Chapter: 20 – Testing the Waters [Featured Characters: Elena, Bonnie, Stefan, Caroline 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: 3,866
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).
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Chapter 20: Testing the Waters
"Too bad Caroline couldn't come with us to pick out dresses," Bonnie said as she lowered herself onto Elena's bed.
"Yeah, she just had too much dance stuff to do. She called, said that she went this morning and she can't wait to see what we're wearing." Elena fluffed the pillows behind her and settled down. Grinning at Bonnie, reached out and tapped Bonnie's knee. "So, I overheard Jeremy talking to Matt… he said something about the two of you going together?"
Unable to help the smile that spread across her face, Bonnie dipped her head slightly, just knowing that she was blushing.
"Come on, spill!" Elena threw her stuffed bear and Bonnie caught it just before it hit her in the face.
"Sorry." Elena frowned. "Did I throw it too hard?"
"No, you threw it at my face!" She laughed. Then with a roll of her eyes, Bonnie set the bear down and sighed. "Jeremy and I have been spending more time together and it's been nice. I know he's really sorry about what happened with Anna. And I kinda get it, I guess? I mean, they never broke up. She just… died."
Standing up, she walked to the window and looked out. Elena remained quiet, and Bonnie thought back to when he'd asked her to the dance. She turned to look at Elena. "He was so sweet when he asked. He was shy and blushing. He was smiling and stumbling over how much he wanted to spend the evening with me." She shook her head and sat down on the windowsill. "I've been pushing him away a lot lately and it's just been getting harder and harder because even though he hurt me, I still love him."
Elena nodded. "So when he asked, you decided to stop pushing?"
"Basically. The feelings are so still there and I can pretend that they're gone or I can face them head-on and see if we're on the same page this time, you know?"
Frowning in thought, Elena slowly nodded, and then her eyes widened and she sat up straight. "You are so right. How can I ever figure out what is going on with Damon if I don't actually try to figure it out?"
I thought we were talking about me and Jeremy? Bonnie crossed her arms, and raised a brow in her friend's direction. "Elena?"
"Matt said I should talk to him, and I've been thinking about it, how I miss him and… what you said makes so much sense." She looked up and met Bonnie's gaze. "And we weren't talking about me or Damon. So, yes, you are making the right call with Jeremy." She squeezed her eyes shut and winced. "I'm sorry. God, that big fight Jeremy and I had—"
"When you killed him?"
And she winced again. OK, thought Bonnie, I shouldn't have gone there.
"Yeah. He told me I was so selfish, I only thought about myself." She buried her face in her hands. "Ugh. He was right."
"No, he wasn't. OK, yeah, a lot of times you think about you, but, Elena, you've got a lot to think about."
Elena peeked up at Bonnie. "We were talking about you—"
"And it reminded you of your situation with Damon—which is really kinda weird, but whatever. So you mentioned that then like two seconds later you got back to me." She grimaced. "And I'm sorry about the whole ‘killing him' thing."
Elena waved a hand. "It's fine. Whenever he wants to do something or get out of doing something, he reminds me of that one time I snapped his neck." She shrugged. "Jeremy is getting his way a lot."
Elena shook her head. "No, still bad Elena. He holds the cards for a bit longer." She smiled. "He forgives me, doesn't hate me for it. That's what matters. But enough about me and Jeremy, we are talking about you and Jeremy. So, you're not officially back together, you're just… testing the waters?"
"Yes." Bonnie stood up and moved back over to the bed. She picked up the discarded bear and began playing with its ears, suddenly not wanting to talk about her and Jeremy. It wasn't even that it was Elena, his sister, but it all felt so fragile. She knew that what she and Jeremy had was special, but it had been tarnished and worrying it over too much would send her into overdrive. I just need to see where this goes, let it play out. Bonnie looked up at Elena and smiled reassuringly as she met her friend's worried gaze. "And what will happen, will happen. OK, done, no more Jeremy-talk. What about you and Damon?"
"Are you sure? I'm OK with talk about you and Jeremy as long as it not too... detailed."
"First, I wouldn't do that to you." She paused, thinking. "Or me." They both laughed. "Secondly, I am done with Jeremy-talk. Time to talk about you and your," Bonnie waved her hand in the air, "whatever with Damon."
Sighing, Elena threw her head back and looked up at the ceiling. "It's just what you said. How can I know where we stand if I'm pushing him away? The last month I've been working on me and I'm even spending time with Stefan, finding new ground with him," she paused and lowered her head, meeting Bonnie's gaze. "But I'm still pushing Damon away."
"Because what I feel for him scares me. And honestly I'm not even sure what I feel, which I know sounds really lame, but I didn't feel this way about Matt and I was so sure I loved him. Then I met Stefan and I fell in love with him and it was nothing like what I felt for Matt. So I was sure that was it. That was Love, with a capital ‘L.'"
Seeing the frustration and confusion on Elena's face, Bonnie couldn't help but be grateful that her relationship issues were comparatively so much easier to process. Poor Elena.
"Now, there's Damon and what I feel for him and it's not what I felt for Stefan."
"So you're confused."
"Yes. And now I'm thinking that if I don't try and spend time with him, figure it out, I'll never know."
Bonnie was quiet, contemplating if she should tell Elena what she was really thinking. With a quick shake of her head, she took a deep breath and went for it. After all, that's what friends are for.
"Elena, I think you know. I think you're just too afraid to admit it, afraid of what will happen when you do."
Bonnie nodded, watching Elena, waiting for her response. Finally, she did, taking a deep breath and nodded. "Maybe you're right. I don't want to choose Damon and lose some of the other people in my life. I mean, Bonnie, would be you OK with it?"
Reaching out, Bonnie grabbed her friend's hands and smiled, looking at her intently. "Elena, it doesn't matter whether I am or not, it's what you want and if I'm really your friend, I will support what you want. And I am your friend!" She shrugged and released Elena. "Besides, I told you before, I'm mostly OK with him now. If he makes you happy, then that's what makes me happy." She laughed. "Plus, you know, Jeremy's all Team Damon."
"Yeah, I know." Tearing up through her smile, Elena leaned over and drew Bonnie into a hug. "Thank you."
Returning the embrace, Bonnie gave her a quick squeeze. She pulled back and met Elena's happy expression. "You have nothing to thank me for. It's what friends do."
Elena pushed strands of hair behind her ear and Stefan looked fondly at her as she sighed again. There was a wistful expression on her face, one she'd been wearing all during their work session. Stefan had an idea he knew what she was thinking about. He didn't want to rush her, but the dance was tonight and if he didn't ask her right now, there would go his chance. They had been spending a lot of time together working on the project and things had been so good, better than ever. Taking a look at her soft smile, her shining eyes, he figured it was now or never. "I think I know what you're sighing about over there," he teased.
"What? I'm sorry. I was thinking about—"
"The dance?" He grinned.
Elena nodded with a smile. "I know we're almost done with this stupid project and I should be concentrating…" She trailed off and then rolled her eyes. "I can't believe of all the decades, we got one before you were born."
Stefan shrugged. "It's all good and hey, I'm learning more about the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804 than I ever thought I would."
Elena laughed and then she sat up straight, looking adorably studious. "Regardless, I am sorry and I am at full attention now."
He took a deep breath. "Maybe it would be easier to concentrate if I just got it out there?"
"I know I've cut it close, but I've been going back and forth. Is it too soon, is it OK, but things have been going so well with us that, yeah, I think we're good." He smiled, and he hoped that in that smile, she saw that he still believed they had a chance.
"We are good," she smiled back, and if it was more friendly than romantic, he reasoned that she was holding back herself right now. It's up to me to make the first move.
"So…" He clapped his hands together. This is it. "The dance. You're going?"
Elena nodded and dipped her head as her face began to heat up and a smile bloomed. Stefan's hopes soared. "Yeah."
A wide grin spread across his face, yes, I was right, and he leaned forward confidently. "So what time should I pick you up?"
Elena froze and her smile died. She looked up at him. "What?"
"For the dance?" He kept the smile on his face, deciding that she was surprised. Elena was quiet, and her eyes widened. With growing alarm he realized that it wasn't surprise on her face, but rather something more akin to dismay. His smile faded. "Elena?"
"Stefan…" she began and then trailed off. A sick feeling began to fill him. He looked away and cleared his throat. I was wrong.
"I see, you're going to the dance, but not with me."
Elena shook her head slowly. "No, I'm sorry, Stefan. " She reached out and covered his hand. "I didn't think—" He looked down at her hand and she quickly pulled away. There was a placating note when she spoke and he tried to read in her expression, between the lines for what she wasn't saying. "I didn't think you would think that. We're friends now and I like that, but I'm not ready." She paused and seemed to give herself a mental shake. "I mean, I'm not going *there* with you." Elena looked at him anxiously.
Stefan managed an understanding nod. He shrugged. OK, they weren't there yet. He could handle friends, anything could blossom from friendship. Let's try that. "We could go as friends?" He smiled softly. She sighed again, but it wasn't the dreamy sigh from earlier. His stomach clenched.
She was quiet then. For a long time. Long enough that he was about ready to jump out of his skin at the awkward tension filling the room. Finally, Elena took a deep breath and met his gaze. "I'm going to ask Damon."
His smile died. His heart dropped, even as she rushed forward to explain… whatever.
"I'm never going to figure out what I feel for him unless I actually try and actually figure it out."
He stood up, nodding jerkily. Fucking Damon. He began gathering up his stuff, not looking at her, muttering in a low voice. "Right, right." Stepping back, he threw one bitter look her way. "Well, have fun."
Elena stood up and called out his name as he headed to the door. He gave a quick shake of his head, shutting her down with a tight goodbye as he walked out. "I'll see you later." He didn't look behind him, not wanting to see the pity on her face. The door slammed shut and he angrily strode away, burning inside. He stopped at his car and stood still, forcing himself to calm down. With an expletive, he threw his bag through the car window. Bending down, he gripped the door and breathed heavily.
His phone rang.
He almost ignored it, but if it was Damon, he really wanted the petty pleasure of answering just to tell him to 'fuck off' before hanging up on him.
It was Caroline. Some of his anger receded. Caroline. Stefan let out another low breath and answered. "Hey."
"Hey there!" came her bright, cheery voice and it made him smile for a second. "I was just calling to make sure that you save me a dance tonight since there's a good chance that no one else will give me the time of day," she finished sulkily. Then she sighed. "That sounded awfully bitter, didn't it? Whatever. I got dumped, it's allowed. So, you'll save me a dance?"
A calculating grin spread across his face. "I'll do you one better."
"Elena is going to the dance with my brother—"
"What?!" He took a moment to take satisfaction in her appalled reaction.
"Yep. So, I'm free to take you."
There was silence on her end. "Wow, second choice to Elena Gilbert, like that's never happened before." She sighed heavily. "Whatever, beggars can't be choosers. Absolutely. I would love to go with you, Stefan. And I'll look fabulous and you'll look totally handsome and we will make Elena and Tyler sick with jealousy!"
He laughed. And then he grinned because despite how beyond pissed off he was two minutes ago, Caroline was able to make him laugh. "Sounds like a plan. I'll pick you up at seven."
"Prepare to have your socks knocked off."
Stefan grinned again. "Will do. See you later."
She chirped a goodbye and they hung up. Stefan looked over his shoulder at the house behind him and his smile faded. Knowing what he knew of the players involved, he figured that Tyler probably would be seeing green. As for Elena? He wasn't so sure, but he damn well was going to do his best to get her there.
Elena ran down the stairs and flung the front door open, her heart beating frantically. Damon had just stepped off the last step when she called his name. Turning to look back at her, the left corner of his lips quirked up slightly. Elena leaned against the doorjamb and couldn't help the smile that spread across her face.
"Hey. I'm glad I caught you before you left."
He stood still, digging his hands in his pocket and gazed at her without speaking.
Elena cleared her throat and took a step forward. "You know you can say 'hi' when you drop the blood off, I don't bite—" she broke off with a laugh, flushing slightly. "OK, scratch that. Just… you don't have to avoid me."
He was quiet for a moment and then nodded. "Duly noted." His eyes twinkled and he offered up another half-smile. "Hi."
Laughing lightly, Elena stepped forward. "Do you have a minute? I wanted to ask you something."
He raised a brow, not speaking. Elena took a deep breath, not quite sure how to broach it. Damon sighed exaggeratedly and crossed his arms. Rolling her eyes, Elena took another step forward. "Do you have whatever guys wore in the 1910's in your attic?" Before he could respond, she rushed on. "The Decade Dance is tonight and—"
"No." He smiled tightly. "Goodbye." He turned and began to walk away.
Elena watched him for a moment in surprise before she frowned and rushed down the remaining steps. "Damon, wait!"
He stopped and shook his head. Swiveling around, he sent her a piercing look. "I already told Caroline I wasn't doing it. Just because you're the one asking isn't gonna make me change my mind."
"What are you talking about?"
"Caroline wants me to chaperone. I already told her no." He paused then, looking confused, no doubt at *her* confusion. "Wait? You're not doing her dirty work?"
"No. I'm asking you…" She trailed off and then sighed. "Look, I know it's short notice and all, but I wasn't even sure I was gonna go and then I was planning on going with Bonnie but she's going with Jeremy, so then I thought I'd go by myself and hang out with them, but… ugh!" She groaned and looked down. "I'm rambling. I know, I'm rambling. I'm sorry."
Taking another deep breath, she looked back up at him. "Damon, I want you to be my date. And the theme is the 1910's, so you need to wear whatever guys wore in that decade. That's why I asked you." She smiled in what she hoped was a winning way. "So will you go with me?" His eyes had widened during her long-winded speech and now he just stood there, blinking at her. Elena's smile faltered and she bit her lip gingerly. "Damon?"
He shook his head slightly and her heart fell. He took a step forward and Elena steeled herself. When he finally spoke, what he said surprised her although it really shouldn't have. "But you're going with Stefan."
She frowned. God, he hadn't even phrased it as a question! "No, I'm not." She laughed nervously. "I'm asking *you* to go with me."
"Why?" There was a bit of confusion in his tone, but mostly wariness. Elena couldn't blame him and her heart broke a little at how she had so terribly played him, even if it had not been deliberate at all.
Straightening her shoulders, she prepared herself to just let it all out because it was time to let Damon in. "I keep saying that I don't know how I feel about you." He offered up a flash of a bitter smile and she paused, wincing slightly, but took another deep breath, determined to say this. "The thing is that I haven't just been trying to stall or frustrate you, I swear. I really don't know how I feel, but I do know that whatever it is, it scares me, Damon."
He was silent, but the confusion had faded from his expression, even if a hint of the wariness remained. Still, he was listening.
"To be honest, it freaks me out a little." She allowed a small smile. "OK, a lot… because I've never felt anything like what I feel for you. But I know that it's real and it's there and I realized that I'm never going to figure it out if I keep my distance." He cocked his head slightly, his expression now unreadable. Elena took a deep breath. "So, this is me trying to figure it out. Starting tonight. Maybe. It's up to you."
She pasted a bright smile on her face and looked at him hopefully. "Will you be my date to the dance?"
Not even a heartbeat passed before he spoke. "What about Stefan?"
Elena bit down a groan of frustration. Although she had broken up with Stefan a month ago, the two of them had been spending time together while she had kept Damon at arm's length. Of course, he wasn't aware that her feelings for Stefan were strictly platonic now. Or that I rejected him a few hours ago. Meeting his gaze head-on, Elena spoke as assuredly as possible, determined to make him understand.
"This is not about Stefan. This is about you. I want you to come with me, Damon. Will you?"
He looked away, his eyes searching. Tapping his foot suddenly, he shot his gaze back to her. "This is what you want? You know that this is what you want?"
"This is not about making Stefan jealous or testing your feelings for me versus him or any of that bullshit like in Denver?"
Guilt flashed across her face, guilt at pushing him away then and for all the times she had before and since. Guilt for making him question her sincerity now because she'd been unable to see that she and Stefan had ended the day he left Mystic Falls with Klaus despite that reality right in front of her eyes when he returned.
Elena took the final steps remaining between the two of them, never taking her eyes from his. When they stood just a breath apart, she reached up and cupped Damon's face in her hands. "There is no me and Stefan anymore. There is only you and me. Us."
He was quiet; she waited. And a genuine smile lit his face. Unable to stop herself and realizing that there was no reason to do so, she leaned forward and erased that breath between them, her lips touching his. Damon was still in her arms at first, even as his mouth parted beneath her kiss, and then his hands dropped, wrapping around her waist. Pressed tightly against him, she raised her arms and slid them around his shoulders, clasping her fingers together as her lips parted. The ever-present passion that played around the edges of their every interaction rose to the surface. A few, heady moments later, Elena drifted away, her eyes slowly opening to see a look of pure contentment on his face.
"Hi," he whispered, and a bubble of joy grew within her.
She grinned. "Hi."
They stood still in each other's arms, just looking into one another's eyes and it felt so good, so right that Elena never wanted to move. A whooping holler and long beep of a horn passing by broke into their moment and with a roll of his eyes, Damon released her, but didn't step back.
He was still smiling.
"So tonight. You and me, the dance. I can do that. I'll pick you up at seven?"
Elena nodded with a grin.
His faded and a look of concern settled on his face. "One more question."
Fighting a rise of anxiety, Elena forcibly kept that smile on her face. "Yes?"
"Do you put out on the first date?"
Her eyes widened and she pushed him away with a burst of laughter. The joy flooding through her not dimming at all, she shook her head slightly and backed away. Turning around, she practically skipped back to the porch and up the steps. Elena stopped at the door and spun around to face him. He stood there, hands in pockets, a happy grin on his face.
He raised his brows, "hmm?"
Shrugging lightly, she reached behind her and turned the door, pushing it open. "I guess you'll find out tonight."
He looked confused for a moment and then his mouth fell open, his eyes wide. Elena hurried inside and the last thing she heard as she shut the door was his bark of laughter.
TO BE CONTINUED