In the Absence of Control

Author's Note: This is based on a prompt for the Damon/Bonnie fest on LJ. It called for Bonnie to be the only one realizing Damon was reclaiming his dark side and trying to deal with it as he taunted her. Needless to say, this is not a happy Bamon fic – it is more a battle of wills. This is not my usual take on this couple so I hope you'll stick with me and I promise more snarky fluffy Bamon in the future!

Vague Season 2 spoilers up and including the episode The Dinner Party and then AU from there.

If Elena choosing Stefan over him is what places him on the edge then Katherine's death is what sends Damon tumbling over.

Bonnie has seen it coming for some time now. She had meant what she said to Stefan - she will not let them hurt innocent people. She will watch them closely and be prepared just in case.

And now that day is here – and she is powerless.

Katherine's death was in fact an accident – or as Bonnie sees it, an unforeseen yet beneficial consequence of their plan to get rid of Klaus.

She died horrifically – Bonnie has never taken in anything quite like it. Klaus made an example of her and ensured that for years to come Bonnie will awake in a cold sweat as the images of Katherine's last moments play out in her head.

Damon had been there to bear witness too.

Bonnie watched as the emotions played across his face.

And right then and there, she knew – Damon's mask of control was slipping.

Damon proves to be well versed in the ability to play both sides.

He is still the caring brother, and Elena's protector. He is a part of their inner circle – pounding out the details to ensure they all live to see another day. She sits in the corner, no longer able to do much more than offer suggestions, bounce ideas and do her best to help maintain peace.

But she also watches – looking for tell tale signs that the monster within him is surfacing. He catches her now and again and never fails to playfully suggest she has developed a bit of a crush on him. It is the same banter he has always used on her. Only she is not falling for it as the others are.

He can't keep it up.

Sooner or later he will make a mistake and she will be there

It takes her awhile to catch him in the act.

His mistake comes late in the summer after a day that sets record temperatures.

She has been following him for weeks now but has little to show for her efforts. She wonders how many have been hurt or have even died without her being able to stop him. She considers going to Stefan but knows that without any solid proof, Stefan will remain loyal to his brother.

On this night she almost doesn't follow him. The day has left her listless and drained. She wishes for her bed. But the thought that tonight might be the night that she finally has the proof she needs has her sneaking out the side door and walking the few blocks to the center of town.

She knows exactly where to find him.

Damon is becoming a creature of habit.

She leans into the shadows and watches the entrance of the pool hall. The air is still sticky and she is sweating from her simple walk. She wants a drink of water desperately but does not dare move from her post.

He appears exactly forty three minutes later, his arm slung around a tiny brunette (yes, he definitely a creature of habit). They are walking away from her but she is determined so she follows.

Bonnie knows the key to success is to never let them out of her sight. It is not an easy task. She knows that Damon has exceptional senses which force her to walk further behind them then she would like. Each time they disappear down a side street she holds her breath until she catches sight of them again.

Until the one time she doesn't.

Her heart rate automatically sky rockets as her eyes scan the area. She is near the park – it's nice and open. She should be able to see them. They had only rounded the side of the building maybe thirty seconds before her. The panic is there too – starting to bubble in the pit of her stomach.

She can't let him do this again.

Dread threatens to overtake her when she hears a scream. And not just any scream. She knows it is from the little brunette. She turns her head toward the source and makes a decision in an instant.

Bonnie has never been a fast runner - there is a reason why she is a cheerleader instead of actually playing a sport. She is gasping in thick warm air that threatens to choke her but she is determined.

The young woman stumbles out of the park, one hand covering her neck. Even in the dim moonlight, Bonnie can see the blood. She stops and for a moment the two eye each other.

"Run."

It is a simple command but enough to spurn her into action. Bonnie watches her go and feels a sense of triumph. She has done it – she has caught Damon in the act. There is no longer room for doubt.

And now he must be stopped.

Her sense of elation and relief is short lived.

For when she turns, he is standing there, further evidence of his decent smeared messily over his chin. He grins and her breath hitches.

"Hello Bonnie."

She knows running will not do her any good but instinct often outweighs logic. She doesn't get very far before he is on her, slamming her body against the side of nearby building. Her head bounces off brick.

Damon crowds her, pressing his body against hers. He is surprising cold and she is overheated from everything that has happened thus far. Her heart is beating at an alarming rate and there is nothing she can do to control that.

However, she can manage the outward signs of her fear. She forces herself to keep from squirming, from crying out. She meets his eyes, no doubt a shocking blue because he has just fed.

He grins.

"You've been a very naughty girl, Bonnie Bennett. Sneaking out after curfew," he begins, pushing her as far into the building as he can. She feels as if she can barely breathe. "How many nights has it been now? At least nine in a row. I would say that is grounds for severe punishment."

She can't stop her eyes from widening. He knows that she has been following her. He moves one hand to tangle in her hair, jerking it slightly so her chin rises. Her neck is exposed. But she does not scream. She will not scream.

However, she does brace herself for pain that never comes.

When her eyes flutter open his face is inches from hers. The blood on his chin has begun to dry and her eyes are drawn to it. She swallows on reflex. "I meant what I said, Damon. I won't let you hurt people."

"I know you did. You never fail to go back on your word, my little witch." He tugs again, hard, and she wonders just how much of her hair is left in his hand. "My little impotent witch. Or did you forget that detail?"

She hasn't. Much time has been devoted to reliving what Jonas Martin has done to her. "I am still going to stop you."

He seems genuinely amused. "How? Without your ability to set me on fire, you are no better off than that brainless idiot I was just chewing on. It seems that you have an elevated sense of your self, Bonnie. Do you think that you could really overpower me?" He scrunches his eyebrows together before continuing. "Or do you think I'll spare you out of some sort of misguided loyalty to her? Because I won't." His face changes – the monster emerges.

He rears back to strike and despite promising herself that she will not, Bonnie screams.

He stops just as quickly as he began. His face is buried in the crook of her neck and she can feel his teeth scrap the sensitive skin. But he does not bite. Her chest is heaving, pressing against him – a side effect of the adrenaline that has been shot throughout her body.

When he pulls back, she sees clear blue eyes again. Hypnotic blue eyes.

"No," she cries when she realizes what is about to happen.

"Silly little Bonnie, you did nothing to compensate for your loss, did you?" He begins. "To be honest, I was going to kill you. But then I had a thought – I need a confidant. Someone I can be myself around. Someone I can tell my secrets to. And you are the perfect candidate."

She tries desperately to turn her head away, to break eye contact. But she can feel herself being drawn in; she can feel the free will leaving her body.

When he speaks, his voice is like honey to her ears. Her mind is open to him, letting him in to do with it as he wishes. "As much as you may want to, Bonnie, you will never tell anyone of my actions – both past and future. It'll be our little secret, okay?"

She tries desperately to fight against her answer but it easily slips from her mouth. "Yes."

His smile is wide, almost friendly. "I knew I could count on you." He lets go of her hair, pulls back from her body and she nearly sags to the ground. "Now run along. Nearby, there is a stupid woman with a gaping neck wound that I must attend to."

Bonnie stumbles away, aware of his mocking stare. It is not until she is nearly home that she realizes the full extent of what has just happened. Damon is a monster who is no doubt finishing off that innocent woman as this very moment.

And she can't tell anyone.

That doesn't mean that she doesn't try.

Jeremy is first. He shows up at her door the next day with his lopsided grin and accepting nature. His arms feel warm around her as she rests her head on his chest. He can tell she is shaken. But when he asks what is wrong, no sound comes out.

Elena is next - Jeremy must have told her. She calls that night and prods Bonnie with friendly questions. That fact she cannot really say what is happening physically hurts. It feels as if someone has robbed her of her breath. Tears stream down her face as she bids Elena goodnight.

With Stefan, she comes the closest. She suspects, like a game of telephone, the news that something is wrong spreads from Jeremy to Elena to Stefan. She is not surprised when he approaches her at the Grill. When he sits down across from her and looks at her with the concern of an older brother, she nearly screams.

"It's Damon isn't it?" Stefan finally asks.

The fact that she can confirm this with a nod fills with hope. She wonders: if Stefan can guess correctly, can she just nod? She finds out her answer soon enough for Stefan then asks if he has hurt her and as much as Bonnie wants to bob her head up and down she is paralyzed.

"I know he has a little moody lately because of Katherine. Even though he boasted about wanting her dead, there is still a part of him that was hoping she would come around – love him the way he loved her for decades," Stefan explains. If he is trying to invoke sympathy for his brother he is talking to the wrong person. "I'll speak to him. Tell him to lay off the witch jokes for awhile."

Bonnie panics inwardly. The last thing she wants Damon to know is that she is trying. She wishes she could tell Stefan to leave it be but when she looks at the younger Salvatore brother's sincere face, all she can do is give him her thanks.

It takes some convincing to get her to step foot in the Salvatore boarding house again.

She feigns her inability to contribute anything useful when Elena calls for another kick at the Klaus can.

"Bonnie, you still help," Elena says with such sweetness that Bonnie truly feels like an invalid. There is a long pause before her friend adds, "I need you there, Bon."

And she cannot very well say no to that.

Still, she is on guard the moment she enters the house. She doesn't even relax when she realizes that Damon is not there.

Because it means he could be out committing bloody murder and she cannot even bat a lash at it.

She tries to focus herself by going through the Gilbert diaries page by page. It is painstaking even with the occasional mentions of her ancestry. If she didn't believe that there might be a smidgen of hope lying within the pages she would have put the book down long ago.

Two hours pass before anyone comes up for air. Elena is hungry; Stefan is too in his own way. She waves off their offer of food and drink. The room falls into silence – no noise beyond the occasional crackle of the fire and turn of the page.

If she still possessed her gift she might have been able to sense him.

Instead, it is not until he is right behind her, a hand coming to lie on her shoulder that Bonnie realizes Damon is home. Unable to stop herself she jumps.

"Hello Bonnie."

It's funny how easily he can turn a simple greeting into something so sinister.

He sits on the edge of the desk she has littered with books. Bonnie forces herself to look him in the eye. He is smiling, obviously pleased with himself. "I hear you have been attempting to share secrets. I am hurt, Bonnie. The things I said to you were said in confidence. A real friend wouldn't break that."

He is trying to bait her. She knows that. The best course of action is to take no action at all.

But she can't help herself.

Not when he is already taken so much from her. "You're going to burn in hell."

He rears back, his eyes widening. "Having a bad day are we?" He shoves aside her abandoned book so he can scoot closer. "I had an excellent day – starting with a mid morning snack. Pretty little red head…"

She closes her eyes, feeling the revulsion creeping up her throat. She wishes she could scream for Elena or Stefan.

"You know, I actually went shopping today. I didn't realize how hungry shopping makes you. I went blonde this time…"

She wonders if she can stick her fingers in her ears.

He begins to describe how the woman writhed against him, whimpering. How her blood tasted ever so slightly like almonds. And she can stomach it no longer. Before she can even consider what she is doing, she has swung at him. A futile move really, for she finds herself pressed against the bookshelf, the wood digging painfully into her lower back.

"I love it when you're violent," Damon tells her as she stares daggers at him. He easily holds her in place with one hand and uses the other to pick up the locket heavy with vervain that now adorns her neck. "I see you finally got smart. Good thing too – no telling what I compelled you to do."

Bonnie feels a knot begin to form in her stomach at the implication. It's not true, it can't be. She has been barred from telling anyone the horrifying truth – and not a thing more. She tells herself over and over that he is just trying to get a rise out of her. This time, she wills herself not to react.

But when he lets the locket fall back to chest so he can tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, she squirms and wishes so badly that she could pop ever blood vessel in his brain. Thankfully, she is spared any further humiliation when Damon cocks his head to one side and abruptly pulls away – putting distance between them.

A moment later, Elena enters the room. And despite what Bonnie has told her, she brings a sandwich and a bottle of water for her "hardworking friend". She had been looking for an exit, but now Bonnie is forced to sit down and play nice so her friends don't ask the dreaded question of what is wrong. She has no desire to appear tongue tied in front of Damon.

She finishes in record speed, glances at her watch to be sure it is acceptable and then yawns. She picks up the book she had been combing through and drops it Damon's lap. "You finish," she instructs.

She relishes her moment of control, and the way he glowers as she bids her friends goodnight.

From there she decides she will spend as much time as she can with Stefan and Elena. Because around them she can be more like her old self. She can spew vitriol at Damon and there is not a damn thing he can do about it.

Under the guise of helping them research, she works on ways to stop him right under his nose. She hurls insults in his direction as she frantically searches for ways to overcome compulsion, ways to regain lost abilities. Stefan snickers.

But she can't follow them everywhere. When they head for the kitchen, she heads for the bathroom. She clings to one of them without seeming desperate whenever she can. She tries her best to leave the moment the happy couple wants to call it a night.

She feels victorious.

The victory doesn't last long.

Damon will not be ignored.

Especially not when he feels he is being challenged. Every insult she has thrown and every avoidance tactic she has employed is a challenge.

He responds by showing up at her door while she is at school. Her well meaning but clueless father invites him in. He leaves him unscathed but has changed the playing field dramatically.

She can no longer avoid him. She finds this out in the most terrifying of fashions – being woken at three in the morning to find him standing over her, mouth smeared with blood. She can't contain the yelp of surprise or the way she crawls up her bed on her elbows.

"I have missed our little talks," He begins.

And then he proceeds to tell her everything he couldn't over the past few days. Feedings, injuries…death. When he finally leaves, she does not sleep.

Nor does she when he reappears two nights later to do it all over again.

Her life begins to fall apart.

She becomes focused on one thing – stopping him.

She feels guilty that she is no longer doing it to save the lives of those he could hurt but to save her own sanity. She no longer sleeps for more than a few hours at a time – never sure when Damon will arrive. He deliberately creates no discernable pattern. Added to her lack of sleep, she spends a great deal of her waking hour searching for answers.

Her grades suffer.

As do her relationships.

Jeremy is the first causality. She does not blame him one bit for pulling away. After all, there are only so many times you can be met with stony silence when you ask someone if they are okay before you throw in the towel. She hopes one day that she will be able to explain all of this to him – to repair the damage that has been done.

Her father also steps away, spending more time on business trips then usual. She supposes dealing with angry clients is easier then dealing with a brooding daughter who 'refuses' to explain why she is in fact brooding.

She snaps at Elena and Caroline but they do not give up. She thinks that they blame the residual effects of her grandmother's death although neither of them will say it. She never corrects them.

Because of course she can't.

In the end, the answer seems exceedingly simple.

Perhaps, subconsciously, she has known it all along. Perhaps her pride has prevented her from seeing it.

But she has no pride anymore. She begins to think she has nothing. That she is a shell of her former self – filled to the top with the stories and images of Damon Salvatore's decent into darkness.

She has no second thoughts about walking to the door of Jonas Martin. She has no qualms about begging, pleading if she has to. When he opens the door and sees her standing there, broken, he knows what she wants.

She doesn't exactly beg, but she does utter the phrase, "I'll do anything."

He is just as desperate as her – having lost his only vampiric connection to his daughter. The three simple yet loaded words are just what he needs to hear.

She has to be careful now.

If Bonnie gives away her upper hand before she has chance to exact her plan she will be no further ahead then before. It is hard – for she desperately wants to flex when he continues to appear in her bedroom, fresh from a kill and full of tales of debauchery that she just has to know.

Lying there pretending to be helpless proves to be much harder than lying there helpless.

She doesn't want to wait much longer. She has lost count of the number of people Damon has hurt, the number he has killed. His loose grasp on humanity is slipping - she wonders how long before he gives himself over fully to his baser needs.

So she plants the seeds.

When she announces she is going to visit family, the same family she stayed with after her grandmother's death, her friends react with the sympathy they have been holding back. To them, it means that they are correct in thinking she is dealing with residual grief.

To Damon, it is a challenge.

And he cannot resist a challenge.

It almost a week before he comes to her.

Her cousin owns a ranch style house near the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's a big property, with outbuildings scattered throughout pastures and surrounding woodland. She has taken to spending her time in what once was a root cellar. It is in bad need of repair, plants have broken through the stone walls and the dirt floor is uneven.

None of this matters to her – she has not chosen it for appearance.

She still pours over books and lore on the originals, knowing once she returns to Mystic Falls there will be another fight on her hands. Klaus may have been quiet since Katherine's death but he has left no doubt about the fact that he is circling. Elena will need her more than ever.

It is near nightfall when Damon comes. She has to contain the smile when she realizes.

She turns to her tormentor and finds him just as she left him – contemplating that final step into insanity.

"You didn't think you could hide from me, did you?" He asks as she sets aside her book. "Especially in a godawful place such as this." Where most would find the circumstances suspicious he believes it to be a sign of her fear of him.

His ego has always worked in her favor.

"No," she answers simply. "But I do wonder why you bothered. I was under the impression you were having the time of your life in Mystic Falls."

He smiles, showing his teeth just a little. They are pristine with not a hint of the carnage they can cause. "There is that." He steps closer and she holds her ground. "But you know what I have discovered in our little arrangement? There is no fun in causing terror and mayhem if no one knows you are doing it. Without you to bare my soul to, it is as if I have done nothing at all."

"I am sure your victims do not see it that way," Bonnie counters.

"Spoken with just the right amount of haughtiness. Oh how I have missed you, Bonnie," Damon has her cornered now, her back nearly pressed into the corner of the darkened cellar. "I have so much to tell you."

"I am done listening."

"If you think that you can spend the rest of your life playing on the farm in blissful ignorance you are sadly mistaken. This place is really only a hop, skip and a jump from Mystic Falls anyway," Damon points out. "And technology is much more advanced now – I am sure I can attach a nice video of me ripping out a throat to a text."

Bonnie wants to flinch, but she forces herself body to stay still. His words confirm that she is, indeed, doing the right thing. "I am not going to do this anymore, Damon. I made a promise to stop you and I intend to do just that."

Weeks of having her cower has left him overconfident. When he reaches for her, she levels him with a blast of power that has been simmering under the surface for some time now. He clutches at his head as she steps over him in a dash for the stairs, and freedom.

His recovery is quick, no doubt spurned on by the copious amounts of fresh blood he has been drinking as of late. He catches her by the heel, gives it a hard yank, and has her bouncing off the stone steps.

Dazed and at his mercy, Damon looms over her, full of rage and ready to strike. "This is interesting. I see you've managed to get in touch with your former self." He pulls her to her feet by her hair and she is struggling against dizziness, hoping to bring him to his knees again. He sees this. "Oh no, no, little witch."

For the second time in her life, Damon Salvatore sinks his fangs into the soft flesh of her neck – whether it is to weaken or to kill she does not know. However, she is ready this time. He drinks deep and she allows him. When he pulls back, and falls to his knees in obvious pain she can easily side step his outreached hands. He is weak as a kitten.

"Vervain in tea is actually not as unpleasant as it sounds. Two cups a day for two weeks – much more than you have built a resistance too this far," she explains, although her speech is slightly slurred. She needs is hurting, and no doubt needs medical attention.

But first she must finish this.

"I don't think I can kill you. I thought about it – as you made sure I could never sleep properly again. But I know I couldn't look Stefan in the eye. He believes in you…the you you pretend to be around him. He still looks at you with the adoring eyes of a younger brother. It's probably better this way." She is halfway up the steps now, watching him crawl toward her, a murderous glint in his eye.

"What the hell are you babbling about?"

Bonnie finally reaches the door, emerging into the crisp night air with a sense of relief. Damon is half way up the stairs now, moving with purpose. But there he can only go so far.

He reaches the invisible barrier, and his head shoots up. She is within reach but there is not a damn thing he can do about it. "Bonnie…" He growls, and for the first time she hears a hint of desperation in his voice as the pieces fall together.

Weakened, she settles to the ground. She can feel blood sliding down her neck and there is knot forming on the back of her head. Combined with the effects of casting the spell to trap him there, she is surprised she has not passed out.

"Bonnie," he repeats and this time the desperation is evident. "You can't leave me here."

"Of course I can," she tells him. "You can't hurt anyone here."

"I'll stop."

She manages a laugh. "No, you won't. Because you can't, Damon. You're broken. This is the best place for you."

Damon howls in rage.

Her cousins help her close up the door. She has never once considered doing with this without her family's knowledge. She is grateful to them. Once they are sure the door is secure, she is helped to back to the main house.

Whether she passes out or truly falls asleep, Bonnie does not know.

In the morning, she awakes feeling recharged.

And most importantly, free.

She waits another week before returning to Mystic Falls.

Her wounds are well on their way to being fully healed and she is beginning to feel like her old self, despite the heavy secret weighing on her mind. When she finds Elena in the Grill, she is able to embrace her with a big smile. Elena squeezes her tightly. "I am so glad you are back."

"I am glad to be back," she says truthfully. She asks to be caught up and soon learns of Damon's disappearance.

"Stefan thinks Damon is out there somewhere working off his feelings surrounding Katherine's death. He didn't want to admit it to me at first but he has been worried about Damon for awhile. He said he has been different, more on edge, and perhaps getting away from Katherine's death and everything that goes with it will help him," Elena tells her as she stirs her straw around her drink.

"Stepping back from the situation helped me gain perspective. Maybe it will help him too," Bonnie offers. She wonders if she should feel guilty for what Stefan and Elena have loss.

"I just wish he would have told Stefan…someone where he was going."

Or she could think of it as saving them from the truth of what Damon has become.

Either way, Bonnie can't stop herself from reaching out and touching Elena's hand with her own. "I am sure when he is ready, he will come back," she says.

Maybe someday Damon can be freed.

Maybe not.

Jonas Martin shows up on her doorstep the next day.

He has one request and it is something that Bonnie has foreseen: remove the dagger from Elijah.

She believes it to be equivalent to a death wish and therefore sets her mind to ensuring just the opposite happens. She is not deterred – nor is she afraid.

After all, she has proven herself capable of worming her way out of difficult situations.