A/N: This is my first fanfiction of any kind, so I'm a little nervous. I also haven't written creatively in about 7 years, so try to cut me some slack. I would love to hear what people think about my writing. I do not own these characters, just my creativity.

Summary: Elena is tired of feeling helpless and useless among her supernatural Scooby gang. She does not want to be only the sacrificial lamb and feels trapped in this role. Damon sees her as so much more and, being the upstanding guy he is, when it comes to Elena, he tries to show her how strong she is. Over the course of the story, Elena discovers there is more to being the Doppelganger than any of them ever thought. Post 3x09.

Damon unhurriedly made his way through the vegetation. He paid attention to her scent trail only to make sure she hadn't wandered off the appropriate path. He knew where she was. He made no sound though the leaves were officially piled up, the trees nearly bare as winter approached. It had been six weeks since their devastating failure at Homecoming and the air was getting colder.

As he neared the location of the clearing he began to hear the slap of leather equipment and the grunts and puffs of someone exerting themself. He sighed, unsurprised. Training again. The trees thinned out to show the shape of a girl relentlessly beleaguering an old grey punching bag suspended from a sturdy branch. He felt his body release the tension that always built up when he was unsure of her safety, this girl who had taken over his every thought, and he made his way to lean against a tree trunk and observe her.

"You really have gotten better."

She ceased her determined attack on the poor leather and, without turning around, responded, "How did you find me?"

"Alaric told me where you were."

She spun around, back straight, eyes carrying a spark that he probably should have paid attention to. "How could he have known where I was? I didn't tell anyone. I just left!"

"Come on Elena! He could see you were clearly angry about something, and it's not like we don't know where you go when you're pissed at this point. You've practically made this clearing your second home these past few weeks. Did you get it all out?"

She glared at his relaxed form and spun back to the bag, muttering "Not even close" as she let a wild roundhouse kick fly. He sighed again. No matter how beautiful she was all worked up, determined Elena was no fun. He made his way over to her and held the bag for her. She didn't even glance at him, focused solely on some imaginary foe. He let her punch and kick and spin around for a bit. This was boring.

"Why do you even bother? No matter how much you've improved in the last two months, you'll never be good enough to take on a vampire."

Her eyes flashed to his, rage practically radiating from her in suffocating waves. She suddenly spun around the bag towards him, grabbing a metal stake (we don't want to kill sexy vampires who help us train, now do we?) from a holster on her leg and jabbed it straight towards his unprotected stomach. He grinned and rolled his body away from her attack, out into the clearing away from the bag. She followed, slicing up and then sideways with her weapon, grabbing a simulation vervain grenade with her other hand and throwing it at his head. He hit the ground and was on his feet again with a blur, not even trying to retaliate. She growled and threw her stake straight towards him. He turned his body so it harmlessly whizzed past his chest, close enough that he felt the wind from its displacement as he heard her draw another stake from behind her back this time. She tucked and rolled, popping up right where he was a second ago. She spun around, her eyes glinting, looking for where he disappeared to. From his perch on the tree above, he dropped down behind her and wrapped his arms around her body in a vise grip, bending to bite her neck with blunt teeth.

"Bang, you're dead." He said with a smirk. She huffed in fury and broke away from him, throwing her hands in the air.

"ARGHHH! I AM SO SICK OF THIS CRAP!" she screamed. "I am so tired of being helpless, the dead weight copy of some psychotic bitch who lived centuries before me and who puts everyone's lives in danger simply by existing. I'm useless! Good for nothing except to be sacrificed and to be the eternal ingredient to the Make a Hybrid Foundation! I can't even scratch you and you're not even trying to kill me or hurt me or kidnap me or whatever the next fairytale asshole wants with me!" She glared at the ground, her whole figure tense and self-loathing.

"Well, it's good to see you're not brooding." He quipped.

She turned to face him, hot, angry tears pooling in her eyes as she tried to glare and maintain her composure simultaneously. He softened. He shouldn't have tried to get a rise out of her, though he was pretty sure it was good for her to get this out. "Elena, really you're not helpless. Firstly, you can't help that you're human…human-ish I guess since you are technically a magical entity. Secondly, you seriously have improved, a lot. You almost hit me once or twice. With more practice you'll get there. And thirdly…what I just said."

She rolled her eyes, which did not help keep her tears from falling at all. "I'll still never be able to keep up. I'll never be a valuable member of our family. I can never protect the people I love unless I just give up. I'll never be able to save you the way you keep saving me." She said with defeat lacing her voice.

He made his way slowly closer to her, like he would approach a deer he didn't want to spook. He wrapped one arm around her, pulling her close as his free hand worked to clean her tears away. He rested his chin on her head and just waited. Slowly her tense frame relaxed into his and her arms wound around his waist. He took this as his cue to speak again.

"Truly Elena, you are stronger than you know. You've made it through all the crap these last two years shockingly well. And we don't know what being the Doppelganger means. Who knows? Maybe there's some super-secret witchy-woo that'll turn you into super woman on leap year. Actually…that's kind of hot. I hope that happens. Now can we go home?" He was rewarded with a watery chuckle as she pulled away from him. He grinned, proud of himself as he began to help her pack up.

As they made their way back through the trees towards her car, he said, "You know what your problem is?"

"No, but I'm sure you'll tell me." She responded sarcastically.

"You need to have some fun. Get away from all your teen-angsty drama for a while." He gasped. "I have a great idea!"

She glanced at him. "I don't like the sound of that. All your great ideas usually wind up killing someone."

"Don't worry. You'll love this one." He said with a smile.

"Oh? Do tell?" She replied, trying not to let him see that his determined good humor was starting to cheer her.

"Picture this. You, me, my Camaro, and a highway." He said, spreading his hands in front of him like he could see it all.

"Huh?"

"Road trip baby! We'll leave tomorrow morning and just drive. Stop wherever we feel like it. This might be my best plan ever!"

"What? We can't just leave! Klaus could come back any day to take revenge for trying to help his father stake him. We can't leave everyone alone. No way. And don't call me baby!" She shook her head determinedly, her ponytail flapping behind her.

"Elena, come on. It's been six weeks. Since Stefan hasn't come back I'm pretty sure it's safe to assume that Klaus is busy playing evil tic-tac-toe with his pet Ripper. I'm sure he'll come back eventually, but it could be a decade or more until we see him again. Pleeeaaaassseeee…." He whined, smirking so hard she thought his face might freeze.

She rolled her eyes and kept walking. This was a terrible idea. Spending an unforeseen amount of time alone with Damon was sure to drive her insane. Yes, she would have fun. She might even be happy. But this trip would definitely not help with her increasingly less ambiguous feelings toward the older Salvatore brother. Regardless of the fact that she and Stefan would probably never be together again, she was so not ready to jump on the Damon train. She glanced at the muscles in his arms as he carried most of her gear. Oh boy, yea…jumping on Damon, not something she should be thinking about. She blushed. He must have heard her heart rate increase because he glanced at her oddly. She quickly looked down, pretending to be vitally interested in the crusty leaves under her sneakers.

Eventually they reached her car and started loading her things. He had pretty much given up hope of ever getting a response to his plea when he heard her take a deep breath and let it out in a whoosh.

"Okay. But if we do this I have a condition. And I reserve the right to add more as the trip progresses."

He looked up, shocked. "Huh? Nuh uh. Conditions will completely ruin the purpose of this plan, that being that there is no plan. No conditions. No way."

"Fine, only one condition, but this one is important." She looked at him steadily. He studied her, trying to figure out what awful thing she wanted.

"Okay, I'll bite. What's your condition?"

She grinned in triumph, only making him more uncomfortable. "If I go with you, I get to pick the music!"

Oh crap.

I know, another road trip story. But I promise I have more in mind than just your typical Delena road trip. Please give me a chance and review! Let me know what you think. I'll probably post a couple more chapters before I'll let a lack of reviews convince me to give up.