She had been here before.
As Bonnie walked cautiously through the woods, stepping over branches and crumbling leaves, she recognized the area. She had been here many, many times. It all felt familiar.
She was alone, wearing a quilted red shawl over her shoulders. When she remembered it was there, she touched it, and if she focused, it felt thin and smooth.
In these woods, you can only feel things when you focus on them, the idea of them. You can only hear if you think about it, and you can only see if you keep your eyes closed.
Dreams were weird like that.
The fog was thickening, like it always did. She was close, she could feel it. A small part of her knew that she has been here before, she knew how this dream ends, but she could not help feeling like this will be it, this will be the time it finally ended the way she wanted it to.
For a moment, she allowed herself a sigh of relief, and before she could stop herself she allowed her mind to wonder, to think-
I'm all by myself, that's good, my dreams lately have allowed my friends-…
She cut the thought off there, but it was too late.
"Thinking about me yet again, Bonnie?" drawled a voice from behind her, and she wanted to kick herself.
"Damn it," she muttered, refusing to turn around. "I thought it wouldn't happen this time."
"Well, you just keep getting lucky," Damon said, moving in front of her and smirking. She glared at him.
"For the record, I was not thinking of you. Apparently just thinking about the dream exploration spell triggers it while I'm sleeping. I don't have to thinking of a certain person for them to pop up, they just do, as long as we're both sleeping," she said, then eyed him decisively. "Don't worry about me pulling you into my dreams anymore. I'm not sleeping again until I undo the spell."
Damon held up his hands mock surrender.
"Don't get testy, Bon. It's not my fault you screwed it up in the first place."
"I did not screw it up. I just…misdirected it. Instead of me spying on Klaus' dreams by connecting to his subconscious, I allow others' subconscious to come into my dreams."
"Which, as fun as these meetings are, doesn't help us see what Klaus is planning."
"Yeah, I know. I'm working on it," she snapped, really wishing that she could expel him from her mind. But once she had the thought that this event might happen, that one of her friends could show up in her dream, it allowed the thought to become reality in her mind. Dream realities are extremely difficult to change completely since dreams were where subconscious intent reigned, as opposed to conscious intent.
Bonnie knew all of this. She had studied dreams for weeks before attempting this spell. But dreams were more volatile and unsteady than she even anticipated. When she had reached out with her subconscious to try to find Klaus, the spell had bounced back and made her dream mind sort of like a figurative black hole- it pulled in subconscious during dreams instead of reaching for them. So far, she had only been able to pull in the minds of her friends, one at a time. When you form a relationship with a person, you often think of them subconsciously and consciously, making it easier for them to come to mind during a dream. Except, now when Bonnie thought of her friends, instead of a figment of imagination that her brain conjured appearing, their actual mind was pulled from their own dream state and into hers.
It basically meant that Damon was in her head currently, and she did not like it. At all. It felt too private, too cut off from everything and everyone else. Dreams held worlds that would never be seen or felt by anyone else. Anything could happen here, and no one else would ever know.
Caroline, Jamie, and Elena had already joined some of her dreams. Bonnie had been meditating recently so her dreams would be calmer, and it usually worked with them. With Caroline, they merely had a picnic in a lush, open field and talked about what stupid thing Tyler had said that day. Elena and Bonnie had swum in a crystal clear ocean, eventually finding a shore and making sand castles. Having Jamie in her head was awkward at first, but they got to explore a projection of Chicago that her mind had manifested. Her father had taken her there when she was younger, and she always wanted to go back. It was nice to revisit and even though they had a rough past, Jamie was still a good friend to talk to. They had long since resolved the messy way their relationship ended, and Bonnie found him still to be as good of a listener as he used to be.
With them, the privacy was odd but comforting. It was intimate, but in a soothing way.
With Damon, it was unnerving.
"Actually, I don't mind it. I like seeing what makes our witch tick," Damon said, pointing at the center of her forehead. "Besides, our last date was so romantic."
"It wasn't a date," Bonnie said, crossing her arms. "I had fallen asleep thinking of an island I wanted to live on, by myself," she added pointedly. "I was happily making a hammock out of leaves and you showed up."
"Again, not my fault," Damon said, wagging his finger. "And come on, you're telling me you didn't like exploring the cave I found?"
He had her there. He had discovered a cave at the edge of the island and convinced her to go in. It had been incredible on the inside- it was enormous and studded with deposits of luminescent minerals, eventually leading to an underground aquifer that reflected all of the colors so magnificently upon the cave's gaping ceiling.
Sometimes she did that- dream of ethereal, beautiful things. Sometimes she dreamt of waterfalls and soaring through clouds and scaling mountainsides. That is, when she wasn't dreaming of sharp fangs and stakes and running and darkness and blood. So much blood.
Bonnie narrowed her eyes.
"It was alright," she said. "I've had better dreams."
Damon stood a bit straighter and curtly pressed his lips together. Then he smirked, turning so he could walk with her.
"Well, then let's make this one the best," he said, his eyes flashing at her in challenge (you only notice things in dreams when you focus on them). "Where are we off to today? This forest is a big step down from our peaceful little isle. Can you change it into like the Grand Canyon or, I don't know, somewhere less damp?"
She glanced down at the grass. He was right, the blades were fairly dewy. They made the bottom of her jeans wet as she shuffled through.
"Well, actually, this is a dream I've had before," she said slowly. She did not know if she wanted to divulge this kind of information to Damon of all people, but being in a dream state makes you feel very lax about keeping secrets. Perhaps it was the inherent openness of the subconscious, but she could not find a good reason to hide anything from Damon at that moment.
Damon waited patiently, sensing the shift in tone.
"I'm walking to my Grams' house," she said, exhaling deliberately. "Except I never actually get there. When I get close...well, I guess you'll see for yourself." That part was unexplainable. "I started having these dreams right after she died."
He was silent, and she focused on the soft swish of plant life brushing by under their feet. She almost jumped in surprise when she felt his hand touch her shoulder. He was feeling her shawl.
"Looks like you're Little Red Riding Hood, on her way to grandmother's house," he said solemnly, and he caught her gaze, giving her a toothy, somewhat sad smile. "And I guess…I'm the wolf."
Bonnie blinked, the realization almost making her stop walking. Yes, that makes sense. Since I used to blame Damon for Grams' death, it makes sense that he would come to mind in this dream scenario. I suppose my subconscious was thinking of him after all.
But this was not something Damon probably wanted to hear. It's one thing to assume that someone hates you and sees you as a villain, and another to have her subconscious show you exactly that.
Oddly enough, she felt guilty.
"I…guess," she allowed, staring at the ground. Damon did not respond, and her guilt grew. Maybe it was her subconscious wanting to set the record straight, maybe it was because emotions in dreams were all-encompassing, or maybe it was because the conversation was a long time coming. But finally, Bonnie paused and grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop. He turned her and arched a brow at her sudden halt.
"Look, I know it seems like I blame you for a lot of things, and I do. I know you don't think it's fair, but you have to understand that you and Stefan are associated with a lot of really awful, horrible things in my life. You two came into my life through Elena, and ever since then, nothing has been the same. All of this change- the good and the bad- has been kind of forced upon me because Elena is my best friend, and her problems are my problems." Bonnie took a breath, and, for a split second, she smelled smoke. But she did not focus on it. Instead, she held onto Damon's eyes, keeping them bound to hers. This was important, and she did not know when she would want to say it again. "It's unfortunate, that you come to mind when I think about these dark parts of my life. But I honestly think there will come a time when that's not true anymore. I think…well, I hope there will be a time when the positive things that you brought to my life will outweigh the bad."
She stepped toward him, wanting to feel the impact of the words she was about to say.
"For what it's worth, I stopped blaming you for Grams' death a while ago. I realized that she died trying to help me, and that was what she would have wanted. If she wouldn't be bitter over her own death, then I shouldn't be either."
Damon kept himself steady, but she could tell that her words had hit their mark, forcefully. His eyes burned into hers, fiery with interwoven flames of shock, confusion, gratitude, and disbelief. Maybe when they both woke up in their respective beds, he would not believe this moment and brush it off as a trick of the dream, trying to fool him into thinking that he was forgiven.
Maybe. She would not dare correct him if he asked, so she hoped a part of him would hold onto this. It would not be coming again.
Speaking of which…
Damon opened his mouth to speak, but Bonnie was already around him, determined. A second later, and she was already running.
"Bonnie?" he called after her, easily catching up. "Bonnie? What's going on?"
"I wanted-…I wanted to try!" she said breathlessly. Now that she was focusing on it, her sprint seemed so slow, like moving through molasses.
"To try what?"
"To try to make it on time!"
He fell quiet after that, for he must have smelled it too.
And then, all at once, they came upon the scene. She knew she had been close. Panting heavily, Bonnie stopped, but reluctantly. She only ended her small steps forward when she felt Damon's hand gently touch her elbow.
The forest had made way for a wide clearing, a humble house erected in the center. And draped over the house's framework, its beams and its shingles and windows, was the fire, just like how Bonnie's shawl was draped over her shoulders.
The sound was visceral and cruel. The crackling and snapping filled her ears, like bones being crushed. She suddenly wanted to run there anyway, to pound on the door and break it down, charging in and saving her grandmother from the inferno. Maybe if I just keep going, maybe I try even harder…
Before she even understood she had begun running again, she felt herself trapped in enveloping, warm arms. You don't feel anything in a dream unless...
It was a peculiar, accidental embrace, for she had simply run into him and he was simply holding her place. It was not a hug, but he gripped her firmly, like he was trying to calm her.
He was making shushing noises above her head. Without her knowledge, she had begun crying as well.
"I'm-…I don't blame you," she said into his chest, attempting to wrestle herself free, but her heart wasn't in it. "But that doesn't mean I'm okay with her being gone."
She felt his head rest itself on hers.
"I know," he said, his voice low. "I get it."
Bonnie did not understand how he capable of such things, of such tenderness, and she supposed that when she was dealing with his subconscious, his uninhibited core that was stripped away of all of its hard shell, the shell made up of smirks and wisecracks and sarcasm and anger and impulsiveness, that she was left with this. This figure of a man who spent too much time trying to bury what he could be capable of underneath miles and miles of what only he thought he was capable of. He thought he was only capable of being hated, of being feared, of being hunted, of being a remnant of what his human self was. He was actually capable of genuine compassion. He was actually capable of much more, and she wondered if it was only his subconscious that knew.
The blaze still sizzled behind him, but Bonnie found it a bit easier to focus only on her breathing and the beat of her heart.
"The story books got it wrong," he mumbled, pulling back slightly so she could look at him. He smiled, showing off its sharp corners purposefully. "The wolf wasn't so bad after all."
She chuckled, shaking her head, stepping back from him. He allowed her, his hands falling to his sides.
"No, he was bad, all right," Bonnie corrected him, turning away and wiping at her eyes. "He just wasn't as big of an asshole as Red first thought."
"That's good enough for the wolf," Damon said, just a pace behind her as she walked in the other direction. She sighed, frustration seeping into her without her consent. She was rapidly feeling very vulnerable, and she still was not used to feeling that way around Damon.
"I'm sorry you had to come into this dream," she said, wrapping her hands around her elbows. "I didn't want you to see that."
"So Big Bad Bonnie still sheds a few tears every now and then. Not a big deal. Stefan still gets choked up when he watches Casablanca," Damon said with a snort, but then his tone veered unexpectedly. "But, you don't have to cry only when you think no one is watching, you know."
Bonnie's mouth hung slightly open as she turned to face him, but she could not think of anything to say at all. Damon continued.
The forest was starting to get blurrier and blurrier around him, but she did not notice.
"I know you feel like you have to be strong for everyone, because Bonnie the Great Bennett Witch has to always be in control and lead the charge against bad vampires everywhere, but maybe sharing these dreams with your friends will help understand you more as just Bonnie- not as the friendly neighborhood spellcaster."
He was offering her advice, but he was doing it with a casual expression and an innate flippancy that almost, almost, made her not focus on the utter sincerity that was ingrained in every syllable of what he was saying. It was so much easier to see that while they were in her dream, exposing their barest parts of themselves to each other in the utmost private of settings.
And then she woke up.
Bonnie blinked blearily. A sense of disappointment spilled over her, and she tried to ignore it. Her mind had begun to tuck the dream into a discreet crevice, but she unraveled it and played it back.
Some of the details were already fading away, but some highlights stuck to her brain like butterflies caught in a net.
The trees. The wet grass. His flashing eyes. His sharp smile. His warm arms. His sincerity. His advice.
She pushed some air from her lungs. As she rolled over toward her window, she tried to remind herself that there were still just dreams. Even if real subconscious were involved, they were still in imagined environments, imagined situations. Whatever happened, whatever was felt was not necessarily real.
She lifted her head, looking down at the dried marks from where her tears had slid onto the pillowcase.
For something that was just imagined, it certainly had felt real enough to her.
That's good enough for the wolf.
The line rose to mind, and the corners of her mouth tugged up into a tired smile.
Author's Note: To be honest, I kind of like this plot idea. I was planning on this being just a one-shot, but I think it'll be a series. At the very least, there will be a sequel that'll be a bit more...racy than this one, haha. And of course it'll be Bonnie/Damon themed, so you'll have that to look forward to! Plus, I want to explore the logic of dreams more. I'm OBSESSED with dreams and what they mean, so this kind of plot was really fun for me to explore. Also, I'm OBSESSED with the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, so I want to explore that comparison some more. I want Damon to call Bonnie "Little Red" because it reminds me of his nickname for her in the actual Vampire Diaries books. I've been learning a lot about L.J. Smith lately and I gotta say- I have a whole new level of appreciation for her. She's truly an amazing person and writer.
I'm totally rambling. Anyway, I hope you guys liked this! I had a blast writing it.
Also- remember all those fanfics I promised to write for all my wonderful people at Livejournal? STILL working on those, I'm SO sorry it's been taking forever. I started them when school was happening and then school took over my life, but now that's it's over, I'll be visiting those fanfics again and getting stuff done. SO excited for summer. It's like a writer's ideal time of life because there's much more free time. Thank you all for being SO patient and fantastic and understanding. I appreciate it deeply.