*clears throat*

Good morning/Good evening, depending on where on earth this update finds you!

A big THANK YOU to Grace4Delena aka Frickholic, the best beta I could ever have!

Go ahead and read this admittedly really long chapter. You will find my usual rant at the end!

Disclaimer: I don't own TVD, even though I'd love to!

"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending."

Caroline gasped as she abruptly sat up on the unfamiliar bed, the room around her spinning for a few moments before settling down, and allowing her to realize that she was someplace she didn't recognize.

"Well, crap," she whispered under her breath, rubbing her palm on the soft comforter. This wasn't the Boarding House, she was certain of that. The bedroom she was in was decorated in a more modern way. The walls were painted crème, the furniture was made of ebony, and the covers of the bed were a burgundy red. "Where the hell am I?" she asked, squinting. It wasn't easy to make out many details, since the only illumination came from a floor lamp placed in the opposite corner of the room.

Shaking her head, she threw her legs over the side of the bed, and stood up. Apart from a minor case of dizziness, she didn't feel anything. No pain, nothing. Which was totally not normal, given that the last thing she remembered was Elena driving a knife through her heart.

"That bastard," she cursed lowly, as the image of Stefan filled her head. She had never hated a person more than him in her entire life. He had been cruel, and sick, and …a vampire? A loud gasp escaped her lips, and she froze as another memory flashed behind her eyelids. Sharp white teeth aligned to her stomach, and blue eyes surrounded by bloody red glaring down at her. The rest of the man's, vampire's, she corrected herself,features were hazy. She knew him. She couldn't explain how, or why, or when, but she knew him. She had met another vampire, then? How could she had forgotten?

"You look like you saw a ghost," the familiar voice brought her out of her confusing thoughts, and Caroline sighed in relief as she lunged to wrap her arms around Elena.

"Elena, oh my God, I am so glad you are alive! What happened? How did we get out of there? What is this place?" she couldn't help but frown when Elena remained motionless in her embrace. Something was wrong.

"Elena?" she asked pulling back to get a closer look at her. Her hair was curly again, when did she get the chance to do it? For how long had Caroline been unconscious anyway? And she had put on eye-shadow. Elena rarely used eye-shadow.

"No, it's Katherine," Elena replied smirking. Since when did Elena smirk? "But I am sure it's a pleasure to meet me."

"Katherine?" Caroline exclaimed, incredulity clear in her tone "Elena, come on, cut the crap. Are you high, or something?"

Katherine rolled her eyes.

"My name is Katherine. I am aware that Elena is wearing my face, but she sure as hell can't wear my clothes. Can she?" she pointed down at her skin tight jeans, matched with a low-cut red shirt and boots that reached up to her knees.

Caroline wobbled slightly. She had a point.

"So, you are saying that not only vampires exist, but also by some freaky twist of fate Elena has a twin?"

"I am more like her 60th great-grandmother, but twin sounds more appealing, yes," Katherine shrugged, and took a strand of her locks between her fingers, playing with it. "But you are asking the wrong questions."

"And what is the right question?" Caroline snapped back. She preferred the ordinary version of Elena. This Katherine girl had too much of an attitude for her style.

"What are you?"

"What is that supposed to mean?" Caroline wondered aloud. Were these riddles really necessary? Couldn't Katherine just spit out whatever she was trying to say?

"You are slow," Katherine groaned, plopping down on the bed, and leaning backwards on her palms. "I expected you to be smarter. If I had known you were a brainless Barbie, I would have never given you my blood."

"Your blood?" Caroline closed her eyes and inhaled deeply through her nose. "Okay, you are officially making no sense, and I have more than had my share of dealing with psychos, so if you'll excuse me, I've got a life to get back to." Flipping her hair over her shoulder, she started walking towards the door. She didn't even make it to the middle of the room. Suddenly, a body collided with her own, and she was harshly thrust against a wall. Her head burned from where it came in contact with the hard concrete, and the hand that was pressing down on her throat didn't exactly make it easy for her to breath. She attempted to scowl at Katherine, whose brown eyes now looked positively terrifying as the white of the sclera gave its place to bright red. Vampire.

Katherine felt Caroline's body relaxing, and her shoulders slumping down in defeat.

"Listen to me, Barbie. If it weren't for me, you would be six feet under right now. I don't care if you are genetically imbecile, but if you don't prove to be helpful to me, I will kill you, and use your blood to make strawberry margaritas. Do you understand?" she tightened her grip, and Caroline chocked. "Do you understand?"

Caroline nodded as best as she could, tears streaming down her face. Perhaps it would have been easier if she had really died. Katherine withdrew her arm, and Caroline slid down the wall until she was sitting on the cold floor. She gently massaged her neck as she looked up. Katherine had her hands resting on the sides of her waist as she glared down at her.

"This is how it works. I am going to explain it once, so listen closely. I am a vampire. I gave you my blood. You died. My blood brought you back. You are now in transition. You feed and you live," a crimson bag landed in front of Caroline's naked feet. She glanced down. Blood. "You don't feed, and you die. It's your choice." Caroline swallowed hard and looked away from the bag. There was a part of her that felt disgusted at its content. But that didn't stop her stomach from growling, or her mouth from watering.

Katherine's boots clinked loudly on the wooden boards as she slowly moved away.

"Oh," Caroline gasped as she once again focused her eyes on the intimidating vampire. She could no longer see Elena in her. Elena had never, could never look so sinister. "Eau de rotting corpse isn't really one of my favourites."

Caroline's jaw dropped as the vampire blurred out of sight. She was all alone again. She absentmindedly licked her lips, as she hesitantly brought her right index down, and ran it over the surface of the bag. The material gave in under the pressure of her digit, and a faint pain started building inside her gums. She could now sense the liquid as it swirled away from her thrusting finger. It wasn't very warm, or very cold, and she found herself wondering how it would feel pooling inside her mouth, and then sliding down her aching throat.

She gasped loudly, and pulled her hand back as if she had been burnt. With a frustrated sigh, she kicked the bag away. It skidded across the shiny floor and ended up beneath the bed, hidden from her.

Good, she didn't need it under nose, practically begging her to be drunk. Because she wasn't really considering drinking it, right? For what? To become a vampire? No, that was insane.

Caroline dropped her head on top of her knees, and closed her eyes tightly, hoping it would help her forget her burning throat, and the delicious smelling blood only a few meters away from her.

Elena gritted her teeth against the chilly wind that sneaked under her dress, and brought goosebumps on her skin. She had wisely chosen to put her hair up in a ponytail, so as she stood in front of Matt's freshly dug grave, there wasn't hair flying around her face and blocking her view. She could perfectly make out the vibrant brown, still wet soil that covered his coffin. There was absolutely nothing indicating this was his resting place. Nothing except for Damon's word that is, who had watched the grave diggers as they worked. Taking a deep breath, she reached out and placed down the red rose she had been holding so far. She felt the tears building behind her eyelids and she wondered if her body would ever stop having this reaction. Was there a certain limit to the tears a person could shed? Because with her luck, it probably wouldn't take her more than a couple of years to reach it.

"It gets easier you know," Damon murmured, pushing his hands into the pockets of his black slacks.

"What? Burying people I love?" Elena commented dryly, making him sigh, and stare up at the sky. Several times he had asked himself the same questions that were surely buzzing around in her head. Why did this have to happen to him? Why not somebody else? Why had Katherine chosen to move into Mystic Falls in 1864? Why did he have to fall in love with her? Why did he have to have such an unstable idiot for a brother? He never really found any answers. He doubted he ever would.

But nothing can ever come out of a self-inflicted torture of what ifs and whys. Eventually you need to get over it. You need to understand that reality is a bitch, and accept that some things just have to be this way.

"Life," he clarified. "You will figure out how to get through the shit it throws at you."

"Every time something bad happens, I promise to myself that next time it will be different, I will be prepared, I will be ready, I will be strong. But I am always brought down on my knees. Whoever's up there doesn't want to give me a break." Damon chuckled.

"Whoever is up there doesn't give a fuck about us, Elena. Don't be fooled. There are no angels waiting to fight your battles, to solve your problems, to live your life. That's all on you."

The sound of approaching footsteps made Elena exchange a look of alarm with Damon, before standing up to her full height. His fingers gently but firmly wrapped around her elbow, and she allowed him to pull her a little closer. There was a figure walking closer to them, a man dressed in black, his head bowed down, hiding his features.

Damon frowned as he struggled to place him. He had seen him before, he was certain of it, and when against all odds the sun managed to shine brightly through a tiny gap between the black clouds, the man turned his head to the side to avoid the sudden blinding rays. It was enough.

"Maurice," Damon growled under his breath, taking the necessary steps to stand protectively in front of Elena. For once, she didn't protest, and he was relieved. He wasn't sure whether Bonnie's dad should be considered a threat. What he did know, was that when he had let him walk out of the Boarding house alive, he had warned him to get away fast. Well, this… this was clearly not him getting away.

"What are you doing here?" Damon demanded as Maurice paused a few feet from them and smiled sadly. Elena frowned as she took in the lines on the skin of his forehead, lines that hadn't been there a few days ago. That weekend had left them all scared.

"I was saying goodbye to Bonnie. I knew that Matt would be around here, too, but had no further clues as to where exactly. Not until you two showed up."

"Okay, now you know where he is. You can disappear anytime, anywhere, any place, just, like you agreed."

"Damon," Elena intervened, feeling sorry for the older man. Damon was attacking him for no reason. Maurice was one of the kindest people she had ever met, and he wasn't dangerous, since he wasn't a witch like his daughter. Bonnie had inherited her powers from her mother, who had taken the legacy from her own mother. So, there really wasn't any need for this hostility. She walked around Damon, making sure, though, to remain close to him.

"We thought he should be near people he knew," she explained, motioning at her parents' graves next to Matt's.

"That was very thoughtful of you," he whispered with a sigh. "I wasn't close to Matt, but Bonnie used to talk about him often. He was a good friend." Elena nodded.

"Yes, he was."

Damon was still on the alert. Could anyone blame him, really? After everything? He knew that eventually he would need to take a step back and leave Elena live her life, instead of acting like a fucking overprotective boyfriend. Friend. Ex boyfriend's brother. Whatever. For now, he would stick around.

"Bonnie should have never allowed Matt's death," Maurice muttered, making Damon chuckle. There were a lot of things that bitch of a witch shouldn't have done. He bit down on his tongue, swallowing the hail of insults that were dying to get out of his lips. No matter how gratifying and right they may have sounded in his head, calling Bonnie names wouldn't have done any good. It would have rather earned him one of Elena's "special glares". No, thank you.

"She did it to save you," Elena replied coldly. Damon had given her the short version of how Stefan had gotten Bonnie to help him. She could now feel a little bit of sympathy for her dead best friend. Being forced to pick between your only parent and your friends can't be easy. It wasn't enough to forgive her.

"Bonnie chose wrong, Elena, and we both know it. You don't want to say it in my face, because you don't want to hurt me. You are a nice girl. But you can't do any more damage. I am already disappointed at my daughter. I raised her so that she could be what she was destined to. A powerful witch. A fair, right powerful witch. Not someone who sacrifices the lives of two young people with no reason." Damon raised an eyebrow in shock. It seemed like Witchy hadn't gotten her insanity from the male side of her family. The man sounded reasonable enough, and his arguments were even better than his own. Huh. Elena remained silent, equally taken aback. She was surprised that a parent could be so not sad at his offspring's death.

"I will get going now," Maurice said after a few moments of nothing but silence. "I wish you all the best for the rest of your lives. Both of you," he nodded in Damon's direction, who managed an awkward grimace in response. "I am sorry that Bonnie's actions caused you so much grief and pain. Goodbye."

"Hey, are you okay?" Damon asked, gently grapping Elena's arm, effectively keeping her from unlocking the front door of the house. She closed her eyes for a moment, and then turned around to face him. His expression was warm and open and worried. How could people fall for his façade? How could they actually believe he was a monster? How could she had seen him as a monster?

"I will be," she whispered, swallowing down the lump that was starting to form on the back of her throat. Inside, everyone was waiting for them. Jenna had kept worrying over her and Jeremy over the weekend, so Damon had asked Alaric to take away her vervain spiked perfume. Now, Damon would compel her, giving her a bunch of excuses as to why both kids had been missing for so long. Jeremy and Anna were here, too. They were leaving tonight, and had come to say goodbye. And of course, Anna would have to compel Jenna a little more. "Eventually," she added quietly, and Damon cocked his head to the side. Never breaking eye contact, he raised his hand, and delicately stroked the side of her chin. She leaned into his touch.

"I just wish I knew what was going on with Caroline," she admitted. Damon nodded. He had been searching for Barbie for several long hours, but to no avail. It was like she had vanished into thin air, leaving no trace whatsoever. Which made absolutely no sense. Even if she were dead, he would have at least managed to catch her scent. He also couldn't find Cruella and Jasper. The coincidence reeked of troubles.

"I will try again tomorrow, okay?" he promised. "They have to be in town, I will find them." He didn't mention how hard it would be, he didn't share his suspicions that the reason behind their nonexistent scents was the new witch's doing. Somehow he would find his way around it, even if it was really a spell. Anything to see Elena smiling again.

Elena gazed up at him appreciatively, and then opened the door. As soon as she walked into the small hall of the house, Jenna rushed out from the living room. Elena had barely enough time to take in the expression on her Aunt's face. Her eyes were wide, her look one of pure worry as tears streamed down her face. Then Jenna had wrapped her arms around Elena's body, squeezing her so tightly that her back started to ache.

"Hey, Jenna," she breathed into her hair, unable to hug her back, since her arms had been caught between their bodies. "It's okay."

"What happened, Elena?" Jenna pulled back, and grabbed her shoulders, shaking her once. "Your phone was turned off, and I couldn't reach Jeremy, either. Where the hell were you?"

"Jenna, I promise I am fine, we are both fine. I am so sorry."

"I thought something had happened to you. Even John was worried," Jenna sniffed and took a step back. Her eyes fell on Damon, who was still standing on the doorstep. "And what's with this get-together? Alaric drove me here and refused to leave, Jeremy brought his friend, Anna, and now you and Damon? I don't understand…"

Elena glanced helplessly back at Damon, who puckered his lips together. This wasn't something he was used to. Being nice, and gentle. The only human he had ever cared to be kind to was Elena. But it looked like the closer to her he got, the more civilized he would have to act. Did he really want this? Was it worth it?

Somewhere in Elena's brown gaze he found his answer. He blinked, and suddenly there were scenes flashing behind his eyelids, memories. Elena laughing as he caught the glass that had slipped through her fingers, the sound of the slap she gave him over Vicky's dead body, the shortness of her breath while they were dancing for the Pageant, the way she clung at him after he brought her safely back home. But the most vivid memory of all was one that had taken place several months ago, back when Elena was just a normal seventeen year old girl, carefree and happy, and gorgeous in her innocence.

They hadn't known each other like they did now. They were just two strangers who happened to cross paths. Well actually, he had happened to be lying on the ground, right in the middle of the road she was wandering on. Damon wasn't even sure whether he was hunting, or just chilling. Over the decades, he had learned that particular trick could be effective to both ends. But he could remember the very first moment he saw her. Oh yeah. He almost had a heart attack. His long lost love was nervously pacing back and forth, only a few feet away from him. He could remember getting up in a blur, running up to her, and immediately realizing something was off. Her scent wasn't right. Well, it was right. It was perfect, even. But it wasn't Katherine's. A surge of anger had clouded his mind for a moment, but then she had opened her mouth and told him her name. And he knew he couldn't harm her. There was something about that girl. Her sideways flirty smile? The one that he had never seen her smile again? Was it the trust she had immediately shown him? The adorable frustration in her eyes as she talked about her lover's quarrel with Matt? No. No, it wasn't that. Frankly, he had no idea what it was.

Regardless, after that night, he found himself often thinking back to his human days. Back when he used to have dreams. Dreams that didn't involve bringing a mummified two-faced girlfriend back to the world of the living. Dreams that didn't involve contemplating researching the world's most painful torture machines and techniques to use on his own brother. He used to have dreams about himself, dreams about family, and growing old next to a woman he would love. Dreams he had to abandon the moment he had his first taste of human blood and joined the vampire club.

Now, as he stood frozen at the front door of the Gilbert house, two pairs of eyes focused on him, one begging for explanations and the other one for help… he knew that the only way to get as close as possible to the life he used to dream of, was with Elena next to him. He would never be human again, he had to accept that a long time ago. He'd never have kids, hell, he would probably suck at it anyway, and turn them into sex, or booze addicts, or both. But perhaps he could adjust to a certain extent his unnatural vampire life to the human one he had planned.

"Everything is fine, Jenna," he said reassuringly, laying his hand on Elena's waist to push her further inside, so that he could close the door behind him. He could almost sense Jenna's burning stare on his arm. If she were a witch, she would have definitely given him a couple of aneurysms. Yikes. "We are just going to have a little talk."

Elena couldn't help but flinch when she realized how wrong this had sounded, and how wrong the whole situation looked.

"You..." Jenna trailed, pointing at the nonexistent space between their bodies "Oh, God," she slapped her forehead, extending her arm towards the wall, using it to keep herself upright. "You two got together behind Stefan's back, and now Elena's pregnant."

"What? No!" Elena screamed in horror, feeling the blush that crept all the way up to the roots of her hair.

Pregnant? Jesus Christ, guardians were really obsessed with the pregnancy thing. Damon tried to hold back his smirk. Not that he wouldn't love to try. Again. And again. And again. Still...drama much?

Jenna apparently took Damon's silence as a confirmation to her suspicions.

"Oh my God, I need to sit down. I think I am going to faint," Jenna exclaimed, turning her back on them, and walking away with wobbling steps.

"Come on," Damon pointed his chin towards the living room. "The sooner we get this started, the sooner we can put it behind us."

Elena allowed him to lead her deeper inside the house, where everyone was waiting. Jeremy stood up immediately, and gave Elena a short hug. She smiled softly as she realized that it wasn't that hard this time. She didn't feel like screaming at the sensation of his firm grip on her.

"How long have you been here?"

"Long enough to know that we need to get this over with quickly," he glanced at Damon. "Jenna is going crazy with worry, we can't let her go through this anymore."

Elena nodded, inhaling through her nose, before approaching the couch Jenna was sitting on. Alaric was standing behind her sobbing aunt, his features pulled in a grimace. Elena tried unsuccessfully to catch his eyes. Was he mad at her? She suddenly felt the weight of someone's gaze on her, and she gasped as she spotted the brown haired vampire more, or less hiding at the corner. She offered her a tiny smile; that was all she could handle. Anna was Jeremy's girlfriend, whom he was deeply in love with, and without her they'd probably both be dead. But Anna had also kidnapped her a few weeks ago.

"Okay, Jenna," Damon's voice was surprisingly smooth as he inched his way closer, slowly, making sure not to startle her.

"Why are you here?" Jenna eyed him warily.

"You wanted to know what happened this weekend, and I am here to tell you." She still didn't look convinced.

"Why you? Why not Elena, or Jeremy?"

"Look, they are both here," he whispered, gently taking her left hand in his as he kneeled down in front of her. "There's nothing to be afraid of, okay?"

"Okay," she finally replied.

"Friday night you dropped Elena off to spend her weekend with Stefan," Damon started speaking in a quiet tone, and Elena could tell the moment her aunt gave into the pull of his compulsion. Her pupils dilated, her tears stopped falling, and her entire body visibly relaxed. "They got into a fight, an ugly one, and Elena broke things off. She gave Caroline a call and they spent the weekend together. Just watching movies, eating junk food and all that. Her phone died, and then she forgot to call you and say she was ok. She was fine, though. She cried at first, until Caroline reminded her what a strong, wonderful woman she is, and that she shouldn't waste her tears for someone like Stefan." Damon's voice broke for a moment, and Alaric staggered back. Elena threw her hand over her mouth, feeling her lips trembling beneath it. Jeremy turned his head to the side, his eyes meeting Anna's, their fingers intertwining. "You were really worried about her, but you know how it is, a teenage break-up is like the end of the world. Right?"

"Yes," Jenna nodded "they can mess you up."

"Exactly," Damon chuckled under his breath "so, you are not going to ground her like you were planning to. You are going to buy lots of ice-cream, and one of these days rent some chick flicks, so that you can have a girls night. That is what Elena needs. Comfort, food, and comedies.""


"Good," Damon glanced up over his shoulder at Anna, who nodded, and moved to settle down next to Jenna.

Damon stood up, feeling the circulation in his legs resuming, and he rolled his shoulders. They were stiff. The back of his neck also hurt, and damn if he couldn't feel a headache building up. In all his one hundred and sixty four years he had never before heard of a vampire having headaches. If he were human, he'd be collapsing on the floor right now. But he was a vampire. He was stronger than humans. His senses were also a lot more developed. His eyes were focused on Anna's back, as it rose and fell slowly from her calm breathing. Words were flowing out of her mouth, lies that she was planting into Jenna's head. In his peripheral vision, Alaric was leaning against the wall, his arms crossed in front of his chest, his jaw locked, but trembling. Damon would take a wise guess and say he didn't like what they were doing to his newest girlfriend. Damn, he should have thrown in the compulsion that Alaric needed to get laid more. That would have softened him up.

Despite all these thoughts, he was still able to pick up the faint sound of Elena's footsteps as she quietly exited the room. He turned around, and managed to catch a glimpse of the back of her body as she disappeared. Damon sighed. He should have expected this wouldn't be easy for her. Well, he had expected it. But what was he supposed to do? Lock her up in her bedroom so that she wouldn't have to see vampires screwing with her aunt's mind? Without a word to the others, he followed the sound of her heartbeat, chuckling darkly to himself when it lead him to the front porch. The irony definitely didn't escape him. Here was where she had asked him to compel her brother. At least this time, it wasn't his own behavior that had brought on the need for mind control.

Elena was standing next to the stairs, her head shaking from side to side. Her voice was unsteady when she spoke.

"I am a horrible person."

"No, you are not." She span around, her expression angry.

"I have now had two out of the three living members of my family compelled. You know what happened when Jeremy found out. He was furious. He didn't even want to look me in the eye."

"And then he got over it, Elena. You were helping him, and you are helping Jenna. You're doing the best you can. Which is by itself hard to do, given that you don't exactly live in the Emerald City."

She didn't seem very persuaded from his words. Elena took a deep breath, and then frowned as she examined his face. Now what?

"You need to get some sleep," she pointed out.

"I'm fine." Damon shrugged, and Elena rolled her eyes.

"Oh yeah, and the huge, scary black bags under your eyes, are an irrefutable proof of that," Elena huffed out, walking closer. "Seriously, Damon. I need you to get some rest tonight. You look horrible." Damon gasped.

"You are mean, milady. Normally I am told I am smoking hot."

"Damon, I am being serious," she scolded, putting her hands on the sides of her waist, and attempting a mini-glare on him. His expression changed instantly.

"I am being serious, too, Elena," he replied sharply "Stefan is out there. Stefan is out there with Katherine," he amended "which is worse. And dangerous. Sleep is out of the question when they can barge into your bedroom whenever they want to add some spice to their unlives." The wheels into Elena's head started spinning as a plan slowly formed. He cringed.

"What if we were somewhere where they cannot enter?" she suggested.

"They both have a free pass to your house," She was actually painfully aware of that.

Elena's gaze flickered to something behind his shoulder, and Damon glanced back in confusion. Alaric was now standing by the front door, his arms crossed in front of his chest.

"Neither has been invited into my place, though."

"Oh, yay!" Damon cheered mockingly, as he, Elena and Alaric climbed up the stairs to the latter's apartment. "I have always dreamed of having a sleep over with a teenager, and a thirty something years old, who's more often than not day-drunk."

Alaric clenched his hands into fists, as he struggled to block Damon's nonstop complaint session. He'd been mumbling since the moment they left the Gilbert house, and honestly, he was starting to regret choosing to act all nice, and helpful. When he had mistakenly overheard Elena's conversation with Damon, something had crawled inside him, and he had blurted the words, before his mind could control his tongue. Just as he couldn't control it right now.

"Look who's talking." Damon scoffed but didn't respond.

"What a nice… Spartan hovel," Damon drawled bitterly, while Alaric fumbled with the key of the door. Elena leaned against the banister, momentarily closing her eyes. This was bad. As far as she had known, Damon and Alaric had been spending more and more time together lately. She had assumed they had developed some sort of friendship between them, but this didn't seem very fun for either one of them. Both men were fuming on the inside, and if she looked closer she would very possibly be able to see smoke rising from their ears, as well.

"I never promised the Four Seasons," Alaric pointed out as he turned on the lights, and stepped to the side to let them inside. He frowned when no one moved, and raised his head in confusion. Damon's lips were pulled in a tight smile, his arms raised so that his hands were resting against the doorframe. Oh.

"I have that sudden urge to hit my head with a baseball bat," he groaned. What damned force had pushed him into believing this was a good idea?

"Invite me in, and I'll be sure to relieve you from that inconvenience." Damon shot back sarcastically .

"Get your butt in here, Salvatore," Alaric said tiredly, holding the door open wider. Damon theatrically raised his foot off the floor, and gasped even more dramatically when he finally stepped inside.

"We just need a bed to crash on, Alaric. Don't pay attention to Damon," Elena reassured him as she followed them inside. The place was admittedly larger than what she had expected. A little messy, which was however not surprising, given that Alaric kept the house by himself.

"Yeah, about that…" Alaric nervously scratched the back of his head, as he mentally prepared himself for what was definitely coming his way. "There is only one guest room," Damon's expression froze "which of course Elena is taking."

Elena glanced between the two men in confusion. "And how are you two going to sleep?"

"I am sure Mr. History teacher is ready to spend a night on the couch. Isn't that right?" he demanded, taking a few steps, and coming to a halt inches from Alaric. Damon was actually shorter, even though he did a good job in looking intimidating.

"I didn't invite you in here, so that I could sleep on my highly uncomfortable couch."

"Well, that's unfortunate, because Damon Salvatore doesn't couch guard."

"I never said he'd have to," Alaric replied coolly, and Elena shook her head in disbelief.

"He means you're going to have to sleep together, Damon," she explained when he gave her a blank look, her eyes lighting up with humor. Under different circumstances he would have smiled at the image of her in a good mood, but… he and Alaric?

"We might be drink-buddies, but we'll never be promoted drink-buddies with benefits," he spat, pushing Alaric backwards with his hand.

"Is sex all you ever think about?" Alaric asked disgusted, moving deeper into the apartment. "As if sharing a bed with you has been my wild secret fantasy since the moment I met you."

"Well, no one would blame you," Damon muttered matter-of-factly, and Elena chuckled. The sound was a little weird, stiff… cold. But hey, baby steps, right?

"This is going to be an entertaining night." Damon narrowed his eyes, and pointed a warning index finger at her.

"Come, Elena, I will show you your room," Alaric intervened, grabbing her forearm to lead her in the right direction. Elena jumped up in fear, and quickly slipped out of his grasp, taking steps backwards until she could feel the heat of Damon's strong body against her back. Her heart was beating at a frenzied speed, and Damon growled at Alaric. "Sorry, I am sorry," he breathed, raising his hands in front of him. "I didn't mean to scare you, I just... didn't think."

"It's okay. I can't keep getting a heart attack every time someone touches me," Elena murmured, taking a deep breath to regain her composure. She nodded to herself, and smiled softly at Alaric. He looked absolutely terrified. "Let's go see my bed for tonight."

They were halfway across the room, when Alaric pointed at the black punching bag hanging from the ceiling, that apparently had grabbed Elena's attention, given her wide eyes, and slowed pace.

"That's the bag I used while training as a vampire hunter," there was a hint of sarcasm in his words, but Elena failed to notice. She was still gaping at the big black thing, as she resumed walking behind Alaric.

Caroline was shivering. She hadn't moved an inch since Katherine had left the room, and the only reason she knew a whole day had passed, was because the curtains weren't entirely covering the windows. She had silently watched as the tiny sliver of sunlight had gotten stronger and stronger until it faded into darkness. She closed her eyes tightly, as the pounding inside her skull intensified. It had only worsened as time went by, along with the fogginess of her thoughts. There was no logical consistency in them any more, they were simply fractured pieces of her memories, of her dreams. The bike her dad gave her on her eight birthday, the Christmas Eve that her mom had to put on her uniform and go down to the station, a sleep-over at Bonnie's place, the funeral of Elena's parents, Matt cuddling with her on the bed, her room, the colleges she had planned to apply to the next year, and the blood. It was as if she was more and more aware of its presence with every moment. She couldn't see it, but its smell was driving her insane. It was filling her nostrils, it was almost slipping through her pores. She sucked in a deep breath and regretted it instantly. How could she smell the blood, anyway? Oh, right, because I'm transitioning into a vampire, she chuckled to herself. All traces of humor escaped her when Katherine's voice echoed in her head. You don't feed and you die.

"I am dying," Caroline whispered brokenly, her lower lip trembling uncontrollably. Everything she had dreamed of, all the fights she'd had, all the beautiful moments, the parties, the boys… none of it mattered anymore. They were fading away, she was fading away. She cried, then, because she hadn't been prepared to face death so soon. If she had known, she would have begged her father to come visit her for a few days, she would have been a little nicer to her mom, she would have chosen to spend a few more moments with her friends, instead of going to the salon to get her nails and hair done. She had wasted her life, doing things that weren't important. She had been vain, and immature, and silly, and now she wouldn't get the chance to fix it.

You feed and you live.

With a sharp twist of her wrist, Caroline wiped her tears off her cheeks, and untangled her limbs. It took a lot more effort that what she had assumed to drag herself the few meters separating her from the queen sized bed. Her entire body hurt with every breath that she took, and she knew she had to hurry. She reached her right arm underneath the furniture, sighing in relief the moment her fingers came in contact with the slick surface of the bag. She grabbed it, and pulled back, almost falling on the floor in the process. She was weak, her vision was starting to get hazy, but she was Caroline Forbes and she was determined to survive. In whatever form. With shaking hands, she managed to pull the lid off the bag, and without over thinking it, she raised it in the air, her lips closing around the fluid tube, and her tongue darting out.

She couldn't help the gasp that escaped her when the first drops of liquid fell into her awaiting mouth. Her eyes closed, her grip on the bag tightening, making the blood flow faster. She drank and drank, moaning in satisfaction. It was better than any drink she'd ever head, better than any kind of chocolate. It was heaven in a bottle, or rather bag. It was over too soon, and Caroline was out of breath as she dropped the bag to the side, and stood up on her feet. Gone was the dizziness, and the pain. She felt lighter, but also stronger. It was a mesmerizing sensation.

Her gaze fell on the mirror above the vanity desk, and she walked closer, not failing to notice that her moves were more graceful now, even though she had always been able to carry herself delicately. Her smile widened as she took in her reflection. She looked exactly the same. Well, minus the makeup and the perfectly curled hair, but it was still her. She had been slightly worried that she'd now be all freakish like a zombie or something.

"You watch too much television, Caroline," she muttered to herself, turning around, and practically dancing downstairs.

She vaguely noticed how nicely decorated the house was as she followed the sounds of music. They lead her to a wide living room, and Katherine, Elena's vampire twin, who was curled into a red armchair. She stood up the moment Caroline walked inside, and blurred to stand in front of her. Caroline gasped, and took a tiny step back.

"Took you long enough! I was about to come, and force that stupid blood down your throat," she snapped, and the blonde shook her head in disbelief. This Katherine character had too much frustration bottled inside. She was always throwing a fit.

"I thought you said it was my choice," she said instead, and Katherine's perfectly shaped eyebrow rose.

"I don't like my blood going to waste. And before you get all emotional on me, I didn't feed you my blood to save you. I needed a vampire, and then, there you were…drenched in your own blood, heart beating its last notes…"

"You needed a vampire…" she whispered. "So, what? Now you get to order me around?"

"Everything in time," Katherine murmured, smiling for the first time. There was nothing nice, or comforting about that smile. It was like a lion smiling at you. Not so good, huh? "For now, you are free to do whatever you want."

Caroline frowned when Katherine took her hand, and walked towards what she assumed was the front door. Then, the door was open, and the cool winter air hit her face, reminding her how much she had missed being outside, happy, and free.

"You are letting me go? Just like that?" there had to be a trap somewhere. What if there was? Would she seriously miss out on the possibility of going out by herself?

"Just like that, Caroline," Katherine smirked. "You can go wherever you want, do whatever pleases you. Don't worry. That's your choice, I promise."

The new vampire glanced hesitantly between freedom and prison for a few times, and then she was gone, her new vampire powers used at the most, as she blurred across the yard and into the dark woods.

Katherine licked her lips. If that wasn't going to give this town a good shake up, she didn't know what was.

"Do you get a nickel for every neighbor that you'll wake up?" Damon grumbled as he stumbled out of the bedroom. Alaric chuckled behind his tumbler. Damon was dressed in nothing but a pair of sweatpants, his hair was sticking everywhere, and he was currently rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He looked strangely… human. "Tell me that you at least have some quality bourbon in this dingy apartment of yours," Damon glared at him.

"Second cabinet on my left, and if you don't like it, pack up and leave. I will be more than happy to have my nice double bed to myself again."

"Ssssh, we are keeping this a secret, remember?" Damon scolded, and blurred to the small place that Alaric called 'kitchen'. Alaric laughed. "Plus, it wasn't me who came up with this terrible let's-play-roomies plan. That's on you and Elena, man," Damon reminded, as he unceremoniously slumped down on the stool next to Alaric.

"The whole point of this was that Elena would be safe," the human pushed. "She is safe. You can go, instead of giving me a headache in the middle of the night."

"Aw, got a headache, Bud?" Damon teased, pouring himself some alcohol. "Huh. You don't say. Maybe that wouldn't have happened if you'd gotten your beauty sleep instead of kicking every fucking piece of furniture in this sad excuse of a house."Alaric sucked in a deep breath to keep down his temper.

"First of all, I just got a drink, and silently sat down here. It's not my fault mother nature gave you freakish senses. And secondly, don't call me Bud. I am not a dog."

"No, you're right. You are a freaking horse. Do you know you kick in your sleep?"

"Who said I was asleep, and not doing it on purpose?" Alaric suggested wickedly "Plus, you should be glad all I did was kick your shins. I could have aimed much higher than that. The lack of sheets on me would have easily allowed that range of movement."

"Careful, Ric. I don't respond well to threats, especially if the family jewels are involved," he stroked the apex of his thighs, and Alaric rolled his eyes and gulped down his drink.

"You know, you have the biggest stack of vervain I've ever seen, and several nifty anti-vampire weapons. Why haven't you thrown me out, yet?" Damon broke the heavy silence a few minutes later. He shrugged as Alaric raised a thick eyebrow in his direction.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Damon finished his drink and refilled both of their glasses. The first bottle was almost empty, and with the pace they were going, they would need at least three more to get through the night.

"I am a dick. I piss you off. I turned your wife. Ex wife. After I fucked her while you were still married, may I add, and just a few hours ago I compelled your newest girlfriend. Who has admitted she finds me hot, btw."

Alaric contemplated his answer. He had come in this town, determined to find the monster named Damon Salvatore and kill him. Instead, he found himself repeatedly bonding with said monster over bottles of bourbon. "I don't know," he said in defeat, running one hand through his hair. "You are a dick, no doubt on that, but…" he licked his lips, the strong flavor of bourbon hitting his taste buds. His head was getting heavier, he had been drinking for quite a while now, after all. "Elena seems to like having you around, and… I guess I just see something good in you," he shrugged.

Damon scoffed on his glass. Something good.

"People have been seeing something good in my brother for decades. Look how well that turned out."

"Uh-ah, it's not the same. Your motives might be as twisted as spider webs more often than not, but at least your emotions are always clear to everyone with two eyes and a brain into his head. Stefan has better control of his feelings. Of the feelings he shows to the rest of the world, at least."

"Hmmm," Damon trailed, an index tracing the rim of his glass. Damon the open book? That was a first.

"What happened over there, Damon? What did Stefan do?" Damon's movements seized, his face hardened.

"He killed that busboy, Matt, he somehow made Elena stab Caroline with a butcher's kind of knife, and Jeremy was in a bad shape, too. I don't know details."

"Elena hasn't talked about it?" Alaric asked in a softer tone.

"No, she… she isn't really into talking these days. She mostly cries… I…" the words died inside his throat, as his eyes fixed on a chair across the room. Its back was slightly chipped, but Alaric most likely hadn't even noticed.

"You are worried?" the human guessed, and Damon swallowed, and nodded once, curtly. Being nice to other people was one thing, but opening up and playing therapy session with them…no, that wasn't going to happen. At least not that night.

No more words were exchanged between the two men. But somehow, Ric knew he shouldn't press the issue further. So, instead, he brought a new bottle on the table, and poured so much of the liquid heaven into their glasses, that when they attempted to bring them up to their lips, round drops landed on the wooden surface. They smiled at each other, and downed the bourbon, pretending that it didn't burn their throats, pretending that they weren't both damaged, pretending that they were two normal people, two normal friends, having a normal night with booze. What hypocrites.

"Get up."

Damon groaned, and pushed his head harder against the pillow. There was a loud pounding inside his skull, unstable but firm. Bang. Bang. Pause. Bang. It pissed him to no end. And he was unfortunately familiar with its name. Hangover.

"Screw you," he growled, shoving away the large hand that was shaking his shoulder.

"Salvatore," Alaric's voice said warningly, as the human pulled back the covers, allowing the cool air to brush against Damon's naked chest. He gritted his teeth together. This would get bloody.

"It's Elena." For a millisecond Damon froze, his eyes wide open, his lips apart, no air entering or exiting his lungs. Then, he was out of the bed, Alaric long forgotten as he wrapped his fingers around the handle and all but ripped the door from its hinges. He wasn't exactly sure what he was expecting. Katherine lounging on the sofa while Stefan feasted on Elena's blood? Elena curled up in a ball and sobbing? Elena dead?

Oh, he was surprised all right, but for a completely different reason. Elena was across the room, dressed in a pair of jeans, and a plain black T-shirt, her hair pulled back in a tight and high ponytail. Her feet were bare, but her small soft hands were hidden out of sight by a pair of big black gloves. Boxing gloves.

Damon glanced back at Alaric, one eyebrow raised, who shrugged his shoulders.

"I woke up and found her like this," he murmured under his breath "I tried talking to her, but it's like she couldn't hear me. I think she is in shock, or something."

Damon sighed as the pounding resumed. Bang. Pause. Bang. Bang. Pause. Bang. It wasn't the hangover screwing with his head, after all. It was Elena beating the hell out of the poor bag. Or attempting to beat the hell out of it. He could see the anger in the force behind her blows, he could hear the determination in her ragged curt breaths. She had to feel exhausted, there was sweat coming out of her skin, wetting her shirt, and her heart was practically on its way out of her chest. But she didn't give up. She allowed herself short periods, mere seconds of rest before resuming her task. Her moves were awkward, the lack of her skill obvious, as well as the strain of her muscles.

Damon would happily stand under the bright sunlight without his ring if it meant he'd get a glimpse of her thoughts. What was she thinking when she frowned for a split second before she inhaled deeply through her nose? What was printed behind her eyelids the moment her fist collided with the bag?

With small steps he approached her, noticing how she kept her posture, her gaze never once trailing away from her target to focus on him. She was moving in all the wrong ways, but still, there was something beautiful about her. He closed his lips tightly, and moved to stand behind the heavy bag. Elena punched it violently, and it thrust back into his waiting hands. He caught it, and took a few steps forwards, planting his feet steadily into the ground, and glancing at her almost hesitantly. She didn't meet his eyes, but she must have seen the slight nod he gave her when he was ready, because the exact next second, she was raising her arms in position, and after tightening her jaw, threw her fist forward.

A couple more of poorly executed blows later, Elena let her arms fall on the sides of her body, as her chest moved up and down rapidly. Damon glanced at Alaric, who was eyeing Elena warily.

"I want you to teach me," she said, her voice hoarse and trembling. Taking a deep breath, she met their gazes face on, first Alaric's and then Damon's. "I want you both to teach me how to be strong, how to defend myself."

"Okay," Alaric nodded.

And then they were both expectantly looking at Damon, who was still hugging the bag into his arms. The tiniest smile tugged on the corners of his lips.

"Well, this is going to be fun."

You can't change what's already happened.

You can't go back in time, and correct all of your wrong decisions.

Option A: you give up, and stay stuck in your memories, haunted night after night by the echoes of the tragedies you've lived through.

Option B: you choose to live. Regardless of what it takes… a bag of human blood… a bunch of aching muscles… a leap of faith… You take the chance, and hope you'll make it to the end.

This final scene… I had it in my mind for so many days, weeks probably! It felt brilliant writing it. I hope it is as good as in my mind.

I had promised we'd see Elena slowly getting back her old self, and maybe becoming even stronger, hadn't I? See? Now, she'll have both Damon and Alaric to help her on that! Interesting scenes to come!

Our sweet, poor Caroline. Of course I am happy she completed the transition, I am sure all of you are, too. But that doesn't mean life will be easy for her now. She is practically all alone, with absolutely no clue of what it means to be a vampire… Uh-oh. Is that trouble I see in the horizon?

Damon! Lots of Damon, huh? I mean… I even missed writing scenes from Elena's perspective in this chapter. But it was high time we got a glimpse of what is going on in his head.

I enjoyed writing his scenes with Alaric. These two were awesome friends, and I doubt anyone will ever be able to feel that void in Damon's heart and life. *sigh*

Next chapter, we'll definitely see more of Elena and Damon, Stefan (I know, I know you don't want him here, sorry), and Caroline. Who's excited?

Anyway, September=exams for me. I will try to have updated by the end of the month. We'll see how it'll go.

Follow me on twitter: ts_eirini

Until next time, take care!


P.S. reviews are appreciated!