The excuse that he hadn't found a date apparently didn't bother his mother.
"I've found someone for you. You're going to have so much fun, Tyler," she had said and then left Tyler waiting in front of the Founders' Hall – without even telling him for who he was waiting. Of course it was better not to tell him that his date was the ugliest girl in town. Who else would attend the Kick-Off-Party alone?
"All alone, Tyler?"
Well, he chose not to have a date. Tyler scratched the back of his head, feeling hot embarrassment creeping up his neck. He turned around to watch Elena Gilbert smiling up at him.
"Yeah, my mother left me on the doorstep," Tyler said.
Elena laughed, then climbed the stairs up to the entrance and waved at Tyler to follow her. "Then let's go inside."
"Nah…" Tyler shoved his hands into the pockets of his trousers. "I've got to wait for this girl. My date. Don't even know her. Don't even know how to recognise her! My mother doesn't seem to get the idea of a blind date. She needs to give me the chance to check the mark from the distance, so I can decide if I'm out of her league. Like this we already know that I am! My date's got to be the ugliest, weirdest girl in town."
Elena's eyebrows had wandered higher and higher during Tyler's desperate rhapsody. "Thank you," she said, still smiling. "I didn't think my outfit looked that horrible."
For the first time, Tyler took in the sight of the perfectly fitting black dress. He grinned. "No, you look hot," he said, then frowned. "Wait…"
"I'm your date."
Tyler shut his eyes tightly. "Fuck…" He really hoped Elena would be gone as he slowly opened one eye. She was still there, looking even more amused. "Full speed with my foot in your mouth."
"Such a big foot really hurts," Elena said, pointedly heartstricken.
"Sorry." Tyler tried to hide even more parts of his body in the pockets of his trousers. He barely made it to his underarms.
"That's okay. I can imagine you'd rather be here with someone else."
"No, I'd rather be up in my room with Halo 3," Tyler admitted and confronted with Elena's smile he started to feel a bit more comfortable again. "And I expected you to come with Matt, so…"
Elena's smile disappeared within a second, closely followed by Tyler's comfortableness. After a moment of awkward silence in which Elena's cheeks had slightly reddened, she laughed again, obviously embarrassed.
"Yes, well… His mother wasn't there to ask me."
"Ouch…" Tyler returned Elena's smirk. "Are there any more clangers to drop or can we go inside to search for more?"
"We can go inside, but I rather search for something more amusing." Elena grabbed Tyler's arm and pulled him forwards. They entered a hall full of living smileys, dancing to awful music and drinking disgustingly alcohol-free punch. The sight made Tyler sick. Elena kept smiling.
"Oh, I love this song. Let's dance!" Elena pulled Tyler's hand out of his pocket and turned around to face him. As she moved to place his hand on her hip, Tyler shook his head.
"I don't dance."
"You have to," Elena insisted. She lifted her free hand, pointing a warning finger at Tyler. "You played football with my heart out there. Either you dance with me now, or I make you wave my pompoms at the next game."
Tyler rolled his eyes. "I really don't want to risk that," he said dryly, as if Elena could really force him to disgrace himself like that.
"I can be really convincing," Elena said. "Which is why you're going to dance with me now. Also… your mother's watching us. Don't disappoint her."
Tyler looked over his shoulder. In a corner not far away from them Carol Lockwood rose her glass, smiling contently. Tyler smiled weakly back, but lost control over his expression when Elena took advantage of his distraction to pull him forward on the dance floor. Cheerleader to the core she started moving skilfully, never letting go of Tyler's hand. But her smile alone didn't convince Tyler to do more than step from one foot to the other, so she pulled at his hand to make his torso move as well. Tyler never felt so humiliated.
"Your mother was very… pleased to hear that I didn't have a date," Elena said, obviously trying not to laugh at Tyler's miserable attempts at dancing. It was unbelievable that her politeness could defeat the surely huge desire to die of laughter. "As soon as my mother mentioned it she came up with this idea. You know, I just hope you don't think I planned this because I've got a secret crush on you."
"No, you've got a quite obvious crush on Matt," Tyler said without thinking. He regretted his words when Elena blushed again. She was nice enough not to laugh at him and he was not even trying to be sensitive. He tried to make up for this comment by saying, "Don't worry. My mother only likes your name. Founding family prestige, something like that." It didn't make anything better. Only worse. Elena finally lost her smile.
"Don't make me regret this, Tyler," she warned.
"It's a miracle you don't already do!" Tyler instinctively tried to raise his hands, but for mysterious reasons Elena was still holding to one of his arms. "I have a bad day. Hopefully. I'm not always like this. Hopefully."
"You are," Elena stated cleanly. Tyler pursed his lips and at least his pouting expression made Elena giggle. "It's true. Most of the time you're a huge jerk! In an adorable way. Like, uhm… a puppy that tries to rip your trousers."
Tyler frowned. "Okay… Now we're even."
Elena laughed again and continued to dance, forcing Tyler to move with her, to spin her around and get her long, long hair into his face during the twirl. It wasn't that bad, despite him bathing in embarrassment. At least they had a lot to laugh about until the real torture began.
The music changed. It became slower and gentler, remarkably romantic. Tyler searched the room for his mother and wasn't surprised to find her standing near the band, pretending to be the personification of innocence. He didn't want to give her this satisfaction and was ready to leave the dance floor, but Elena stopped him by weaving her arms around his neck.
"Oh, come on…" Tyler turned his head away, grimacing. He missed the weight of Elena's hand on his arm. Her fingers touched his neck now, and the feeling of skin against skin generated a weird tingling he started to enjoy more every second.
"Come on yourself." Elena nudged Tyler's cheek with her arm and smiled as he looked at her again. "It's not that bad to dance with me, is it?"
"No, it's just bad to see my mother reading more into this." Tyler leant closer to whisper into Elena's ear. "I can almost hear the wedding bells ringing in her head."
Elena laughed again. It was quite easy to make her laugh, but even if not, Tyler would just try a little harder. The sound was nice and even bearable, not such an extremely girlish I'm-trying-to-sound-attractive giggle.
"Well… Since she's already thinking like… ten years into the future –"
"Let's rather say twenty."
"– you shouldn't be afraid to touch me."
Tyler gulped. Since Elena had let go of his hand he hadn't moved them, had only balled them to fists and kept them clutched to his sides.
"Nah…" Tyler shook his head when Elena continued to look at him with a barely declinable challenge glistening in her eyes. "You're property of Matt Donovan."
"What?" Elena snorted. "I'm no one's property. And in particular not Matt's. Otherwise I'd be here with him, right?"
"He's just too insecure to ask you," Tyler said. "Risking-friendship-shit."
"Only my hips, Tyler." When Tyler didn't react, Elena grabbed his hands and placed them on her hips. Tyler pressed his lips tightly together. Judging by Elena's expression she thought Tyler was trying to suppress a grimace. He actually tried to hide a grin. Quite successfully.
"It's not that bad," Elena said in a voice as if she had to convince herself of this. She wrapped her arms around Tyler's shoulders this time and moved closer until her chest was pressed against his. In this position it felt increasingly harder not to smile. Tyler gave into the steadily growing urge after Elena leant her cheek against his shoulder.
It was quite an intimate position. There was hardly a centimetre of space left between them and the remaining space was filled with warmth that now tried to crawl over Tyler's skin. It tickled and was alarmingly pleasant. Tyler tried not to enjoy it too much, but that was impossible, especially as her captivating scent enveloped him. He caught himself bringing his nose closer and closer to the silky strands of brown hair. Was it allowed to have such beautiful hair? Was it allowed to touch it during a dance?
Tyler brought the tip of his fingers to the very end of Elena's hair. Thank God it was so long. She would never notice that Tyler groped her hair. But maybe it was a wee bit more suspicious that he traced the outline of Elena's spine with his fingers. Elena didn't say anything though. At least not until Tyler used his entire hand to stroke her back.
"What're you doing there?"
Tyler stilled, his hand resting between Elena's shoulder blades. He avoided looking at Elena's frown and like this noticed a familiar figure standing not far away from them near a huge plant. Matt stared into his empty glass. Tyler had to take advantage of this pitiful image.
"Matt is watching us," he said to Elena, and couldn't help but feeling a little unwanted when she quickly turned her head away from him. "I thought the right dose of jealousy might give him the final kick." The words sounded like the worst lie he had ever told, so Tyler couldn't understand how Elena was able to look at him with that magnificent smile again.
Elena slammed her hand playfully against his chest. "Tyler Lockwood, cupid in training."
"Yeah, well… As long as I don't have to wear diapers and wings." Tyler wasn't a good actor. He couldn't hide his deteriorating mood, especially not when he didn't know the source of it.
"Well, thanks, but I don't need your help," Elena said. She moved her hand from Tyler's chest over his throat up to his face. "And if Matt doesn't want to get anything started, I might settle my eyes on someone else."
Tyler felt like his eyes wanted to jump out of their caves. He blinked hastily, and then couldn't suppress an extremely stupid laugh. The heat he had felt the entire time reached his face now. He let go of Elena and stepped away before she could see him actually blush.
"Then… maybe… uhm…" Why did he start stuttering in the very wrong moment? "I'm going to get us some drinks, okay?"
Elena smiled. Tyler actually didn't expect her to do something else. She nodded and then pointed at a place near the dance floor.
"I'll be waiting over there," she promised and walked away.
Tyler hurried into the opposite direction. At the buffet he filled two glasses, slowly feeling his cheeks sizing with cramp from his huge grin. It felt like that smile would never disappear again.
He turned his back to the buffet again and walked through the crowd, searching for the reason of this smile. When he found Elena, she was no longer alone but very busy talking to Matt in that familiar flirtatious way, playing with her hair and letting out one annoying giggle after another. Tyler was one step away from smashing at least one glass on the ground.
He closed his eyes for a second and tried to calm down. Maybe he would just go over to them, give Elena her glass and wrap an arm around her shoulder without ostentation. But when he opened his eyes again and saw Matt pointing at the dance floor, asking Elena for the next dance, all the shortly before drowned anger came back. He didn't really want Elena to see him like that, and since she only hesitated a second before taking Matt's hand there seemed to be no reason to force himself on her.
It just made him so angry.
There was always so much anger inside him. For the wonderful glimpse of a second he had hoped Elena, her smile and laughter, would make that better. Now the anger boiled silently in his chest, becoming hotter and hotter with each step he made. He left the Founders' Hall and took a deep breath of the chilly air. It didn't help putting out that fire of wrath burning behind his ribcage.
He searched for the source of the voice and eventually focused on Vicki Donovan, Matt's sister. She sat on the ground, back resting against a pillar. Tyler felt something like a growl crawling up his throat at her sight and clenched his jaw so that the noise wouldn't escape him.
"You search someone for that glass?" Vicki scooted to the side and patted next to her.
Tyler hesitated and looked back over his shoulder, although he didn't dare hoping for Elena to follow him. He shook his head and walked over to Vicki, sitting down next to her. Carelessly, Tyler thrust one glass into Vicki's hand.
"Thank you," Vicki said sweetly. She took a large sip of the punch, sized Tyler expectantly up, and took another sip. Tyler ignored all of her glances and scowled forcefully at the opposite pillar. When her glass was almost empty, Vicki cleared her throat. "So… do you want to dance?"
"No," Tyler replied immediately.
Vicki nudged him with her elbow. "Oh, come on…"
"I said no!" Tyler growled the words and watched Vicki's expression change from cheerful to afraid. Then she lowered her gaze, staring into her almost empty glass exactly the way her brother had done before. Tyler felt a strange sensation of superiority.
"Okay," she whispered. "I don't like dancing anyway."
Tyler looked back to the hall. Through one window he thought he could see Elena with her new dancing partner. "Me, too," he rasped and emptied his glass in one sip. "Me, too…"