Chapter: 10 - What Love Should Be [Featured Characters: Elena, Matt, Rebekah 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: 6,491
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 | 9
Chapter 10: What Love Should Be
The sun shining brightly through the window greeted Elena when her alarm clock went off. Despite the gratitude she still felt for the protection her ring provided, she woke up feeling lousy. Frustration and confusion gnawed at her just as it had the day before. It had been two days and although she had tried to ignore it, her last conversation with Damon kept popping up in her head. And no matter how much she tried to tell herself that she did not care what Damon Salvatore did or said, or rather what he *didn’t* do or say, she kept replaying their encounter.
”I'm not mad at you or Stefan. Elena, I'm not mad at all.” He smiled and it wasn’t snarky or sarcastic, but one of those rare genuine smiles, beautiful and real. “I’m good,” he said, that smile still on his face. And then even as sincere as his words had sounded, what he did next threw her for a greater loop. “Go on. Go have fun with your boyfriend.” And he meant it. He totally and completely meant it.
“His time is now.”
“His time is now,” Elena repeated and she knew exactly what Damon was saying. Stefan had now because Damon didn’t expect that she and Stefan had any shot at a future. Throwing her arm over her face and blocking out the sun, Elena couldn’t deny that Damon could be right. She had to admit that things were not going well with her boyfriend. They barely spent any time together and when they did, things were just a bit uneasy, both of them tentative with each other. Elena sat up and bit her lip, thinking her way out of her disloyal thoughts. It has only been a couple of days, of course things aren’t going to be perfect. We just need time. As for Damon…
Elena threw herself back down, seeing his smile, the certainty and sincerity in his voice, in his words and she just couldn’t figure it out. When she had last seen him here in her room, she’d kicked him out of her life, used his love for her to get him to stay gone. And instead of bitterness, recrimination, instead of anger and sarcasm covering a world of hurt, he’d been sweet and well, as he said himself, good. He had been good.
But she knew he loved her. With all of the crazy uncertainty in her world, that was something of which she had no doubt. Damon loved her. And yet… he wasn’t acting like she had feared he would. She was happy about it; happy that he wasn’t off on some bender which would likely lead to disaster not just for others, but for himself. Seeing him so confident and practically carefree gave her a sense of peace that she had done the right thing for him, letting him go.
And yet… She was confused as hell. Why wasn’t he freaking out and being all Damon-y about it all? She was usually so good at reading him, but his attitude had her completely mystified. Elena sighed, her mind going a hundred miles an hour. She reached over and grabbed her other pillow, pressed it to her face, letting out a small scream of frustration.
It helped a little.
Sitting up, she reached over for her diary and the pen sitting nearby. Flipping open to thelast entry, the pros and cons game with Stefan, she considered the list. Yeah, that worked out real well, she thought with a grimace. Elena read it over again, still thrown by the fact that there were quite a few more cons than pros. Shaking her thoughts away, she settled her pen on a blank line and jotted down the date. And then she paused. She couldn’t think of anything to write. She didn’t know where to start. Damon? Stefan? The fact that I didn’t attack anyone yesterday? Ugh!
Throwing the diary and pen down next to her, she glanced over at her bedside table. Without thinking, she grabbed her phone and dialed the number of the only person she knew who would be up… and who was becoming her Salvatore confidant extraordinaire. As the phone rang, Elena wondered what it said about her that the best person to discuss her romantic turmoil with the Salvatore brothers was her ex-boyfriend.
“Hey, Elena!” Matt answered without a hint of sleepiness in his tone.
“I’m the world’s worst ex-girlfriend,” she began without a hello.
“OK,” he laughed and then trailed off, but she could still hear the smile on his face. “Let me guess? Damon? Stefan? Two for the price of one?”
Elena covered her eyes in mortification. “Seriously, I’m the worst. I’m so sorry, Matt.”
“Really, it’s OK. At least you make me feel useful. Shoot.”
“I don’t know, I just can’t stop thinking about what’s going on with Damon.”
“Damon. Right. What happened?”
“He came to see me the other night and he really was nice, but I pushed him away since I’d already decided I needed to stay away from him because I go crazy around him. And crazy and a baby vampire I’m finding out is not a good mix.”
“Yeah, I heard about Beverly.”
“What? Oh, Caroline –”
“Caroline.” He responded at the same time.
“No, well, yes, but that wasn’t Damon’s fault. He came over, he was nice and I was a bitch –“
“Elena, don’t –“
“No, really, I was. I was awful. I justified pushing him away because I was only hurting him by holding on, but Matt, I just hurt him so badly all over again.” She sighed. “I just broke his heart into a million pieces. I’m worse than Katherine when it comes to him.”
“No, I am. At least she gave him something for his trouble. Me, I just expect him to be there for me, to comfort me, support me and then I throw it all back in his face.” She stopped and took a deep breath. Elena waited a beat, a part of her wanting him to interrupt this bout of brutal honesty that made her want to stake herself. But Matt was silent on his end. She sighed and continued, determined to lay it all out there if he was willing to listen.
“But no more. I told myself that I was doing this for him. I wasn’t going to hurt him anymore and if that meant kicking him out of my life, it had to be done. It was best for him in the long run. And, OK for me too because I’m selfish and awful and I can’t control myself around him. So I did it, I kicked him out and I used how he feels about me to make sure he stayed out.” Elena paused, Damon’s face completely at peace when she last confronted him, flashing in her mind. Shaking her head, she continued. “Matt, he should hate me right now. Or be miserable or off killing someone or sleeping with Rebekah again!”
“Rebekah? Again?” And there was a choked note in his voice, enough that it pulled Elena out of her rant.
“Nothing, I just,” he laughed, and this time there was no humor in the sound. “I didn’t know she slept with him. Never mind, it doesn’t matter. So I take it that Damon is not doing any of those things?”
“Wait, are you OK? Caroline mentioned something about you and Rebekah. There's maybe something there, right? I mean, if you want to talk about it…”
“No, no, it’s fine. Damon’s acting cool?” There was strain in his voice, as he strove to sound cool himself. Elena wanted to push him, but if he didn’t want to talk, she wasn’t going to force him.
Elena waited a beat, and then two, but Matt remained silent waiting for her to carry on. With a sigh, she dove back into the subject of Damon. “Yeah, he’s acting cool. I saw him the next day and he was fine. Not pretend ‘fine,’ but really, truly fine. Matt, he was telling me to enjoy my time with Stefan. Yeah, he threw a few jabs his way, and he so does not agree with how I’m dealing with this whole vampire thing, but, yeah, he was cool.”
“And that’s a bad thing?”
“No, it’s good. I’m glad for him because I *don’t* want to see him hurt. But I’m just confused.”
Matt was quiet again, and she wondered if he was thinking about her Damon-issues or if he had Rebekah-issues that his mind was stuck on. Really? Rebekah? What is going on there? When he spoke though, his voice was normal, if hesitant as if he wanted to say something but wasn’t sure how she’d take it.
“Elena, maybe there’s all this confusion because you picked the wrong brother?”
“What? No.” She shook her head even though he couldn’t see her. “Why would you even say that?”
“Because Stefan– look, you know I’m not the guy’s biggest fan. I don’t get some of the things he does, and he’s certainly not the good guy we all thought he was when he first showed up. I mean, the dude lies a lot, Elena.”
“Matt –“ Even if it was a truth she was beginning to accept, it wasn’t one she was ready to confront.
“I’m just saying. Look, the thing is… in the truck, I asked you who you wanted to be with, but I thought it was just a formality. I was all ready to keep driving to Damon because, Elena, I thought it was Damon.”
“You did?” Her voice was low, surprised, but not as much as she probably should have been.
“I’m not saying I agreed with it, but I don’t think Stefan’s a prize either. In my book, there was no good choice there. I just thought that between them you’d pick Damon.”
“But I was with Stefan before he took off and you know we never broke up.” Elena lay there, reminding herself of that fact. She was with Stefan. She was *with* Stefan. Yes, her feelings for Damon rang deep and she hadn’t allowed herself to actually think about, let alone voice her decision until the end, but how could Matt have been so sure when she was still trying to figure out her own heart?
“Yeah, but Stefan took off. Then when he came back, he did that whole switch thing and was a real jerk. And that whole time, you and Damon got closer. When you talked about them, especially that night, when you talked about Stefan, you sounded a lot like –“ He broke off then continued with a sigh, “Elena...” before trailing off this time.
“Go on. I sounded like what?”
“A lot of things you said, you know like what love should be, what you should do, it sounded a lot like when you were giving me all the reasons why you broke up with me.” There was apology in his tone.
“Oh,” was all she could manage in response, taken aback by his words.
“I don’t know, Elena, when we talked, it just sounded like Stefan was the safe choice, while Damon was what, I guess, what your heart wanted.”
“Matt... ” she began and then trailed off, having no clue how to respond.
Matt spoke into the silence. “I just wonder if everything that happened, Mr. Saltzman becoming what he did and then thinking they all were gonna die made you decide to go with the safe choice. And that’s what Stefan was, not your real choice.”
“Of course he was,” but her voice was nearly a whisper.
“I’m just saying. You didn’t choose Stefan to *be* with him, Elena. You chose who you were gonna say goodbye to. That’s not the same thing.” She was quiet, and an awkward tension filled the line. With a sigh, Matt spoke again. “But, hey what do I know? I'm the ex, right?”
“Matt,” she protested.
“Hey, I'm fine, it took me a long time, but I *am* over you. The thing is I still care and I just think maybe there’s some soul-searching about Stefan you need to do. You seem to do that a lot when it comes to Damon because you can’t really see how you can be with him because of who he is, what he’s done. I just don’t get how it isn’t the same deal with Stefan. Considering all you know now. It’s just something to think about, I guess.” She could practically hear his shrug over the phone. “But, yeah, really, what do I know? I don't know your heart, Elena. Not anymore. Maybe I never did.”
“Matt,” she began, misery sweeping through her. She never should have called him, never should have put him in this position. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, and she was saying sorry for everything.
“It’s OK. I’m good, Elena.” In the background, Elena heard the doorbell ring. “Hey, I gotta go. Some crazy person is ringing my doorbell at 5:30 in the morning! After another crazy person woke me up at 5:00 to discuss her love life.” He laughed.
“I'm sorry,” she repeated, but more by rote. She knew he was joking by the sound of his laughter. She could practically see his smile over the phone and it filled her with relief knowing that he really was OK.
“I'm kidding. I was awake. You know I work out in the morning. It's good, it's all good.” And then he turned serious. “You'll be good, Elena. You can get through this, I know you can. You just need to figure it out.” The doorbell rang again. “Coming!” He called out and then continued talking to her. “Just stop thinking about what you should do. You've been doing that ever since you found out about the whole doppelganger thing. Try thinking about what you want. OK?
“Good, I gotta go. Bye.” Before he hung up, she heard the doorbell once more and he called out again, annoyance in his voice. “I said I was coming!”
“Thank you,” She murmured even though she knew he was gone even before the line went dead. Setting the phone down, Elena thought about all he had said. He was right; she had to figure things out. But dealing with Stefan and the choice she had made that night was too much for her to handle right now on top of the whole vampire thing. On the other hand, she did have to come to terms with what she had done to Damon or the guilt would eat at her. Even if he was fine with it, she wasn’t.
The next chance she had she would talk to him, clear the air. But first she needed to figure out what to say even if it was only to offer up an apology. It was the least she owed him. She sighed, knowing that she owed him more than the least she could manage. Reaching over, Elena picked up her diary again. Staring at the blank page for a moment, she sighed and wrote one word: ‘Damon.’
She stared at his name for a few seconds and then with a determined frown she began to scribble her scattered thoughts, hoping to make sense of the chaos in her mind.
Tapping her foot impatiently, Rebekah resisted the urge to knock again. Suddenly she wondered if Matt was taking so long because he had been in the shower. She imagined him opening the door, body wrapped in a towel, glistening muscles, wet hair– The door opened. He was wearing clothes. And was dry. Damn, she couldn’t help but think with an inner sigh. Still, she pasted a smile on her face. “Matt!”
He frowned and then gave a slight shake of his head. “What are you doing here, Rebekah?”
“I have a surprise, and good news. Well, it’s good news for me. You probably already know and, I guess,” her smile faded as her voice trailed off into a low murmur. “It’s not good for you.”
He raised a brow. “Klaus? He’s alive and living inside my best friend? Yeah, heard that.” His voice was flat. “Congratulations. You got your brother back.”
“Yes, well, he’s mad at me right now but–“
“Why is he mad at you?” Matt interrupted with a scowl. “By killing Elena didn’t you save him and all of your family?”
“Yes, but he doesn’t see it that way. Nik is upset that I took away his human doppelganger. No more hybrids now.” She rolled her eyes. “My brother isn’t exactly the bigger picture kind of fella. I took away his plaything and he’s pouting.”
Matt’s eyes widened in surprise, and then with a shrug, his expression tried for blank. “Well, sucks to be you, I guess.”
“I–“ She began, but he wasn’t done.
“No, wait. Sucks to be Elena.”
And I’m done. “Get over it, Matt. OK, fine, she’s dead. Whatever.”
“Whatever?” He sputtered, but she continued over him.
“It’s done, it happened. She’s a vampire now, thus undead and still around. And a lot of good came out of it,” she strove to remind him. “Alaric Saltzman is dead therefore the one being with the power to kill the Original bloodline which would have led to the death of half of your friends is dead. Since she’s no longer human, my brother’s obsession with her is done and over with. And since it wasn’t her choice, he doesn’t even want to capture and torture her like he does Katerina.”
Rebekah took a deep breath, smiling broadly and finished up her spiel. “Lastly, as a vampire she’s no longer the pathetic, weak thing she was who needed to be saved every five seconds. And, of course, she’ll have the Salvatore brothers to moon over her for all eternity. What fun for her,” she finished with a scowl.
“I don’t believe you. You just don’t get it.”
Stomping her foot, Rebekah pouted. “What is your problem? Look, I know you’re upset about it, but you can’t *not* understand. Killing her was the only way to save my family. Of a THOUSAND years. How can the life of one seventeen-year old –“
She rolled her eyes. “Eighteen-year old girl compare? And she’s not gone. You’re alive, she’s… here. Tyler, Caroline, everyone you love is still here. How long are you going to be so mean to me? I wasn’t plotting to kill her. She was… collateral damage. And I am sorry that it upset you, but can’t we move on now?”
“Rebekah, I’m not a vampire. I just found out about all this stuff like six months ago and it’s still crazy to me. I haven’t been around a thousand or even a hundred years! I’m eighteen and my first girlfriend dying and coming back as a blood-sucking monster who attacks our classmates is not something I can just ‘move on’ from!”
Turning her head to the left, she cast her eyes down, a frown upon her face. They were both quiet. Finally, she glanced back up at him, her eyes filled with a yearning she couldn’t hide. “I can’t change what I did. And I wouldn’t even if I could. But,” she broke off and stomped her foot again, a whine entering her voice. “I got you a surprise! To help make up for it. To show you that I am sorry.” Rebekah tried a small smile, looking up at him from beneath her lashes. “To show that I do care.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“But can’t I try?” She entreated and when he was silent, not immediately shutting her down, Rebekah took a few steps to the side and looked over her shoulder. “Take a look.”
Matt sighed, froze and then gasped. Striding past her, he practically ran to the car parked in his driveway. “What? What!? What is this?!” He reached out as if to touch the vehicle and then pulled back, his hands instead rising to cover his open-mouthed shock. Turning to her, his eyes were wide and delight filled the bright blue.
“I remembered from the ball. You said that this is what you wanted, right? A Maserati. So I got you one.” She smiled, thrilled with the happiness radiating from him. “I mean, it‘s my fault that your truck is no longer… operational. So, surprise!”
Matt stood gaping at her, his head swiveling between her and the Italian car. Reaching out once more, he finally touched it. A satisfied sigh, nearly a purr, escaped him as he gently ran his hand over the smooth, dark metal. “It’s… this is amazing.” His voice nearly shook with emotion. Rebekah clapped her hands at this reaction. “I don’t even know what to say…”
“I’m glad,” she murmured. And then, as if her words had broken a spell, Matt dropped his hand. He stiffened jerkily, stepped back and cleared his throat.
“I can’t–“ He broke off, gulped and then continued, his voice pained. “I can’t accept this, Rebekah.”
“But… but why not? You need an automobile. You want *this* automobile. Matt,” she cried, stepping forward. “You obviously love it!”
Shaking his head, he sounded resolute. “You can’t buy me a car to make up for what you did– Wait! You did buy it, right? Rebekah, you didn’t compel some car salesman? Right?!”
She pulled back, stung. “Of course I bought it. I wouldn’t have you driving around a pilfered automobile.”
“OK, good, but still–“
“No ‘but still.’ It’s my fault your truck is at the bottom of Willow Creek. Here’s a replacement. Consider me your insurance.”
“Look, my family is wealthy. Fabulously so. The cost was nothing to me. And I owe you.” Matt tried to speak again, but before he could manage another prideful rebuttal, she rushed on. “I know it can’t make up for what I did, but she *is* still here. And you *don’t* have an automobile.” Then she smiled. “Well, you do actually. This,” she pointed to the gleaming metal sports car, “is in your name. Free and clear.”
“I can’t–“ he began, but he was shaking his head, a longing so intense on his face. “I shouldn’t.”
“Matt, from where I sit, you’re always doing what you should, not what you want. You want this and who does it hurt?”
“No one,” he whispered, his gaze locked on the car.
“No one,” she repeated.
Reaching out, he laid a hand on the door and sighed deeply. He turned to look at her. “Where are the keys?”
Rebekah grinned and pulled them out of her pocket, holding them up with a little jiggle. Standing still for a moment longer, Matt then gave a sudden decisive nod and walked over to her. As he grabbed at the keys, his fingers brushed over hers. Their eyes met.
She grinned. “So... give a girl a ride?”
Elena carefully covered the brown rabbit with some leaves. Stepping back, she considered the arrangement and finally conceded that nothing could disguise the fact that she’d just killed and drank the blood of a defenseless bunny. She sighed.
“This sucks,” she muttered. And it did, but still she felt better. More herself. Feeding in the morning and before bedtime, and drinking like an alcoholic coming off a forty-year-bout of abstinence during the day had taken off the edge. And after purging a zillion thoughts about Damon into her diary earlier, she was ready to face him, apologize and even try to explain herself honestly. She’d even dealt with some of her concerns about Stefan, attempted that soul-searching thing with his name on it like Matt suggested. And that was all wrapped up in what she had to say to Damon. After school today, she reminded herself, she would go see him after school.
Or not. Elena looked over her shoulder as the elder Salvatore brother came into view. She was quiet and then with a deep breath, she allowed a small smile. “Hey.”
He returned her smile, his eyes widening a bit in surprise. “I was just heading to the Lockwood caves.” He pointed in their direction and then held his hands up in a flash, grinning. “I wasn’t stalking, I swear.”
Elena shook her head. “I didn’t think…” she trailed off and then unable to deny her curiosity. “Why are you going to the caves?
“We’re talking?” He said to himself and then continued in a normal volume before she could respond. “There are a *lot* of caves and winding corridors down there and I figured there just might be more beyond the Original stuff we already found.”
“Yeah, we got distracted with the whole Homecoming-non-Klaus-kill-fest, Stefan leaving, Esther rising from her coffin, etc. etc. and we kinda left off exploring.” Damon grinned. “So I'm going spelunking,” he paused and squinted. “Hopefully to caves that are not vampire-zoned-out.”
Elena nodded, still not sure how to broach the other night. “Uhm, will you tell Bonnie if you find anything?” Coward, she chastised herself.
“Yup. She hasn’t made me go all ‘aahhh’ recently.” He held his hands to his head, mimicking the ‘brain whammy,’ as he liked to call it.
Kicking the dirt, she glanced up at him from underneath her lashes, a ridiculous shyness taking over. “Yeah, she's kinda coming around... about you, I mean.”
“I know, shocking, huh? I spent almost an hour with her the other day and not one brain-whammy.” He grinned again, looking ridiculously good.
Elena looked away again, managing a nod. “I think what happened with Esther changed her perspective. She realized that the witchy way of things isn't always the right way.” She sent a quick glance his way.
"'Bout damn time some witch learns it,” he gave a quick wink, doing that eye-thing of his, a beautiful smile stretching across his face. She couldn’t help it; she smiled back. Then she realized what she was doing and stopped. She shouldn’t be smiling at him. *He* shouldn’t be smiling at her, not after what she had done to him.
Damon’s smile faded as well; he sighed. “How are you?”
Looking at him head-on, she was surprised that he asked, which was silly because of course he would ask. “I'm fine. I'm good.”
His eyebrows raised in disbelief. “Really?”
Elena was quiet. “I’m better.” He rolled his eyes. “Fine, I attacked a student the other day. Beverly Marshall.” She glanced down at her foliage-camouflaged bunny. “That's why I'm having a before as well as an after-school snack. So that I stay better.”
“Ah.” He paused and then asked her a question that was just a matter of fact in his worldview. “Did you kill her?”
“No!” She cried, and then sighed because she remembered that a minute was the difference between Beverly’s life or death. “Caroline... took care of her.”
“Good,” he shrugged. "I mean, I don’t care, but I know you do.” Pausing, Damon looked at her, sincerity in his gaze. “You know this is really stupid what you’re doing?”
“No buts. You–" He broke off with a sigh. Reaching out, he traced a gentle finger down her cheek and Elena had to bite back her own sigh, one of pleasure and longing. Her lids flickered, but her eyes didn't close by sheer force of will. Damon pulled back, his gaze sincere. His eyes were wide, so startling blue that she would have found herself lost in their beauty if the absolute earnestness within them hadn't held her captive. "You miss being human. You want to be human." He paused and then spoke, his voice hushed as if sharing a secret. "I get it. I understand."
Elena's lips parted because his eyes, his voice, the slight hint of uncertainty that hung over him made her realize that it *was* a secret. This was something new about Damon, something that had never even crossed her mind before. Damon was who he was, accepted what he was because he didn't look back. He accepted and embraced reality because it hurt too much hoping, dreaming, wanting something you couldn't have, but it didn't mean that he still didn't hope and dream and want. She blinked again, trying to fight tears that threatened to spill, but she was unable to stop their fall.
He shook his head as if trying to contain the flow with the action. "Elena," he murmured, but didn't touch her again. "You are not human. You are a vampire. Vampires need blood. Vampires have a killing– let's call it a hunting, instinct. Vampires feel... everything. Magnified. If you continue to try and pretend to be what you're not anymore, it's going to end badly." Unable to tear her gaze away, she did manage to give a quick shake of her head and brushed away her tears. "You are not a human. Not anymore. You are a vampire, and you need to open up and embrace that reality."
"Like you have?"
He nodded. She sighed, tears beginning to well once more. Finally, she spoke. “Maybe, I don't know. I just– Damon, I can't not try this, because I'm not you. Maybe it will work for me. I just– I need to figure this out my way.”
Damon was quiet for a moment and then he nodded. “I know. I respect that. I just think at the end of it, there's gonna be a very hard lesson learned. And you'll probably regret it. But, hey, it's your choice.” He offered up a quirk of a smile. She was quiet, and he continued, his tone laced with humor. “I'm gonna go. I know I'm violating the stay-away-from-all-things-Damon mandate.” He held up two fingers in the sign of a cross and grinned.
And there’s my opening. Elena, do it. “Damon, about that–“
He interrupted. “It’s OK.”
And she was shaking her head before he finished speaking. “No, it's not. I've been thinking, trying to figure things out and I don't know where my head is, I don't know where my heart is. Everything is just, I'm a mess. But Damon, I do know that I am sorry for what I did to you.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. "What I said."
He moved a few steps closer, those eyes of his so warm and sincere. He nodded. “I know.”
She shook her head. “I don't want to hurt you. I know I do, but I don't want to. I don’t mean to. It's just– I say things because I'm scared and confused and then I’m awful to you.” He was shaking his head, but she rushed on. “I just– everything is so chaotic and crazy right now and when I'm with you, I lose control.” Tears began to slide down her cheeks. Elena looked at him, begging him to understand. “I'm afraid that I'm gonna lose myself.”
“I get it.” There wasn’t even a trace of bitterness or anger in his tone. He truly understood. “You know it's not forever. It's not. It's just–“ she broke off, unsure of the timeframe. But he knew just what to say.
“Right now. It’s not right now.”
Elena nodded. “Right. It’s not right now. I care about you, I do. You have to know that!” He nodded. “But I can't keep doing this. Pulling you closer, relying on you and then pushing you away, breaking your heart when you get too close. It's not fair. It's not right.” Her voice was thick with tears as she moved closer to him, needing to be closer.
“Hey, I was a baby vamp once upon a time I get it–“
She cut him off, very nearly angry with him. “Stop! Stop being nice. I did this to you before I turned too, I just couldn't admit it. I'm all messed up about you, me, this,” she gestured between them, the space so much less than it was moments ago, “thing between us.”
Damon was quiet, listening to her, looking at her so intently as he took it all in.
Her voice dropped to a near-whisper. “I'm afraid that everything I believe has been wrong, that everything with Stefan is a lie. Going back, remembering, there’ve been so many lies. And I just went along. What does that say about me?”
He shook his head. “It's not. It's not a lie, you love each other. You have been good for each other.” She looked at him, struck silent at his words. Damon continued, earnestness in his tone. “Elena, you just need to figure out when to let go.” He nodded. “And you will.”
“Damon, how can you— “ she broke off, completely flummoxed at how understanding he was being about all of this. “I don’t get it,” she cried out. “Why aren’t you furious with me!? I hurt you! I don't deserve your understanding.”
Shrugging, he took another step closer. "But you have it. I get you. And you were right the other night, sending me away.”
With a short laugh, Elena scoffed. “I was right? I was cruel to you.” She sniffed and wiped at her tears.
Nodding, he grinned. “Yeah, that too, but, hey, you know how the song goes.” He started to sing a song she found vaguely familiar. “You gotta be cruel to be kind, in the right measure…” He trailed off at her slightly confused look. “No? Kids today, the music you don’t listen to. Anyway. You need to do what you have to do to be a better vampire, and if right now, being around me makes that harder, then, yeah, you need to not be around me.”
Damon reached out, gently brushing at the tears staining her cheek and she found herself wanting to lean into his touch. “That doesn't make the other stuff you're doing anything other than really, really stupid. REALLY stupid.”
“Damon–“ she started to protest.
“And it's not just stupid,” he overrode her objection. “It's dangerous. Think of Beverly Marshall.”
Elena opened her mouth and then closed it without saying a word. She shook her head. “I’m getting better, Damon. I just didn't have enough blood. That was it. See, blood? I can say it.” He shook his head and she rushed on. “No, really, I hadn’t had any since that first time the night before. That’s all it was.”
“Damon, listen to me!” She stepped closer, right next to him. “I’m doing what I have to do. I *need* to do this my way.”
He was silent and the stillness grew in the air between them. Every sound around them faded, all she could see was him and her tongue felt tied, she could find no more words. Elena found her gaze drifting from his eyes to his lips, parted slightly, lush and soft and she remembered the feel of them, the taste of him and before she could get a grip on her emotions, she was pressed against him. She didn’t know if he had kissed her, or if she had made the first move, but she was in his arms, their mouths fused together. There was not a breath of air between them, that desperate hunger building like wildfire as she lost herself in his embrace. He gripped her hips hard with his hand before sliding it around, under her rear.
With a gasp, she pulled back, her eyes wide, her chest heaving. “God, no!” She flew back.
“No!” She cried and turned to run, moving so fast that the trees blurred around her and the wind rushed past her like a tornado. Finally, she slammed against a tree, the breath knocked out of her.
“I can’t,” she sobbed to herself. “I can’t be near him. I can’t…” Elena slipped to the ground, wrapping her arms around her knees as she cried. “I can’t do this, I can’t.” Throwing her head back against the rough tree bark, she looked around, seeing how far she had come in just a handful of seconds. She’d managed to avoid using any of her vampire powers since the morning she’d decided against it. And five minutes alone with Damon, that resolve disappeared.
Elena wiped the tears away, getting a hold of herself. She wasn't going to fall apart again. This wasn't like the other night. She closed her eyes and began breathing deeply until her reckless emotions found some semblance of peace. She could think clearly again. He knew. Damon knew what she was trying to do, why she was pushing him away. He understood. She didn't have to feel guilty anymore.
He got that she needed to work though this situation first before dealing with this connection they had. A connection I no longer have with Stefan, she admitted to herself now that she was calm. This is a problem, Elena realized. Beyond a few kisses that had barely affected her, she and Stefan had shared very little physical intimacy since she'd turned. And yet alone with Damon, she found herself in his arms... again. She couldn't keep going like this, caught up in a vicious cycle that just kept repeating.
Going over all of the conversations she had had with Stefan, with Caroline and Bonnie and Matt and Jeremy, Elena replayed them word-for-word in her mind. She thought about what she felt, what she wanted to feel, what she said, and what she was doing. Damon, Damon, Damon. Every word, every moment, everything with Damon.
And she realized something.
She kept telling herself that she wanted things to work with Stefan, but that wasn't going to happen if she didn't put action to thought. What she felt for Damon was real, but so was what she felt for Stefan. Closing her eyes for a quick moment, Elena straightened her spine and nodded to herself. While she was trying to become a better vampire, to use Damon's phrase, she would figure out if she had a future with Stefan or if Damon was right and she and Stefan were only right now.
Rising to her feet, Elena released a long, steadying breath. Damon was right. She had to open up and face reality, and that included opening up to Stefan and definitively trying to make things work with him as what they were now, as opposed to who they had been. If she didn't do this, didn't actually try, Elena would just be stuck playing pretend forever. A pretend human in a pretense of a relationship. The latter leaving her snagged in this endless triangle of wanting to be with Stefan and wanting Damon which made all three of them miserable. It was time to put up or give up. If she wanted to be with Stefan then she had to *be* with Stefan.
No more pretending. Time to face reality and see if their relationship could withstand it.
TO BE CONTINUED
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I swear that I came up with the idea of Rebekah giving him the car months ago when I did the outline. I couldn't believe it when she gave him the truck on the show, LOL!
Erm, OK, so is anyone beyond x5vale and my betas reading this? I'm getting like no responses beyond them, so I am kinda wondering. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?