“My lover’s got humour
She’s the giggle at a funeral
Knows everybody’s disapproval
I should’ve worshiped her sooner
If the heavens ever did speak
She’s the last true mouthpiece
Every Sunday’s getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week”
Hozier – Take Me To Church
Chapter 25: Beginning of the End
Damon stood slightly back from the crowd, arms crossed over his chest as an indulgent smile quirked his lips. Isabella was across the street, smiling and joking with little Jeremy Gilbert. Had he been a lesser man, he may have been jealous, but every so often Bella would cut her gaze to him with a beaming smile that had Damon unconsciously grinning back at her.
It was a reflex – seeing Isabella happy made him happy.
From his peripherals, he saw Elena sidle up with him, her gaze also focused on the laughing duo.
“They seem to get along well,” she noted, the vaguest hint of jealousy under the statement.
Damon turned his gaze to her, holding back a flinch as he saw her elaborate dress donned for the Founder’s Day parade. On any given day her resemblance to Katherine was cringe-worthy, but when paired with the period dress it was downright spooky. For a second, Damon felt caught between two timelines, visions of his human days with Katherine overlapping with his recent history with Elena.
Bella gave an obnoxious snort as she started giggling again and the moment passed. Katherine, Elena… both of them melted away as his eyes once again focused on his Isabella – his wife – clutching her stomach as Jeremy put a supportive hand on her shoulder to keep her from collapsing in a fit of laughter. He’d missed what the boy had said, but that hardly mattered. Damon was just happy to see Bella so carefree. Without evening knowing it, she called him back from the brink, giving him balance and perspective. It sounded cheesy as hell, but she really was his guiding light.
Focusing again on Elena, he refused to give in to the past – let’s not do that time warp again, he thought snidely – and said, “They’re just two peas in a pod.”
Elena shuffled awkwardly. “He’s still mad at me,” she confessed. “For having you compel him to forget.”
Damon nodded. “It was kind of a dick move.”
Frowning, she said, “I just wanted to protect him.”
He snorted. “Ever hear that saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions?”
“Damon, be serious,” she scoffed.
He gave her a playful look designed to annoy her. “Oh I’m being dead serious, Elena.”
Rolling her eyes at his antics, she asked, “Then why’d you do it, then?”
Shrugging, he said, “He’s not my brother. Wasn’t my call.”
Silently, though, he thought about the pain in Jeremy’s eyes. A hollowed out sorrow tainted the young man – just a boy, really – and Damon had read the kid loud and clear, feeling faint stirrings of guilt knowing it’d been his actions that had planted that soul-weary look there. Jeremy had loss so much in such a short amount of time and it’d been obvious to Damon that he simply didn’t have anything left to give. He’d been spent – torn asunder and burned hollow like a forest after a rampant fire. Nothing but charred wood and ash left.
So under the guise of a favor to Elena, he took the boy’s pain away, or at least, masked it to the best of his ability. It didn’t set things right but it’d been about the only thing he could do and was the only form of apology he’d likely ever give.
“Doesn’t it bother you?” she asked abruptly, breaking his thoughts.
“Many things bother me, Elena,” he drawled, giving her a pointed look. “Be more specific.”
Rolling her eyes, she gestured to his smiling wife, Jeremy’s supportive hand still on her shoulder. “Their closeness,” she said. “Doesn’t that bother you?”
He snorted. “Jealous of your little brother, moi? Really, Elena?”
She gave a dainty sniff of derision at his lack of concern. “Well, he is closer to her age,” she pointed out, starting to feel the need to defend her brother regardless of the futile situation. “And not a murderer.”
Damon shot Elena a dark, but humoring look. “Do you really think me being a murderer truly bothers Isabella?” he asked, a hidden bite in the question.
To his satisfaction, Elena looked down. The concession soothed his ire as well as had him fighting the urge to preen. His Isabella had accepted him with such a forthright and unashamed openness that even Elena was forced to come down off her high horse and mingle with the commoners.
Reality bites, doesn’t it, he couldn’t help mentally sneering at the doppleganger.
Not for the first time, he thanked his lucky stars he’d hit the road after opening the tomb… Last thing he would have needed was Elena trying to comfort him in some misplaced sense of kindness and then him latching on to her given his rather – ahem – emotional state. It would’ve been Katherine all over again for real then and just the whisper of a chance of getting trapped in another doppleganger’s web, no matter how inadvertently or innocently weaved, had Damon cringing and itching to kill something.
He was the spider bidding the innocents into his parlor, thank you ever so much, not the other way around. He was no goddamned fly to be caught and devoured by some man-eater.
A silent part of him acknowledged that Isabella had well and truly caught him, ensnaring him in a web of her love. True as it was, he’d happily lie back and surrender that particular battle. There was no place he’d rather be than wrapped up with Isabella; he’d be her prisoner any day.
The thought propelled him back to earlier that morning when he’d shed the darkness of sleep and vague dreams of his wife only to awaken to a true vision better than any dream. His shy wife had been under the sheets, her small hand wrapped around him as she experimentally kissed along his thighs. Satin fingers teased him to the point where he felt like a thirteen year old boy about to lose it at just a stiff breeze brushing against him. When he’d told her so, he’d felt her lips stretch into a grin around him, her efforts increasing until he was unable to resist slipping a hand into her hair, holding her to him as he came down her throat, groaning as her virgin tongue lapped against him.
Afterwards she’d crawled up and rested her chin on the center of his chest with a blushing smile. “Was that alright?”
His eyes pinned her with an incredulous look. “Alright?” he scoffed. “Understatement of the world, baby.”
Her shy grin turned just a bit proud. “Really?”
He rolled his eyes and pulled her in for a lingering kiss, his hand slipping down her hip suggestively. “Really, really. I still can’t feel my toes.”
Soft giggles escaped her which then morphed into loud guffaws as his fingers dug into her side. Faster than she could register, he moved, flipping her under him, laughing against her lips as she squealed. Nothing made him feel lighter than the sound of Isabella’s unrestrained happiness.
With that thought in mind, he ditched Elena without another word, unwilling to play her ‘I’m just trying to help but am really being a judgmental bitch’ game any longer. There was no need to humor whatever point she was trying to make – he already had the girl and those sort of games were in the past. Stefan could roll the dice with her and Damon would remain a spectator whose only reaction would be a derisive laugh when a pair of snake eyes landed.
The Craps reference had him grinning, remembering Isabella’s persistence in learning the confusing game while in Vegas only to give up, glaring at him as he asked her to blow on the die for luck as he continued to play. She really was quite adorable when annoyed. The memory further pushed Elena out of his head though he was aware of her trudging steps behind him.
“And what have we here?” he asked, sidling along side the duo, slipping a casual arm around Bella’s hip and giving it a squeeze.
“Damon,” she beamed at him and her utter delight at his presence amazed him. No one had ever looked at him like Bella did and it simultaneously made him want to strut and fall to his knees before her.
He opted for a casual smirk instead, dropping a kiss to her forehead.
“What sort of shenanigans are you and little Gilbert up to?” he teased.
Bella grinned coyly. “I’ll never tell,” she sing-songed.
Warmth flooded him. He’d been intrigued by Bella from the start even if mildly annoyed by her lack of a backbone. She’d been weak but he’d seen the tell-tale sparks of an inner fire and became damn near obsessed with igniting them further, igniting her, his mina.
There was a time she’d never had teased him back, instead reading into his small joke and somehow twisting his words into some sort of commentary on her unworthiness. Always finding fault with herself even when the situation had nothing to do with her.
Pride welled within him, knowing that while her newfound courage and esteem had always been within her, he had still played a large part in helping her unearth them. An enabler, he thought suddenly. He’d happily be her enabler in all aspects of life.
“Hey man,” Jeremy nodded at Damon, pointedly ignoring his sister. “You seen Anna around?”
“Nope,” he popped the ‘p’ while he pulled Bella in front of him, resting his chin on her head.
Bella covered his arms with her own. “I like Anna,” she grinned to Jeremy. “I can’t wait to get to know her better.”
They’d met in passing at the Mystic Grill and Damon had been thoroughly unsurprised by how Bella had accepted the quirky vampire whole-heartedly. Bella showed an uncommon tendency to accept people for who they were, Damon knew that from first hand experience. To someone like Anna who had spent years expecting to be condemned for her nature – whose mother had been sealed away in a tomb for decades because of it – it’d been both refreshing and a balm to her wounded soul to meet someone so genuinely accepting of her.
Especially as Bella was quick to politely offer her honest condolences for Pearl’s passing. He could tell that had caught Anna off guard, giving Bella’s kidnapping by the vampires in her mother’s care. But Bella had waved that aside, telling her that no one was responsible for that besides the vampires involved and Damon had already made them pay.
He’d smirked darkly at Anna at that, a hidden warning that he’d make her pay too if she took his wife for granted.
“She’s a gift, Damon,” Anna had told him when Bella and Jeremy went to snag a pool table for them. “Humans like Bella and Jeremy…” she trailed off as she watched the two humans in question joke with each other, talking smack on who was going to win the pool game. “They’re a gift to people like us.”
Managing to withhold his usual snark, Damon had simply looked down at the tiny vampire, feeling a small kinship that surprised him. Shoving it away for future perusal, he’d just said, “I know,” before walking away to watch the pool game, planning to be obnoxious with some smack talk of his own.
Anna and Bella’s burgeoning friendship had also made Jeremy an easy sell to Bella, too. The kid had been so used to his sister pushing him away from the supernatural, “protecting” him from it though he stumbled into its path so often her efforts were futile at best, annoying and entirely unwelcome at worst. Someone like Bella had been refreshing to him… She didn’t judge him based on his recent rocky history and he’d been pleased to see Anna making a new friend when she’d spent so many years alone.
Damon smirked into his wife’s hair. She was just impossible not to like and she didn’t even know it. Like catnip to the supernatural and the dysfunctional.
“Hey Elena,” Bella greeted, unable to pick sides between the two Gilberts and incapable of giving someone the cut direct by ignoring them.
“Bella,” Elena smiled, then turned to Jeremy. “You look good, Jer.”
“Whatever,” the boy rolled his eyes. Shooting Damon and Bella a look, he said, “If you see Anna send her my way. I gotta go get ready for the parade.”
Without a second glance to his sister, he walked off.
Seeing the girl’s disappointment, Bella said, “He’ll forgive you soon, Elena. He’s upset right now, but in time, he’ll move on. Jeremy doesn’t seem the type to hold grudges for long.”
Sighing, Elena said, “He’s not, not normally at least. I kind of stepped into it this time though.”
“Yep, you did,” Bella said, and Damon’s arms tightened around her in both amusement and agreement. “But if you show him you truly are sorry, then he’ll have to accept that you made a bad decision for the right reasons. It’s as simple as that.”
Damon watched Elena’s lips flatten. Clearly feeling defensive, she snapped, “Damon’s just as guilty. Don’t know why he seems fine with him.”
Rolling his eyes, Damon sneered, “Easy. No one really expects me to know any better, much less act better.”
Bella snorted. “True.”
Poking her side, he said, “You can at least pretend to disagree, mina.”
“Why? It’s not like you’ve given anyone, me aside, a reason to hold you to some sort of higher moral standard.”
“I find if I never give people the chance for expectations then I never have to face their disappointment in failing to meet them,” he quipped.
She started giggling as he rubbed his cheek against hers.
“Well that’s all nice for you,” Elena spited. “But some of us actually care about hurting others.”
Before he could respond, Bella pulled slightly away from him and fixed the girl with a steely glare. “I understand you’re upset, Elena, but don’t go pushing your bile on Damon. What’s between you and Jeremy is just that, stop trying to pull him into it while looking for some sort of scapegoat.”
Good God, he loved this woman. One moment she was teasing him about his lack of morals, next she was jumping to his defense and taking Elena to task for her childish behavior against him. She never disappointed and always excited him.
A gift, he agreed with Anna. One he’d treasure for eternity.
“I’m sorry,” Elena drew out grudgingly. “So much has happened lately. I suppose the stress is finally getting to me.”
Bella’s glare did not lighten. “That may be true, but it’s no excuse. Damon’s not perfect, as you like to point out, but neither are you. Keep that in mind. Now,” she said brightly, an obvious ploy to change the topic. “I want to hear more about this Founder’s Day tradition. Jeremy told me about the parade but he said something about carnival style games…?”
Allowing her to lead them to smoother waters, Damon looped her arm through his and escorted her around town, telling her cheesy jokes as he explained the town’s history.
The day was exactly what he’d hoped for it to be. Though the threat of Victoria and her little friends was never out of his mind, Damon had wanted to give Bella a day of normalcy. Their lives would never actually be normal, they both knew that, but that made it all the more important to grab ahold of moments like these.
It was just as he told her, years ago it now seemed to him… You can’t rely on life handing you moments, you have to make them.
As the sun began to sink heavily along the horizon, even more of the townspeople crowded the streets, making Damon’s paranoia over Bella’s safety ever so slightly spike. Their paths crossed Stefan and Elena’s again, Bella proudly carrying a small stuffed Bambi knock-off he’d won for her by knocking down some milk cans with a baseball at a small booth earlier.
While he hadn’t exactly enjoyed her reminding him about his friend the persistent goat from the petting zoo they’d visited, watching her hug the stuffed deer to her chest reminded him of her own little friend. He remembered walking around the lame zoo, humoring her as he poked around killing time. He’d turned to see her sitting on a bench, a small fawn bravely curled up next to her and happily munching on the oats in her open hand.
A wood nymph, he’d thought. She had the dark hair and eyes, the exotic beauty and gentle soul of a wood nymph.
That image alone had been worth the ribbing he took for that damned goat.
Fixing Stefan with a warning glare, Damon safely deposited his wife with them as he went in search of the small table selling cotton candy. Might as well make their date a total cliché if he was going for it – go big or go home.
Standing in the small line, he took the opportunity to scan the crowd and satisfied there was no immediate threat looking, he turned to where Bonnie was marching past, trying not to look at him.
Making a snap decision, he left the line and blocked her path.
“Damon,” she glared coldly.
“Ease up, Witchy, I come in peace,” he raised his hands.
Sighing, she said, “Look, I said I’d have Bella’s necklace ready within the next day or two, so if you’re here about that…”
“No,” he cut her off. “I’m here about the Gilbert Device.”
She shot him a concerned look, her weight shifting from foot to foot. Setting her at ease, he simply said, “Thank you.”
Her back stiffened as she continued to frown at him.
Fucking hell, he thought, hating that she clearly needed it spelt out for her. “You neautralized a weapon that could have killed me, even after everything that’s happened lately. So, thanks.”
Her head tilted and she studied him, trying to make sense of his words like some people tried to make sense of modern art.
“And for what it’s worth,” he continued, knowing it was important to make some sort of gesture to the witch even if only because she could conveniently miscast the daylight spell on Bella’s necklace if he annoyed her. “I am sorry – about your grandmother. She was a powerful witch and I thought she’d be fine, but I was wrong. So I’m sorry and thank you for saving my life.”
With an affirmative nod more to himself than her, he left Bonnie standing there gaping as he went back in line for the cotton candy. Her eyes burned a hole on the back of his head, but Damon ignored her, a part of him feeling a little too squeaky clean after the whole exchange.
Maybe he could find Bella and they could go be dirty for a while…
“Damon,” a voice broke through his small fantasy.
Turning, Damon glanced at the short vampire girl even as he accepted the cotton candy and his change. “Anna,” he greeted. “Jeremy and Bella were looking for you earlier – where’ve you been?”
“Damon,” she repeated slowly, and something about the way she said his name that time had his arm lowering, a frown puckering his brow as he stared down at her.
Grabbing his arm, she tugged him to a somewhat secluded spot and announced, “There are tomb vampires crawling all over the place. They want revenge.”
Damon clenched his jaw. “And how do you know that?”
Scanning the area around them, she admitted, “Because I came with them. I told them I wanted revenge for my mom in order to find out their plan.”
His glare turned suspicious as he studied her, worried that he’d have to kill her and explain to Bella why later. “And just what is their plan?” he asked, each word a coiled spring waiting to unleash his fury on the appropriate target.
“They’re going after founder families, Damon,” she said, and the stark worry on her face as she scanned the area – clearly looking for Jeremy – erased his suspicion of her even as a new fear gripped him for Isabella. She wasn’t a founding family by blood, but she’d married into one. Add in his history with the tomb vampires and her unusually yummy smelling blood and she made the Holy Grail of targets.
The cotton candy fell limply from his hands, landing in a wet pile of dirt and leaves. Not even deigning to say thanks or goodbye, Damon abandoned Anna to her search for Jeremy in favor of searching for his wife. As much as the youngest Gilbert had grown on him – kind of like a fungus – Isabella was his main priority. Hanging out with Stefan and Elena as she was just added to the danger to her.
Seconds ticked away like hours, each one heavier than the last, but he eventually found the trio smiling, Bella nudging Stefan in the side with her elbow as she clearly made a good-natured joke at his expense.
Relief almost choked him it rose up so fast, but he kept his shit together, knowing she was far from safe as she still lingered at the event.
Coming up behind them, he threw one arm around his Bella, the other around Stefan. Nodding casually at some passer-bys, Damon’s fake smile turned brittle as he ordered Stefan, “We need to get out of here. There are tomb vampires planning to attack Founder families.”
“What?” Stefan gaped.
“I didn’t stutter, Stefanie. Tomb vampires – on the attack – what part of that don’t you understand?”
“Damon,” Bella grabbed his hand, completely ignoring their little by-play. “You said founding families, right? We need to find Jeremy.”
“She’s right,” Elena quickly agreed.
“Anna will find him, mina,” Damon dismissed. “I don’t want you anywhere near tomb vampires – not ever again.”
The image of Frederick’s fangs slicing into her neck as he watched, helpless and trapped by his very nature was burned into his mind, playing in loop as he fought the urge to just pick her up and run.
“Damon,” Bella came to a halt, her hands reaching up to cup his face. Her thumbs rubbed soothing circles over his skin and he felt a small trickle of calm run through him at the motion. “We need to at least attempt to look for him and warn some of the council members. We can’t just do nothing while so many lives are at risk. This is bigger and more important than just me.”
“Nothing is bigger or more important than you, mina,” he countered softly, the very thought sounding like blasphemy in his mind.
“Damon, please,” she whispered. “I want to try to find Jeremy.”
Gritting his teeth, he couldn’t help but hiss irritatedly at her. “You and your fucking goody-goody heart,” he spat.
She gave him a small smile, not taking offense. Pulling him down, she placed a lingering kiss to the corner of his mouth. “It’s why you love me, culo,” she said with a vague smile.
Refusing to admit it, he looked away from her at fixed Stefan with a hard stare. He was loath to suggest what he was about to, but Damon was in a better position to cover more ground and warn more people than Stefan. And, he thought in fond annoyance, it was what his mina would want.
“You keep her with you at all times. You have fifteen minutes to find the runt – no more. When the fifteen minutes are up, you take her out of her regardless if you’ve find the kid, Elvis or Jesus. I don’t give a shit, you hear me? I’m going to warn the council members.”
“I hear you, Damon,” Stefan gave a firm nod meant to reassure. It did little in that department. Here he was, once again forced to leave his mina in someone else’s protection.
Speaking so lowly neither of the girls could hear him, Damon threatened, “She so much as catches the sniffles while in your care, I’ll stake you – and I’m not talking about in the stomach, Stefan.”
His younger brother swallowed dryly, but nodded his assent. Dismissing him, Damon turned back to his wife and pulled her in for a long, indecent kiss. “If you get hurt because of your stupid, caring heart I may just have to kill you, mina.”
She caught his meaning perfectly, knowing that her human state was at the core of many of his worries. He’d never force the turn on her, especially after his own history, but if it was possible for a vampire to have a heart attack, she’d be the reason.
“I’ll let you,” she promised.
He nodded, kissing her once more before pulling away. “Tick-tock, mina. Time starts now,” he said, turning on his heel and leaving her with his brother before his resolve to help the others as she wished crumbled and he whisked her far, far away.
A vacation was long overdue, he decided as he looked for Liz Forbes, frowning as she was no where in sight.
However, he did see someone he hoped to never see again. John Gilbert was slinking into the old Gilbert offices and if Damon possessed a spidey-sense, it was definitely tingling.
Making a snap decision, he gave up the search for Liz and followed Johnny boy into the building. He watched bemused as the man withdrew the Gilbert Device from his pocket, along with some other tool – he couldn’t quiet make it out as John’s arm was in the way – setting them both on the counter.
“It won’t work, you know,” he taunted, delighting as the rat jumped, twirling to meet him.
John glared at him, tilting his head. “Are you so sure about that?”
Damon smirked. “You had to have known we’d deactivate it before handing it over. I mean, you and that bitch Isobel can’t be that stupid, can you?”
Satisfaction filled him as John’s teeth clenched, but that quickly disappeared and Damon couldn’t say he cared for the expression that replaced it.
“You should talk, Damon,” John said lightly. “I mean, you couldn’t have been so stupid as to ask a witch notorious for her hatred of vampires – especially after a certain one got her grandmother killed – to deactivate a device to get rid of them, could you?”
His mind flashed to Bonnie, her sketchy look on her face as he’d thanked her earlier, looking vaguely guilty. “No,” he denied, more to himself than John. “She wouldn’t do that, not when Elena had been the one to ask her.”
John smiled. “Let’s find out shall we? I saw some of that other type of vampire lingering around too. Guess we’ll really put this to the test.”
Damon’s heart seized – Bella, my Bella, he thought. Victoria…
His wife unaware with only Stefan the bunny-mucher to protect her from Victoria and her groupies… It was his worst nightmare come to life.
Check that, he thought as a god-awful screeching hit his ears and he collapsed to his knees on the verge of unconsciousness. This ain’t no picnic either.
(A/N): I know! A long wait for you AND I ended with a cliffhanger… don’t you just love me?
If it makes you feel better, Damon’s POV turned out longer than anticipated so there’s now another chapter planned before the end of the fic – silver lining?
Please do check out my Halloween contest page and if you’d like to review, I’d love hearing from you. Thanks for your patience 🙂