Can't Wait to Get to Sleep
Vampires don't need sleep. I guess it's one of the benefits of being the undead. But Caroline's a cuddler and likes to lay curled up to my naked side for hours. Sometimes she wants to talk. A lot. And I, of course, rarely know what to say. So I've taken to closing my eyes, feigning that I'm tired after a marathon round of sex and that I desperately need rest. She doesn't fight me on this too much.
The truth is that I need solace and quiet, even when my mind inevitably turns to the one person that it shouldn't.
I miss her. I really miss the hell out of her. I don't say it – I don't dare - but I do. I try to stay busy by keeping Damon out of trouble. His worst impulses are starting to emerge, though so far (thank whoever's in charge of these things) he hasn't ripped anyone's head off yet. But he's cold and distant and so angry. I don't know what to do to help him; I don't even know how to help myself.
Caroline is chatting beside me right now – about everything and nothing. I feel badly because I'm not really hearing her. She rubs my chest, pulling me back to the present. "You're tired?" It's a question, tinged with a little suspicion and hurt.
"A bit," I say. "With everything that's going on right now… With Bonnie and Damon… and everything…" I say lamely.
"Right, right," Caroline replies. "You should rest. Close your eyes." She runs her fingers down my cheek to my chest and then hitches her arm through mine.
I close my eyes and feign sleep. I don't think I'm actually asleep until I suddenly hear a voice calling my name.
I'd know that voice anywhere. Okay, I'm dreaming. And it's the best dream ever.
Elena is standing on that mountaintop where I last saw her. The same place she told me that she didn't ever want to be a vampire. She's wearing jeans, a red top and a gray hoodie that looks pretty familiar.
She looks good – no, great. Her brown eyes – eyes I could still stare into for hours – are alight and she looks … like her old self for a moment.
"Elena?" I think that it's fortunate I'm clothed in this dream being that in wakefulness I was naked as the day I was born.
She nods. "Yes, Stefan, were you expecting someone else?" She says and she smiles. That beautiful, perfect, Elena-smile. I want to hug her; I want to hold her… I want to kiss her.
But I stay back a bit, not entirely trusting myself. "Am I dreaming?"
"You tell me," Elena says.
I shake my head. "I guess it doesn't matter. I'm just glad you are here."
"Me too, Stefan, me too." She sits on the ground, amidst the tall grass and stares out at the impossibly blue sky. She then turns to look up at me. "Sit with me."
I nod. "Okay." I slip down to the ground, crossing my legs at the ankles. I can't keep my eyes off of her and she notices.
"What? Do I have something on my teeth?" She asks with a chuckle, tucking an errant strand of satiny brown hair behind her ear. "You're acting like you haven't seen me in such a long time."
It's been a month, I want to say. It's been a month since you've been gone and I'm silently going crazy.
But I say nothing, because maybe she doesn't realize – maybe she doesn't know – that she's not really here, that she's locked away from all contact for the next sixty years. The thought turns my gut but then I am just so glad to be here with her for the moment. This feels so real.
"Uh, well it feels like it's been awhile," is all I can say. Lame.
I feel my smile faltering so with resolve; I quickly turn up the corners of my mouth. "Hey, that sweater looks familiar."
"It should," Elena says, pulling her knees up to her chest and resting her elbows on her kneecaps. "It's yours. I could never seem to part with it."
I smile even as I feel a little choked up. She kept something, a memento of us. Sometimes I felt like there was nothing left of us; that she forgot or didn't care to remember how much we used to mean to each other. But she kept something.
"It looks nice on you – baggy but nice," I say. "Are you comfortable?" I don't mean in the sweater; I mean wherever she is. Is she comfortable? Is she okay where she is? I can't wake up; I can never be okay until I know for sure that she's okay.
"Yeah, I'm fine," she says. "It's usually warm here, peaceful… I feel safe. I always come here. Every single day." She keeps her eyes locked on mine. "How many days has it been? I try to count but –"
"Stefan, I know I'm not a part of the real world anymore, okay? I remember that. But in my mind, somehow I can dream. I can escape. I've been trying to get to you for what feels like forever now. And you're here now and that means so much."
It means so much for me too.
"It's been a month." I add silently that it's actually been a month, three weeks, five days, sixteen hours and fifteen seconds. I know this because I've been counting. Some part of me is hyperaware of every moment that she's not there with us. My internal clock is set on Elena. Everything is set on Elena. Will it always be that way?
"A month," Elena repeats. "Seems like time is moving slower than I thought it would."
"Yeah." I feel it too, Elena. I feel every millisecond.
Her eyes take on a faraway look for a moment. "I'm okay. I'm fine. A little lonely sometimes but I'm fine." It's like she's trying to convince herself that she's alright and my heart breaks all over again. I want to pull her into my arms and hold her so tight. Instead I settle for squeezing her arm. Is that as close as we'll ever be again? God, I hope not.
She shakes her head. "Anyway, how are you?"
Barely hanging on without you.
"Fine. Just fine," I say.
"And you and Caroline… You're good?"
"Peachy," I say facetiously. She cocks her head at me curiously.
"You know I want you to be happy, Stefan. If anyone can make you happy, it's Care."
"Yes…" The thing is Elena made me happy for the longest time; she made me feel alive. I haven't truly felt any of those things in ages. But Elena needs to think that I'm okay, even if I'm not.
"Be honest with me, Stefan," Elena said. "You can't lie to me. I know you far too well for that."
"I'm good, I am," I say. "And can we not worry about me? I'm not the one who's-"
"Trapped in a box inside my mind for sixty years. But I'm fine."
"You keep saying that."
"So do you."
Can we admit we're both not fine? Probably not today. Not during this dream, hallucination, delusion born of desperation…whatever it is…
"Touché." She twirls a blade of grass in her tiny fingers. "So how is Damon?"
"Coping as best as he can, but Elena, he needs you. I won't lie about that."
"I want him to be okay, Stefan, I really do. I don't want him to turn off his humanity or become the angry and hateful person he was before."
"You changed him for the better, Elena. Loving him the way you did… It healed a part of him that he probably didn't realize was even aching. I am trying to keep him on the straight and narrow. I remind him every moment I can that you're coming back and that you need him to be strong, to hold on."
Elena nods. "Thanks," she says, almost absently. "And everyone else? How is everyone else?"
"Jeremy left town again. Tyler left too. I think they both need time away. But Jeremy calls often, hoping we will tell him that there has been some change."
Elena's eyes moisten. "Oh Jeremy… My little brother. I miss him. I miss all of you."
"Everyone misses you." I miss you.
"Is Bonnie okay?"
"She's trying to be okay, as we all are. She is helping me with Damon, trying to reign in his need for destruction."
"Thank god for Bonnie… How about Matt?"
"Matt's a cop now. Or about to be one anyway. We don't see him as much anymore being that he's so busy but he talks about you all the time when we do see him, bemoans the fact that he might not be around when-"
"When I return. I told him when we all said our goodbyes that he had to believe in a miracle."
"Do you still believe in a miracle, Elena?"
"Maybe. I'm not sure… But the idea keeps me from going too crazy, you know. And how about Caroline? Is she still her normally effervescent, full-of-life self?"
"It's hard to keep a good Caroline down." I don't mention that Caroline has told me she feels guilty – that she feels like she's stolen Elena's life from her even though she knows better than to think that.
"And how about Ric? Tell me he's okay."
"He's doing the best he can under the circumstances too. He lost four people he loved in the same day… We are trying to hold him together but I won't lie, Elena, there are days I worry he's going to try to end it all."
"No, no, he can't. You have to stop him, Stefan! I know – god I know – that I have asked so much of you already. Too much but –"
"I'll do my best here."
"I know. I can always count on you… Thank you."
We fall into a poignant silence then and just watch the sky. Her hand comes to rest on mine at one point and she squeezes my fingers like she needs reassurance that I'm really here. If I had my way, I'd never, ever leave.
I am turning to look at her when suddenly the sky becomes very dark. Clouds appear, thunder rolls, lightning splits the sky. In the next moment, rain is pouring down all around us in thick sheets. I start in surprise. "What the-"
"Stefan, you'd better go," Elena said.
"No, not until this storm passes!" I shout trying to be heard over the roar of the storm.
"I'll be okay!" She shouts back. "Just go okay? Just go."
She gives me a light shove forward. "Go, Stefan, okay? Be safe!"
"Elena!" I shout. I cry. I sputter. "ELENA!"
But she's gone then. The storm is gone. The summit is gone. I'm spiraling back to consciousness, waking up in a pool of my own sweat.
Caroline shoots to a sitting position beside me and I realize guiltily that I am disappointed that she's there. I feel pathetic but right now I wish I was looking into a pair of familiar doe brown eyes.
"Stefan what's wrong?" She asks. "Were you having a nightmare?"
"Something like that," I say and flip onto my side, facing the wall. I close my eyes and will myself back to sleep, will myself to be back with Elena, but it doesn't happen. I worry I might not see her again anytime soon.
TO BE CONTINUED.