A/N: So, I decided to try and write an AU/AH fic. I was reading a book recently, and the characters just really reminded me of Damon and Elena, so I thought I would try to do something similar. The plot will closely follow the book of the same name, by the talented author Jill Mansell, although there will be some obvious differences. I hope you enjoy it, and please review!
A/N 2: For the people who have been reading my other fic The Evil Within, it is coming, I promise. I'm in hospital on my laptop at the moment, and chapter 6 is sitting on the desktop of my other computer. I'm hoping to upload it tomorrow.
Thinking of You
If it was sympathy she was after, Elena Gilbert might have known she'd come to the wrong place. Then again, it was early on a bright but blustery Saturday morning in autumn and her options were limited. And it was only a few blocks from her own house, which was handy.
"I can't describe how I feel." She clenched a fist, pressed it to her breastbone and shook her head in frustration. "I know it's weird, I know I should just let him go off on his own and enjoy life, but it's just so... so..."
"I know exactly what it is. Bird's nest syndrome," said Caroline.
Elena rolled her eyes and corrected her friend. "Bird's nest syndrome would be the name for the state of my hair when I get up in the mornings. You mean 'empty nest syndrome', but that's not right either, because it wasn't my nest to begin with, and the baby that grew up and flew away wasn't mine either." She frowned as the analogy stopped making sense.
"Well, I think you're mad." Caroline was busy executing Olympic-level sit-ups, her bare feet tucked under the edge of the cream leather sofa, her blond curls swinging glossily to and fro. "Jeremy's gone off to university. You're free again. You should be out there celebrating. You're twenty-two, not eighty." Having completed her 10 millionth sit-up, Caroline raised her legs in the air and started bicycling furiously. "It's about time you started getting out there and having fun."
Elena knew she should be feeling excited about this new chapter in her life, but she couldn't help but feel bereft at the sudden lack of purpose in her life. When both her parents had tragically died in a car crash when she was just seventeen, her aunt Jenna had moved in with her and Jeremy to look after them. The arrangement hadn't lasted long. Jenna had floundered in her sudden role of care-giver, and as soon as Elena had turned eighteen, she had told her very relieved aunt that she could take over from there. Jenna had moved back to her university campus, with the promise that she could be reached if either of the Gilberts ever needed anything. Elena had breathed a sigh of relief; now she could concentrate on dragging her brother back out of the pit of despair he had dug himself into, without having to worry about giving Jenna any feelings of inadequacy. She had spent the last four years dedicating herself to getting Jeremy to this point in his life, but now that it was finally here, she found herself becoming anxious at what her own future might hold now. It had been so long since she had only herself to concentrate on that now she found the idea quite terrifying.
"You need to pull yourself together." Caroline finished her exercises and stood up, checking her reflection in the large mirror on the wall. "Cheer yourself up, get yourself out there and have an adventure. Jeremy would want that for you."
"I know, I just miss him. I just really want to talk to him, make sure he's okay." Elena hated feeling like this. She had never been needy in her life, and the idea was as horrifying to her as suddenly developing a penchant for pickles.
"Fine. Call him then, if that's what you want to do." Caroline started walking towards the bathroom. "If you think Jeremy won't mind."
Elena smiled inwardly; she'd got what she'd come for. "Right, I will. Thanks Care." She gave her friend a hug, then left her to shower.
Letting herself in through the front door of her house, she found herself being attacked by a large ball of fur. "Campbell!" She cooed, leaning down to stroke the spaniel behind his ears. She had bought the little dog the day after Jenna had left, deciding that Jeremy needed some responsibility in his life. It had worked too; having to look after a dog had given Jeremy something other than his own misery to concentrate on, and Elena had been able to get through to him easier. Jeremy had really wanted to take Campbell with him when he left for campus, but dogs weren't allowed. Elena sighed at the little dog as he wetly licked her chin. "You missing Jer too, boy? Wanna hear his voice?" The dog woofed his agreement, and followed Elena as she entered the living room. She slumped down on the cushions and picked up the cordless phone, Campbell jumping up and lying next to her. The phone rang for a while as Elena waited for someone to pick it up at the other end. "'lo?" Came a sleepy voice.
"Jer? Is that you?"
"Mm-hmm. Who is... Elena?" Jeremy's voice got stronger as he recognised his sister's voice.
"Yeah, it's me. I didn't pull you away from studying, did I?" Elena struggled to hold Campbell back as he heard his master's voice coming through the speaker.
Jeremy laughed a little, then his voice became muffled for a moment. Elena could hear him talking, so she guessed he'd covered the receiver to talk to someone in his dorm room. "No, I wasn't studying, it's Saturday!" Elena swore she could actually hear his eyes roll at her question. "I was still sleeping," Jeremy continued. "We had a bit of a late night last night, so-"
"Why? What were you up to?" Elena interrupted him, worry starting to gnaw at her, as she imagined the wild parties that happened regularly in college.
"'Lena," Jeremy's voice took on a warning tone, "you promised you weren't going to nag me about this stuff, remember?"
Elena did remember, but she couldn't help worrying. It had taken her nearly two years to get Jeremy to stop taking drugs, and another two to help him get his grades up enough to graduate. "I know Jer, just... be careful, 'kay?"
"Elena, don't. I'm doing fine, but I'm never going to be able to get on with my life with constantly looking over my shoulder." He sighed, and then went on gently. "Look, I'll call you if I need anything alright? I just... I need to do some things on my own, you know?"
Elena nodded, clearing her throat. "Okay. Look after yourself."
"You too, sis."
Elena sighed as she put the phone down. "Well, that didn't go exactly as planned, did it?" She leaned her forehead down and pressed it against Campbell's silky head. "Good thing I've still got you boy, huh? What would I do without you?"
Campbell died three weeks later. According to the vet, he had developed cancer, and it had spread through his little body so quickly that by the time Elena had noticed there was something wrong, there was nothing that could be done to help him. Jeremy came home the following weekend, and together they buried him under his favourite tree in the backyard. He couldn't stay for too long though, as he had mid-terms coming up that he couldn't afford to miss, and Elena was left with a very empty house, and a just as empty heart.
A week later, and Elena was still feeling down, so she decided to cheer herself up by doing some Christmas shopping. She drove to the nearby mall, and spent a pleasant afternoon picking out presents for Jeremy, Caroline, Jenna and Alaric, her aunt's husband. She was just looking through the window of a toy store, wondering what to buy Lucy, Jenna and Alaric's two year old daughter, when she saw someone walking up behind her in the reflection of the glass. It was Mason Lockwood. She sighed and closed her eyes briefly. He had been asking her out for a while now, getting more and more insistent, no matter how firmly she put him down. She couldn't deal with it today. Eyeing up the stores closest to her, she dashed inside a little boutique, hoping the girlishness of the window display would put him off following her. She was right; as she looked out of the window, she watched him hesitate outside the shop door, before backing away slightly and lean against the wall. Was he waiting for her to come out? With a sigh, she resigned herself to looking around at the trinkets on display. She wandered around the store for a while, making sure to keep an eye on Mason through the window. She came across a pretty purple and pink elephant, set with dozens of tiny rhinestones, and picked it up to look at the price. What she saw startled her, and she looked around at the rest of the items, her lips parting in astonishment as she realised she could easily blow what was left of her inheritance in this shop. She looked out of the window again, and noticed that Mason had given up; his perch by the wall was empty. She let out a breath of relief, then looked around the store one last time to see if there was anything in there she might be able to afford. As she did, her eyes fell upon a man standing near the counter. He was wearing a black leather jacket over a dark gray shirt, black jeans and black boots completing the look. Her eyes slid upwards to one of the most beautiful faces she had ever seen. Pale skin, perfectly sculpted lips, cheekbones that could have been chiselled in marble, all framed under a shock of raven black hair. The most hypnotising part of the man were his eyes; cobalt blue, so deep Elena felt she could drown in them if she stared long enough. Eyes that were looking right at her. He flicked his gaze up and down her briefly, before shrugging and turning away. Elena came back to earth with a bump. Of course someone like him wouldn't be interested in someone like her. She pulled herself together and walked out of the shop, just wanting to get home and curl up with some ice cream.
She had only gone a few dozen steps however, when she felt a cool hand on her arm. Thinking it was Mason, she turned, opening her mouth to tell him to get lost. She could only gasp when she saw who it actually was.
"I saw you, you know." His voice was like velvet, and the very sound of it made Elena go weak at the knees. His hand was still on her arm.
"I... I saw you too." She whispered breathlessly. Up close he even smelled fantastic. Whatever aftershave that was, it was definitely her favourite.
"Shall we go?" He said, looking at her intensely.
"Go?" Go where? Surely he wasn't asking her to go home with him? She didn't even know his name!
"Back to the shop."
The shop? Did he own it? Or live above it? Unbidden, fantasies started swirling through her mind of four poster beds and cream silk drapes, the breeze on her bare skin as it fluttered in through the open window – because in her mind it was a hot evening in summer.
"Come on, do yourself a favour and give up." His hand slid down her arm towards her hand. "You might be good, but you're not that good." He drawled.
Her mind skidded to a halt mid-fantasy as she struggled to work out what he meant. Confused, but not confused enough to not notice the sparks of electricity shooting up her arm at his touch, she watched as he raised her hand and uncurled her fingers, revealing the elephant she had been looking at earlier.
She stared at her hand for a moment, before letting out a gasp. "Oh my God! I can't believe I just did that! Thank goodness you noticed! I'll take it straight back and explain..." She trailed off as she noticed him gazing at her coldly. "Now look," Elena said, trying unsuccessfully to pull her hand out of his grip. "I didn't do it on purpose!"
"I despise shoplifters. I hope they prosecute you." The man said, his voice completely devoid of emotion.
"But I'm not a shop lifter! I've never stolen anything in my life! Oh God, I can't believe you actually think that!" Aware that other shoppers in the mall were taking notice of the conversation, some even slowing down to listen avidly, Elena turned and walked stiffly back to the shop, the man hot on her heels, evidently ready to tackle her if she tried to escape. Her face turning bright red, she shoved the little statue at the saleswoman behind the desk, mumbling an apology.
"Sounds quite convincing doesn't she?" The man said to the saleswoman. "But I saw the way she was acting when she was in here, before she tried to get away."
"Please don't say that." Tears began to form in her eyes, and she looked desperately at the woman. "It was an accident, I didn't mean to take it, I just wasn't concentrating."
"Obviously," the man said, "otherwise you wouldn't have gotten caught."
"Oh will you SHUT UP!" Elena shouted at the man, losing her temper, "It was an accident! I've never broken the law in my life!" She turned back to the woman. "You believe me, don't you?"
"See that sign up there?" The man pointed above the cash register, announcing that shoplifters would be prosecuted. "It's there for a reason."
Elena's temper died away, and she started to feel light headed. "But I'm not a shoplifter," she said quietly, as she started to sway on her feet. The saleswoman grabbed a chair from behind the counter and lowered her into it. "I'm sorry, I'm just... My dog died at the weekend, and he was all I had left, and I... it's all got a bit much for me I guess." Elena was aware that she was babbling, but the idea of being arrested was making her panic. She couldn't be there for Jeremy if she was in jail.
"Oh you poor thing!" The saleswoman spoke for the first time. "Is there anyone you'd like me to call for you?"
"Like the police?" The man said pointedly.
"No. There's nobody to call. My brother's not here anymore. He's gone." Elena put her head between her knees as she started to feel sick.
The woman gently patted her on the back, and the man sighed in irritation. "Fine. Do what you want. I was only trying to help." Elena heard his footsteps leading away, before the chime of the door as it opened and closed.
"It really was an accident." She said, glancing up at the saleswoman.
"I'm sure it was, honey." The woman smiled at her. "Are you okay now?"
"Elena gave her a tremulous smile and stood up. "Thank you," she said to the woman. She walked out of the shop and went to find her car, praying that she would never have to see that horrible man ever again.
A/N: So there we go, my first attempt at an AU/AH fic. I have no idea if it's any good, so please let me know your thoughts!