Fandom/Pairing: The Vampire Diaries, Damon/Elena
Spoilers/Universe: Showverse, picks up right at the end of 1x22
Word Count: 1,351 (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. Also, I apologize for my mistake a few days ago in accidentally posting the second chapter friends-locked; I'm not sure how it happened but it certainly wasn't on purpose! If you missed it, chapter two is HERE and is no longer friends-locked.
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Elena doesn’t like knowing that Katherine is good at acting like Elena. She’s worried about Jeremy, she’s worried about what they’re going to do about John, she’s worried about how to protect her friends from someone who looks and apparently can act just like her, and at the moment she’s very worried about the fact that Stefan hasn’t touched her or met her eyes since she told him Katherine was back.
A few weeks ago if someone had told Elena that Katherine would come back and one of the Salvatore brothers would stand with her and one would pull away, she’d have believed them, but only if they’d said Stefan would stand and Damon would pull away. She’s not sure how to handle the fact that it’s turning out to be the other way around.
She hears Damon mutter that he’s not letting Katherine pull his strings anymore and is surprised at how readily she believes it of him. She pushes aside the thought that he’s only able to mean it because it’s Elena’s hands holding the ends now. She hears Isobel’s voice in her head. Because he’s in love with you. She looks at Damon, with his clenched jaw and purposeful face. She looks at Stefan, who just looks bewildered. He loves me too, she tells herself, but suddenly she’s more worried than ever that he’s still tied up in knots where Katherine’s concerned. She looks down at her hands because it hurts to look at Stefan when he won’t look at her.
“Someone should go take care of John,” she says, partly because it has to be said and partly just to fill the silence.
“Stefan should go,” Damon says immediately, and Stefan looks up from a studied evaluation of the floor.
“Why shouldn’t I stay with Elena? You’re better at disposing of bodies than I am anyway.”
Damon grins for the first time in hours. “That may be, brother, but I brought in Jeremy, not you. They’re gonna want to talk to me. Elena’s certainly not going. That leaves you. Call Alaric, he’ll help. He needs to know Katherine’s back anyway. We don’t want him accidentally inviting her in thinking she’s Elena.”
“Damon’s right,” Elena says to her folded hands, surprising herself. There’s something else she’d never have predicted happening a few weeks ago. But if Stefan can’t even look her in the eye, it won’t exactly be helpful to have him around. Damon might be, well, Damon, and thus come with a host of complications and issues, but at least he’s willing to give her a hug if she needs it. She looks up at Stefan and he’s staring at a point approximately six inches to the left of her ear, looking confused.
“You should go,” she says softly. “Get Alaric, take care of John.” She shudders slightly knowing what that means, but she supposes there’s nothing to be done about it. “Don’t wake Jenna until you’ve gotten rid of all the blood,” she adds. “In fact, better not wake her until I can be there. Then I guess we’ll have to tell her about Jeremy.”
“I’ll make sure the Founders’ Council just thinks John has disappeared as suddenly as he blew back into town,” Damon says. “Just make sure his body won’t turn up in a couple months like Vicki’s did.”
Stefan looks like he wants to object, but then he just gets to his feet. He starts to lean down towards Elena like he’s going to kiss her goodbye, but he freezes before he moves more than an inch or so. “Fine,” he says, and he turns and leaves without another word. Elena opens her mouth to say goodbye, but the word won’t come out.
“Well,” Damon says, his voice full of acidic cheerfulness. “That went well, don’t you think?”
Elena turns her head to look at Damon, and is slightly mortified when her eyes fill with tears. She buries her face in her hands and leans over, bracing her elbows on her knees.
“Hey,” Damon says, and she thinks he sounds equal parts sorry and surprised. His arm comes around her back and she feels his breath against her ear when he leans over to speak to her. “Look, I’m sure he’ll come around. Eventually.” He doesn’t say it, but Elena’s pretty sure he’s thinking maybe. He gently pulls her hands away from her face and cups her cheek so she’ll turn her face to him. “Don’t let him make this even harder for you than it already is.”
Elena nods and attempts a watery smile. “Thanks,” she says.
“I told you, you don’t have to thank me for this.”
“Thanks anyway.” Elena leans into his hand for a second, then shifts to lay her head on Damon’s shoulder.
They sit in silence for a few minutes until a solemn-faced doctor pulls aside the curtain and takes Stefan’s vacated seat. Elena sits up quickly and is strangely relieved when Damon doesn’t move his arm from around her shoulders. “Doctor?” she asks tentatively.
“Miss Gilbert, I’m Dr. Sheffield. We’ve stabilized your brother and placed him on IV fluids and given him a drug to counter what he took. We’ve given him a sedative so he’ll sleep through the night. There’s still some degree of chance here, but if he makes it through until tomorrow afternoon without his liver or kidneys deteriorating further then I think we can be pretty positive about his outlook.”
“Thank God,” Elena breathes, and she relaxes slightly against Damon’s side.
“You’re lucky you found him when you did, and that you knew what he’d taken. If you’d brought him in any later, we’d be having a different conversation.”
Elena swallows convulsively and nods. “Can I see him?”
“Well, as I’ve said, he is sedated and he won’t be waking up until at least the late morning. But if you’d like to sit with him, I can arrange for that.”
The doctor looks at Damon. “Mr. Salvatore, I believe the sheriff wishes to have a word with you.” She gets to her feet and motions for Damon and Elena to do the same. “If you’ll follow me,” she says, turning to leave the curtained area. Damon rests his hand low on Elena’s back as they walk though the hospital halls toward the ICU. “Wait here.” The doctor goes off to speak with one of the nurses. A moment later the nurse comes over to them.
“Miss Gilbert,” the nurse says, opening the door they’re standing in front of, “you can go in now.” She looks over at Damon. “The sheriff is waiting to speak to you down the hall.”
Damon leans down a little and meets Elena’s eyes. “I’ll come back as soon as I’m done with the sheriff, okay?”
Elena nods and wonders if she should feel guilty for how much she doesn’t want Damon to leave her alone. He watches her face with standard Damon Salvatore intensity for several seconds before nodding in response, and she wonders what he reads behind her eyes. His hand slips away from her back and she watches him walk away with the nurse until he is motioned into a room several doors down the hallway.
Sighing, Elena goes into her brother’s room and shuts the door behind her. She walks slowly to the bed, scoots one of the unyielding hospital chairs closer to it and sits down.
“I’m so, so sorry, Jere,” she says quietly, taking his hand. “And I know you’ll probably hate me if you pull through, but…” She looks at their joined hands and remembers a long ago fall morning, Jeremy’s first day of kindergarten. They’d taken the bus and Jeremy had clasped her hand tightly the whole way to the school. It had made her seven-year-old self feel very grown-up and protective. Ten years later, she thinks, and here she is holding his hand again, still feeling protective.
She feels like after all they’ve been through, it might be fair to say they don’t just feel like grown-ups anymore, and that being grown-ups isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.