"You should've warned me." Chloe tone was accusing as she clung to Jeremy's arm and stared around her at the festivities. "You never prepared me for this sort of lavish thing! I should've brought a camera!"
Jeremy was silent.
She looked up at him and blinked when she noticed his gaze on her. "What?"
"Uh, it's just that, uh," he looked away and blushed. "You're really pretty."
She blushed slightly while smirking up at him. "It's messing with your mind a bit, isn't it? Seeing me as a girl in this particular period's clothing."
He nodded without apology. "Is it messing with you to see me as a guy in civil war era clothing?"
"Nah." She was lying through her teeth. "But what is messing with me is just how good you look in them. You look like you belong in those clothes."
He blushed darker. "Well, I feel more comfortable in this than I would in what you're wearing."
She giggled at the thought of Jeremy in the off-the-shoulder dress. "You don't have the shoulders to pull this off."
He smiled brightly, clearly amused. "You're just worried that I could give you some sort of competition."
"Evelyn would definitely have me beat, no question about it, she was like a tiny little pixie-so adorably cute it was sinful." Chloe shook her head. "You'd look ridiculous."
He looked like he didn't know whether to grin toothily at her or pout.
"Oh my gosh! You guys look so amazing!" Caroline appeared with Bonnie at her side. "Didn't I tell you that she'd look good in the green? Totally complements her eyes!"
"Yep, you did." Bonnie acknowledged before she made a face at Jeremy. "Why aren't you wearing green accents to complement her dress?"
Jeremy looked down at his tie and vest. "I'm not an accessory of hers, I do not need to be complementing her."
Caroline and Bonnie shared looks before they snorted at the very idea of him not being an accessory. Caroline turned to him. "You're her arm-candy, get used to it." She eyed the younger Gilbert in deep thoughtfulness. "Who knew you were this cute under all that cloud of emo gloominess you've been hiding under?"
Chloe bit the inside of her cheek to keep from smirking at that.
"Anyway," Caroline turned to Bonnie. "Let's go! There are boys we need to dance with."
Bonnie nodded in amusement before she turned to the others and winked. "Have fun guys!"
And with that the two girls were off, giggling to each other.
Jeremy shook his head as he watched them go. "I know I was a girl once, but hell if I understand women."
"You've gotten their approval, that's a big thing." Chloe patted his arm. "They wouldn't tease you if they didn't like you."
"I thought it was boys who were supposed to tease the people they liked." Jeremy raised an eyebrow.
"Who knows, maybe, like me, they were guys in a past life." Chloe's gaze rested on another couple heading towards them and she froze. "Oh my god."
Jeremy turned to face what she was looking at and he blinked. "She looks just like her."
Elena, in civil war period clothes and ringlets in her head, pulled Matt behind her as she came towards them, waving happily. "Hey guys! You look great! Isn't this place amazing? I'm having so much fun already and we only just arrived."
"She's not joking, she's been giddy this whole time." Matt was giving them all a sheepish smile, handsome in his period clothes. "Hey Jeremy, Chloe."
"Hey." Jeremy gave them a small smile, his gaze going to Elena.
"It's unbelievable." Chloe pulled away from Jeremy and went to Elena, picking up a couple of curls. "Oh wow."
"I know, a total change from my normal look, right?" Elena so totally didn't get the real reason why they were so shocked, the girl basking in happiness. "I thought - why not? You know? Be adventurous, try a different hairstyle. And I like it. Maybe I should just keep my hair like this."
Chloe looked up at that in horror. If Elena kept her hair curly the blonde would never be able to tell when she was talking to Elena or in the middle of a memory that involved Katherine, and that could get tricky!
"I like your normal hair," Matt cleared his throat. "You don't have to change, ever."
Elena turned to him and blushed. "Well, maybe I won't change it permanently then."
Chloe smiled as she looked between them.
Elena cleared her throat. "Uh, Jere? Aunt Jenna was looking for you. She needs some help."
Jeremy frowned. "I didn't come here to help with the festival."
"It's just for a couple of minutes." Elena insisted.
Jeremy opened his mouth.
"Don't be a brat." Chloe pinched him. "Go help your aunt."
He glared at her as he rubbed where she'd pinched, before he sighed and turned to Elena. "Take me to her."
Elena sent Chloe a grateful smile before she and Matt led a visibly unhappy Jeremy away.
By herself now, Chloe sighed as she looked around, watching the couples dancing. She felt such deja vu as she was immersed into the period that her past life had lived through-the same period she kept seeing in her memories. It was such a head-trip, and she shook her head in disbelief at just how incredibly detailed the Mystic Falls founding families were when it came to the parties they threw! Then again, Caroline had told her that most of the Mystic Falls town parties had something to do with the past, and this wasn't the only event in which the town would dress up in period clothing and get immersed in the eras of the civil war, or other eras.
She figured, as her gaze fell upon a young man leaning against a statue and watching everything, that she shouldn't be surprised that she was drawn into a memory as she moved towards the guy watching everyone with detachment.
"Stefan Salvatore." She raised an eyebrow and smirked when he straightened at his name. "What are you doing all the way back here, obviously in hiding?" She looked around as she joined him by the statue. "Where's Damon? Is he somewhere in the crowd, dancing with Katherine?" She sent him a sideways glance. "Is that why you're looking so gloomy?"
He narrowed his eyes at her, never having liked it whenever she brought up the relationship his brother and the vampire had. "Excuse me?"
"Stef Stef Stef, heed your old friend, if you are going to court that vampire you are going to have to get used to this. It is not like Katherine is exactly hiding the fact that she is with Damon as well to you, and yet you still let her feed from you and are hiding her vampirism from your father." Chloe leveled him with a look before rolling her eyes at how pale he was. "Giuseppe would have a heart attack if he knew his sweet little Katherine was actually a vampire."
Stefan grabbed her arm and yanked her to him, his eyes narrowed. "How do you-?"
"Stef, we've been friends since I came to this godforsaken town, but if you do not take your hands off of me I swear by my family that I will knock you on your posterior." Chloe narrowed her eyes at the man and then smiled when he let go of her. "Good. You really should not be so touchy when it comes to young Miss Pierce. She can handle herself." She folded her arms over her chest. "And considering she is the one who killed Rosalyn, you know better than anyone that she is willing to do whatever is necessary to get what she wants." She sighed before her gaze went to those outside. "I know you do not like it when I talk against your precious love, but Stef, it really would be best if you listened to this poor man - at least once. I am only doing this because I worry about you, and Damon."
Stefan he eyed her. "Poor man?"
"You know very well that the Sullivans have nothing to our name." Chloe raised an eyebrow as she turned her greens on him. "Unless you know of a fortune that I do not, in which case I have a feeling I will become a very eligible bachelor whom every doting mother will push their daughter towards." She scanned the crowd with a frown. "Have you seen Evelyn?" When all she got was silence she turned to look at Stefan and found him staring at her in utterly shocked silence. "Really, Stef, how many times do I have to tell you to keep your mouth shut? You will swallow a fly."
Stefan clamped his mouth shut audibly. He then cleared his throat as his gaze went to the people dancing. "Why are you so against me and Katherine?"
"Really? Stef? You have to ask?" She raised an eyebrow. "How about the fact that she doesn't love you? And it's not the fact that she's with both your brother and you, I could understand that, believe it or not. Yours would not be the first multiple relationship I have seen, and the one in the past that I witnessed worked for those involved, but it is different with Katherine." She took in a deep breath. "She is not content with just your and Damon's devotions. She keeps trying to ensnare the admiration and affection of any man around her. I already told you how she appeared in my bed that one night and if you still remain with her despite that, I will respect that. Just-do not be blinded by your emotions for her."
Stefan stared at her in silence before his lips parted. "Thaddeus?"
Chloe tilted her head curiously. "Yeah?"
His eyes widened. "Thaddeus."
She blinked. "Yeah?"
"You're Thaddeus." He was just staring at her.
"I think we've already determined that." She shook her head at that. "Seriously, what is up with you Stef?" She frowned and reached for his forehead. "Katherine didn't take too much blood from you and left you disoriented, has she?"
He grabbed her hand to keep her from touching him.
Chloe glared at him and yanked her grip free, ignoring his shocked gaze when she gave him the slap up the back of head she constantly was giving him. "Behave you idiot." With that she placed her hand on his forehead, finding it cold to the touch. "Well, no fever." She folded her arms over her chest. "So why exactly are you acting like that time you and Damon-?"
"Chloe!" A voice yelled.
She turned at the sound of her name and blinked when she saw Mrs Lockwood coming towards her. The girl was surprised and turned to look at Stefan, finding him gone. Mrs Lockwood must've yanked her out of her memory.
Turning to face the woman, Chloe smiled. "You look amazing."
"As do you!" Mrs Lockwood gave her a kiss on her cheek before she looked around her. "Where's your, uh, date?"
Chloe kept her smile on place. "He's gone to help his aunt with something."
"And left you all alone?" Mrs Lockwood made a face. "Not very gentlemanly of him."
"I think the fact that he's helping her is gentlemanly," Chloe countered good-naturedly.
Mrs Lockwood was looking around before she smiled and waved someone over. "Honey!"
Chloe fought her wince as she turned to see Tyler, who looked just as uncomfortable as he came forwards. "Hey Tyler." She fought the urge to rub her bruised bottom.
"Honey, doesn't Chloe look so pretty?" Mrs Lockwood was in no way subtle.
"Yeah." Tyler cleared his throat. "You look nice."
"You look nice too." Chloe was hella uncomfortable.
"Honey, Chloe's date has left her all alone. Why don't you invite her to dance?"
Chloe's eyes widened. "I don't know how to dance."
"She doesn't know how to dance." Tyler turned to his mom.
"Nonsense. You'll show her." Mrs Lockwood pushed them forwards. "Dance. I insist."
The teens stumbled forwards before they sighed in resignation and moved towards the dance floor.
"I'm going to step on your toes," Chloe warned as Tyler grabbed her and positioned her on the dance floor before beginning to lead in the waltz, or whatever it was that they were supposed to be doing.
"It'll be my punishment for attacking you for no reason about the Vicki situation." Tyler's voice was a grumble as he led her expertly into the movements.
Chloe eyed him. "How is that situation?"
"Like you care." Tyler rolled his eyes.
He mustn't have anyone to talk about this because he grumbled yet told her nonetheless. "How do you think it is? Terrible. Vicki's all mopey and my parents are keeping an eye on me so I can't see her for a while at least." He glared down at her. "And they keep throwing you at me."
"It's not like I'm encouraging them!" She glared at him.
"Well, you are being their definition of the perfect future daughter-in-law, so yeah." Tyler replied stubbornly. "I'm going to blame you."
"I am not even remotely attracted to you."
"Do you think they care? I got my ear chewed off for dating Vicki and not asking you to this damned festival before Gilbert did." Tyler leveled her with a glare. "I won't ever marry you."
She choked on her saliva. "Who said I'd have you?"
"Then go out with Gilbert officially and give them a reason to back off!"
"How about you allow your balls to finally descend and you tell them you're going to date who you want?" She hissed at him.
"I think I'm going to interrupt now." Jeremy's voice broke into their exchange.
Tyler let go of Chloe. "You're a brave man, Gilbert." And with that he stormed away.
Chloe glared at his back. "He's unbelievable." She then gave a little squeak when Jeremy grabbed her and dipped her, the girl holding on and staring up at Jeremy, her full attention on him now as her lips twitched. "I don't think the dip was invented during this era."
"Who cares?" Jeremy smirked as he rightened her and easily swept her into the dance as they joined the others. "I think I like being the guy this time around."
"Is that so?" She raised an eyebrow as she just barely kept from stepping on his toes. "And is there any specific reason for that or are you just liking having the massive trunk between your legs?"
He blushed brightly. "A part of me is proud you think it's a massive trunk."
"I know it's a massive trunk." She raised an eyebrow. "Remember that time you were so high you didn't even remember breaking into Zach's home? Well, we slept on the same bed you know, and you didget a happy while you were snoring, plastered to my back and holding me so tightly I couldn't move away."
He went scarlet. "I'll never live that night down, will I?"
"Nope." She gave him a cheeky smile. "Not in this lifetime at least."
"I can't believe I told you I'd slept with Vicki, and then proceeded to sleep with a hard-on against your butt all night." Jeremy was clearly asking the gods to rain lightning down on him, the boy so red it was a little worrying. "No wonder you don't take me serious most of the time."
She tilted her head as she eyed him. "I take you seriously, Jere. That's the problem."
His gaze lowered to her in confusion. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing." She looked away and licked her lips. "Thanks for saving me from Tyler, by the way. That dance was in no way comfortable. I don't see why the town thinks we're an item considering that he and I barely stand each other."
"To be honest, it looks more like sexual tension than anything else." Jeremy surprisingly delivered this observation without any annoyance or jealousy. He was merely stating a point, and that surprised Chloe, the girl used to his insecurity. "But if they actually stopped and listened to you talking to each other, I think they'd begin to realize that what you two have going is a fight for alphadom."
Chloe blinked in shock. "Say what?"
"I figured that if Tyler lashed out and attacked you over endangering his relationship with Vicki he has to have some feelings for her, so I stayed back and purposely listened to you two talking when you didn't think anyone was listening." Jeremy slanted her a sideways look as he led her through some complicated twirls and steps. "And seriously, that's the vibe I got from you two. Tyler is used to being the Alpha Dog on campus, to having everyone defer to him, and yet it's obvious that you're totally dominating him and he's not used to it or likes it."
Chloe could kinda see his point. "So I just need to establish my place as alpha and he'll calm the frig down?"
"We're not wolves, Chloe, this isn't a pack." Jeremy gave her a smirk. "But I suppose I'll agree, because I don't see you letting him get the alphadom. It's just not in your nature - either as yourself orThaddeus."
She smiled up at him. "That's true."
"Your personality is seriously domineering."
"Hey!" She laughed, smile still firmly in place. "You don't have to say it like that!"
"Don't get me wrong, I don't mind your domineering ways." He winked down at her. "In fact, I kinda like the thought of you dominating me in every way."
Her eyes went wide and she blushed darkly as his innuendo washed over her.
Jeremy chuckled, visibly amused with her reaction. "Chloe Sullivan is speeachless. Someone alert the masses!"
"You're seriously cocky this evening, Gilbert." She pursed her lips into a pout.
He grinned widely. "Massively so."
She flushed hotter. "You're supposed to be the embarrassed one about that. Not me."
"You've just given me a massive stroke to my ego."
"Jeremy!" She slapped his arm and then squeaked when he pulled her tightly to him and dipped her once more, leaving her to clutch to his shirt and stare up, wide-eyed, into his dark gaze.
He smiled down at her. "I really like being the guy this time around."
"You're going to be the death of me." Chloe blinked when all his cockiness and happiness disappeared from his face immediately. "Jere? What's-?"
Jeremy didn't look at her, instead leading her through the next couple of steps before his gaze turned to her. "You're not going to die this time. I'm not going to let you."
Her eyes widened as she realized what exactly had changed his mood. "Jeremy, I'm safe here in Mystic Falls."
"You don't know that." Jeremy glared at her. "You heard Lex. You're in danger." He tightened his grip on her. "But I'm not going to let anything happen to you. I'm going to protect you."
That's what she was terrified of. "Have you not listened to a word I told you the other day? I don't want you protecting me. If you got hurt because of me I couldn't handle that."
"I don't care." His voice was harsh. "Evelyn couldn't do anything to help Thaddeus because, like always, you two have kept everything from us. But this time I know things, and I'm going to protect you whether you want me to or not. I won't let history repeat itself. I won't let you die."
Chloe stared up at his face, at the fiery determination there, and she sighed as she rested her forehead against his chest wordlessly. He was determined and there was nothing she could do while they were still the way they were to protect him. But she had to protect him. She felt the same burning need to do so that Thaddeus had for Evelyn. She had to do whatever was necessary to protect Jeremy, and that meant that she was going to have to truly follow in her past incarnation's footsteps. She was going to have to keep Jeremy at a distance for his own good, and that thought-and the realization that she was going to be all alone again-made her feel physically sick.
It had been Chloe's intentions to never get close to anyone in Mystic Falls, to be alone and happily so, and she would've been able to do so, to keep herself segregated from every single person in this town-to keep a wall up firmly around herself-if Jeremy Gilbert hadn't come into her life and convinced her to start living again.
She clutched tighter to him in utter fear of what life without him would be like. Sure, he was a brat and a terrible pain in her butt most of the time, but she was in love with him.
This was the first time she'd ever admitted that to herself, and she gulped back the desire to cry.
She wasn't going to do it now, she'd enjoy this festival, this last day with him, and then she'd let him go.
"Just-trust me to be able to handle myself-for once." Jeremy whispered into her hair. "I can take care of you this time."
She closed her eyes tightly.
"I know you're worried, Chloe, I know you're trying to pull away from me." His grip on her turned almost painful and surprised her into opening her eyes and looking up at him, the boy's face stormy. "ButI'm not going to let you."
Chloe's lips parted.
"You pulled away from me when you were Thaddeus, remember? And you still think similarly. I know you're going to try and put distance between us, probably try and ignore me just like you did Evelyn, but you forget that just as you are Thaddeus with his same way of thinking and acting, I'm Evelyn." Jeremy stared down darkly at her. "And I didn't let you get away from me then either. I'm not about to do so now."
Chloe gulped, unsure what to say, emotion lodged like a ball in her throat.
"You think that I don't know you're still keeping secrets from me? Especially about what you see in your memories? I know you well enough now, from both lifetimes, to know that while you're telling me things you're also keeping other things to yourself." A muscle jumped in Jeremy's cheek. "I've been waiting patiently for you to trust me enough to tell me but I just realized that whatever you're keeping from me is probably because you think it's going to endanger me or something, and you're trying to keep me safe, in which case you'll never tell me." His eyes narrowed on her. "But I don't needprotection. Not this time around. I need to protect you, and I will protect you, whether you want me to or not-whether you think I'm capable of doing so or not. Because I am and I will."
The blonde stared up at his earnest face, his expression which clearly begged her to let him in, to trust him, and while she desperately tried to reconstruct the wall between them that should never have come down, she felt each and every brick fall to the ground, decimated by Jeremy Gilbert.
She should be a better person than Thaddeus, she should try-and yet she couldn't. She was just as weak to Jeremy as Thaddeus had been to Evelyn.
The girl closed her eyes and leaned her cheek against Jeremy's beating heart. "After the festival is over, I want you and Bonnie to come over to the Salvatore Boarding home. There's things the both of you need to know."
Jeremy went still, tensed, before he let go of his tension and pressed a kiss to the crown of her head.
Chloe gulped against the tenderness she felt from that kiss, and held him tighter, afraid she was never going to be able to ever let him go.