Disclaimer: L.J. Smith created these characters and the CW created this universe. I just play in it.
Author's note: I know I have unfinished Gilmore business but watching Damon is my new guilty pleasure. Besides, we never got to see what happened that night... (P.S. Rated M for what happens when the fireworks start.)
Elena felt… weird. Everything was fuzzy: the taste in her mouth, the numbness of her limbs, and the slight throbbing in her head, which was compounded by the fact that she heard a muffled beat in the background. As she slowly - and painfully - regained consciousness, she realized that the beat was coming from the radio, tuned to - a country station? She rubbed her head as she slowly opened her eyes. She noticed three things immediately. First: she was in the passenger seat of a car. Second: this was not her car. And third: Damon was driving... and singing…
"Oh no," she moaned.
"Morning, sunshine," Damon said, not even bothering to look in her direction as he sang in a ridiculous falsetto. "If you could see that I'm the one who understands you, been here all along so why can't you see-e-e, you belong with me-e-e…" He smirked. "That's what you kids are into, right? Taylor Swift?"
"Not this kid," she retorted. Damon shrugged, changing the station to generic rock and tapping out the drumbeat on the steering wheel. Elena turned her attention to the road and focused on the green sign on the side of the highway. As they came closer, she freaked when she saw the destination. "74 miles to Atlanta? What the hell, Damon?! How did we get to Georgia?"
"Well you see we took the interstate; I-81 to I-77 to I-85 and boom! We're in Nowheresville, Georgia."
Elena managed enough strength to punch him in the arm. "I know that, jackass. I want to know WHY we're in Nowheresville, Georgia!"
"Ok, first of all, seriously? The idea that your puny little human fist could do even the slightest damage to my magnificent biceps is laughable. But don't scratch my jacket. It cost $600. I will kill you." He flashed his teeth at her in a brief toothpaste-commercial-worthy smile. She almost expected a ping. He returned to his normal sarcastic/bored expression. "Kidding."
Elena only half-listened to Damon. She began to panic. "Ok, the last thing I remember was driving last night and all of a sudden there was this guy in the road, but I didn't see him in time and I think I hit him, but I'm not sure, and I was lying there in the car and he got up and his arms and legs were snapping back into place and I realized he was…" She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to remember his face. "At least I think he was a vampire." She sighed and rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands. "And then there was you… you pulled me from the car, and then…" she gave up. "And then what?"
"And then you said 'oh, Damon, you're my hero' and we had mad passionate monkey sex on the hood of your car," he deadpanned.
Elena punched him again. "Not funny, Damon."
"Ok, I wasn't kidding about the jacket," he said, mock-inspecting the sleeve. She continued to look at him expectantly. He sighed. "You seemed pretty shaken up so I figured you needed looking after."
"So naturally you decided to hijack someone's car and kidnap me. I'm pretty sure this is a felony or something," she complained.
"No," Damon said, his patience wearing thin. "I was already on my way when I decided to save your pitiful ass. It was... convenient to bring you along on my little road trip. Would you rather I'd left you to die?"
"No," she grumbled. "But Damon, we have to go back!"
"Says me! I have school, remember?"
"You're not head cheerleader anymore. I'd say several years of being miss goody two shoes has entitled you to skip a day or two."
"A day or two?" Her panic was rising. "Damon, no, come on, we have to go back. Whatever it is can wait."
"Actually, it can't." He offered no further explanation.
"Argh!" Elena slunk down in her seat and cringed. She just discovered three more bruises with that one movement. "Look, be reasonable. My aunt's probably freaking out, and I'm sure Bonnie is wondering where I am, and people will notice that I'm gone!"
"People like… Stefan?" Damon said.
Elena swallowed the lump that formed in her throat. "Uh… I was thinking more like Caroline, and Matt."
Damon snorted. "Somehow I doubt they'll miss you that much. Not that you're unmissable. I just think they're a bit… distracted right now," he said with a lascivious eyebrow wiggle. "Besides, all that's taken care of."
"What do you mean?" Elena asked suspiciously.
"You texted your aunt and BFF this morning to tell each of them a great cover story."
"I did?" Elena asked, confused.
Damon sighed dramatically. "Ok, fine Officer Krupke, I did. I only had to mildly grope you to fish out your phone and fifty keystrokes later, you're off the hook."
Elena jumped when her phone started ringing from its new home tucked inside her cleavage. She shot Damon a dirty look and pulled it out, trying to ignore the seemingly permanent smirk on his face. She looked at the caller ID and frowned, contemplating whether or not she should answer it.
"Ok, either you answer it or I will, because that ringtone is seriously annoying," Damon said.
"I'm not answering it," she decided. Damon rolled his eyes and grabbed the phone out of her hands. "Hey!" she complained, trying to get it back to no avail.
He punched a button. "Elena's phone, Undead Sex God speaking."
"Damon, give it back!" she said. He easily held her at bay.
"Damon? Where are you? Where's Elena? Is she ok? Put her on the phone!" Stefan asked from the other end.
"Hey, little brother. How you doin'? How's the weather in Virginia?"
"Damon!" Stefan growled.
"Oh, fine. Elena, dear, your boyfriend would really like to speak to you."
"Well I don't want to speak to him," she said defiantly, crossing her arms.
"Ouch, did you hear that? I guess she's moved on to bigger and better things," Damon said, with a significant glance to his crotch and a wink at Elena. She rolled her eyes.
"Damon, I swear, if you touch her…"
"Relax, Stefan. I'm sure you'll be out of the doghouse soon enough for whatever it is, but for now, I promise not to touch Elena… unless she asks me to."
"Please, just put Elena-"
"Ok, you're boring me now. Buh-bye!" Damon hung up the phone and tossed it back to Elena. "First fight?" he asked, batting his eyelashes.
"More like last fight," Elena mumbled, tucking her phone back into her pocket.
Elena sighed, the events of last night rushing back to her. Katherine's picture was burned into her memory. "You know, I'm surprised you haven't tried to jump my bones yet," she said bitterly.
"Interesting twist: continue."
Elena glared at him. "All this time... All this time and neither of you even considered telling me that I am basically Katherine reincarnate?"
"Ah, that," Damon said uneasily.
"Yeah, that. I mean, I saw the picture in Stefan's room. I'm exactly like her!"
Damon scoffed. "Oh please. You're nothing like her."
"What? How can you say that?"
Damon glanced over at her. "You may look like her - which, I'll admit, is the damnedest thing - but five minutes after meeting you it was pretty clear that you were her polar opposite. Katherine was cunning; she could be equally charming and manipulative, but you are completely guileless. You suck at lying and you have this totally open face. I would never need to compel you; your eyes give away everything you're thinking." He thought about it for a moment, trying to figure out what traits they shared. They both certainly had fire brimming just below the surface, but Katherine's was wicked through and through, and Elena's always seemed to stem from righteous indignation. Katherine was exciting to be sure, and Elena, well, she was a tad pedestrian in comparison.
"Still…" Elena said, surprised that Damon seemingly had her pegged so completely. But just because he thought that way didn't mean Stefan felt the same. "How could he? How could he be with me all this time and just - I don't know - forget to tell me? Hey, by the way, you look just like my ex-girlfriend who was actually the love of my life who screwed me over for all eternity."
Damon rolled his eyes. "Now you're just being dramatic."
"No I'm not! Every time he kissed me, every time he looked at me, how do I know he wasn't seeing Katherine? Kissing Katherine? Making love to Katherine?"
"Ok, officially too much information," Damon said. "But here's the deal, Elena. You don't know. My brother, who for all intents and purposes is the 'good brother,' apparently didn't think you were ready for the truth, or perhaps figured you couldn't handle the truth…ever. Whereas I personally don't give a rat's ass. So you look like her. Deal with it. I already have."
Elena picked at the hem of her shirt. She was thoroughly confused. Last night started out as one of the best nights of her life. She told Stefan she loved him and they'd spent an amazing night together. Though he never verbalized a return of her affections, he showed her with his body how much he loved her. Or appeared to love her. Elena finally felt at home, totally happy for the first time since her parents died. And then to find Katherine's picture… it sickened her. She studied Damon's face. He'd already dealt with the fact that she looked exactly like Katherine - but what did that mean, really?
"What?" he finally asked.
"So you're telling me that when you look at me, all you see is Elena? There's not even one small part of you that wishes or imagines I'm really her?"
Damon sighed. How stupid did she think he was? "Ok, I'm only going to explain this one more time because now you're starting to irritate me. Think of it this way. Say you had an identical twin. Say I slept with your identical twin a hundred years ago, give or take a decade."
Elena rolled her eyes. The logistical challenges alone…
Damon continued. "So I break up with your identical twin and then start dating you much, much later. Now, you may look like her, but do you think I really wouldn't know the difference?"
"Well, of course you would, you knew both of us at the same time so we were always different people to you." Now Elena's head was starting to hurt for entirely different reasons. His logic was warped but for some reason was making sense to her.
"Well you and Katherine are clearly different people. You speak with different accents, you dress from different centuries, and, oh, did I mention the completely different personalities? She was dangerous and exciting, whereas you're kind of boring. She's a vampire and you're human, she's - "
"Ok, you made your point," Elena interrupted. She was seething on the inside; how dare Damon say she was boring? He didn't know her. Well, he didn't know pre-orphaned queen bee Elena. She was a different person back then.
"Thank you," he said dramatically. They had a comfortable silence for approximately thirty seconds before...
"So do you think that Stefan shares your - "
"Oh my God!" Damon growled in frustration. He slammed on the breaks and pulled off the highway, putting the car in park.
"What the hell!" Elena cried, bracing herself against the dashboard.
"Ok, I'm establishing Damon's Official Road Trip Ground Rules." He began ticking things off his fingers. "Rule number one: no talking about Stefan. It's bad enough when he's actually here; I don't want to spend all my free time talking about the bastard. Rule number two: You are here because I saved your ass, don't make me regret it. That's not so much a rule as it is a warning. And rule number three: You are going to enjoy yourself whether you like it or not. You're along for the ride, sweetheart, you might as well make the best of it. And I have a sneaking suspicion that underneath all that angst is a wild child just screaming to let loose. You did say you used to be fun, right?"
"I'm plenty fun," Elena said, crossing her arms. Damon simply raised his eyebrows. "Well… I can be fun. When I'm not constantly scared for my life," she amended, pointedly.
"Ok, so then it's a deal. I don't kill you - or threaten to kill you, I suppose - and you let your proverbial hair down." He held out his hand.
"Deal," Elena said, shaking his proffered hand.
"Alright then," Damon said, rolling back onto the highway and picking up speed. He cranked up the radio. Elena rolled down her window a bit and felt the wind on her face. She smiled. Maybe a day off wouldn't be so bad after all. She pushed all her anxiety about her relationship with Stefan out of her mind and focused on the here and now. She was reasonably sure she could trust Damon; after all, he seemed to actually care if she lived or died. There must be some humanity left in him. And she couldn't remember the last time she wasn't constantly obsessing over her responsibilities, whether it was reassuring Aunt Jenna that she was doing a good job as the head of the household or making sure Jeremy didn't fall into oblivion. She wasn't going to worry about Bonnie's burgeoning abilities or Caroline's petty social games or even protecting Matt's feelings. Out here nobody knew or cared about the Elena Gilbert story, and no one hated - or even knew - Damon.
Elena was satisfied with her inner monologue. She had reconciled herself to the idea of being carefree, up for whatever adventure Damon was leading her to. A small voice in the back of her mind kept asking if she knew what she was getting herself into, but really… what's the worst that could happen?
Author's note: Already have the first several chapters written, just want to edit them to perfection for you. But like everyone else, I'm sure reviews will inspire me to speed up the frequency of posting... ;)