Takes place after Ep 15, The Dinner Party, sort of. Think AU (and not just because I saw the episode ages ago and have probably misremembered it).

Please do review, what you say helps me shape the next chapters.

Enjoy. It's a humble beginning… but it will get racier and justify that M rating, I promise!

Finding the Strength

Chapter One: Pool Party

Back at the boarding house, finally. Elena never expected to be so pleased to see it. She tried to get out the car, but she was still weak. Stefan was at her side in a flash and lifted her up off the ground.

"No, no! I can walk." She protested and reluctantly he lowered her again, but insisted on giving her his arm to lean on. The walked slowly towards the door just as Damon pulled up in his car behind them. He followed behind them in to the house.

When they were indoors, Elena lowered herself stiffly into a chair. She was healing crazy fast and the effect was actually somewhat dizzying. Stefan offered to get her something, but she shook her head. She just wanted to let the process complete. Damon went to get blood for himself and that ghastly stuff from the butchers for his brother. They both needed the strength.

"I'm fed up of this." She almost whispered, Stefan was immediately at her side, crouching down and holding her hand.

"What is it? Does it hurt?" He put a tentative hand lightly on the place where she had stabbed herself. She shook her head.

"No, not that. I'm fed up with the fact that I feel so helpless. Such a victim." Damon overheard the comment as he re-entered the room.

"You're not a victim – you fought bravely." He said and Stefan nodded his agreement.

"None of us managed to do what you achieved tonight." He added.

It was her turn to shake her head.

"No. It wasn't about skill. It was blind luck and some sweet talking. I had to half kill myself to have any chance of beating him and then I hurt my damn wrist when I stabbed him! I'm weak, pathetic. And besides, a little trick like that wouldn't work on Klaus. Who are we trying to kid?"

"Well, don't whine, do something about it." Damon said somewhat unsympathetically. "If you don't like the way things are. Change them. We can train you."

She looked up at him, curious.

"You can?"

"Yes. We can get you fit; improve your reflexes, speed, agility - stamina." He continued. Stefan was looking at her intensely, she looked between them both. "You'll never be a vampire, but you can be a better human."

"Okay." She said simply. Stefan looked troubled.

"Are you sure you want this? We will keep you safe. You don't have to do this."

"No. I want this, Stefan, I do. I am fed up of feeling like I can't do anything. If this is a war, then I want to fight. I can't just be bait."

"We start tomorrow. In the pool, eight a.m. sharp." Damon announced, then walked away towards his room.

"Are you sure about this?" Stefan repeated.

"You'll be there, won't you?"

"Of course."

"Then yes." She set her chin firmly.

"Oh, and Elena…" Damon called down the stairs. "Thanks for killing the badass vampire." He closed the door behind him.

She was in the pool up to her waist, wondering why on earth she was here shivering in Jenna's one piece (well, she wasn't about to wear her bikini – which is all she had otherwise). She had been letting her hands dabble in the water, but even though the sun cast golden reflections on the water, it was too early for it to generate any heat. She began to shiver, so crossed her arms and huddled her hands in her armpits. She felt freezing and clueless. What a combination… Both the boys came out the back of the house together and walked towards the edge of the pool. To her faint surprise they were fully clothed with the exception of shoes and socks. Increasing her sense of astonishment, Stefan suddenly jumped into the pool like that. He hardly disturbed the surface of the water when he entered it, such was his grace. He waded towards her, his pants sticking to his thighs and his pale blue t-shirt to his chest. He looked pretty damn hot actually. To her even greater surprise, Damon followed him into the pool fully clothed too, only he stayed at the edge, leaning backwards on the side looking at her with a little too much enthusiasm.

"Good morning." Damon said, a smile on his face.

"Did I miss the bit where you said there was a dress code?" She said looking somewhat perturbed when Stefan moved a couple of steps behind her. He reached out and placed his hands on her hips and turned her back to face Damon again, front and centre. It made her nervous somehow and she tried again to turn and face him again, but he repeated the movement and asked her to stay still. So she stayed put and shivered.

"Our clothes will slow us down." Stefan said from behind her.

"And we want that because….?"

"Oh, believe me – you'll want me to be slower. Much slower." Damon added narrowing his eyes, the double meaning in his words not lost on her; she chose to ignore it.

"So what are we doing?"

"You wanted to be trained, so we are training you. If we do it in water, you won't get hurt."

"Oh, kinda like Dirty Dancing! I get you." She said. They looked at her blankly. Hmm, chick-flick reference, she was going to have to explain. "Well Patrick Swayze is trying to teach Baby this crazy dance move, but she can't nail it, so he teaches her in a river…" Seeing the utter boredom on Damon's face, her words fizzled out. "Never mind, let's get on with it. Whatever 'it' is."

Whilst she had been speaking, she did not notice that Stefan was looking over her shoulder to his brother and whispering a word so quietly that not a living soul would have heard what he said. It drifted like the breeze to his brother's super-hearing. One word.


"So when are we going to start?" She asked and when there was no reply, she was about to try and turn around again, when Damon started to peel off his t-shirt. He did it very slowly and very, very deliberately – stretching his body like a cat in the sun. She tried so hard not to notice his golden tan body, or the way his pants sat just a bit too low, or the way his pecs rippled like….


She hit the water with a thud. She panicked and flapped around like a stranded fish, her eyes open and stinging, her nose and mouth chokingly full of water. It took a few seconds for the terror to subside long enough so she could find her footing and scrabble to surface, spluttering and cursing them both. Stefan removed his arm from where it had been placed across her belly. He was stood on the opposite side to her than he had been moments before. His movement had been so fast she had neither seen nor comprehended it.

"For chrissakes! Was the purpose of this to try and kill me?" She complained, coughing and spluttering, hating the burning sensation in the back of her throat.

"What the hell was that?" Stefan said crossly to Damon.

"You said distract her. I distracted her." He had the most devious of smiles on his face. His brother ignored him and returned to his position a couple of steps behind Elena.

"Oh no you don't! I'm not doing that again." She said, sidestepping so he could not be directly behind her.

"Fast learner." Damon chuckled.

"Its okay, I won't hurt you. If we told you what we were going to do, you wouldn't have learned anything. Now look, you wanted this – so you have to concentrate. Focus on Damon, but know your real enemy is behind you."

Damon, now topless and leaning back with his arms on the poolside again, looked delicious and he knew it. She tried hard to be distracted by him and tried to feel for the moment Stefan would move around her and try to flatten her again. But Damon made a rapid move and was suddenly just three steps in front of her, scaring her half to death. Before she knew what was happening, she was blowing water out of her nostrils again. She surfaced, furious and red faced, splashing her little fists on the water.

"Damn it! I didn't see you move at all. So much for your clothes slowing you down! Try some shackles." She complained, pushing her hair back off her face and blinking her eyes rapidly.

"Actually, you did better that time." Stefan said. "But this is going to take time."

"I can't keep this up all day. You are going to drown me!" She complained.

"Ok, we'll move on. Distraction is something you will learn about in time. Come into the deeper water."

He moved backwards gracefully, reaching his hands out towards her, which she took. He pulled her into gently into his body and she deliberately nestled against him, floating into his arms and kissing him playfully, wanting to punish Damon a little bit for making her suffer. He said nothing, but merely walked behind her almost silently, barely disturbing the water as he did so. The pair of them moved like otters, it was annoying how imperceptible their movements were. She slipped her hands under Stefan's wet t-shirt, but he pushed them down. He hadn't been adverse to making Damon suffer a little bit either, but this was serious and enough was enough.

"What's next?" She asked.

"Feel like hitting Damon?" Stefan asked cheerily. Damon rolled his eyes.

"Oh sure!" She said enthusiastically, then turned to face the man behind her, a big cheesy grin on her face. He smiled back with fake enthusiasm.

"Ok. Hit him." Stefan said, barely containing the laugh in his voice.

"What? Just smack him down?"

"Sure. You go for it. Wipe that smirk off his face." Stefan said, looking Damon in the eye.

Elena put herself in a boxing stance, fists up towards her face. She bounced about in the water.

"Ready for me?" She asked, playfully shadow boxing.

"I think I'll cope…" He said dryly.

She looked at Stefan for reassurance and he pointed his open hand at his brother's face.

"Here I come!" She warned, then lightly swung her hand out to hit him. Even if she had made contact, it would have been about as bad as being hit by a pillow. However, suddenly she found herself looking down on the pool from above, watching drips from her torso hit the water as she had been lifted bodily in the air above Damon's head. He had not only maneuvered away from her pathetic punch, but had turned 180 degrees the other way, so that Stefan was now in fact behind him. Damon's hands were digging into her sides as he held her high above his head. She shrieked, not liking this sensation one bit. She felt giddy (half caused by the water still in her ears) and began kicking her legs and wriggling. He dropped her unceremoniously and for the third time she hit the water with a splash.

"Bad luck." He said, walking back to his original position. Stefan put a hand down to retrieve her and she emerged spluttering worse than before.

"That was out of order!" He scalded his brother angrily.

"She tried to hit me!" Damon replied.

"Yeah, well, what if I hit you?" Stefan took a step towards him and Damon puffed his chest up and also took a step forwards. Elena, having somewhat regained her composure, was in the middle of the pair of them. She looked at them both desperate to rip a piece out of each other.

She balled her fist and smacked Damon in the stomach for all she was worth. He actually staggered backwards.

"Distraction!" She said grinning like a fool.