Fandom/Pairing: The Vampire Diaries, Damon/Elena
Spoilers/Universe: Showverse, picks up right at the end of 1x22
Word Count: 2,812 (this chapter)
Summary: In the aftermath of the events on Founder's Day, Elena must decide which Salvatore brother she can really trust.
Notes/Disclaimer: Many thanks to my BFF and beta reader extraordinaire unbrokensky. I own nothing; Mystic Falls and all its occupants belong to the CW and I'm just playing in their sandbox.
Some love is just a lie of the soul
A constant battle for the ultimate state of control
After you've heard lie upon lie
There can hardly be a question of why
Some love is just a lie of the heart
The cold remains of what began with a passionate start
But that can't happen to us
Because it's always been a matter of trust
- "A Matter of Trust" by Billy Joel
Elena smells the blood before she gets to the kitchen, and even as her heart catches in her throat and her stomach sinks to the floor, her mind rebels against the possibilities flashing by at light speed. Not today, she thinks. Not after everything else.
She reaches the kitchen door and stifles a scream, her eyes riveted to John’s still form. She’s disliked him for so long, is so angry about what he’d nearly done to people she cares about, but even if he weren’t her father she wouldn’t have wished death on him, least of all one so blood-soaked. His eyes are lifeless; he’s already gone and Elena feels bile rise when she sees his fingerless right hand.
Elena freezes at the sound of her own voice coming from across the room. She’s afraid to look up but she can’t not look up and when she does, she grips the doorframe for support and wishes she knew where Jeremy and Jenna were and that she hadn’t left her cell phone by the front door. She wills her voice to be steady.
“Katherine,” she manages. It’s not a question; there are no other possibilities.
Katherine smiles, and it’s Elena’s own smile with a chilling edge. Katherine walks slowly towards Elena, skirting around the kitchen island and nonchalantly stepping over John’s body. She stops in front of Elena and tilts her head slightly to one side, evaluating.
“Isobel was right,” she murmurs. “It’s like looking in a mirror.” She trails a fingertip down the side of Elena’s face and Elena can’t quite keep herself from shuddering and jerking her face away. “Fascinating,” Katherine adds, smirking slightly at Elena’s resistance.
Elena draws up her courage and blurts out, “What are you doing here?”
Katherine laughs coldly. “I should think that’s quite obvious.”
“Because he was a self-righteous prick who had outlived his usefulness.” Katherine smiles tightly. “I did you a favor, Elena. You should be grateful.” She stares at Elena for several more seconds, shakes her head, and pushes past Elena to head towards the front door. Elena whirls to watch her, but fear roots her to the spot so she cannot follow.
“I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again soon, Elena,” Katherine says over her shoulder. She opens the door and looks back at Elena. “We do, after all, share a common interest. Well,” she amends with a sharp smirk, “to be specific, it’s more like two common interests. I should have known the Salvatore brothers wouldn’t learn anything from even their own history.”
Before Elena can think of an adequate reply, Katherine slips outside and shuts the door behind her. Elena hears a faint whooshing sound, and she knows Katherine is vamp-speeding her way off into the night. Shaking, it takes Elena a full minute to let go of the kitchen doorframe and begin putting one foot in front of the other in the direction of the foyer and her cell phone. It isn’t that John is dead that has her so petrified, or even that he’s dead at the hands of a vampire. It’s that the vampire in question is Katherine Pierce, and if there’s one person who can rip Elena’s world apart with the flick of a finger, it’s Katherine.
When Elena finally makes it to the phone and picks it up, it rings before she can press the button to call the last number dialed, and she doesn’t even look at the caller ID before answering.
“Yes?” she says, slightly breathless.
“Elena,” she hears, and she thinks she’s never been so glad to hear Damon’s voice, even if it does sound strangely hesitant and un-Damon-like. “I know I shouldn’t have called, but I wanted to see if you were…”
Elena cuts him off. “Damon, I need help. I need… I got home and John is dead, and I haven’t even gotten the chance to look for Jenna and Jeremy, and…” she breaks off, unable to continue. Damon’s voice is urgent in her ear.
“What? Elena, are you all right? What happened?”
“She killed him,” Elena says, and the silence on the other end of the connection is palpable. “She killed John,” she repeats, as if she still isn’t convinced it’s true.
Finally Damon speaks, and Elena incredulously wonders if she actually hears a tremor in his voice. “Who? Who killed John?”
“Katherine,” Elena says numbly. “She’s back.”
Damon feels like an idiot. A soft-headed, soft-hearted, totally-unlike-himself idiot. First he pulls the remarkably stupid move of falling in love with Elena Gilbert (and he still doesn’t quite know how exactly that happened), then he lets her get to him, lets her affect him in ways that pre-Elena Damon would have found appalling. He can’t quite put his finger on when, but somewhere along the line Elena had become the voice in his head like his own personal Jiminy Cricket, nagging and buzzing until he opened himself up to guilt again, opened himself up to feeling again.
It would be one thing, he thinks, if he just wanted her with no thought for the consequences. If he didn’t care that it would hurt Stefan, didn’t care that even if she willingly chose him over Stefan it would still hurt her to do it, that as long as he had her that would be all that mattered. But he doesn’t just want her, he loves her, and he hates that it makes him allow himself to feel guilty. For all his bravado in the face of Stefan’s laughable jealous boyfriend routine, Damon still feels a tickle of guilt over kissing Elena, over hoping that she’ll pick him, over the fact that he wants to force the issue at all.
He stares at his phone. He shouldn’t call her, he knows it. He’s not some lovesick schoolboy, he’s not his brother. He doesn’t do this sort of emotional minefield-crossing stuff. He doesn’t call a girl to talk about his feelings.
He wants to call Elena to talk about his feelings. To talk about her feelings. He wants to call her and ask her to pick him and hates that. He wants to call her and tell her he’ll be noble and not cross lines anymore no matter where she chooses to draw them and hates that even more. He picks up his phone and wonders in disgust just when he turned into his brother.
Elena answers quickly. “Yes?”
“Elena,” he begins, cursing his own hesitance. “I know I shouldn’t have called, but I wanted to see if you were…”
Elena interrupts him, and he can hear panic and fear in her voice and if he concentrates he can actually hear her wildly accelerated heartbeat through the cell connection. Every muscle in his body tenses. “Damon,” she says, “I need help. I need… I got home and John is dead, and I haven’t even gotten the chance to look for Jenna and Jeremy, and…” She trails off and Damon hears her catch her breath and imagines her biting her lip to stave off tears.
“What?” he asks urgently. “Elena, are you all right? What happened?”
Elena takes a shuddering breath. “She killed him. She killed John.”
Damon thinks, Isobel, but then he remembers how ‘Elena’ had relaxed minutely when Jenna had said she ought to come inside and realizes that Elena said she got home and hadn’t had the chance to look for Jenna, and a tight ball of dread forms in the vicinity of Damon’s heart. “Who?” he says, cursing himself for sounding slightly unsteady. “Who killed John?”
“Katherine,” Elena answers, and Damon is already out the door of the house when she adds unnecessarily, “she’s back.”
“Don’t move,” he snaps into the phone. “I’ll be there in a minute. Less. Just don’t move.” He disconnects, shoves the phone in his pocket, and lays on the most speed he can muster. He doesn’t know where Stefan is; right now he doesn’t really care, either. He just wants to get to Elena and sort out the repercussions of Katherine’s return later. True to his word, less than a minute later he bursts through Elena’s front door and finds her standing at the bottom of the stairs, staring up into the upstairs hallway.
“Elena,” Damon says, and she turns around. Her face is blank and Damon curses Katherine for the millionth time since she turned him and Stefan.
“I’m afraid to go up,” she says quietly. “I’m afraid of what I’ll find. Damon, what if she killed Jeremy? Or Jenna?”
Damon’s never seen Elena like this, petrified to inaction, and it worries him more than wailing would, cuts at him deeper than tears. He grabs her by the shoulders and stares at her face until she raises her eyes to his.
“I’ll check them,” he says steadily. “Just stay here and…” The words “call Stefan” stick in Damon’s throat and he can’t bring himself to say them, not yet. He trails off, kisses Elena’s forehead softly and whispers against her skin. “I’ll take care of it,” he says, and hopes it’s not a lie.
Elena nods mutely, and Damon reluctantly slips past her. He takes the stairs two at a time, and he can hear the steady beat of Jenna’s heart before he reaches the top. He stops, concentrates, and decides she’s sleeping peacefully. Considering what she’d already seen that night and what she would see now, he thinks it’s probably best he doesn’t wake her.
He turns toward Jeremy’s room and before he even pushes open the door, he hears the sluggish pace of the boy’s heart. He finds Jeremy curled on his bed, heartbeat and respiration dangerously slow, but no outward signs of trauma. Katherine hadn’t been here, hadn’t touched Jeremy, of that Damon is sure. But something is wrong, and Damon remembers his conversation earlier, the questions about vampires turning off their feelings and if it was easier.
“Shit.” Damon is in the bathroom connecting Jeremy and Elena’s bedrooms in two strides and a stream of curses turns the air blue when he sees the empty prescription bottle next to a mostly-emptied vial of blood. Anna, he thinks. Oh, Anna, what did you do? He picks up the bottle and the vial and steels himself to go downstairs.
Elena waits until Damon reaches the top of the stairs before finally giving in to the weakness in her knees. She sinks down, finds herself sitting on the third step, and leans her head against the banister. Pull yourself together, Gilbert, she thinks. This is bad, but you’re not going to help matters by falling apart. She tries to take a deep breath to calm herself, but the scent of John’s blood has made its way to the foyer and she chokes back a cough.
She wonders what they’ll do about John. Let his body be discovered? The sheriff isn’t likely to accept a random house invasion theory, especially if she knows anything about John’s ring. Can they afford further vampire-related scrutiny?
Elena hears Damon’s footsteps on the steps behind her and braces herself for bad news, willing herself to stop being so paralyzed. Damon’s there, and she trusts him to protect her, and she’s not going to question that right now. Damon crouches down so that they’re eye-to-eye, takes her hands in his, and he looks so serious that her heart catches in her throat.
“Katherine didn’t touch them,” Damon says without preamble. “I doubt she even thought about it as long as they weren’t in her way.” Elena lets out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding, but Damon isn’t finished. “Jenna’s sleeping.” He pauses, and Elena’s fingers tighten around his.
“Jeremy?” she whispers.
Damon extricates one of his hands from hers and pulls something out of his pocket. He puts it in her hand and she sees it’s an empty bottle of her painkillers from after the accident. “How many of these were left, Elena?”
“I don’t know,” she says, confused. “Less than half as many as I started with, but more than a few.”
Damon puts something else in her hand. “I found it, empty, along with this.”
Elena looks down and sees the remnants of blood in a little glass vial. For a moment her brain refuses to process the information, but then she gasps, “Jeremy!” She shoots to her feet, but Damon keeps hold of her hand to keep her from rushing up the stairs.
“He’s still alive, but barely. He made his choice, but now you have one to make as well.” Damon keeps his eyes steady on hers, and she thinks if she weren’t so upset she’d appreciate that he gives it to her straight and doesn’t sugarcoat. “If we take him to the hospital, they might be able to save him. But Elena,” he continues, squeezing her fingers, “they might not. And then when he wakes up a few hours later, there would be a lot of explaining to do in the morgue regarding his body being missing and he would have to leave Mystic Falls. You wouldn’t be able to see him as long as you’re here.”
“Oh, God,” Elena says softly. “Jeremy…”
She locks eyes with Damon, and in his she sees pity, and regret, and something terrifyingly like love and very little of the soulless monster she had once assumed Damon to be.
“I talked to him earlier,” Damon says softly. “He’s hurting. Over what we did to him, over losing Anna, and even over Vicki. I offered to make him forget again – my deluded attempt to do the right thing – and he said that even when he didn’t remember what happened with Vicki, he still felt the emptiness.” Damon hesitates and Elena feels guilt moving through her in waves. How could she have done so much to hurt her brother? “Anna told him about how vampires can turn off the bad feelings. He asked me if that was what I did. If it was easier.”
“What did you tell him?” Elena doesn’t even think she could blink right now, lost in the intense blue of Damon’s eyes, and if it weren’t for the vervain in the locket around her neck (or, she admits, the fact that since Atlanta she trusts Damon implicitly not to do it) she would be wondering if this was what it felt like to be compelled.
“I told him the truth,” Damon says, his voice sounding rough. He raises his free hand to her cheek and Elena decides not to acknowledge the electric way it makes her skin feel. It isn’t the time, isn’t the place. And Damon’s still talking. “I told him that it was what I did for a very long time.”
“Did?” Elena says softly. Damon nods nearly imperceptibly.
“And I told him that life sucks either way, but that it was easier before.”
Elena closes her eyes. She can’t handle what she sees in Damon’s, not when she’s just reassured Stefan he has nothing to worry about where Damon is concerned. She thinks about Jeremy, about how happy he used to be. She thinks about the way Stefan was when he fell off the wagon, the way Vicki was before she died.
“He’s my brother, Damon,” she finally says. She opens her eyes and meets Damon’s gaze again. “I have to try. I have to.”
Damon nods. “I know you do, Elena.” He pulls her against his chest and God help her, she goes willingly, burying her face against his shirt and inhaling his cologne. She doesn’t stop him from stroking her hair and she doesn’t stop him from kissing the top of her head. “I’ll drive you to the hospital; it’ll be faster than an ambulance.”
He’s up the stairs before Elena can blink, and she blindly grabs her keys and her phone and stuffs them in her pockets. By the time she’s finished, Damon is back beside her, Jeremy’s limp form cradled in his arms. “Let’s go,” he says, and Elena opens the front door.
She’s halfway to the car when she stops dead. “What about John?”
Damon nudges her along. “I hate to break it to you, Elena, but there’s nothing the doctors can do for him.”
Elena scowls. She might be more used to snarky Damon, but that doesn’t mean she wants to deal with that right now. “What are we going to do about him?” she asks impatiently. “What if Jenna wakes up and finds him?” She opens the door to the backseat of her car and Damon lays Jeremy’s still form along the seat.
“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it,” Damon suggests, holding out a hand for Elena’s car keys. “Jeremy needs help now if he’s going to benefit from it at all.”
Elena gives Damon the keys, nods, and slips into the passenger seat. “Go, then.”