Chapter: 04 - She's Not Katherine [Featured Characters: Elena, Damon, Stefan, Caroline, Bonnie and TyKlaus]
Author: JenniferH (Arabian)
Rating: M (For 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 her friends and enemies grapple with their own choices in this new world.
Word Count: 8,089
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, Jeremy/Bonnie).
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. :)
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Chapter 04: She's Not Katherine
Damon leaned his forehead against hers, breathing heavily. He was spent, satisfied beyond measure by the fan-fucking-tastic sex he'd just had with Elena Gilbert. Elena. Fucking. Gilbert. He wanted to look at her. He wanted to say her name. He wanted to tell her that he loved her. He wanted to sweep her up in his arms and carry her to his bed and make love to her for the rest of eternity.
He did none of the above. Because he knew. He absolutely, positively knew that the second he spoke, moved, did anything at all that she would freak the fuck out. Whatever tight rein she'd had on her feelings for him, heightened vampire emotions so raw and uncontrollable had clearly taken over. Even as he wanted to glory in the fact that she *did* have feelings for him – and strong ones at that – he knew that she would hate herself. And probably him once reality descended and it hit her that she had just been fucked and good by her boyfriend's brother. The guy that she didn't choose.
So he was still and silent. He wanted to savor this moment, savor the girl of his dreams in his arms, breathing him in, holding him tightly inside of her. He didn't want to let go of the moment. Ever.
Ever didn't last very long.
She shifted a little, a light moan escaping as he slipped out of her. He waited for reality to smack her upside the head. One. Two. Three.
"OH MY GOD!"
And there it was.
Elena shoved at Damon, once again clearly forgetting her new strength, and sent him flying ignominiously across the room, jeans tangled around his damn ankles. Fuck, he thought as he scrambled to his feet with as much grace as he could muster.
Pulling himself together, he stayed where he was, eying her warily. She'd jerked her own jeans up, shakily zipping and buttoning as her eyes flew around the room looking anywhere but at him. It was obvious when they alighted upon her underwear – a sweet pink bikini pair – because they widened and the most delightful blush painted her face.
Elena stood still, staring at the discarded item for a ridiculously long amount of time. She took a step forward as if planning to retrieve them before appearing to reconsider and leaning back against the door.
Just as it had been when they returned to the boarding house earlier, Damon supposed it was up to him to break the silence. He knew that if he didn't and it grew to an unbearable length that Elena would begin to internalize and don the self-flagellating role of sacrificial victim that she had too easily taken on since her parents died. She was going to feel guilty as hell. Possibly as guilty as she ever had because unlike the death and destruction lurking behind every corner due to the whole ‘Look at me, I'm a doppelganger!' thing, this had not been beyond her control.
At least, she certainly wouldn't see it that way. He disagreed, but this wouldn't be the first time that their take on incidents differed. He'd accepted a long time ago that there was something real and undeniable between them. No matter how hard she tried to fight it, to pretend it wasn't there, it kept rising to the surface. And he should have realized. He absolutely should have realized that the two of them without any distractions or interruptions so soon after her turning was *not* a good idea. There was no way that she could have controlled herself once things grew tense between them as they invariably did whenever they were alone.
But everything in the last few hours had been even crazier than their norm that Damon hadn't realized. And so here they were, standing ten feet apart, both of them still smelling of hot sex. And while he knew she was suffering through a storm of regret to say that he felt any at all would be a lie. And the one thing in which he took great pride was that he was always honest with himself.
Sure, he knew that he *should* be sorry, but he wasn't. Not one bit.
Even though he was confident that eventually he and Elena would tackle this *thing* – especially with the possibility of forever stretching before them – he wasn't expecting it to happen anytime soon. So, yeah, call him an asshole, but when years could pass before she was willing to give them a chance, he wasn't going to regret having her now this once.
Even if she would. And of course, *of course,* she would. He needed to find the right words to say that would keep her off the ledge. Stepping forward, he sighed. The soft sound drew her attention to him before she could stop from looking in his direction. She blinked quickly, tears slipping down her cheeks.
"Elena, it's OK."
She shook her head forcefully, tears coming faster. Damon began to walk to her, but she pushed herself back hard into the door, her hands raising to stop him. So he stopped.
"You're a vampire now." Elena nodded, squeezing her eyes shut. "I know that you know that things are heightened, amplified. That's what happened here."
She looked at him, that damn guilt written all over her face. "So what? This doesn't matter? This didn't happen? I didn't just – we didn't just ..." she threw her hands out, her voice dropping to a whisper. "This?"
He couldn't stay still. He couldn't stand there, see her in such devastation and do nothing. Before Elena could react, he rushed to her and had her in his arms, raining soothing touches and murmurs upon her. She wrapped her arms around his waist, and buried her head in the crook of his shoulder, sobbing.
They stood there, neither speaking, just holding onto one another before she finally pulled back and met his gaze. "This isn't me. This is wrong." Her voice broke. "Damon, this isn't me. I'm *not* Katherine."
"I know, I know." And then he felt the guilt and regret sweep through him. Fuck his baser instincts, he loved this girl more than anything ever and she was hurting because he couldn't fucking restrain himself. He knew better. He didn't have the excuse of being a new vampire. No, he was just a selfish bastard who wanted her so damn badly that he gave in when she lost control.
Lifting his hands, he cupped her face and looked intently into her eyes. "Elena, you are a new vampire. You can't control what you're feeling. All of it, everything that you feel in such vivid color ... that's what being a vampire is all about. And you get used to it. You do. But," he broke off, wiping away the tears that streaked by his thumb, "you're so new. Just a few hours old.
"When you're used to it, when you get a grip on what it means to be a vampire, this kind of thing won't happen. I promise you."
She shook her head slowly. "But why?" Her face crumpled. "Why did this happen? Why did we? I didn't mean ..."
"Elena, there is something between us. We know that and it's been here for awhile and it's been building. Before, when you were human, you could just shove it aside. You convinced yourself it wasn't there, that it wasn't real. But because of our proximity, because we were fighting and things got tense, your ... your feelings for me were amplified."
"Anger. Frustration. Lust. And other softer emotions we won't name."
"But I love Stefan."
God, it hurt. It was like she had just stabbed him straight in the heart. He knew that she hadn't meant to. She was most definitely not Katherine, who sought to sting whenever the chance presented itself. Elena would never seek to hurt anyone so desperately. He knew that. After all, it wasn't as if it was some secret. He knew. Dear Lord, how he knew that she loved his brother. And right now she was confused and guilty and just trying to understand why the hell she just fucked him if it was always going to be Stefan. He got that and he didn't feel even a second of anger towards her. But it still hurt like a son-of-a-bitch hearing the words so baldly stated as she stood there in the circle of his arms, the smell of sex clinging to them.
Damon shoved down the hurt. Right now, this was about Elena.
"You do, of course you do. But, Elena, you care about me too and things just got out of hand."
She laughed, a note of hysteria there. She pulled his arms down, his hands falling from her face and she slipped out of his embrace. Running her hand through her hair, she covered her mouth, trying to push back her laughter. Elena looked at him, her face streaked with tears that wouldn't stop falling. "Out of hand?" She managed. "Out of hand, Damon." She let out a long, sobering breath. "You just fucked me against your bedroom door. I'd call that a little more than ‘out of hand.'"
"Elena ..." He moved toward her, but she sidestepped him.
"I can't do this. I can't do any of this. I –"
"Elena, I know you're upset –"
"Upset? Yeah, upset's not quite the word. Ric is dead. Matt almost died. I died. Now I'm a vampire. And I just had sex with my boyfriend's brother like five seconds after I recommitted to Stefan."
Turning away from him, she reached for the doorknob.
"Elena, don't go. Not like this. Not when you're still feeling like this. We can talk. We can --"
She turned to face him. "Do what? There's nothing we can do, nothing we can say. Nothing can fix this." She shook her head. "I have to go."
"Yes! I have to go! I'm going home. To my home." She paused, briefly closing her eyes, gathering herself. When she spoke again, her voice was measured, almost calm. "I'm not going to touch Jeremy. Then I will see Stefan tomorrow and I will tell him." And then a note of panic drove her voice higher. "And then I don't know what."
Damon held himself still, fighting the urge to take her in his arms again. She'd made it quite clear that in his arms was the last place she wanted to be right now. Forget that, he thought. If she could fly to another continent right now, she'd be gone already. But he couldn't let her go, not in the state she was in. "Stay in a guest room. Hell, stay in Stefan's room."
She numbly shook her head. He sighed. "Elena, you shouldn't be near a human tonight."
"I can't stay here now. I'll tell Jeremy to go to Matt's, OK?"
He sighed again, his mind racing. He didn't want her to go. He had a no good, very bad feeling that if she left here without them resolving anything that Elena Gilbert's life could actually get a whole lot worse.
"Damon," she cried out, interrupting his flow of thoughts. A fresh flood of tears tracked down her face. "I can't stay here!"
He couldn't resist her, not when she was practically begging him to let her go. Not when she was falling apart right in front of his eyes. He tried to convince himself. Maybe it's the right call. Maybe she needs to be in her home, in her bed, among her things. Maybe that will help.
"Damon," she all but whispered, those doe eyes of hers pleading with him. So, of course, he caved. Of course.
Against his better judgment, against his instincts screaming to keep her there, he nodded. "Go." He shut his eyes, already feeling regret.
When he opened them, she was already gone.
Caroline flicked through photos on her phone of Tyler, Tyler and herself, Tyler and Matt – some even going back to when she was dating the latter. She wiped at the tears that just kept falling. She kept seeing the closed-off expression on Tyler's face as he pushed her to leave him to die all alone down there. It wasn't fair; none of this was fair. Vampires, werewolves, crazy spells. God, to think that one year ago her biggest concern was getting the Founder's Day float absolutely perfect. What she wouldn't give for a parade-related headache tonight.
The phone slipped from her fingers onto her bed. Caroline rested her head back against her wicker headboard. Just as she did, her doorbell rang and her eyes popped open. Even though she knew that it couldn't possibly be Tyler, nothing could squelch the hope that arose in her like a firestorm. Jumping to her feet, she practically flew to the door, flinging it open with barely restrained strength.
"Hey," said someone who was not Tyler. Her heart dropped.
"Hey, Stefan." She tried to smile, because they were still alive, but on the heels of that thought was the reminder that Tyler was not. Her face crumpled, tears fell just as she fell into Stefan's arms. He wrapped her up, murmuring sounds of comfort.
In between her sobs, she talked into his shoulder. "We're still here. We're alive and I should totally be grate – grateful for that." She nodded, her face smushed against his dark shirt. "And I am, I am grateful, but Tyler is go-o-o-one. He's gone, Stefan. When I left him, his face, God, his face." She buried herself deeper into his arms, her sobs taking over.
"Ssh, ssh," he whispered as he brushed a hand over her hair and held her tighter with his other arm. Taking comfort from his touch, she calmed down just the slightest, but the thoughts that kept running in circles in her mind begged to be released.
"I wanted to stay with him until the end, you know, but he wouldn't let me. He just pushed me away, made me leave." Shaking her head, she forced herself to pull up and pull away as her cowardice hit her, and now instead of a slow, steady drip of words, they flew from her so quickly that she practically tripped over them. "What is wrong with me? I never should have left him. I should go. I should go back to him. I have to go. I need to be with him. He could still be –"
"Caroline," Stefan interrupted, gripping her shoulders in both hands. She looked at him, meeting his gaze and waited for his acquiescence.
She didn't get it.
"Sage and that other one, they were gone within an hour of Finn dying." He was so calm, so logical. But Caroline wasn't listening.
"But Tyler's a hybrid! It could be different."
"Caroline," he shook his head slightly, his face soft with compassion.
"Stefan! It could be!" She jerked away from his hold, anger shading her normally smiling eyes.
"It's been over four hours. He would have called you by now otherwise." His voice lowered, and his brow furrowed in sympathy. "He's gone, Caroline." Reaching out, he pulled her into another hug. "I'm sorry." As he clung to her, she had the sense that he was holding onto her for himself as much as her. For all they had gone through in the last few days, weeks, months.
Caroline took a deep breath, and then another. And then one more. Her voice was soft and muffled, but of course he heard her. "I was just thinking, before you came, that a year ago I was *so* upset because the Founder's Day parade committee wouldn't let me wear a recreation of Scarlett's curtain dress because they were afraid of copyright or something." Pulling away slightly, Caroline met his somber gaze. "That's the thing I was the most upset about."
"I know, I know." He nodded, his tone as gentle and comforting as the tender rubbing of her back.
Sighing, she stepped back and wiped at her tears. Stefan followed her inside, closing the door behind him, his expression somber. Looking at him, she suddenly wondered what he was doing there, why he had come to her. Ever since he'd gone to the dark side, they'd barely spent any time together and so that it was him that showed up to comfort her was a bit of a surprise. Surprise enough that she couldn't help but ask him about it because she figured there was probably more to why he was there then remembering seemingly out of the blue that they were friends.
"Stefan, not that I'm not grateful, but why are you here? I mean, with me? I appreciate it, I do, but you've kinda been keeping your distance with your whole, you know, ripper thing." She smiled to take any unintended sting out of her words because, really, the guy looked miserable, brow furrowed more than usual.
He sighed and offered up a weak smile of his own. "I know I bailed on everyone. Not just Elena and Damon. I'm sorry." She nodded, offering understanding with just a look. "With everything else going on I thought maybe you could use someone. Because of Tyler."
"Thank you, but ..." she began, thinking, thinking. He should be with Elena right now, Elena needs him. "You shouldn't be here. You should be with Elena right now. I do, I appreciate you stopping by, but Stefan, go to Elena, things have been so bad for her, let at least one of us have some happiness. You're still here, Stefan, I can't imagine how relieved she is." she managed a watery smile. "You should go, be with her. I expect Matt to stop by any time actually."
He parted his lips, paused and just shook his head before finally speaking. "Caroline, I have to tell you something."
No, she thought. Something in his tone told her that she did not want to hear what he was going to say. Can I handle any more bad news? I do not think so. She shook her head slightly, desperate to stop Stefan from talking. "Oh, no. No. I can't."
He pursed his lips, a pained determination filling those puppy dog eyes of his. God! She took a very, very deep breath. "What?"
Biting his lip, Stefan looked at her, and he was tearing up and she could not, did not even want to imagine what had him so upset.
"Elena's a vampire."
That would do it.
Caroline was quiet, shock flooding through her as she tried to take in what he was saying. She opened her mouth to respond, but found herself at a loss for words. She looked away, and then down at her feet, back up to him, skirting away from the pain on his face, circling around the room. Elena is a vampire? The words kept repeating on loop in her mind. Finally, she broke through, managing one word, full of incredulity. "What?"
He sighed, and slipped his hands in his pockets, switching his weight back and forth on both feet as the silence grew.
"Stefan? What the hell?!"
"Matt and Elena crashed on Wickery Bridge."
"Oh my God!"
"I was there in time to see the truck go down. I went after them," he paused, guilt overcoming his features. "And Elena wanted me to save Matt."
Confusion filled her as she digested what he was saying. "So you saved Matt?" It was a question, but judging by his expression, clearly it was not one he wanted asked. She rephrased and kept the question mark out of her voice this time. "So you did."
"Yes," he responded, a touch of defensiveness there. "She wanted me to."
"Right." He saved Matt and not Elena. I don't understand. I am confused.
Clearly reading her bewilderment, Stefan hastened to explain, a plea for understanding in his tone. "When I went back for her, God, Caroline, I thought I'd have time. She was -- it was too late." His voice broke, and tears slipped down his cheeks.
"Oh, Stefan. Oh." She moved to him, enfolding him in her arms, her turn to provide support. She pulled back and tried to smile at him. "But she's OK, right? She had vampire blood in her system? I mean, did Damon ...?"
"No, no. When she hit her head, it was worse than Dr. Fell let on. She gave Elena vampire blood to heal her. She would have died otherwise." Stefan let out a humorless bark of laughter and stepped out of her embrace. "She would have died otherwise," he repeated slowly.
"Oh, oh, I see." She managed a genuine smile. "Of course, I get it."
He wiped the tears away. "What?"
"You knew Elena had vampire blood in her system. So you saved Matt. Wait! Matt?! He's OK?"
"Yeah, he is." He paused, a twinge of confusion crossing his face. "Actually, yeah, he's doing remarkably well. Barely a scratch on him."
Despite their losses that night, her smile burned bright for a moment at the news. "Good, good." And then what had happened to Mr. Saltzman, and Tyler -- God, Tyler, I'm so sorry! -- hit her anew. Her smile dimmed, but she still managed a watery laugh. "Hey, things could be worse. We could have lost two more people tonight." Her smile broke, and she let out a shuddering sob. And then just as quickly as it came, she shook her head sharply and pulled herself together.
"No, right now, it's good, I'm thinking of the good. Matt is fine, and Elena is OK. She's a vampire. That's OK. We're vampires and we're OK." Caroline crinkled her brow a bit and sent a sideways glance Stefan's way. "Well mostly," she added and a teary, but irrepressible smile found its way onto her face.
Once again, it faded into a frown as Stefan just stood there, a heavy pause filling the air, devastation and guilt screaming from him. "Stefan?"
"I didn't know she had vampire blood in her system, Caroline."
It was her turn to pause for a very, very long time. When she finally spoke, that confusion had returned. She spoke softly, slowly as if trying to make sense of what he was saying as she spoke to him. "But ... you love Elena. And that's what you do, you save the girl you love." She shook her head. "I don't understand. I mean, I'm glad because Matt's OK and Elena's OK, but, Stefan, you save the one you love. Right? What am I missing?"
"She wanted me to save Matt, so –"
"But Stefan," she interrupted, and then just kept silent, her thoughts whirling. But why? You love Elena. Why wouldn't you save Elena first?
He was quiet and then began pacing, his words now coming out in a rush, his voice rising. "I've been so selfish for the last three months, thinking of just myself. Thinking about *my* feelings, what *I* want so that I don't have to feel anything." He paused, slowing down. He turned to face Caroline, his eyes pleading with her to understand. "Seeing Elena in that moment, Caroline, I couldn't keep doing it.
"I'd pushed her away, what she wanted from me over and over again. She'd begged me and I turned her away so many times. I couldn't do it again. I needed to put her first. I needed to do what *she* wanted." His voice rose again, and he was adamant now. "And she wanted me to save Matt!"
He rested his fists on his hips and faced her practically defiant. "So I did."
"But ..." she began, but then trailed off as she looked at him. He looked like he was near his breaking point. She wondered what he'd already been through tonight. Thinking he'd let Elena die, then finding out she would turn, something that they both knew Elena never wanted. And Damon. Oh, if Damon knew, he would be furious. Tension was set so tightly on Stefan's frame, she couldn't, wouldn't add more. She would accept his plea.
"OK. OK, you did what Elena wanted and it worked out. It's OK and now you two can be together. Since the whole 'oh who should I be with?' thingie is over." She reached out and rubbed his arm, a quick smile flashing across her face.
"Yeah, well, she's with Damon right now."
Confusion crossed her face. "What? Why? No, she should be with you, not him. She chose you." And once again Caroline's smile was bright and genuine. "Elena was coming back to Mystic Falls to you. She thought she was losing you both." She paused and shook her head a bit. "OK and me and Tyler too," she clarified, her voice breaking slightly on Tyler's name, "but mostly it was you and Damon on her mind. And in the end, she wanted to be with you. She chose you, Stefan." Her shoulders lifted in a tiny shrug of happiness. "So at least someone gets a happy ending sorta. Yay."
Stefan was quiet. Caroline waited for the joy to break out on his face, but he just stood there as if he needed to absorb what she was telling him, his frown intact. "I know," he said softly, and his words weren't accompanied by a smile. "But she's not Elena anymore, not really."
"Of course she is."
He laughed sourly. "No, she isn't. She's a vampire now, Caroline. She's not the same person she was. We change. I'm not who I was when I was human, Damon certainly isn't. Not even you are."
"Stefan!" And her understanding disappeared in a snap. "That doesn't matter. She's STILL Elena!"
He shook his head, leaning forward intently. "But how do we know that? How do we know that she won't be like ... Katherine?"
"She won't!" she exclaimed, recoiling automatically at the older vampire's name.
"You don't know that. I fell in love with Elena because she *wasn't* Katherine. She wasn't like her. I followed her for five months because I had to make sure that she wasn't Katherine playing pretend, that she was nothing like her. And now ..." he trailed off, worry clouding his features.
Caroline slumped slightly, mulling over his words. She'd never realized that Katherine or rather Elena not being Katherine had played such a part in the early stages of Stefan's relationship with Elena. It was a little disconcerting. To think that his feelings for her best friend were predicated not only on her looking like someone he had loved before, but also on the fact that she wasn't like that person. She shook her head, trying to make it make sense in her mind. Stefan loved Elena. Of that, Caroline had no doubt, but it was clearly mixed up in some way with his whole crazy relationship with Katherine, and that Caroline had not realized before this moment.
But it didn't matter. And Katherine certainly did not matter. Elena did, and disabusing Stefan of this really, really stupid notion that Elena was anything like that bitch mattered. Caroline stood straight and moved close to Stefan. Pointing her finger, she jabbed at his chest in time with every word.
"No, no, no. Stefan, stop!" He stepped back, lowering his head, but not looking away from Caroline's determined gaze. "She's still Elena. She always will be. Whether she's a human or a vampire. Period." She paused, her eyebrows were raised exclaiming her point. "Period." And then she gave an emphatic nod.
Stefan was quiet, offering a slight shake of his head. "Caroline, I want to bel –"
He was interrupted by a knock.
"Caroline!" Bonnie called through the door.
Caroline sighed and rolled her eyes. She gave Stefan one more sharp look and repeated her final pronouncement. "Period." Then with a flip of her hair, she walked around him. "Coming, Bonnie." She opened the door, greeting Bonnie with a forced smile. "Hey."
Bonnie offered a smile just as strained. "Hey." She looked away as she bit her lip before turning back to Caroline, her eyes wide and worried. "I have to talk to you." She took a deep breath. "It's about Tyler. " Caroline let out a small whimper. "And Elena."
At hearing their best friend's name, Caroline reached out and grabbed onto Bonnie's hand. "I know, I know." She stepped back, revealing Stefan. "He told me. Elena's a vampire. Oh my God."
Bonnie nodded, her eyes flitting close briefly. She took a step, about to enter when a voice suddenly came out of the darkness.
It was Tyler.
Caroline gasped. Bonnie's eyes widened in frustration and Stefan moved to stand by the girls as Tyler walked into the light of the porch. He faced the three of them, a half-smirk on his face, a lilt in his voice.
"What's that about Elena then, love?"
As Elena walked up to her house, the porch light was shining like a beacon beckoning her in. As she grew closer, the daze that had kept her thoughts at bay on the walk home began to dissipate. Tears slipped down her cheeks, but she ignored them. Wearily she took the steps, wondering at her complete lack of energy, but then she figured that emotional exhaustion overruled even vampire vigor.
She stopped at the door and leaned forward, resting her head before reaching for the knob. It was locked. Of course, she thought and cut off a hysterical bark of laughter. Sighing, Elena headed to the swing, and pried the white key holder from the bottom. She pulled it out and slipped it into the lock, but it refused to turn. Letting out a little cry, she remembered that Jenna had changed the lock after John came back to Mystic Falls, and no one had thought to replace this key. Damnit!
She sighed, and replaced the key holder. She felt like she weighed a thousand pounds with every movement, every step. She just wanted to go upstairs and go to bed. But of course she had to tell Jeremy to head to Matt's first for his own protection. Because I'm a vampire now. A new vampire who loses control and has sex with her boyfriend's brother.
She buried her face in her hands, trying to control an overwhelming wave of self-pity that swept through her. Straightening up, she wiped at the smudged tears and took a deep breath. As much as Elena wanted the comfort of her brother, she knew that it was too dangerous to be near him right now. Not as dangerous as being around Damon, though. She shook her head, determined to get any and every thought of him out of her mind.
Breathe in, breathe out. Think of Stefan. She did and guilt swamped her. No, no. Think of Caroline, still around. Of Matt, safe and sound. Of Bonnie. Of Jeremy, her only family left.
Calm filled her as she focused on those she loved without reservation, without confusion. She knocked on the door and waited. Long moments passed and she knocked again, frustration filling her. Come on, Jere. Get down here, let me in. And then she laughed bitterly as she remembered. Even if the key had fit, she would still have needed Jeremy to invite her inside. The early invitation didn't count before she had transitioned.
She knocked again. And then louder. When several moments had passed and there was still no response, she banged hard on the door with her fist, leaving a deep dent. Falling back, Elena brought her hand to her mouth, her gaze taking in gash. I've got to get used to this super-strength thing, she thought with a sigh. Yet another thing to worry about.
Shaking her head, Elena knocked again with more care. There was still no response.
"Jeremy!" She called out, nervously looking around to make sure that lights weren't coming on in the surrounding houses. She grimaced then whisper-shouted his name. She wondered if maybe he'd gone to Matt's on his own, but then remembered that Matt was in the hospital. She slipped her hand into her back pocket to snag her phone.
It wasn't there. Where? she thought and then let out a whimper as she remembered that she had set it down at the boarding house. "Jeremy," she whispered, frustration lacing the word and she began to cry again. Where are you? Her eyes slipped close and she fell back against the door, listening to the silence around her.
Suddenly she heard a strain of music. She opened her eyes in surprise, looking around and then realized that she'd been focusing so intently that she was picking up noise from the nearest distance. Stepping forward, Elena looked up. It was Jeremy's room. Concentrating, she closed her eyes and could make out one of those emo songs he so loved. She could even hear him singing along and wondered at first how she could separate them when it hit her that he had his earphones on. She could scream at the top of her lungs and he wouldn't hear her and without an invitation in, she didn't want to risk trying to jump to his window, even if she could figure how out to do it without falling to the ground.
Stepping back under the porch roof, Elena leaned against the door, wiping at the tears falling in vain. Finally, she gave up and just gave into the desolation that was begging to take over. Banging her head lightly against the door, the sobs began to rip from her throat, taking over her body. She slid down and wrapped her arms around her knees, her head bent.
She didn't know what to do, where to go. She couldn't get into own home, she certainly couldn't go back to the boarding house. And after what she had done with Damon, she just didn't have it in her to face Bonnie or Caroline, they'd read her like a book. Opening her eyes, Elena looked out into night, indifferent to the remarkable details and vibrancy of her surroundings.
As she sat there, quiet, focused on nothing, unbidden came thoughts of Damon, of the two of them entwined, the way his kiss had tasted. How good, how right he'd felt moving inside of her, the powerful orgasm that had taken over her when she came, the very same moment when he bit her.
She squeezed her eyes shut. Stop, stop, stop! She didn't want to think of this, of him, of them, of what had happened. It meant nothing, it meant absolutely nothing. Just sex. It was just this whole, stupid vampire thing intensifying the lust she felt. Yes, it was only lust. That what drove me. It was just sex. She loved Stefan. Only Stefan. Always Stefan.
"I love you, Elena and it's because I love you that I can't be selfish with you. Why you can't know this. I don't deserve you but my brother does."
Elena sat up with a start, her eyes wide, her tears forgotten as the declaration suddenly popped into her mind. What? When? It was Damon standing in front of her, in her room, and he was looking at her with so much *feeling* and telling her that he loved her. But he'd never... not in her room, no. No. He'd told her on his supposed deathbed, and at the Mikaelson ball. But she could hear him, see him, this moment in her mind as if it was something that had taken place.
Elena shook her head. No, no, this had never happened. But it was so real, like a memory hidden in the recesses of her mind suddenly coming to light. And then as if a rewind button had been hit she remembered seeing Damon sitting on her windowsill, her necklace in hand. She gasped. Damon had returned it to her. She had known that some mysterious force was behind the return but hadn't wanted to question it too much for some reason. And then he was talking, and she was nervous. Elena could remember that, and it hit her why in a flash. She had lost her necklace when Rose kidnapped her and so Damon showing up like that, in her room, unexpectedly would have been the first time since the night he had snapped Jeremy's neck. No wonder she'd been thrown.
He stood there, looking at her so intently. "God, I wish you didn't have to forget this. But you do." And his eyes filled with tears, their incredible blue misted, and then in a split-second he was gone.
Eyes narrowing, Elena was incensed with the return of her memory. "He compelled me!" She said aloud, indignant disbelief lacing her words. She couldn't help but feel betrayed because Elena had honestly never believed that Damon would compel her... which in turn made her feel stupid that she had believed such a thing when clearly it wasn't the case. At the same time, she couldn't deny that a part of her was moved beyond measure by his words. Words that he told her he had to say, just once, committing an action that he named one of the most selfish things he'd ever done. And yet, as angry as Elena was with him right now, she couldn't agree with that. It was the opposite in fact.
Damon stood on the road outside the falls.
"No, uhm, I ..." Looking behind her, Elena looked to see who he was talking to but saw no one else around. "I'm Elena."
Confusion crossed his face, followed by a moment of thought before he smiled at her. "You just look... I'm sorry, you just really remind me of someone. I'm Damon."
Elena slowly drew her hand to her mouth. Again? God, Damon! Letting out a sharp exhalation of breath, she shook her head and just let the memory play out.
"Not to be rude or anything, Damon, but it's kind of creepy that you're out here in the middle of nowhere." He was so good looking, and mysterious in his leather jacket, Elena couldn't help but inject a little flirtation in her voice.
"You're one to talk. You're out here all by yourself."
"It's Mystic Falls. Nothing bad ever happens here."
And that brought her back to the present as she couldn't help the snort of laughter she released at the absurdity of that statement in light of just about everything in her life right now. So when was this? When did this happen? She couldn't place the timeframe.
"Got into a fight with my boyfriend."
He looked almost curious, his tone matching his words. "About what? May I ask?"
"Life, future, he's got it all mapped out."
Matt! She was talking about Matt. And then the ‘when' hit her. If she was talking about Matt and their differences this clearly, it was right before she broke up with him, which was the night her parents died. A sob escaped her. This had to be the night of the crash. When Stefan saved her. *Before* Stefan saved her. Once she realized where she was, what was going to happen, the recollection pushed its way to the forefront of her thoughts again.
"And you don't want it?" Elena looked away from him, feeling oddly at ease telling this stranger about Matt. Or maybe that's why it was easy, why she felt so comfortable sharing. He didn't know Matt, but with his question, she found her gaze coming back to him, wondering how he seemed to know her.
"I don't know what I want."
"Well, that's not true." A smile danced on his lips, and she couldn't stop her own returning smile. In the moment, here with this new guy, Matt was the furthest thing from her mind even if she was talking about him. Elena gazed at this Damon, charmed and intrigued. She couldn't help that think maybe he was just what she needed in her life. A gorgeous stranger, full of mystery.
"You want what everybody wants," he continued.
"What, mysterious stranger who has all the answers?" He laughed lightly, turning his head as if surprised, looking a little coy as she challenged him. It didn't last long. He moved towards her, and the closer he got, the closer she wanted him to get.
"Hmm, well, let's just say I've been around a long time. I've learned a few things."
"So, Damon," Damon, she savored the name in her mind. "What is it that I want?"
Elena closed her eyes, half-mortified, half-charmed at the memory. She had flirted shamelessly with him, never mind that she still had a boyfriend. Her younger, more innocent, naïve self saw only his ridiculous good looks, his mystery, his teasing nature egging her on as he moved ever closer.
"You want a love that consumes you."
And again, Elena was pulled from the memory as she recalled saying almost those exact words to Matt only a handful of hours ago ... about Damon.
"You want passion, an adventure, and even a little danger." She was mesmerized by him. By the scent of him when he got so close, the soft curve of his lips, the way those piercing blue eyes looked at her, staring deep into her soul. He met her breathless gaze with a smile of his own, the slightest of nods, confident that he was so very right in his assessment of her. And he was. He definitely, definitely was. But it was time to turn the tables.
"So, what do you want?" She asked him with a playful smile, but there was genuine curiosity there. Elena wanted to know what this man wanted who had just appeared in the night and seemed to know her. And she could see it on his face, the surprise that she would care enough even after just meeting him, to bother asking what he wanted.
A tear slipped down Elena's cheek as time gave more weight and meaning to that moment, the look on his face. It wasn't just that this stranger cared to ask, or even that it was a stranger who looked like Katherine. It was that *anyone* cared to ask when she was fairly certain that no one else ever had. She felt a surge of fierce protection for the heart of his that had been so bruised and disregarded, and more often than not by her lately.
The sound of a motor, the honking of a horn pulled her from his gaze. "It's my parents," she told him before he could answer her question. Elena looked away and towards them for a moment. When she turned back to Damon he was standing right before her, looking deeply into her eyes. She was captivated by their surreal beauty.
"I want you to get everything that you're looking for." He paused and the soft passion of his voice receded just a bit. "But right now I want you to forget that this happened. Can't have people knowing that I'm in town yet." A sweet smile curved his lips and then earnestness filled his gaze as the smile faded. "Goodnight, Elena." She blinked and he was gone.
And with him went the memory of the mysterious stranger. Elena was still angry with Damon for using compulsion on her – not only once, but twice! – but the overwhelming feeling that filled her was regret. She was sorry that he hadn't allowed her to see those sides of him at those points in their relationship, that sweetness and sincerity. A kindness that he tried so hard to hide.
If she had remembered meeting Damon, it would have been he who had filled her thoughts those months following her parent's death. The mysterious stranger would have been her last happy memory. By the time school began and she officially met Stefan, he would have just been another cute boy and not someone who represented passion, adventure, and even a little danger that had captured her heart so very quickly.
Instead, it would have been Damon's return that brought her back to life. Yes, Elena had told him on the phone that things might have been different if she had met him first, but she was just throwing him a lifeline, having no clue as to the reality of her statement. But she knew herself, knew that as much as she did care for Damon, had he not compelled their first meeting away, she probably wouldn't have fallen for Stefan, she would have been too wrapped up in Damon, the memory of her mysterious stranger.
The tears began falling faster as the dual memories made a mockery of her earlier assertion that what had happened with Damon tonight was just lust. It wasn't true. Of course she was attracted to him and she did feel lust for him. Denver was proof of that even when putting aside the hundreds of tense moments between them over the course of the last year, especially the last six months.
She cared about him, cared so deeply for him, but she couldn't give it a name because it was so different from what she had felt for Matt, and even what she felt for Stefan. And she loved Matt, she did. And she absolutely loved Stefan. So if what she felt for Damon wasn't that, she honestly didn't know what it was. She just knew that he was right, it was there and it was real, and it had just fucked things up even more than she could have imagined possible after she woke up in the morgue.
Elena sat still for several moments trying to control her emotions, the weeping that had continued unabated. She sniffed and took some shallow breaths, fighting back the tears with sheer force of will. She wouldn't do this. She wouldn't fall apart. She had to be strong, in control for Jeremy. Stop it, Elena. Just stop it.
Determined to make this stick, she took a deep breath and spoke, making her words a mantra. "Stop crying, stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop thinking of him, of what might have been, of what any of this means because it didn't happen that way and so it doesn't matter now." She nodded doggedly. "You love Stefan, only Stefan. You are not Katherine, loving both, stringing them along. What's past is past, and as of this moment, Damon and this *thing* between us is past. So suck it up, put him out of your mind and just pull it together." Elena took another deep breath and forced a smile on her lips.
She swallowed heavily as the smile faded and wiped harshly at the tears streaking her face. She needed a plan; she needed to figure out how to deal with this, how to take charge of her life. Closing her eyes, she exhaled deeply. The first order of business was to stay away from Damon. Period. She clearly couldn't be around him without losing control.
What had he said? She wondered and just like that she remembered his exact words about what she was going through: "Elena, you are a new vampire. You can't control what you're feeling. All of it, everything that you feel in such vivid color ... that's what being a vampire is all about. And you get used to it. You do."
So she just needed to get used to it before she went anywhere near Damon Salvatore again. She could control herself around anyone but him. Time and time again she had seen the truth of that. He got under her skin and twisted something deep inside of her, making her say and act in ways that were alien to her. As much as she wanted to blame what had happened tonight on being a vampire alone, she knew that wasn't the truth. There was Denver.
She probably, almost surely, would have stopped herself from having sex with Damon then even if Jeremy hadn't interrupted, but it wouldn't have been easy. Now with her vampirism heightening everything she was feeling, she simply couldn't trust herself around him. Simply put, he made her feel too much. And too much was more than she could handle right now.
So that was it. Tonight was it. The only way she could take control was to truly let him go. Starting tomorrow, she would have to cut Damon out of her life completely.