Title: Footsteps of a Traveler
Fandom: The Vampire Diaries (TV series).
Pairing: Damon Salvatore/Jeremy Gilbert (established relationship, specifically, established in "Wings of a Butterfly.")
Chapter Rating: Mature for graphic descriptions of violence.
Chapter Content Notes: Graphic description of violence, blood.
Chapter Word Count: 4002 words.
Summary: After Jeremy's journey through time, Damon is the one who must live with the consequences. When the day comes that Jeremy finally arrives back home, Damon doesn't know if he can actually cope with what's happened.
Author's Notes: This is a direct sequel to "Wings of a Butterfly," so I highly recommend that you read that one first. Also, I wanted to clarify something that I am afraid didn't necessarily come through during the end of that story. Jeremy was sixteen when he was sent back to 1863, where he spent several months alongside Damon. When he was transported back to modern time, he was sent to 2009: the day before the comet's arrival. This makes him physically fifteen, but mentally much closer to seventeen.
[[ … Chapter 1: Remembering … ]]
His breath caught when Jeremy pulled the collar of his shirt down just enough for Damon to see the burn. His hand twitched, and for a moment, he thought he might be able to control himself. Then the urge was too strong; he needed to see it, needed to be certain. He tore the shirt open, shredded it really, and it hadn't even hit the ground before his fingers were tracing the outer edges of the wound.
"I killed him," he whispered, and his hand slid down Jeremy's arm. He could hear Jeremy saying something, agreeing with him if the kid had half of a brain, but his focus wasn't on the actual words. Instead, he was pulling Jeremy's hand up, his heart twisting painfully at the sight of the white scar over the palm. Hesitantly, he licked it, and when Jeremy made that low noise in the back of his throat, Damon's eyes closed.
He wasn't sure how long he stayed there, Jeremy's hand still in his mouth, his tongue desperately lapping up every single drop of blood that he could find. Eventually, Stefan dragged him away, left Jeremy's body laying in the grass, Emily gently pulling the boy into her lap, brushing his hair back from his face. She looked up at Damon, and for a moment, he didn't recognize her. He wanted to tear into her, to kill her for touching his—
His nothing. Jeremy was dead. The realization struck him quite suddenly, and he fell to his knees, his hands lifting to touch his face. Blood was everywhere, he was covered in it— Jeremy's blood— and he watched as Emily bent over the body, her eyes closing. She reached up and pulled the little bonnet off of her head, pressed her ear against Jeremy's chest, and then he saw the tears in her eyes. She licked her lips and looked up at him. Damon screamed. At least, he was pretty sure he screamed. It might have been a sob, but he didn't know, didn't care.
The entire night had gone from bad to worse to completely horrific. Everything that he'd been working toward, everything that he had imagined for his future was gone, warped to the point that Damon wasn't even sure he recognized himself in it anymore. He could feel his emotions flickering, stuttering between wracking his body to the point that he couldn't see and moments of emptiness where he wanted nothing more than to lay his own hand open, just to see if he would really bleed.
"Damon." Emily's voice was soft as she reached out to him, biting her bottom lip. He stared at her hand for a minute, two, before he lifted his eyes to her face. She swallowed thickly— he couldn't stop himself from watching the way her throat worked with the motion— and she offered him a very small smile. "Damon, he's not... If you can make me a promise, I will do what I can for him."
Emily reached out then, caught his face in between her hands, and pulled him a little closer to her. "Damon. Do you want to see Jeremy again?" She spoke very slowly, and Damon nodded jerkily, his brow furrowing. He wanted to see Jeremy again. He wanted Jeremy to get up, to laugh at him, to brush those terrible bangs out of his face before surveying the area with that detached expression he could get.
Emily smiled at him, and he smiled back shakily, uncertain of what was going on. Too much had happened, his body was still screaming from the transition, from how close to death he'd gotten before he'd fed. He couldn't think through the sensations flooding through his body, from the way his hearing seemed to be able to pick up everything from too far away, from the way his eyes would focus on something yards away and refuse to look at the things he wanted to see.
He could hear her chanting though, and he focused on that, crawling over until he could touch Jeremy's face. He rubbed a lock of that hair in between his fingers, and then he glanced up at Emily when she leaned over with the knife— still wet with Jeremy's blood— and cut the lock off in his hand.
"You'll need it," she murmured, and Damon hesitated for only a moment before he reached into Jeremy's jacket pocket and pulled out the handkerchief there. He wrapped the piece of hair in it and tucked it into one of his own pockets. Then her hands were moving, her eyes fell closed, and Damon resisted the urge to shrink back from her. It was Emily. He had seen her work magic before this, for Katherine.
Just as suddenly as she had started, she stopped, and Damon's hands sank down to touch the cool grass. Jeremy's body was gone. His eyes widened, and he hadn't even realized that he'd moved before his hand was around Emily's throat and she was coughing, trying to breathe. He snarled, fangs extended.
She gasped out a quiet, "He's not dead," and Damon's grip relaxed fractionally. He could feel Stefan tugging on him, trying to pull him away from her, but he didn't care. Stefan couldn't even seem to move him.
"Where did he go, Emily?" His voice was quiet, lower than it normally was. He leaned in a little closer, incapable of controlling himself. He could hear her blood rushing through her body, hear each desperate pound of her heart.
"The comet." Emily coughed a little louder as Damon's grip eased up. He looked up at the comet, where she was pointing, and raised an eyebrow when he looked back at her. She swallowed. "I had to use the comet," she whispered. "The next time it passes, he will return." Damon didn't have to ask the next question. Before it had even fully formed in his head, Emily looked away and added, "You can see him again in one hundred years."
Damon went perfectly still, his eyes widening. Stefan even stopped tugging on his arm. "How long, Emily?"
She bit her bottom lip, clearly aware that he didn't like what she had said. "One hundred and forty years," she clarified. Her eyes were closed. Braced against his wrath perhaps.
For a moment, her words didn't register. He saw her mouth move, heard sound coming out, but he couldn't translate those noises into words that he could understand. Then, all at once, it slammed into him, and he must have lunged again, because Stefan finally got enough strength to haul him back. He snarled, fangs bared, and they were both struggling, Stefan trying to pin him down in the cold grass and Damon fighting to get anything at all close enough to Stefan's throat to do damage.
Stefan had been the one to bring Jeremy, offering him that reassuring smile. A gift.
Damon broke then, the tears incapable of being held back, the sobs drawn out of his body with each painful gasp of air he could manage. Stefan let him go, put a hand in the middle of his back, and Damon hissed, shrugging his shoulder to dislodge the touch.
"I swear to you," Damon growled, "I will make your life hell, Stefan."
"Damon, I just—"
Another flash of fangs and Stefan's eyes widened. He held up his hands, took a step back, and Damon couldn't stop himself. Something in Stefan's manner, something in the way he was running, triggered him. He wanted to tear his own brother's throat out, and he couldn't have explained why. He was just certain that it would soothe the ache in his chest, the disappointment that he couldn't control.
"I will kill you if I catch you," he said lowly, and Stefan, clearly sensing Damon's mood, fled. He looked back only once, at the edge of the clearing, and for a moment, Damon wanted to chase him, wanted to run him down into the ground. He wanted to feel blood pouring over his hands.
He glanced back over toward Emily, and quickly, she pulled a ring from the front pocket of her apron. She held it out to him, and he couldn't stop the slow smile at her trembling fingers. He snorted as he plucked the ring from her, holding it up so that he could look at it. The Salvatore crest. His stomach churned, and briefly, he wondered if he could still get sick.
"It's your daylight ring," Emily whispered.
And something in the way she said it, in the way she didn't look at him, it flipped a switch in him. He could feel his emotions fading away, feel his anger being pushed away. He didn't spare her another glance as he stalked off into the woods, heading back toward the Salvatore house. He could smell the corpse long before he actually entered the house, and he drew a deep breath before he entered the study.
His father was laying there, blood splashed all over the floor, a wooden stake abandoned in the corner of the room. Damon's eyes narrowed, and he slowly crossed the floor, swallowing as he approached the body. His emotions were unsteady, like he couldn't quite figure out how to keep them turned off. Instead, they flooded through him; the childish fear of the mess around him, the anger that he hadn't been the one to do it, the amusement that instead it had been his father's favorite child, the golden boy.
He crouched down, reaching out to lightly smooth the mussed hair, and ah, there it was. He found the button inside of him, jabbed it viciously, and smiled to himself at the sensation of the guilt fading, of the anger slowly slipping away from him. For several moments, he stayed there, savoring the feeling, enjoying the amusement that he was left with. A wry smile was still on his lips when he finally pushed back up to his feet, headed up the stairs.
He shoved everything that he couldn't live without into a bag— the same bag he'd carried as a soldier— and after just a heartbeat, he walked down the hall into Jeremy's room. He swept the pencils, the leftover pieces of charcoal, and the sketchbook into his bag, and then he was gone. He couldn't look at the sketchbook, not yet.
Damon had him pinned against the bed, was whispering something about it having been one hundred and forty-five years since he'd last seen him. But he wasn't thinking about that. All he could focus on was the scent of the lake still clinging to Jeremy's hair, the scent of Damon's blood still ghosting over his skin. Damon placed his hands flat on the bed, uncertain that he would be able to control himself. His lips touched Jeremy's ear, his neck. His nose brushed against Jeremy's hair, and then his hands clenched the blanket too hard. He could hear it rip.
The sketchbook stayed firmly closed for close to five years. Until Paris. Until Damon had learned to keep that damned button switched off, his guilt and anger firmly locked away. He was stretched out across the bed, a pair of the prettiest people he could find in Paris cuddled up against him. Idly, he trailed one hand through the woman's hair. He couldn't remember her name, and if he was completely honest, he didn't care that he didn't remember.
He could call her whatever he damned well liked. A faint smile quirked the edge of his lips. He could call either of them whatever he wanted.
He reached over her, fished out his bag, and pulled the small book from it. The sight of it alone was enough to make his emotions flicker, and he drew a deep breath before he finally opened it. The first page was a sketch of him, in smudged charcoal, and his brow furrowed as he recognized the uniform he was wearing in the sketch. Well, recognized the details that he knew from having worn it for so many days in a row. The musket was sandwiched between his thighs and his stomach, and he was reaching up, pushing the tip of his thumb under the kepi as he laughed.
Damon swallowed, and he glanced down at the corner of the pages, his frown deepening just a little more. After a quick thumb through, he felt like he was going to be sick. Every page with a folded corner had a sketch of him on it, and he managed a faint smile as he realized most of them were candid moments, glimpses that must have captured Jeremy's imagination. He had folded the corners so that when someone wanted to look, he could pass them by without it being obvious.
When he reached the blank pages in the back, he sighed, flipping the book over and lightly stroking the back cover with his thumb. After a moment, he noticed another folded corner, this one just a few pages in from the back cover, and he opened the book to it carefully. The words stretched over the page, endless and yet far too few for Damon's comfort.
Damon, if you're reading this, I'm dead. That's a really bad cliché. Or, it will be. That's the point of this whole event, I suppose.
He read through the rest of the letter, and for just a minute, he stayed perfectly still in the bed. He couldn't think, not with so much blowing through his head, and then it was like that damned button simply popped back up. The rage coursed through him, sent the book flying across the room, and when the girl sat up, pulling the blanket closer to her, Damon grasped a handful of her hair. He bent her back, breathed in her fear, and licked the length of her throat.
A quick glance to one side assured him that the youth was still sleeping, and he sank his teeth into the girl's throat before she could scream. He didn't want her calm, didn't want to compel her to not fight him. He wanted the fear, the excitement in her blood. He drank too deeply, and by the time he dropped her off of the edge of the bed, she was just barely breathing. He licked his lips but didn't clean up as he rolled over to where he was straddling the young man's hips.
Those dark eyes opened slowly, and he even started to stretched before he noticed Damon leaning down over him. Before he saw the blood. His eyes widened, he swallowed, and Damon watched his throat work, watched the muscles moving under the skin. He could hear the heartbeat speeding up, and as he lowered his mouth to press a soft, blood-laced kiss to the soft skin of that throat, he heard it skip a beat.
"As-tu peur?" Damon licked the blood off of the youth's skin, a small smile forming when he nodded quickly. He would have been an idiot to try to claim that he wasn't frightened. When he started to speak, Damon kissed him, cutting off any words. He didn't want to hear him begging for his life. Jeremy hadn't begged. Jeremy—
He bit then, his eyes closing at the taste of the blood over his tongue. There was a low moan, and then nothing as Damon bit harder, let the blood rush into his mouth. By the time he pushed the boy off of the bed, he was dead. Damon sat up, tilted his head back and closed his eyes, just letting the rush that came with the death wash over him.
Jeremy wouldn't have approved.
Damon fell back against the car's seat, tapping his fingers against the wheel. Jeremy was sitting beside him, and he leaned back until his head was against the headrest. For a minute, they were quiet, and then Jeremy asked him softly, "Are you taking me home?"
Another tap against the wheel. "I should," Damon replied, but he knew that he wasn't. Not right away. "I guess this is fate, right?" It was as close as he was going to get, at least. He reached into his pocket and withdrew the bracelet that he'd been unable to let go of over the years. He rubbed a finger over the metal, and then he leaned over to clip it around Jeremy's wrist.
Jeremy didn't let him draw back though; instead, he caught Damon's hand and pushed the shirt sleeve up just enough to reveal an identical bracelet. Damon smiled faintly at the look of shock on Jeremy's face.
"When did you find that?"
Damon looked away, toward the house, wanting to make certain that Stefan wasn't stalking out yet to find them. "In the twenties." It had been a tiny thrift store, one that he couldn't even figure out why he'd wandered into. It had been his first few days back on American soil, some fifty years after Paris. "It was the first time I thought there might be some truth to your letter. No Vervain in mine."
He let Jeremy rub his thumb over the bracelet for a few more heartbeats, savoring the feel of Jeremy touching him. It was almost as good as the kisses, and how the hell was that even possible? He slid his arm out of Jeremy's grip and cranked the car. "Your dad will be wondering why you're not at school. I'm sure they've called him by now."
Something about the way he said it made Damon look over at him, and Damon eased the car onto the road slowly. Jeremy relaxed marginally, propping his elbow up in the window, letting his arm hang out of the car. Damon didn't stop him.
"You're not eighteen," he finally said, and he bristled for a moment at Jeremy's laughter.
"You've been waiting to say that, haven't you?" Jeremy tapped his fingers over the car door before he shook his head slowly. "No. I'm fifteen." He stumbled over the word though, and Damon's eyes narrowed. There was more going on to this than what Jeremy had told him. He supposed that he couldn't be surprised. Something that involved over one hundred and forty-five years of deceit couldn't possibly have been explained in a simple letter.
"Jailbait," Damon decided, and he was pleased to see Jeremy's grin widen. It had been far too long since he'd seen that expression. He wanted to run Jeremy through the gauntlet, see every nuance of emotion written across that face that he'd been unable to see before that moment.
"Yeah, I guess I am." Jeremy chuckled as he relaxed a little more, and when he spoke again, his voice was so quiet that had Damon been human, he might have missed it. "Damon, is this all real? Is it really over?"
Damon couldn't stop himself from snorting. "Nothing's over, Jeremy. You're fifteen. This is just beginning." He glanced over at Jeremy and watched as the smile faded, as the realization sank in that no matter what he'd been through, he had even more ahead of him. "But at least this will actually be your fight," Damon amended, and he was rewarded with another faint smile.
"Here. Put this on." Damon reached in the backseat of the car and pulled out a dark gray t-shirt and a black hoodie. "Can't drive you home without something on."
"Were you here last year?" Jeremy looked down as he pulled on the slightly-too-small shirt. He settled back against the seat only after he zipped the hoodie up.
Damon raised an eyebrow, and he shook his head. "No. Stefan was."
Jeremy made a low noise, and then he asked, "Does... Does Stefan drink human blood?"
"Why are you asking about Stefan?" Damon pulled the car over, his eyes narrowing as he looked at Jeremy. For a moment, he didn't think Jeremy was going to answer him— for a minute, all Damon could think of was the way Jeremy held out a hand to Stefan, how Jeremy came so willingly to that forsaken clearing with Stefan. Jeremy's hand lifted and touched the side of Damon's face.
"My dad was supposed to die in a car accident last year," Jeremy whispered, and Damon's doubt cleared just as suddenly as it had wrapped around him.
There was something wrong with him, something that went far deeper than simply being a vampire. He felt out of control. He heard himself asking Jeremy something— Yeah? Did Stefan save him this time then?— but he didn't care. He wanted to push Jeremy back into the seat of the car, wanted to tilt his head and bite him, wanted to taste him again. He wanted to be inside of Jeremy, to brand him to the point that no one could look at him and not know that he belonged to Damon.
Slowly, Damon forced his fingers to relax around the steering wheel. Jeremy was saying something about Stefan only drinking animal blood and being slower than he would have been had he been drinking people. Damon drew a breath.
"He tried to do that once. I would have killed him had Lexi not been there." That had been the first time that Damon had seen Stefan since Jeremy's death. Since Damon had convinced himself that Jeremy's death lay squarely on Stefan's shoulders.
Jeremy nodded slowly, and Damon wondered when Jeremy's approval had become a thing that he wanted. Had he ever really gotten past wanting to think that Jeremy would like what he did? Refusing to think about it any longer, Damon pulled the car back onto the road and drove without another word to the Gilbert house. Jeremy glanced up at the front door, and Damon's eyebrow raised.
"You look like it's going to eat you, Jeremy," he said lowly, leaning down to glance up at the house. At the perfectly normal looking house.
"Dad will be in there. He's supposed to be dead. He's been dead for a year. … And I have to explain why I cut the first day of school."
Damon looked over at him, and then he sighed, killed the engine, and stepped out of the car. "Let's get to it then." He grinned at Jeremy's blind panic and headed to the door, knocking briskly before Jeremy could stop him. Jeremy stood just behind him, sighing loudly.
When the door opened, Damon offered his very best smile and held out his hand. "Mr. Gilbert?"
Jeremy's father shook his hand. "Doctor Grayson Gilbert. What can I do for you? Jeremy, are you okay? Come in."
"Grayson. I'm Damon Salvatore. Zach's nephew?" He let his smile widen marginally when Grayson nodded, and he stepped into the house, shooting Jeremy a quick look to make sure that he followed suit. "Well, I am volunteering at the school, and Jeremy wasn't feeling very well this morning. I guess the excitement of the new year got to him."
He ignored the pointed eye-roll from Jeremy and let Grayson lead him into the living area where they both took a seat on the couch. "He managed to ah... ruin his shirt." He hesitated, and then asked, "You're a medical doctor?" When Grayson nodded, Damon leaned forward. "I'm afraid it might be some kind of stomach bug. He was pretty pale when I found him."
"Jeremy, why don't you go lay down? I'll be up to check on you in a few minutes."
Damon watched as Jeremy hesitated, clearly wanting to stay, to hear what Damon told Grayson. He needn't have worried. Damon had an invitation into the house now. Jeremy would be seeing a lot of him.