“When the day has come
That I’ve lost my way around
And the seasons stop and hide beneath the ground
When the sky turns gray
And everything is screaming
I will reach inside
Just to find my heart is beating”
Imagine Dragons – Bleeding Out
Chapter 26: Bleeding Out
Bella watched Damon walk away, attempting to shake off the sense of foreboding that had her shivering. Déjà vu, she thought, but couldn’t help but think of what Renee had always said about the sensation.
“That icy cold tendril on the back of your neck isn’t déjà vu,” she’d claimed. “It’s the breath of death hitting your neck – a ghost walking over your grave.”
“Gees, mom. That’s real morbid, you know,” she told her.
“Not at all, sweets. When you think about it, we’re dying a little each and every day since the day we’re born. That’s why it’s important to find peace with yourself and the world around you. Don’t ever hold back, Bella. Embrace it all.”
More often than not, Bella had thought of Renee as her kooky, new age hippie mother who meant well but was rather spacey and distracted. A heart of gold, that one, but often without the common sense to back it up. But there was a certain wisdom to the way she approached life and Bella found herself wishing she’d heeded her advice when it’d first been given. Instead, she’d been like every other teenager in the world and shrugged it off, having to learn for herself the hard way.
“Come on, Bella – let’s go ask Matt and Tyler if they’ve seen Jeremy,” Elena broke her thoughts and she allowed the girl to pull her down the sidewalk, Stefan dogging their steps.
They ran into the duo, plus Caroline, by the main stage, but were dismayed that none had seen him for quite some time. While she hadn’t known Jeremy long, it was hard not to feel some sort of kinship with the boy. Drugs had provided his escape from life’s pain whereas Bella had mentally checked out to avoid it all, but the two of them carried similar scars of abandonment.
A vague part of her mind not scrambling as they searched for Jeremy wondered if Damon had felt the same stirrings of familiarity upon finding her in the clearing with Laurent. If there was one thing she’d learned recently it was that those who were lost and suffering called to their own. Maybe it was a way for them not to mourn alone, like some sort of subconscious defense mechanism triggered by a hidden survival instinct. To go through so much pain in solitude didn’t bode well. Bella remembered all too well leaning into Laurent’s reach, thankful for an end to it all, regardless of that ending being permanent…
The invisible clock kept ticking as they scoured the main street without any success. Bella abhorred the thought of leaving Jeremy to fend for himself in the mass attack about to happen, but she wouldn’t go back on her word to Damon. It had nothing to do with saving herself and everything to do with accepting her human limitations. When the tomb vampires struck, she’d be a lamb for the slaughter just like all the rest if she stayed. When it happened, she wouldn’t be able to save Jeremy – who was nowhere in sight – much less herself.
Her heart thudded painfully even as it sank heavily into her gut as their time ran out. She hoped he was with Anna and the girl would protect him, get him to safety.
“We have to leave,” she intoned, hating herself for saying the words. “Our time is up.”
“What?” Elena scoffed, looking rightfully horrified. “No – no, we can’t. We have to find Jeremy before it’s too late.”
A lump of pity welled up in Bella’s throat and she swallowed it back down. While she shared a tentative friendship with Elena, it’d been no real secret that she found the girl annoying. She refused to accept what it meant to be a human in the supernatural world. Sometimes Bella thought the girl had a death wish because there just couldn’t be someone that naïve. To be truthful, Elena was a bit of an idealistic hypocrite and Bella couldn’t stand the way she doted on Stefan while condemning Damon. That was going to stop if the girl knew what was good for her…
But Elena had suffered great loss recently too and that kind of tragedy had to have left its mark on her, likely tainting many of her recent actions. Bella hoped that once all this craziness settled that Elena would also come back down to Earth and stop trying to play the hero when she was physically incapable of handling the situations she continuously placed herself in.
That time, however, was not that evening.
“I’m not leaving without my brother,” Elena insisted.
Bella shook her head. “I don’t want to have to do that, but Elena, be real. This place is swarming with tomb vampires – we’re not only out numbered, but Stefan is weaker than them given his diet – just what exactly do you plan to do when they make their move, huh? Jeremy may even be safe already, we don’t know. Anna was looking for him too and maybe she got him home.”
“That’s a big maybe and I’m not leaving my brother’s life up to chance. You can go just like your precious Damon ordered, but I’m not leaving without Jeremy.”
With that, she turned and jogged off, calling Jeremy’s name like one calls out for some puppy to heel.
“Elena, wait!” Stefan called after her.
Without a backwards glance to her, he left Bella standing on the sidewalk to chase after her.
“What the fuck just happened?” she muttered, dazed from being so casually abandoned.
The feeling brought back the insecurities she’d been working to overcome. In a motion she hadn’t done in quite sometime, Bella wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. Pushing down the combination of fear and rejection, she tried to shake off the fact that Stefan hadn’t even given her a token guilty glance before taken off. Hadn’t even tried to fulfill his promise to Damon in looking after her with a half-assed, “we’ll meet at the car, be careful.” He’d just left her knowing full well the very real threat of the tomb vampires – knowing what they’d do to her, having already seen it first hand.
Not to mention Victoria was still prowling around.
They weren’t particularly close, but such obvious dismissal of her and her safety stung. She’d been trying to get along with Elena, having made some progress even though with the stubborn and vaguely condescending girl it was more often like one step forward, two steps back. Still, even with all her faults, Elena was at her core a good person. Just stupid and naive.
Even Stefan had warmed up to her some. Sure he still watched her and Damon together with a critical eye, looking like he was waiting for his older brother to screw up not because he wanted to jump in and protect her, but because he just wanted the ‘I told you so’ in the end. But that sibling rivalry aside, he was a decent person when he wasn’t up on his high horse and acting like his way of coping with eternity was the only way. There’d even been glimpses of an actual sense of humor and Bella had teased him, threatening to die of shock when he’d cracked a joke to her one morning at breakfast.
Her relationship with the couple was far from perfect, but she’d hoped it could evolve into something more substantial, something she thought she’d already seen signs of happening.
Only now there she was – abandoned and forgotten again by those she’d come to tentatively trust. The old hole in her chest twitched and her arms tightened around herself, but she refused to give in to that pain again. Refused to admit to herself how much Stefan and Elena’s actions had truly wounded her.
Damon was going to be beyond pissed, she thought, and she couldn’t blame him. Not at her, of course, but he’d tear Elena a new one and Stefan would likely have a hole in his chest to match her own. Her lips twitched slightly at the thought, finding the image oddly fitting.
As hurt as she was by their actions, she couldn’t just stand there wallowing all night. Resolved to try and keep her promise to Damon regardless of Stefan and Elena’s wrench in the plans, Bella kept a wary eye open as she moved away from the main stage while still sticking to a large crowd. She had no clue where to go – Damon was who knew where, Stefan had the car keys and Bella sure as hell wasn’t going to try and walk home. She’d done some stupid things in the past, but she wasn’t that stupid. Not anymore at least.
The familiar old mantra she repeated whenever she was at a loss sounded – what would Damon do? Only this time there was no answer she could follow. Damon would likely get pissed and snap a few necks… Bella was obviously incapable of such a response.
Thinking, Bella decided her best bet was to find Stefan and get the car keys from him. She’d drive back to the Boarding House alone if they insisted on staying, but at least she’d have the reassurance that she’d find Damon there.
With that in mind, Bella cautiously circled through the crowds, remaining as inconspicuous as possible even though she knew from experience that she likely stuck out as though she had a neon sign reading, ‘hey, eat me!’ over her head. Damon loved telling her how tasty she was and add in the fact that he constantly made sure she reeked of him, she knew the combination would draw attention from any vampires lingering.
There was a small bag holding the vervain bracelet from Damon in her pocket, but it would likely not protect her much. While it was better than nothing, they’d discovered that Bella’s reaction to the vervain went beyond the venom lingering in her scar and she was actually mildly allergic to the plant.
While Damon had found some humor in that fact – “Born to be a vampire,” he’d told her while kissing the top of her head – it still meant that she couldn’t injest the herb or handle it without some risk to herself. Fat load of good her only weapon served her now.
“Just my rotten luck,” she groused, dodging an elbow from some kids laughing and joking about.
About ready to give up and just start shouting out for them, or even Damon, Bella’s heart seized and launched up into her throat when a hand gripped her shoulder.
Propelled around, she nearly fainted when she saw Jasper frowning down at her.
“Bella, why are you by yourself? Where’s Damon and the others?”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” she said.
Jasper’s jaw clenched and he shook his head. “I didn’t think that husband of yours would ever leave you alone… You have to leave, Bella. It’s no longer safe here.”
She nodded. “I know. Damon found out about the tomb vampires and their plans to attack tonight. He went to warn the council and Stefan was supposed to watch after me and bring me to safety, but he ran off after Elena, and I don’t have the car keys, and we can’t find Jeremy…” she rambled, her nerves finally getting the best of her.
Jasper’s hand on her shoulder gave her a gentle pat. “I’m sorry about all that, Bella, but that wasn’t what I was talking about… Victoria’s here and she’s brought several newborns with her.”
Her eyes flashed to his as her brain stalled. Mouth dropping open, Bella inhaled shakily, running a hand through her hair as she struggled with the fear this new revelation brought.
“Well shit,” she managed. “When it rains it pours.”
The look Jasper gave her to that was equally concerned and amused.
“Listen, Rose and Emmett are already working to neutralize the newborns and I need to hunt for Victoria. Take my keys,” he shoved them into her hand. “Our car is parked in the front of the lot – black mercedes, hit the alarm and you can’t miss it – get yourself out of here. If it’s the last thing I do, that bitch is gonna die tonight and you can’t be here for it.”
Finally, she sighed to herself. A viable plan.
Her fingers curling around the keys until they bit into her skin, Bella gave him a sincere, “Thank you, Jasper,” before turning towards the parking lot, intent to get the hell outta dodge.
“You’re welcome, darlin’,” she heard drift after her, and despite the stress of the evening, she smiled at his Southern accent popping out. Damon occasionally sported one too, usually when he wasn’t thinking, and he’d spout off classic Southern sayings that had her giggling softly into him, calling him a regular Paula Deen just to see the affronted glare he’d give her. Then she’d sit on the stool watching him cook and slyly tell him to use another stick of butter…
The memory did much to buoy her as she searched for her get away car. Soon she’d be home, Damon would find her and though he’d be pissed when she told him everything that’d happened, he’d be there to protect her… He’d make her laugh the evening off and everything would be better.
Damon made everything better, always.
Her happy thoughts were interrupted when what felt like a sledgehammer slammed into her, forcing her back into a nearby car with a painful crunch.
Gasping as pain ricocheted throughout her body, Bella looked up and her wide eyes met the glaring red orbs of Victoria.
“She said I’d find you here all by your lonesome,” the red-headed vampire smiled causing Bella to shiver. “What’s the matter, little Bella? Your new vampire get tired of you just like the old ones did?”
Gritting her teeth as her eyes welled with tears, Bella kept a death grip on her wits as she retorted, “More like he got tired of your little friends. I’m sure your super hearing can pick up the sounds of them being wrenched apart as we speak.”
Bella could tell it was true because the hand around her throat tightened, lifting her body up just to slam her back into the car again. Grunting, Bella did her best to ignore the pain and stay focused, trying to buy some time for Jasper to find them.
“They matter very little to me,” Victoria sneered. “I already found what I wanted.”
In a flurry of movement, Victoria hauled her away from the parking lot and into a more secluded alleyway. The ongoing festival was close enough to give Bella hope for an escape, but far enough away that they wouldn’t draw undo attention. She was relatively certain Victoria had done it on purpose, wanting Bella to try for an escape just so she could punish her further.
“Tell me, little Bella,” Victoria sneered, throwing her to the ground. “Was it worth it? Was just a few weeks of freedom worth it, knowing that we’d end up here? That you had to pay for your crime against me – pay for killing my James?”
Bella scrambled back to the wall, using it to support her shaky weight as she faced Victoria down. Her mind gave legitimate thought to Victoria’s question. “Yes,” she answered, Damon’s visage hovering on the edge of her vision. Damon was worth every moment of pain she was about to suffer – he was worth everything.
Victoria gritted her teeth, angry at Bella’s apparent lack of fear.
“And I’ll tell you one more thing,” Bella smirked. If she was about to die, at least she had Damon’s blood in her system and her death would be temporary… might as well go out with a bang. “Your precious James got what he deserved. If he was stupid enough to go up against a coven as large and as talented at the Cullens, then he deserved to die.”
Victoria’s foot swept out and Bella fell back to the ground with a thud.
“I’m going to make you eat those words, little Bella. I’m going to shred you apart and leave your remains for your precious daywalker to find… then I’ll kill him too. The last thing he’ll see is your body flayed apart in ribbons before I ram a stake through his heart.”
Fury had her blood boiling. An anger borne of fear, protectiveness and a black fury she’d never once felt in her life, filled her veins, and if it was possible to mentally make someone’s head explode, Victoria would’ve been in great trouble.
The vampire smiled at her, obviously pleased by the impotent rage she saw directed at her. She opened her mouth to spew more bile in her grating, baby-bell voice, but then froze.
Bella quirked her head as the sadistic vampire’s hands went to her ears and she groaned, collapsing to her knees and keening in pain.
Holy shit, Bella couldn’t help thinking for a second, I have super mental powers.
“It’s your luck day, miss,” a deputy said, coming into the alleyway.
Bella watched, frozen in disbelief as the man shoved a handful of vervain into Victoria’s mouth and started to haul her away.
“These ones ain’t as easy for us to take down,” he muttered, more to himself than her.
“What – what’s going on?” she questioned, following him out into the main street again as he dragged Victoria off.
“Never you mind,” he dismissed. “She’s clearly had too much to drink. Go on home and take care of yourself. All will be well.”
Frowning, Bella watched with a detached air as the deputy and Victoria disappeared in the crowd. Scanning her surroundings, she saw them scattered amongst the crowd. Vampires collapsed and townspeople injecting them with something – vervain, she assumed – and dragging them off.
“What is this – this shouldn’t be happening,” she muttered.
Hearing Elena’s voice cry out in worry, Bella turned and saw Stefan collapsed, Alaric waving off an approaching officer with a, “There’s one over there – I got this one,” and then helping Elena drag Stefan off to a secluded corner.
Running after them, Bella breathlessly haunched down over Stefan and gasped, “What the hell is this? What is happening?”
“What happened to you?” Elena countered, taking in the traces of blood and bruises along Bella’s ragged body.
Still angry at the girl for her foolish actions, Bella snapped, “You and Stefan left me alone, Elena – what the fuck do you think happened? I was in Victoria’s tender, loving care until she collapsed like Stefan and was dragged off, so now answer my fucking question and tell me what’s going on!”
Feeling satisfied when the girl flinched away from her with a look of guilty regret, Bella turned to Stefan who was shaking his head clear and slowly regaining his strength.
“It’s the Gilbert Device, isn’t it?” she asked. Nothing else she knew of could take vampires down while leaving the humans untouched.
“But Bonnie deactivated it,” Elena said.
“Clearly the bitch lied,” Bella shot back. There was no time to coddle her, not anymore. Not when Damon was in danger.
“Where the fuck would John Gilbert go to set this device off, Elena? Where would he take weakened vampires to kill them?”
Elena stuttered, tears falling from her eyes, “I-I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Every ounce of sanity left Bella and she snapped, finally tipped over the edge. Her hand flashed out and slapped Elena as she hissed coldly, “Fucking focus, Elena. My husband is in danger because of your fucking friend and if he dies, I’ll fucking take her with me when I go too. You think Damon has a temper? He’ll look like a purring kitten next to what I’ll do.”
“My dad’s old offices,” the girl finally said, staring at Bella in both horror and respect. “John would have access to them… that’s the only place I can think of.”
“Then lead the way,” Bella ordered.
They took off running, Stefan stumbling along behind them, to a quiet office building. Sure enough – John was standing outside of it and the windows of the building were lit a flickering orange, the tell-tale signs of a fire.
“You’re too late,” he said. “They’re all locked in the basement – Damon included – and the fire’s spread too much. This town will finally be free of vampires; well,” he shot Stefan a disapproving look. “Most vampires.”
“There’s got to be another entrance – where is it, Elena?” Bella gritted out, refusing to give up.
The day she gave up on Damon Salvatore would be a cold day in hell – a fitting analogy since she was about to walk through fire for him.
“Out back, along the alleyway,” Elena finally got it together and answered without hesitation. “There’s a door that takes you in the back way and the basement stairway will be right there once you enter.”
Bella took off without another thought, heedless of Stefan warning her that it was too late – that she’d burn too.
Good, she thought as tears finally broke free as she reached the door Elena had referenced. If Damon was gone, there was nothing left for her and she’d burn alongside. They’d stay together. If burning to death was the last thing they did, then they’d do it together.
Bonnie grabbed Bella back, popping up from out of nowhere. “Please,” the witch said. “I’m sorry, but you’ll die. You’ll die if you go in there.”
Bella’s hand curled up into a fist and she clocked the traitorous witch across the face, only a small amount of satisfaction penetrating the haze of despair and fear choking her. “Then be grateful I won’t be here to take you to task for what you’d done, Bonnie Bennett. I hope the guilt eats you alive and rots you from the inside out.”
Turning back to the door, Bella’s hand curled around the handle and she yanked it back with a yelp, the metal knob branding her. Gritting her teeth, she stepped back, ignored all the aches and pains courtesy of Victoria, and brought her foot up and kicked the door in with every ounce of strength she had.
The door splintered and Bella used her shoulder to ram it in, stumbling as a wave of heat and smoke hit her, her knees nearly buckling under the onslaught. Ignoring the voices that called out to her, Bella followed the hallway to the basement door and gave it the same treatment.
She stood at the top of the steps and looked down into the basement. Muted groans reached her and the steps were already on fire. Gathering her courage, Bella sprinted down the stairs, barely noting that the flames receeded from her steps, completely uncaring that she wasn’t being engulfed by them.
All she cared about was finding her husband, saving Damon as he so often saved her.
Making it to the bottom of the steps, she ignored the slowly writhing bodies of the tomb vampires, though her heart stuttered when she saw Anna’s desiccated corpse, clearly having been staked.
“Damon,” she wheezed, coughing from the smoke. “Damon, where are you?”
“Mina,” she heard him groan, and her head snapped to him.
He was lying next to Victoria who looked already dead. Stumbling to him, she saw a hole in her chest from where her heart had been ripped out. Crouching down to Damon, she saw the venom coating his right hand and correctly guessed he’d finished the bitch off with the last of his strength, tossing her heart into the flames.
“Damon,” she wheezed. “Come on, baby. We gotta go,” she tugged his arm over her shoulders and tried to pull him up.
“Mina,” he groaned again, looking delirious until his eyes finally caught hers. “Go,” he hissed. “Go.”
Bella shook her head as her eyes burned with tears that the heat of the room swallowed. “Not without you, Damon. If you stay, I stay.”
“Mina,” he whispered. “Go.”
“No,” she cried. “We’re not giving up – where the hell is my bad ass husband, huh? The one who laughs in the face of death and kicks ass without needing to take names? Now get your fat ass up and help me or so help me God, Damon, you’ll be sleeping on the couch for a month,” she growled, tugging on his body with renewed strength.
“Well, fuck, princess,” he grunted, struggling up to his feet with her help. “When did you become such a nag?”
Bella snorted as she pulled him to the stairs, her limbs trembling with his weight as the persistent heat beat into her. She was sweating and wheezing, but still smirked slightly as she said, “When you decided to pussy out on me.”
“There’s only one pussy here, Isabella, and I’m gonna give it the five star treatment when we get home. I’m starving for it.”
Despite the situation, a different kind of heat flooded her and Damon chuckled knowingly. The effect was ruined when he started coughing, though, and they stumbled forward as one of the steps snapped despite the fact that the fire seemed to repel away from them.
Barely catching themselves and avoiding a tumble down the stairs that likely would’ve spelled their deaths, they finally made it to the top and trudged down the hallway. Stefan came in and tried to take Damon, but Bella snapped, “Don’t you fucking touch us, Stefan. I’ve had enough of everyone’s half-assed attempts to help. You all can roast down in that basement as far as I’m concerned.”
Sheer determination and stubbornness gave her the strength to bring her and Damon out of that godforsaken building, shunning Stefan in the process. Once they’d made it out a few steps, Bella’s knees buckled and they collapsed into a sweating heap of limbs, both of them sucking in lung-fulls of fresh air.
“You know,” Damon breathed. “I can think of a far better way to get sweaty and breathless with you, mina.”
Breathless laughter escaped her before abruptly switching into body-wracking sobs. Damon’s arms circled around her and pulled her into his chest with reassuring strength, silently comforting her as they both sought reassurance in the other’s embrace while ignoring the heavy stares of their silent audience.
(A/N): Sooo yeah. Not a long wait and some resolution… Only about two chapters left now. Would love to know what you think if you feel the need to share 🙂