Author's Note: Please see bottom.

The lyrics are from the song Old School by Hedley.

The story title is from the song by Linkin Park.

Rated M for language, sexual content, sensitive matter, and dark themes.

Don't believe everything happiness says; nothing's as real as our old reckless ways…

"Could you imagine if someone had warned us about all of this?" Jeremy murmured, staring into the fire.

"Mason did," Tyler answered, "And it didn't change a damn thing. Shit happens dude."

Caroline sat up straighter, and Bonnie shifted in her arms. "Well I, for one, would never have gone anywhere near Damon. No offence Elena."

The brunette shrugged. "I probably wouldn't have gone anywhere near Stefan." She glanced at the vampire in question. "Sorry."

He threw a handful of grass at her. "Well, I wouldn't have gone anywhere near you either."

When we drink by the fires…

They were all silent, the joking atmosphere dissolving into one of deep thought.

"God we were so stupid, weren't we?" Bonnie asked the group.

Everyone nodded in response.

The burning car tires…

"Do you guys remember before we knew what the 'animal attacks' were?"

Bad girls and good liars…

"Hey! I don't even remember that happening! It must have been Katherine pretending to be me. Good job telling us apart jackass!"

The dreams we'd conspire…

"No no no! That was the dress that I would wear when I had decided to marry Matt!"

The days we went crazy!

"… And I was so paranoid that I would hurt someone…"

The nights wild and hazy!

"… We were so stoned; I don't even know how I survived that summer at all. It was great!"

Man how in the hell did we get here?

"I don't know how any of us survived this long…"

So why don't you meet me down behind the old school? We'll waste away the weekend, with perfect regard for how cavalier we used to be, that beautiful insanity! The apathy's surrounding me; don't close your eyes or we'll fade away!

The empty bottles were now being used by missiles between the vampires as the others looked on, dodging shrapnel every so often.

"Whatever Stefan, you make it sound like I raped you. You were saving my life."

Stefan snorted. "I think there's a compliment in there about how great I am in bed." He snatched a bottle out of the air and threw it back in Elena's direction.

"It must be a Salvatore trait," giggled Caroline, "Thinking you're all that in the sheets. Don't be too flattered Stefan, Elena tried to get me first." A bottle flew towards her, but Bonnie stopped it telekinetically, spinning it around lazily in the air.

"It's just because you're so much prettier than Stefan," Elena teased, winking.

"I don't know how I'll deal with the two of you forever if I'm gonna be the butt of every joke," Stefan huffed.

"Hey man," Jeremy interjected, "I could give you some great blackmail on both of them. Like, for one, they both keep diaries, and neither of them hides them very well."

Before any of the vampires could retort, Tyler changed the subject.

"God, Bonnie, that's so cool!"

Bonnie smiled, her eyes trained on the bottle spinning and dipping in the air. "Yeah, it's really easy now. I've been getting stronger, especially since London. I really pushed myself for that spell, and it just opened me up to all these new possibilities."

Elena reached for her friend's hand. "Just as long as you don't go evil or anything. Post-angel Elena might have to take you out."

The two women stared each other down for a moment, before bursting into giggles once more.

So why don't you meet me down behind the old school? We'll waste away the weekend, with perfect regard for how cavalier we used to be, that beautiful insanity! The apathy's surrounding me; don't close your eyes or we'll fade away!

"So, Elena," Caroline sang, "You haven't seen Damon for, oh, about seven hours now. How are the withdrawals?"

"You're hilarious, Care. And I'm fine. Perfectly independent."

They all watched Elena fidget anxiously, belying her previous statement. Then Damon walked out from amongst the trees, much to his girlfriend's extreme delight.

"Oh thank gawd!" she exclaimed. Caroline laughed pointedly at her.

"Miss me?" Damon asked, lowering himself to sit behind her and kissing her head. He leaned to the side as Bonnie's bottle zoomed past him.

"Not at all," she answered, laughing, "We're just doing safe stuff, like throwing glass at each other. Nothing too dangerous."

The rest of the group conversed, Elena and Damon commenting sparsely until the latter felt a tongue of heat travel from his tailbone up his spine. He groaned softly.

"Ready to go then?"

She nodded against his chest, and they got up in unison.

"You guys heading out?" Stefan asked.

"I'm personally surprised that they lasted this long. And before you say anything Elena, I've lived in that boarding house and an apartment with the two of you. I know."

Instead of answering, Elena just kicked some dirt at the blonde. She waved at the rest of her friends, feeling a pang of bittersweet melancholy grip her heart. This might be the last time that they could all just be like this. Soon enough, she would have to watch as Matt, Tyler and Bonnie aged and died. She would have to watch as Caroline came to grips with that fact, and Jeremy too, since he and Tyler had become such close friends. She felt tears threatening to spill, so she smiled quickly and then turned.

In what seemed like a moment, she and Damon were back at the boarding house, on the way up to their room.

Damon sighed. "What's wrong? Didn't you have fun? I gave you a whole night of free time!"

She chuckled a little. "Time spent away from you isn't a treat Damon. But, I don't know, I guess it just hit me that everything changed, and it's gonna keep changing. I don't like it."

"Hm," Damon was smiling complacently, "Well, that's not a vampire thing. That's just growing up. People change, they grow and sometimes they backtrack. They get married and have babies, and they get sick and get better, and die. That's life." His smile faded as he contemplated his next thought. "Are you regretting everything that's happened?"

Elena looked pensive for a moment, sitting down on the bed and patting the mattress for Damon to sit next to her before she answered.

"I don't regret any of it; not the bad, and certainly not the good. I'm just feeling melancholic I guess."

"Anything I can do to help?"

Elena grinned and pulled Damon's face down to kiss him. They took their time, exploring each other's mouths, before she pulled back a little and stared into his eyes.

"I love you, and I'm so happy that we have this life together, even after all the crap that's happened. Now that we've gotten all that out of the way, it'll be clear sailing. But, just because of the mood I'm in, I want to say something." He nodded, and she kissed him lightly again. "You are still and will always be the only person to make me wanna die, in all of the best and worse ways. But now, we're all set, and everything's right. So, I guess that in the end, none of the bad stuff even makes a difference."

The moment she finished speaking, Damon closed the gap between them and kissed her once more, absorbing her words, and feeling the rightness of it all. She was fragile in his arms that night. And he knew, making love to her, that it wasn't the hardened Elena in his arms; it was the one that he first fell in love with. And faced with her vulnerability, he made a promise to her; to never leave her again, and to always protect her, despite her strength. Because in the end, he needed to keep her safe; in the end, it didn't even matter.

A/N: Thank you all for sticking it out and for reviewing/alerting/favouriting. I'm really glad that I was able to share this story, and I'm glad that others have found it entertaining. Shameless moment here, The Bomb and The Choice will be taking up my attention now, and there are about three other stories that I'm working on, so keep an eye out for those. And please review :) I'm self-conscious about the ending and I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks again!