Discalimer - I do not own the Vampire Diaries or any of its characters.
Author's Note - A thank you to pandora03 for looking this over for me and catching all those little mistakes I always seem to miss. This story takes place after Elena's freshmen year of college. I'd love to know what you guys think of this chapter, be it good or bad. Reviews are like crack my friends. Help a junkie out ;)
God, he hated this fucking town.
He hadn't set foot in Mystic Falls since 1989, after Zack's father had died and he needed to bring Zack up to speed on just how things worked while he was acting as caretaker of the boarding house. Stefan had dropped by every few years after his initial visit to check on things and Damon cursed the fact that his little brother was currently traipsing through Asia, leaving him to clean up the mess left behind after Zack's unexpected death.
When Zack had succumbed to a particularly aggressive form of cancer, the last of the Salvatore caretakers died with him. He had never married nor had any children, not wanting to saddle them with the burden of living their lives under Damon and Stefan's rule.
Which meant Damon was stuck here until he figured out what to do with their family's home.
He had been in town less than a week when he first saw her.
The blond he was feeding from was pressed up against the alley wall outside of the Grill, moaning quietly as his hands slid under the tight Lycra of her skirt. The light crunch of gravel in the nearby parking lot caught his attention and then he saw her, a carbon-copy of Katherine. He lifted his head from the sultry girl beneath his mouth and snapped her neck unceremoniously.
For an instant he believed she was Katherine and his body hitched forward, eager for a fight or a fuck, but she turned her head at the last possible second and he caught a glimpse of her eyes.
They were the same shape as Katherine's, the same chocolaty shade of brown, but the similarities ended there. Although lovely, her eyes were dull – lifeless. This girl was broken. There was no way she could be Katherine. Although they were often cruel and cold, Katherine's eyes were never lifeless. This girl, whoever she was, was obviously plagued by something.
He had ascertained all of this in less than a fraction of a second, the girl's head was still turning and Damon realized that someone had called out to her. Caught up in the unexpected moment, he had missed her name. A guy about her age was jogging over to her, an object in his extended hand.
"You forgot your phone again."
She offered him a small smile, her eyes brightening slightly. "Thanks, Matt."
A brief twinge of jealousy flared within him when he saw her smile at her…friend? Boyfriend? It was ridiculous and he dismissed the feeling immediately, contributing it to the fact that she looked exactly like the only woman he had ever loved.
She took the proffered phone and slid it into her purse. "I'll see you tomorrow."
She turned away from Matt, and climbed into her car. Damon smirked at the expression on the boy's face. He was definitely not her boyfriend, but judging from the look on the poor schmuck's face, he certainly wanted the job.
Remembering the corpse at his feet, Damon deposited her body in the dumpster that had been shielding them from view before he focused his attention of the girl's car, not even questioning the urge to follow her. Using his speed, he flitted along the streets, always keeping her taillights in sight, sticking to the shadows. He stopped at the corner when he saw her pull into a driveway on a quaint tree lined street. The house was dark, and he scowled. No one had left a light on for her.
When she opened the door and disappeared inside, Damon made his way to her house, observing her through the windows.
She turned on every light as she made her way through the living room and into the kitchen where she opened the fridge and pulled out a pitcher of iced tea and what looked like a plate of leftover chicken. After placing the plate in the microwave and setting the timer, she leaned against the counter, her eyes glassy and unfocused, lost in thought. The microwave chimed and she sat down at the table to eat her poor excuse for a dinner.
As she ate in silence, Damon realized she was surrounded by silence. Extending his senses, he could tell she was home alone. Not that it was unusual, her parents could be out of town, but the quiet seemed deeper somehow. Like the house was always quiet.
Finished eating, the girl washed her plate and rinsed out her glass, turning off the lights as she left the kitchen and made her way upstairs. Damon waited for a light to come on the second level, and when he saw the warm glow coming from the corner window, he scaled the tree outside.
Her room surprised him, her tastes obviously more mature than that of other girls her age. The walls were mostly bare, with the exception of a couple of framed art prints. The focal point of her room appeared to be her dresser, which was positively covered with framed photographs, and her mirror, which was lined with so many prints tucked into the frame, only a small square of mirror was still visible in the middle.
Even more surprising was the fact that pictures appeared to be all of her family. Damon could spot a younger version of her in many of the pictures, clasping her mother's hand, sitting on her father's shoulders, dressed up for some event with her parents and a boy who must be her brother. His eyes tracked over the pictures, absorbing every detail.
There was not one picture in the cluttered mass of this girl with her friends, No picture of her with girls her age, no image of her posing next to some fumbling teenage boy before a dance. Not one.
Damon noted the oddity and returned his attention to her. She was sitting on her bed hunched over the journal in her lap, writing carefully. He lost track of time as he studied her features, the plump curve of her cheek, the slope of her nose, and the way her silky hair fell down her back. She was so like Katherine, yet so completely different.
Minutes or hours later, she closed her journal and let out a sigh as she switched off the light on her bedside table. The darkness was no hindrance for him and he watched with perfect clarity as she balled up on her side, on top her bed and fell asleep. She hadn't even taken off her shoes.
As the shock of seeing Katherine's doppelganger began to wane, Damon realized, with some distaste, that he was actually sitting in a tree outside a girl's bedroom. He jumped to the ground gracefully and started the long walk home, his mind refusing to stray far from the girl.
The very next night he went back to the restaurant where he had seen her the night before. He didn't really have any sort of plan in mind; he just needed to see her again.
The restaurant was crowded and he wove through the crush of bodies, finding an empty table on the raised level next to a pool table. His eyes swept over faces and he smirked when he realized his entrance had garnered some attention. There was more than one girl eyeing him seductively. He paid them no attention and continued his perusal, eyes narrowing as he spotted her.
She was taking an order from a table of frat boys. They were jockeying for her attention, making asses of themselves. She seemed to be completely oblivious to the attention they were paying her, other than offering them a polite smile that didn't reach her eyes as she took their order.
Damon knew the instant she had sensed him; the moment she felt his eyes on her. Her body tensed slightly and she surveyed the area around her. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, she continued with her work for another minute before stopping and looking around again. This time, her eyes swept over the expanse of the restaurant and Damon felt a rush of excitement when she spotted him.
He saw her sharp indrawn breath, watched her eyes widen and her pupils dilate. The smile that tugged at his mouth was involuntary and he nodded at her, amused when her cheeks flushed pink and she turned away, heading for the kitchen in the back.
Before she re-emerged a waitress came over to take his order. She was pretty and interested – unfortunately, he was not. When she came back with his drink, she slipped him a cocktail napkin with her name and number scrawled across it in purple ink. He barely noticed her presence; she had emerged from the kitchen and was looking in his direction, watching his interaction with the aggressive waitress – Vicki - according to the napkin. Vicki finally took the hint and left, clearing his line of sight.
She was openly staring at him now, her guileless eyes so different from the hungry stares women usually threw his way. Damon returned her gaze, inordinately interested to see what she would do next. The crack of china against the hardwood floor broke in on their moment, and he cursed inwardly when her eyes left his and she went to clean up the mess created by the booth full of drunken college boys. He slipped out of The Grill unnoticed and made his way to the square across the street. It was late and he waited patiently for her shift to end.
Of course, she had noticed him immediately when he had sauntered in. It had been impossible not to, he moved with a confident swagger that bordered on cocky and every girl in the restaurant had followed his lean muscled frame with her eyes as he made his way to a dark table in the corner. Although his features were obscured by shadow, Elena could tell that his face was just as appealing as the rest of him. In the dim light, she could discern the strong line of his jaw, the shape of his lips, and the inky black of his artfully mussed hair. His eyes, however, remained a mystery.
As she had moved from table to table, refilling glasses and taking orders, the feeling that she was being watched pricked at her senses. Glancing around casually, she had been startled to see him studying her with undisguised interest. Although she could not see his eyes, she knew he was looking at her. Her suspicion was confirmed when his lips curved into a small smile and his head tipped in her direction, a barely perceptible nod.
Embarrassed that he had caught her looking at him, Elena swiveled her head to the side and made her way back to the kitchen to pick up an order. After delivering the food to table five, she peeked over to the darkened corner to see Vicki standing before him, effectively blocking him from view. Her hip was cocked to one side and she tossed her hair over her shoulder as she leaned over the table and slid him a slip of paper after taking his order. Vicki sashayed away, flicking her hips with every step. Elena was surprised to find that his eyes didn't follow the exaggerated movement but instead remained fixed in her direction.
This time, she didn't look away, but rather she brazenly stared back at him. They stayed locked in this silent battle of wills for endless seconds until the loud sound of a plate shattering on the floor broke the spell. Elena hurried to her station to clean up the broken glass and bits of food. As she brought the dust pan and broom back to the utility closet she couldn't resist casting a glance towards the corner where the handsome stranger was seated. Her shoulders slumped slightly when she saw the table was now empty. He had left and she was surprised at the flicker of disappointment that washed over her.
The night was winding down and she made her way over to the bar for a break. Without being asked, Matt slid a soda to her across the wooden bar.
She offered him a weak smile. "Thanks, Matt." She took a sip and watched as he filled drink orders, her mind still on the handsome stranger when Vicki appeared next to her, scowling.
"He didn't even take my number." She wadded up the napkin displaying her name and phone number and tossed it into the wastebasket behind the bar. "That's a bummer – he was hot. Plus, he looked rich."
For some inexplicable reason, Elena enjoyed this tidbit of information. The events of the last few years had taken their toll on her, and as a result, her dating life had fallen by the wayside. Elena had spent the first year of her college career completely immersed in studying. With Bonnie in California at UCLA and Caroline so busy with her sorority activities, Elena found herself alone more often than not. She had been disconnected from the social scene for so long; she had almost forgotten how thrilling it could be to share a stolen glance and a smile with a hot guy.
Working at The Grill this summer had pulled her out of her self-imposed solitude. She had slowly begun to re-establish the friendships that she had abandoned after the trauma she had endured, starting with Matt and Caroline. She had even gone out with Vicki once or twice.
Her break over, Elena lingered over the last of her chores, methodically wiping down the tables, carefully stacking chairs on the tabletops so they could mop. She was in no rush to go home to an empty house and she sighed heavily when she realized there was nothing left for her to do.
As she made her way home on quiet streets, that discomfiting feeling of being watched returned. Checking her rearview mirror, she found the street behind her deserted and she tried to shrug off the sensation.
She arrived home and heated up some leftover rice and vegetables she had made earlier in the week. It was a tasteless mush on her tongue, but she chewed and swallowed mechanically, barely registering its less than palatable flavor. After eating, she tried to watch TV, but the distinct impression that she was being observed began to tickle at the edges of her consciousness, making it impossible to concentrate on anything. With an aggravated sigh, she turned off the television and checked the front door again. Finding it securely locked, she made her way upstairs
Elena washed her face and brushed her teeth, and lay down on her bed without changing her clothes. The last image that flitted through her mind before she fell asleep was of the gorgeous stranger, watching her through half-lidded eyes.