Arabian (arabian) wrote,
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Fic: How To Make a Better Vampire 6/? (TVD)

Title: How To Make A Better Vampire
Chapter: 06 - The Need For Control [Featured Characters: Elena, Bonnie, Caroline, Matt, Stefan and Damon]
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: 8,526
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. :)

In this chapter, I reference a character from season 04, but I'm only using the name. The character will likely be different in the show.

PREVIOUS CHAPTERS - 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Chapter 06: The Need For Control

Elena was hoping that by reading her diary from when she first met Stefan, she would accomplish two things. Firstly, she wanted to see if she had noted any vampire-characteristics of Stefan’s that she hadn’t realized were such at the time so that she could avoid falling into those traps herself. The second reason was that she hoped that by going back to the beginning of their relationship, reading her own words, it would help her remember and recapture those feelings. At least the purity, the completeness of them. Of course Elena did still love him; that was not in question. It was just... different now.

The bubble of safety and unconditional love was thinning. She had reservations where before there was no doubt and now with her change, she needed that certainty. After everything that had happened since Stefan left and then returned to town with Klaus, her faith was shaken. Even she couldn’t deny that. However, she was convinced that all it would take to fix things was to simply focus on them. And the best way to do that is to go back to the beginning, she thought with a determined smile.

Running her finger over the words she’d written out months ago, that smile faded and Elena let out a deep sigh. She was remembering, but the recapturing wasn't quite taking hold yet. There was a bitterness rising up within her that she also couldn’t deny no matter how she tried ignoring it. Stefan had lied to her in so many little ways. Not just about being a vampire, but also in how he pretended to get to know her, fall in love with her at the same time that she was getting to know him, fall for him. So much of what she told him about herself he already knew because he’d been watching her, following her for months.

And, of course, there was Katherine. That she looked like Katherine. That he watched her, followed her for months just to make sure that she wasn’t Katherine. Something that Damon seemed to realize almost immediately, a small voice reminded her as she suddenly remembered the same the morning after Katherine showed up at the boarding house after spending weeks in the tomb. She had gathered from Katherine's snarky commentary later that Damon had recognized that it was her right away even if she tried to fool him. Stefan, on the other hand, hadn’t been sure, even though he and Elena had been together only minutes before, laughing and loving. His hands pinned tightly around her neck, hissing Katherine’s name had made that perfectly clear.

Tilting her head back, Elena sighed again. She shut the diary and closed her eyes. Things were still too intense, too chaotic in her brain. She could find no peace of mind to even begin to try and recapture those early, untainted memories. They would have to forge new bonds. There was simply too much water under the bridge. Too much she knew now that she hadn't then. And Damon. Too often in the back of her mind was Damon.

The doorbell rung. Elena's eyes shot open. "Thank God," she muttered under her breath as she set the journal to the side and stood up. Resisting the urge to focus her hearing and try and pick up any tell-tale signs of her visitor, she instead cautiously moved to the door and peered through the peephole. Just as she saw the dark curly hair, her best friend spoke up.

"Elena?"

A smile spread on her face. She unlocked the door and began talking through it. "Bonnie, I'm gonna move. Just give me a few seconds to get out of the way then come in." Elena stepped back swiftly and found her familiar spot at the bottom of the stairs.

Bonnie stepped in, first looking ahead and then to the kitchen on the left before swiveling her head in the other direction to take in Elena's crouched position. Her eyebrows rose. Elena shrugged. "Sunlight."

"Well, I have jewelry --" Bonnie began as Elena spoke at the same time.

"Stefan said you were bring --"

They both trailed off with a smile. Bonnie walked over to where she still sat and Elena rose to her feet. Pausing for a moment, the air was heavy with silence and then in unison they fell into each other’s arms. Elena buried her head in Bonnie’s neck as Bonnie, with tears in her voice, whispered, "I’m so glad you’re alive."

Pulling away, Elena laughed lightly as she wiped at her eyes. "Well..."

Bonnie playfully smacked at her arm. "You know what I mean."

"Yeah," Elena grinned and then gestured upstairs. "Let’s go to my room. My curtains are drawn."

Following her upstairs, Bonnie pulled a bag out of her purse as she shut Elena’s bedroom door behind her. She snagged a handheld mirror from the dresser and settled on the bed.

"Here you go." She laid out a set of jewelry: a gold ring, necklace and a set of earrings each with a delicate, floral-accented design and flashing with gems, one gold, the other blue topaz. Elena narrowed her eyes at the jewel-tones, but as she took in the beautiful display any other thought fled to the wayside.

"Wow," she settled on the opposite side of the bed and looked up at Bonnie, a smile spreading across her face. "This is gorgeous! And a whole set?"

Bonnie shrugged. "Well, you need to be able to go out and about and since you're such a target for every supernatural creature who comes to Mystic Falls it makes sense, you know?"

Her smile dimming a bit, Elena’s mouth twisted slightly. "That sounds like something Damon would say."

"Well... yeah."

Understanding what Bonnie wasn’t saying, Elena sighed, the suspicion stirred by the jewels chosen confirmed. Damon had picked these out for her, thinking of the two of them, side by side for the potential of an eternity. So very Damon. As much as he tried to hide his romantic soul, gestures like this caused it to shine through his cynical shell. And as she thought of that romance and his love for her that stayed strong despite everything her heart gave a little hitch, sighed and broke all in an instant.

It would be so much easier if she just didn’t care so much about him. Eyes closing, Elena brought the ring to her lips, but their cool hardness felt nothing like his kiss. Her eyes snapped open, and Elena set the ring down. No, no, no. I am not thinking of him. It is done. We are done. I’m with Stefan. I am with Stefan. She gave herself a sharp nod then looked up to see that Bonnie was looking at her with a quizzical expression.

"You OK?"

Elena forced a smile. "I am. Thank you." She slipped the ring on her finger and admired it for a moment. "It's beautiful."

They were both silent as Elena played with the remaining jewelry spread out on her bed. Picking up the earrings, she slipped them on and held up the mirror. Setting it down, she brushed her hair behind her ears, posing for her friend. Bonnie nodded with a fleeting smile and then bit her lip. Elena looked at her, dreading a new dose of bad news.

"So, yeah..." Bonnie sighed, "you're a vampire."

"Yeah." Elena nodded, waiting a beat and then, "so, Tyler is Klaus."

"Yes."

They looked at one another and then unexpectedly erupted in to laughter. Quickly, it dissolved into giggles and both girls wiped at their tears.

"God, the absolute crazy of our lives is unbelievable!" Bonnie burst out with, mirth still lacing her voice.

Elena nodded, "I know. Trust me, I know."

She let out a heavy sigh as they sobered up, but a smile lightened her face and Elena felt more relaxed than she had since the impromptu gathering with her friends a few days ago. Meeting Bonnie’s gaze, she expected to see the same release on her face, but instead she looked tense.

"Are you mad at me, Elena?"

"For what?"

"For saving Klaus. Caroline’s not my biggest fan right now, mostly because I used Tyler's body do to do it."

Elena shook her head. "That’s crazy. Of course I’m not mad at you. I'm grateful. And Caroline will get over it if she hasn’t already. You saved her, and even if he’s trapped with Klaus right now, Tyler too. And Stefan and..." she trailed off, Damon’s mocking gaze filling her mind. She cleared her throat. "All of us. Probably me too. "

"Yeah, Damon said he's been giving blood to Dr. Fell, so --"

"It was probably his blood in my system," Elena finished for her, feeling a surge of connection that was undeniably ridiculous because it was Damon’s blood that had turned Caroline and she clearly felt no bond with him, but it was undeniable none-the-less. Knowing that she had Damon’s blood running through her, that it was Damon’s blood that had fundamentally changed what she was sent a flurry of butterflies dancing inside of her. She shook her head because, really, it was just ridiculous.

"Elena," Bonnie spoke softly and Elena forced her attention back to her. "What happened? How did you..." she trailed off, unable to say the word.

"Die?" Elena had gotten used to her mortality over the last twelve hours.

Bonnie nodded. "I know that Matt was with you, and he’s OK."

"Yeah, he’s good."

"I’m glad, but how if you’re, you know?"

"Rebekah." Elena pronounced with a sigh. "After we thought Ric," she swallowed hard at his name, wiping a sudden tear away. Breathing out, she shook her head slightly and then continued on. "After we thought Ric killed Klaus, Rebekah knew that he would come after her and her brothers. She also knew that his life was tied to mine, so she decided to end it."

"God!"

"She knew I was headed back to town and that I'd have to cross Wickery Bridge --"

"Oh, no, Elena!"

"Yeah," she let out a shaky breath. "Anyway, she was there suddenly standing on the bridge. Matt saw her, swerved, we crashed through the rail and into the water."

"But Matt's OK?"

Elena nodded. "Stefan was there. He saved him."

"Oh."

"I told him to save Matt."

"Oh!" Bonnie repeated, surprise and confusion paired in her voice.

"So he did and then he came back for me, but I was ... it was too late."

"But..." Bonnie began and Elena looked away as the confusion set in. Here it comes, she thought, so not ready for another round of Stefan-defense. "Why would he save ... did you know? I mean, did he?" Understanding crossed her face and she nodded. "Of course, you guys knew you had the vampire bloo..." she trailed off as Elena shook her head.

"No, we didn't." Her voice was low, and she began twisting the ring on her finger, all of her earlier ease dissipating.

"But..." Bonnie began again. "Elena, I don't understand. Why would he save Matt and not you? He loves you."

Elena took a deep breath. "Because I asked him to."

"OK, but --" she broke off, and shook her head before continuing. "Yeah, you feel guilty that you couldn't save everyone, but you save --"

"Bonnie, please don't," Elena cut her off.

"But Elena that would be like me saving," she raised her hands, looking about as if casting for a comparison, "Stefan over Jeremy! I don’t get it."

"You know what? I can't do this anymore. I've already fought with Matt and Jeremy and ..." Once again, Damon’s face bloomed in her mind and she forced it away, refusing to even say his name. "I just can't. OK, he did what I wanted, he did what I asked him to. That’s the bottom-line."

"The bottom-line is that you’re dead."

"Bonnie!"

"OK, fine, I guess I get where you're coming from. But how can you not be even a little angry that the guy who loves you didn't save you?"

A hysterical bubble of laughter escaped Elena. The one question no one else had asked her, the one that she hadn’t let herself examine took her by surprise and she blurted out a truth she hadn’t admitted to herself. "I am, OK! I mean," she broke off with a sigh. "Yes, a part of me is."

Elena shook her head, and angrily swiped at the tears that began to form at the corner of her eyes. "My heart hurts that he didn't just save me. The terrible, selfish part of me, but mostly I'm so glad. I'm so grateful that he did because I don't know what I would have done if he'd saved me and Matt died."

"Elena --"

"No, Matt was completely innocent --"

Bonnie interrupted her this time. "So were you!"

"No, I wasn't." Elena countered. "I stabbed Rebekah in the back. Literally. I looked at her, I smiled, I played her friend and then I literally stabbed her in the back. I can justify it until the end of time, but I stabbed her in the back. She has a legitimate reason to hate me. Not Matt. And at the end of the day, Matt is alive, and I'm still around and I can live with myself because Matt is alive."

"Elena," Bonnie said, sadness laced in her tone. Reaching out, she grasped her best friend’s hand as Elena rushed on, the desperation to make Bonnie understand, for someone to understand where she was coming from.

"Stefan is so filled with guilt, he's so consumed with it. He feels terrible."

"He should!" Bonnie exclaimed, clearly not understanding.

"Bonnie!"

"No, he should. I’m sorry, I am, and I do get what you're saying, and obviously, yeah, it worked out as well as it possibly could, but he should have saved you."

Elena gave up on trying to convince her that Stefan had done the right thing. She pulled her hand loose and just looked at Bonnie. Neither one said a word, tension now filling the air.

With a sigh, Bonnie leaned back and forced a smile, her tone cajoling for a response. "Well, at least this clears things up, right?"

Thrown by the question, Elena shook her head. "What do you mean?"

"You were all torn between the two of them and now that Stefan's off the table you just have to figure out if you're actually gonna go there with Damon."

As if Bonnie's words were a key, the memory of last night flooded her mind. Elena remembered wrapping her arms around his shoulders, gripping the back of his neck. He had broken free from her kiss and looked at her with the most incredible longing she’d ever seen. Whispering her name over and over again, he had only stopped when she kissed him again.

Elena remembered the feel of his fingers on her skin, her cheek, her collarbone, digging into her hips, hard then soft. How he’d ripped at her clothes, and she had done the same to him. How he’d entered her, driving deep in and out and then brought her to the most incredible climax when his sharp teeth pierced her jugular at the same time.

"Elena?" Bonnie reached out and touched her leg. Elena jumped up, trying to control her breathing, her thoughts. She looked at herself in the mirror, at her flushed face, at the veins beginning to pucker around her eyes, the painful push of her fangs in her mouth. Just the thought of him threatened her control. She made herself breathe in and out, slowly forcing herself to think of calming things -- the memory of her mother, writing in her journal, lazy days at the lakehouse with her family. The signs of her vampire nature faded and Elena turned to face Bonnie.

"I’m sorry, I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m just learning to control it. You were saying -- I mean, what you were saying, no, I chose Stefan. I chose him when I thought they were both dying. I thought he was going to be gone from my life forever. Stefan..." she trailed off and then moved closer to the bed, capturing Bonnie’s gaze, her own earnest. "I chose Stefan."

Her sincerity didn’t do much to sway Bonnie’s position. "But that was before you died. Elena, that was before *Stefan* let you die."

"He tried to save me --" she tried again.

"After!"

"Bonnie," She paused, giving up. "I'm with Stefan now. We're together again."

Bonnie got to her feet, her expression incredulous. "You're kidding me. Elena!"

"No, we never really ended, Bonnie. And I never stopped loving him, it was just everything that happened with Klaus --"

"And then he chose to turn his switch off and stay away from you." Bonnie’s eyes widened, disbelief still marking her features.

"But he came back," was Elena’s impassioned reply. "And he's Stefan again. The real Stefan. The Stefan I love. And he loves me. And we *are* together again."

Bonnie was quiet, her lips pursed and then in a clipped tone, she offered her pronouncement. "I think you're making a mistake."

Straightening, Elena felt a surge of anger and frustration filling her, turning her voice cold. "Well that's not up to you."

"Right." Bonnie turned and grabbed her purse. "I'm gonna go see Matt." She didn’t look at Elena.

"Bonnie?" And the coldness was gone.

"What, Elena?"

Rushing to her, Elena grabbed at her hands, pleading with her with her gaze. "Please, don't be mad. I need you, I need all of you right now."

Bonnie squeezed her hands back and shook her head with a forlorn smile. "I'm not mad, Elena. I'm just ... I'm disappointed, I guess. I don't understand. I mean, God, I can't believe I'm saying this, but if you had to choose between those two, just those two, then yeah, I think it should've been Damon." She shook her head again, and repeated quietly as if to herself. "I can’t believe I said that."

Elena couldn’t believe it either; her mouth dropped open in shock. She barely even noticed when Bonnie released her hands and walked to the door. Slowly, Elena turned to watch her departure, surprise still on her face.

Bonnie shrugged. "He would have saved your life, Elena. Damon would have put you first. He always does."

XxxxX

"I can't believe that Klaus is *in* Tyler," Matt looked ahead, disbelief leaving his face slack.

Caroline perched on the edge of the hospital bed and shrugged. "When you live in a crazy town with vampires, werewolves and witches, I guess anything is possible." She sat up straighter and threw a determined smile on her face. "Anyway, I'm over it. I was a little upset with Bonnie at first, but I see now that it's for the best. And like Damon said, now we have time to figure out how to get rid of Klaus," she wrinkled her nose in distaste, "without taking the rest of us out ... including Elena."

Matt slightly shook his head and turned to meet her gaze. "Elena?"

"Yeah, apparently he's the one who's been slipping Dr. Fell," her voice dropped to an exaggerated whisper, "the healing blood of the vampire." She nodded, and then as a thought crossed her mind, a sunny smile blossomed on her face. "I guess that kinda, sorta makes Elena and I sisters in a way since we were both 'sired' by Damon." Her smile turned into a frown. "Although I guess that's kinda gross since me and Damon, you know, and he and Elena have made out."

She was silent for a moment, and then just shrugged. "Nah, I like the sisters idea, I'll just ignore the icky. Oh and speaking of Damon ... I have to tell you what happened with the council. You know that the psycho version of Mr. Saltzman spilled alllll of our secrets?" He nodded and she went on. "Well, I may be FAR from Damon's biggest fan, but even I have to admit he was awesome."

Matt shook his head. "Yeah, that's what I don't get."

She looked confused. "What? Wait, no, I’m going to tell you what happened. See --"

"No, why you still hate Damon so much."

Rolling her eyes, Caroline leaned forward and smacked him on the arm. "Duh. You remember how crappy he was to me when we dated?"

"Yeah, but wasn’t that vampire-humanity switch thing you guys have in the off position?"

She paused, pursing her lips. "Well, yeah, but..." she trailed off and was silent, her eyes narrowed in thought and Matt dove into the silence.

"Yeah, just like when Stefan turned his off and was terrible to everybody, including Elena. You forgave him for that, and don’t hold him responsible for anything he did when it was off, right?"

"Well, that's different," she explained without an explanation.

"He killed Chad and Dana! How is that different? In my book, it's worse."

Her eyes widened and she sat up, indignation straightening her spine. "Because I know Stefan and he's a good guy, who cares! And Damon --"

"Has like saved your life how many times?"

She opened her mouth to respond and then shut it with a snap. Matt continued.

"You were gonna die from that car crash on Founder's Day. Your mom told me that Damon saved your life with his blood."

Caroline leaned forward again, a triumphant smile lighting her face. "Yeah, but he only did that for my mom and to score brownie points with Elena." Score, Caroline! she thought.

"So? He still saved your life." She frowned. Or not. "And what about when Tyler was doing his whole werewolf thing? He would have bit you and you would have died from it. I know that you think Stefan's the greatest thing, but I don't think he would have done for you what he did for his brother. You would be dead now if Damon hadn't pushed you out of the way and taken that bite from Tyler."

She scoffed and folded her arms over her chest. "Yeah, but so what? He’s still a jerk. Even with this switch on." She dropped her arms and straightened up, her voice rising to a shrill intensity. "Why are you defending him?"

"I'm not defending him," he denied and she gave him a look. He sighed and relented, "Not really. I'm just... I’m not NOT defending Stefan. Look, I'm not saying I like Damon, I don't. There's just a pretty crazy double-standard here, and the guy might be a jerk, but I'll still take him over Stefan these days."

"Matt," she whined, completely not getting his point of view.

He laughed, "I’m sorry, Caroline, but when I finally got clued into everything that was going on, it became pretty clear that Damon was the ringleader, trying to keep everyone alive and get rid of the bad guys. So, yeah, he's a jerk, but he's a jerk who's on our side."

Sighing, Caroline grimaced. "I know that, OK? I get that, but it's personal and I don't like him and that's all there is to it. So Damon sucks, subject closed." She pasted on a wintry smile, her eyes far from sparkling.

Matt rolled his eyes. "OK, fine, but I still think it’s crazy that you're totally cool with Stefan even though, oh, right, he let Elena die!"

"He did not! Matt, you don't understand. Yes, his switch was off but that was because he felt terrible and guilty over everything that had happened," she sent a withering look his way. "Damon never feels guilty. Stefan did and does, and Elena had begged him over and over to come back to her, to be her Stefan and he couldn't do it because he was so guilty." Scoffing, Matt started to reply, but Caroline rushed on. "But then he did *because* he loves her so much and he wanted to do the right thing. So when it came down to it, he could have been selfish and ignored what she wanted -- which was to save you, I might add! -- but he didn't. Instead, he was selfless and he put what she wanted first." She nodded, clear that she had effectively made Stefan’s case.

"Right." Matt rolled his eyes.

"Ugh, Matt!"

"I'm sorry, but I’m not buying it. He was so selfless that he let the girl he supposedly loves so much die."

"He didn't let her die. He was going back to save her." She frowned, thinking of Elena, now a vampire. "He was just too late, but HE didn't let her die -- that's all on Rebekah."

Matt winced, and Caroline’s eyes widened, outrage sparking her expression. "Oh, God you don't still like kinda like her even a little after what she did?!"

Before Matt could respond, the door opened behind them. Both of them turned to see Stefan step into the room, hesitation in his frame. Matt ignored his presence and looked back to Caroline. "No, I just," he broke off and shrugged, his gaze falling to his now clenched fists. "I can kinda understand a little where Rebekah was coming from. I’ve lost a sibling too."

Stefan moved forward, heated surprise on his face. "You blame me for what happened to Elena, but not Rebekah?"

Shaking his head, Matt steadfastly kept his eyes down. "I’m not talking to you."

"Matt, come on," Caroline pleaded with him. He finally looked up at her and with a nearly imperceptible shake of his head turned his gaze on Stefan, his eyes burning.

"It's not even what happened to Elena, it’s that it was so pointless. You didn't even save my life."

"I did!"

"No, Rebekah did." Matt sneered. "That's why I'm all fine and dandy now. She stuck around and when she saw that I was dying, she fed me her blood because I wouldn't have made it otherwise."

Caroline rose to her feet and looked at Stefan. His eyes were wide; he looked completely sucker-punched. "I didn’t know," he breathed. "I thought I saved you. For Elena. I thought..." he trailed off and blindly turned around. Stepping forward, Caroline reached out and touched his arm, but he shook her off. "No, no." He looked at her, anguish in his gaze. "I have to go." He turned back to Matt and shook his head. "I’m sorry."

Watching him go, Caroline wrapped her arms around her waist, her expression twisted in sympathy. "Stefan," she cried under her breath, spinning around to face Matt. "How could you do that to him?"

He was unrepentant. "What? I'm only supposed to understand the crazy reasons why people YOU like do terrible things?"

"No," she stomped her foot and groaned. "I just... can we not? You’re in the hospital, I don’t want to fight." She sighed and moved back to the bed, resting one hand on the rail. "Do you?"

"No." He paused and then shrugged. "Fine, tell me what happened with the council."

"Never mind, I'm not in the mood anymore." He just looked at her. "OK, fine, I'll tell you. I mean it really was awesome even if I still don't like Damon. I don't care how many times he saved my life."

"Whatever, just tell me. No rah-rah-rahing for Damon, I swear." He smiled, drawing one out of her as well.

Caroline settled back on the edge of the bed and placed her hands in her lap as she went into storytelling mode. "Well, so I was in the other room at the Lockwood mansion. The door was open so I could see what was going on. Everyone was there and Damon was all 'I called this emergency meeting because I have bad news. Our newest member -- who we let in due to his friendship with so many of us despite his lack of familial council ties,’"

She interrupted herself to comment. "I liked that: 'familial council ties.’ Anyway, so he said 'Alaric Saltzman is not one of us.’ And I could hear that windbag Pastor Young do his whole 'harrumph!' thing. Which Damon was totally counting on because he was like 'Yes, I know he made some insane allegations against myself, my brother and a couple of our members and their families.’

"That shut him up, but Damon was on a roll, really milking it. 'Frankly I find it astounding that anyone believed him, and yes, I'm looking at you Pastor.’ And I had to stop from laughing at that point because, man, Matt if you could have seen his face. He was not a happy camper."

Matt grinned and shook his head slightly. Caroline grinned back and continued. "Anyway, Damon talked about their paranoia and he was going to prove to them that Ric was lying. And this was sad, but I knew it was coming. He pointed to the corner and there was poor Mr. Saltzman all wrapped up in a tarp and Damon was all tada! Because, of course, he was all dead with the grey skin and veins and stuff."

"So was that the end of it?"

"No. And Damon figured it wouldn’t be and he was right. Mr. Davis said that maybe Damon had turned Mr. Saltzman and then staked him to sell his story, and that’s when Damon walked to the window and was all 'duh! Sunlight!’ But, of course, Mr. Saltzman had told them about the daylight rings. So Damon took his off, and he was fine."

"How?"

Caroline smiled, savoring Matt’s confusion. "Bonnie had day-spelled his watch so even with his ring off he was fine."

"So it doesn't have to be a ring?"

"Yeah, no I kinda thought that too, but no, it just needs some specific metal compound thingie that binds with the spell. I don't know, but it worked. So anyway, then my mom walked over to Damon and she was all teary-voiced, but really strong, you know, and was like 'how could you think that the leader of our council was a vampire? That Mayor Lockwood and myself knew and were OK with it? That my daughter was one of them?' She was awesome.

"Then she pulled the hurt-mom card which got all the women on our side. She told them that since I was eighteen now and had been dragged into this against my will, she told me all about the council. That’s when she called me in. I came in and stood next to her ... in the sun .. and she asked me for my ring, which I gave to her."

Matt looked pointedly down at her bare wrists. "You're not wearing a watch."

She smiled. "I know. See, I told you Damon was awesome. Seriously, he thought of everything." Caroline reached up and brushed her hair aside a bit and showed him the antique comb that secured a wave. "See my comb? Isn’t it beautiful? I’m totally keeping it. Anyway, it has that compound thingie so I was good too."

"So THAT was the end of it?"

"Nope. Then Pastor Young said that Mr. Saltzman also mentioned vampire healing powers and Damon pretty much just laughed like it was the stupidest thing, and then my mom really hit it home." Caroline's smile dimmed a bit, a shadow of sadness filling her eyes. "It did hurt though because he could have lived, but I know it was necessary to keep us all safe." She shook her head quickly, banishing her unhappy thoughts. "Mom pointed out that if such a thing was even possible that there’s no way my dad wouldn’t be alive. If his daughter was a vampire like she’d let him die? And because, you know, he did die even though I could have saved him, I cried a little and that helped to sell the lie even more. But yeah, it was sad."

"I’m sorry, Caroline. I know how much you still miss him." He reached out and gave her hand a quick squeeze.

She sent a smile of gratitude his way and blinked her tears away. "Yeah, but it helped, saying that, even though there was still some suspicion. So Damon walked over and poured himself a glass of water and asked if anyone had vervain on them. And of course Pastor Young did. So Mrs. Lockwood took it -- so Damon didn't have to hold it -- and crushed it in the glass. Damon drank it all up, no problem."

Cocking his head to the side, Matt looked at her, confusion anew in his expression. "How?"

She waved her hands in the air, mostly dismissing the magic behind it and explained it simply. "It has something to do with magical healing arts or something. Basically there's a spell that's like a numbing agent and it lasts for about four hours. Bonnie whammied Damon with that so even though it was burning him up something fierce all the way down, he didn't feel a thing. And so we're good. The council is completely off our backs." She smiled, but the smile faded into a sigh. "Now, Elena just needs to get her daylight ring and figure out how to be a good vampire and keep the grrr under control. Then we're all good."

"Speaking of, have you seen her? I haven't since last night."

Caroline perked up. "You haven’t seen her since the accident?"

"No, I did, she came to visit after she... woke up."

"Oh, no. I haven’t. I just -- it feels weird," she admitted.

The familiar expression of confusion flitted across Matt’s face. "Why?"

Letting out a deep breath, she looked down. "Well, you know how bad I am at keeping secrets."

He laughed. "Yeah, it's a miracle when you manage it."

Without taking the least bit of offense, she nodded. "I know, right." Twisting her hands, Caroline looked at him, hesitating to say anything but she finally figured he couldn’t possibly think any less of Stefan than he already did. "I don’t know, it’s just that Stefan said something last night and it threw me a little."

"What do you mean?" There was suspicion but not surprise in Matt’s eyes as he narrowed them.

"It was just about Elena and Katherine and being vampires, and I know it's stupid and he'll realize that, but I just kinda wanna wait until I know they're good." She bit her lip. "Or not." She shook her head. "It's silly, I'll probably go and see her anyway, that's more important."

"Wait, go back. What do you mean?" He repeated. "We were on Wickery Bridge because she wanted to be with Stefan."

"Yeah, before she died."

Matt scoffed and rolled his eyes. "You think she's gonna change her mind?"

Caroline shrugged. "I just know that after everything went down last night, Stefan was with me and Elena was with Damon."

XxxxX

Setting her pen and diary down on the bedside table, Elena sighed, an admittance that this was another failed attempt to return her love for Stefan to its absolute stage. It had crossed her mind earlier that they just needed to start fresh, create a new beginning. But she wasn’t sure that would work either if she was being honest with herself. She’d been jotting down the tried-and-true pros and cons list and well, there were a lot more cons than pros these days she was genuinely surprised to find.

And would starting new even work? When she and Stefan first began their relationship, things were relatively sane in her life. She didn’t know about Katherine, about the whole supernatural world and her only feelings for a boy had been the expected, but never-really happened love with Matt. Now there was Damon. Yes, she was going to stay away from him, and yes, she had emphatically decided that what had happened last night was it for them. She had chosen Stefan; she would stick with that. Period.

However, she couldn’t lie to herself and deny that what she felt for Damon wasn’t there and that it wasn’t real. It wasn’t what she felt for Stefan, and neither was it what had been there with Matt. It was something different, maybe more, maybe less, she didn’t know. She knew that she frustrated Damon, and Stefan, with her inability to give a name to what she was feeling, but she honestly, truly didn’t know. She *did* love Stefan and if what she felt for Damon wasn’t what she felt for Stefan, then how could it be love?

"Penny for your thoughts?"

Elena jumped, and her gaze flew to her open window.

Damon.

She pressed her hand to her chest, the beating of her heart galloping at an insane pace. He smiled, that crooked half-smile of his, but his eyes were warm, concerned and open. Elena felt a shudder of pain for the conversation to come and she didn’t know if it was for her or him. But she had to do it, not only for her, but for him as well. No more stringing him along, intentional or not,, she thought.

Hands falling to her coverlet, her fingers gripped the fabric, but her voice was even, not betraying the emotions rippling through her at the sight of him. "What are you doing here?" She really had not expected him to show up. Because I am an idiot, she chastised herself. Of course Damon would come to her after he’d felt that she had enough time to deal with what happened. As if twelve hours is enough time.

He reached into his jacket and pulled out a couple of blood bags. "I brought dinner." He grinned, and her heart lurched, so consumed with the sight of him, that she barely reacted to the blood. He has no idea that I can’t do this with him. But of course he doesn’t, I told him that I needed his help, his and Stefan’s both. "I figured you weren’t up for snacking on the local populace, so handy take-out." He pulled one bag apart from the others and shook it invitingly.

Elena shut her eyes, fighting the tears that threatened to fall. She cut off a laugh too.

He moved closer to the bed, his smile fading as concern shadowed his eyes. "What?"

"I’ve cried more in the last twelve hours than I can remember in such a short time before. Becoming a vampire turns some people into crazed psychos. Me? I’m a watering pot." And then she did laugh because it felt good to admit a weakness. It was something she didn’t feel right doing since her parents died because she had to be the strong one, the one in control. It struck her then that the thought had been rolling in her head since this morning, but she hadn’t felt comfortable telling Jeremy, or Stefan or even Bonnie. But with Damon, it just pops out.

"Well, we all cope in different ways," he offered, not judging, just accepting. Still smiling, he settled on the edge of her bed. Too close, she thought, and in the next instant rose to her feet.

Shaking her head, she forced a civil, but impersonal tone to her voice. "No, thank you. I don’t want the blood bags."

"Elena, you need to feed. I know you don’t want to go chomping on any Tom, Dick or Jeremy."

She nodded. "Right, I don’t want to do that and I don’t want to drink human blood --"

"Elena --"

"No, I will go see Stefan in a bit." She held up her hand for him to see the ring, and resolutely ignored the flash of possession that heated his eyes the instant he saw he wearing what he had picked out for her. "He’ll teach me how to hunt."

"Animals? Snacking on chipmunks and bunny rabbits?" He scoffed and stood up. "Come on, Elena, you know that doesn’t work. Stefan manages to stay on that diet for months, maybe a year or two at a time before reality comes a'knocking and sends him spiraling into vampire no-man’s land. Caroline doesn’t even do the hunting. Much." He held out the blood bag again. "Here. You need to feed."

She shook her head. "No, Damon, I’m not doing it. I’m not Stefan, and I’m not Caroline. I’ll be fine with the animal stuff."

"Blood. Animal blood. And, no, you won’t be fine. You’ll be barely surviving."

"Stefan manages it."

"No, he doesn’t. Didn’t you hear anything I just said? Vampires are not meant to subsist on Chip and Dale alone. It’s not healthy, it’s not good and there will be consequences if you try."

"Damon --"

"Look, when you came to me last night," God, don’t go there! Please, please don’t go there. Her eyes snapped shut and she felt him in her, his kiss, his touch -- No! She opened her eyes and he’d dropped his head for a moment. When he raised it, he was looking at her and there was regret in his gaze, and when he continued, his voice was low and somber. "When you talked to me you said that you needed our help. *Our* help. Mine included."

"I changed my mind," she retorted with a feigned casual air and turned her gaze away. Go away, please, please go away. I can’t do this.

"Elena --"

"No, I mean it. I’ve been thinking about it and I don’t need your help. The kind of vampire you are is not the kind of vampire I want to be. I barely remember what Jeremy’s blood tastes like so I won’t be craving human blood. I’ll get used to the animal stuff -- blood -- and I’ll be fine. I don’t need your help, Damon. I have Stefan. Stefan and I are together and we will do this together."

He laughed then, and it was an ugly one. "Right, you and Stefan, happy as Tiny Tim tiptoeing through the tulips. Whatever. Elena, you and I both know that you not wanting my help has nothing to do with how to be a better vampire!" His voice at the end held a false cheer, and his smile was just as phony.

Lips thinning into a hard line, she wrapped her arms around her waist and stood taller. "What I know is that I need to take control of my life and being a vampire like you is not being in control. You are the very definition of NOT being in control."

Damon shoved the blood bags into his pocket and scoffed as he moved around the bed, standing just a few feet from her. "Oh please, this isn’t about my lack of control, it’s about yours. You can’t handle what we did."

"I can. I am actually. This is me handling it. I’m over it. I’m over what we did."

At her words, the sarcasm and the irritation was gone from his expression and instead there was surprise and a deep hurt. That hurt was in his voice when he finally did reply.

"You're lying."

Elena shook her head, holding onto herself tighter. "I’m not. You need to leave."

Damon stepped closer, and everything in her screamed to back up, but if she did that then she was telling him that he was right, that she wasn’t over it. So she didn’t move. She just stood there as he got closer. "You can't ignore what's between us." So close, he was so close now.

"Oh, yes, I can," she lied and stood her ground.

"Elena..." and there was just the edge of a pleading note there, barely, but she could hear it.

Shaking her head again, she resisted biting her lip, resisted giving him any sign that she was affected by him. "I can. I will. I am."

Damon was silent then, his eyebrows coming together, a frown deepening on his mouth, a dark cloud hovering over him. She could see that pain building, take on that uncontrollable edge. Elena tried to step back then; she almost raised a hand in time to forestall him, but it was too late.

"Ignore this," he muttered as he covered the few inches remaining between them in a flash, his hands cupping her face, his lips finding hers in a passionate kiss that rocked her to her very core. Her arms rose as her mouth opened, his tongue slipping between her lips and for a moment that seemed to last forever she savored the taste of him. Then her hands landed on his shoulders and instead of holding onto him, she found a reserve of self-control to cling to and she shoved him away. Hard.

Once again she sent him flying across the room, and he banged against her bedroom door with a loud thud. They stared at each other and in that split-second between the push and their gazes locked, Elena felt the overwhelming loss of his touch, of his kiss. His lips parted to speak, but she was against him, rushing to him so quickly that there wasn’t enough time to make a conscious decision.

Her hands lost themselves in his hair, pulling and jerking at the dark strands as she devoured his mouth, her tongue now sliding into him, exploring, tasting, taking in his every strangled breath and combining it with her own. He wrapped his arms tightly around her before one hand rose, finding space between their bodies, moving over the dark material of her shirt and finding her breast. Elena moaned into their kiss as he cupped her, his fingers dancing over, rubbing the tender puckering of her nipple.

He lowered his mouth, his lips trailing hot kisses down the curve of her neck. "Elena," he breathed and her eyes shot open. Last night, her name falling from his lips had been a siren call she couldn’t resist. Tonight, it was a wake-up call. She jerked back, out of his arms. Her hands flew to her face, her neck and she tried to wipe the taste of him away as she moved back.

"No, no, I don't want this," her voice was hoarse and desperate as she tried to convince herself that she meant what she was saying.

Damon was having none of it. "You do, you want this. You want me!" But he didn’t follow her this time. He straightened up, but stayed where he was in front of the door.

He was right, she admitted to herself as the last few moments played over in her mind. But, she thought, and then spoke out loud. "I don't want to want you, Damon."

He was silent then, as was she. The silence so deafening loud in the room, she couldn’t even hear the beating of her heart, the breaking of his. "I don’t want to," she whispered again, acknowledging finally that she did, but God that she did *not* want to feel this way for him.

Her voice was still small, and there was a catch in her throat, but the tears were not falling. She would not let them fall again in front of him. "I'm with Stefan. I *want* to be with Stefan."

Shaking his head, he looked away for a moment and when he looked back at her, she could see the denial etched across his face. She’d certainly seen it on her own a million times. She couldn’t do this to him, keep playing this game with him. If she was going to let him go, she had to actually do it. Elena forced a smile on her lips. "Stefan and I are together, and we're going to be fine."

He shook his head again, his eyes glistening with unshed tears. He finally moved a few steps closer to her, and this time she did back away, touching the wall behind her. He laughed harshly. "Going to be? Because you're not now. You know you’re not fine." And he moved even closer, only a few feet between them. "Know why?" He bent his head, leaning in closer, his voice dropping to a near whisper. "Because no matter how hard you fight it, no matter how much you try to deny it, you're in love with me, Elena."

She was quiet, because despite the fact that she was so convinced, she absolutely knew that she *didn’t* know, she couldn’t say anything. She could only offer a slight shake of her head; she couldn’t say a word.

He could. He did. "Yes."

Elena’s eyes shut for a quick second and she drew in a deep breath. I have to do this. I have to go there. This is for him. This is for *him.* I have to make him believe. Opening them, she faced him and then stepped back, moving across the room. She stood where he started, at her open window. Then she faced him again.

"Do you love me?"

He looked surprised even as he nodded slowly. And when he replied, his tone was wary. "Yes. You know that I do."

She wrapped her arms around herself again, needing the support. "Then prove it. Do what I want, Damon. Respect my choice, respect what I want." Feeling weak, she dropped her arms and stood straight as she faced him fully. "Prove that you love me, Damon ... leave me alone. I don't want you in my life, not right now." She shook her head, holding on, letting him go. "I can't have you in my life."

Pain, unlike she’d seen since he found out that Katherine wasn’t in the tomb all those months ago, fell over his face. She could see his heart breaking into a million pieces right in front of her as she shut him down, let him go. But she had to. She meant what she said. She couldn’t do this, she couldn’t find any balance, any peace, any control in her life if he was in it. Everything about him, everything he made her feel made her lose control, lose herself, who she thought she was... instead she became like him, almost a part of him. She was afraid that if she didn’t make him walk away that he would consume her completely and there would be no Elena left. He needed to let her go.

"If you love me, Damon, you'll let me go."

Silence stretched out between them, and it took everything in her not to break, not to crumple before him, not to try and take his pain away, but she had to do this. She had to be selfish, she had to put herself first. And in the long run, it was better for him too. She knew that, absolutely. So she met his gaze and hers was steady and hard. She didn’t blink; she didn’t cry. There was only a sheen there, shimmering at the corner of her eyes.

Damon finally looked down. He looked away. And then he turned, quietly opened the door and walked out without a word.

Then the tears fell.

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*Sigh* One final note: I get that some are not going to feel bad for Elena for the most part here. I do. I can't help it. She is a massively, massively screwed up 18-year old GIRL whose life has once again been ripped asunder. She hasn't even been a vampire for 24 hours. I will say that this is the darkest chapter for Damon/Elena. It's all uphill from here. I promise.
Tags: bonnie bennett, caroline forbes, damon salvatore, damon/elena, elena gilbert, fic: ...bettervampire, the vampire diaries
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