Anyhoo, on with the story...
Title: How To Make A Better Vampire
Chapter: 09 - Reality Comes A'Knocking [Featured Characters: Elena, Caroline, Bonnie, Stefan, Jeremy 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: 4,606
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, Klaus/Caroline).
Just a heads-up, obviously TVD has returned, but nothing in this fic -- despite some similarities you may note -- is inspired by anything seen in season 04. Nor will it be -- if I start adding things from the show it might wind up messing my planned story!
PREVIOUS CHAPTERS - 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8
Chapter 09: Reality Comes A'Knocking
It had been a bad day. Not one of Elena's worst. No, there had been too many truly horrific days for this one to fall under that category, but still... a bad day. A very, very bad day.
It all started this morning when she woke up, her stomach cramping with hunger, her skin feeling just a little bit drier than was comfortable. So she did what any normal person does in that situation. She lathered up with extra lotion after her shower, and then ate a big breakfast of toast, eggs, burnt bacon and then she downed four cups of coffee. Feeling somewhat sated, she was ready to begin her first day of school as not quite a normal person.
When Jeremy asked her on the drive if she had drank any blood, she'd merely shook her head determined to ignore that even the word set her teeth on edge with craving. Having partaken of a fluffy rabbit the day before, Elena was sure that she would be fine until after school. As long as she drank enough to survive, she would be fine. She just had to train her body to not expect copious amounts of the stuff. It would take some time, and while she adjusted, she would just have to deal with the craving. She could do that.
When he started to press, she glared at him, shocked when he recoiled slightly. "Your eyes, Elena!" He breathed out.
Grateful for the red light, she looked up in the rearview mirror and gasped, recoiling slightly herself. Dark veins popped up under her skin, her eyes a murky shade. Shutting them, she let out a long breath using the technique that Caroline had taught her. After a few moments of that, and a horn blown behind her, Elena opened her eyes and turned to Jeremy.
He nodded hesitantly. "You're good, but go. The light..." he gestured ahead as another horn blare filled the air.
And that was just the start of the day. Once she got to school, the overwhelming smell of the blood encased in human flesh all around nearly brought her to her knees. She had to stand at the car, holding on tightly to the handle in order to stand straight. And she had bent the damn metal. Eventually she'd managed to block out the smell of all those bodies with all that blood running through them.
Then there were the heartbeats. No matter how hard she tried to *not* focus on their thumping sounds, they were beating in discordant rhythm all around her. She finally had to escape to the bathroom, turn on the faucets in every sink, flush every toilet, jack up a song on her Iphone and lock herself in a stall for a good five minutes of deep breathing.
That was where Caroline and Bonnie found her. And she was fine... until she stepped out and saw Bonnie's pulse pounding in her throat. This time she felt the veins bulging under her skin and her fangs emerging with a sharp pop. Two seconds later, Caroline shoved Bonnie out of the bathroom and locked the door.
"Girl... you so need help!"
"I'm fine," Elena insisted even as she was ready to tear out of there and rip into the nearest human blood bag, even if it was her witchy best friend.
"You're so not. Here." Caroline reached into her purse and pulled out a small flask. "You need this more than me."
Elena breathed heavily, feeling her face resume its human form and took the flask. "What is this for?"
"It's brandy." She smirked. "Damon's good stuff." Her voice dropped to a faux-whisper. "My mom only gets the cheap stuff, so I ransack Damon's supply whenever I'm at the boarding house." She set her hands on her hips, an order in her tone. "Drink. Now."
Shaking her head, Elena unscrewed the top. "Why? What will it do?" But she took a sip before Caroline responded and had her answer almost immediately. As the alcohol swam through her body, she felt a lessening of the tense craving that was holding her hostage in this bathroom. She drank more, and then with a deep swallow, finished the whole thing.
Caroline sighed and reached in her purse again for another flask. "Good thing I have a back-up. Take it easy this time."
Elena nodded, eagerly taking the brandy from her friend and allowing herself more moderate sips. Satisfied at last, she was happy to note that there was still more than half of the contents left.
"Have you had some bunny today?" Caroline asked sweetly, but there was an edge of deep concern in her voice.
"I was gonna go after school." She explained.
Caroline parted her lips to respond, then paused and took a breath. "Please tell me you at least went hunting with Stefan last night before you went to bed?"
Confused, Elena shook her head. "Why would I do that? You and I had already gone earlier."
"Oh my God, Elena! You are a baby vampire! You need to eat more or you'll-- you'll... do this!"
Caroline raised a brow. "You were in the bathroom, hiding in the stall trying to flood the school to the strains of, eww, James Blunt. And *then* you were this close to chomping on Bonnie. Bonnie! You are not fine."
"I am, Caroline. I just needed to take the edge off the craving so thank you for this." She screwed the lid back on and slipped it in her bag. "I'm good. It's just gonna take some getting used to."
"You should go home." Caroline pronounced.
Caroline had been right, Elena thought, banging her head on her window frame. She had so not been fine. Managing to get through the first two periods, she had sent reassuring looks Stefan's way during the second which he accepted way too easily, she had to admit. Then some idiot got a paper cut two lockers down from her between second and third period.
Back to the bathroom she went. And if Caroline had shown up one minute earlier what happened next wouldn't have happened, but she didn't... and so it did. Same twit with the paper cut walked into that very bathroom and the next thing you knew, Elena had her arms wrapped around the helpless girl, her fangs buried in her neck.
Fortunately for Elena (and the twit), Caroline was only a minute behind Elena, not two. She entered, a cry falling from her lips. Pulling the girl from Elena's tight grasp, Caroline quickly bit into her own wrist and dribbled her blood into the girl's mouth. Elena just stood there staring, unable to comprehend what the hell had just happened.
"When you came into the bathroom no one was here. You fixed your lipstick and walked out feeling like a million bucks because that color looks *fabulous* on you." Caroline nodded, her eyes still locked on the girl's. "Go."
The girl went. And Elena started sobbing the second the door closed behind her. She fell into Caroline's arms. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Caroline, I didn't mean... I never meant to..."
"Ssh, ssh. I know." The bell rang loudly signaling the start of the next class. "The halls will be clear, let's get you home. I'll text Stefan, get him to clear our departure with the office."
Elena could only nod.
Caroline drove her home. Elena took a crazy-long shower, finding herself thinking desperately of Damon and how he would know exactly what to say -- words of tough love injected with a heady dose of reality. But she had cut Damon out of her life. So no Damon. Which left Stefan. Right. Her boyfriend. He showed up within an hour, with Jeremy following minutes behind, walking in on their conversation. And that had just gone swimmingly, she thought back wearily.
"Why didn't you tell me you were having a hard time?" Stefan had asked, his voice full of solicitous concern.
"I thought I would be fine." She explained and waited for him to call her on her stupidity.
He didn't. And she disloyally thought that Damon would have.
"It's just going to take some time, Elena." He stepped closer, and took her face in his hands, those beautiful green eyes of his so warm and sincere as he looked into hers. He made her want to believe that this would happen. It would truly just take some time.
But she kept seeing that girl, her neck torn and bleeding before Caroline's blood healed her. Elena could still taste the rich, thick blood in her mouth. She didn't believe him, not completely. "Are you sure?" She sounded like a child, she knew she did, but she was so lost. And she felt more alone than she ever had before.
"Yes. This is what you want to do, right?" She nodded and if it was reluctant, he didn't call her on it. "Then I will back you one hundred percent. It's your choice." Stefan smoothed her hair down, smiling softly at her. "You know that I will always respect your choice."
"Oh we all know that, asshole."
Stefan broke away. Elena turned to face Jeremy who stood in the doorway, a sneer marring his face.
The look he shot Stefan was full of so much loathing that it broke her heart to see it on her brother. "While you were respecting my sister's choice did it cross your mind for even a second that if she died I would have lost every family member in a year?"
Stefan looked down, guilt settling over him like a cloak.
"Jeremy..." Elena began, but she stopped when he turned to face her. There was a look of heated anguish there that she hadn't seen directed at her since he found out that she had asked Damon to compel him after Vicki died, that she had kept so much from him, lied to him time and time again.
"Did it cross yours, Elena?"
Without waiting for an answer, he shook his head in disgust and walked out. She stood there, struck dumb, it hitting her with a powerful blow that no, she had not. She hadn't thought of Jeremy and his loss at all.
"Elena," Stefan began, but she held up a hand.
"No, I can't. I just--" she broke off, not sure what to say or how to say what she felt because she couldn't just blurt it out. That would only make him feel guiltier. And for the second time that evening she longed for Damon because if it was him standing right there, she wouldn't have to think before she spoke. Even if she pissed him off, even if she knew he would feel guilty, she'd still say it. And he would take it.
And he would do the same for her, to her. Elena shut her eyes, lamenting the pristine memory of what she and Stefan had once had. What she had let herself believe they had. The lies and the omissions, the pretense and the sugar-coating of so much was in stark contrast to the honesty to the point of pain that she shared with Damon. The honesty that she was finding herself unable to deny that she badly needed right now.
"Just go," she finally managed. And then when a flash of pain flared in his eyes, she quickly continued. "I just need to be alone, talk to him." Elena forced a smile. "I'll be fine. I'll see you tomorrow." Walking over, she gave him a quick kiss and headed into the bathroom, closing the door behind her, giving him no choice but to leave.
That had been an hour ago. Half a bottle of her father’s scotch later, Elena sat on her window seat, diary in hand thinking about her *wonderful* day. Looking down at the blank page in front of her, she closed the book and threw it on the ground.
She turned to face her reflection in the window and smiled the saddest smile. "And that was my day."
Bonnie opened the door, a smile on her face when she saw Jeremy. The smile quickly faded at the look on his.
"I just--" he began, pausing as he unceremoniously pushed inside and threw himself on the couch. He looked up at Bonnie, his eyes wide, full of anger and pain. Bonnie moved to his side.
"I can't even look at him without wanting to punch him in his stupid face!" He burst out, and then flew to his feet. He turned and began pacing. "I know what happened today, Bonnie! I know that my sister, the vampire, attacked some girl and if it wasn't for Caroline, she probably would have killed her."
Bonnie nodded, watching him nervously as he tried to wear a hole in her dad's carpet. Gone was the sensitive boyfriend, standing in front of her was the sullen, pissed-off younger brother of her best friend who didn't care about anyone or anything after his parents died.
"I get home, anxious to see her, see how she's doing and *he* was there. All sweet and sensitive. 'Oh, Elena, everything's going to be OK. I'll do whatever you want. I'll respect whatever decision you make. Even if it means you kill someone. Even if you die!' Ugh!" He stopped pacing and looked down at Bonnie. "I seriously hate him."
"Yeah, I'm getting that."
Jeremy ran a hand through his hair. Sitting down next to her, he let out a deep sigh. "I'm sorry. I just-- I just barged in here. I'm sorry. He just makes me so mad." And then he shook his head, his voice quiet. "She does too. How could she do this to me?"
He looked at Bonnie. "What if she hadn't had vampire blood in her system, Bon? She would have died. Dead, gone. I would have buried my last family because she wanted to save Matt!" He laughed harshly. "And now I sound like an asshole. Of course I'm glad that Matt is OK, but it's like she chose him over me. And I need her. I can't lose..." he trailed off and lowered his head into his hands.
"Jeremy," Bonnie murmured. Reaching out, she wrapped one arm around his back and drew him to her. He turned into her embrace, his face buried in the curve of her neck. "She wasn't thinking. Not just of you, but of anything." Her voice was quiet as she spoke, saying things aloud that had been running through her mind in the background ever since she found out what happened that night. "I think there are things going on inside of Elena's head right now that no one gets, not even her. She's really confused and we've all lost so much and, Elena, she feels responsible for it all. Because of who she is. What she is."
Jeremy pulled away and looked at her. Bonnie shrugged and managed a small smile. "If she had thought of you, she would still be alive. I know that absolutely."
He nodded; his eyes were downcast. "And Matt would be dead."
It was her turn to nod. Jeremy looked back up at Bonnie, his eyes wide, his lips parted and her smile faded. His gaze dropped to her mouth, and before she could react, he leaned closer and pressed his lips to hers.
She responded for the briefest moment and then jerked back, rising to her feet. "Jeremy..." she said warningly, her voice trembling.
"I'm sorry, Bonnie. I'm sorry."
"I haven't talked to Jamie since everything has gone down, but things are, were, at a maybe stage. I'm not jumping back into anything with you."
"Right, right. I'm sorry." He laughed harshly. "And it's not like I even deserve another shot after how I totally screwed up last time."
Trying to lighten the mood, she sat back down and gently punched his arm. "That you did." He looked at her. "But we've moved on. It's OK. No more ghosts."
"Right, just Jamie. And my sister, the vampire, and her stupid boyfriend."
"Yeah." She laughed. "You know I actually told her that if I had to choose between the Salvatore brothers, at this point, I'd choose..."
"Damon!" Jeremy said before she got the name out. "I know, right? He wouldn't have let her die. And I wouldn't be as worried about her now because Damon, well, he'd take care of her. He wouldn't let her do this stupid thing she's doing."
"What *is* she doing?"
He rolled his eyes. "She thinks that if drinks only a little bit of blood and doesn't use any of her vampire powers, she'll pretty much be human again."
Bonnie's jaw dropped. "Seriously?" He nodded. "And Stefan is going along with this?"
Jeremy's voice rose in a very bad impersonation of Stefan. "It's your choice, Elena." He spoke normally. "Of course he is. Asshole."
"Wait, what about Damon? He won't just stand by and let Elena be this stupid?"
"Yeah, that's another thing."
Bonnie pulled away and slumped back against the cushion. "Do I even want to know?"
Jeremy laughed. "Nah, he didn't do anything this time. I mean, I don't know. Apparently, he and Elena got hot and heavy again and Elena freaked out."
Bonnie sat back up, surprise in her tone. "She told you this?!"
"No, Ric did."
"Ric? You mean Alaric? Mr. Saltzman-Ric?" And now she was incredulous.
"Uhm, yeah, so... one more ghost left. Ric dropped by the other day."
"Oh my God. What did he say?"
"That Elena and Damon got hot and heavy and she freaked out. Now she's decided that she's gonna stay away from him--"
"Like that's gonna happen," Bonnie scoffed.
"I know, right?” He laughed. “Anyway, that's what she says. So, yeah, we're relying on Stefan to see Elena through this vampire-thing."
Bonnie smiled. "And Caroline."
"There's that." Jeremy nodded, and then spoke, musing almost to himself. "Ric asked me to kinda be there for Damon." He turned to look at her, obviously gauging her reaction.
"What do you mean?"
Shrugging, Jeremy leaned back, his arm stretching behind on the couch and Bonnie found herself conscious of the heat and closeness of him. Clearing her throat, she thrust that awareness to the back of her mind and concentrated on what Jeremy was saying.
"With Elena being all 'no, stay away!' and Ric, well, dead, he said that Damon's pretty much alone and everyone kinda hates the guy." Bonnie agreed with a quirk of her lips. Jeremy sighed. "Ric swears he's not that bad."
"Well," Bonnie began, and then with her own deep sigh, continued. "I think he's right. I mean, yeah, Damon has done some horrible things, but most of it was when his switch was off. And, sure he's all sarcastic and jerky, but he's not evil. He saved my life after Esther used me as her vessel."
She looked at Jeremy. "He didn't have to, but he did it just, I don't know, because. And remember when you volunteered to 'die' so we could stop Klaus' heartbeat?" Jeremy nodded. "He made me promise to make sure you came back, and he actually sounded like he meant it. Plus, he really was there for Elena in a *major* way after Stefan took off."
"I guess. He's better, yeah." He met her gaze earnestly. "But I'm telling you, I'm gonna be on guard whenever I go see him."
"So you're gonna do it?"
"Yeah, for Ric. And honestly, I think things have gone far enough with Elena that he wouldn't kill me again. She forgave him once, but if he ever wants to get with her, he better not kill me again."
Rolling her eyes, Bonnie laughed, but she didn't think he was wrong.
Damon whistled as he swept up a pile of his clothes. It was Monday, laundry day. Glancing down, he saw a few items had slipped from his grasp... including that sweet pair of Elena's undies from the other day. Dropping the full load on the ground, he bent down and scooped it up. He could still smell her on them.
"Damon!" His baby bro suddenly shouted, his manly, urgent voice in full effect. Damon snickered. He glanced down at the pile, sighing at the thought of leaving his room in such disarray. "Damon, I want to talk to you!"
Fuck, Damon whined mentally with a roll of his eyes. Clean-up duty would have to wait if he wanted to wash in peace. "Coming, Stefan," he called out sweetly as he threw Elena’s panties onto his bed. The reminder of his extracurricular activity with his brother's girl sent a delicious thrill through him. It wasn't very gentlemanly, or brotherly of him, but fuck it, Stefan got all the fun most of the time, Damon was damn sure gonna savor his.
Stefan was in the drawing room, pacing back and forth, his perfectly-coiffed hero-hair not moving a millimeter of an inch. "You summoned."
"We need to talk."
"Yeah, picked up on that when you yelled out 'Damon, I want to talk to you' like five seconds ago."
Stefan's determined expression didn't budge. Rolling his eyes, Damon walked over and began to pour himself a drink. He paused, noting that the contents of his best brandy appeared suspiciously lower than the last time he'd partaken of it. He turned to his brother. "Stefan, have you..." he held up the bottle.
"What?" He shook his head in annoyance. "No, I haven't touched your thousand-dollar brandy. This is important."
Damon shrugged and poured himself a glass. Probably Blondie. "So, it must be about our girlfriend."
"She's not *our* girlfriend, Damon. She's mine."
"Ooh! Touchy." He mock-pouted. "What happened? Did you have a fight? Is the course of true love not running smoothly?" Stefan was silent for a moment, long enough for Damon to realize that, indeed, things were not exactly falling into place with the two lovebirds. Aha! He felt a rush of elation because despite his growing confidence that things would definitely go *somewhere* with Elena, he’d be lying if pesky little insecurities and doubt weren’t constantly creeping in, eschewing all rationale and logic. Being the object of countless rejections had a way of lingering.
"No, we're fine, Damon." Stefan finally bit out. Liar, liar, pants on fire. "This is about Elena, yes." He took a deep breath, as if preparing for an explosion. This worried Damon. What the hell was he going to say about Elena that would make him explode?
"Stefan?" The warning was explicit in his tone. Stefan needed to speak and like Taylor Swift opined, speak now. "What?" His voice was like ice.
"You agreed to our deal." Stefan stood still, his hands clenched in fists at his side.
Damon looked away, his eyes narrowing in confusion. What the fuck is he talking about? Our deal?! Wha --? Then he remembered. He glared at his brother, his eyes wide in disbelief. "You've got to be kidding me?"
Stefan shook his head. "No. You agreed that if Elena chose me, you would leave town."
"That was before you let her die and she became a fucking undead vampire, Stefan!"
Shrugging, Stefan moved around the heavy desk. As if that will protect him if I decide to kick his ass again. "Doesn't matter. You heard Elena last night. She doesn't want anything to do with you. She has me. All she needs is me."
"No, Damon. You need to go."
Damon took a long sip of his delicious brandy and casually settled in his favorite chair. In that moment, all the insecurities and doubts quieted down. If things were going well with Elena, even remotely well, Stefan would not try to get rid of him. No way, no how. He looked up at Stefan with a cool smile. "Nope."
"Damon..." Stefan said, and he had the cutest note of warning in his voice. Really, it was adorable. It brought to mind when he was five years old and Damon would threaten to take his wooden train away.
"Here's the deal. You and Elena? Have an expiration date stamped on your teenager-y foreheads.” Stefan froze, his expression struggling for neutrality, but misgiving was all over his face, confirming every word that Damon said. “You are not going to last.” Stefan flinched. “You can't play the 'hey, let's pretend we're ostriches and bury our heads in the sand' game anymore. Reality is here and it's knock, knock, knocking on your door."
Stefan let loose a strained laugh. "Right, and then Elena will come running to you? Is that how you see this playing out, brother?" And like when Elena played her ‘if you love me, you’ll let me go’ card, Stefan saying the very thing that Damon hoped for, was truly beginning to think would happen, his confidence grew that indeed that is exactly what would happen.
"You think I'm delusional because I believe I have a shot?” Before she’d had sex with him, before she found herself barely able to resist him, before Stefan starting trying run him out of town, he would have agreed. But not any longer. He had a very, very good shot. A damn good one, in fact. He smiled at his brother. “I've outgrown being that pathetic.”
"OK." And Stefan laughed again, and really, rising confidence or not, it was pretty insulting. Damon eyed Stefan, well aware that he could be around that desk with a pencil stabbed in baby bro's gut in about five seconds flat. Of course, he would recover too quickly from a physical wound. Words were such a better weapon, and it was about time Stefan got a bite or two.
"Oh, Stefan. It's only a matter of time. Reality? You and Elena aren't so great at dealing with it and, yeah, reality's here and it's smacking you both upside the head." Stefan shook his head, but in his eyes there was uncertainty. "Oh, please, it’s written all over you. And this whole act of bravado? If things were so perfect between you and Elena, you wouldn't need me gone. But you do... because you know. I know, and she knows even if she's in more denial than you, that the two of us, me and Elena, we have something and it's not going away."
"Shut up, Damon." But Stefan’s voice was grimly quiet.
Damon rose to his feet. With a shrug, he headed out of the room. And he felt guilty, of course he did. This was his brother. He loved him and he wanted him to be happy. But he could never be happy with Elena, Damon saw that clearly now. He couldn't be happy because he couldn't and wouldn't be himself with her. Stefan was too scared he'd lose her so he did what he thought he should do, so desperate to keep her that he wasn't willing to risk making any waves.
However as much as Damon loved his brother, there was a selfish part of him that was so tired of seeing Stefan always chosen, always the one who won that in that moment when he'd struck a nerve, when maybe, just maybe, it would be his turn soon and Stefan would be the one to get a taste of rejection, Damon couldn't resist one final, parting shot.
"It's not like she *ever* wanted to turn for you, right."
It hurt, Damon knew, but it was the truth and his brother knew it.
TO BE CONTINUED