Chapter: 01 – Not Yet [Featured Characters: Elena, Damon, Stefan, Jeremy, Matt and Meredith]
Author: JenniferH (Arabian)
Rating: M (For future chapters/language, sex, violence)
Summary: Post 3.22 -- Elena grapples with who she is as a vampire, struggling for control as she tries to find herself and accept who she loves (spoiler: it's Damon!) while friends and enemies grapple with their own choices in this new world.
Word Count: 4,888
Disclaimer: The Vampire Diaries, and all her characters as presented, belong to Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec, the CW, etc., etc., so on and so forth. ;)
Notes: Thank you to my group of wonderful beta-readers who made this fic a ton better than it would have been otherwise. Following canon here, so there will be Stefan/Elena and as portrayed on the show, but fear not, this is very definitely a Damon/Elena story (with other pairings referenced, and some featured (Stefan/Rebekah, Matt/Rebekah, Stefan/Caroline).
After I had finally digested the season 03 finale, I began to think up where they could go from there, especially with regards to Damon and Elena. One narrative stuck in my head and as I continuing weaving it I became so fixated with two major turning points in the story that I just had to try and write it. I've immersed myself in this for the last two and half months, trying to avoid spoilers or even read other fic. I have a head-start of sorts on the story and am hoping that I can stay at this pace so that I can deliver chapters at a steady pace. I can't promise that will stay the case, but I'm going to try. :)
Chapter 01: Not Yet
Jeremy stood quietly just staring at her and Elena could only gaze back at him, all of the regret, the pain she was feeling bleeding from her eyes. His were teary, but his body trembled with relief and a smile flitted about his lips. He held out his hand to her and she found herself smiling back, her first genuine one since ... her mind skittered away. Not yet, she thought. I can't go there, not yet. She took a deep breath, marveling that she still could. She had never thought of that. She was dead but she was breathing.
"Elena," he said her name, his voice soft, bringing her back into the present. "Please come in." She stretched her arm toward her brother, her fingers reaching for his hand and she easily passed through the barrier. Thank goodness they'd put both her and Jeremy's names on the lease after Jenna's death even if his age technically made Jeremy's ownership less-than-legal. A little compulsion from Damon and the officer had contentedly added a 16-year-old to the official document.
"Jumping the gun there, kid. She doesn't need an invite until she fully transitions." Elena looked at Damon, who offered up a ghost of a smile.
"We didn't know," she said softly, unable to smile in return. Stepping inside, Elena expected it to feel different, but it all felt, looked the same. There were the stairs just to her right, the entrance to the kitchen to her left, and the living room ahead. Beside her was the shelf full of pictures and bric-a-brac, the stupid bowl full of fake, fuzzy fruit. Absentmindedly, she let her fingers brush over their surface, wondering if it would start to feel ... more now or only after she fully transitioned. A shudder ran through her body at the thought. Jeremy reached for her, but Damon swiftly stepped inside and between them, an apologetic look on his face.
"Too soon, Jere, she might …" Damon's fangs popped out for a split-second, and Jeremy nodded in understanding, moving back.
Elena heard Stefan hesitantly enter behind her and then Meredith's low heels clicking on the floor. The doctor moved to Jeremy and gave him a hug; Elena heard her whisper that it would be alright. She wondered if that was thanks to vampire hearing or if any human could. So many questions, she thought. So much I don't know, and then a quick, unbidden surge of anger towards Stefan for keeping so much of what a vampire was from her. She knew bits and pieces, but most of what she knew she'd learned from Damon or Caroline. Not Stefan. Never Stefan, the eternal boy.
She laughed, and now she was the eternal girl. Well, eternal young adult. "At least I'm legal," she muttered.
Everyone was quiet, the silence building before Jeremy broke it, his voice high with anxiety. "So, you're not a vampire?"
Damon shook his head. "Not yet, Jeremy. She needs to feed." He reached out and touched Elena's arm. She was still and then she turned towards him, flashing back to when she'd first seen him upon waking.
Elena jerked upright, releasing a huge gasp. She looked to her side and there was Stefan, steady, safe Stefan, but with a haunted look in his eyes. She didn't know where they were, why she felt like this, what had happened. The last thing she remembered was Rebekah standing on the bridge, the truck going down, the weight of the water trapping her again, and then Stefan. Elena turned to fully face him, the first round of questions on her lips when the doors burst open and Damon came rushing in.
Amidst everything, all of her confusion and pain, there was a sudden rush of relief so intense that she closed her eyes at the feel of it spreading throughout her body. She remembered in that moment that he was supposed to be dead, she had said goodbye to him, broken his heart for the last time. She remembered – her eyes flew open and she looked back at Stefan. They were both supposed to be dead.
Stefan shut the door behind the group of them and cleared his throat. Elena tore her gaze from Damon to look at … well, she supposed he was her boyfriend again. They'd never officially broken up anyway, but attempted murder and a general air of douchbaggery pretty much signaled a relationship's end. But when he was safe, steady Stefan once more, Elena chose that safe and steady and now she had a vampire boyfriend again.
And he had a vampire girlfriend again.
Elena laughed and this time it was very nearly a giggle with a hint of hysteria that she quickly stifled. Damon's fingers tightened momentarily and Stefan cleared his throat even louder. She dropped her arm from Damon's grasp, his touch starting to burn and faced Stefan. His eyes were kind, sad and so full of sorrow. His brow was furrowed and she suddenly wanted to cry.
She didn't want to be a vampire. As if reading her mind Stefan finally spoke, reminding her again. "You don't have to do this."
Jeremy made a low sound, an incoherent cry. Without looking to him, she straightened her shoulders and nodded slightly. "Yes, I do. I do, Stefan." Why are you telling me I don't? Why are you making it harder? She wanted to scream at him, but swallowed it into a bitter thought.
She turned to Damon. "We don't have any blood bags here."
Before he could respond, Jeremy took a step forward and piped up, "you can drink my blood." Elena looked at him. He nodded, his gaze sincere. "I want you to."
"Elena …" Stefan began, his unspoken words telling her that she didn't have to do this. She could just not transition, die a natural human death and leave Jeremy all alone. No parents, no aunt or uncle, no guardian, no one who loved him completely, who he loved in turn. She didn't even bother speaking again; she just gave a sharp shake of her head and turned to her brother.
"I won't drink from you," she held up a hand before Jeremy could protest, "but if you put it in a glass -–" Elena paused, and fought a sudden wave of weakness. She was so tired, aching so badly, having been in the not-quite-a-vampire phase yet for almost two hours now.
"That's a good fucking question!" Damon spit out angrily, sparing a glance at his brother before turning his gaze back to Elena.
She looked at him beseechingly, without words begging him to calm down. He was still for a long moment and then he nodded sharply, releasing an unsteady breath. Elena sent a smile his way. "Thank you," she whispered, and then louder. "I thought -– I thought that Klaus was dead, and all of you …" Elena trailed off.
Damon shook his head. "I guess Klaus wasn't our great times a thousand grand-pappy after all."
"But Ric, he's --" she couldn't finish. Damon gave her a terse nod and looked away as she began to silently cry. He turned to his brother, an edge in his voice. "Your turn."
Elena wiped at her tears and took a deep breath. She looked at Stefan who remained silent. "What happened? I just remember being on the bridge. Matt was driving. We were in his truck." She stopped and closed her eyes, seeing Rebekah standing before them, the headlights shining brightly on her. Elena swallowed deeply, noting a steady ache in her mouth when she did so. She pushed through, not stopping to question it. "Rebekah was there, Matt swerved and then we --" she couldn't continue for a moment, her lips pressed tight.
"The truck crashed through the bridge and you were in the water. Elena, I'm so sorry," Stefan nearly whispered; there was anguish lodged in every syllable. "I couldn't get to you in time. I couldn't save you."
Damon swore angrily in a low, fast murmur. Elena glanced at him. He stood stock still, but he was positively vibrating with emotion, his fists clenched tight. She had to look away.
"Matt? Where's Matt?"
"He's -- he's fine, Elena." Stefan's voice was still low and there was something, something she knew that he wasn't saying. Her eyes flitted close as she tried to remember and then she did. I told him to save Matt, not me and he did. Oh, thank God, he did. But … "Why am I here? Stefan?" Her voice started to rise as the implications of his words -- 'I couldn't save you' -- began to sink in. "I should be dead." Damon practically hissed from the edge of the metal table she lay upon. She gazed down at the gurney. "I'm in the morgue," she breathed. "Oh, God! I'm dead, but --" Elena broke off and looked to Damon.
"The good doctor gave you some vamp blood for your undisclosed apparently near-fatal concussion earlier." Then he let out a soft sigh, and his voice lowered, the edge disappearing. "Elena?"
She wouldn't look up.
"Elena, look at me."
She wouldn't. She wouldn't look up, she wouldn't face him, wouldn't hear the words. Not yet.
"Elena," Stefan said, pain in his voice and Elena couldn't deny them both, but she couldn't deal with the heartbreak on Stefan's face. He never wanted this for me. He knew I didn't want this. She raised her head and met Damon's piercing gaze. He nodded, his lips parting and she knew that nothing would ever be the same once he spoke.
"You're not dead, Elena. You're in transition." And he didn't mean what he said next, she knew he didn't really, but she appreciated that he said the words none-the-less. "I'm sorry."
"If you want me to stay …" Meredith offered. Before she could respond, Damon stepped up.
"Yeah, no, you've done enough. Thank you, on your way."
"Damon --" she began, but he shook his head sharply. Elena watched their interaction, as if from a distance.
"I know, I know," he said, his tone softer now. "You go home, sleep and I'll deal with the council and the mess that Ric left behind." There was just the slightest catch on his best friend's name. "Don't go into work tomorrow, though. I've got to pull stuff together first before I dazzle them into obedience with my charm and take advantage of their cluelessness." He smirked, doing that eye thing of his.
He's being so kind, Elena thought, even as she felt a completely ridiculous flicker of jealousy. He's showing her the Damon only I see. He's not pretending to be the big jackass that everyone is supposed to hate. Was it Ric's death? Mine that is making him drop the act? She almost asked him, but then Jeremy called out from the kitchen, asking how much blood was needed. She shuddered, her stomach clenching, her jaws aching at the very mention of the word.
Elena couldn't turn to Stefan, who had closed the door behind Meredith and she could feel the weight of his stare upon her, the reminder that she could just die. She looked desperately at Damon, his attention once more focused on her. "I don't know," she whispered. "Not a lot, Damon. I don't want to drink -- please, just what I need. Please." Tears danced at the corners of her eyes, her throat felt raw. Her body was so heavy. Please don't fight me on this, she thought. Please.
He nodded, and reached out, his fingers cupping her face. She moved closer, breathing in the feel of him. He would take care of her, she knew that he would. He always did.
"Elena," Stefan murmured and she felt a sudden pierce of guilt. She chose Stefan, she chose to be with him and here she was turning to Damon, relying on Damon, accepting comfort from Damon. She stepped back and turned away. The distance between them suddenly felt like a million miles.
"You two wait here," Damon’s words were clipped, emotionless, as he looked past her gaze. "I'll help Jeremy measure." He almost smirked, but couldn't quite pull it off. Instead, his mouth tightened into a bitter line and he walked away just like he had in the morgue.
Before she could respond to Damon, Meredith came rushing in. Elena looked at the doctor, knowing that she was here, that she would be a vampire because of this woman. "What did you do?" Elena asked, the anger she expected wasn't there, but rather pain.
Meredith was quiet, her expression filled with such apology that she was near tears. "I'm sorry, Elena, I never – I never meant for this to happen to you. I'm so sorry."
"Sorry," scoffed Stefan. "You shouldn't have done it." His voice was low, resentment at the situation simmering in every word. "You have no right to be playing God with people's lives."
"Oh, shut up, Stefan. Elena's still here, that's what matters." Damon shrugged. "It would have happened anyway eventually." He spared a look of bitterness towards Elena. "After all, you can't have always without forever."
"Stop it!" Meredith cried out. "The paramedics who brought Elena in don't know anything about the vampire situation, but the higher-ups do and if they hear about a girl who was brought in dead but is walking around looking very much alive, they'll figure out that Elena is --" she paused and took a deep breath, "they'll figure it out."
She looked up at Damon. "I tested their blood. They don't have vervain in their system so you can compel them. They have to believe that she and Matt both lived."
Damon nodded, then cocked his head to the side, confusion clouding his face. "Wait, the higher-ups know what?"
Sighing, she bit her lip and quickly brushed a tear away. "I didn't get to tell you yet with…" she waved her hands around, "everything, but Ric warned me yesterday that the council, including members of the hospital board, know about what I've been doing. They're going to get the medical board to revoke my license." She let out a shaky breath. "Damon, I think the council knows everything."
"Right, right, they know about Blondie and wolf-boy, and that Liz and Carol know about Blondie and wolf-boy. Psycho!Ric probably told them about me and Stefan too." He began pacing the room. "Think, think."
"Think later," Meredith bit out, and then added with a worried frown, "well, not too much later. Now you have to compel those paramedics and get Elena out of here."
Elena slowly slid off the gurney. "You do that Damon, I have to go see Matt before I leave."
She expected him to argue but he just nodded and walked out. Meredith trailed behind him, leaving Elena alone with Stefan in the tension-filled room.
"Please, don't try and change my mind. Jeremy needs me." Elena faced Stefan, trying to smile. "And, we'll have forever." Her smile wouldn't come. Unbidden, the thought danced in her mind, I never wanted forever with you. If guilt had pierced before, now it stabbed her in the gut. She pushed past it. "I chose you, Stefan. I was coming back to Mystic Falls to you."
He didn't point out that by making that choice, she died. Neither did Elena. Stefan simply nodded, smiled and then folded her in his arms. It didn't feel right; she didn't feel safe … not anymore. You let me die, she thought, but said, "You saved Matt."
"You wanted me to." He paused, and she could see the guilt was still there, the fear that as time passed she would realize that she hated him for letting her die. She couldn't do that to him. He had too much guilt, too many demons weighing him down. He respected her decision; he accepted what she chose. She couldn't, wouldn't fault him for that. "You did, Elena?" The press for reassurance broke her heart. She couldn't break his.
"Of course, you did what I asked you to." Leaning up, she gave him a quick kiss. "Thank you." A quick smile ghosted his lips, and the warmth and love in his eyes reminded her exactly why she chose him.
Leaning in, he pressed his forehead against hers, murmuring softly. "I do love you, Elena."
"I love you too," she whispered back, but her eyes closed and she choked back a cry because their declarations didn't wrap her up in the same warmth of only six months ago. Still she nodded, determinedly reinforcing her words, and wrapped her arms tightly around him.
"If you two are done making up for lost time, we've got a vampire to make."
Elena pulled away from Stefan and turned to Damon, but was unable to meet his gaze. She mused that maybe the first thing she should do as a vampire was switch her damn emotions off because making a choice hadn't made things easier. She shook the thought away and nodded at Damon, Jeremy hovering behind him. "Let's do this."
The four of them walked up the stairs. She expected it to feel like the longest climb, but in seconds they were in her room. She and Jeremy looked at each other nervously, a small glass of red liquid in his hand. Stefan looked out the window while Damon leaned against the doorjamb, nonchalant boredom faked across his face. Moments passed and no one did anything. With a roll of his eyes and a quick movement, Damon plucked the glass from Jeremy and handed it to Elena.
She looked up at him, fear taking hold and then the smell of her brother's blood flooded her senses. She felt the heavy pooling beneath her eyes and the sharp pinch as her fangs popped out for the first time. She let out a cry, mirrored by Jeremy's response. There was a thud to her left, Stefan hitting the wall.
"I should have saved you." Stefan's head was bowed. "I went back for you, I did, but it was too late. You were gone, Elena," his voice cracked, full of emotion and he was so the boy that she fell for that Elena's heart was flooded with relief again, this time at the realization that Stefan was still here and not gone, taken with Klaus' destruction.
She took a deep breath, easily falling back into the role of the concerned, absolving girlfriend. "You would have if you could. I know that, Stefan." He looked up then, the touch of uncertainty lessened in his eyes now. "I needed you to save Matt, and you did." He was quiet, but nodded, managing a smile. Elena sat still for a moment longer before turning and easing herself off of the gurney. Stefan rushed to her, but she stood steady. "I'm fine," she assured him. "And speaking of Matt, I do want to see him."
"Of course you do."
She looked around the room, the morgue, struck anew that she was ... gone. She sighed. "Does he know? About me?"
Pausing, she let out an unsteady breath. Her head tilted slightly to the side, and she felt a heaviness begin to develop behind her eyes. "And Jeremy?"
"I didn't tell him, but Dr. Fell did. She called him when we came in, but told him not to come here because it could bring too much attention to your, uh … you." Elena wiped away a teary streak. "He's waiting at home for you," Stefan hesitated, and then reached out to hold her hands. "Elena, he'll be there waiting. For whatever you decide to do."
She shook her head. "Do?" And then in a rush, her eyes widened and she gasped. "I don't have to ..." she trailed off as he shook his head, his soft eyes full of sympathy. And pain, but there was understanding as well.
"Not if you don't want to." He blinked quickly, and his eyes watered, but no tears fell. He even managed another halfhearted smile for her benefit. "It's your decision."
Elena pulled away. She turned to face the wall, bringing her hands to her face as she realized what he was saying, what she could decide and what it would mean, who she would be leaving behind. Stefan, Damon, Bonnie, Caroline.
"Oh God, Jeremy," she cried and her decision was made. She couldn't leave him alone. Elena shut her eyes tight and didn't fight the tears, mourning her humanity, allowing herself the moment to regret her decision. And then she was done. She took a deep breath, straightened her back and wiped her tears away. Turning to face Stefan, she threw on a shaky smile and nodded. "I have to. For Jeremy."
"Elena, you don't have to decide right now. You can think --"
"I need to see Matt." Her voice was sharper than she intended, but she couldn't, she wouldn't second-guess herself.
Stefan closed his eyes, his mouth a grim line. Then he nodded. "I'll go with you."
She shook her head. "No, you go find Damon, take care of everything. After what Meredith said, we can't have any loose ends. Besides, Matt probably isn't too happy with you right now." A flash of pained regret crossed his face. "No, you did what I wanted, but he --" she sighed. "He probably won't understand, not right now, so I think it's best you just ... don't come." She reached out and grabbed onto his hand for a quick squeeze of comfort. "I'll meet you guys in the parking lot, OK? About twenty minutes. Then we'll go home, and do what has to be done."
"You don't ..." he tried again.
"I do." Elena nodded firmly. "For Jeremy."
Damon lifted the glass, bringing the blood closer. Elena's body trembled, screaming for the taste. She couldn't move.
"Elena, please." Jeremy's voice dropped to a whisper, and she could hear the threat of tears in his tone. "I can't lose you."
She nodded, but had one more question before she took the blood. "Will I get kicked out the house once I drink this? Or is there a time delay?"
From her left, Stefan's voice was low. "It will take an hour or so before the blood fully transitions in your system. Jeremy will have to invite you in later."
Elena let out a shaky breath and accepted the glass, her gaze never leaving Damon's steady look as she downed the few mouthfuls. A sensation unlike any she'd ever felt before filled every part of her. She could feel the blood running, racing, dancing through her veins. The taste buds on her tongue flared in her mouth, Damon's eyes suddenly looked brighter, more beautiful than ever before. She absently dropped the glass and reached up, her fingers tracing the inhuman beauty of his face.
"Is she done, Damon?" Jeremy's plaintive voice broke through her trance and she turned to look at him, a cry escaping her. Oh, Jeremy, she thought. My baby brother, you're so young, so precious, I love you so much. Elena took a step towards him and found her attention immediately captured by the cut on his arm. He smelled like heaven. And then a new scent distracted her. She turned; Damon had bitten into his own wrist and the smell of his blood was filling the air and it was different, but interesting.
He moved to Jeremy and told him to drink up. She heard Jeremy's protest as if from a distance, Damon's sniping response that if he didn't heal up that fresh cut, the temptation would be too much and he'd be his sister's first real-live snack from the source. Elena recoiled at the image his words presented. She flung herself onto her bed.
"No." She gulped, breathed heavily and felt her veins smooth out, her fangs recede. "Don't give him vampire blood. Jeremy, go to the bathroom and clean up. I'm fine." She looked up at Damon who had an eyebrow raised in skepticism. "I'm fine. I just need something to control the edge." Her mind went searching.
“Here,” Damon said as he walked over to the dresser and picked up a bottle he'd apparently brought up with him. “Scotch. It will help.” Picking up the fallen glass, he filled it to the rim and handed her the drink. She gulped it down quickly, not even feeling the burn.
Jeremy came out of the bathroom, smelling of antiseptic sitting atop the blood, but she was fine. I'm fine, she thought vehemently.
"You're fine? Really, Elena? I just -- God, I could kill Stefan. I could just -–" Matt broke off, his face red, tears wetting his cheeks.
"I'm fine, Matt." She held back tears of her own. "Stefan did what I asked him to. He saved you. If you had died because of me, I couldn't have lived with that."
"And I can? I took you out of town to begin with. It was my fault."
"Yes, it was! Jeremy and I planned it all behind your back. If I hadn't ..." He trailed off, unable to speak, too choked up.
Elena leaned forward, and pulled him into a hug. "No, Matt. This is not your fault. Not yours, not Jeremy's."
He shook out of her grasp and looked her straight in the eyes. "Elena, this is wrong. I shouldn't be here." He pulled his arms free and punched the bed angrily. "You should be here. It should be you in this hospital bed with these stupid needles stuck in you. Alive. Stefan should have --" he broke off again, shaking his head.
"No, Matt, I wanted him to save you."
"I'm sorry, Elena, but I don't care what you wanted and Stefan shouldn't have either. You save the girl you love." He scoffed. "Not her ex-boyfriend."
"Matt," she began, but he was still talking.
"And Rebekah? God, I'm so stupid. I'm such an idiot. You know I thought she kinda liked me. But, nope, hey, Matt, why don't you take another dive?" His voice dropped to a low mutter. "I hate vampires." And then he shook his head, "Elena, I -– I'm sorry."
"No, no. Everything that's happened, it's my fault." She sniffed back tears. "I'm so sorry," she whispered.
He shook his head. "It's not, Elena. None of this is. You're just as much caught up in this crazy mess as all of us. This started hundreds of years ago, right? We're just, I dunno, the consequences. I don't blame you. I don't hate you." He swiped at his tears and took a deep breath. "I don't even hate vampires. Not Caroline, not even Damon, and I don't, I couldn't hate you, no matter what you are."
"Matt, he was doing what I wanted."
"I'm sorry, Elena, but I'm not ready to not hate Stefan right now. He should have saved you, not me." He offered a bitter smile. "Damon would have saved you."
She looked down, biting her lip. "I know. And I don't know if I could have forgiven him for it."
Matt looked at her; he wore a bittersweet smile. "You would have. You always forgive. Even Damon." He nudged her with his hand until she looked up. "Especially Damon."
"OK, kiddies, time to go." Damon clapped his hands.
"Wait, what?" Jeremy looked up, confused.
Elena shook her head. "Damon, I'm not leaving my home."
Squinting his eyes, and with a click of his tongue, he nodded. "Yeah, you are." Before she could protest, he held up placating hands and continued, "you'll wake up and be thrown out of here because you haven't been invited in --"
"But I did," Jeremy protested, clearly not having been paying attention earlier, Elena thought with a sigh, realizing that Damon was right. Damn him.
"As a vampire, fully-transitioned." Damon finished with a look Jeremy's way. "So, you stay at the boarding house without the presence of baby brother's succulent blood to tempt you and we get you started on the road to calm, cool and in control vampire-dom. Then we can try and return you to some semblance of normal."
Elena looked over at Stefan. He nodded, and out of the corner of her eye, she saw Damon stiffen slightly. She ignored the tension between the brothers and looked towards hers. "Jeremy, are you OK with that? Will you be alright alone?"
He hesitated for a moment, and then met Damon's gaze. After a silent exchange between the two, he looked back to Elena and nodded. "Yeah, I'll be good. You need to take care of yourself right now." He stood up and began to walk to her, then stopped. "Uh, I'd hug you, but you might …" he mimed a vampire attack and laughed nervously. Damon was the only one who joined him.
Shaking his head, he clapped Jeremy on the shoulder. "No sense of humor, these two, Jere." Elena noticed that it seemed to comfort her brother. She wiped away a tear and stood up herself.
"OK," her gaze swept the room, including both Stefan and Damon. "Let's go."