Chapter 13: I Feel Something Growing Deep Inside of Me

Matt headed back to the Grill. After awhile, Caroline followed him. Alaric drifted from the patio and disappeared between the French doors. Jeremy had no doubts that the older man would find comfort in the Salvatore vast collection of wine and spirits. Elena said she needed some air and took off down the drive. So that left him alone with Dawn in the rear of the Salvatore estate.

Less than an hour had passed. A small pile of stubbed wolfsbane joints created a makeshift monument at her feet. If Jeremy had his sketchpad, he'd draw her. Despite the worry lines that etched her brow, Dawn's profile was classic. With her high cheekbones, full lips, and delicate chin, she could easily fill the pages of his pad. And her body—dammit, Gilbert! What was he doing?

For Pete's sake, she's Bonnie's cousin!

He choked on self-disgust as he moved away. Sitting on the ledge of the fountain gave him the distance he needed. At least, he hoped it would.

"I should have gone, too," she said. To his surprise, Dawn left the steps and crossed the space to join him.

"There's nothing you can do," he replied. "Besides, Lucy is with her."

"That guy…Damon…he went. Why was it okay for him to go?"

The hurt that flared in his gut only flickered a small amount. Not nearly as much as it used to Jeremy realized as he answered, "Bonnie wanted him to."

Dawn's frown deepened. Just a few hours in her company, he found himself oddly drawn to her. There was no way he could read her, but he wanted to. He wanted to understand why her jaw tightened at odd moments and then the next she seemed on the verge of tears. After being around Tyler, he pieced together the wolfsbane addiction and how it dimmed the fire in her eyes. But the rest…even though he wasn't completely over Bonnie, Jeremy was becoming very intrigued with the idea of getting to know her cousin. What kind of jackass did that make him?

"I feel like I just walked in the middle of a movie." Dawn flicked her hand in the water and tossed some in his direction. A faint smile parted her lips. Just as quickly, the gesture disappeared. "You know a lot about this witchcraft stuff, don't you? How long is it gonna take?"

"I know some." He shrugged. "Spells take as long as they take."

"I should call Chris…"

"Bonnie's dad?"

"Yeah."

He shook his head. "Uh…no."

"He's her dad."

"So?" Jeremy stood, poised to take her phone if need be.

Dawn rose, too. Although he towered over her by inches and carried more muscle, her stance lacked any hint of intimidation. "So, he's her dad! If it was my dad, I'd want him to know. He'd want to know—"

"He's not like that. They're not like that."

She pulled her phone from her pocket and stared at it. Her voice was so low, he barely heard her. "But he's her dad…"

"Trust me if she wanted him to know, she would have told him." Jeremy fought the urge to reach out. Comfort her. Take away her sadness or at least, ease it somehow. The struggle blazed internally. In the end, restraint won when he shoved his balled fists into the front pocket of his jeans. "Are you hungry? Or thirsty? There's quite an extensive bar inside—"

"Booze wouldn't be good for me right now."

"Wanna go for a walk?"

She nodded. They headed into the woods. As a kid, Jeremy biked and hiked with the best of them. He knew where the Salvatore line ended and the Lockwood property began. As they came close to the border, he noticed that she still clutched her phone. Obviously, her relationship with her dad was close and not contacting Bonnie's bothered her. He wasn't sure how to explain to her that the parents of Mystic Falls were clueless about the supernatural underworld of their kids. They had no idea how many times lives had been saved because a sixteen year old had dared to sacrifice his or hers. Obviously where she came from in Mississippi, things were different.

She must have sensed his interest in her cell because she clumsily returned the phone to her pocket. The baggie of dried herbs fell to the ground.

Jeremy grabbed it. "Is this better than whiskey and Coke?"

"To a degree."

They paused in a clearing near a fallen tree. Jeremy straddled it and bit back a smile as Dawn lowered herself carefully onto the dead bark. Obviously being from the Deep South didn't mean she was into the great outdoors. He rolled a joint for her and handed it over. As she inhaled the first whiff, he marveled at how it didn't make her sick or double over in pain.

"You're staring." Humor danced in her eyes. "It's kinda rude."

"Sorry."

"No, you're not." They laughed together. Then she added, "I know cuz I was staring, too. Will you tell me something?"

"Sure."

"How did you know about…me?" She flicked the ashes away and tried to keep the smoke from blowing into his face. "Were you guessing? Is this whole town full of witches and werewolves? Are there v-vampires, too?"

"That's a lot."

"I can't tell Chris or go with Bonnie. You're the only person I feel okay with and honestly, I don't even understand that. We just met a few hours ago," she said. "I don't understand it at all. None of this."

"Me either," he said, responding to the strange connection he felt. Not that it was strange bad, but that it was sudden. Quick, but normal. Like it was supposed to be. Like they were meant to be alone out here in the Lockwood forest, having this conversation.

"You feel it, too?"

At some point, he'd have to come clean about his relationship with Bonnie, but he couldn't deny her cousin an answer. "Yes."

She drew in a deep breath before stubbing the joint on the bottom of her sandal. "You have questions, too?"

"Yeah. As many as you have for me."

"Who goes first?" she asked.

"Ladies first—"

"Gilbert, what the hell do you think you're doing?" Tyler appeared. Then like a hunter on his prey he targeted Dawn. "Who's this?"

Jeremy didn't miss the gleam in Tyler's eyes or how the older boy's gaze appraised Dawn from head to toe. He swung off the log and moved between the girl and his former nemesis.

"My friend."

-%&%&%&-

Mystic Falls, 1864

Even though everything was telling her she didn't stand a chance, Emily had to try. Upon reaching the old one-room shack, she grabbed a burlap sack and stuffed it full of the things that Jacob had left behind when he'd taken her girls up north. A blouse, a handful of undergarments and a few trinkets that had been passed down from mother to mother were forced to fit until the sack's sides bulged. Without thinking, her hand went to her throat. Her hand's grasp on empty air reminded her that she'd sacrificed the beautiful amulet for the tomb spell. Oh well. She'd have other things, like her grimoire, to pass down to her girls.

The whispering of the spirits grew louder. Her unease became heightened. She had to get out of there. Damon saved her once, but she could not dare rely on him to do it again. Besides he was as much in danger as she. Neither could afford to stay in Mystic Falls any longer. The Founders had discovered power in number. Her abilities would not be equally matched against the sheer force of their united will and trickery.

Emily slipped her grimoire into the opening. She then tugged on the frayed ends to tie the sack closed. As she stepped outside, she knew instantly that it was too late.

"Emily." John Gilbert held a lantern in one hand and a gun in the other. "I hoped you wouldn't be here."

"I was on my way." She moved to bypass him, but he blocked her path.

"You know I can't let you go."

"I wish you would."

He nodded. "I would, but… We found Giuseppe's body. It's being prepared for burial. He did not die of natural causes."

Her grip on the sack tightened. The ground shook with the pound of horses' hooves. Shouts echoed in the distance.

"They're coming for you."

"I didn't hurt Master Salvatore."

Gilbert sighed. "I know, but they don't care. You were close to Katherine and Pearl and some of the others. They're suspicious of you. With Giuseppe dead, you're next on the list. Not just you."

Emily never begged for anything. She never groveled. Because of her station in life, she'd simply learned how to accept things. But the hours with Damon when he treated her like a woman and not a possession… When he looked into her eyes and saw Emily Bennett and not Katherine's handmaiden, Katherine's slave—those moments convinced her that maybe getting on her knees would be worth it. Maybe Damon was different. Maybe Katherine didn't own him the way the female vampire thought she did. Maybe there were parts of Damon that were still up for the taking. Making Emily could claim a piece as her own.

"Master Gil—"

"Don't," he cut in. "I can't do anything, so don't ask. It's too late."

As the pounding came closer and the shouts grew louder, Emily knew he was right. There was no way out.

-%&%&%&-

Mystic Falls, Present Day

They stood in a circle around her. Bennett witches in all shapes, hues, and ages had come together with one phone call. Twenty-five had arrived. More were a call away if needed. The sense of family enveloped Bonnie as each woman introduced herself to her. Some hugged. Others shook hands. The older ones hugged, kissed, and reminisced over Sheila and Abby. They had all loved on her in the old folks' way that used to make Bonnie feel uncomfortable when she was younger. Not so much today, though. And when she found herself in the round with all these women creating a shield, she felt a sense of protection she'd never encountered in her life.

She and Lucy made eye contact. Her gorgeous, statuesque cousin reassured her with a wink and a half smile. Then a low murmur signaled the beginning.

The beginning? Bonnie's breath quickened. The energy rose around them with blinding force. None of her magic had ever been this powerful. Not the spell she performed with Grams to open the tombs. Nor the spell to take out Klaus. This army of powerful, determined, beautiful witches had assembled to rein in one of their own. Bonnie knew they would not stop until Emily and all the otherworldly entities were returned to their rightful place.

-%&%&%&-

Damon sat on his car's rear bumper with his attention riveted to the burial house. He couldn't say how long Bonnie had been inside, but he'd heard every word spoken. At first, the conversations were unintelligible. The commotion rivaled Woodstock. Yet as the witches and Bonnie became acquainted, the words became clear. The sentiment behind the words even more so. They were family. They had come to help and would go down trying if need be.

He wished again that he could go ahead and handle it himself. Signing off the dirty work to others wasn't his forte. He had no problems with getting his hands dirty. If there was any way he could send Emily back himself, he'd do it and gladly. Bonnie's accusation that Emily was in love with him—God.

Since 1864, he hadn't really thought about her other than in terms of Katherine. Her spell had kept the Petrova vamp alive. For over a century, Katherine Pierce had been the only woman he loved. It took years before he even touched a woman, romanced her. Even then, he carried no love or affection.

At first, he believed it was because Katherine was his true love. After she humiliated him, he wondered if maybe the invisible emotional switch had been the mechanism that prevented him from getting close to any woman in the hundred years of Katherine's entombment. But Bonnie's words nagged at him.

Emily's in love with you.

Everything pointed to it. All of her actions screamed that she wanted him. Not as punishment for being a self-serving asshole. Not to force him to do anything, as if anyone could. The intimate meetings in the woods…the surprise seduction in his bedroom…the neverending quest to be in his company. He had wanted to lay all of that on Bonnie, but some of that belonged to Emily. Not all, but a good portion of it was the dead witch.

The sky darkened as the chants inside the burial house became louder. Humming vibrated across his flesh. Dark clouds rolled overhead. Emily was fighting and the witches were fighting back. Damon ran a hand through his hair as he sighed. This sense of powerlessness brought back memories he had actually forgotten. If he could go in and save Bonnie, he would. Yet something told him, the best way to save her would be to face the past.

Just as the thought came to mind the burial house door flew off its hinges. He watched in amazement as wispy shapes floated inside. He moved to rush inside but a force held him back.

"Damn you, witches!"

More entities drifted in until there was only one that lingered. It sailed away from house, transforming from an indistinguishable shape into the outline of a woman right before his transfixed gaze. When it reached him, he knew that she had come for him.

"Emily."

"Damon," she said in a voice that echoed.

"I didn't," he began, searching desperately for the words to make it gentle but clear. "I didn't know."

"That I loved you?"

He nodded. Clasping his hands together in front of him, he pushed away from the bumper and stood. As he towered over her, he remembered the early days of his transition. How she cared for him, favoring him over Stefan. He had recognized things about her that he hadn't noticed when Katherine had been there to take his full attention. Although strong and intelligent—a lot like Bonnie—Emily had a gentleness about her. If she had been white, over half the Founding sons would have pursued her. Katherine's ability to charm and deceive had pushed Emily into the vampire's shadows, as had the antebellum era.

"I really don't know what to say."

"Just keep your promise," she said.

That wasn't difficult. "I'll always watch over your family. I'll always protect them."

"I don't have much time," Emily stated. "After everything I've done, this is a gift. I've taken from Bonnie what I have no right. There is no way to repair the damage I've done."

"She's strong—"

"She's human, Damon," the spirit said. "Don't forget that. We sometimes hurt the things we want to possess without meaning to."

He frowned. "I don't want to possess her."

"Don't you?" she asked with a faint smile. "I have to go now."

The lines around her began to blur. He reached for her hand. It felt soft, like a breeze. "Emily, I cared."

"I know."

"Emily—"

"Goodbye, Damon."

Then she was gone.

-%&%&%&-

Bonnie found him with his hand outstretched. Longing marked the set lines of his face. She stepped in front of him. At first, he only stared. Had she been foolish to run straight out to him? Was she silly to be happy that he was still out here waiting? Maybe he wasn't waiting for her? Maybe he didn't care?

Before further doubts could form, Damon grabbed her. His vampire strength knocked the air of her as her soft chest slammed against his hard one. The cold, rigid cheek that brushed against hers with such tenderness made her knees weak. She slid her hands under his leather jacket and held on tight.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said. "It's really me. They did it. They sent her away."

"I know."

"For good. She's not coming back."

"I know," he said.

Bonnie shifted out of his embrace to get a good look at him. She heard regret in his voice, but she wasn't sure. What did it mean? How did he know?

As if reading her mind, he started talking. "I saw her. She spoke to me. She said goodbye."

"Oh." Bonnie wondered if there had been more, but she didn't want to pry.

During the incantation, Emily had also appeared to her. Her ancestor apologized for her actions but offered no explanations except to say that Bonnie knew. The ghosts who had been plaguing Jeremy were also sent back. Bonnie didn't expect any answers from them and they met her expectations.

Other apparitions had exited through the portal, too. So many had piggybacked on their witchcraft that Bonnie was relieved nothing worse had occurred. She guessed her plea for Jeremy's life had caused the otherworldly entrance to swing open. Now that it was closed, she'd be more aware that her abilities came with consequences.

"What are they doing in there?" he asked.

"Making peace," she answered. Hers and Emily's actions had created major discord with the dead witches who still aided their source of power. In order to renew that connection, Bonnie had to step away and allow her family to offer a plea on her behalf. Lucy believed that this would be enough. Bonnie was prepared if it wasn't.

"Do you have to wait?"

She looked at the burial house, where she still sensed the power and the love flowing strongly. Then she met Damon's intent blue-eyed stare. The glacial orbs emitted warmth that she had only recently began to acknowledge. Grudgingly. Fearfully.

"I don't have to."

He strode to the passenger side in that Damon swagger and opened the door. Bonnie slid inside. Anticipation swelled in her chest as he smirked and slammed her door shut.

The open road loomed ahead as the burial house receded into nothingness. Damon dialed into a 70s rock station and hummed along to "Desperado." Her Grams had been a big Eagles fan so Bonnie was very familiar with this tune. She was mildly impressed that Damon wasn't even a little off key with the haunting melody.

"Would you rather hear Demi Lovato or Nicki Minaj?"

She laughed. "No, this works for me. This song," she said, suddenly serious, "is a good one. It's mellow."

"Mellow is rare around here."

He slowed down and guided them away from Mystic Falls. Bonnie wondered where he was taking them, but then she decided she didn't care. Soon, she'd let everyone know she was okay, but for once, she wanted to be selfish. She wanted to enjoy a moment. It was weird that the moment included Damon Salvatore, but so be it. A few more minutes wouldn't be the end of the world.

"I can't promise that I won't be an asshole."

Bonnie jerked at the abrupt interruption of her thoughts. She then took in the stoic profile and the death grip on the steering wheel. Oh boy. This was serious.

"I can't promise that I won't piss you off and probably vice versa."

"Damon—"

"Let me get this out, Bonnie," he said with a quick glance from the road. "You'll have your say."

"Okay."

"I won't even ask you not to promise to fry my brain although it has crossed my mind."

She didn't bother to hide her smile.

"Yeah, I thought you'd like that."

"Damon, what are yo—"

"Dammit, Judgey, will you let a man talk?" He grunted. "I'm over Elena and I have been for longer than I've realized. You…Bonnie… I want you to give me a chance—us a chance. Emily's gone. It's just you and me now. What do you say?"

He was giving her out, an opportunity to run or say no. She could take time to think about it. She could go back to Jeremy and try to make things right with him. She could be by herself for a while to focus on senior year, college apps, and witchcraft. She could just give him an answer.

"Okay."

(Song Credit: "Our Song" by Matchbox Twenty)

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