“It’s all a game, avoiding failure, when true colors will bleed
All in the name of misbehavior and the things we don’t need
I lust for after no disaster can touch us anymore
And more than ever, I hope to never fall, where enough is not the same it was before”
Poets of the Fall – Carnival of Rust
Chapter 22: Bad Timing
At first, it was hard to say what had woken her, but as the haze of a deep sleep lifted, Bella registered the now familiar feeling of Damon moving within her, his lips pressing to her neck repeatedly.
“Damon,” she gasped in surprised desire, her hands immediately going up to clench his shoulders and grip him to her.
“There you are, mina,” he groaned, his thrusting never faltering. “Have some interesting dreams?”
She tried to think back but his constant movement had her brain stalling and all she could do was moan and stutter, “W-what? I don’t – Damon!” she ended in a gasp as he gave a particularly forceful thrust into her.
“That’s right, sweetheart,” he murmured lowly, a slight growl to his words. “You’ve been moaning my name in your sleep for the past hour and I figure it was time I make your dreams come true.”
Well okay then, she thought, her hands tracing down his back, her nails raking across his skin until she clutched his ass and pulled him more insistently to her. “More,” her demand held the hint of a plea.
“Fuck yes,” he moaned, his lips devouring her cries as he hitched one of her legs around his hips and hit even deeper within her. “I don’t want to stop, mina – I don’t ever want to stop.”
The words were like a dark confession that sank into her chest and warmed her heart. “Don’t stop,” she whispered. “Don’t ever stop.”
His lips claimed hers fiercely as he hissed the word never against them, a solemn promise that held the weight of vow sealed in his own blood.
It could have been hours or even days later when they finally settled limply against each other, breathless and sated despite their desire to continue. In Bella’s case, the spirit was willing but her body incapable of keeping up with his vampire stamina. But still, there was a certain satisfaction to lying together, their sweaty skin sticking uncomfortably but a pleasant reminder of their previous activities. She loved the sensation.
“Do you ever wonder,” she said quietly, her tone pensive as her hand lazily traced circles on his bare chest. “What would’ve become of us if you hadn’t left Mystic Falls and found me… What that future would’ve been like – without each other?”
The thought had plagued her off and on, though without any real concern. She’d learned how pointless it was to dwell on life’s what-ifs and when she did wonder, it was always with a sense of vague curiosity but no real worry. What really mattered was that, in the end, he had found her.
Damon stilled a moment, not even breathing as he seemed to consider the idea for the first time. After a minute, he exhaled and went limp, pressing his lips to her forehead, saying, “There is no future for me without you in it. I would’ve found you eventually, mina. I’ll always find you.”
Her smile grazed his shoulder as she said, “I believe you.”
Sometime later found Bella in the Salvatore’s generous kitchen, poking around the fridge and setting out items to make her and Damon a late breakfast. The house was nice and quiet while Damon showered and Stefan and Elena were off who knew where. The quiet solitude was pleasant, but all the more so knowing it wasn’t indefinite – Damon had hinted at a desire to see her wearing nothing but an apron and Bella was inclined to indulge him.
Pouring a spot of milk into a pan, Bella cracked a few eggs to it and was immediately annoyed when someone started knocking on the door right as she turned the stove on.
Grumbling to herself, Bella looked down. She was wearing a pair of leggings and one of Damon’s button down shirts – certainly presentable enough to answer the persistent knocking.
Turning the stove back off, she marched to the door and took a cautious peep out the side window. Seeing a generic looking man she didn’t recognize, Bella slowly cracked the door open and placed her foot behind it to keep it from being forced open, just in case. She certainly was her father’s daughter.
“Yes? May I help you?” she asked with a pointed glare as the man stared at her, his fist poised to knock again.
The man was handsome enough, she supposed, in a generic sort of way that lack any appeal to her. Really, she rather suspected Damon had ruined her in that sense. She was sure he’d be tickled pink to know that, if she ever owned up to it.
The stranger gave her the once over, smiling impolitely at her outfit. For half a second, Bella looked down self-consciously, but then she remembered that for all intents and purposes this was her house and she’d be damned if she’d be judged by some rude stranger invading her home.
Lifting her head, she quirked an unamused brow at him and the guy gave her another insincere smile. “Hi there, I’m looking for Damon,” he said.
Bella narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you now,” she said patronizingly and his eyes tightened as he fought to keep a polite veneer.
“Yes,” he said slowly. “Is he home?”
“And may I ask who’s calling?” she returned his question with one of her own, fighting a smile as his left eye twitched. Now she understood why Damon liked to answer questions with another question; it really was quite amusing watching him trying to keep up his obviously fake politeness. She wanted to see how far she could push him until it cracked and she saw the real intent behind this visit.
“I’m an old friend of his,” he said.
Bella snorted. “Doubtful. Damon doesn’t have any friends.”
“Oh I don’t know about that,” the man’s eyes scanned over her again before saying suggestively, “You seem to be on pretty friendly terms with him.”
Instead of getting angry at the insinuation, she found herself being amused at his blatant attempt to insult her. Damon was right – words only hurt if you let them. “I ought to be,” she said with a cheeky grin. “I married the man, after all. Now if you want to see my husband I suggest you give me your name and cut to the case.”
The man’s eyes widened comically and Bella choked back a giggle. She had to give him some credit though because he quickly schooled his features and gave her a more honest, if somewhat calculating, look. “My name is John Gilbert and he and I have business together.”
“Ah,” she said in realization. While she and Stefan had been busy getting kidnapped, Damon had been seeing to things in town. Touching base with Sheriff Forbes, contacting Pearl and her daughter Anna, and then dealing with John Gilbert who appeared to think he was invincible and was trying to bully Damon into giving him something.
Frankly, Bella was surprised the guy was still alive. Damon was very big on anti-bullying – at least when he was the one being pushed around.
“I suppose it would be pointless to send you away,” she muttered dryly.
John’s head gave an arrogant lift. “It would.”
“Then by all means,” she said in mock politeness, swinging the door open. “Make yourself at home, Mr. Gilbert.”
He swept passed her, taking in the house curiously. “Thank you,” he smirked even as he eyed her curiously once more. “I wasn’t aware Damon had a wife.”
Bella kept a close eye on him, unwilling to leave him alone in her home. “And you call yourself his friend,” she lifted a brow as she scolded him.
“Yes well,” he trailed off, completely unashamed.
Deciding she really didn’t want to keep speaking to this man, Bella called out, “Damon, some asshole is here to see you.”
She’d spoken only slightly louder than her previous tone and she knew it would tell John right away about her knowledge of vampires. Still, better he know now so she and Damon could present a united front and avoid any mind games from the man later. Amusing as they appeared to be.
John gave her a humoring smile, but she saw his eyes glint appraisingly.
“Be more specific, mina!” Damon called back down. “I know a lot of assholes.”
And despite the situation, Bella couldn’t resist replying, “Counting yourself, right?”
“Now that’s just rude,” Damon said and Bella jumped as she felt his arms loop around her waist.
“See?” she shot back, trying to calm her racing heart at the small scare. “Asshole.”
Damon smirked into her hair before his eyes snapped to John who was watching them like they were the main attraction at a circus.
“Oh, I see,” Damon said darkly, pulling Bella closer to him. “That asshole. Isabella, I don’t believe you’ve been formerly introduced to John yet – he’s Elena’s father/uncle.”
Damon smirked again at the last part.
“Well that’s got to be confusing at family reunions,” Bella smarted and Damon chuckled, his hands squeezing her waist as if to say nice one.
“Amusing,” John shot back, glaring. “But we have business to discuss, Damon. Send the girl away.”
“Oh?” Bella said lightly, although she was inwardly seething at the dismissal – so arrogant, just like Edward. “Is this about you blackmailing him into giving you some sort of device? Because, really, blackmail is just not nice, Mr. Gilbert… and it’s dangerous too.”
John’s reaction was instant. He pulled himself up to his full height and his face started turning a very unflattering shade of red. Kind of like the red of a pimple about to pop. “Are you threatening me? That wouldn’t be wise, Isabella,” he sneered her name with inherent threat.
Damon went into immediate action. One second his fingers were trailing teasingly up the back of her shirt, the next they were around John’s throat as he slammed him into the nearest wall. An old oil painting fell and Bella had the vague thought of hoping it didn’t tear.
“Listen here you little shit,” Damon said in a deceptively quiet voice – the calm before the storm. “I’m getting real tired of people threatening my wife and if you think for one second you can come into my house and use her to force my hand in this fucking scheme of yours, you got another thing coming.” Damon’s hand whipped out faster than she could see and she saw he had pinned one of John’s hands to the wall. “I’ll rip this fucking ring off and snap your neck if you come here again. You won’t get anything from me, so get the fuck out of here before I shove your head up your ass.”
Without even giving John a chance to comply, Damon dragged him to the front door and tossed him out, giving the door a hard, definitive slam. He stood there, shoulders taut as he glared at the door, his anger barely restrained by the fraying leash he’d wrapped it in.
There was no hesitation in her as Bella went to his side, slipping her arms around him as she soothed him silently with her presence. It took a couple minutes but inch by inch, the tension drained out of him, his muscles relaxing as he returned her embrace.
“Maybe we shouldn’t have come here,” he said so quietly she almost missed it. “Every time I turn around, someone’s trying to kill you, mina.”
Her arms tightened around him. “We had to come here, Damon. You said it yourself – Victoria is going to build an army and here we have the advantage of backup and knowing the land. We can’t run from our demons forever. Besides, if someone tries to kill me for real, you’ll just have to kill them first. Like you always do.”
He kissed the curve of her neck. “Or maybe I should teach you how to kill them yourself,” he teased, but there was a certain thoughtfulness to his tone.
“Damon,” she murmured. “You know I don’t judge you for kicking ass and taking names,” she smiled up at him. “But I’m not so sure I could do it myself.”
“I’ll teach you, sweet girl. Consider it on our to do list.”
Bella smirked. “Along with sort out the remaining Cullens, your blood drunk brother and his ignorant girlfriend, kill Victoria and her little friends, and find out what John Gilbert is up to…”
“And don’t forget ravish each other at every available opportunity,” he wiggled his brows.
Rolling her eyes, she smacked his chest and said lightly, “Oh, I thought that was a given.”
“You’re irresistible,” his whispered, his lips brushing hers until another knock sounded.
Growling, Damon started muttering death threats under his breath as he yanked the door open and snapped, “And just what the hell do you want?”
It was a delivery boy, maybe sixteen or so, and his eyes widened comically at Damon’s imposing figure. “Um,” he stuttered before thrusting out a vase of daisies being held by a giant teddy bear. “Delivery for a Miss Swan.”
Taking pity on the kid, Bella hastily signed his forms and the poor boy turned and fairly ran back to the van, Damon glaring at his back the whole time even as he held the ridiculously huge arrangement.
“And who the fuck is sending my wife flowers?” he growled, slamming the door shut again.
Bella suppressed a grin at his thinly veiled jealousy and simply reached out and snagged the card sticking out of the bouquet.
“I’m bear-y sorry,” she read with a frown before realization struck her and she smothered a giggle.
Damon looked thoroughly unamused. “Well? Are you going to enlighten me, Isabella?”
Narrowing her eyes at him, Bella warned, “Watch that tone, culo. Don’t take your anger out on me when I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“I’d rather have taken it out on the messenger,” he said dryly with another glare towards the door. But there was no heat behind the threat and while he didn’t apologize, he did give her a little wink that instantly lightened the atmosphere. “Well, princess? Who sent them?”
Shaking her head, Bella smiled. “It’s not signed, but I’m positive they’re from Emmett. He’s got a thing about bears.”
He lifted a brow. “Sounds kinky.”
Rolling her eyes, she said, “If you take in the fact that it was a bear mauling him to death that led to his change… yeah, not so much.”
“A bear, huh? Sounds kind of badass,” Damon allowed, moving to set the flowers and stuffed animal down on the nearest counter. The arrangement was too large though so he moved it to the kitchen table.
Smiling, Bella’s mind filled up with images of Emmett and she said, “Yeah, it is. He’s kind of got a vendetta against them now.”
He snorted in response. “I know how that goes – wanting revenge against the one who killed you.”
She knew he was thinking about Stefan and how it’d been him that’d forced him to transition against his will. Damon had made no secret about the love-hate relationship he shared with his little brother. He loved antagonizing him, taunting him until he snapped. It’d been part of the reason he’d returned to Mystic Falls – having been a good decade since he’d played his games and he felt Stefan was due. Then there’d been the whole tomb and Katherine thing that he’d also confessed to her about and while she’d always suspected, Bella had no idea Damon’s wounds were just as fresh as hers even if they layered over other emotional scars from the same woman.
Bella hadn’t liked hearing him talk about his devotion to Katherine and how he’d spent over a century planning to be reunited with her for eternity. There’d been some jealousy – she was human, after all – but really, it was the principle of the matter that had her spitting nails. That someone would twist and use Damon to that extent… it made her mad on his behalf and her fingers itch to find a stake to drive through the bitch’s heart.
But still, she hadn’t lied to Damon. She told him how grateful she was that he was now emotionally free of her. That yes, she regretted his pain, but she felt it was better in the long run – for both of them – to be free of the people who had tried to control and manipulate them.
“We’re both free now, Damon,” she’d whispered as they ate lunch at a rest stop about two hours away from Mystic Falls. “It sucks we had to go through as much as we did – especially you – but I don’t know. Maybe one day we’ll both agree it was worth it to get to where we are now.” To break up the somber mood, she jokingly bumped his shoulder with her own and said, “And hey… at least you’ve got me now.”
He’d looked at her, his baby-blues making the tiny girly part in her sigh dreamily while he said, in all seriousness, “That’s all I need.”
Damon slipped his arms around her waist and Bella shook away the memory, leaning back against him as he rested his head on her shoulder.
“How come you didn’t join me in the shower?” he asked, placing lingering kisses along her neck. “I missed you.”
She smiled at his fake pout and tilted her head to give him better access which he immediately took advantage of. “I wanted to make you breakfast,” she said, her voice breathy as he slipped his hand under her shirt.
“How domestic,” he muttered. “But mina, you’re doing it wrong. As much as I love you in my shirts, you’re supposed to cook me breakfast naked wearing only an apron.”
“Oh really,” she laughed. “And what if Stefan had been home?”
“Then I’d rip his eyes out for looking at you,” he said nonchalantly. “But he and Elena are hamming it up at Miss Mystic Falls to prove they’re the prettiest couple in all of town.”
Snorting at the snide remarks, Bella said, “If we were in it, they’d never win.”
“Too fucking right,” he agreed. “They’re probably getting close to announcing the winner now. We slept for quite some time.”
The innuendo had her grinning. “But maybe not long enough… I’m still feeling a little sleepy.” She leaned back into him and wiggled ever so slightly.
Her actions were rewarded with a pleasing moan, and just as Damon’s fingers moved to unbutton her shirt, his cellphone went off.
“Son of a bitch,” he growled, yanking out his phone and glaring at the screen. “What the fuck is Elena calling me for?”
His finger hovered over the ignore button, but Bella pointed out, “If she’s calling you during her little pageant thingy it’s gotta be important.”
Damon let out a long suffering sigh. “The shit I put up with for my little brother.” He hit answer and murmured into the phone, “This better be good, Elena.” His lips went back to her neck and Bella smiled until Damon froze behind her.
“You sure?” he asked, the words devoid of all his usual snark and sarcasm.
Bella presumed Elena was sure because Damon then said, “I’ll be there soon,” before promptly hanging up on her.
Concerned by his serious frown, she asked, “What is it? What’s happened?”
“Exactly what I fucking said would happen,” he said, each word clipped and filled with anger. “Stefan can’t handle his blood anymore than he can handle his liquor. He ditched Elena and killed some girl. He’s blood drunk, mina.”
There was a moment of silence until Bella managed to say, “Well shit.”
“I’ve got to go,” he said.
Bella nodded. “Yes, of course. We’ll go and –”
“No,” he cut her off firmly. “You’ll stay here, Isabella. He’s blood-drunk and you,” he stopped and gave her a very meaningful look. “You smell particularly yummy. I’ll go get him and detox him in the vervain room in the basement. Which reminds me…”
He zipped out of the room and was back in an instant, holding out a box to her.
Knowing he was in a hurry, Bella opened it and was taken aback by the delicate silver bracelet she found. “Damon?”
“There’s vervain in it, mina,” he supplied. “I know you can’t be compelled, but why risk it. Please wear it for me.”
“Of course,” she said, and before he could hurt himself putting it on her, Bella snatched it out of the box and slipped it on.
A slow, sizzling burn singed her wrist and she yelped, “Shit,” as she threw the bracelet off again.
Damon’s hand gently circled her wrist and brought it to his face as he traced the small burn mark the vervain had left over the silvery scar James had gifted her with.
“Damon?” she asked with a quiver of fear.
“That shouldn’t have happened,” he said to himself, his frown of concern ramping up her fear.
“Damon!” she trilled, her fingers wrapping around his wrist, her fingernails digging into his skin and snapping him out of it.
He looked to her and the concern and mild panic she saw there set her fear into terror.
Realizing he was freaking her out, Damon slipped his hand into her hair and kissed her forehead, pulling back to say in a calm, reassuring voice, “I’m going to call the Major so he can wait with you while I clean up Stefan’s fuck up. I don’t know why that happened, but we’ll figure it out, mina. It likely has something to do with that bite of yours and my blood, so try not to panic. I’ll take care of it.”
His confidence melted away some of her fear, but her eyes were still wide as she drank in what he was saying. The last thing she wanted was for him to leave her – she always was safe wit him – but she knew there was no choice. She waited quietly as he dialed Jasper’s number, her mind in a mild state of shock that she didn’t even think to ask where he got it from.
Less than five minutes later, Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie – much to Bella’s annoyance – were at the house and Damon was muttering something to Jasper as he shot her a concerned look from where she still stood.
“Alright, listen up campers,” Damon barked. “If I find one hair on that girl’s head out of place when I get back, I’ll have your heads mounted on my wall. Capiche?”
Emmett grinned. “I thought you’d say something like, you’ll be swimming with the fishes, see?”
Damon smirked and said, “But then I won’t get to witness your misery, so where’s the fun in that?”
Pushing past the Cold Ones, Damon pulled her into his arms one last time for another searing kiss. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, mina. Be smart and stay safe.”
Snapping out of it some, Bella said, “Smart and safe – I thought those were two things you never did, Damon. You’re kind of contradicting yourself here.”
Smiling, he kissed her again. “I love you, Isabella.”
“Love you,” she breathed as he ran out, nothing more than a blur to her poor human eyes.
There was a long beat of silence.
“So did you like my present? Do you forgive me? Heard what you did with Eddie’s hand – bad ass, Bells!” Emmett spoke, each word tripping over the other in his enthusiasm.
Bella glanced at Jasper whose expression held a faint hint of told ya so.
She couldn’t wait for Damon to come home, even if he was bringing his brother with him for some group therapy detox. It was going to be a long day.
(A/N): Thanks again for your patience… Unfortunately, life has a way of taking over sometimes 🙂
And a special thanks to Meridian for helping me out with the ‘Stefan can’t handle his blood anymore than he can handle his liquor’ bit… You are too awesome!