Chapter: 22 – Here With You [Featured Characters: Rebekah, Matt, Caroline, Stefan, Damon and Elena]
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: 3,968
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, Bonnie/Jeremy).
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Chapter 22: Here With You
The door swung wildly behind her as she flung it open, giving Matt enough time to slip through before it shut all the way. "Rebekah, what is going on?"
She spun around. "What is going on? Do you think I'm stupid? Do you think I'm blind?" He genuinely looked confused, opening and closing his mouth, looking like a gaping guppy. "Caroline!"
"What about her?"
"You have feelings for her. Caroline! As if Elena wasn't enough, you have some sort of thing for Caroline." She turned away from him, replaying the intimate look the two had shared while Matt was dancing with her. Rebekah looked to the heavens, throwing her hands up. "I need to leave this town," she muttered to herself.
Moving to stand before her, Matt sighed and reached out to take her hand. She stiffly bore it. "Caroline and I dated."
"Yeah, I figured you knew."
"When? Why— how would I know?" She managed, looking at him with incredulity.
"Last year or so, and, I don't know, you seem to know everything."
Rebekah pulled her hand back. "Important. I know everything important. Not the make-ups and break-ups of Mystic Falls' most incestuous couples. Because really, the way you all… intermingle, it's—" She broke off, just done.
"Last year or so?"
"And why did you break up? What ended it?" She tapped her foot, her arms crossing over her chest.
"She became a vampire and started acting weird and all crazy jealous, then when I thought maybe we could work it out, she and Tyler—"
"So you didn't end things with her, not really? And you still care about her?" She felt so stupid. So incredibly stupid. What was I thinking? Just because he's technically my age, he's a child. A stupid, feckless child. Turning away, she swiped angrily at an errant tear.
"Of course I care about her, but she's moved on."
"And have you?" Rebekah let out a short bark of laughter, completely lacking in joy. "And here I thought it was Elena you hadn't let go of."
"Elena and I are friends. So are me and Caroline. But no, things didn't end with much closure, I guess."
"Closure? Yes, I hear about that on those talk shows where people go on and on and on about their feelings. It's pathetic. Just man up and move on."
Matt took a step back, suddenly glaring at her. "What do you think I'm doing? I'm here with you, aren't I? I asked you!" His voice was bitter, those blue eyes of his spitting sparks. "I didn't have to. Hell, I wasn't even sure I wanted to, but you wanted it so much and I thought ‘why not?' Well, maybe here's why not."
Rebekah drew in a sharp breath. "I wanted it so much?" Her voice was low. "And what? You felt sorry for me?"
Shaking his head, a look of regret crossed his face. "Rebekah, I meant—"
"No, no, I get it." She drew herself up to her full height and despite the inches he had over her even in her heels, she looked down her nose at him. "You don't have to worry about me wanting you anymore. Wanting this."
She cut him off with a cool look. "I am done groveling. I am done trying to make you *like* me." Moving a few steps until she was standing right next to him, Rebekah met his gaze, her eyes blasting him with her rage. "I am a thousand-year old Viking and I do not need a boy such as yourself acting as if I am beneath you."
Gulping heavily, Matt tried to look away but couldn't. She held him caught in her stare before she finally stepped back. Looking him up and down dismissively, Rebekah spared him one final glance. "I am not."
And then she walked away, her head held high.
"You were quiet on the ride home," Caroline said softly as she shut the door behind her.
Stefan didn't respond, instead, he headed to the liquor stand and poured himself a generous amount of Damon's best booze. Things had actually been going well at the dance. He had genuinely been enjoying himself with Caroline. Dancing, laughing, and yeah, he had to admit it, being her knight in shining armor. It was a suit he wore well, the role he was born to play. And it was real with Caroline, he didn't have to keep any secrets from her. It didn't matter about his past, she accepted him, Ripper and all. And so it was easy to make her smile, easy for her to do the same for him. And then… Stefan squeezed his eyes shut for a quick moment, trying to banish the memory that had ruined his night.
"Stefan?" Caroline tried to get his attention again. He swallowed deeply and slammed his glass down and turned to look at her. She stood at the entrance of the room, looking unlike herself, self-conscious. Her voice was small. "I'm sorry. You should have just taken me home."
Stefan shook his head. "No, you didn't want to be alone." He poured another glass. "It's fine." He laughed harshly. "I don't want to be alone either right now."
"Stefan, what's wrong? You were fine earlier. You were… I thought you were happy, having fun at the dance. We left and now you're, well, you're definitely not happy. What happened?" Caroline stepped into the room and leaned against the desk, her blue eyes full of concern.
Stefan finished his drink and immediately filled the glass again. "Elena," he bit out. She was quiet, just watching him, waiting for him to continue. "She and Damon were dancing."
Stefan looked down angrily. "Whispering, caught up in each other. Kissing. I don't think she even realized I was there. She only had eyes for my brother." His lips twisted in a bitter smile. "So much for making her jealous."
Setting his glass down, he rubbed at his face, once more shaking his head. "I don't know—I just… I thought…" He trailed off, not even sure anymore what he thought. But he sure as hell knew now that it was over between him and Elena.
Silence filled the room and Stefan just stared at the floor. Finally, he heard Caroline move towards him. He didn't look up. Even when she stood just a foot away.
"Stefan…" He could hear pity in her voice and his fists clenched. "Stefan, I'm sorry."
"I don't need an apology. And I don't want your pity."
"It's not pity, I'm just... sorry." She reached out, gingerly rubbing his arm. "She loves him, Stefan. I know that's not what you want to hear, but… she's moved on. She's with Damon now, and Stefan, she's happy. It's been a long time since I've seen her happy."
"What about me?" Stefan finally looked up at her. He could feel the burn of tears behind his eyes, but refused to give into the ache. "When do I get to be happy again?"
He pulled away from her touch, nodding his head vigorously. "You're right." Stefan looked up at her, moving closer. "She's happy, right?"
Caroline nodded tentatively. "Yeah."
"She's moved on and that's good." He nodded again and looked at Caroline. "Maybe it's time I move on too." Truly looking at Caroline, he allowed himself to take in her beauty, take in how good she made him feel. And he refused to pull back from those feelings. "Yeah, maybe it's my turn," he whispered right before he reached out and cupped a hand behind her neck, his mouth capturing hers.
Caroline froze in his arms, and then a small whimper escaped as her lips parted beneath the onslaught of his kiss. Stefan wrapped his other arm around her waist and pulled her tight to him, her body molding to his, her hands gripping his shoulders. As Caroline melted against him, her mouth tasting of cherry lip gloss and smiles, any thought that didn't center around her flew from his mind and he decided he wanted to keep on kissing her forever because it felt damn good.
And then her lips were gone and she was out of his arms. She shoved him. Hard. Stefan stumbled, his hand rising to touch his mouth.
"Stefan!" Her eyes were wide, with glazed passion, yes, but it was fading. The stronger emotion there was shock… and hurt.
Caroline shook her head, her face flushed. "Number one, we are friends. Number two, I will *not* be some stand-in for Elena—" She thrust her hand forward angrily when he opened his mouth to argue. "Number three, I will *not* let you bring this crazy situation with Elena and your brother into my relationship with Elena and mess things up with us." She narrowed her gaze, her hands falling to her hips as she continued glaring at him. "Got it?" She was breathing heavily and her entire frame was shaking.
"Got it," he managed quietly, shame filling him. He looked at her, trying to tell her how sorry he was for taking advantage of her friendship without words. But it wasn't enough. "Caroline—" his voice broke slightly and he took a step forward. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have—"
"No, you shouldn't have. Not cool, Stefan!" She exhaled heavily. "I just— I can't deal with this right now. I'm not going to deal with this. No, you know what? I am going home." She nodded furiously, talking to herself now. "Yeah, I am going to go home and cry over my crazy, depressing love life!" Caroline took a deep breath, met Stefan's gave and gave him one final glare before she turned around, flouncing out of the room.
Stefan stood still for a moment, unable to comprehend what had just happened. I kissed Caroline! What was I thinking? Caroline?! He shook his head and moved to the couch, sitting down heavily.
"You're a sorry sight. What happened with Caroline?"
Stefan looked up at Rebekah. He ignored her question. "What are you doing here?"
She shrugged. "Looking for Damon." She stepped into the room and lowered herself beside him.
"He's with Elena."
"Really?" Rebekah raised a brow in surprise. "I figured he would have ticked off the perfect princess by now and that their romance would be over before it began."
He smiled bitterly. "No." Then looked at her with a sideways glance. "Why would it matter?"
Pursing her lips slightly, a flush suffused her cheeks and she looked away. Stefan laughed wryly. "If you think that Damon will ever go near you again after what you did to Elena. Wow, that'd you even be interested…" he trailed off. All those stories about Damon in the sack must be true, he thought with annoyance.
Rebekah simply shrugged. "The sex was good." She paused, a smile curving her lips. "No, the sex was fantastic."
Rolling his eyes, Stefan leaned forward slightly. "What about Matt? You showed up to the dance with him. I thought he was your new boy-toy."
Her smile faded, that vulnerability she was unable to hide flashing in her eyes. "He's hung up on Caroline still." Rebekah looked at Stefan. "I won't be second-place. Not to Elena. And definitely not to Caroline Forbes."
Hearing her name was enough to bring the memory of her in his arms, the feel of her kiss flooding back. Stefan gave a sharp shake of his head, forcing himself to concentrate on Rebekah's words. He replayed them back and found himself confused. "Not to Elena? Then what are you doing here?" He sneered. "Damon's all about Elena or did you miss that memo?"
Rebekah shrugged again, ignoring his lack of sympathy. "It's just sex with Damon. I know that." Her lips twisted with frustration. "Fine, I admit it. I'm lonely, OK? And any intimacy would be welcome tonight... even if it's just sex."
She pouted, slumping against the cushions and turned to face him. "I was so happy when Klaus undaggered me and you were there. The last time I saw you, it'd just been a few hours and we were so in love." Rebekah cocked her head slightly, a curious glint in her eyes. "Did you know that you were the first boy I truly loved?" She shook her head, looking away with a roll of her eyes. "Of course you didn't. But you were."
Sighing, she gazed back at him again, her voice once more soft and full of nostalgia. "I was happy, Stefan. We were so happy, weren't we? You remember that, don't you?"
Reaching out, Rebekah ran a gentle finger across his jaw, suggestion in the curve of her lip, the glint of her eye. She moved closer to him. "You're lonely too. I see it written all over you." Letting loose with a gentle sigh, she smiled. "Maybe we could pretend we're in love again." She shrugged once more, her shoulder brushing against his, her breath whispering against his skin as she leaned in, close to his ear, her words dropping to a murmur. "Or, maybe it could just be sex for us too."
As their gazes met, Stefan was quiet, seeing the promise in hers. She was right. He was lonely and he was tired of being the good brother, the one who remained chaste and pure, waiting for a woman who didn't love him any longer, finding himself rejected by another. His eyes drifted close as his lips met hers, trying to recapture what he felt when he had loved *this* woman.
Damon and Elena walked down the path that had once led to his human home, holding hands, eyes peeled to the ground as they dodged weeds and holes. He made small talk, describing how manicured the lawns once were, how gleaming the gate had been, how it has been over a century since he'd been here when the moon came out from behind a cloud and he glanced up, looking straight ahead. He froze. Nothing of the Salvatore Plantation remained. The foundation was completely gone. Mortar, bricks, wood, concrete, all had been broken down by time, torn down by weather, scavenged, sold off. Nothing was left.
He stood still and could only stare, trying to swallow over the lump in his throat.
"Damon?" Elena's voice was quiet as if not wanting to intrude, as if sensing that he was having a *moment* here.
Raising his arm, he pointed to the large expanse of nothing. "Right there. That's where I grew up." He looked down at her. "That's where I was born. The third floor." He smiled, sorrow in the curve of his lips. "My mother's bedroom."
"It's…" Her expression was sympathetic, and Damon knew what she was thinking even as she trailed off.
"Gone. It's all gone." He nodded, his voice was thick. "Yeah." Clearing his throat, he finally dropped his arm and turned to the left. "I don't know if the path is still there, it might be too overgrown, but it was this way. Come on."
She followed his lead quietly, holding on tight as he headed into the woods. Despite the long passage of time Damon remembered exactly where the turn was and although there was enough undergrowth to mask the trail, amazingly he was still able to trace the path he had walked so many times in his youth.
After a few minutes, the weight of humidity and the scent of fresh water hit him. A smile broke out across his face. "It's here. It hasn't dried up." Pushing some low-hanging branches out of his way, Damon pulled Elena through and he heard her gasp behind him.
"Damon—" she broke off as she let go of his hand and spun slowly around, taking in his spot.
Looking up, he savored the light of the moon raining brightly down upon them. Upon the small pond, beams shining like diamonds on its surface. Upon the delicate pink swamp milkweed plants nestled amidst the deep green foliage. Damon turned to Elena, his breath caught at the sight of her standing in the moonlight, her eyes glowing and a smile radiant upon her face.
She gazed at him. "Beautiful."
He stared, knowing it was a complete cliché, but he took Elena's compliment and applied it to the sight of her before him because it was the truth. "Absolutely." Walking over to a thick tree, he leaned against the trunk, looking her up and down, and sighed. Damon noted the stains and dirt on her dress with a quick gesture. "I told you it'd get ruined."
Shrugging, she moved closer to him. "And I told you that I didn't care, I just want to be here with you. It's not like I'll ever wear it again." Leaning up, she pressed a light kiss on his lips. Damon smiled and then lowered himself to the ground, relieved to find the ground not damp. He reached up for Elena's hand and tugged her down. She immediately curled up beside him.
"So you would come here and… write poetry? Read books?"
"Think deep thoughts."
She shoved her shoulder lightly against him. "I'm serious."
"So am I. I came here with a jug of water, block of cheese, an apple or two and just contemplated life." Elena looked a tad skeptical. "Really, I was very moved by Thoreau's Walden. This was where I learned to cherish the pleasures of the simple living he wrote about."
He was quiet for a moment, and then shook his head with a wide grin. "Nah. I snuck out here to enjoy Parisian art." Damon waggled his brows expressively.
Damon let out a short bark of laughter at the utter cluelessness on her face. "Porn of the 19th century for young lads like me. Very exotic. And very, very arousing."
Shaking her head, Elena's face scrunched up and she rolled her eyes. "I thought you said you were different in 1864."
"When did I say that?"
She was quiet for a moment and then with a sigh, "on your deathbed."
Damon smirked, not even slightly melancholy over the memory since he was still here after all. "Oh, when you kissed me for the first time."
"Because you were dying." She reminded him, her prim tone belied by her own smirk. Elena's expression faded to an easy smile and she snuggled against him. "Remember? You said I would have liked you in 1864 and it implied that you were… different than you are now. Not that I don't like you now. I do, very much, but sneaking off to, ahem, enjoy porn? Sounds like the now-you, Damon."
"No, it sounds like any teenage boy once introduced to porn," he corrected with a sly grin.
She rolled her eyes, but very quickly her gaze grew soft and she looked at him. "OK, fair enough. So then tell me why you said that. Tell me what you were like in 1864 that would make me like you. The only stories I've heard of your human self were from Stefan and, well, I kinda get now that he's not the most reliable narrator."
Damon was quiet and then nodded slightly. "Yeah."
"I was nicer then. I cared about people, not just those who mattered to me." He glanced at her and she was looking at him, completely focused, her eyes open and trusting, just a bit of a curve to her lips as she gazed at him. Searching through his memory, he tried to think of something he had done, something not just nice, but good. Something that Elena would have done just because it was the right thing to do. He closed his eyes, thinking back, and then he remembered John Wardley. Damon sighed and opened his eyes, but didn't look back at Elena, he just stared straight ahead.
"OK, there was this kid… I was wealthy, old Southern money and all that. John, Johnny Wardley, he was a few years younger, and from the other side of town, dirt-poor. Nothing special about him, just one of like eight kids in his family."
Damon paused and Elena reached out and slipped a hand in his. He squeezed it gently, looking down at their entwined fingers, hers still encased in the black gloves.
"It was the same today as it was then. He was picked on, bullied, whatever. But they didn't have afterschool specials and counselors then, so it happened and that was it. Until I stuck up for him. Because I was who I was, they left him alone and his brothers and sisters too after that."
"What made you do it?"
Silent for a moment, Damon released his grip on her hand and began tracing the line of her gloves from palm to finger, circling around each one. Elena shivered against him with a thready sigh.
He shrugged. "I don't know, there wasn't some big moment. I wasn't trying to impress anyone. I knew it had been happening, but I guess, yeah, I'd never been there when it did happen. This time I was and it was wrong so I said something. I did the right thing… just because." He smiled down at her. "It was the right thing to do."
Elena smiled and turned towards him, stretching up to face him. "Yeah, I would have liked you then." Still quiet, Damon continued playing with her glove, his fingers now trailing up her arm, playing around the edge before sliding back down to her fingers. Elena let out another shaky sigh. "But I really, really like you now." Leaning up, she kissed him and it was soft and gentle and his heart skipped a beat because, yeah, Elena Gilbert did that to him.
His eyes remained closed for a moment, savoring the taste of her on his lips. She pulled back and he finally opened them, gazing at her, well aware that every bit of love he felt for her was all out there. She didn't look away, taking it all in and it struck him anew. He got the girl. The Hallelujah chorus rang out in his head. Damn, I'm happy.
Grinning, he pulled her arm up, her hand held between them. "Do you have any clue how sexy your gloves are?"
She smiled, but bemusedly so. "No. None at all."
Running his hand up the length of the glove and then back down, he circled her ebony-encased fingers again, his voice low and velvety as he explained. "In my time, women wore gloves quite frequently because the hand had to be covered up. It was an intimacy to touch a woman's bare hand."
"Ohh…" Her voice was shaky as he began to pluck the tips of each finger, pulling the material loose.
"Oh, yes. Flesh to flesh was very erotic. The sensitivity, the heat, the frisson of hand to hand… utterly delicious." Damon tugged at her glove, pulling it clean off and lowered his head as he brought her hand to his mouth. He kissed her pinkie, and then her ring finger and then slowly, seductively brought her middle finger in between his lips, nibbling gently before sucking lightly.
Elena's eyes drifted shut as she fell against him. He took her finger into his mouth deeper and her eyes popped open, wide and glazed over with desire.
"Damon?" She said his name shakily, quietly, the sound barely audible in the night. Her finger slipped out of his mouth and he pressed a lingering kiss to the middle of her palm.
"Yes, Elena?" He met her gaze, his eyes hooded with wanting.
She swallowed heavily, her breathing coming faster and heavier than it had moments ago. "I'm so gonna put out."
TO BE CONTINUED