Damon was freaking out. All signs pointed to Elena leaving by her own choice. Her car was gone as was a good portion of her wardrobe. Her cellphone had been left behind, obviously so he couldn't track her. She knew he wasn't above using a little compulsion to get a GPS tracker put on her phone. Apparently, she had picked up a few tips without him realizing it.
He had called his friendly deputy sheriff, Matt Donovan, who put a BOLO out on Elena's SUV. He had called Jeremy in Denver, who hadn't spoken to Elena in a few weeks. Bonnie hadn't answered when he phoned her in Charlotte. Stefan and Caroline were catching the first flight out of Paris to help him search.
It wasn't until he had exhausted all his readily available options that his thoughts ventured into territory that he never thought he would visit. Why would Elena leave him? Things had been good between them, he would have said nearly perfect, if that didn't feel like he was asking for trouble. He just didn't understand, but he intended to find her and make her explain it to him until he did.
"Bonnie!" Elena squealed as she rushed to wrap her best friend in a hug. "I wasn't expecting you to be here."
"Surprise!" Bonnie pulled back to get a better look at her friend, concerned by what she saw. "I didn't want you to be alone. How are you doing?"
"Can we get my stuff in the house before I fall apart? If I start talking, I'll start crying. Once I start, I'm afraid I won't stop. Just give me a few minutes to appreciate the fact that you are here with me, okay?"
"You got it. Come on, let's get your stuff inside." Bonnie grabbed the two suitcases closest to her and started walking toward the house.
Stefan had never seen Damon look as agitated as when he and Caroline arrived at the boarding house. He was waiting for another lead that he could follow. Damon had already driven to Richmond and back after Elena's SUV had been found. He had compelled his way through the airport security office and looked through the video feeds. Elena didn't show up on any of them.
Nor had he seen Damon look so hopeless, not even when found Katherine hadn't been in the tomb. When the Richmond lead became a dead end, Damon was left waiting for another lead to appear. And waiting. And waiting. The longer he had to wait, the more his hope seemed to fade.
"Damon," Stefan paused, wanting to be sure that his brother was actually listening to him, "Caroline and I were talking on the plane. You and Elena have had to lay low at times, right?" Damon nodded and Stefan continued. "Did you ever use other identities?"
"We have, but I thought of that, Stef. I've called all of my usual guys. None of them have heard from Elena."
"I thought of that. Would Elena contact one of your regulars? She might be worried about them telling you what name she was using. Or, would she try to find her way to someone you would never use, someone you wouldn't automatically think of?"
Stefan definitely had Damon's attention. He watched as Damon chewed on his lower lip, thinking over the possibilities.
"Elena is smart, Damon. You can't tell me she hasn't picked up some of your tricks in the last twenty years."
Damon, realizing that Stefan had a point, turned and threw the crystal tumbler in his hand at the fireplace.
"Damn it! You're right. Time to start making more phone calls, but I have no idea how we will get any of these guys to talk."
"Leave it to me, brother," Stefan put his hand on Damon's shoulder, "I know exactly who we can get to help us."
After a nap, dinner and a bottle of wine, Elena was finally ready talk. The girls lounged on the leather sectional in the living room, admiring the view of the Sydney out the picture window.
"Alright, Elena, tell me. How are you doing? Really? I know it wasn't easy for you to leave Damon like that."
"It's awful! I miss him so much, more than I had imagined. I want to call him, just to hear his voice, but I'm afraid that if I do, he'll find me." Elena absently brushed away the tears on her cheeks.
"You know, he's been calling me. Every message he leaves is a little more frantic that the last. You need to let him know you're okay."
"What then, Bonnie? He'll want to know where I am, what I'm doing. This is better. As far as he knows, I just walked away. He'll miss me, he'll look for me. Eventually, he'll give up."
"Right, like he gave up on Katherine? He didn't give up on her until he saw with his own eyes that she wasn't in the tomb. He spent one hundred and forty-five years waiting for someone he only thought he loved. Knowing that, knowing how much he loves you, can you imagine how long he will look for you? Elena, he is not going to give up."
"Can one of you explain to me why the Cincinnati airport is in Kentucky?" Caroline piped up from the backseat of their rental car.
"Car-o-line" Stefan said in a sing-song manner that was his hint for her to drop it. He spared her a glance over his shoulder as he sped down the interstate toward the Cincinnati airport. After a slight nod from her, he turned his attention back to the road, wishing there was a more direct route. He was spending way too much time focusing on the next exit and not nearly enough time pulling his brother out of the shell into which he had retreated.
Stefan needn't have worry about whether or not Caroline's constant chatter was annoying Damon. Damon had simply tuned the two of them out as he reexamined his conversation with Elijah earlier in the day. Stefan's idea to call Elijah had been brilliant, not that Damon would ever tell him. Elijah had always had a soft spot for Elena. Of course, he would be willing to help find her as long as it didn't negatively affect his family.
Damon stared out the window as he replayed the conversation, looking for any clue he might have missed.
"Damon, I have spoken to several rather unsavory persons who are in the business of providing identities to those wishing to disappear."
"And…" Damon had never appreciated Elijah's flair for the dramatic and it was only serving to antagonize him at the moment.
"I have two names that Elena might be using – Jennifer Sawyer and Isabella Franklin."
Damon's non-beating heart seemed to pound in his chest. Finally, he had something to go on. Speeding up to his bedroom, he threw some clothes in a bag, grabbed his keys and wallet and was out the front door before he realized he didn't know where he was going. He stopped dead in his tracks and waited. Surely, Elijah had more information than that. Thankfully, Elijah did not disappoint.
"Jennifer Sawyer rented a car in Richmond and returned it at the Cincinnati airport. I will continue on my end, but I thought you would appreciate an update."
Damon stood quietly for a moment before doing something he didn't think he had ever done before. He thanked Elijah for his help before ending the call.
Back in the car speeding toward their only clue, Damon had a nagging feeling that there was something else in what Elijah had said that was just out of his reach.
A/N - And there you have chapter 2, a day early even. Hope you enjoyed it, even though you might be confused at this point. Please bear with me. It will become clear. I promise! I'd love to know what you think. Don't forget: reviews feed the muse. See you next week with chapter 3! ~ craftyjhawk