“I should have kept in touch.”
Bonnie looked down where her hands were being tightly held by Lucy’s. The self-recrimination in her older cousin’s voice tugged her heart. The Bennett-witch connection flowed freely between them. Making their shared emotions stronger. After so many years of only having her Grams as a source of familial comfort, it felt good to have more family around. She’d always shared a sister-like bond with Elena and Caroline, but recent events had put a strain on their relationship. With Dawn and Lucy around, Bonnie felt the difference in having a bloodline connection. Even though she hadn’t grown up with either Bennett cousin, she knew their investment in her well-being went deeper than whether she’d be around to cast a spell when needed.
“It goes both ways,” Bonnie replied. “I’m really glad you’re here. How did you know?”
“I didn’t.” Lucy settled on the blanket that they’d spread out in the back garden of the boardinghouse. In the middle of the natural setting, they hoped to draw on its energy for guidance. The older witch glanced over at the patio where the others stood watching from afar. “The history teacher tracked me down. He said you needed help. Once I got here, even that changed to them wanting me to do a locator spell.”
“Stefan,” Bonnie murmured under her breath as she sat beside Lucy.
“I meant what I said about breaking loose of vampires,” her cousin fixed her with a hard look. “I stayed because I sensed you needed me.”
Bonnie frowned. “How did you know?”
“A locator spell? Please. Any Bennett witch can pull off that in her sleep. When they told me you had trouble with it, I knew something was off. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.” Lucy jutted her chin toward Damon. “And that one… I don’t know about the energy around him. I guess that was Emily.”
“She’s possessed me before,” Bonnie confided, “but it was different. We actually summoned her that time, but this time just happened. She just takes over. I didn’t even know what was happening at first.”
“Tell me everything.”
So Bonnie filled Lucy in and didn’t leave anything out, including the night with Damon that she only had glimpses of in her memory. To her credit, Lucy’s face remained neutral and it helped Bonnie sort through the mucky muck without falling to pieces. Being the strong one had its limits. There was only so much that she could take.
“Wow,” Lucy said softly. “That’s a lot. I’m sorry you’ve carried so much of it alone.”
Bonnie looked back over her shoulder and two figures stood out. Jeremy sat on the steps near her other cousin. Damon stood alone with his hands shoved into his front pockets. The vampire’s fixed stare reminded her that he had super hearing. No doubt her confession played a different tune in his ears. From this distance, she couldn’t see the expression on Jeremy’s face, but she knew his version of events were just as meaningful to him.
She turned her attention back to Lucy. “I haven’t been entirely alone in this.”
Lucy nodded in understanding. Then she took Bonnie’s hand again, “I have an idea how Emily and Jeremy’s ghosts got a foothold in this dimension.”
“The use of our powers always comes with a cost. You asked for the ancestors’ help to bring down Klaus and they gave you their power to do what was needed. But then you asked for them to bring Jeremy back to life—”
“He was innocent! It wasn’t his fault he got shot.”
“But for all we know that was his fate,” Lucy said gently. “Begging for his resurrection opened portals that even the ancestors weren’t aware of. This back and forth between the spirits and Emily’s possession of you for selfish gain… All that began with your selfish request for Jeremy’s life.”
“That’s not fair,” Bonnie snapped.
“I’m not blaming you.”
“It sounds like it.” She moved to stand.
Lucy stopped her. “Wait a minute. I’m here to help you. You have to be willing to listen.”
“Are you saying that Jeremy has to die for Emily to go back where she belongs?” Bonnie choked. “I can’t…I won’t let him die for me.”
She looked at Damon who seemed eager to pounce on Jeremy. From this distance, she sent him a short burst of energy that knocked him to his knees. Their gazes locked as he stumbled to his feet. Despite the distance between them, she spoke directly to him, “Don’t you dare.”
Lucy watched the interplay between witch and vampire before calmly adding, “No, he doesn’t have to die. We have to go back to them…back to the burial house.”
Bonnie waited. She could sense that Lucy was trying to figure it out as she spoke. Everything her cousin said so far added up. A life for a life. Begging for Jeremy to live had been selfish, but she could not imagine doing anything else. Letting him die was not an option. She couldn’t let him die now even if it meant Emily took over her body permanently.
“Even though Sheila said that Emily’s magic is stronger, light penetrates dark. You wouldn’t be able to send her back alone, but I can help you. Your living, breathing family can, too,” Lucy said, reaching into her pocket to pull out her phone. “Give me a minute to call my mom. She’ll summon everyone here. Between us and the ancestors, we’ll send Emily and Jeremy’s ghosts back where they belong.”
“Why did she do that?”
Damon rubbed his forehead as Elena moved into his space.
“Was it Bonnie or Lucy?”
“Bonnie,” he answered, tearing his gaze from the little witch in question. “She was protecting your brother.”
Elena stepped back. “What?”
“Nothing,” he said through gritted teeth. The pain faded. The strike on his temple wasn’t nearly as bad as what Bonnie had done in the past. He supposed it was her version of a warning shot. Okay, Judgy, warning taken. Today, but he made no promises for tomorrow.
“You could have told me what was going on,” Elena said.
Damon blinked. With his thoughts on Bonnie, he had forgotten the doppelganger was still there. He released a long sigh and simply looked at her. After all this time of pursuing and begging, now she showed interest in him. Now. It amazed him how much like Katherine she was at times. So funny how he and Stefan had never noticed it before.
“I came to you and you said nothing,” she said. “Bonnie’s my best friend. I was thinking you two were… And…well… You should have told me the truth.”
“What truth would that be?”
“That Emily’s possessing her!” Elena looked at him as if he was the one off base and not her. “If you had told me everything, I could have maybe figured that out. It’s not like Emily hasn’t done it before.”
“Emily’s never done any of this before,” he said quietly.
“If it took me this long to figure out it was Emily, why in the world do you think you would have known instantly?” he questioned her. “Of everyone here, I’m the only one who knows both of them. Don’t get it twisted, Elena. You wouldn’t have known anything.”
“But Bonnie and you…?” A strained smile crossed her lips that didn’t reach her eyes. “Come on. From what I’m getting, Emily’s been possessing Bonnie to get with you. You couldn’t honestly believe Bonnie would want you.”
“There’s a lot about witches and me that you don’t know, Elena,” he said before walking away from her.
At first, he headed toward the two Bennett witches who continued to conspire on the lawn. But after Elena’s jab, he wasn’t open to potential rejection from Bonnie. And the truth was, Elena had a point. Albeit small. She had no clue about him and Bonnie, but on the other hand, Emily’s handiwork had a big part in some of that. Once this spell slash possession business was a thing of the past, where would that lead him and the young witch?
So, he redirected his steps toward the fountain that was several yards away from the house but kept him close enough to see all and hear all conversations. As he sat on the fountain’s edge and casually dipped his hand in the flowing water, he looked around at the assembled worried guests.
Despite her sometimes-confusing behavior, Elena seemed genuinely concerned for Bonnie’s welfare. He could see that in how she went over and joined the two witches on the lawn and wrapped her arm around Bonnie’s shoulder.
Alaric sat on a bench in the shade, drink in hand. He hadn’t said much since the Emily revelation. Damon knew he didn’t remember a lot from Klaus’s possession of him. No doubt Bonnie’s current circumstances were rehashing feelings of helplessness that his friend hoped alcohol would cure.
Finally, Damon directed his attention to young Jeremy Gilbert and Bonnie’s cousin, the werewolf in waiting, Dawn. He never imagined being jealous of a kid like Gilbert. What did they call him? Emo? The little brat had issues out of his ass, but one thing for sure, Bonnie cared deeply for him. Hearing her say that she’d give her life for his took a big chunk out of Damon. Every instinct in him told him to kill the kid. Make it quick and painless, but make it happen. Saving Bonnie meant everything. But she didn’t want that. She would let Emily take over her body until death if it meant saving Gilbert’s life. The little shit.
Then there was her cousin. She’d been puffing a joint for the last ten minutes. It didn’t smell like weed so he wasn’t sure what her source of calm was. Sadness hovered around her like a halo. Stefan caused it. Stefan went down to the mat in order to save Damon’s life and now this girl, the family of the girl he loved, was in mourning. Fuck.
Oh, wait. Damon heard the distinct sound of a racing heartbeat. Jeremy had asked the cousin a question and when she looked at him… No fucking way. Damon bit his bottom lip to keep his smile in check. He could damn near smell the pheromones from here. Interesting, Damon thought. Interesting indeed.
“Can I get a hit?”
“What?” Dawn pulled the joint from her mouth and gave him a strange look. “Of this? I told you it’s not pot.”
Jeremy shrugged. “I know. I just want to try it.”
She stared at him for a moment before extending the smoke toward him. Their fingers brushed and a ripple shot through him. Damn. That was… He wouldn’t let himself acknowledge what it was. Frowning, he took the joint from her and raised it to his lips.
“Take it slow,” she warned.
He cocked his head to the side. “I know what I’m doing.”
“It’s not your typical high,” she said with a frown. “It’s not really a high at all.”
To appease her, he inhaled slowly and handed it back to her. Carefully so that their fingers didn’t touch again. As his lungs expanded and the drug flowed through his system, he eyed her and decided to take a leap.
“I know about wolfsbane.”
Shock registered on her face for half a second. Then everything went blank. “It’s just dried herbs. Legal. That’s all.”
“It helps with your anger issues,” he said just above a whisper. He had a feeling that if he went too fast or came on too strong, she’d bolt. For some reason, he needed her to know that he understood. “I get it.”
She took a drag and looked down at the ground.
“It gets worse around full moons, right?”
“Don’t,” she said. “Just stop.”
Dawn stubbed the joint in the grass. Shaking her head, she said, “It’s not okay.” She directed her attention to the girls on the blanket in the middle of the lawn. “None of this is okay. Possession? That’s so creepy. I come here with my problems and she’s got problems of her own.” She stood. “Maybe we should have called an exorcist or something.”
“Maybe, but I doubt a priest would know how to handle all this.”
Jeremy looked over at Bonnie and contemplated interrupting the female bonding. But as much as he wanted his ex-girlfriend to be her whole self again, he found it hard to move away from the new girl in town. Besides, Bonnie had made it very clear that she wasn’t sure about their relationship. While he wasn’t in any hurry to move on, being mildly curious about Dawn didn’t feel wrong.
“None of this is phasing you.”
He shrugged. What could he say? Obviously, Dawn was having more problems with things than he was.
“My cousin’s a witch. Her other cousin’s a witch. That guy over there in black is not…right. There’s something off about him. And everyone thinks some dead chick named Emily is trying to take over Bonnie’s life. None of you seem too surprised by any of this. I have to admit that this shit is a little outside the norm.”
“Even with your um…” He let the words hang upon the glimmer of hazel that flashed in her eyes. Tyler’s eyes got that same glow a few times now that Jeremy had time to think about it. Hers wasn’t nearly as bright or severe, but it still radiated an impressive intensity. “Look, believe me. I understand about the wolfsbane.”
“Bonnie told you about me?” Hurt echoed in the somber tones of her harsh whisper.
He shook his head. “No. No, she hasn’t. I just know.” When she continued to look unconvinced, he added, “Werewolves and wolfsbane don’t mix. When you throw in anger issues, it wasn’t hard for me to figure out.”
“Oh, shit,” she murmured, pressing a hand to her mouth.
He was oddly relieved that she didn’t deny it. Placing a hand on her shoulder, he gave her a gentle squeeze. “You don’t have to be scared.”
“You don’t understand.”
“Trust me,” he said.
Mystic Falls, 1864
Rapid pounding of Emily’s heart vibrated against Damon’s back and echoed in his ear as they sat on horseback and watched Fell’s Church go up in the flames. The founding fathers made good on their promise to rid Mystic Falls of vampires with the lighting of a single torch. Hurt scorched Damon’s insides as he realized that there would not be a reconciliation with Katherine anytime soon. Fearful of being found, he tugged the reins until the horse moved deep into the woods and away from the roaring fire.
“Take me home,” Emily said softly, but firmly.
“I am,” he replied.
“No, this road leads to your father’s house. Take me to my brother Joshua’s shack.”
“Didn’t he leave with your children?”
“You won’t be safe there alone. I’m taking you home with me.”
“No!” Emily’s hold around his waist tightened. “Take me home.”
Damon gave a sharp pull on the reins to redirect the horse off the road and onto the wooded trail. Emily’s sigh of relief wasn’t lost on him. This completely went against his best judgment. He had meant every word about protecting her and her family. He could do that better if she was in his home and not some backwoods shack.
“This is far enough,” she said. “I can walk the rest of the way.”
“I don’t think so,” he said in brusque tone.
“Damon, it’s better this way.”
The sound of his name in her melodious voice assaulted his senses just as her sweet signature scent of honeysuckles. Emily was an enigma. So many times, she seemed to fade into the background yet whenever Katherine said her name, she always instantly appeared. How had it been so easy to not see her? Why had he been so oblivious?
She moved to descend from the horse, but he grabbed her hands and held her close. He closed his eyes as her reaction echoed in his ears, vibrated against his back and trembled in his hands. This could not be fear. Or was it? Why? After everything, why would she still be afraid of him?
“Let me go,” she said. “I have to go home.”
“Why?” His grip relaxed, but he didn’t release her. For some reason, he found that he wasn’t ready to let her go.
“I did what you asked,” she said. “What more do I have to do to be free?”
The question stung. Slavery had always been a part of life. He hadn’t questioned it until the war. Once Damon witnessed the carnage up close, he was forced to take a deeper look at himself and his family. Convincing his father to do the same would be impossible. The best thing Damon could ever do would be to leave the Confederacy and turn his back on the war. It was the only thing his conscious would allow.
“Your freedom is yours.” He let go of her hands, remaining silent as she stepped down from the horse and took her belongings from his saddlebag.
“I’d feel better if you let me take you home.”
She shook her head. “No, you need to take shelter, too. If you’re found out here, they’ll burn you, too.”
“I’m not afraid.”
“You should be.”
“Damon, I can’t…if I could stay, I would. I wouldn’t leave, but I have to go.”
“I’ll look in on you in the morning.”
“Very well.” She extended her hand and he took it. “Goodbye, Damon.”
Mystic Falls, Present Day
“So here we are again.”
Bonnie lingered with Damon outside the burial house. Lucy and a small assembly of Bennett witches had gone ahead inside the building. The others waited at the boardinghouse. Strong hugs and longing looks had burned with the intensity of understanding that this plan had to work or Bonnie could be lost forever. It stunned her that everyone cared so much and when Matt’s truck came to a screeching halt as she was about to slide into the passenger seat beside Damon—well, she could hardly see him through the sudden tears that blurred her vision.
Lucy had gone solo in her sporty ride while Bonnie opted to ride with Damon. She knew from the slight lift of his eyebrows that her decision surprised him. In fact, Bonnie had surprised herself. So much so, she had no words the entire drive over. It wasn’t until Damon broke the silence that she found voice to the emotions that ricocheted inside her heart.
“So it seems,” she replied, looking up into his icy blue eyes.
Bonnie looked away for a moment to scan the landscape. Over a century ago, her ancestor lived, breathed and walked across this land. She worked it against her will and did even more services that probably went against her morals, too. While reading Emily’s grimoires, Bonnie never considered the atmosphere of the times. What it meant to Emily and her helplessness at being forced to use her powers. Bonnie willingly used hers to help her friends, but Emily never had a choice. The realization sickened her and made her anger and frustration toward Emily a little less severe.
“What are you thinking?” Damon asked.
“About Emily.” She pulled her gaze back to him. Trying to imagine what he looked like when Emily knew him. Wondering if he was the same single-minded, obnoxious bastard that annoyed the hell out of Bonnie even though a single glance made her pulse race against her best wishes. “What was she like?”
His face scrunched into a frown. Jagged pieces of disagreeableness etched into his handsome features. She wanted to pluck each piece out and jab him with it to make him respond to her liking.
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t give me that,” she said. “You knew her. She was Katherine’s slave—”
“Bullshit,” Bonnie cut in.
“The Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863. Emily died in 1864.”
He nodded. “I know. I get it.”
“She was Katherine’s slave. Emily had no choices. I can’t really blame her for wanting a life where she gets to have choices now.”
“But she can’t have your life,” he said. “Don’t tell me you’ve changed your mind.”
“No, I’ve been thinking. The car ride over…I’ve been trying to figure out this thing between you and Emily. Witches are bound by nature. Her possessing me goes against that and I can’t see her risking everything witches are for what? It has to be for the chance at freedom. The freedom to love you because obviously she was in love with you.” She willed him to meet her gaze. “I bet you had no clue. Did you?”
“It was all Katherine for me back then.”
“And all Elena now.”
He cupped her face. “Not anymore.”
Everything inside her screamed to pull back…runaway…deny. But the sincerity in his eyes and the raw emotion in his voice made her escape mechanisms seem childish and petty. Then again, believing that he was completely over Elena screamed of foolishness. She swallowed down a retort, frustrated that she switched the conversation from the past with Emily to the present with her. Of course, he’d think that was a signal that she needed or wanted reassurance.
“Bonnie?” He rested his other hand at her waist. “Are you…?”
“It’s still me,” she murmured, “for now.”
Then she pulled away as Lucy appeared at the doorway. When her cousin beckoned, Bonnie followed. Even without turning around, she knew Damon watched until she disappeared inside and he’d be waiting once it was done. The knowledge gave her comfort.
Bobby Bennett, Jordan Bennett and Dawn Bennett are original characters created by niklovr.