raised her chin proudly as she came to a stop, and she held a hand out, the ascendant in her palm.

It was Enzo that cut her hand for her, the same knife that had slit Elena's neck. She squeezed her fist over the ascendant, letting her blood spill over its cogs. Turning, she felt the fire roar at her back as she faced her so-called best friend. Who, only a week ago, told her he was different; that he would make better choices; that he cared.

The words came to her easily, the spell leaving her lips in a toneless chant. Enzo released Elena, letting her slump to the floor, before he moved to stand at Bonnie's back, his hand on one of her shoulders, the other covered with Lily's cold fingers.

She stared at Damon through the blur of her tears, her heart racing in her chest. She said a silent goodbye to him; to the love that wanted so deeply to be enough for him; to the friendship he'd once offered so blindly. She said goodbye to Elena, to Caroline and Matt and everyone she had left. She released the flightless hope that maybe she could have it better now, maybe she could be free. She said goodbye to all of it, and she let go.

The room blurred around the edges and she felt her magic catch, pulling them away. The cold steel of the knife against her neck made her breath catch, but there was no surprise left. Only acceptance.

"No!" he yelled, and she smiled emptily.

What a predictable boy. Always too late.

The world faded out of view, and the last thing she saw before she closed her eyes was his stricken face.

She was tired.

She was so tired.

Maybe this was her reprieve.

author's note: so, i went back and forth on the ending, because i do have a second part half-written, but I'm also good with it ending here. as sad as it is, i find it rather poetic, and, in a way, even realistic. so it's up to you; if you want, i can continue it, if not, we can leave it here.

thank you for reading! please leave a review!

- lee | fina