He was supposed to be in the car, but he threw a fit, refused to go pick up Elena from a party when he was in the middle of Call of Duty. His father was so irritated with him, he grabbed the keys and stomped outside, snapping, “Fine! Sit on your ass and don't be a part of this family!”
He and his dad used to get along pretty well, but everything changed after he started high school, quit playing soccer, and started spending more time drawing than hanging out with his dad. It wasn't that he didn't like his dad because he did; Jeremy wasn't so self-involved that he didn't know he was damn lucky to have Grayson Gilbert as his father. But his dad wanted a son like Matt, the kind of guy who played football and escorted Elena to Founders' events without ever complaining, and Jeremy just wasn't that guy.
His mother had come up behind him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders from behind, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. She smelled like the cookies she had just gotten done baking and the perfume he and Elena had bought her for Mother's Day, and Jeremy couldn't help but smile.
It was probably the least cool thing about him, but he was a total mama's boy, always had been. His mother never never lectured him on his grades; she'd just sit down at the table with him, pull his book over, and ask, “What we working on?” Instead of hassling him about his distaste for the endless stream of events his family had to attend, she'd straighten his tie and tease, “Think we can give ourselves up for adoption?” When he'd been cut from the JV soccer team, instead of assuring him he could tryout again next year, she had baked his favorite cinnamon rolls and confessed, “You know, I've always thought soccer was the most boring of all the sports.”
So, yeah, his mother was ten kinds of awesome, and Jeremy loved her more than just about anyone else on the planet. He didn't even care if that made him the biggest, fucking pussy in the ninth grade.
“This will be off by the time we're back, right?” she asked in the soft, patient voice of his childhood.
“Yeah,” he easily agreed, sparing her the fight he would have started with his father over the same request.
Ruffling his hair, Miranda playfully ordered, “Don't touch those cookies, huh? They're for Matt's birthday.”
“All of them?” he whined as she headed for the door.
“We'll make cinnamon rolls tomorrow,” she promised as the door clicked shut, leaving him to game in peace.
But she had never come back.
A few days after the funeral, he asked John how his parents had died. Elena was still in and out of consciousness, the pain pills she'd been given for her arm keeping her out of commission, and Jenna was still in shock, trying to clean out her apartment in Richmond to move into the house. John just studied him for a moment before asking, “You sure you want to know, Jer?”
He nodded because he didn't know better; he didn't know then how blissful ignorance could be.
“Your mom was killed on impact. Your dad...he drowned.”
Jeremy tried to console himself with the knowledge that his mother hadn't suffered the way his father had, that she probably hadn't even known what was happening before slipping away, but it didn't. All he could picture was his mother – his beautiful, vivacious, wonderful mother – hitting her head off of the windshield, her fragile neck breaking.
It was that image, played on endless repeat in his brain, which made him start to steal Elena's pain pills.
He knew Vicki Donovan his entire life and had a crush on her from the moment he knew the difference between boys and girls.
When he was in eighth grade, Elena and Vicki were spending a lot of time together. It worried his parents – they loved Matt and Vicki like they were their own, but Vicki already had a reputation – but Jeremy thought it was the greatest thing on earth. Suddenly the hottest girl he knew was lying on the couch in his living room, dancing around his kitchen, and applying make-up in his bathroom, always wearing teeny, tiny outfits which let him know Vicki didn't really like wearing a bra.
He had never jacked off so much in his life.
The first time Vicki ever noticed him, really noticed him, it was the summer before he entered high school, the summer Vicki got picked up by Sheriff Forbes for possession. His parents were away for the weekend, Jenna was watching them, and that was the only reason Vicki was even allowed in the house. She and Elena had gone to a party earlier in the evening, both a little drunk when they returned, and, as Jeremy brushed his teeth and got ready for bed, he could hear Vicki and Elena giggling in her room.
And then the connecting door swung open and there was Vicki in nothing but a camisole and a pair of bikini panties, all long legs and soft curves. Her mouth twisted into a playful smile as her eyes flicked over his bare chest. Jeremy felt himself blush as Vicki sidled up beside him, reaching into the medicine cabinet for mouthwash.
“You're looking good, Jer,” she complimented, squeezing his bicep. “You been working out?”
Jeremy knew he was turning a florescent shade of red, felt a stirring in his pants as he caught the scent of her skin. “Nah, I don't...” He didn't know how to finish the sentence so he didn't, letting the words hang there.
Turning to face him, Vicki ran a finger across his collarbone; Jeremy was suddenly fully hard in his pajama pants, a reaction made painfully obvious through the thin material. She snickered as she slid her hands down his chest, resting at the band of his pants.
“In a few years,” Vicki divulged, her mouth so close to his Jeremy could practically taste her lip gloss, “I am going to do such dirty things to you. You down with that?”
Jeremy nodded, every word he knew falling out of his brain as his blood rushed downward.
“You're so fucking adorable,” she continued, her fingers tracing the skin above his waistband teasingly. “Do you like me, Jer? Do you think about me when you're all alone?”
“I've got to go,” he blurted out, whirling around to escape to his bedroom and attend to the now painful erection in his pants.
“Hey, Jer?” Vicki called after him.
He turned to face her and nearly choked as Vicki pulled down her tank top, revealing two perfect, round breasts topped with two, tan nipples.
“To help you along,” she said before replacing the straps on her shoulders.
It only took four strokes before he came all over his hand and belly, biting his pillow to stifle his groans. Grabbing his discarded t-shirt, Jeremy sopped up his mess and prayed for the day Vicki would follow through on her promise.
When he thought about Vicki now, he didn't remember the drug addicted girl who was so desperate for Tyler Lockwood's affection or the selfish, hurtful girl who used his heart like a yo-yo.
All he ever thought about was the playful girl in his bathroom, the one whose eyes still sparkled with light, the one who hadn't been broken yet.
The problem with Damon compelling all of his pain away is that Jeremy always wondered if the choices he made afterward were his choices at all.
Anna was one of those choices.
If Damon hadn't compelled away the stinging pain of losing Vicki, Jeremy doubted he would have entered into a relationship with Anna. He had wanted to be a vampire to reunite with Vicki, had tried to use Anna to make it happen, but sleeping with Anna, falling for Anna...Jeremy was never quite sure how much of that was him and how much of that was the boy Damon created.
Jeremy doubted how much he loved Anna, but he never doubted how much he genuinely liked her. Vampire aside, Anna was funny and smart and honest.
You never realized how much you wanted honesty until everyone started lying to you.
After the first time they slept together, they had laid side by side, Jeremy's hands lazily traversing the smooth, unblemished skin of Anna's body. Her body was so different from Vicki's, so much smaller and seemingly more frail, but Jeremy had the bruises to prove just how powerful Anna was.
Anna loved him. Jeremy didn't doubt that.
“Is Pearl really your mom?”
“Like, did she give birth to me?” Anna asked for clarification. When he nodded, she shook her head. “No, my real parents died when I was fourteen.”
“The Taiping Rebellion.” At his blank look, Anna sighed and playfully jostled him. “Don't they teach you anything in school?”
“I wrote a paper on vampires. What do you think?”
Rolling her eyes, she explained, “It was a civil war in China. My father was a soldier. After he died, my mother had no way of providing for us. Most of the country was starving. Two of my brothers had already died of hunger when the sickness came and killed my sisters. Only my mother and I were alive when the soldiers came to our village.”
“They killed her?”
“They did horrible to things to us. Mama died but they left me alive. I was almost dead when Pearl found me. She turned me, let me kill the soldiers who hurt us, and then we came to America. We landed in California and then moved east until we reached Mystic Falls.”
“When was this?”
“I was turned in 1851.”
“So you're - “
“183-years-old,” Anna completed.
“But you'll be fourteen forever.”
“Yeah, which sucks,” she acknowledged, “but the older you get, the more you learn tricks to make you look older. Usually it doesn't matter. I don't stay any one place very long.”
Quiet for a beat, Jeremy asked, “Do you still think about them, your real parents?”
Anna nodded. “Every day. It doesn't just go away, you know? I could be a thousand-years-old, but I'll never forget the sound of my mother singing or the way my father laughed. It's a part of me forever.” Her dark eyes focusing on him, she softly declared, “Everyone tells you it's better to move on, to put them in the back of your head, but I think it's okay to remember them. It keeps me...human.”
Jeremy shifted uncomfortably, the words cutting closer than he'd like.
“That's why you want to be a vampire, isn't it?” Anna challenged gently. “You think it'll stop hurting, missing your parents?”
He sighed, pulling her more firmly against him. “Doesn't matter. You aren't going to turn me anyway.”
“Nope,” Anna breathed against his chest, pressing a kiss to the patch of skin there. “You're just going to have put on your big boy pants and deal with it.”
When he thought about Anna, he always thought of that moment in his bedroom, Anna's confession that the memories of her parents kept her human. It gave him comfort to know he wasn't a freak for thinking of his parents every day, that Anna had done it too.
He wasn't sure if he would've pursued Anna without Damon's interference, but Jeremy did know she deserved better than being staked in a dirty basement by his uncle.
After the sacrifice, after Elena had come back to life, John had died, and Stefan had healed the wounds Klaus inflicted upon him, he and Alaric went back to the quarry to claim Jenna's body.
Ric pulled the stake out, setting it on the ground beside her. Jeremy had never seen a vampire after it had been staked before; he wasn't expecting the withered, gray skin, the husk of the woman who had been his aunt. All of the dead he had seen before had been at funerals, carefully prepared to look like the people they had been.
This shell was not his aunt.
Jeremy wasn't sure when he started to cry, but suddenly he couldn't stop. He had only cried like this once before, the night Sheriff Forbes came to the house to tell him his family had been in an accident; Jeremy didn't even know how to stop himself, didn't know how he'd ever stop.
All he could think about was how he hadn't had a chance to say goodbye, how he had spent the past few days holed up with Bonnie, who hadn't really needed him at all. He should have been at the boardinghouse, should have been helping Jenna come to terms with all of this, should have been there when Katherine made the call which lured Jenna to her death.
Just like with his parents, he had failed to be there when it counted.
Ric pulled him into an embrace, and then they were both sobbing, the only humans left in their world of vampires, werewolves, witches, and doppelgangers, the men which were perpetually left behind.
When they were able to calm down, Jeremy carefully wrapped Jenna in her favorite blanket, making sure she was covered; Ric tenderly lifted her, lying her across the backseat of his car, taking her to the house where John's body rested.
Jeremy's last glimpse of Jenna was a few strands of hair which fell out of her blanket cocoon, strands of copper blowing in the breeze.
“What is going on with you?” Bonnie inquired during their nightly phone call. Her voice sounded a thousand miles away, something that had nothing to do with her actually being a thousand miles away and everything to do with the two ghosts staring at him judgmentally from across the room.
“Nothing. It's just been a long week. Work, you know?”
“This is more than work, Jer. You've been acting strange for weeks now. What's going on?”
Jeremy watched as Vicki quirked an eyebrow expectantly, an almost taunting expression on her face; Anna sadly shook her head, dark curls spilling across her cheeks.
“Everything really is fine,” he insisted. “I just miss you.”
They chatted for a few more minutes before Bonnie declared she loved him and hung up. Jeremy set down his phone, rubbing at his face, wishing the two women before him would just go away.
“God, you move on fast,” Vicki suddenly spat, the viciousness in her voice sharp enough to cut. “I wasn't even cold before you were climbing on this one. And how long after John planted that stake in her chest before you were putting the moves on St. Bonnie?”
“Leave him alone,” Anna ordered.
Vicki scoffed. “You think she loves you? She doesn't. There's a small pool of people who knows what's up with this town, and you're just the best option available. She'll never look at you as an equal, the same way none of the others do. You're always going to be Elena's baby brother.”
“I said leave him alone!” Anna roared, the strength of her anger making the power flicker.
“She'll die too,” Vicki declared softly, her voice sickeningly flat. “And when she does, she'll join us.”
“Why are you doing this?” Jeremy moaned into his hands, chest tightening. “Why won't you leave me alone?”
“She upset the balance,” was all Anna offered.
“And we're your consequence. You got us killed, Jer. You left me in that cemetery for Damon to kill me. You let Anna get staked in that basement, didn't even look for her. Bonnie wanted you back? Well, now she got us all back.”
Vicki disappeared but Anna remained, her beautiful face mournful. And then she whispered, “Vicki's right, you know.”
“She'll die too.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because everyone does - ”
Anna disappeared mid-sentence, letting the words dangle there unfinished, but Jeremy could complete the sentence without her, had completed the sentence a thousand times since May 23, 2009.
Because everyone does around you.