A/N: 2 month hiatus = new fic from me ;)

Alaric looked up from the kitchen table, where he had spread out the hieroglyphic photos that they hadn't been able to discern yet. "Damon just called," he called to Elena as she walked through the front door, looking downcast. Alaric put down the photo he had been studying and gazed at her in concern, "He told me what happened…I'm sorry, Elena."

She took a deep breath as she slumped into the chair across from him and absentmindedly picked up one of the pictures. She stared at it unseeingly for a moment, her eyes glazing over with brief regret. "Don't be," she said finally, "It's not your fault. There's nothing we could've done to predict…what happened."

Alaric nodded and glanced up at her hesitantly, "So he's gone?"

She didn't have to ask who 'he' was.

"No sign of him," Elena confirmed, her voice low, defeated. "Stefan made his choice," she swallowed, her hand moving instinctively to her neck before she remembered that she no longer had the necklace with her. "There's nothing I can do about it. It's time that I—let him go. It's time that we all let him go."

"Well, you know what they say," Alaric offered halfheartedly, "If you truly love someone, set them free."

"And they'll come back to you," Elena tried to smile back at him, "Yeah, I'm familiar with the saying." She pushed her chair back and stood up, her body suddenly desperate for sleep. "Where's Jeremy?"

"Out like a light," Alaric began gathering all the photos in a folder as he stood up as well. "That trip to get Katherine really took a lot out of him."

"Damon said that Katherine had to drink from Jeremy," Elena's lips pursed in vague disapproval, "Is he okay?"

"He said he only gave her enough to get her moving again; the rest she got from the blood bags at the Salvatore house."

"Well, looks like she's finally learned some restraint," Elena shoved her chair back into the table with a little more force than intended, and Alaric looked at her in surprise. "She called," Elena explained dully, "To tell Damon that it had been a good plan. And to say goodbye."

"Nine lives, that woman," Alaric shook his head, not noticing Elena's expression. "We should just be grateful that she agreed to help. Damon told me that Mikael actually tried to kill you when Klaus called his bluff."

"Well, we did know that we couldn't trust any of them," Elena hedged, "Rebekah herself warned me not to trust anyone in her family."

At her words, Alaric looked up sharply. "I heard what happened with—"

"I'm fine," Elena quickly cut him off, unwilling to rehash the details of what she had done to Rebekah. "I already feel bad enough about it. Can we just...not talk about it right now?"

"Of course," he moved around her and reached out to grip her shoulder, "Consider the subject dropped. But if you ever have to talk about it, you know where to find me."

Elena didn't turn around to look at him, but she nodded once to show that she had heard him. After his footsteps disappeared up the stairs, she glumly opened the freezer door and stared at the contents for a full minute.

"Lose something in there?"

She didn't move, "I thought you were sleeping."

Jeremy grinned and gently maneuvered Elena away from the freezer and into a chair. He glanced into the freezer before shutting the door and joining his sister at the table. "Anything in particular you were craving?"

"My sanity?"

"Yeah, I think we'd all like that back someday," he deadpanned, jerking out of the way as Elena reached over to smack his arm. "Actually," he paused to text someone on his phone before continuing, "I overheard you and Alaric talking. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

Her response was automatic, "I'm fine. How are you feeling? Katherine didn't take too much of your blood, did she?"

"Shockingly, no," Jeremy considered her for a moment, "I'm sorry you had to miss Homecoming."

Elena raised an eyebrow at him, "You missed it, too."

"Yeah, well," he looked away from her, "Did you see Bonnie before she left?"

"She looked amazing," Elena answered his unspoken question, "But she's still hurting."

"I know," Jeremy met her gaze then, "Do you think she'll ever forgive me?"

"Someday, yes. But for now, she reserves the right to hold a grudge." Elena sighed and added, "Don't worry, I'm pretty sure you're not the only Gilbert that's hated right now."

Jeremy didn't look fazed, "You mean Rebekah?"

At his words, everything that had happened that night came rushing back and Elena covered her face with her hands. "I just...I thought..." her breath hitched, "I thought it would be my humanity that would ruin the plan."

"But it was Stefan's," Jeremy said slowly, "His loyalty to Klaus."

"Yes," Elena said brokenly, "Even in his darkest hour, Stefan still managed to salvage his humanity—albeit to the wrong person—and I..." Her voice tapered off, "And I have none left."

"Hey," Jeremy gathered Elena in his arms as she fought back a sob, "Why would you say that? You're the most compassionate person I know, Elena."

"She was so excited to go to Homecoming, Jer," Elena whispered, "And she was vulnerable and human and I just—"

"Did what was necessary," Jeremy interrupted her firmly, "And the fact that you feel guilty about it...that shows how human you really are. Trust me."

'Do you trust me?' Damon asked seriously, their eyes meeting for a split second.
'Yes,' Elena replied without hesitation.
'Then you have nothing to worry about.'



Jeremy looked at her strangely before moving towards the door. Elena stared at him in bewilderment as Matt walked in, laden with grocery bags. "I didn't know which one you'd like, so I just got one of each," he said to her, tossing a grin in Jeremy's direction.

"Thanks, man," Jeremy pulled out a pint of double chocolate chip ice cream and placed it in front of Elena. "I believe you ordered a dose of sanity?"

Elena broke out into laughter, shaking her head as Matt handed her a spoon. "Let me guess, every girl's sanity lies at the bottom of an ice cream tub?"

"That's what I've heard," Matt replied, exchanging another amused look with her brother. He sat down across from Elena, studying her from the corner of his eye.

"What?" she asked self-consciously, "Why are you staring at me like that?"

"Sorry," Matt blinked once, "It's just...wow, Katherine really knows how to pull off your look, doesn't she?"

"How'd it feel?" Jeremy asked teasingly, "Going to your senior homecoming dance with your ex-girlfriend's vampire doppelganger who has tried to kill us all on numerous, yet separate occasions?"

"Exactly how I always pictured it to be," Matt quipped, earning a begrudging smile from Elena.

"It wasn't too weird, was it?" she probed cautiously, "I mean, Katherine was...normal, right?"

"I guess," Matt shrugged, "We didn't spend too much time together, to be honest. I saw her talking to Klaus at one point so I kept my distance for a while...then she disappeared and I couldn't find her, then Tyler—"

"What?" Elena interrupted with a frown, "Klaus was talking to Katherine? About what?"

"Probably the same thing he told Tyler," Matt faltered, "That he was two steps ahead of us?"

"You couldn't hear them? Didn't you ask her what he said?" Elena pressed, abandoning the ice cream and leaning towards Matt urgently, "And then you couldn't find her?"

"Well no, and I didn't get a chance to ask her," Matt looked slightly alarmed at Elena's vehemence. "Because then Tyler called me and told me to get Caroline out of there. Did you know that he—"

"Wait a second," Elena stood up abruptly, "Let me get this straight. So, you saw Klaus talking to Katherine, and then suddenly she disappears? Didn't that strike you as, oh I don't know, odd?"

"What are you getting at?" Jeremy looked confused, "What's wrong?"

"Something's not right," Elena began pacing across the kitchen, "Damon told me that Mikael drained Stefan dry. The only way he could've shown up at the dance is if someone had fed him blood..."

"You think Katherine ruined the plan?" Matt shook his head, "No, why would she do that? She wanted Klaus dead as much as the rest of us did. Besides, even if Katherine did wake him up, why would Stefan help Klaus?"

"I don't know," Elena's jaw set determinately, "But I'm going to find out."

*as always, the fic will be plot + DElena. Hope you like it so far!