A/N: Thanks for the feedback! I'm determined to have another update out by Sunday this week. And then another one before the Sunday after that, and so on and so forth. Comments/con-crit appreciated :) Enjoy!
The sirens were dull in her ears. She registered vaguely that they should have been loud, overwhelming in their pitch and volume. It was the sound of Jenna's breathing that was painfully uncomfortable however; the pound of her own heart, the way her nails hitched on her jeans, the raspy tone of her voice as she murmured comfort.
The ambulance wasn't travelling that fast; it was a precautionary trip as opposed to a necessary one. Jenna was only concussed and deeply confused on the details of her injuries.
Elena took a sharp intake of breath at the possibility of what that confusion meant. She knew there was a very high likelihood that the concussion was to blame. She knew and yet she couldn't shake the crawling images of dilated pupils and chanted promises.
"We're here, hun." The ambulance driver said quietly, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.
Elena started a little at the contact. She tried to recover face, giving the woman a small smile and nodding. The concerned look she got in return was one she was accustomed to.
It was a look saturated in pity. A look saturated in every memory of her parent's death.
She placed a shaky hand on the gurney, using it as a prop as she stepped out of the ambulance. The fresh air made her shiver involuntarily. It should have been refreshing after the time spent in the ambulance; instead it brought her back down to earth and into reality's steel grip. She fought the urge to throw up on the cement, taking a gulp of air painfully.
"They'll have some paper work for you when we get inside."
She nodded despite herself, somehow forcing her legs to follow meekly behind the gurney.
The voice stilled her legs in an instant and turned her blood to ice.
Stefan was at her side in an instant, neck craning to get a view of Jenna. Eyes searching and fingers going to her cheek.
"Are you alright? What happened?"
"Uh…" She tried to force her tongue around the words but it felt too big for her mouth. "I…"
The fingers were insistent now, pressing into her skin almost uncomfortably hard.
"Jenna's… And Jeremy…" She could have laughed at the absurdity of her incoherence if she had any air left in her lungs; "Jeremy's gone."
She expected more emotion to be in her voice at her name; fear, anger, contempt, disgust. Instead her tone was lifeless and tired, dancing on the edge of inaudibility.
His eyes widened in shock, fingers pulling away suddenly; "But… How… How did she get in? What did she do? Is Jenna alright?"
"Elena honey, are you coming?"
She half turned towards the ambulance driver to follow but Stefan grabbed her arm; "Elena what happened?"
She could feel the urgency in his touch; see panic etched in his every feature. She wanted to appease the worry somehow, give him some kind of assurance that things were alright.
"Damon's at the house," She offered, pulling out of his grip; "I have to go."
"I'll come with you…"
She shook her head, stepping away and repeating the same words; "I have to go."
She stumbled a little on the gravel as she turned away, blindfolded by her exhaustion. She half expected him to grab her again, pull her back for a more satisfying explanation.
She was glad when he didn't because she really didn't have one to give.
He could taste the tang of metal in his mouth, clinging to his tongue and stinging his throat. He registered vaguely that there was also a dull pounding at the back of his head near the nape of his neck; it ebbed into awareness slowly at first but grew with intensity as he regained consciousness. He raised his hand to rub at the spot, wincing slightly at the effort and opening his eyes groggily.
It took him a moment to recognise his surroundings; everything was slightly blurry but impossibly close. He could make out the needles in the trees above, identifying them by their spindly bodies. The picture was close but slightly shrouded too, as if he was looking at them out of chlorine soaked eyes.
The words echoed strangely around him as if they were bouncing off rocks in a cavernous area. As groggy and exhausted as his senses were he was sure that he was lying on the floor of the woods and the effect of the sound confused him.
He moved his arms to his sides and splayed his palms flat on the earth beneath him – he could feel every granule of dirt and rock with indescribable clarity – trying to create enough leverage to sit up. It took him a few tries but eventually he gained enough strength in his arms to push his body up off the ground. He remained in that position, eyes closed and legs spread out in front of him, testing the remaining energy in his limbs. When he no longer felt he was going to fall back down to the ground he pulled his knees up to his chest and used his hands to push himself up further.
He pushed his palms against his forehead in an effort to stop the thudding pulse at the back of his head. He could still taste the tang of metal but his throat was dry and he was incongruently hungry.
He staggered a little, still trying to regain his balance.
His eyes shot open at the familiar voice. She was leaning against a tree nearby, expression smug but also curious, eyebrows cocked with expectation.
"Elena?" He croaked.
"Wrong," she replied, smirking at his resultant confusion and producing a bag of blood; "Here."
She threw it at him swiftly. Without any instruction his hand shot out and grabbed it from the air. Fingering it carefully he turned his gaze back to hers; "How can...? Why…?"
"Drink first, questions later."
She was on him in half a second, hand constricting his wind pipe with unquestionable authority and ferocity; "Drink."
He didn't question her a second time.
It took fours hours for anyone to find her.
She'd filled out Jenna's papers, listened to the Doctor's words about an overnight stay and everything she didn't have to worry about, checked on Caroline without hovering on the details of her own situation (she was sure enough it'd be common knowledge throughout town by the morning anyway, this kind of thing always was.)
She could imagine the whispers; parents killed in a car crash, brother kidnapped, Uncle murdered, Aunt attacked. None of it was untrue but she could imagine the pitying tone, the shocked reactions. No different to any other piece of condescending gossip that filtered through town.
She was sitting in the kid's waiting room. It was hooded in darkness but she knew there was a toy truck and building blocks in the corner, a smiling poster on the wall and a giraffe hanging from the ceiling. Occasionally she'd seek them out, look to each one in turn for some kind of indication as to how she was supposed to stand up and continue forward.
Her eyes would flutter closed occasionally and she'd bring her knees up to her chest, enfolding herself in one of the plastic chairs and hiding her face behind a curtain of stiff, curled hair (the parade felt like an eternity ago, another lifetime all together. Somebody else's lifetime all together.)
She had no concept of time, wasn't even aware that it was still ticking by. She could hear Nurse's voices and the wheeling of blood pressure stands and the clacking of feet on the linoleum but they were all in a different dimension, sealed off in a breathing, heaving world.
She felt frozen in time, unable to move or feel or think. One minute curled up inside herself like a child and others looking to childish objects she could barely make out in the darkness.
She vaguely registered the click of the door opening; she didn't even need to look up to know the identity of the person encroaching on her timelessness, the deliberate nature of his steps was too telling. Her eyes were focused on the truck; struck by déjà vu and unable to place the source of it. She ignored the cup of coffee that was offered, trying to disregard it despite its presence in the corner of her eye.
"Sheriff Forbes needs to talk to you."
"What did you tell her?" Her voice was weak but she was amazed that she had the energy to respond at all.
"The truth," he answered simply; "Vampires in Mystic Falls going after the founding families for revenge. Anywhere or anyone else and you'd get a stint in the loony bin for seventy two hours."
She could tell he was trying to lighten the mood but she ignored that, swallowing hard; "You think Katherine is out for revenge?"
There was silence for a moment; she could just make out the sound of him stiffening slightly in his leather jacket.
"You should drink this," he said finally, bringing the coffee cup into her peripheral vision again.
She shook her head, refusing to meet his eye and turning her gaze away pointedly. She could feel the tears threatening at the back of her eyes and she was determined to evade them.
"Elena, come on." He prompted gently. She could sense a hint of desperation in his voice; the same desperation he'd had back at the house when he'd confronted her.
She set her eyes on the truck again, pleading with herself to remember the memory. It was dangling with infuriating smugness on the tip of her tongue, a shadow flickering in her mind like an old silent film.
It felt like a hole had been punched in her chest when it came to her, the shadow passing by her without a glance and then doubling back into her collision course without warning.
"I was nine," she expelled suddenly; "Dad had been fixing the shutters on the kitchen window. I can't even remember what he did exactly because I was too busy playing with Caroline but… He hurt his hand."
"And we all had to come to the hospital because Mum was visiting Aunt Jenna and no one else was around to look after us. We had to sit in here while they looked at his hand – or bandaged his hand? I think he might have broken it. Anyway, Jeremy wanted to play with the truck but, Caroline and I wouldn't let him. We didn't even want to play with it but we loved teasing him. He wanted to load all the blocks into the back of it and dump them in the hospital corridor and we knew why he couldn't but that wasn't why we stopped him. We just wanted to tease him. Because there was nothing else to do. Because we could."
She went to slap the coffee out of his hand, punch it to the floor and let the hot liquid seep into the carpet. His reflexes were too quick for her though – of course – and the coffee was on the magazine table before she could even blink, his hand clasped around her arm.
"I'm going to find him."
It was a fact, cold and hard like his eyes.
"What am I going to do in the mean time, Damon?" Her voice broke at the thought, despair pooling in her stomach; "Jenna? What are we supposed to do? Katherine was invited in – God knows how that happened-"
"It doesn't matter." He insisted, hand still and firm on hers; "You can stay at the boarding house with Stefan; Alaric can take care of Jenna."
"You think Jenna is just going to leave? It's her home, our home…"
"We'll take care of it. We'll find Jeremy."
"And Katherine?" She asked, looking up and meeting his gaze squarely, a hint of defiance and contempt playing behind her eyes; "You think she's just going to hand him over? Promise never to hurt us again? What are you going to do about her?"
Her breath hitched when she finished the sentence, almost afraid of his reaction. Almost disappointed that she'd held back; what are you going to do about her? Are you going to have the strength to fight her? To defy her?
He hid his cards with ease, shrugging in a blaze fashion; "Suss out her diabolical plan and make a better one."
"That's it?" She asked incredulously.
"Yep." He replied easily, "Why, not 'Spy Game' enough for you?"
"Well, in terms of master plans it's fairly unimpressive." She muttered.
"I like to fly by the seat of my pants."
"Scheme by the seat of your pants, more like."
He smirked, glad for the feeble attempt at light conversation. "You still need to talk to Liz Forbes."
She sighed, sinking into her hands; "I know. I think I might sit here for a little while longer though."
"I will get him back, I promise you."
She looked up, meeting his eye again, this time without protest or argument. For the most part she really did trust Damon, but she knew there was a boundless energy simmering within him. Fiery and unrestrained. As hard as he was fighting it – giving her words of comfort and loyalty – he was still determined to find her again, for whatever reason or intention. Impatience and frustration were building behind a new found sliver of humanity.
But she also knew that that sliver of humanity was reserved for her only. And that if he was fighting what he once would have let in easily for her; he probably deserved her trust, whole and untainted.
"I believe you." She said quietly.
He rapped on the door sharply, knocks in quick succession, images of splattered blood and chaos dancing gleefully in his mind.
Confused at his presence so late (or so early, really) Bonnie put her hand against the door frame cautiously, making her views on his visit very clear; "What are you doing here, Stefan?"
"I need your help," he answered quietly.