Title: Poetry in Motion
Fandom: The Vampire Diaries (TV-verse)
Characters: Elena Gilbert, Damon Salvatore
Prompt: Elena/Damon - Sometimes you can't help who you fall in love with. Written for gonetoarcadia.
Summary: He was watching, waiting, to lure her in and close the net around her. And he did. With charming eyes, Old World manners, the Devil's own crooked smile, and a voice smooth like honey.
Spoilers: up to and including 2x11 "By the Light of the Moon."
Word Count: 2217
Disclaimer: These characters are the property of L. J. Smith, Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec.
Author's Note: Written to the "It was Real in Atlanta" Damon/Elena fanmix by juana_a, which was so perfect for this piece, it's now kind of an unofficial soundtrack. There's a link to it on my profile, for anyone who wants to check it out. :)
- o – o – o -
Most people would probably say that Elena Gilbert's life changed on August 14th 2012. That is, the day she left the land of the living altogether and joined the ranks of the undead.
Elena, however, would be inclined to disagree. She knows that her life really changed on the 23rd of May 2009. Not only was it the day her parents died, but it was also the first day Stefan ever saw her face. And if he hadn't, a lot of things might have turned out differently than they did.
That is what she tells herself anyway, for the same reason she stopped dwelling on the "cursed-from-birth" idea; she cannot bear the thought that nothing in her life was of her own making, that she is not in charge of her own destiny, and that she is just a pawn, an expendable piece on someone else's chessboard.
So she chooses to return to Mystic Falls on May 23rd because it seems fitting. Her decision to wait one hundred and forty five years is merely her giving in to the dramatic side of her vampirism. Like Katherine—two words that used to send chills down her spine—she has learned to appreciate the poetic symmatry of the universe.
Her first stop is the cemetary, even though it's not much of one now. The headstones have eroded and crumbled, and the paths become overgrown with grass and reaching vines. The whole graveyard, like the town it resides in, has been swallowed up, reclaimed by woods.
But her feet remember the way, and she flits between the trees, until she is reunited with them: her parents, Jeremy, Jenna, Alaric, Bonnie, Matt and Tyler, all laid out and together forever.
She wonders briefly if they exist somewhere else, in a way that she herself exists, not quite alive but not quite dead either. She wonders if they can feel her near, like she feels them always.
The Mystic Falls she knows—the Mystic Falls she knew—is gone, and has been for longer than she cares to remember. Soon after Klaus came to town, the human residents started leaving. It was only one or two at a time, in the beginning, but then they left in droves. None that Elena ever spoke to could really articulate why they needed to leave, and they certainly weren't compelled. In the end, Elena and her friends had put it down to the subconcious mind knowing there was something in town to fear, something that couldn't be fought; the need to survive is the most basic instinct, after all.
It's a ghost town now, the roads empty and wild, and the buildings falling apart at the seams.
But Elena steels herself and walks through it, taking her time, remembering how she and Bonnie and Caroline would play on the clock tower steps as little girls, or meet at the Grill to gossip about boys as teens. She stops at the house she used to live in, finds that there's still just enough structural intergity to the place to prevent her crossing the threshold. Maybe if she comes back in another hundred and fifty years, Bonnie's spell will have worn off.
If she were in the mood, she'd probably laugh at that ridiculous thought. No one knows better than she does that a Bennett witch's spell doesn't just wear off.
There's no rush as she crosses Wickery Bridge; she stopped rushing a long time ago, when she realised she had eternity to do everything she needed to and then some. So she just strolls down the old country road and listens to the crunch of dead leaves under her sneakers until she rounds a bend and the Boarding House comes into view.
It's the only building for miles to survive the test of time. Elena blinks and for a moment, as the sun peeks out from behind a cloud and casts its glow across the front of the building, she feels she's stepped back in time. She's still seventeen, and human, and coming to see Stefan. They're going to hang out up in his bedroom, and then they're going to go meet up with Caroline and Matt at the Grill.
Then the sun disappears, and she blinks again, and the fantasy is gone. She's almost one hundred and fifty years old, a vampire, and the last time she saw Stefan was five years ago in London. He isn't the brother she needs to see anyway, and she isn't sure exactly how she knows, but the one she does is here too. Like her, he's been gone one hundred and forty five years as well.
Maybe she didn't inherit her appreciation of poetry from Katherine after all.
Despite the number of times she's opened this door, stepped into this hallway, she can't help flashing back to the very first time as she does it now. He was watching her then, waiting to make his move, to lure her in and close the net around her.
And he did. With charming eyes, Old World manners, the Devil's own crooked smile, and a voice smooth like honey.
His back is to her when she enters the living room, and he's pouring himself a drink. Scotch.
He says it like he always has, his voice lilting in that way that makes him sound both mocking and affectionate.
It makes her hate him just a little. A little more than she has been hating him anyway, considering he's the who ruined her life.
His name rolls effortlessly off her tongue; she thinks it should be harder to say, given how many decades have passed since she last did.
When he turns to face her—finally, after so long—her breath catches. He looks exactly the same, though she doesn't know why she ever thought he wouldn't. After all, she hasn't changed all that much either, if at all. Maybe she could ask him; if there's anyone on the face of the earth who could pick out any minute changes to her, it would be him.
"Why did you do it?" At least no one can say she doesn't go straight for the jugular.
He gives that little shrug, gestures idly with the hand that still holds his glass. "Do what?"
Elena's eyes narrow and her head tilts; she refuses to play this game with him. "You know what, Damon. Why did you turn me?"
"What makes you think I did it?" He gulps down half his drink. "As I recall, there were a number of vampires running around Mystic Falls that night. Any one of them might be responsible. I don't know why you're so high and mighty about it anyway. The way your luck was going, it was bound to happen at some point."
She chooses to ignore that last jibe. "You did it. I know you did." She's flashing back again, to a conversation almost identical to this one. She can almost feel the cold, heavy weight of her vervain necklace being returned to it's rightful place around her neck.
"Stefan told me."
Her words make him wince.
"And where is Saint Stefan?" he asks, forcing a smile and making a show of searching the room as if his brother will just pop out of thin air if he looks hard enough. "Not here? Elena, I'm impressed! Don't tell me you've finally let him off that leash!"
"Come on, Damon." She crosses her arms and rolls her eyes, and it's so like how they used to be that her stomach jolts. "I know you've kept in touch with him. You must know that we're not together anymore. We haven't been for a long time."
"That's right." He nods, and his stance is easy, relaxed now that he feels like he's on solid ground. It doesn't last long as his eyes narrow. "There was a period shortly after you broke his heart, where he reverted to pretending I don't exist. Apparently, my turning you was the death knell of your star-crossed love affair."
"You admit it then? That you turned me?"
Damon raises an eyebrow. "I thought Stefan told you I did? Was it really so hard to believe?"
She shakes her head because she's fed up now, can't be bothered lying, not when she has to spend every day doing just that. It's nice, to not have to pretend to be as ordinary as everyone else. She can't help but wonder exactly why Stefan wanted to try so hard at playing human anyway.
"It's just good to hear you admit it, that's all," she says. "It brings a little closure."
"Well," and he gives a small, mocking bow, "I'm glad to be of service."
He finishes the rest of his drink in one swallow, and she pushes onward, even as she knows that she's getting dangerously close to the edge. He's never responded particularly well when faced with an excess of emotion.
"You still haven't answered my question."
"No." She narrows her eyes, hardens her gaze, makes sure he knows she's serious. "Why did you turn me?"
"Oh, the why of it all isn't important, Elena."
She flings her arms out in frustration. "How can you say that? You killed me!"
"No." He wags a finger. "Klaus killed you. I just brought you back to life." He considers this statement, tips his head to the side. "Death."
"Maybe I just loved you too much to contemplate eternity without you." His tone is flippant, as if the whole thing is a meaningless joke, but she hears the truth behind it.
"I wasn't yours to love, Damon! I never was!"
He slams his glass on the table and it shatters. Beads of blood well across his palm, but the tiny cuts heal over seconds after they appear. He rounds to face her and she can't help the step she takes backwards. His face is contorted in anger, veins blackening around his eyes. For the first time in a long time, Elena is scared of him, afraid of what he might do.
"Do you honestly think I don't know that? That I haven't told myself that very thing a million times since you barged, uninvited, into my life?" He pauses, takes a breath, sets his shoulders. "But you know what? You can't help who you fall in love with, Elena. I wish to God that you could because my life, and death for that matter, would have been a whole lot simpler. But it doesn't work that way."
He closes his eyes, exhales slowly, and shakes his head, almost sadly, she thinks.
"Stefan couldn't do it." His voice is soft in its sincerity, just tinged with hysteria, as all his most heartfelt confessions seem to be. "After all his proclamations of eternal love and how you two were meant to be together forever, he just held you in his arms and let you bleed. He said he couldn't condemn you to a life he'd hated for so long."
"But you could?"
He meets her eyes, unapologetic. "Yes. Because I'm not Stefan. I'm selfish and I'm a dick and I've hurt a lot of people. And…"
Elena takes a small step in his direction. "And?"
His gaze jumps around the room, fixing on everything but her.
"Damon." Her voice is what it takes to bring his eyes back to her.
"And," he continues, urged by her eyes, "you make me want to be better. No." He shakes his head, and his eyes glaze over in thought. "You make me try to be better. After you saved me…in Atlanta…I wanted to be worth it."
He laughs, a harsh, bitter laugh, and turns to pour himself a fresh drink. "I didn't want to lose that, didn't want to lose you. Didn't matter in the end." He contemplates the glasses in front of him, before giving up on them and taking a gulp straight from the decanter. "You took off anyway."
Elena can't tear her gaze away from his back, realises she's been holding her breath, forces herself to inhale even though she doesn't strictly need to.
"I hated you," she hears herself say.
Damon freezes, jerks his head in a stiff nod. "Wouldn't be the first time."
She sighs, feels the tension roll out of her bones, and steps up beside him to rest her hip against the bar.
"I get it," she says. "I understand."
His eyes shoot to her, and she knows he remembers when he said those same words to her.
If she'd known then what kind of life was ahead of her, would she…No. She mentally shakes her head, dismisses the notion entirely. No, she wouldn't have changed anything, wouldn't have crawled into a ball and pretended it wasn't happening.
"I forgive you."
Immediately, she's glad she finally said the words. Damon's mouth quirks in the beginning of a genuine smile, and he nods.
And even though they have one hundred and forty five years to catch up on, even though they still have to discuss unvoiced feelings and sibling rivalry, at that moment there's nothing more that needs to be said.
He pours two drinks, hands her one. They lock eyes, clink glasses, down their drinks in unison.
Poetry in motion.