A/N: First things first, I would like to wish you all a very Happy Easter! :)
Secondly, this story started out as a one-shot, but developed into a slightly longer story (shocking, I know). Apart from this one, there are 3 more chapters to come.
Summary: Post-8x01. When Sybil invades Damon and Elena's first meeting, Damon seeks refuge in another memory but the events he remembers take an unexpected turn... S8!Damon/S1!Elena
Disclaimer: The Vampire Diaries belongs to L.J. Smith & CW. The credit for the title goes to TVD, to one of my favorite quotes of the entire series: "Because you may be a thousand miles away or a hundred years away, but you are still here with me and my heart is right there in that coffin with you."
A Thousand Miles & A Hundred Years
It was always through a dark forest that he would get there, drawn to the faint glimmer of fog covering the ground where he had been lying on the road that night, expecting nothing, about to find everything.
It was strange at first, witnessing the scene, one of his most treasured memories, as it was playing in front of him like a movie. Dozens of times later he developed a habit of participating in the reenactment himself, repeating the words he knew by heart, standing there in front of Elena, reveling in looking at her, taking in every detail of her face, every flicker of light in her eyes, every intricacy of her voice.
He never tried to alter or add anything. He was just remembering that moment the best he could. The only liberty he allowed himself to take was lingering, for just a while longer, to gaze into Elena's eyes for another minute, to reignite hope dying down in his heart. Because he would always find it in her eyes.
Sometimes he would tell her how much he loved her, missed her, needed her. But he never made her answer him. This wasn't a part of the memory and the memory, Elena's words in it, had to remain intact. He felt like he would be manipulating the memory otherwise, and he didn't want that. Daydreaming didn't have the same power. It wasn't real. But his memories of Elena, their memories were real. And that was what he wanted to hold on to.
"So, Damon, what is it that I want?" Elena slightly tilted her head to the side, and he smiled wistfully at the youthful, cheery look in her eyes that he would have seen again months later in Atlanta, but even then only for a handful of moments before the loss and grief would have caught up with her again.
"You want what everybody wants," Damon replied, taking a few steps toward her, his breath catching in his throat at the proximity.
For a second he wondered that if he reached out to touch her face, would it feel real or would he find air under his fingertips?
"What?" Elena's face lit up in a subtly flirtatious smile. "A mysterious stranger who has all the answers?"
Damon smiled back without looking away even for a moment, so he wouldn't lose any precious seconds of looking at her.
"So that's where your mind wanders during those incessant naps. Interesting."
Damon's smile vanished off his face in an instant. He stiffened at the sound of the sardonic voice behind him.
"What are you doing here?" He asked through his teeth, turning around and glaring at Sybil who was standing nearby with a smirk on her face.
"Well, I take that back," Sybil said, apparently continuing her train of thought and ignoring Damon's question. "Not all that interesting." She raised her eyebrows, looking Elena up and down. "Is that your big secret? Some small town girl in sneakers?"
Stepping in front of Elena when Sybil took a step toward her, Damon narrowed his eyes at her. "Get out of my head."
Sybil snarled. "I think you're forgetting something. You and your head belong to me. And here I thought Enzo was the one I should watch out for. It turns out the real problem was you all along." She thrusted up her chin, glancing over Damon's shoulder with a catty smile.
Damon abruptly turned around, his eyes widening at the sight of Sybil in Elena's clothes standing in front of him.
"So not my color," Sybil said with a sigh, glancing at the top she was wearing. "But I still look better in it than she did. Or ever will. Tragic, that you're never going to see her again," she added with a small pout.
Damon squeezed his eyes shut trying to recall the memory the way it was supposed to be, but when he opened his eyes again, Sybil was still there, clearly amused by his attempts at throwing her out of his head.
"Sorry. Looks like your mind-control skills aren't as good as mine. But it was cute that for a second there you seemed to believe otherwise."
"Do you really think you can get to me in my own head?" Damon asked under his breath, his voice dripping with vehemence. "There are thousands of memories I can go to, hundreds of memories in which you won't find me."
"And there are hundreds of ways for me to destroy every single one of them," Sybil said in an artificially melodic voice, her eyes turning serious and cold in a split second.
"You can't destroy something you can't understand."
Shooting Sybil one last glare, Damon vanished into the night.
Walking across the empty streets of Mystic Falls Damon wondered if now those who had held his dessication idea against him still thought it had been a bad plan. If only he could remain asleep indefinitely. Although perhaps the wiser choice would be to wake up and deal with the siren face to face, but somehow this occurred to him only when he already found himself under Elena's window.
The lights were out, the curtains were billowing in the wind, and he could almost hear Elena's steady breathing, see her hair splayed over the white pillow.
On the second thought, there was no telling what Sybil would do once he woke up. Perhaps staying in his memories for a while longer was a better idea, after all. He could devote this time to coming up with a better plan than just hanging in there. It seemed like Enzo could be in for an uprising, so why not give it a shot? After all, Enzo did have a history of good escape plans, Damon thought with a weak, wry smile. Maybe that was the way to go. All the alternatives were pretty gruesome anyway. Not to mention that he should probably take his own advice and stop making it look like he'd given up. He wouldn't have let Elena do that and she wouldn't have let him, so in her absence, the least he could do was to keep himself on track, no matter what.
He was about to turn around and leave but Elena's window lit up and he could see her shadow when she grabbed something from her desk before crossing the room again.
The wind on his face felt so real it made a flicker of a smile pass across his face. He had been standing here for quite some time that night. At some point, he didn't even know how, he had figured she must've been asleep even though the night lamp had been on.
The reality was inescapable and upon opening his eyes he would inevitably find himself in hell on earth once again, so perhaps it wouldn't be a hindrance but just to the contrary, a nudge of inspiration if he allowed himself visiting another memory before bringing himself back to the gloomy present.
Just like that night so many years ago, Damon sneaked into Elena's room through the window she'd left ajar.
It didn't exist anymore, this room, this house, the window seat... "I brought you this." Everything was gone, except for them, torn apart for dozens of years to come, but together in every way for that one, perfect lifetime together they could restart once Elena woke up.
With a faint smile, Damon slowly approached the bed and gently brushed the backs of his fingers across Elena's cheek. He wondered what she was dreaming of in her magical coma. Was she also wandering in between memories or perhaps, more fittingly for an ex-aspiring writer, she was making up stories in her head.
He lightly traced the outline of Elena's face with his fingertips. She looked so beautiful, so peaceful. Brushing a strand of hair off Elena's face Damon thought-
But then he froze, struck by the fear that his memory was being interrupted again, because all of a sudden he stopped feeling the warm skin of Elena's soft cheek under his touch.
However, this fear was quickly dispersed when his eyes met Elena's terrified gaze.
Damon's lips twitched into a relieved smile when he realized that she must've simply woken up-
He blinked, his smile turning into a confused frown when Elena scrambled away from him with a hint of panic in her eyes.
This shouldn't be happening at all.
"Damon?! What are you doing here?!" Elena gasped out after staring at Damon for a few seconds in silence.
She inwardly wondered why she didn't scream, but the lost look on Damon's face seemed to justify her reaction, at least to some extent. Yes, it was more than a little terrifying to wake up to someone watching you in your sleep, touching your face, but-
Elena clenched her teeth and drew a sharp intake of breath. Now that she actually put that into words it sounded downright frightening.
Damon grimaced, tilting his head to the side and apparently trying to come up with a response but to no avail.
"It's 1am," Elena added, glancing at the clock, hugging the bed cover to herself in a steely grip, not sure if it was brave or stupid of her not to run for her life, screaming, just because she wanted to avoid waking up Jenna who had a migraine and had gone to sleep early. Jeremy probably had his headphones on, so he was most likely going to continue sleeping undisturbed as... well, whatever it was that Stefan's unpredictable brother was planning on doing after sneaking into her bedroom in the middle of the night!?...
Which didn't seem to be much, Elena thought, quickly becoming more perplexed than frightened. Judging by the way Damon was looking at her right now, it seemed as if he thought that she was the one making no sense with her actions.
"I'm sorry, Elena, I... I didn't mean to... scare you," Damon stammered at last, trying to figure out what was going on, glancing around the room with a grimace of absolute confusion on his face.
If he was imagining this, why did it feel as if it was all happening around him out of its own accord? Whatever it was, it certainly wasn't just a reenactment of his memory anymore.
"Oh really?" Elena widened her eyes at him with a mirthless snort. "Five hours ago you tried to kiss me and now I find you in the middle of the night in my room and I'm supposed to be ok with that?" She blurted out and then fell silent scolding herself for bringing up what had happened earlier that night.
What if Stefan's brother was a psychopath and that was the reason why they didn't keep in touch? That was a scary possibility, but Elena rather hoped that the alternative was true, and that Damon was just... strange. Right.
Elena's feverish thoughts were interrupted when Damon made a grumbling noise and grimaced.
"Of all our memories where I could get stuck in. My own brain hates me," he muttered in a resigned tone and to Elena's utter bewilderment plopped down onto her bed, and hid his face in his hands.