A/N: I've got no idea where this is supposed to have occurred in the Season 3 timeline, but let's just pretend it makes sense, because I feel like the world needs some Daremy fluff right now. Title borrowed from Mark Owen's 'Four Minute Warning'.
This was originally a birthday present for the awesome Vesuvious, so you can thank his being born for this one happening. ;)
As always, happy reading!
Damon isn't entirely sure how he ended up at the Mystic Falls High School carnival with Jeremy Gilbert. Rather, he knows how he ended up here, it's the why he's not very clear on. Maybe he feels sorry for Jeremy. It's not difficult to do: dead parents, dead replacement parental figures, a string of dead girlfriends, no real friends, added to the fact that Jeremy just obviously doesn't fit in Mystic Falls. Small towns are never generous to boys who don't fit the football-playing, cheerleader-dating mold, and Damon actually feels a surprising amount of sympathy for Jeremy. Surprising mostly because Damon so rarely lets himself feel anything.
He can't pinpoint when Jeremy changed his mind about Damon being a person to avoid, but it seemed like overnight he had a teenaged shadow, who had (so far) managed not to annoy the fuck out of him. Damon isn't an idiot and he knows that Elena and Stefan and Alaric think he's up to something, but for the most part his intentions towards Jeremy have been wholly innocent. He'd be lying if he claimed he'd never thought any less-than-innocent things, but he's never acted on any of them, which shows a remarkable amount of self-control on his part, and everybody should really be congratulating him, not giving him warning looks and lectures because they think he's out to corrupt the youngest Gilbert. (Although he doesn't think Jeremy would particularly mind being corrupted. Damon keeps that opinion to himself, because he happens to like living at the moment, and he wouldn't put it past Alaric to stake him. He's gotten very into the protective pseudo-dad thing.)
Damon is pretty sure tonight isn't a date, despite all appearances to the contrary. Jeremy asked him if he wanted to go, Damon heard himself agreeing before he'd even thought about it properly, and tonight Damon picked Jeremy up at his house. But it's not a date. Damon doesn't do dates, especially totally clichéd carnival dates. This is entirely Stefan's territory, and—
"Popcorn?" Jeremy offers, pulling Damon out of his thoughts, nudging his shoulder with the bucket of popcorn. Damon takes a handful automatically. Things like that keep happening; it's like he's been compelled, which isn't possible, but it's the only way to describe the effect Jeremy has on him.
"This is disgusting," Damon complains, because it is genuinely bad popcorn, both burned and soggy with butter.
"I know. That's why I'm offering it to you."
Damon takes another handful, but instead of eating it, he throws it at Jeremy. The teenager just snorts a laugh and dumps the rest of container on Damon.
"Very mature." Damon rolls his eyes.
"You started it." Jeremy grins. "And you're way older than me."
"For that, I think I'll let you walk home."
"Oh man, how will I ever survive that? They'll be grueling, those ten minutes. Worse than anything I've ever suffered before."
"Nobody likes a smartass." Damon shoots back.
"You would know." Jeremy laughs, and Damon finds himself laughing too.
He can feel the stares on them. Normal people generally avoid Damon, their survival instincts telling them he's something to fear, someone to stay away from, despite his pretty face and his ability to be incredibly charming (when it suits him). Damon has overheard enough conversations over the past few months to know that people think he and Jeremy are an odd pair, that Jeremy ought to make friends his own age, and what a shame it is there are no parents to intervene.
Jeremy isn't an idiot, so he must know what people are saying, but he obviously doesn't care, which suits Damon just fine. He doesn't care either.
He slings an arm around Jeremy's shoulders (which is getting less comfortable as Jeremy gets taller), steering him away from the concession stand.
"What next?" Damon asks. "Should I attempt to impress you by throwing a baseball into a tower of milk bottles?"
"Actually, I want you win me a goldfish in the ring toss."
"I'll buy you a goldfish, if you're that desperate for a pet." Damon rolls his eyes. "Although I've heard their lifespans are somewhat…lacking."
"Ugh, siblings at six o'clock," Jeremy warns him, and Damon glances over his shoulder to see Stefan and Elena approaching them, both wearing their stubborn, self-righteous expressions.
"Wanna get rid of 'em?" Damon grins.
Damon grabs Jeremy's hand without really thinking about it, dragging him the first few feet before Jeremy gets with the program and starts running alongside Damon. Damon doesn't have to look back over his shoulder to know Elena is probably rolling her eyes and Stefan is most likely scowling.
"Where are we going?" Jeremy laughs.
"No idea. I only thought as far ahead as 'away from them'."
"I don't think they're following us, so I guess it worked," Jeremy grins and they stop running. Damon tries to ignore the fact that his hand feels strangely empty when Jeremy lets go of it.
"Keep alert," Damon smirks. "You never know when they'll turn up again to ruin everyone's fun."
"Suppose it's not as bad as last year, when Caroline killed that guy."
"I didn't know you knew about that."
"I know about a lot more than you all think."
"That doesn't surprise me in the least."
They've wandered out of the parking lot now, away from the carnival itself and towards the football field.
"I'm surprised nobody's died yet tonight," Jeremy says. "It isn't a Mystic Falls event without a few dead bodies."
"I'm sure I could provide one, if you're missing the excitement." Damon says flippantly. Jeremy winces, and Damon feels a stab of guilt. "Sorry. That was…insensitive."
Jeremy looks over at Damon, his eyebrows rising in surprise. "Since when do you apologize for anything?"
"Don't get used to it. I have a reputation to uphold."
Jeremy rolls his eyes. "Sorry, Damon, but nobody believes your 'I'm so evil' bullshit anymore. Except maybe Bonnie, but she's always hated you, so I don't think she counts."
"And here I thought I was doing a great job of terrorizing the innocent townsfolk. Wonder where I went wrong."
"Probably when you started letting lonely teenagers follow you around like puppies." Jeremy's mouth twists into a wry smirk, but the expression doesn't look quite right on his face.
"Teenagers, plural? Do you have multiple personalities I'm not aware of, Jer? Because that would explain a lot. The angsty-emo-goth-whatever phase, for example."
"Oh, shut up."
"Aw, there's no need to be embarrassed." Damon teases. "You were misunderstood. You had so many feelings you didn't know what to do with so you had to wear all-black and sulk."
"See, that would be funny if Stefan hadn't showed me the pictures of you from the seventies."
"That was different. It was the punk era. I wouldn't expect you to understand. You wouldn't know good music if Iggy Pop hit you in the face with it."
"Nobody likes a music snob, Damon."
"I'm not a snob. I just have good taste."
"You keep telling yourself that." Jeremy grins.
They fall into a comfortable silence, and Damon follows Jeremy to a spot halfway up the bleachers.
"This was kind of a stupid idea." Jeremy sighs. "Sorry I dragged you along."
Damon shrugs, "I've had worse nights."
"Elena was giving me a hard time about it, you know? So I thought I'd put in an appearance, just to shut her up."
"You don't have to explain the overbearing sibling thing to me. Stefan wrote the book on it. Literally. At least half of his journals are devoted to whining about me."
Jeremy snorts a laugh, "I'm sure the same goes for Elena."
"Supposedly, it's because they care about us."
"So I keep hearing."
Jeremy leans back, propping himself up on his elbows on the bench behind them. "You don't have to stay, you know. If you're bored, or whatever."
"Where else am I gonna go?" Damon frowns. He feels…worried about Jeremy and worry so rarely falls anywhere on Damon's emotional spectrum these days. "I'm here to hang out with you," he adds, bumping Jeremy's shoulder with his own.
"You were capable of entertaining yourself without me before."
"You asked me to come with you tonight. If you didn't want me here, you didn't have to ask." Damon doesn't understand what's going on, but it's becoming blatantly obvious something is wrong.
"I do want you here." Jeremy sighs. "I just don't get why you are."
"You're here. At a fucking high school carnival, with me, just because I asked. Don't you have anything better to do?"
"Nothing jumps to mind." Damon means for it to be a throwaway quip, but somehow the tone is wrong and instead it comes out serious.
Jeremy snorts in disbelief. "Guess it doesn't really matter anyway."
"Jer, what's going on?"
"I overheard Ric and Elena talking the other day about sending me away. They think I'd be happier—and safer—somewhere else."
"Denver, apparently. We've got family friends out there."
"Do you want to leave?"
Jeremy sighs. "I hate this town. It's fucking insane."
"So go then."
"Maybe I will." Jeremy says neutrally, and Damon can't help feeling like he's just failed some kind of test. Not to mention the idea of facing this town day-in, day-out without Jeremy sounds…pretty terrible, if Damon's being perfectly honest with himself. Somehow Jeremy fitted himself so neatly into Damon's life that the vampire isn't sure how to go back to the way things were before he and Jeremy started being…whatever they are. He's ninety-nine percent sure he doesn't really want to go back anyway.
"I'm gonna head home," Jeremy says, getting to his feet suddenly.
"I'll drive you."
"Damon, it's literally a ten minute walk. I'll be fine." Jeremy snaps.
"I'll walk with you then."
Jeremy huffs out an annoyed sigh but he doesn't protest when Damon falls into step next to him. Neither of them says anything on the walk back to the Gilberts'. Only the porch light is on when they reach the house, and Damon figures Elena is still at the carnival with Stefan, and Ric is probably enjoying a kid-free night at the Grill.
"You don't have to keep hanging out with me because you feel sorry for me." Jeremy says, his chin lifting stubbornly.
Even though he's entertained the possibility, Damon knows the second Jeremy says it that it's not the truth. "That's not why I'm here."
"No? Because that's what everybody seems to think."
"Since when are any of these idiots ever right about anything?" Damon rolls his eyes. "And since when do you actually listen to any of them? You know me well enough to know that I don't waste my time with people I don't—
Damon stops abruptly, suddenly realizing how close he and Jeremy are standing. He can hear the teenager's heartbeat, can smell popcorn and cotton candy from the carnival, plus that other scent that Damon has come to recognize as belonging solely to Jeremy.
"Don't what?" Jeremy prompts quietly, and Damon can tell from the determined look on Jeremy's face that the kid isn't going to drop it.
"Care about." Damon says. "I don't waste time on people I don't care about."
Jeremy's lips quirk up into the first real smile Damon has seen since the popcorn earlier, which feels like years ago but probably was only an hour, and he can't help it, leaning in to close the distance between them, pressing his lips against Jeremy's. Jeremy makes a surprised sort of squeaking noise that he'll deny later, but he's kissing Damon back almost immediately, like this has been his goal all along. And maybe it has.
"About time you caught up," Jeremy says when they separate, breathless. "This is like the fifth sort-of date we've been on. I was starting to think you don't put out."
Damon snorts a laugh, "Oh, I definitely put out."
"Yeah?" Jeremy smirks. "Prove it."
Damon grins, "Gladly."