Kinda short, I know. But I think that all of you lovely reviewers deserve a good chapter, so here it is! Some emotional turmoil here; be warned.
Disclaimer (yes, you know it and I know it, but I'm doing it simply out of principle): I do not own the Vampire Diaries, they belong to L.J. Smith. So heartbreaking so write…*sniff*.
Oh, by the way, go check out TeamCastiel's 'Insane thoughts of a tired writer'. You'll find it in the Supernatural/Vampire Diaries crossover section. It's funny, believe me.
Elena stared at Stefan, still gasping for air. He appeared to be in shock, just looking at her, unmoving.
"…Stefan?" she said hesitantly, unsure of what was going on. "Stefan, what…what is it? What's wrong?"
Stefan just shook his head, continuing to stare at her, his eyes filling with pain. "Elena?" he whispered.
A pang was sent through her heart and she moved closer to him, cupping his face with her hands. "Stefan, what is it?"
For a moment he seemed incapable of speech, his mouth opening and closing, shaking his head again. "Elena…are you real?" he whispered, almost as though barely allowing himself to hope.
Elena shook her head as well, but in confusion. What did he mean, was she real? "Stefan, I don't—"
"Elena." Stefan swallowed, looking at her with more pain than she'd ever seen, and it tore her up inside. She thought there was a shine to his eyes. "Are you real?" he repeated. He wanted an answer.
"Yes, Stefan. Why are you asking that? What—"
Before she could say another word Stefan had pulled her into his arms, and she fit snugly and naturally into them, as she always had. And in that position, she could feel how hard he was shaking. So she tried to get her arms around him, to comfort him whether or not she knew why he was so upset, but it was difficult.
"Elena," he whispered, and it was almost a sob. That drove her to manage to free her arms and put them around Stefan, and they were hugging each other. Elena wasn't sure who was holding the other more desperately. She used one hand to cup the back of his neck and pull his head against her shoulder.
"Stefan," she whispered, stroking his hair, still not understanding but not caring, not if Stefan was in pain.
Stefan tangled his fingers in her long hair, pulled back, and kissed her, and it was so desperate it hurt. But she pressed her lips to his in turn.
After a second Stefan pulled back, putting his hands on her shoulders, holding her that way. He hadn't pulled back far, however, and their foreheads leaned against each other's. "Elena," he whispered, "how are you alive?"
Stefan's forehead smoothed out in realization, and he nodded. "You don't remember."
"Stefan! Remember what?" she demanded, annoyance mounting at her confusion.
She picked her head up, and saw Caroline standing behind Stefan, her blue eyes wide, looking like she'd seen a ghost.
"Car?" Elena stood up. "Caroline, what happened? I don't understand…Stefan said—"
"Elena, how the hell are you alive?" Caroline blurted out.
"…yeah, basically that. What the hell?" she looked between the two vampires, searching for an answer. "What do you mean, 'How am I alive?' What, did I die?"
"Yes, Elena!" Caroline all but cried. "You and Stefan and Damon were all outside, and that bitch Katherine appeared behind you and broke your neck!" Elena had never seen her friend more upset, panicked, close to tears. "So yeah, Elena, you died! And there's no way that you could possibly be alive unless you—" Her eyes widened even further and she met eyes with Stefan. "She isn't a vampire, is she?"
"No," Stefan said, shaking his head, not completely calm but much more so than before. "I was very close to her, and she's human. She's…exactly like she was before."
"Um, hello, I'm standing right here!"
Caroline seemed to realize that then, and then she was moving, her body a blur until she had stopped and tugged Elena into her arms, hugging her just hard enough so that she wouldn't hurt her, very aware of her own strength.
Warmth gathering into her eyes, Elena put her arms around her friend in turn.
"I just don't get it," Caroline said softly, sounding like she was trying not to start crying to Elena's ears.
Elena rubbed her back, hugged her more tightly. "Me neither."
"But I don't care."
"Me neither," she whispered.
They held each other for a few seconds longer before they heard the door open and both looked up, letting go of each other reluctantly.
Damon looked up, meeting Elena's eyes. And Elena saw emotions mixing in his expression; sadness, relief, amazement…
But before she could analyze him any further his expression became calmer, cooler, and he took a deep breath.
You son of a bitch, you can let yourself feel every once in a while, you know, she thought angrily, but before she could say anything Damon spoke.
"How…?" he asked, staring between Stefan, Caroline and her, looking for an explanation.
"We don't know," Stefan said, coming to stand on the side of Elena opposite of Caroline. "She just…woke up. She was gasping, but other than that…"
Damon nodded slowly, locking eyes with Elena, and there was something in his eyes that made her anger fade. And it was love. Pure, unadulterated love. She didn't know if the others could see it, but she could.
He was coming closer, and his eyes…looking into them, she could barely breathe. Along with the love, there was so much pain it was suffocating.
And he was standing close, right in front of her, looking down at her.
"Are you okay?" he asked very softly.
"Yeah. I'm fine. …no different than before. I just don't understand."
And he stepped back, and he was distant, those damn guards up.
"Damon, where did you go?" Caroline demanded.
He looked at her, and there was something like—but not quite—anger in his face. "Why the hell do you care?"
Stefan stepped forward, holding out a hand to stop Caroline, who was about to step forward as well, being peacemaker as he usually was. "We just realized that you were gone after Katherine…" he trailed off, unable to finish. "And we were worried."
"Ha! Worried my sweet white ass. Not like you should waste something like that on me anyway—you do enough worrying when shit isn't hitting the fan."
Elena just shook her head, tuning them out as the argument continued. Damon was an idiot. He didn't have to constantly act like he could take everything and anything, like he hadn't once been human, and that a not-so-physical part of him still was. No one ever knew what Damon truly felt about something, because he put up those goddamned guards and made smartass comments to cover up however he really felt. Elena couldn't make him do anything, or stop it. Stefan couldn't. Caroline couldn't. But damn it, Damon had been human once, and Elena knew—could feel—that some a part of him still was. She'd seen cracks in his armor before, but had never seen it truly broken. But he couldn't hold strong forever. No one with a soul—that excluding Katherine, of course—could manage to pretend to look uncaring of everything in the world around them forever.
Wanting to get her priorities in order, she took a deep breath and asked, "Who did you tell?"
By the way the three stopped and looked at her, she bet that she'd interrupted something. But just then, she couldn't bring herself to give a damn.
"No one," Stefan answered. "You weren't…gone for long, Elena."
She nodded. "Okay. Good. That makes for less problems and explanations."
"Which we have enough of already," Caroline added. She was still shaken, but recovering well from what had just happened. If there was one good thing that came out of her vampirism, it was that she was stronger than she ever had been. Elena was proud of her.
Elena calmly walked over to the corner and picked up her bag. "I should probably head home. I wouldn't want Jenna or Jeremy to worry about me—you know, it's late. Unless you guys have any leads on how I'm…you know, alive—"
"How doesn't matter," Stefan said quietly, walking up to her and taking her hands. "What matters is that you're alive."
Elena just nodded. She didn't exactly agree on the matter, but it was late, and she was tired and still bewildered about the whole situation (I mean, she had died? Wouldn't she have known?). So she just leaned forward and kissed Stefan. "I love you."
"I love you, too," he told her as she pulled back. "I guess I'll see you in the morning."
"Yeah." Elena looked at Caroline. "See you later."
Caroline looked at her, her blue eyes suddenly hard. "Yes. And be careful, for God's sakes."
"Maybe I should drive you home," Stefan said suddenly—although Elena had been expecting that.
"Katherine tried to kill me once, and I'm alive. I don't think she'll try again."
"Are you sure?"
Elena took a deep breath, and saw nothing but love and concern in Stefan's eyes. And, she agreed, to give Stefan peace of mind, if not anything else. "Yeah, maybe you should drive me home."
As they drove to Elena's house, to Jenna and Jeremy, she wondered how she would be able to walk in and talk like everything was normal, like she hadn't died—what—an hour and a half ago? But she knew that she would be able to. She'd been lying for over a year now—she was used to it, and, if she were being honest, good at it. It'd work itself out.
Damon sat quietly in the front room, in front of the fire, drinking. It was about four o'clock in the morning, and Stefan and Caroline were asleep—they were vampires, but they had normal lives to live, after all. So he was alone, and the boarding house was silent.
Staring into the fire, he thought ironically, That's all that I'll know in a year. No more of these delusions of normalcy…no more Katherine. His gut clenched. But then, Screw her. She killed Elena and ruined my and my brother's lives. The bitch can go die for all I care. He took a long swig of the amber-colored liquid in the bottle in his hand.
Three harsh, pissed-off raps were knocked on the other side of the doors.
Damon looked at it, raising his eyebrows, checking the time on his cell phone just to be sure it was right.
What. The. Hell.
Very cautious suddenly, Damon put aside the bottle and got to his feet, grabbing a long, lethally sharp wooden stake in one hand and opening the door once he made his way to it with another.
What greeted his sight was something that caught him completely off guard, not a usual occasion. What they said bewildered him even more.
"What…did you…do?" Bonnie Bennett demanded.
Well, isn't that interesting? :D I'd called it a cliffhanger, I think. Would you? I just wanna be sure. Now, be honest…who expected it to be the witch in question? Not me…and I wrote this. Lol, review, please!