The Miss Mystic Falls Runner-Up and the Frog
A frog croaking loudly and repeatedly two inches from your ear had to be one of the worst ways to be woken up in the morning.
He waited impatiently on her pillow as she slowly sat up, pushing her hair back behind her ear and peering blearily at the clock beside her bed. It was Saturday, so she hadn't set her alarm, but it was still eight-thirty on the dot - apparently the limit of how long Damon was willing to let her sleep before giving her a wake-up call.
She yawned, rubbing at her face.
He croaked again. She turned to glare at him. "Okay, I'm up."
She took her phone from the night stand and sent a quick text to Bonnie, asking her to call her back. Then she climbed out of bed and found clothes for the day before heading into the bathroom - pausing briefly in the doorway to shake off Damon, who was attempting to hitch a ride on the leg of her pyjama pants.
"Privacy," she growled down at him, leaving him there on the floor as she went into the bathroom and firmly shut the door.
After freshening up, changing, and brushing her hair, she felt slightly more awake and slightly less like stepping on her temporary room mate.
First she ventured out into the hall, finding the house quiet and Jenna's bedroom empty. Jenna usually went to the gym on Saturday mornings, although this would be the first time since her injury and hospital stay courtesy of Katherine. She hoped Jenna was taking it easy, but at the same time, it was good not to have to answer any more questions about the whole frog situation.
"Coast's clear," she announced as she came back in the room. She retrieved both frog and her phone, which she checked for new messages as she headed downstairs. There was no answering text from Bonnie, and so she tried calling her as she waited on the coffee machine in the kitchen. The number rang for a while before going through to voicemail.
"I guess she hasn't gotten up yet," she said, looking down at him out of the corner of her eye. He had quickly scaled her sleeve to reclaim his spot on her shoulder for the trip from her bedroom. She wondered why he liked it there so much - whether it was because it made a good viewing station, or if some vampiric tendency of his just liked being near her neck. "I'll try calling again later," she added.
The coffee was ready by then and she poured herself a cup and sipped at the scalding liquid gratefully as she contemplated breakfast.
She had just set her mug down and was opening the refrigerator when, in an unlikely move, Damon somehow seemed to become caught in her necklace while traversing from one shoulder to the other. She was trying to help untangle him when he suddenly dropped down her chest, scrabbled briefly at the neckline of her tank top, and managed to flip himself inside.
"Damon! God!" she yelped, plucking him from where he was flailing about in her cleavage. She set him firmly down on the kitchen island and pointed a warning finger at him. "Don't even try to pretend that was an accident. No more free rides for you."
That was it, she officially wanted Damon back to normal just as much, if not more, than he did.
She eyed him warily as she took out her phone again. "You win, okay? I'll get Bonnie over here."
When Bonnie failed to pick up a second time, she called Caroline instead.
Caroline answered right away, and her first words were, "So how's it going with Project Kermit?"
Although the name was enough to make her smile, still she gave in to the urge to groan in frustration. "Just great. I'm starting to have a new appreciation for those 'frog in a blender' jokes."
"No way, is that cute little guy giving you trouble, Elena? Do I even want to know?"
She narrowed her eyes at the cute little guy in question, and said, "He's turning out to be as much fun to deal with as regular Damon."
She sighed, mollified now that she'd vented a little. She reached over to retrieve her coffee. "Actually, we kind of had a breakthrough, which is why I'm calling. I think I know what went wrong with the spell last night. Bonnie's not answering her phone, so could you go to her house and bring her over here?"
"Sure, she's probably just sleeping in; the last text I got from her was kind of late last night. So what went wrong with the spell, anyway?"
"It will be easier to explain once you guys get here. It was actually Damon's idea."
"What do you mean, Damon's idea? Are you a frog whisperer now?"
"Long story. Actually, no it's not. Turns out frogs can type, who knew? Just go get Bonnie, will you? Damon wants to be big again and I'm... in danger of really becoming a frog whisperer here. Or a frog murderer."
"Yay, I get to toss Bonnie out of bed first thing on a Saturday morning. I get all the fun jobs."
"Yeah, I'll see you, if she doesn't turn me into a frog, too."
Elena ended the call with a sigh, turning to look down at her small companion. He was sitting there watching her, the very picture of innocence, as if he hadn't taken a nose-dive down her top three minutes ago. He was probably just happy to have gotten his own way. Not to mention having copped a feel.
"I think we're going to need more coffee," she said.
It was well after nine when her friends arrived. Elena let them in and brought them over to the kitchen table, where they all took seats, with Damon as centrepiece.
Elena nodded to the shopping bag Bonnie had been carrying, which she set down on the table. "What's in the bag?"
"Oh, it's Damon's clothes," she explained. "It was all still lying outside my house when I got home last night - lucky, because I'm sure he wants his phone and car keys and stuff back. Not to mention his ring." She paused and looked around. "Isn't anyone else around?"
"It's okay. Saturday mornings Jenna has a yoga class, and Jeremy always sleeps till like eleven, so we've effectively got the place to ourselves for a while."
"Okay, so tell me what it is you found out about the spell."
"What Damon found out," Caroline corrected her. "She said Damon told her about it."
Elena shrugged. "He typed some stuff on my laptop."
"Wow," Bonnie said, "I guess it was really killing him, not being able to talk."
She laughed at that, but then she looked down at Damon, who was tensing up as if he might start biting again at any second, and she continued quickly. "Anyway, Bonnie, about the spell. He thinks, well, that you're afraid of him. That he might... try to hurt you once you turn him back. And maybe that's why the spell didn't work."
"He doesn't scare me."
"Yes, he does, Bonnie. And the feeling's mutual. The two of you hate each other. And isn't it possible that on some level you didn't really want the spell to work? He can't hurt anyone like this. Maybe, subconsciously...?"
Bonnie frowned down at the table for a moment, before lifting her eyes to meet Elena's. She could tell Bonnie was afraid it might be true. "But I really did try to make it work last night."
"We know," Caroline jumped in. "Hey, no one blames you for having a strong sense of self-preservation. So, what do we do now?"
"Now Damon promises not to lay so much as a finger on you. Which he wasn't going to anyway," Elena added fiercely as she stared at him, "But now you can be sure of it."
Bonnie looked doubtful. "Like he's really going to just forgive me for this? I wouldn't."
"For the record, Bonnie, me either," Caroline said emphatically. "Please don't ever turn me into anything weird, or I swear I'm never speaking to you again."
The three girls looked at the frog.
"Maybe not forgive," Elena said slowly. "But maybe let it go? Damon, you promise not to hurt Bonnie, right?"
She waited for him to nod his assent, but he didn't move. He was watching Bonnie with shrewd eyes.
"Wait." Bonnie's hand on her arm forestalled what Elena had been about to say. "I think I have to say something." Whatever it was, it was hard for her to get out. Bonnie closed her eyes and said reluctantly, "I'm sorry, Damon, okay? I... You were horrible to me yesterday, you were mean, and a complete jerk, but you didn't hurt me - you didn't even threaten me. Doing this to you, it was... unwarranted. Worse, it was a completely irresponsible use of my powers. If Grams was still alive she would want to smack me so hard for this. And you know exactly how I feel about you, so you know how hard it is for me to admit that I was wrong."
Elena was stunned silent for a moment. Bonnie had apologised to Damon, that was huge for her.
"Damon," Elena prompted after a moment, "Do you accept her apology? Keep in mind that if you don't, she might never feel secure enough to reverse the spell."
Instead of indicating a yes, Damon hopped towards Bonnie, landing beside her hand. He sat, waiting. Bonnie obliged, turning her hand over to touch him and closing her eyes.
Then Bonnie smiled slightly. "I guess we'll call it even?" she said with a small shrug as she broke the connection.
Caroline said, "So it's okay? No murderous rampage once he's all big and scary again?"
Bonnie shook her head, her answer firm. "No, he wouldn't be able to hide those kinds of intentions."
"Way to be the bigger man, Damon," Caroline said. "Bigger frog, whatever. So, let's do this. Elena?"
Elena didn't respond immediately, too caught up in her thoughts at what she had just witnessed. That Bonnie, who blatantly despised Damon, could reach some sort of peace with him, and that Damon could go through something like this and not want to kill the person responsible - it struck a chord within her.
For a time now Elena had been so sure that all Damon's second chances had run out when he snapped and killed Jeremy that day. But her trust in him had been so damaged by that one defining act, that it was really the only possible conclusion for her to reach. What was broken between them couldn't be fixed.
Now here they were, and it was like she was the last one holding out in the face of Damon forging his own second chance whether she liked it or not. Bonnie, Caroline, Jeremy, even Alaric, all of them had been hurt by Damon, and all of them had accepted him to one degree or another. Suddenly her hurt feelings didn't seem like a good enough reason to keep him at a distance. Especially since, if she was honest with herself, she'd been slowly, reluctantly, working her way back to him for a while now.
It was a quiet decision, made quietly in her own head. And somewhere in her chest, something eased as she forgave Damon.
"Elena?" Bonnie said.
"Yeah, I'm ready." She reached over and gave Damon's soft, green head a brief stroke with her finger. If he thought she'd merely gotten over the hard time he'd been giving her this morning, that was okay. "Good luck," she said, before getting to her feet. "So Bonnie, just like last night? I guess we go back outside again."
"Yeah, if we can." Bonnie pushed herself up from the table.
Beside her Caroline rose with a flourish. "Wow, you guys should be so glad I'm here. We can't do it outside. It's daytime? The sun? The goal is to turn him back into a vampire, hopefully?"
Elena's eyes widened. "Right. That could have been bad."
"Uh-huh." Caroline reached out her hand to Damon, and he crawled on board. "Humans, am I right?"
In the end they just put him down in the middle of the living room rug, once they'd shifted the coffee table over into the corner. Bonnie stood over him, while Elena and Caroline watched from the other side of the couch, everyone mentally crossing their fingers.
"Here goes nothing," Bonnie muttered, then she took a few deep, calming breaths, and finally started to chant quietly.
Elena held her breath as she stared at Damon's tense little form on the floor. At first, nothing happened, and she was afraid they'd been completely wrong about the reason for last night's failure.
Then it all happened at once. Damon went rigid, an unseen force wracking through his tiny body. There was a flash of blinding light that seemed to set Elena's teeth on edge to witness, and when her vision finally cleared there was no longer a small green frog on her living room floor. There was a big, naked man.
Damon lay flat on his face, unmoving. Then suddenly he groaned and pushed himself onto his elbows, then rolled onto his back. He squinted up at the ceiling for a moment.
"I hope one of you thought to bring me something to eat," he said in a voice rough with disuse.
"No, sorry, but we brought you pants," Caroline offered cheerily, moving to the kitchen table to fetch them.
"How do you feel?" Elena said, keeping her eyes carefully on his face.
He sat up, then slowly climbed to his feet. Elena's eyes went wide before she managed to drop them to the couch between them.
"How do I feel?" he said. "Well, I don't feel like swimming is the answer to all life's problems. That's something. Next time I piss you off, just kill me."
This last part was directed at Bonnie, who replied with a smirk, "It's a deal."
"Shake on it?" He stepped forward, holding out his hand, but Bonnie was slow to respond. "No, you're right, handshake is so impersonal; come on, let's hug it out."
He wrapped his arms around Bonnie before she could protest, though Elena could see her attempting to shrink away in horror as Damon patted her heartily on the back.
"You realise you're naked right now, right?" Bonnie said tightly, her eyes squeezed shut.
Smirking, Damon released her and she turned away with a shudder.
Damon, on the other hand, stretched expansively, arms over his head, circling to face the other two. "Hugs all round?"
Caroline threw his jeans at his head; he caught them easily.
Elena was still busy averting her eyes.
"Come on," he drawled, in a tone she knew was meant just for her, "You've been looking at my bare ass for the past day. Suddenly it's no good? Prefer the green, huh." He turned in place, helpfully offering her a comparative view.
It was a little difficult to reconcile this Damon and the small, helpless one she had carried around everywhere and allowed in her bedroom while she slept. But they were one and the same, and really, that was the point.
She shook her head. "Just get dressed, Damon."
"Tough audience," he muttered.
"I'm going now," Bonnie announced. "God knows what I'll turn him into if I stay any longer."
"Guess that means I'm going, too," Caroline said, fishing her car keys from her pocket.
Damon, taking his time with his pants, paused to point at Bonnie. "My car's still at your place, right? Didn't have it towed or anything?"
"If I'm giving you a ride to Bonnie's, you should know that no one's bare butt goes anywhere near my car," Caroline said pointedly.
"You should be so lucky. No, I... think I'll swing by and pick it up later. I'm in no hurry."
Elena could feel it as his eyes came back to rest on her - as everyone in the room looked at her to judge her reaction. "I'll see you guys later," she said evenly, reassuring them with a quick smile. Focused on her friends, she didn't miss the glance they exchanged before heading out the door.
"Caroline, Bonnie, always a pleasure," Damon called after them.
The front door closed, silence reigning once they were alone.
She carefully continued to focus on anything in the room but Damon until she heard him zipping up. Then she looked over to find him searching through the bag Bonnie had brought. He finally found what he was looking for, sliding his ring back in place with a glad sigh.
"And now, I feel better," he said, pulling a long-sleeved t-shirt from the bag. He quickly finished dressing - jacket, shoes, sliding keys and phone into pockets. "Except for the part where I could eat several fat, hairy truck drivers with questionable personal hygiene right now, no problems. I should... probably go home and take care of that."
"I could drive you," she said, self-conscious as soon as the words left her mouth because he'd just turned down a ride from Caroline two minutes ago.
"Think I'll walk. It's kind of cool being able to do that without flopping all over the place. Hundred and seventy years I've been around, never gave much thought to the topic of frogs." He approached her slowly as he spoke, coming to prop himself casually against the back of the couch. "Frogs are kind of lame. Forget the muppet-like coordination, they don't have external genitalia. Yeah, didn't think about that one, did you? I did. A lot. Sure, laugh it up. You drool in your sleep, you know."
She was grinning broadly by now. "No, I don't."
"Thanks for taking care of me," he added more hesitantly. "That must have been weird for you."
"Not half as weird as it must have been for you."
There was a pause. "It was pretty weird for me."
"There's something different about you," he said suddenly, straightening. For a moment she wondered how he knew - was her change in attitude that obvious? Had she been that cold to him before now? But whether he guessed the truth or not, his next words were mocking. "Oh, I know what it is. You kissed me. Now we're in that awkward, morning-after place, right?"
She rolled her eyes as she tried not to smile. She'd forgiven him; he hadn't suddenly become less annoying. "You tricked me into kissing you."
"Is that what happened?"
"You were a frog, Damon. I was just trying to help." This was going nowhere useful, and so she turned away from him and moved towards the front door, in the hopes that he'd follow. But she stopped as she reached the entryway because not only had he followed, she knew he'd flashed across the short distance to her; she could feel him there right behind her, invading her personal space. Face set, she turned slowly to face him.
"You sure about that?" he said, peering down at her with his hands behind his back, a superior look on his face. "You sure that somewhere deep down, the part of you that owns both Titanic and The Notebook on dvd, the part of you that believes in soulmates and has read Wuthering Heights nine times, that part of you didn't think for even a second that just maybe you were my princess? That one magical kiss from those perfect rose-petal lips could have the power to transform me back into the handsome stud you see before you?"
Perfect rose-petal lips? Her mouth worked soundlessly for a moment. "...No."
"Oh. So it was purely for your own benefit, then." She gaped at him as he went on. "No, hey listen, any time you want to go again -"
She threw up her hands. "You got me. I couldn't resist you. It was that cold, clammy, green skin, gets me every time."
He just smirked at her outburst. "You know, you shouldn't get too caught up in this whole kissing thing."
"I wasn't. You're the one who keeps talking about it."
His grin widened, eyebrows deftly in play as he added, "Especially since we got to second base this morning and that was much more exciting." But then, in one of those whiplash-fast changes in demeanour in which he specialised, he became serious suddenly. The look on his face cut off her retort before she had time to think of one. "You never needed to kiss me, Elena," he told her, smiling lightly yet sincerely, "You've already worked your magic on me. And it's the kind of thing that can't be undone."
He nodded once, apparently satisfied that he'd inspired the resulting stunned silence. "I'll be going now. I've gotta go... kick Stefan's ass. It's a brother thing - he laughs at my misfortune, I punch him in the face, he'll feel neglected if I don't."
"Break his kneecaps?"
"I'm... glad you're back to normal," she blurted, and lunged for the door, opening it and holding it there for him in an unspoken suggestion for him to leave before he did or said anything to make her any more embarrassed or uncomfortable or too hot in her own skin. "Bye, Damon."
She avoided his eyes, knowing he would be regarding her with amusement or fondness or something else entirely.
"I'll see you around. Oh," he paused on the threshold, leaning back in as she clutched at the door tightly, "Did I mention you talk in your sleep?"
Her eyes shot up to his but he just reached for the door and pulled it shut after him, leaving her there alone to convince herself that he had to be joking. Had to be.
On Elena's porch, Damon contemplated the mid-morning sun.
It had only been yesterday afternoon that he'd been standing on another porch, taunting a powerful witch with words designed to hurt, in what had been one of the more stupid moves of his long life. And now here he was, one completely bizarre experience, and one extremely interesting encounter with Elena, behind him.
She was still there, just on the other side of the door; he could hear her breathing, her blood rushing in her veins. And he really was hungry, and that usually made him cranky, but right now he just felt kind of elated. Because it was good to be a vampire and because right now it definitely didn't suck to be him.
Here was the thing. He had given Elena up, and was working on being okay with that to varying levels of success, but couldn't ignore how the game potentially changed if she hadn't given up on him. He was trying not to be selfish, but he was no martyr.
As a frog his senses had been seriously limited to the extent that being able to stick to things with his feet and having the ability to lick his own eyeballs really couldn't make up for. Forget how happy he was to have his penis back where it belonged - so happy - he couldn't know then what he knew now.
Like how her eyes had dropped momentarily to his lips every time he mentioned her kissing him. Like how her cheeks had coloured slightly with warmth when he told her, with simple honesty, that she'd been the source of change in him whether she liked it or not. And then her mouth had twitched up like she wanted to smile.
Being a small frog in a very big world forced one hell of a change in perspective, driving home just how much the little things really mattered. Yes it was seriously great being a vampire again, and Damon walked away from Elena's door with a new kind of spring in his step.