a/n: This story is dedicated to fellow author Babi. because her amazing stories inspired me to write an AU/AH fic.
This is just a little warning, Elena might be a little OOC in this one, but I'm trying to keep it only mildly so. Once I finish Caught in the Middle and have more chapters written for this, I'll update regularly instead of when I feel like it :) And since next week is Spring Break, I'm going to finally get One Kiss worked on! Alright, I hope you guys enjoy this one :)
Her eyes opened while the rest of her remained still. Her gaze focused on the man that lay beside her, resting on his side with his face turned towards her. He was smiling in his sleep, his blonde hair hanging haphazardly from tossing and turning. She stared at him, taking in the sight, memorizing every inch of him. A small smile graced her lips as she gently pushed herself out of bed and to her feet.
As quietly as she could, she made her way to the bay window and sat down on the bench seat. She leaned her head against the cool pane of glass and hugged her knees to her chest. It was then that she felt the cool metal of her ring. Without looking at it, she reached out with her left hand and fingered the silver band with the sapphire gem. She bit her bottom lip and closed her eyes part way as she went over their life leading up to this moment.
It had been like a romantic comedy when they met. She had been in New York City on a trip with her best friend and he had been there on business. It was pouring outside and she had forgotten her umbrella. As she dove for the cab that pulled up, he had gone for it as well from the other side. They both found themselves staring at one another. Instead of arguing about it like she had seen other people do, he offered to share the cab with her.
"I'm Stefan Salvatore," he said, extending his hand to her after giving the cabbie their addresses.
"Elena Gilbert," she returned and shook his hand.
"What brings you to the Big Apple?"
"A trip with my best friend. She wanted to see a play on Broadway and we were both financially capable of coming to see it. What about you?" she asked as the cabbie finally merged into traffic.
"What sort of business?" she asked, smirking slightly at his vague non answer. "Are you a spy?"
He laughed at that. "I would make a horrible spy. I'm clumsy and I don't lie very well." He shook his head and gave her a real answer. "I'm an architect. Most of the time I can work from home, but for this particular project, my firm wanted me in to look at some things."
"Architect..." she mused, studying him to see if the career fit his looks. "I can see that."
"What about you, what do you do?"
She smiled as the cab turned down the street her hotel was located on. She knew it had been only a short distance to her hotel, but she hated being in the rain without an umbrella. Otherwise, she wouldn't have bothered with the cab. Quickly, she grabbed a piece of paper from her purse and scrounged around for a pen before writing down her phone number. The cab slowed to a stop at the entrance as she flashed Stefan a smile before handing him the paper. "I'll be here for at least another week. Why don't you call me and ask me again then?" she suggested and winked as she exited the cab and made a mad dash to the lobby.
Elena smiled fondly at the memory. It had been the perfect meet-cute that she and Caroline had dreamed of since they were little girls. She remembered practically running towards the elevators and then shifting her weight with impatience as she waited for it to carry her to her floor. Once inside the room, she told her best friend exactly what happened and they both screamed in excitement, jumping up and down on the bed. It had been an agonizing two days as she waited for him to call her. When her phone rang, displaying an unknown number, she knew immediately who it was and she had to calm herself and Caroline before she answered. Soon after that, she was getting ready for their first date.
He held out her chair like a perfect gentleman, waiting until she was situated before taking a seat for himself. "This place is amazing," she said, her eyes darting around the room, unable to settle on anything in particular.
"It's one of my favorite restaurants."
"You, Mr. Salvatore, have excellent taste," she said and picked up her menu. She smirked at the fact that he had chosen Italian. She knew from his last name that he was of that nationality, but the fact that he had chosen an Italian restaurant meant he took pride in it. Either that, or he knew it was a safe choice for a first date.
He smirked back at her. "I know," he replied, not talking about the restaurant in the least. "So..." he started after they had been sitting in silence for a long moment. "Is it okay to ask what you do now, or are you planning on keeping that information from me a bit longer?"
"Hmmm..." she said, pretending to give it serious thought.
"Are you a spy?" he asked in a low voice.
She gave him a playfully serious look and shrugged her shoulders. "If I tell you, I might have to kill you."
He grinned. "I see."
The waiter had chosen to come at that moment to take their orders. When that was taken care of, Elena sat back in her chair and smiled softly. "I actually have two jobs," she informed him.
"Wow, someone's busy."
"During the day I'm a bank teller and at night I wait tables."
"Two completely different jobs."
She shrugged again. "It's easy. My day job involves me sitting around all day. It's perfect for the days where I only get a few hours of sleep from having to close the restaurant so late."
"As long as you're happy."
She nodded. "It was supposed to be temporary, something to put me through college, but I was having too much fun living that I never did my assignments."
His smile wavered a bit at that. "What were you going to school for?"
"I wanted to be a teacher."
"You don't want to anymore?"
"Someday," she said, taking a sip of water. "I have many years ahead of me and I'm making good money. I know people can go their whole lives saying that they'll go back to school someday, but I know I will."
His full smile returned as he lifted his wine glass and tipped her towards her. "Again, as long as you're happy."
She raised her water glass and clinked it to his. "I am. What about you? Did you always know you wanted to be an architect?"
He nodded and launched into many stories that led him to the place he was in today. They talked, they laughed, they ate; all in all having a wonderful time. When dinner was over, they took a cab back to her hotel. They stood in front of the building as the cab waited to take him back to his hotel. "We should do this again," he said, moving closer to her.
"I'd like that."
"I'll call you," he promised and leaned in until his lips briefly touched hers.
When he pulled away, they waved their goodbyes and she watched as the cab disappeared into traffic. Once it was out of sight, she hurried up to her suite to tell Caroline every single detail just as they had done since junior high.
Elena's fingers gently touched her lips. To this day, she could still feel their first kiss, that fleeting moment where his lips had barely brushed over hers. It was her fondest memory. Again, her hand sought out the ring and the memories of all their dates after the first one played out in her mind. She remembered the day she had discovered that they actually lived in the same town, only an hour away from each other. The day that they became official. The first time they had slept together and the many times after that. The day that they moved in together.
The most recent memory she had was the day he proposed. It had happened six months ago, a year and a half since they had started dating. Their goal was to get married within the next six months, that way their anniversary would always be the same. Elena's eyes closed as the familiar panic began to settle in, the ring suddenly feeling as though it were made of lead. The wedding was next week and as each day took them closer to that final step, Elena began to panic more and more. She knew she loved him, but the idea of commitment still didn't sit well with her. She could feel the walls closing in the moment he got down on one knee.
"Elena..." She heard her name being called softly from a distance. "Elena..." Each time it seemed to get louder and sounded closer. When she opened her eyes, it was to see Stefan lying perpendicular to her, staring at her. "Morning," he said once she was awake.
"Morning," she grumbled. She had never been a morning person.
"Wake up, Love."
"It's Saturday. Neither of us have to work. Go back to bed." She said all of this with a half smile on her lips.
"I know, but I made you breakfast."
She pursed her lips together and looked thoughtful. "I guess if there's food involved."
He grinned as they both got out of bed. "It's still cooking, so you can take a shower and get dressed if you'd like," he suggested, knowing she wasn't one for lounging around in pajamas.
"Sounds good. I'll be down shortly," she answered kissing his cheek before heading to the bathroom.
Elena sped her morning routine up a bit. She had a feeling that this wasn't going to be a normal breakfast because usually he didn't start cooking until she was already awake. She recalled the first time they had met when he told her he wasn't good at keeping secrets and he was very right about that. He was not good at being sneaky which led Elena to be pretty confident about knowing what he was up to. And for whatever reason, she was feeling anxious. She had thought of this day many times throughout her life and she had always imagined that she would feel happy, but she wasn't.
Once Elena started descending the stairs, the smell of food hit her nostrils and her mouth watered. "It smells so good," she said, entering the kitchen to see Stefan was plating things up.
Elena helped him carry the plates to the table and they both sat down to enjoy their meal. When they were about done, Stefan began talking about their life together thus far. Immediately, Elena felt her stomach tie up in knots; her suspicions had been correct.
"I'll never be able to tell you how happy I am that we dove for the same cab that day. I used to hate the rain, but now it reminds me of you," he said, reaching across the table to take her hand in his. "Elena, you changed my life in so many ways. I love you," he added and then let go of her to slide off the chair and get down on one knee. Tears sprang to her eyes; she was both happy and scared for what came next. Stefan reached for the ring box he had stashed under the table and opened it. "Will you marry me?"
Elena cleared her throat, mesmerized by the sapphire gem that sparkled in the light. Once again, she felt panic when she should have felt happy. Hoping that the feeling would go away, she nodded. "Yes," she breathed and Stefan slipped the ring onto her finger.
Only the feeling hadn't gone away. It had intensified over time and lately it was all Elena felt. Every time she had to go over wedding details with Caroline, she was seized with fear, but she pushed through, telling herself it was just nerves.
Elena looked down at her ring and then over to Stefan who was still sleeping. The panic escalated and Elena found it hard to breathe. The walls were closing in rapidly now and she had to get out. Without another thought, Elena dashed to their walk in closet and dressed as quickly and as quietly as she could. Careful not to wake Stefan, she approached him and placed a kiss on his temple. "I'm sorry," she whispered and then hurried from the room.
Once downstairs, she grabbed her purse from the table by the front door and walked out to her car. Behind the wheel, she looked at her ring again and pulled it from her finger. After putting it into the car's ashtray and closing it, she drove off into the night.