"Dibs on Klaus," Elena whispered through gritted teeth as she and Bella wove their way through the foliage back towards the mountain cabin.

Bella nodded in response. Elena deserved to have Klaus. He'd been stalking after her family for over five hundred years. If anyone had a right to kill Klaus it was Elena. She was more than satisfied to take on Victoria, a vamp that had been the bane of her existence since she first saw her on that makeshift baseball field two years ago.

Their plan was to confuse them by spreading their scent around, criss-crossing and backtracking over their own steps until they reached the cabin. They were going to hide in plain sight. Bella only prayed it worked.

"If you see an opportunity, take it."

She gripped the laser gun tighter in her hand, the weight of it offering reassurance that they wouldn't be completely defenseless. If only she had asked Charlie to take her to the shooting range. With her luck, she shoot herself in her own foot.

Dispelling the image with a shake of her head, she motioned to Elena to move quietly. The cabin was only a mile or so away but Bella didn't want to take any chances of being heard.


"So let me get this straight," Damon said with a wry smile and not a little bit of disbelief. "I'm supposed to cover you while you attack first? Shouldn't it be the other way around, Shorty?"

"Don't be a chauvinistic pig." Alice rolled her eyes. "I may be small but I am fast and I am strong. It takes a lot more than a stake to the heart to kill me. You on the other - " She stopped, her whole body stilling. Her eyes widened as they darted around before narrowing in anger. "No, no," she cried out to no one in particular. "What the hell are they thinking?"

"What?"

"Bella and Elena. They're coming back here. Quick!" She shoved him by the shoulders towards the door. "You have to go. You have to stop them."

Damon didn't even pause, he just acted. He swung the door open and barely stepped a foot outside before he was being tossed. His back struck a tree with a resounding thwack. Pain erupted through him. He wiped his palm across his mouth and inspected the blood on his fingers and looked up to see Klaus hovering over him with a cheshire cat grin and demon red eyes.

"Give a guy a little warning, will ya?" He said between coughs as he clutched his chest fighting for air. Yup, he was pretty sure he had some broken ribs, one piercing his lung. Beautiful! Biding his time waiting for the bones to knit back together was going to be a challenge.

"Surprise! Miss me?"

"You don't call, you don't write, you don't send me flowers anymore," Damon snarked as he edged himself back up using the tree to prop him up.

"My apologies. I'll be sure to send a nice arrangement to your funeral, which should be rather soon, I suspect."

Behind Klaus, Alice and Victoria were circling each other, their bodies bent forward, lips pulled back as feral growls escaped their lips, waiting for the opportunity to strike.

Damon nodded in their direction. "I love a good old cat fight, don't you?"

When Klaus spared a glance behind him, Damon rushed forward to tackle him. In that same moment Alice leapt towards a tree and used it to come at Victoria sideways, landing on her shoulder and yanked at her hair. A shriek escaped her.

Damon was tossed backwards again, this time on a branch that pierced right through his chest, barely missing his heart. He gasped for air, feeling the blood seep from him fast. If Alice didn't get finished with Victoria soon, he was as good as dead.

Klaus pursed his lips and studied the vampire before him, watched him thoughtfully while Damon struggled against the piercing branch.

"I was hoping for a bit more of a challenge, mate. You're pathetic."

Damon wanted to smack the sneer right off his face. There was no way he was going to be bested by a metro-sexual vampire. Not now. Not ever. Not when he had so much to live for. How disgustingly ironic would it be for him to have everything he wanted and lose it so quickly? Not gonna happen.

"It ain't over til it's over," he gritted out through clenched teeth and slid himself off the branch with a satisfied smirk. In the distance he heard Alice taunting Victoria and hoped she was having better luck.

Klaus advanced forward, his lips curled into satisfied grin. "Sorry to break it to you but it's over." He blurred forward but Damon jumped out of the way and landed on unsteady legs. "You're just prolonging the inevitable."

"Maybe. Then again, maybe not."

"Surely, you can't believe you are any match for me."

"Speaking of matches," Damon reached into his back pocket and pulled out a travel size can of hairspray and lighter. He may not have a snazzy laser gun but he was resourceful. In one swift movement he sent a torch of flames in Klaus' direction, singing his shoulder and side of his face giving his cheek speckles of a dark graphite color. "And don't call me Shirley."

With an angry roar, Klaus lunged, tackling Damon to the ground.

"Get off of him!" A vehement shout came from behind them.

Damon wanted to close his eyes and slump in defeat. He knew that voice. Under normal circumstances the sound of it brought him joy. Not now.

"How quaint," Klaus snickered halting his killing blow. "The girlfriend rides in on her white horse to save the day."

"Elena, go! Get out of here!"

"Not on your life, Salvatore." She leveled the nozzle of the laser directly at Klaus. Her stance was defiant but she knew if Klaus looked closely enough, he would be able to see the tendons in her arms straining to keep her hold steady. "Let him go or I will kill you."

"You'll try and kill me either way, princess, I might-"

"I am not your princess." She shot a short beam straight at his foot.

It missed by a small margin but it was enough for Klaus to startle and for Damon to make his move. He surged upward, pushing Klaus off using every bit of strength he had in his reserves. It wasn't just about saving himself now. It was about keeping himself alive, so he could keep Klaus away from Elena. Why didn't things ever go as planned? Surely, his karma wasn't that fucked up.

They grappled with each other, moving too quickly for her to get a clear aim but one thing was clear. Damon was losing steam. She knew how the laser would affect Klaus but would it be deadly for Damon? She couldn't risk it.

Think, Elena, think, she chided herself. What could she use? Blood! She had blood. Her eyes darted the ground by her feet, looking for anything that had a sharp edge. Nestled within a clump of weeds lay a rock with a spearlike end. Keeping the gun trained on them, she crouched down and picked it up.

"Hey, Klaus!" she called out, hoping to divert his attention.

He never spared her a look. His attention had one focus and it wasn't her. With a long intake of steeling breath, she dragged the rock across her skin. Blood beaded and pooled on her forearm before dripping down to the dirt below.

Klaus whirled to her, his deep inhale visible right before he licked his lips. Now she had his attention. It only took her a second to lock eyes with Damon's fearful ones to send a silent message she hoped he would head; don't interfere.

As Klaus went to advance toward her, Damon locked his arms around his chest and hung on tight allowing Elena the time she needed to send a laser blast right at Klaus' middle. He roared in agony as the white stream of bright light cut into him making a sickening high frequency sound.

Damon jumped back, being caught by the edge of the beam.

"Fuck!" he shouted looking down at his side. Blood seeped around his fingers and the smoke of burning flesh wafted to his nostrils turning his stomach.

Elena kept her focus on Klaus, cutting criss-cross shapes into his marbleized skin as he writhed on the ground. His pale blue gazed beseeched her for mercy but she found she had none to spare as she aimed with almost a sadistic glee.

This was her revenge for months spent in terror and suspense, of time-wasted, and delayed choices and sometimes having barely a choice at all. She wanted him to fear her just as he made her fear, to inflict pain as she had.

"Not so fun, is it, Klaus?" It was a rhetorical question she didn't expect nor want an answer too.

"Elena, stop!" Damon shouted out. "That's enough!" The look on her face was jarring. He had never seen her look so ferocious, so joyful at putting an end to another being and he wasn't sure if he liked it. He always imagined he would enjoy it if she acted more like him, not sparing remorse when none was warranted. The truth was, now that he witnessed it, he didn't enjoy it at all. It scared him.

He stared at Klaus's separated pieces, still moving, still alive and then back at Elena, who was panting heavy with exertion and a smile tugging at her lips. This wasn't Elena. This was someone else, someone he didn't know.

All it took was the look of horror and desolation in Damon's eyes to bring her world into focus again and realize what she had just done. She dropped her weapon and winced as it thudded a few times before settling on the dirt.

"Oh God." She doubled over, fighting nausea, trying not to look at Klaus, who was still sort of alive or at Damon, whom she was sure was wearing an expression of disgust now instead of shock. "He was going to kill you. I…couldn't…I wouldn't…" She shook her head. Now that the adrenaline was wearing off, her whole body started to tremble. "Who was I just now? That...she...Damon, she wasn't me. She wasn't me."

His arms were around her in a second, wrapping her in a comforting embrace as she clawed at his shirt, her mouth opened in a silent scream.

"Shh." He soothed her hair back. "It's okay. You did what you had to do."

She knew that. Deep down inside, she knew. She just never expected to like it so much, for it to feel so powerful. All the times she condemned Damon for having little conscience or regret and her she was, reveling over the fact that she killed someone. That it was because she was saving Damon and in turn saving herself, didn't make a difference.

"You need blood," she said, pulling back from him, attempting to pull herself together. Her shaking hands pulled down the collar of her shirt and she offered her neck to him. "Take it. Drink from me."

Damon wasn't going to let this go that easily. Whatever she initially felt at defeating Klaus was gone. Now she was coming back to martyr like self and he wasn't going to let her beat herself up. After his initial horror wore off, he understood. Too well. He'd be wrong to hold her up to standards he couldn't ever hope to achieve. He wasn't Stefan. He couldn't put her on a pedestal and expect her not to fall.

Prying her fingers from her shirt, he grasped them in his hands. "Forget the blood and listen to me. You did an incredible thing just now. Crazy and stupid but incredible. It's okay to be happy about killing the big bad. After all the shit he's put us through…put you through, you earned it."

She didn't believe him. He could see it in her guilt-stricken expression, in her defeat-slumped shoulders, in the way she was trying so hard not to look at him.

"Elena-"

"We need to burn the pieces and you still need blood." Her voice sounded hollow and dead to her own ears and her eyebrows furrowed in confusion as she looked around her, for the first time noticing that they were the only ones here. "Alice and Victoria? Bella was supposed to..."

Now that they dealt with Klaus and Elena was okay or at least she would be, another fear took hold in him at her words. His body tensed, almost afraid to ask. "Where is Isabella?" When Elena didn't answer right away, he continued, already suspecting the terrible truth. "Please don't tell me the two of you concocted some insane plan, that Bella isn't chasing off after Icky Vicky."

"It didn't sound insane at the time."

"God Damn it!" He stomped his foot on the ground.

"Now, Bella was a tasty morsel." They almost forgot Klaus was still barely alive even if his body was separated into pieces.

"How is it he is still able to talk?" Damon mumbled to himself and turned back to face Elena. It was time to rid the world of Klaus once and for all. "Turn around. Close your eyes. Cover your ears. You did your part. It's time for me to do mine."

"Mark my words, this will haunt you Elena. To take a life so gleefully, even one such as mine, will remain with you for the rest of your days."

"Don't you ever give up, old man?" Damon kicked what was left of the torso towards a leg. "Just shut up."

"It will, you know. My face will be the last image you will see before you close your eyes every night."

"No." She took a few steps back. "No."

"It will eat at you every day until the guilt destroys you."

"Don't listen to him, 'Lena. He's just trying to push your buttons."

"She knows I'm right. Don't you, Princess? I can see it in your face."

Elena remained silent. Damon, on the other hand, couldn't resist kicking Klaus' head towards growing pile of limbs like a soccer ball.

"How many times do we have to tell you, she isn't your princess?" he said with a growl. He wished Elena had shot him in the mouth too. Even when he was about to be turned into ash, he was a pain in the ass. "You know most people would be begging for redemption and forgiveness right about now."

"We're not most people though, are we Damon? There is no redemption or forgiveness for soulless creatures like us. Why not enjoy the ride while we can?"

Damon gritted his teeth together. He didn't want Klaus to see that his words struck a dissonant chord within him.

"Don't…don't listen to him. He's wrong." She shook her head at him with wide-eyes.

The only acknowledgment he gave her was a clenching jaw. He fished inside his jeans for the Zippo lighter he tucked back in there. It took a few times for the spark to catch before a flame appeared. "Turn around, Elena. Now!"

When he was satisfied that her back was turned, he tossed the lighter onto what was left of Klaus and watched the flames rise, giving way to purple smoke as Klaus burned, his shrieks piercing the air.

"Ashes to ashes, dust to fucking dust."

A few miles from them, another cloud of purple smoke rose through the treetops.

"Damon, look!" Elena pointed at it. "Do you think-"

"There's only one way to find out." He gripped her elbow, Klaus momentarily forgotten. "C'mon."

"Wait. You still need blood."

"I'll deal."

He was more concerned about Isabella right now. She had a penchant for getting into trouble and a self-sacrificing streak a mile wide. Now that thought was in his head, he propelled them faster through the forest, towards the sweet, repulsive smell of freshly killed cold one. He helped Elena over boulders and hills, disregarding his desperate need for blood.

"She's probably fine Damon," Elena tried to assure him through her own fears. If he lost Bella, she would lose him. She knew it. Something irrevocable would be broken in him. She'd already almost seen it happen once. It was something she never wanted to see again. If he flipped his switch, they would be over. "That's probably Victoria's body burning."

"You don't know that."

"Maybe not for sure but I do know Alice and Bella. You need to believe in them."

Getting his hopes up was out of the question. There were too many times they went against him. He'd rather steel himself for the loss and be wrong than put expectant hope too high and have them doused. No, it was better this way.

They approached a tiny clearing where the remains of a vampire burned. Damon put all his focus to see through the flames. His body slumped in relief. It was Icky Vicky. He could clearly make out the last remnants of red wavy hair.

His hand tightened around Elena's as he scanned the area for any sign of Bella and Alice. Where were they? Could they have gone back to the cabin? No, that didn't make sense. He and Elena were just there. They would've passed them.

"Look." Elena pointed off to the distance.

It was Alice, or at least the back of her. She was kneeling in the dirt, her body shaking.

"No!" Damon dropped Elena's hand and ran forward. The closer he got to her, the more his chest hurt and his throat tightened. He skidded to a halt, a fierce denial roaring past his lips when he was able to make sense of what he was seeing.

It was Isabella. She was so still. There was no rise and fall of her chest, not even a little. No heartbeat that his preternatural hearing could detect. He dropped down hard on his knees, the sound making a distinct crack. It would be okay, he thought. She would wake up, perhaps as one of his kind but she would wake up. He had assured that.

"What happened?" His voice was guttural and hoarse and it had nothing to do with the smoke from burning vampire.

Alice couldn't even look at him. She leaned over Bella and gently pulled back her hair to reveal a savage bite mark on her shoulder. "She bit her," she said on a choked sob. "I couldn't get to her in time and she bit her."

"That's not a completely bad thing is it?" Elena, who had just came up to them, said as she looked at her friend lying so still on the ground. "I mean, she has the venom in her, right? Isn't she transitioning? I know she would've preferred it to be not now and by Edward but-" She stopped short when she saw the hopelessness in Alice's ravaged expression.

"You don't understand." She shook her head. "I should be able to see her…see something. It's not there!" Alice cried out and hung her head. "It's nothing but a black hole. Her future is completely gone. And so…so is Edward's."


A/N - I apologize for the late update...again. I've had some familial issues to contend with recently and haven't been able to concentrate on this story as much as I would have hoped. The good news is, I am committed to seeing it through to its end. Please review...if you are still there. All comments are appreciated.