Disclaimer: I don't own the Vampire Diaries. I don't claim to own The Vampire Diaries. The Vampire Diaries belongs to LJ Smith and the CW. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.

Elena looked herself over in the mirror while Emily stood behind her, waiting for her approval.

"I think you look wonderful," Emily said with a smile.

Elena had been extremely reluctant to wear her red gown, but Emily talked her into it. She was glad she had, because even Elena couldn't deny that the dress looked stunning on her. Part of her ached because it was a gift from her father, a painful reminder that he wouldn't see her wear it again. He had always loved it on her, and she suspected it was because for once, she stood apart from Katherine in a sea of people.

Elena nervously touched her hair, which Emily had pinned in a low bun. She ran her fingers across the smooth, red fabric of her dress that complimented her olive skin tone and dark eyes. She reminded herself that she was just as pretty as Katherine. They were identical, after all.

Then she remembered that the purpose of the party was to introduce the twins to the town, which meant repeated mentions of her parents and condolences.

Elena's hands fidgeted anxiously and she paced about.

"You have nothing to worry about," Emily assured. "Everyone will adore you."

Elena exhaled heavily.

"Just wait until Damon sees you."

Elena's heart started to race at the mention of Damon. His casual mention of hearing her dreaming sent a whole new wave of panic through her.

"Miss Elena," Emily said nervously. "Are you feeling faint?"

Emily stepped towards her, but Elena waved her off, shaking her head furiously. "I'm fine."

Emily gave her a look, but she backed away. "After your spell yesterday, you can't be too careful."

Elena took a deep breath and forced herself to stand still. With any luck, most of the attention would be on Katherine, which meant no pressure on Elena.

There was a knock on the door, causing Elena to jump. Her first instinct was to open to door, but Emily smacked her hand away. She took hold of Elena's shoulders in an effort to keep her still.

"Miss Elena," she scolded in a furious whisper. "I'll get the door. Calm down before Mr. Salvatore sees you in a fluster."

Elena bit her lip as Emily opened the door, revealing Damon.

"Mr. Salvatore," she said in greeting. "It's a good thing you're here. Miss Elena is practically wearing a hole in the floor with all her pacing."

Damon gave Emily one of his crooked smirks as he stepped into the room, taking Elena in from head to toe. If he was surprised by the color, he didn't show it. His eyes had an appreciative glow as he scanned her from head to toe. Elena was sure her cheeks were flushed a matching scarlet color.

"A very bold choice, Miss Elena. But I must say, you look beautiful."

Elena didn't miss the smirk that passed over Emily's face.

"Thank you," Elena murmured quietly.

"You're ready to face the snake pit, then?" Damon asked.

Elena forced herself to smile and walk towards him. She hoped she looked calm and collected.

Damon offered her his arm, which she took gratefully. She wouldn't have to worry about tripping over her feet if her anxiety got the best of her. Elena glanced back over her shoulder at Emily, who was making exaggeratedly calm facial expressions. Elena took the hint, taking a deep breath as she let Damon lead her out the door.

As Damon pulled the door shut behind them, Elena tapped her foot nervously.

"Nervous?" He asked with an irresistible smile.

Elena nodded.

"Small towns lead small lives. But I doubt they'll speak ill of you. They have no reason to. Especially when they have a soldier who deserted the war right in their midst. I'm the subject of most gossip these days."

Elena was still desperate to know more about his desertion, but she knew how uncomfortable it made Damon.

"Are there a lot of people downstairs?" Elena asked, giving Damon a nervous look.

He smiled in reassurance. "Nothing you can't handle. And if you get tired of them, we can sneak off and give them something new to talk about."

Elena laughed, which had become an unfamiliar sound to her these days.

"You should smile more often, Elena," he said, his voice smooth and warm. "It looks good on you."

Elena looked at the floor, unsure of what to say.

"And I meant what I said before. You look beautiful."

Elena looked up at him. The hallway was dark except for the light of a few candle on the walls, illuminating tiny areas and casting shadows on the ground. Some of the light caught Damon's dark, curly hair, making him glow. His eyes were sincere beneath stray pieces of his glossy curls.

"Let's go cause a stir," Damon said with a wicked smile, heading down the staircase. Elena could finally see the swarm of people that had come to the Salvatore house just to see the twins. People milled about, drinking champagne and chattering.

As they descended the staircase, Elena saw Katherine and Stefan standing together. Neither of them were talking. Stefan clearly hadn't forgotten Katherine's advances on Damon. But judging by the looks he was giving her, he was still love struck.

"Katherine made quite the entrance earlier," Damon murmured in Elena's ear as they walked.

Elena's heart fluttered when she felt Damon's hot breath on her ear. "Oh?"

Elena's eyes flew to Katherine, who was eyeing her from across the room. Her blue and white gown was spread out around her, making her look light and innocent, though her expression was not. Her glossy curls were falling over her shoulders in a way that made Elena envious. Katherine had their father's curly hair, which she had always been slightly jealous of.

Elena started to regret her decision to wear the red dress. Her sister looked docile and pure in the white and blue gown while Elena looked wild and unruly in red. How ironic, she thought.

Katherine's brown eyes were burning holes into Elena's dress. Her lips were pressed into a thin line and her stare was critical.

Damon broke through her thoughts. "I think she talked Stefan into escorting her. She must've realized that having him as an escort is better than going alone."

Elena smiled. It sounded like Katherine.

The second they were off the stairs, Damon let go of Elena's arm and Giuseppe caught Damon by his sleeve. He casually slipped from the group of people surrounding him to lean closer to his eldest son.

"Yes, Father?" Damon asked stiffly.

He kept his voice low. "Would you be so kind as to introduce Elena to Mayor Lockwood and his family?"

Damon nodded. "Of course."

Just as Damon attempted to break free from his father's grip, Giuseppe pulled him back. With a stern expression and a quiet voice, he said, "Behave yourself son."

Damon gave him a cold look before walking away, Elena sticking close by his side. She glimpsed over her shoulder to see Giuseppe staring at Damon with a clenched jaw.

"I suppose I should introduce you to the Lockwoods," Damon said, weaving through several people. "Before my Father steals you away and does it himself."

Elena nodded in agreement as they approached a man, a woman, and a boy Elena's age who appeared to be their son. They were surrounded by a crowd of people, much like Giuseppe had been. They were all laughing at something the man had said.

Damon tipped his head at the man, who had lines creasing his face, even though he didn't appear to be that old. "That's Richard Lockwood, the mayor. He's got a terrible temper, and as a result, he often ends up in shouting matches with his son, Tyler."

Elena studied the mayor and his son. They looked like a happy family. Appearances were deceiving.

"That's awful," Elena murmured.

Damon jerked his chin towards the woman beside Richard. "That's his wife, Carol. She quite likes champagne."

Elena glanced at the empty glass of champagne in Carol's hand. The look on her face said she was in desperate need of another. Elena's eyebrow furrowed. Were they really as unhappy as Damon said?

Elena steered the conversation in a new direction. She didn't particularly want to hear about a family that couldn't be happy when they were so lucky to have each other. "Is Tyler Caroline Forbes's beau?"

Damon nodded. "You're a good listener."

Elena laughed. "I just remember because you mentioned it at lunch the other day."

"Glad to know I've been able to keep your attention. Normally you seem rather disinterested with all the chatter," Damon noted casually.

Elena gave a little shrug. "I've got a lot on my mind lately."

Damon turned to her, the full force of his blue eyes focused on her. The look he was gave was sympathetic. "I wish I knew what to say to make you feel better. I doubt there's anything I can say that would help."

"You are helping," Elena assured. "You're being my distraction."

Damon gave a half-hearted smile. "My mother died when I was young. Shortly after Stefan was born. I don't remember her well, but I know how you feel, I suppose."

Elena turned to Damon, finding comfort in what he said. "I would say I'm sorry for your loss, but I know it doesn't help."

Damon laughed. "You're so outspoken."

Elena flushed.

"I like it," Damon said with a smirk.

"I'm so tired of being sad," Elena murmured. "I'm tired of feeling like a burden to people who have already moved on or people who are just trying to help."

"If it's a distraction you need, then a distraction I'll be," Damon said with a smile that made Elena feel weak at the knees. "Ready to meet the mayor?"

"I suppose," Elena said wearily.

Damon led her forward and the crowd parted for them. Once the mayor saw them, he instantly became resumed his animated expression.

"Ah, Damon," he said in greeting. He smiled at Elena. "Who's the lovely lady on your arm?"

Damon turned to her. "This is Elena Pierce."

"As I suspected," he said with a grin. "I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Katherine earlier."

Elena couldn't help but wonder what Katherine had said to him. She'd made an impression, no doubt.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Elena said with a graceful curtsy.

"The pleasure is mine. I'm so glad that you girls were able to come back to town. Everyone here will be very understanding of your situation."

"Thank you," Elena said softly. Damon stepped closer to her. It was a comforting gesture.

Richard gestured to his wife, who smiled graciously, and his son, who nodded politely. "This is my wife, Carol, and my son, Tyler."

"It's wonderful to meet you both."

"You girls really are identical," Carol mused. "But I see your sister has your father's curly hair."

Elena nodded. "I am most envious."

"Regardless, you're both stunning, like your parents. They would be so happy that you've come to town."

"I'm glad to be here," Elena said with a smile.

"I hate to cut your time short," Damon interjected. "But Miss Elena has many guests to meet and a very short amount of time."

"Of course," Richard said. "We wouldn't want to occupy all of your time."

"It was lovely meeting you," Elena said as they turned away, heading in a new direction. She touched her hair self consciously. She'd always been a little jealous of Katherine's curls. They were so glossy and natural, but Elena's hair just fell flat unless Emily curled it the night before.

"I like your straight hair," Damon said seriously. Her reached for a few of the strands left free from her bun and ran his fingers through them. Elena swallowed hard, her eyes glued to their feet so that she wouldn't have to meet Damon's eyes.

"Thank you," Elena said after she managed to breathe.

"They loved you," Damon said as he pulled his hand away. "As will everyone else."

"I hope. I wouldn't want to embarrass your family," Elena said with a laugh.

"Believe me, you couldn't embarrass Father more than I already have," Damon said softly. Before Elena could say anything, he'd moved on. "Who shall we meet next?"

Elena scanned the crowd. No one really jumped out at her.

Damon leaned closer to Elena's ear while she searched the room. "Do you see the woman with the short curly hair? Middle aged?"

Elena nodded, glancing up to see Damon's blue eyes fixed on the woman across the room.

"That's Mrs. Gibbons. Most of her dresses have high necks because she has a fetish for being bitten by her husband."

Elena's mouth fell open in shock.

Damon laughed at her reaction. "It's true. I overheard them talking once."

Elena covered her mouth in an attempt to stop the fit of giggles threatening to take her over. It was true, she'd never much liked gossip before, but when it was coming from Damon, it was different. It was a distraction. For the first time in a long time, her parents' death wasn't lingering in the back of her mind.

"And of course you remember Caroline Forbes," Damon said as Elena's eyes fell on Caroline across the room, talking to Tyler. They were both smiling and laughing. "Carol Lockwood caught Caroline sneaking out of their house in the very early hours of the morning."

"You're kidding," Elena breathed in shock.

"It's all truth, I swear to you," Damon said, amused by Elena's response.

"She seems like such a good girl…"

Damon shrugged. "She's feisty. She pursued me very aggressively until I just told her I wasn't interested."

"You broke her heart, Damon. You should be more sympathetic," Elena said teasingly.

"Speaking of Caroline," Damon began. "She's giving us a very strange look."

Elena tried to be casual as she gave Caroline a quick look. Damon was right. She seemed confused, and Elena was willing to bet it was because she and Damon appeared very much together at that moment, despite the fact that he was well known for staying solo.

"Shall we go talk to her?" Damon asked playfully, heading towards them.

"No! Damon!" Elena whispered frantically. She grabbed his arm, but he kept walking. She tried to play it off so that Caroline wouldn't suspect she was avoiding them. She liked Caroline, but with Damon there, she could only see it ending one way: badly.

"Elena, it's so nice to see you again," Caroline said. She looked at Damon, but didn't say anything. "Tyler, you've met Elena, haven't you?"

"Only moments ago," Tyler said, staring at Damon.

"Caroline," Damon began in an exaggeratedly serious voice. "I haven't yet had the pleasure of your company tonight."

Caroline didn't even bother smiling. "What do you want, Damon?"

Damon held his hands up innocently. "Nothing at all. I just wanted to exchange pleasantries. There's no need to be hostile."

Caroline ignored him, turning to Elena. "Don't let him fool you; he's a snake."

"Caroline," Tyler warned.

"Bitter isn't a flattering look for anyone," Damon chided.

Caroline narrowed her eyes. "We really must be going. It was great seeing you, Elena."

Caroline turned on her heel, dragging Tyler behind her.

"That was fun," Elena muttered sarcastically.

"We should probably get back to meeting the other guests before Father has a fit," Damon said with a sigh. "Champagne first?'

"Yes, please," Elena said.

"I'll be right back," he said before disappearing, leaving Elena alone.

It wasn't long before she saw Katherine making a beeline for her.

"Elena!" She cried in excitement. "I've scarcely seen you all night!"

"You've abandoned Stefan already?" Elena asked dryly.

"He's such a bore," Katherine sighed. "Your escort looks far more fun."

"Leave him alone," Elena murmured in warning.

"Are you worried I'll tempt him?" She asked sweetly. "I see he's getting you champagne. Good thing. It'll help you loosen up."

Elena glanced at the glass in Katherine's hand. "When will it loosen you up?"

Katherine narrowed her eyes at her. "I don't find you amusing."

Elena grinned.

"The red is a bold color," Katherine said, eyeing Elena's dress.

"Damon likes it," Elena mentioned casually.

Katherine rolled her eyes. "You may have his attention now, but what about tonight? You'll leave him hanging, like the good girl you are. And then what?"

Elena just stared at her.

"Try to please him, if you can," Katherine said airily. "You can always send him to my room."

With that, Katherine walked away, her gown trailing behind her.

A/N: Sorry for the wait! I've been busy with school! Updates should be regular for a while. Is anyone still reading?