"What do you think you are doing?" Elena demanded of him after she pulled Damon away from her fragile friend. She lifted her arm to hit him in the chest, but paused, her eyes turning a liquid and dazzling blue. She brought herself closer to him and slapped him as hard as she could, using her powerful anger to drive the point home. Her palm tingled in it's wake.
Bonnie, half dressed in only her slip and panties, motioned as if to touch Elena's arm to reassure her that nothing bad had happened but drew back after one look at Damon's expression. He was telling her telepathically to leave Elena to him. Her face creased for an instant with despair but, like the red-bird he had come to adore, resolve smoothed her features.
He couldn't reply; he knew not what he could possibly say to that. What had he been thinking, ensnaring sweet Bonnie that way? He should have known better than to suppose he could let himself love without ramifications from her. He might have stopped thinking of her as Katherine long ago, but increasingly it was as if she had become Katherine anyway; she was a viscous little thing, this Elena, just as sly and manipulative. It was uncanny, and painful, to see what she had become.
"If you think that I'm going to let you use her as a … a play-thing you are so wrong, Damon. As long as I'm still breathing she will never be yours. I would rather you kill me -"
He interrupted her with a sharp, animal, bark of laughter. She was so sure of her power over him, but he would show her that that power had been given to another. He hadn't meant to scare Bonnie, if that had actually been the case, but he wanted so much to scare Elena – she deserved a reminder about who he was and how easily he could break her in two. "Don't say things like that if you don't mean it, Elena. Don't think that you are invincible when you most certainly are not."
Bonnie struggled within herself to not see the Damon before her now, to keep at the foremost of her mind the beautiful man who had kissed her tenderly just minutes before, so she closed her eyes just before an inhuman snarl was ripped from deep within the monster.
"Elena," she heard him growl, "run home to your little pet. I'm sure Stefan misses you. I don't have time for your intrusions any more."
Elena's face went blank with shock for an instant before it reverted to the usual look of mild annoyance she wore when he was in her line-of-sight. Damon had never spoken to her in such a bitter way before, but he hadn't looked despairing before either. Now, as he held Bonnie's slight body close to his own muscled one, she tried not to read too much into his sudden withdrawal from her. "Bonnie?" she whispered, a question entwined in just one word, "What has he done to you?"
An intake of breath that caught in his throat. He was struck suddenly by a fear that was new, strong, and filled with dread. He loved this young lady he held in his arms, he knew she trusted him enough to want to spend time alone with him, but could he trust her not to betray him; It would be easiest for her to pacify Elena with the lie, that he had forced himself upon her, but he prayed for more than anything that this time she would be strong. He hadn't imagined that he could ever deserve such sacrifice for his sake alone.
"Oh, Elena..." Bonnie whispered, "He hasn't done anything to me," then she reconsidered, "well, nothing I didn't want him to. I think we've all been a bit too harsh –"
"Bonnie!" Elena half-screamed, exasperated and venomous, "Get—away—from—him" she bit out each word. She took a step forwards towards them and the floorboards groaned minutely.
Stefan had finished reading hours ago, though he still sat slumped in the armchair, unable to think of what to do next. His hands were resting on the arms of the armchair when he heard it – the sound of something heavy hitting the floor with purpose. He disregarded it and continued his contemplation of the world, but when the sound of voices broke out he stood before he knew what he was going to do about it. "Elena?" he called, his mind registering that it was her screaming somewhere inside the mansion, "Elena!" What if Damon –? He wouldn't even consider the possibility that she was hurt – that he had hurt her. Instead, he concentrated on getting to wherever the sound had come from. The blood was pounding through his head so deliciously and he moved with a speed that rivalled his brother's. If he had hurt her... Stefan knew he could find the strength to kill.
"Are you jealous, Elena?" he heard himself ask as he lifted Bonnie into his arms so he could better run with her if it came to that. And that was another thing which surprised him; he would be willing to run from a fight in order to get her to safety, something he would never, ever, do otherwise. He kept his smile wry even as he snuggled Bonnie closer protectively.
Damon heard his brother before seeing him. Stefan did not have stealth in his arsenal because he only hunted animals and when he killed humans it was accidentally – so weak that he could only slightly muffle the sound of his footsteps. Damon turned to meet him but found himself pinned to the wall by Stefan's fist, a fierce growl coming from deep within his chest.
"What are you doing, Damon?" he spat, "What possible reason could you have for taking advantage of Bonnie, for her blood?" He'd never felt so disgusted in his whole existence. Bonnie was one of the most gentle people he had ever known, the most innocent and trusting – and it seemed that Damon had betrayed that trust.
"Why would I be jealous, Damon? I don't even want to be near you right now – you disgust me." She huffed and turned to Bonnie with her eyes dilated and dark with emotion. At least she wasn't faking it, Damon thought tiredly, she really did think that her friend was in danger – she'd convinced herself of that. "C'mon Bonnie, let's get you out of here." she said, holding and arm out for the dainty Bonnie to take.
But Bonnie did not a move an inch, and instead remained pressed close to Damon's lithe body. "I don't want to go."
"What? Bonnie, he's controlling your mind..."
"No," Bonnie snapped in her most commanding tone, "he wouldn't do that. He –He wouldn't use mind control on me... Damon?" she pivoted to face him for conformation. He sat motionless, any emotion hidden deep within. Her chest ached; she knew that the feelings of before were her own, because nothing else could have made her feel so wonderful. When Damon opened his eyes, she saw that they were dark and menacing, fixed on Elena.
"Believe it or not, Elena," Damon growled, his teeth growing to fill his mouth, "the world doesn't revolve around you. Now, if I were to be honest, which I always try to be, I think your belief that you are the centre of everyone's lives is pitiful." He stopped to let his words sink in, and then when it seemed as if Elena was about to speak again, he continued. "And FYI, I have never had to use mind control to steal kisses."
Something large and more solid than stone barrelled into his side as he smirked, and the next thing he knew he was on his knees with his face mere centimetres from the carpeted floor. He snapped his jaw back into place and felt the broken ribs begin to repair themselves instantaneously. Bonnie was screaming a mixture of his name and orders that Elena let go of her, but Elena was shouting at her and didn't hear.
Everything around him moved slowly as blood dripped from a wound at his temple into his eye.
Stefan stood from where he had landed but didn't look back to see if he'd hit his target. Elena was at his side instantaneously, it seemed, and was wiping the blade on her jacket sheave. Bonnie caught Damon as he crumpled to the floor, his already pale face a ghastly shade. If it weren't for the wheezing breaths he took she would have thought he had died – so still was his body against her own.
The bright red blood and gore seemed to harden on his skin before her very eyes until it seemed like crystal. His ice-blue eyes were now a teal colour and the light in them was fading fast. She sat on the floor, cross-legged, cradling his head against her chest, and felt for his heartbeat beneath his shirt. Beneath his skin, there was a faint tremor against her fingers and a quiet thudding against her ear. She lifted her face and stared unseeingly across the room.
"Bonnie, are you ok?" Elena asked, coming closer to touch Bonnie's shoulder.
The trance state came over her subtly, tugging her gently down into her sub-conscious. At first she only saw softness; soft white haze, soft snow covering her finger tips. Wherever she was, it was warm even with a winter sky above her, and it was more beautiful than she could have ever imagined a place being. She was so lost in her own fascination that she made a small squeal of surprise when two long, perfectly muscular arms wrapped around her waist.
The arms were tight around her, but not in a painful, bruising way. She felt herself grow warm again as he trailed soft kisses down her neck and across her pail-pink shoulders. His breath felt lick silk against her sensitive body as he whispered her name over and over again. When she had been surprised she had considered shrugging the probing hands from her, but nothing else she knew could make her feel this good. She did not doubt it was him because his touch was as much of an identification as his strong hands or beautiful face.
"We had so little time," he breathed mournfully close to her ear, "it's a cruel twist of fate that I could never show you what you make me feel."
"Can't you show me now?" she asked, turning to properly see him for the first time in this new place. She wouldn't have believed it when she was still on earth, but here in this mystic realm Damon appeared to have grown even more handsome. It was almost painful to look at him, but the pain was not in her eyes, nor her heart. His beauty, his perfection, made her lungs ache; he stole her breath away.
Elena patted Stefan's shoulder comfortingly and tried to smile for his sake. They had planned this, she and him, back at the boarding house but neither of them had imagined the level of pain this guilt would bring. Maybe they could have found another way of rescuing Bonnie, but there had been no time for a plan B. She knew that if she had had more time to think they could have spared them both.
Bonnie was standing at the centre of the open space staring at nothing. She'd had that dead look in her eyes before, and Elena knew instinctively not to disturb her, even when there were so many questions she wanted to ask. What was going on with both of them? What was that gleam she saw in Bonnie's eye?; What was the nature of their relationship?; Was she jealous of the private thing they had going on between them?
It was only the last question that she knew the answer to; She was jealous of what they had, whatever they had was, and despite her inner reasoning the idea of them having secrets made her uneasy. It wasn't like she was in love with Damon, her brain reasoned, it was just concern for her friend. Bonnie was so easy to manipulate, she knew that from her own experiences, and she was sure that Damon could make her do anything he wanted. She glanced at Stefan and spotted him almost glaring at Damon's prone form as if he had the power to turn it to ash.
Bonnie loved the taste of his mouth against her's; She had been kissed before, but never like this. This was amazing, the way he held her was tender, and the noise he made was like the purring of an contented big cat. It was good to know that he enjoyed her just as much, that he wasn't just smooching her to stop her talking, although her lips would be tender when he was finished with her. This Damon of this mystical place wasn't the Damon of the real world – the one with feelings behind towering walls, topped with barbed wire and surrounded by prowling tigers. This Damon had no walls to hide behind and his emotions were on his sleeve. There was no pain in his eyes, his smile was not bitter and cold. The way he smiled at her hear showed all his gleaming teeth.
"Is this the future," she asked the softly humming Damon at her back, "something I can look forward to?" But he only smiled into the sky. "Maybe."
And then things began to blur into one.
Elena saw Bonnie's eyes flutter open and watched her sit up.
"Oh, Bonnie!" Elena cried, rushing over with her arms held open wide, "Oh, I'm so glad that you're ok!" The arms she wrapped Bonnie in were tight, but in no way were they like his. Her arms were hard and constricting around her arms and chest, and she wanted so much to just shrug them off.
Behind her, Damon lifted his head from the floor and Stefan pushed it back down. Stefan's eye's bore holes into Damon's skull and a snarl was ripped from his throat. He didn't know yet what his brother had done to Bonnie, but she was looking at him with the watery eyes he usually associated with anguish. He would hurt Damon for this, he thought, as soon as this son-of-a-bitch explained what he had been thinking. He would make him pay for any harm done.
She would have moved if she'd had the strength. Whatever magic had transported her to that place had returned her as weak as she had ever been. If she closed her eyes she could still feel him against her back, but at the same time his image would bring tears to her eyes. A part of her insisted that it must have been a dream, that dark place where she could see nothing, and that Elena would look at her with scorn if she ever relayed her experience to anyone.
But it felt so real...
Damon felt his eyes water with unaccustomed tears he knew he couldn't let sweet Bonnie see, but Stefan held his face in two hands to keep him from turning away. It wasn't because he didn't want to seem weak, he would be willing to be anything for Bonnie, but his heart was shattered and his tears were crimson. Sweet bonnie could not handle seeing him as if he were a monster, an unholy being that cried blood, a demon. Anything but that, anything but that.
Stefan, with his searching eyes, saw the pain in his brother's face and the weariness of his eyes. Creases he had never known to be there were appearing at the corners of Damon's eyes and mouth as if he had aged fifteen years in a single moment. Stefan caught his brother in his arms as he began to slide back down onto the floor.
Bonnie didn't know if it had all been a dream, and that if she brought the experience up with Damon he would laugh at her. Imagine how embarrassing that would be, to venture a hope that was nothing more than fiction. How he would laugh at her, how Elena and Stefan would shift uncomfortably, how she would die a little inside. But if she waited too long for him to mention it, what were the chances that she waited forever?
"Damon..." she began, ignoring the voice in her head that told her to leave it be, "Did you really mean it?"
Elena and Stefan seemed puzzled as they exchanged a confused glance. She didn't quite know why, but seeing that desperate need to understand on Elena's face made her feel more confident. Usually, it was Elena who knew everything, who had her life planned out to each minute. Normally it was she who had the plans, she who was the star of the show. Not now, Bonnie thought almost smugly. Now it was her turn to take charge of the situation. Stefan took a step forwards to cross Damon's path in a way that they both remembered from their human lives in Italy.
"What is she talking about, Damon? What did you say to make her look so frightened?"
"She's not frightened," Elena spoke up, a edge of pain in each of her words, "she's in love."
Damn, Bonnie thought as blood rushed to her cheeks, She's as bad as my mother.
But Damon didn't jeer or smirk. He only seemed... what was that look on his face... interested.
"No, no, I mean..." Bonnie took a deep breath and looked into Damon's eyes, pleading with her own for the best way to reply. He had no expression she could read; he stared at her with those unfathomably dark eyes, seeming like a duck on a stream, with his legs going wild under the surface of the stream but his face giving nothing of what he was thinking away – not even to her.
"Tell him you love him," Stefan told her suddenly, purposely avoiding Elena's sharp glance upwards at the words, "It's what he wants and needs."
Damon didn't make sound, only stood as still as one of the marble statues in the grave yard that always seemed more haunted than at peace.
"Are you crazy?" she heard Elena whisper disgustedly.
But Bonnie didn't even slow in her movements. She reached out her hand and touched the smooth leather of Damon's jacket. "Damon?" she asked, feeling his hands clasping her own and holding them there like a piece of driftwood in the sea. He wanted to hear her say it. "I've never met anyone like you. You make me smile, laugh, blush..." she ducked her head low to hide her burning cheeks, "and you make me feel beautiful. You're kind, and that's how I love you."
Damon sucked in a breath, held it, then let it out, causing delicious hair to fall in front of her eyes. His fingertips grazed her skin as he caressed her face, but he knew it felt good to her. He had vowed to himself that he would live life to the full, never settle down, but he would for her. For his red-bird.
"You are the most beautiful." He kissed her then, lingeringly, on her rosy red lips, because if there was anyone who knew all about beautiful ladies, it was Damon Salvatore.