A/N: I'm fairly hesitant about posting this because WIPs and I tend to have relationships filled with anxiety, dislike and avoidance (not to mention the abundance of amazing season one continuations that already exist) but... here it is anyway! Also, I'm not sure how this chapter got started and finished before all my other fics. Obviously my muse is a petulant three year old that won't do what it's told (have I thrown around enough ridiculous metaphors yet? ;) Enjoy
She used to think she was bullet proof. Indestructible. Six inch thick glass behind a wall of bricks and stone.
And then her parent's car drove off a bridge and everything she knew about anything crumbled and cracked; bricks and rocks fallen before her in a pile of rubble, glass splintered from the center of the universe to the edges of nowhere.
She walked carefully through life, trying not to disturb the fragile existence that formed around her. But devastation seeped in anyway, widening the cracks as it came. It drowned her in every form; love, hate, horror, peace.
She's not sure she can tell between them anymore; what was once a clear picture is now a distorted image, cut with jagged lines in so many places she's almost incredulous it still stands upright.
And almost disappointed, because if she's going to fall into the impossible oblivion – and she's pretty sure she is - she doesn't want to waste her time walking on tip toes.
The clanging stopped her short; pulled her out of any previous thoughts about the hospital and her phone call to Stefan and dunked her in the freezing waters of panic and suspicion.
She tried to push back the fear, bite down her tongue and swallow it. It was hard to do, fear came to her so easily now; it was imprinted on every inch of her existence. An instinctual knowledge of all things horrifying waiting in the dark. It had proved vital to her survival before but the logical part of her brain was adamant she was too paranoid, too keen to dramatise the smallest of things. Surely she'd had her fair share of horror for the night and was well over-due for some normality?
It's your imagination, Elena.
She rolled her eyes and pushed the kitchen door open fully, reaching to switch on the light.
One arm crushed around her torso with frightening force, forcing all the air out of her body in an instant. Another hand went to her mouth to stifle the surprised scream that threatened at her lips.
"Thought you'd fooled me, huh?"
Confusion swirled in her panicked brain at the sound of Damon's low, calculating voice. She struggled against his hand feebly, desperate to protest. The arms constricted more tightly and she was genuinely afraid that he'd crush her.
"Please," she tried to gasp against his hand, "Damon, please."
There was painful stillness for a moment as he held her there, not relinquishing and terrifyingly strong. She didn't dare to fight again, trying to save her remaining breath. It almost felt like a test, like he was examining her by her stillness instead of her actions.
And then as quickly as the arms had shot around her, they recoiled. Twirling her around to face him he spoke with an air of relief; "Elena?"
"What the hell?" She coughed, grasping at her middle, trying to force some feeling back.
His eyes followed her hands and rested on her middle briefly, mouth turning down slightly "You were wearing a leather jacket."
She frowned; "What? No I wasn't. What the hell are you talking about?"
"You were here before, in a leather jacket." He insisted again, so persuasive this time she wondered for a moment if he was compelling her to believe the words.
"No I only just got home," she replied slowly, frown deepening; "Damon what the hell are you talking-?"
His face shut down, all evidence of inquisitiveness and emotion and inexplicable hopefulness slipping away to be replaced with a blank canvas, "Go check on Jeremy."
"Why?" The reply came out stricken; "Damon, what is going on?"
And then she saw it out of the corner of her eye. The glint of metal on wine coloured flesh, blood splattered haphazardly across the bench.
A strangled sound escaped her lips; "Jeremy?"
"It's John." Damon cut her off quickly. "His body is behind the counter."
Her heart hammered against her chest madly, metal on metal, sending reverberations through every part of her body.
"He's-? But who-? This doesn't make any sense!"
His expression was torn between sympathy and frustration, trying to accommodate both but failing. His hands fell on her shoulders softly; "You need to check on Jeremy."
"Elena, trust me, I'll explain everything to you once you check on Jeremy."
"What about Jenna? Do you know where she is? How-?"
Her heart stilled for a second, caught in some kind of inertia as wheels in her head stopped and whirred in different directions. His tone was mechanical but she sensed something devastating was happening beneath the facade, sending tiny and almost unrecognisable aftershocks to the surface.
"I wasn't wearing a leather jacket."
"Check on Jeremy."
"And I wasn't here before and you… You said I hadn't fooled you."
"Fucking hell, Elena."
"Katherine." She said her name in a whisper, pillars of confusion tumbling and giving way to pure terror; "She came here."
He grabbed her shoulders painfully, fingers digging into the sensitive muscles. She almost cried in pain, but his expression silenced her effortlessly. Burning, freezing, dying, waking, each scoured into his pained face. Her breath hitched at the realisation; he was ticking off check boxes to keep from exploding.
And he was doing it for her.
"I'm…" She swallowed thickly on the words, trying to decide just what she was; "I'm sorry, Damon."
Fingers loosened and gaze decidedly averted he simply replied; "You need to check on Jeremy. I'll find Jenna."
She nodded, pulling out of his grasp and making for the stairs, strides elongating exponentially as she went. Gritting her teeth, she pushed back her imagination and refused to think of the scene waiting for her at the top of the stairs.
"Jer?" She called, choking a little on the term. She didn't realise she was crying until she tried a second time, desperation strangling her voice; "Jer? You awake?"
The silence hammered on her scull as she tentatively stepped onto the landing. Tasting the saltiness of the tears at the side of her mouth she squinted hard and shook her hair away from her face. She could do this; knowing was always better than the crawling discomfort of ignorance.
She took a shaky breath and placed her hand on the door knob, turning it as slowly as she could with one word playing on her lips; "please."
The room was soaked in darkness, eerily unmoving and untouched. A cacoon of stillness for the figure sprawled on the ground underneath the window.
"Jenna." Elena breathed, sinking to her knees at the side of her unconscious Aunt.
Damon was beside her in an instant, barely a slight breeze or whoosh of air to indicate his arrival. He tilted Jenna's hand to the side and inspected her carefully; "She's been knocked out."
"But…" Elena could have laughed at the absurdity of the statement; "Why would she leave her alive?"
She didn't get an answer (not that she really expected to. When it came to Katherine, Stefan and Damon were infuriatingly secretive.) With a start she looked around, trying to find signs of the brother she'd been seeking; "But, Jeremy…?"
"He was here." Damon said simply, eyes screaming everything left unsaid.
Distinct panic soaked her voice; "You think she… You think that she took him?"
His piercing gaze was the only confirmation she needed. Falling back on the palm of her hand she let the tears fall unhindered, some pithy saying about rain and pouring bouncing around in the back of her dazed and groggy subconscious.