Arabian (arabian) wrote,
Arabian
arabian

Fic: How To Make a Better Vampire 5/? (TVD)

Title: How To Make A Better Vampire
Chapter: 05 - Resolutions [Featured Characters: Elena, Jeremy, Damon, Bonnie and Stefan]
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 her friends and enemies grapple with their own choices in this new world.
Word Count: 6,130
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. :)

PREVIOUS CHAPTERS - 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Chapter 05: Resolutions

An uncomfortable heat that quickly escalated to a painful burning and then morphed into indescribable agony awoke Elena in a matter of seconds. As the sun continued to creep further over her exposed arms and hands she couldn't control the cry that ripped from her throat. Jumping to her feet, she turned to the door, her arms crossed in front of her. Her hair fanned out over her shoulders and hid the curve of her face.

"Jeremy! JEREMY!” She yelled. "Aaaah! JEREMY, GET DOWN HERE!” She tried to bang on the door but a streak of sunlight struck her now exposed fist. She screamed at the sudden pain. Tears streamed down her face, mixing with the healing burns. "Jeremy,” she cried again as every twitching move of her body seemed to reveal a different strip of flesh: a line between the strands of her hair on her neck, a sliver of her back as she twisted, her top rising.

The door swung open and Jeremy stood there, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open in shock. "Elena!”

"Let me in, let me --"

"Come in,” he cried as he almost simultaneously pulled her into the house. She zoomed to the bottom of the stairs, curled into a fetal position as he slammed the door shut. Shudders wracked her body. She breathed heavily, silently crying because it still hurt even as the pain began to recede. And then it was gone, the vampire healing power at work. The sun creeping up the porch, waking her, burning her, Jeremy letting her in, it all couldn't have lasted more than thirty seconds and yet it was the most painful thirty seconds she could remember.

"Elena?” Her brother's voice was soft as he moved towards her tentatively. "Hey.”

Feeling safe, she unfurled her body and raised her head to face him. She shrugged even as tears continued to slip down her cheeks. "I don't have a daylight ring yet.”

He sat down on the top stair next to her and reached out, carefully petting her arm. She smiled at him and placed her hand over his, squeezing lightly. "Thank you for inviting me in.”

Jeremy nodded. "Yeah, I just -- I thought you were staying at the boarding house.” He narrowed his eyes, suspicion rearing its head. "Did something happen?”

She shook her head, her eyes pleading with him not to push. "I don't want to talk about it. I just want to go upstairs and take a shower and lay down. Can you make sure my curtains are drawn and I can, you know, go in my bedroom without burning up?”

"Of course, yeah.” He smiled, rising to his feet. He was up the stairs and to her room quickly, calling down to her almost immediately. "It's good, Elena. You can head on up here!”

Resting her head against the wall, she took a deep breath remembering the pain, remembering last night, remembering Damon and Jeremy's blood and Stefan in the water and Rebekah in the headlights. She squeezed her eyes shut. No, no, no. No more Damon, no more bad thoughts. Time to move on. I'm done. I am done, she resolved to herself.

Elena stood up and craned her neck, looking up the length of the stairs. She could be up there in a second, maybe two, if she used vampire speed. She could do that; she was tempted to try, risk running into the wall. After all, if I get banged up, I'll heal just as quickly.

"Elena?”

"I'm coming, Jere. Give me a second.” She wondered if she could just think it and go, if that's how it would happen. About to take a step, she paused and realized that as soon as she did this, there was no turning back. She was making a conscious choice to be a vampire. The blood didn't count, she decided, because she needed it to survive, and she would drink as little as possible and avoid human blood. Focusing on hearing was something that came better to vampires, but the act of trying to hear more clearly at times was certainly human enough. As long as she didn't focus on it, she wouldn't be using a vampire power. However doing this, just a quick flash up the stairs, it was Elena Gilbert willingly choosing to *be* a vampire. Different from her flash inside, that had been done on instinct, without thought. But this ... it would be a deliberate, knowing action on her part.

She thought of when she first met Stefan. Even with his few slips, for the most part, he had passed for human so easily. She could do that. She could live on the bit of blood she needed and ignore every other aspect of being a vampire. She could still eat regular food, digest normally, sleep normally, not focus on hearing and once she got her daylight ring, go out and about in the sun like any other girl.

Taking a step back, Elena leaned against the wall and looked up the stairs. It would make it easier, she thought. To be in control, control my emotions, control my life, keep as much order as possible, I just have to avoid acting like a vampire. If she remained Elena Gilbert, human in almost every way, she could do it. She would only drink animal blood. As it was, she could barely remember the taste of Jeremy's so Elena figured that she wouldn't even crave the human variety if it wasn't a part of her diet. She could be just Elena, the Elena everyone knew. The Elena that she knew.

A bright smile crossed her face. I can do this, she thought, a resolute peace filling her. Straightening up, she put her hand against the wall, trailing her fingers along its surface as she slowly walked up the stairs.

XxxxX


Damon sprinted up the steps of Bonnie's porch and knocked sharply on the front door. Within moments, it swung open and there was the witch, a nervous look on her face.

"Sabrina.” He smirked. "You called?”

She didn't react to the nickname, merely nodded. "Yeah.” Stepping back, she gestured for him to enter as she moved further into the house. Hmm, this must be serious, he thought, but his smile didn't drop and he didn't follow her. Instead, he casually leaned against the door frame.

"Ahem.”

Bonnie stiffened like a wooden plank. Damon rolled his eyes. She remained still for a moment longer -- probably counting to ten -- before turning back to face him. "Yes?” The word was clipped.

"I need an invite.” He was all silky smooth and charm.

"Oh. Yeah, right. Come in, Damon.” And then she turned again, moving quickly out of view.

This time the smile did drop because, damn!, this was fucking serious. Bonnie had just offhandedly invited him into her home. Does she know about Elena? he wondered suddenly and then just as promptly, he was sure that was it. On the heels of that, he paused. Does she know about Elena and me? He took a hesitant step inside, concerned that Bonnie had thrown some witchy magic on the invitation and this was all a trap to make his balls explode. He didn't move for a second, then two. No part of his anatomy went kablooey. OK, she didn't know that Elena and I did the wild fandango. Good. He took a few steps, then stopped. Wait, no, not good. Bonnie Bennett just invited me, Damon Salvatore, into her home without a moment's hesitation. What the fuck is going on?

Eyeing the place as he moved further into the house, he stepped into what he presumed was the living room to find Bonnie seated on a couch, the same anxious look on her face as before. He decided to cut to the chase.

"Do you know about Elena?”

She nodded.

"Is this about Elena?”

"No.”

"This is bad?”

She was silent, and then, "I think. Maybe. I don't know.”

Damon sighed and heavily dropped onto the armchair opposite her. "Hold off on the spilling. I was gonna call you, but you beat me to it.” He pulled a pouch out of his jacket and threw it on the table between them. "I need you to do your daylight juju on some items.”

"That can wait --"

"No, actually it can't.” He cut her off. "Thanks to our favorite dearly-departed history teacher-slash-vampire-hunter-slash-psychotic vampire-vampire killer, the entire council knows about Caroline, my brother and myself. Oh, and wolf-boy too, but he's no longer our problem.”

Bonnie winced, but was silent and he actually felt a stab of guilt. Seriously, this town! Why do I even care? Whatever. He did; he knew it. There it was. Damon sent a conciliatory smile her way. "Yeah, I guess it sucks about that.” He waited a beat and then continued. "We need to take care of this now. So daylight the jewelry. Then we'll talk about the new big bad headline invading our ever-so peaceful lives.”

Bonnie opened her mouth, no doubt to argue, but then acquiesced easily enough and reached for the bag. She emptied it on the table, her eyes widening. "This is a lot of stuff.”

"Well, I need the watch, anklet, silver necklace and comb for me and Blondie to face the council, and the rest ...” he trailed off, annoyed with the ludicrous beat his heart skipped at just thinking her fucking name. Clearing his throat, he continued. "The rest is for Elena. Being a vampire and all, she needs to be able to be out and about and with her being a target for every supernatural creature who steps through this town, I figured one ring wasn't enough.”

She was sifting through the items while he spoke, and had already separated the jewelry he'd picked out for Elena months ago absolutely knowing that this day would come and soon enough. The gold set included a ring, a pair of earrings and a necklace all with the same intricate design containing twin jewels of golden and blue topaz. Picking up the ring, and looking closely at the gems side-by-side, Bonnie glanced up at him, meeting his blue eyes with a narrowed gaze. "Subtle, Damon, real subtle.”

He began to retort, but paused because there was something in her voice, something under the derisive note, the familiar disdain in her eyes. It sounded almost put-upon, and frankly as if she was trying to not freak out. He decided not to push and simply shrugged instead.

Bonnie rose to her feet and scooped the items up. Walking to the window, she arranged them on the sill and placed them directly in the sun. Bowing her head, she whispered some mumbo-jumbo under her breath. A few moments later she was done. Turning around, she moved back to the couch and scooped up the pouch, carelessly throwing the items back in.

"Hey! Elena's set goes in there and should be treated with care. That was not cheap. The rest, give it here.”

Reaching in, Bonnie dug out all but the jewelry for Elena and laid the items back on the table. "What's your plan for the council with this stuff?”

He shook his head. "No, you did your thing, only fair I let you spill. What's going on?” Looking away and upward, she let out an inarticulate sound and then was quiet. He tapped his foot. "You know patience? Really not my strong suit.”

Bonnie glared at him, but there was no heat in her gaze. Finally her shoulders slumped and she spoke. "OK. Remember when we were at the storage unit? With Klaus?” He nodded. "I asked you for a moment.”

"Yeah, you wanted a minute to appreciate him all staked and marbl-y. Go on.”

She sighed. "That wasn't exactly the reason.” Pausing, she was quiet for a moment and then continued with a determined nod. "I knew it could be done because of Mr. Saltzman and what Esther had done to Rebekah.”

Damon's eyebrows rose and he nodded, understanding dawning. He didn't bother to disguise his 'I'm impressed' face. "So you did the witchy transfer thing. Got it.”

Her mouth popped open in surprise. He rolled his eyes, marveling at the continued lack of faith in his awesome deduction skills from this winning group of the eternally clueless. "Oh,” she finally managed. Then shaking her head quickly, she carried on. "Right. And I needed to make sure it was a vessel that could contain the werewolf *and* the vampire.” She paused and smiled weakly. "So, Tyler was it.”

Ahh, clever, he thought. "Makes sense. One question.”

"Just one?” Bonnie arched an eyebrow.

"Yeah, why didn't you just tell me when you did it?”

She shrugged. "I thought you'd try and stop me.”

He threw his hands out, his eyes wide in mystification. "Stop you!? Why? I'd have cheered you on.” She looked taken aback, genuinely surprised and it suddenly hit him that Bonnie had been in the position he found himself all too frequently ... making the tough choice. The smile he sent her way was sincere. She didn't smile back, still looking startled and a bit wary. And just as quickly as his insight had come a moment ago, he realized that this was pretty much new ground for her and she wasn't as nearly as comfortable with making those choices as he was. About damn time, he thought, near-gleeful that someone in their party -- even if it was Bonnie -- was walking in his shoes for once.

He shrugged, playing it cool though. "You did the right thing. It was a good call." Shaking his head, he clicked his tongue. "Look at you, an actual witch not being all judgy, but using your brain.” He smirked and sent her a wink. She looked uncertain, but he could see some of the weight appear to lift as she straightened slightly just as he realized something else. Smacking the arm of the chair, Damon fell back and groaned. "Shit. This means that Klaus probably, most definitely is the 'father' of our bloodline. Fuck.” He stewed in that notion for a moment before shrugging. "Ah well, at least now he's contained because Tyler is nowhere near as strong so we have time to figure out how to kill Klaus without taking all of us with him.

"Yeah, could be worse.”

She smiled, a tentative one, but it was there none-the-less. Shaking her head, Bonnie glanced his way wryly. "I just thought you'd be furious that I saved Klaus.”

"Why? Because you think I want to die? Or Stefan? Or even Blondie?” He paused, and then a half-hearted smile crossed his face, filled with weary sadness. "You know, Elena would have died too.”

She didn't respond at first, and in the silence, Damon found himself thinking of Elena, the vampire and how magnificent she was last night throwing him around, getting up in his face, not backing down, being fucked by him. No! He clamped hard down on that thought, determined and absolutely resolute to *not* think about her, not like that, not until she was ... better and they could deal with this thing between them.

"Why Elena? Did you? My God, Damon, did you give her your blood?”

Her words jerked him out of his distraction. And here comes the judging. "What? No. I wouldn't do that.” He paused and added grumpily, "again.” Unsurprised, he noted that Bonnie still looked a tad suspicious. He sighed, and with a roll of his eyes, explained. "Since I was providing blood to the good Dr. Fell, I just figure that it was mine that turned her.”

"Oh.” She was quiet, her foot nervously tapping on the floor. Then, "so you think I did the right thing with Klaus?”

"Abso-fucking-lutely.”

"Caroline doesn't.”

Damon snorted. What a shocker! "Didn't pick up on the fact that if Klaus *had* been staked, she and Tyler would both be dead-dead by now, did she?”

"Oh!” She sat up straighter, eyes wide. "He showed up last night. I mean, Tyler. Or Klaus. You know.”

Scooting forward, Damon leaned his elbows on his knees, thoughtful. "Where? Here? Your place?”

"No, at Caroline's,” she paused, biting her lower lip, adding quietly. "And he knows that Elena's a vampire.”

Damon exploded out of the chair. "What?! You've GOT to be kidding me. Why, why ...” He trailed off, fighting the urge to pick up the table and throw it through the window. A still-shot of Elena staked through the heart, gone forever because Klaus no longer had his little human doppelganger, flashed in his mind and his heart clenched. He shut his eyes tight, breathing heavily, trying very, very hard to not turn around and rip Bonnie's fucking heart out.

After a few moments, he felt calm enough to face her without killing her. "How did he find out?”

She rose to her feet, indignation on her face. "We didn't tell him, Damon!”

"Then how did he find out?” Damon repeated through a clenched jaw.

"I showed up at Caroline's and when she opened the door I didn't wait, I just told her that I had to tell her about Elena and Tyler. I had just seen Jeremy so I knew about Elena, but Stefan was there --"

Damon took a quick step forward, his eyes narrowed. "At Elena's? Stefan was with Elena?” He felt a stab of pain and jealousy even as he derided himself for not realizing that, of course, she and Stefan would have smoothed things over right away.

"What? No. He was with Caroline and --"

"Stefan was with Caroline? Why?” He was confused, but relieved as well. Even though he knew that it didn't matter if it hadn't happened immediately after or not because the next time he saw either one of them, they would still have already managed to slide back into their twu-wuv forever mode.

"I don't know. I just -- it doesn't matter. He was there, he'd told Caroline and she immediately told me that she knew that Elena was a vampire. And then Tyler, Klaus, whatever spoke up. He was in the shadows, had come to see Caroline -- probably hoping to get some alone time with her as 'Tyler' without her any wiser. That's why I was there so late. I wanted to warn her.”

"And instead you let TyKlaus know that he had absolutely no need to keep Elena around anymore because her blood is now useless to him. Fantastic.”

She shook her head. "No, I mean -- Damon, you said it yourself. You're stronger than Klaus now. *Caroline's* stronger than him.”

Shrugging lightly, he acknowledged that. "Yeah, I guess.”

"No, really. He tried to go inside and talk to her. Stefan stepped up.” Damon rolled his eyes. "But Caroline didn't need a hero. She punched Tyler in the face and sent him flying halfway down the sidewalk.”

"When she's pissed, she certainly goes into Hulk-vampire mode.” Damon granted and then paused as he did the math. "Wait, no, you're right. Even without anger, she's stronger. She's older vampire-wise than Tyler by about six months. That counts for something.”

"Right, so we can all keep Elena safe and work on separating the bloodline.”

He sat back down, nodding heavily. "Yeah, if we keep watch over her and *you* keep Klaus contained. As long as he knows that he needs you on his side to reverse the spell -- it does have to be you, right? Any witch can't just undo it?”

"Yeah, it has to be me. The transference is connected through my power specifically.”

"OK, OK, so that's good. He won't do anything to anyone you care about as long as he needs you. Which leaves everyone in our little Scooby gang safe from Klaus' brand of crazy except for me and I can take care of myself.”

He sent a wintry smile her way and was surprised when she smiled, well, it was more of a grimace, but still ... back. He was even more surprised when she responded to his statement.

"You saved my life, Damon, even when you didn't have to, even when I certainly wouldn't have expected you to. And you cared whether Jeremy lived or died with that dark magic. I don't like you, but ... I'm not actively rooting for your death. Anymore.”

"Aww, I'm touched.” He placed a hand over his heart. "Really, right here.”

"Whatever.”

Definitely a grimace that time. He didn't care. Her oh so grudging civility gave him a moment of satisfaction.

First sex with Elena, and yes, he was still reliving every single moment of that in the back of his mind on continuous loop, thank you very much, then Bonnie not wanting him dead, perhaps his luck was changing. He smiled brightly.

"OK, we'll work on our new latest and greatest take-down-Klaus plan when the gang's all together and,” he waved away any concern over TyKlaus. "Caroline can take care of Hybrid-squared if he comes around again.” Damon reached over and snagged the spelled items on the table, cupping them in his hands. "Now to my plan for retaking the council.”

XxxxX


Elena stepped out of her bedroom, shutting the door behind her. She rested against its hard surface and took a deep breath. She wasn't ready to face Jeremy yet. There was a craving within her that she'd never felt before and it scared the hell out of her. She knew that she craved blood. There were no blood bags in the house -- not that she planned to go that route -- but she also didn't know how to hunt for animal blood yet either.

So here she stood, bracing herself to go downstairs and face her brother and resist the temptation of his blood. And then get him to leave the house. And then much after that head to the boarding house so she could talk to Stefan. About teaching her to hunt.

About last night.

Elena closed her eyes. She wasn't ready. She had tried Caroline, hoping she could put off the talk, but she hadn't answered her phone and God forbid she went to her house. Sheriff Forbes might answer and the temptation to quench her hunger could take over. That would not be good. So Stefan and the boarding house, and possibly Damon, was it. Not that she could go until the sun set.

Elena banged her head lightly on the wall behind her. Forget ten more hours or so, she would happily wait ten more years to deal with any of this. She didn't want to do this. She couldn't do this, couldn't face --

There was a knock at the door. Automatically she began to focus, wanting to know who it was but she stopped. No, no vampire powers, she reminded herself. By the time the thought finished, she had her answer anyway.

"Stefan?” Jeremy said with a slight edge in his voice as he opened the door. There was silence and Elena tip-toed over to the edge of the stairs and peered around the corner. Stefan stood outside, clearly waiting for Jeremy to invite him in. He finally relented. "Come in. Elena's upstairs. She should be down any minute.”

Stefan stepped in, his expression serious. "Do you mind if I wait?”

Elena bit her lip and sighed. OK, scratch the boarding house. Then she straightened as she realized that meant she could also scratch Damon. Without conscious thought, she flashed back to last night, her nails scratching down his back as he thrust into her, his fingers hard on her hips, his teeth biting into her neck.

She slammed her eyes shut. God! Elena let out a long, unsteady breath and opened her eyes. She forced herself to block the images out of her mind, staring at the empty wall in front of her. As the memory faded, the voices below began to take form.

"—they drove off Wickery Bridge.” It was Stefan; he was telling Jeremy how she died.

"What?” A wealth of pain was in that one word. "No, no, man Not -- " Jeremy couldn't finish.

"I'm sorry,” Stefan replied, and he was, he so was. Elena could hear it in every syllable. She couldn't blame him for not saving her life, for listening to her and saving Matt. He already blamed himself so much already.

"So what?'” Jeremy gulped. "Elena, she died on impact or ...” His voice trailed off and she wondered how Stefan would answer. Would he tell Jeremy the whole story or one of the half-truths he was so skilled at handing out?

"No, they went into the water. I got there, but the truck was already submerged.” His voice dropped. ”She asked me to save Matt.”

Stefan told him the truth, she thought and was startled to realize that she was a little surprised.

"What?”

"She wanted me to save Matt --"

"She was alive?!” Jeremy cut him off, his voice rising. Elena straightened up.

"She wanted me to save Matt,” Stefan tried again to explain, but Jeremy was having none of it.

"How could you? Why wouldn't you save Elena? What the hell is wrong with you?!”

Elena shook her head. Stefan wouldn't defend himself. He would just stand there and take it and she couldn't do the same. Taking a deep breath, she stepped onto the first step, making her presence known. "Jeremy.”

They both looked up at her, sadness on Stefan's face, fury on Jeremy's, his fists clenched tightly.

"He let you die!” He shouted and pointed at Stefan, his hand shaking in rage as he moved towards the stairs.

She stepped quickly down them and reached for his arm. "No, he did what I wanted.”

"Elena ...” He began.

"Jeremy, please.” She was trembling, trying to control not only the renewed urge to cry, but to keep her fangs from emerging, to keep from feeding. On her brother.

She let go of his hand and took a deep breath. And then another. She felt better. She was in control. "I need to talk to Stefan. Why don't you go check on Matt?” He hesitated. "Please.”

She cocked her head to the side, her eyes pleading with him. With a heavy sigh, his shoulders dropped and he relented. "Fine. I'll go.” He turned to leave, walking around Stefan. At the door, he paused and shot him a glance as deadly as she'd ever seen from her baby brother.

Jeremy made sure that Stefan was looking at him before he spoke, bitterness lacing every word. "Damon wouldn't have killed my sister. You asshole.”

"Jeremy!”

Stefan's eyes drifted close in pain. He remained silent while Jeremy stood staring at him a moment longer before walking out and slamming the door hard.

"I'm sorry,” she began. "He's just -- he's been through a lot.”

"He's right,” he laughed without any humor. "Damon would have saved -- "

"You did what I wanted. *I'm* not sorry about that.”

He stood still, not responding and then finally nodded with a weary smile. "I thought you were staying at the boarding house.

Shaking her head slightly, Elena released an unsteady breath. Her voice was low and she couldn't meet his gaze. "Damon and I ...” She paused, thinking, trying to figure out how the hell to tell Stefan that she had sex with his brother. "Things ... got out of hand.”

"Oh,” he said. But he didn't understand, she knew. He thought it was just another fight. She needed to explain. She didn't want to, but she had to tell him the truth.

"I went to talk to him and then, yeah, we were fighting and I said horrible things and he said unkind things that were probably true and,” she sniffed, trying so hard not to cry. Why can't I stop crying? she demanded of herself.

"It's OK,” Stefan reassured her. He didn't know; he didn't know. He couldn't understand why she was crying.

"No, no it's not.” And the tears were slipping down, but she couldn't stop them, so she ignored their free-fall and pushed through. "He just drives me crazy and I couldn't stop and things just happened. We -- Stefan.”

Stefan was quiet, digesting her words and she wondered if he understood what she was saying, what she wasn't saying.

"I get it.” Do you?

He ran a hand through his hair and let out another mirthless laugh. "I know things are unresolved with him --"

"Oh, they're resolved. I am resolved. I am done with him. I'm staying away. I need to take control and he ... I can't. I can't be around him.” And it wasn't just for her sake. Somewhere between her re-awakened memories, fitful sleep and hours of quiet since then, she'd allowed herself to think of Damon. Not what they had done, but of his feelings. Of what she was doing to him. She wasn't like Katherine. She was worse. Stringing him along, giving him a little, then pulling back. Leaning on him, turning to him, expecting him to be there for her, do for her, and then turning her back on him to run to the safety of Stefan's arms. She couldn't, she wouldn't do that to him anymore. It wasn't fair to him. At all. I'm doing this not just for me. I'm doing this for him. I'm letting him go because I don't want to hurt him anymore. I won't do it. He deserved better than Katherine. He deserves better than me.

"What about me?”

Elena was startled from her thoughts of Damon and finally looked at Stefan full-on, meeting his gaze, wiping her tears away. Confusion clouded her face. "What do you mean?”

"Can you be around me?” And he looked so hopeful, but sorrowful at the same time, that puppy-appeal of his eyes in full effect. And she realized that, no, he didn't get it. He thought things were unresolved, unfinished between she and Damon. If he had realized, there would have been jealousy, anger, something. Instead his focus was still on himself, on them. And so of course she had to reassure him before she could tell him, make him understand that what happened with Damon was the end of it.

"Yes, I didn't mean you. You're good.” She nodded, forcing a smile on her lips.

"Are we? Good? You love me?” And the weight of his guilt and pain lay so heavy in his gaze, in the timbre of his voice she was again reminded of the boy she had been through so much with as a unit, the one she fell for, who helped her find a reason to live again.

"Yes, we're good. I chose you.” She was quiet, expecting a leavening of his expression, but it remained the same and she realized in the next instant why. She had spoken in the past tense, and unlike last night when it made sense, it didn't now. Elena began to correct her mistake, to tell him: 'I choose you.' But then the moment had passed. If she said it now, it would be too obvious that she had misspoken in the first place. She pressed her lips tight.

A flash of pain sparked in Stefan's eyes, but it was quickly extinguished and he managed a smile that almost looked genuine. "OK, then we're good.”

"Yeah.”

She was quiet as was he. And in the quiet, the guilt began to curl within her again. She had to tell him.

"Stefan, I have to tell you what happened last night.”

He was shaking his head even before he began to speak. "No. No, you don't.”

"Stefan ...”

He moved close and cupped her face in his hands. She contained a gasp. It felt so alien, him holding her so intimately even though he had done nearly the same just the day before. Before she died. Before she and Damon ... No! Her mind skittered away.

"I meant what I said at the dance. Damon has nothing to do with us. You don't have to tell me anything. If you say you're done with him, then you're done with him. And so are we.”

"But --"

"No, it's OK.” He leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to her lips.

She felt nothing. Not even the slightest stirring. It was just a kiss. She forced a smile. She was numb; everything was crazy. Last night she had felt too much, today was just sanity reasserting itself, creating a balance for normalcy. They would be fine. They just needed to find their way back to each other. Elena nodded. "OK. We'll be OK.”

He nodded and released her face, stepping back.

Elena smiled again, and this time it felt real. He smiled in return and she realized that it must have looked genuine as well. That made her smile wider, and for the moment things seemed almost comfortable. She suddenly ached for the familiar and so strove to create conversation between them without tension, just two people talking. "Where did you go last night? After? I mean, you hunted, but you were gone for a while ...”

"I went to see Caroline.”

That surprised her; it had been so long since she and Stefan had spent any time together.

"Oh, well, that's good.” She brought her hand to her mouth then, suddenly remembering and any chance at comfort was gone. "Tyler! How is she? I've been trying to call her, but I couldn't reach her.”

He shook his head. "She's not that good. I mean, she's better now. She knows about you. I told her.”

She nodded, taking that in.

"But ...” he trailed off, sighing. "Elena, I have to tell you something.”

And she could see it in his face, hear it in his voice. It was more bad news. She took a few steps back and lowered herself onto the stairs. The damn urge to cry hit her again, but she fought it and pulled herself together. Be strong, be in control. "Tell me.”

"Bonnie showed up at Caroline's while I was there and Caroline immediately blurted out that you were a vampire. Which Bonnie knew.”

"How did she know?”

"She saw Jeremy earlier.” Elena nodded in understanding. "Anyway, Tyler showed up then.”

"Tyler!? I thought he was dead.” She shook her head, and looked up at him.

"Long story short. It wasn't exactly Tyler. Bonnie had transferred Klaus into his body.”

Elena's eyes widened. "You mean like when Klaus possessed Alaric?”

"Yup.”

"So, wait, why? I don't understand.”

"Klaus wasn't lying. He is the originator of our bloodline and Bonnie knew that Alaric wasn't going to stop until he staked Klaus. Once he did that, Caroline and Tyler would die. So would Damon and I, but I don't think Bonnie cared so much about that. The thing is, she was determined to not let the witches take her friends from her, so she pulled her own stunt.”

"So Klaus is in Tyler's body and Tyler is just kinda inside, pushed down?”

"I guess.” Stefan moved over and sat next to her, and Elena had to resist the urge to scoot over. It just didn't feel right ... yet.

"How did Caroline react?”

"She wasn't happy, especially with Tyler, I mean Klaus. Apparently, he'd already spent some,” he paused and raised his eyebrows, "'quality' time with her in Tyler's body earlier.”

Elena shuddered. "Poor Caroline.”

"Poor Tyler or Klaus.”

She turned to look at him. "Excuse me.”

"The second he got close, she socked him so hard he went flying twenty feet in the air. That girl can pack quite a punch.” He smiled, but it faded quickly. "The thing is, Elena, he knows that you're a vampire. He overheard Caroline and Bonnie.”

Getting to her feet, she began pacing. "Yeah, that's not good.” She threw her hands up, circling them above her head. "Right now, I'm stuck here. I can't go anywhere and Tyler's body has an invite into my house.”

Stefan hopped up. "Bonnie said she's going to get you a ring today and will be over as soon as she has it ready.” He reached over and gripped her shoulders. "We'll take care of this. We'll keep you safe from Klaus and everything will be fine.”

"Right.” She replied even as the weight of his hands gripping her felt heavier than ever before. Even as his words gave her no confidence. Even as the sincerity in his eyes, the love in his voice did nothing to ease her mind or her heart. Still, she smiled and agreed with him. "I'll be fine.”

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Tags: bonnie bennett, damon salvatore, damon/elena, elena gilbert, fic: ...bettervampire, jeremy gilbert, stefan salvatore, the vampire diaries
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