Disclaimer: Own? Me? No.
Enjoy. I'm not entirely sure of what you'll make of it, but enjoy.
Enjoy. I'm not entirely sure of what you'll make of it, but enjoy.
One: All we are
She wore headphones; turned up all the way so that the voices would leave her alone, the mindless noise of... she stopped, checked the song, smiled and turned the volume up just a little louder... 'McFly' making them so much quieter than before.
Bonnie spent her time curled up in black and once red pyjamas, turned pink through time, because time faded everything and anything. Time stole colour and left both pyjamas and memories slightly less alive and vibrant, slightly darker, duller. She stood from the lotus position – the position she retreated into when she needed to concentrate – and moved slowly towards the kitchen, hoping for a full kettle and a good, strong coffee.
She always went for coffee in the middle of the night – it kept her awake, kept her alert, and stopped the screaming. Sleep was a novelty now, because stress and worry, panic and fear had left her awake and unable to dream, fearing everything, sure of nothing because she didn't know what was going to come next. No matter how psychic she was, the supernatural was something she could hardly begin to predict. If she even wanted to.
There could be good – for, she had found there was good in everyone, everything, even Damon. With his kind smiles and carefully guarded words... or there could be bad. By bad, at least in this contest, she wanted whoever was listening to think of the worst thing in the world, add bananas, vomit and truckloads of other bad things on top, multiply it by thirteen and then wonder how they'd gotten into such a mess in the first place. It was probably three times as bad as any scenario they could come up with, anyway. Reality always was worse than anything the imagination dared to conjure.
In the end, she sat on the kitchen counter, swinging her legs and staring out of the window at the darkness of the night, punctuated only occasionally by the specks of light which hardly qualified as streetlamps. In the momentary lull where one song transitioned into another on the hard-drive of her iPod, she half-expected to hear a shriek in the night and want to throw herself into action, to begin to save the day in the way that only she could.
Only she couldn't.
Bonnie McCullough was alone in the world, and nobody cared but her. Elena had Stefan, and that was as predictable as hell – because when Damon had been returned to his human state, his thirst and lust for Elena's blood and body were gone, which meant that Stefan no longer possessed a rival. Meredith had left the country to find Alaric – he had been in Germany, studying the witches of the Black Forest, and had asked her to join him.
So much for best friends. So much for the Velociraptor Sisterhood.
Then there was Matt – Mutt Honeybutt, as she and Damon had taken to calling him. He was there, of course, but having worked so hard to clear his name, having been so afraid of going to jail for something that was not his fault, he had self imposed a ban on women. He was hardly gay, but he just felt that if he could go six months, a year without a girl... she had read it as 'without Elena'... he would be able to return to normality.
So even he refused to return her calls.
Which left just one person. The one person she had thought – hoped – would understand. Damon Salvatore had avoided her like the bubonic plague since he had turned human. Sure, Bonnie had made jokes – jokes that would have made any man mad – but damnit, she had helped him. She had reignited the sparks of humanity in him when he had literally forgotten how to breathe, reminded him how to function in a normal society.
Hell, for nearly three months, she had made him breakfast, lunch and dinner, and taken it to him at the Boarding House. And he ignored her. He hadn't thanked her; hadn't even spoken to her. He just sat there and ate every last morsel as though it was the last thing he would ever eat, and she provided a silent kind of company which meant that while he sat and ate, she had to sit there and take it.
Then he retreated to his room, and she took it upon herself to leave. Leave to return home, put her headphones on, turn them up and allow herself to waste away. It was an existence... but really? What kind of existence was that?
Sleep was a luxury, she decided, and, as she cradled her coffee in her hands, feeling the quiet sounds of whatever-the-hell band was playing soothingly in her ears, she wondered whether she could afford the harsh dreams and terrifying memories which bombarded her when her subconscious took over.
It didn't matter whether she wanted it or not. She had not slept for three days, and it was finally catching up with her, in every movement that took twice as long to execute, in the way that she had nearly poured boiling water over her wrist instead of into the shaking mug of coffee that she was holding in her other hand.
Her eyes slowly slid shut as she gazes into the settled darkness. Her head dropped forward, to stare straight at the floor. She was under the grip of a sleep so deep that even pouring the scalding coffee down her leg would not wake her. Her hands fell forward, tilting the mug as her legs swung back and forth and that was all that was left.
Scalding hot coffee and fitful sleep.
Why was it then, when she woke the next morning, lying flat under the duvet of her bed and clad only in her bra and panties, she realised that her sleep had been everything but fitful. No dreams had plagued her, no thoughts had worried her. She had simply slept.
She could barely remember the night before, though, as she sat up, dragging her leg across cotton sheets which were fairly aged and quite rough because of her overuse of starch when she did the laundry, but comfortable because she was used to them, a shooting pain slid through her skin like electricity on a wire.
Looking at it left her more confused than ever before. Burned and a little bit blistered, looking scalded and sore, her leg was going to be near unusable for a good few hours. She could find some things to fix it in her store cupboard, she knew, but today? Today felt as though it should be one of those days.
One of the days which was spent trying to forget.
She picked herself up from the bed, found her way to the shower, stumbling, mumbling, groaning, and hell... she was crying. She hadn't cried in a long time. Her head hurt, her eyes sore, but the tears would not stop as she turned the faucet on and let the hot water rush over her, plastering her curly hair to her back and soaking her body through.
At a half-past-eight, she pulled her sneakers on, and walked down the street to the bakery, smelling the sweet scent of fresh bread and sugar and flour all the way down the block. Eight dollars later, she had enough to feed Damon for a good week, and enough to feed herself for two.
She was small. She didn't need to eat a lot. She didn't need to spend a lot.
It was nearly nine when she made it to the Boarding House. Everything was quiet, and everything was still, just as she had expected, and she raised her hand to knock only seconds before she nearly jumped out of her skin
She hadn't anticipated the sound of heavy footsteps from the overhang above the porch, she hadn't expected a shadow to fall over the glass, and then, as she pressed herself up to the heavy oak door, petrified about the thought of a supernatural intruder, she had not expected Damon Salvatore to lower himself from said overhang, his long fingers clinging onto the wood for just a little longer than she had expected, because he hadn't realised the drop to be so far.
"You scared me." She found her voice eventually, her eyes wide and flickering to every avenue out of the situation that she could see.
"I-I didn't mean to." And his eyes dropped to the floor, just slightly to the left of her shoes. "I'm sorry." And she found herself biting her lip to stop smiling.
"It's okay." And for once, it was. Because after the pandemonium of the Dark Dimension, it was this sort of interaction that made her smile. "I brought breakfast."
"You know," He said suddenly, as she let herself into the Boarding House, just as she did every day, and would continue to do until they ended this silent arrangement, "You don't have to keep doing this,"
She stopped. Everything stopped, because this was the only routine keeping her sane. Empty, yes, of course she was empty... but she was sane. Her gaze turned to his, quickly and sharply, and she could see in his face that the words that had come out weren't what they were supposed to be.
"I mean..." She held up her hand and thrust the bread at him, before turning on her heel.
She could not take another day of routine to have it broken. She would not place her heart in his hands and have him turn her away.
The quiet thump of the bread, still warm but entirely discarded on the floor, made Bonnie's steps falter, but not nearly as quickly as the sounds of heavy footsteps did. Strong hands – ones which had been stronger in another life, wrapped themselves around her shoulders and he pulled her back, effectively stopping her short little tantrum and cementing her to the spot.
"Excuse me. I think I had something to say?" His voice was soft, dangerous velvet in her ears, his breath hot against her cheek as he leaned over her shoulder.
"You said it." Bonnie muttered before the tears had the chance to trip from the space between her lips. "You've said all I need to hear."
"But I haven't said all I wanted to say." And with firm hands still gripped tight on her shoulders, Damon steered her back into the house, closed the door behind them and, finally, released her. "Let me make you breakfast, for once, will you?"
"Because that way, I can keep you here and we can talk."
"You've never talked over breakfast before."
"Neither have you."
She stopped, she thought about it, and she let herself smile, because she realised then, that that was all they had been waiting for. The other one to talk. Typical.
She closed her eyes and let herself nod.
"If you need help, just ask, okay?" She said, as he indicated she should sit at the breakfast counter in the centre of the kitchen as he had done so many times before. She pulled her jacket from her shoulders as she spoke, and, like a child at school, hooked it over the back of the chair, leaning back against it.
"I never even asked you that did I?" He looked at her very quickly, glancing over his shoulder and frowning slightly. She wasn't sure if it was at her, or her words. "I can cook bacon, you know." She nodded quietly and watched him slowly attempt to force the gas-stove to work, so that he could run a burner and get it hot enough to make the bacon cook right. The ignition clicked once, twice, three times and yet there was no spark, "This damn thing never works when I want it to!" He drew his foot back and went to kick it.
"No!" Bonnie shook her head and threw her hand up to stop him, even though she knew he wouldn't see, "Don't kick it!" Because, knowing their luck, the first time his foot connected with it, it would explode. She rounded the counter and braced her hands on his forearms before he could blink. "Here." She closed her eyes and focussed what power she could into letting the burner spark into life.
"Thank you." He nodded, still not looking at her, his eyes taking in the view through the window that she had stared at, hoping for some kind of sound, every morning for the past three months.
She leaned away from him, releasing his forearms to rest her palms against his shoulders, and stupidly pressing her forehead against his sweater, taking in a long sniff of his scent before she nervously shoved her hands into her pockets and walked away.
"I'm an idiot." He muttered, still staring out at the vista of the Old Wood in front of the house. "You know that?"
She didn't want to speak, but her mouth overtook her mind.
"No, Damon. You're different. Not an idiot at all."
"I can't even work a damn stove." There was pain in his voice. "Do you know how that makes me feel?" Bonnie wondered whether he wanted an honest answer, or someone to sympathise with him, or... she didn't know. How was she supposed to know? She never knew with Damon.
"I don't." Once again, it was the mouth, not the mind which spoke first. "I'm assuming unadjusted, unwell, utterly afraid..."
"And so many other things beginning with 'U'," He muttered tiredly, his eyes betraying the smile he was trying to hide. "You should be a teacher, Bonnie."
She let out a laugh and he watched her eyes darken just a little way. He could not quite tell whether it was sadness or whether it was something else, but damn, it hurt. It hurt even just to see it.
"Me? A teacher?" She let out a harsh bark of laughter, and her head dropped into her hands, "Damon, thanks to our sojourn to the Dark Dimension, I didn't even finish high school."
Damon stopped as she said the words, his hands hovering over the tongs and the handle of the pan. One short glance at her face, and though her tone was unnaturally bright, sunny and happy, he could tell that she was more than torn up inside about the entire thing. She was hurting, and yet she had never let it show.
"I haven't slept more than two nights in seven over the past four months, Damon." He stared once again, and watched as she curled her own hands over her shoulders, "Funny, but that kind of insomnia doesn't help your grade point average."
"I'm sorry, Bonnie." He whispered, still staring at the bacon and hoping that she understood that the prospect of no future was one that he was very, very used to. "I hope you know that."
"Of course." She nodded, "But sorry doesn't matter. I wouldn't take any of it back." She stopped again, and looked up at him. "Elena's happy, Stefan's happy," She ran a hand through hair that was still damp, curly and utterly unruly, "Merry's happy, Alaric too." She looked up again, "Matt's on his way, Caroline and Tyler are getting help, Mrs. Flowers is here for you..." She sighed and stood up, looking at Damon and then down at the bacon that was now burning in the pan.
Her fingers twisted in the mass of curls on top of her head, and she looked at him, big, terrified eyes staring straight into his dark, confused ones.
"You're adjusting, and that's it."
"What about you?" He looked across at her and she raised an eyebrow as he spoke.
"Don't you get it?"
"Not really, no."
"I'm the spare. The... tenth wheel, if you will. Everything's all good with you guys." She reached her hands up above her head and shrugged just a little bit. "And I'm just me."
He heard the way she said 'just' and he didn't like it one bit. Quickly pressing the off-switch on the gas and turning to put the bacon on a couple of slices of bread, he looked up at her and shook his head.
"You're not just you." Her lips parted in an attempt at a protest, but he spoke over her, "You're kind, selfless, irritating and funny, and all I can say is that that's you, of course, but you're not just anything."
"Stop talking, please." He raised an eyebrow at her petulance and she did the same. "I know what you're trying to do, but I don't think it will work." She whispered, "You've not seen the nightmares. You've not seen-" She stopped and stepped closer to him, her hands still jammed deep in her pockets. "I have work to do, do you mind if I go?"
"No, no, not a problem." Though his hands shook as he lifted them to touch her cheeks, stopping her in her tracks as she let out a quiet gasp. His touch was stunning, enough to silence her, to stop her breathing. "Although I would rather you... stayed."
"I can't." And this time, it was because she could barely breathe, her eyes closing slowly and her heart pounding as his cool breath touched her cheeks, fanning out across her eyelids as his lips touched her forehead. It was a pure feeling, one of comfort, honesty, and a very, very quiet declaration of what felt like love.
"Be good, Bonnie." And just like that, his hands released her, and he let her go. She missed the warmth almost immediately, her body leaning into the empty space that he left behind him.
He did not fight for her. He did not ask her to come back. He did not tell her to come back.
He did not have to do either. He knew that she would be back.
"Of course, Damon." Her fingertips twisted into his, and as they released each other, the moment was gone.
She drew her jacket tighter around her shoulders, ran her fingers up and down her forearms and let the door slam shut behind her.
For but a moment there, she had not felt so alone.
Stressed and tired, with heavy tears still falling from her eyes as she tripped and stumbled her way across the few blocks home, Bonnie blundered through the falling leaves and wondered when summer had turned to autumn.
Things were changing and she was missing it. Things were changing, things were passing along all around her and she was going utterly insane.
Eyes followed the tiny, curly-haired girl as she stepped on the crunchy leaves and dodged the still-green ones which fell with every whisper of breeze. People walking in the opposite direction noted the muted khaki trousers, the dark blue jacket and the contrasting, bright red hair as it curled over the top of the girl's head. Bonnie ached with every step she took, hungry for not eating, tired for not sleeping, and hurting.
Minutes later, she threw herself into her bedroom, barely registering the sound of the door closing as she sprinted to disrobe, down to her underwear, before stepping toward the shower and throwing the remnants of her clothes to the floor.
It took only a second for her to turn the faucet on, have the water rushing over her, but it was not that that had captured her attention. It was the slimness of her ribs; her reflection caught in the background of her mind as she sprinted past the mirror leaned up against her bedroom wall. Leaving the water running and slowly losing its heat, she strode back to the tall glass, and stood before it, totally bare.
What she saw disgusted her. She could count her ribs. She could almost see every vein, every artery as it pushed the blood around her body, forced life into a body that wasn't sure what life was for anymore. She could count her fucking ribs.
She made herself sick. Literally. She found herself, returned to herself on her hands and knees against the cool tiles of her bathroom, with her head pressed against the cool ceramics of the cistern. It was nice just to rest there, not to think of anything, until she realised that the water was still running and the room was somewhat filled with steam.
Forcing herself to her feet, she stumbled, slipped and tripped her way to stand lonely in the shower, hair plastering itself to her back once again, the red in it dulled as the water soaked in. Her eyes closed as the water ran suddenly cold, her body reacting only to curl in and tighten, goosebumps erupting over her skin.
When she dried herself off, she curled up into her bed and lulled herself to sleep with tears.
The psychic mind is a curious thing. When it feels threatened, hurt or generally uncomfortable, it reaches feelers – tentacles, we'll call them – out to those around the person who would be receptive enough to hear their cries for help. The subconscious is scared, and so it reaches forth and attempts to attain help by reaching into another's mind.
"Damon?" He turned, wheeling around and nearly falling from the couch because her voice was as clear as fucking day, right behind his head.
"Where are you? Bonnie, are you okay?" His head was buzzing, reeling almost, with activity. Mindless images raced through his head and brushed straight into his head, across his eyes and flooded him with dread.
"I need someone, Damon. Anyone."
"What?" A beat of silence, and she knew – her subconscious knew – that he wouldn't understand. "Bonnie, do you-"
"I need a reason, Damon." He blinked twice and everything, nothing, all of it fit into place. "And I need it soon."
Images flashed through his mind once again – this time disjointed but all of them together making sense. There was the thought of sickness, images of a tiny little girl with skinny ribs showing through her skin, thoughts of hunger and just plain defeat coursing through him as the girl began to show the same kind of signs in the memories.
"What can I do?" He had his hands on his temples, rubbing slowly, pressing softly and trying to work it all out. "How can I help?"
He was silent for a moment, as were the thoughts in Bonnie's brain.
"You don't remember this. I wasn't even there, but it's ingrained within me, and I hate it."
Images, once again, memories of a kiss once shared between Elena and Damon, heartbeats entwining and fingertips twisting into each other's hair. The stirrings of familiarity coursed through Damon's mind, leaving him awed at the clarity of the memory when he barely remembered it himself.
"Elena made me promise that you would never see it from me. She didn't know how much it tore me up to see it replayed in her head."
There was silence for a minute, and Damon tried to set aside her words to process them later, but damn it was hard when that image, that memory was all over him. He wouldn't remember it – it had been stolen by the Kitsune and never, ever found, but that was not the point. The point was the other memories that had bombarded him at the same time. The ones Bonnie had not meant him to see.
Where Bonnie was unconscious, and all she could hear was Damon's voice, panicking about his 'little witch', his 'little bird', his girl as he tried to pull every strain of Malach venom from her, singlehandedly tried to save her from the Old Wood. A memory where his hand had brushed hers for longer than was strictly necessary as he checked her bonds upon their unconventional entry into the Dark Dimension, and her face had lit up like a beacon about it.
Then one came that hurt so badly he felt as though he had been stabbed through the heart.
He was spinning with Bonnie in a darkened room, obviously at one of the many functions they had attended in the Dark Dimension. He stopped their movements with a slow hand catching her shoulders and pulled away to hold her at arm's length.
"You look stunning."
"You're a good liar." But it was said with a small laugh in her voice. Her head dipped, as though she couldn't look at him any longer, and he tilted her eyes up to look at him. "I wish..."
"You wish what?"
"I wish you'd see me." He blinked twice and smiled at her.
"But I do see you. You're right in front of me."
She let out a soft laugh, a sigh, a shake of the head, and then walked away.
"What is this?" Damon said the words aloud, garnering a strange look from Elena, who was sitting prettily on the armchair in the corner, "Oh, hello, Elena."
"She's there too." The subconscious began to retreat from his mind, withdrawing its tentacles and clinging onto no part of him. His hands began to shake, and he tried to project straight back at her, finding nothing because he wasn't filled with Power anymore. He was just a man. Human.
"Wait!" And once again, he was yelling out, and Elena was quirking her eyebrows straight at him. As loud as he possibly could, he found the cinema reel of his memory, and began replaying it in his head as loudly as possible.
The door was unlocked, and he could hear the kettle still boiling. The light was on in the living room, and as he passed through the room, feeling just a little more than worried, he heard the sounds of sighs and snuffles coming through the kitchen.
"Bonnie?" There was silence in response, but when he glanced through the doorway, he saw that she had a pair of headphones, bright pink and shiny, nestled into her ears. She wouldn't have heard him even if she had been awake. The soft sounds of whatever music she was listening to trickled from the earbuds as he knocked them from her ears. "Oh, Bonnie, I'm sorry-"
The coffee in her hand, half spilled all down her leg was still hot, so this could have only just happened, and immediately, he found his hands running down her leg, hoping she wasn't in too much pain as he pulled the faded trousers slightly up her leg to survey the damage. Finding a cool cloth, he did his best to brush and wipe it all away, she cried out, but too deep into her slumber to react and awaken.
Her body fell forward, overbalanced by his gentle movements, and she toppled onto his shoulders, her arms reflexively wrapping around him, clinging to him in her slumber. Strong as he was, he did not know how long it would last, and, moving quickly, he carried her upstairs, towards her bedroom.
In a massive broiling pot of fear, confusion, and worry and... he could say it, he cared for her more than he probably should, he slowly laid her down on her bed and ran his fingers around the edge of her heart-shaped face, murmuring noises, but not real or proper words. He watched her for a little bit longer, watched as her breathing seemed to race as his fingers pulled back from her skin, and her lips parted in serious fear.
"I'm here, Bonnie," Damon whispered, curling up next to her and reaching for her hand. "I'll stay."
There was the longest beat of silence, then he felt the touch of something against his brain once again.
"You?" Her subconscious was suspicious, and, of course, it had every right to be. "You kept the nightmares away?"
"Come speak to me, Bonnie. Not your mind, but you." And the subconscious tentacles slowly backed away from him, never giving him a concrete answer, but leaving him with a sense of hope that he had never quite experienced before.
Review? Thoughts and constructive criticism are extremely welcome!
Thanks mucho to Mouse555 for the awesome beta'ing & preread!