A/N: Okay, so, this idea just sort of popped into my head today and I had the urge to start writing. I have no idea where I'm going with this, but I do have a basic direction. Anyway, let me know what you think so far and if it's worth continuing. It takes place after 3x12, The Ties That Bind.

Summary: Everyone's so bent on opening the coffin and finding the answer to Klaus' demise. But what if the contents aren't just a weapon? What if it's your worst nightmare?

Disclaimer: I do not own the Vampire Diaries or any characters there-in. If I did, Damon would do a lot more sexy bar-top dances.

When In Nightmares

Every part of her body hurt. It felt like being consumed by flames from the inside out, but every scream she cried only brought on another bought of pain, as if the witch could care less how much it hurt. She pleaded for her to stop, that there had to be another way, but her pleas fell on deaf, uncaring ears. The screams of another began to fill the air and she vaguely recognized Klaus' strangled voice.

Looking up briefly, her weary eyes met his and he clawed the ground in an attempt to drag himself closer to her, but the pain racking his own body made it impossible. The pain started to die down as the first part of the ritual came to a close, and she knew she wouldn't survive the second. That's when she noticed a man she'd never seen before, standing beside Michael; a man with black eyes and withered skin. He looked menacing, even from this distance and a cold chill ran over her, like all the warmth had just been sucked from the air.

Before she could register more than that, the pain began again and she let out another agonizing cry as the witch bent over her with a knife at her neck.

Elena shot straight up in bed; a cold sweat covering her body and making her sheets stick to her skin. She peeled them off and sat panting in bed, trying to catch her breath. Where had that even come from? Her skin still crawled from the image of that man and her stomach was still tightened at the memory of the pain.

She glanced over at the clock that read five o'clock and let out a long sigh. Over the past few months, she'd gotten used to the lack of sleep, but she longed for the days when she used to stay in bed until noon. Groggily, she crawled out of bed and made her way to the shower, only to stop dead in her tracks when she caught sight of the zombie in the mirror.

The circles were dark under her eyes and her skin even seemed paler, unhealthy. She knew it was just the stress, but it was still scary to look at. While she waited on the water to heat up, she cracked the door to Jeremy's room to check on him out of habit, before she remembered he wasn't there. Although there were still pictures on his walls and sheets on his bed, the emptiness radiated from the room and it widened the hole Elena had in her chest for her brother.

Before she could add grief to her rollercoaster of emotions, she slammed his door and angrily removed her pajamas, happy when the warm water started to wash away all her tension. She decided to turn her mind to something besides that disturbing dream, and they ended up where they usually did these days… Damon.

No, its right. Just not right now.

His words had echoed in her head every free moment she had. Even though she'd let Stefan go, she still couldn't shake the thought that dating his brother was wrong, especially when she knew she couldn't give him her whole heart. Stefan, the old Stefan, still had a part of it and he just wouldn't let it go. Not to mention the perilous situation they were in right now wasn't exactly healthy for a budding relationship. Just look at Bonnie and Jeremy, or Caroline and Tyler. It was like asking for heartbreak.

But why couldn't she stop thinking about those blue eyes and soft lips…

Okay, so maybe focusing on the nightmare was better. At least she didn't have to worry about blushing at the wrong moment when it was on her mind. With all these thoughts of Damon, she couldn't remember if she'd even shampooed her hair and ended up spending forty-five minutes in the shower instead of her usual fifteen, and couldn't even focus on the items in her closet.

After settling for her usual jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt ensemble, she plodded tiredly down the stairs.

"Mornin."

Elena jumped and nearly let out a scream at the sudden voice in the quiet house until she spotted Damon on the couch.

"Really? You couldn't just call."

"What's got your panties in a twist this morning?"

"Nothing," Elena mumbled, making for the kitchen before he could see the blush that spread over her cheeks as she took in those lips again.

"Fine, little Miss I'm In Denial. Don't tell me."

"I just… didn't get very much sleep. And why are you here so early?"

"Stefan and I got in a fight. I could hear him brooding in his sleep."

"A fight? About what?" Just as the question left her mouth, Elena realized exactly what the fight was about and refocused her attention on the coffeemaker.

"Let's just say he didn't give us his blessing."

"I had to tell him. I just thought he had a right to know."

"Hey, I'm not complaining if you want to take our relationship public."

"Damon…"

"I know; we don't have one… yet."

Elena eyed him incredulously before just rolling her eyes and grabbing a coffee mug from the cabinet, content to let the subject drop.

"You know, you should probably eat breakfast. It would help with…" Elena knew Damon was most likely still talking, but his voice had taken on a muted quality as she stared at a man's face glaring back at her in the window… the exact face from her dream! Her heart raced in her chest and her lungs felt as if they'd stopped completely.

It wasn't until the coffee mug she'd been holding crashed into the linoleum that she was finally pulled from her shock.

"Elena! Elena, what's wrong!"

Damon continued to shake her, pulling her face around to look in her eyes.

"Are you okay?"

Elena turned back to the window, but the face was gone.

"Yeah; I just… thought I saw something. It's just the nightmare I had last night… it has me on edge."

But she was so sure it was real. What was wrong with her? Maybe after all this stress and tragedy, she'd finally started to crack. Damon was still looking at her like he thought she would break and his hands were still heavy and protective on her shoulders, holding her in place.

"Well, I think for now, we should keep you away from any sharp or pointy objects," Damon joked, but she could still hear the worry thick in his throat. He guided her carefully to the table, making sure she avoided the shards of the broken coffee mug and sat her down.

"Why don't you just sit here and I'll make you breakfast, as long as you don't tell anyone. I don't do that for all the girls."

He left her with a wink before moving around the kitchen, cleaning up her mess and starting some pancakes. She watched him in a daze, the face with the black eyes still at the forefront of her mind. What if this wasn't just a regular dream? What if it was a message?

A noise she couldn't place filled up the background, but she ignored it until Damon left the stove to retrieve her cell phone, eyeing her nervously the whole time.

"Hello," he answered.

"Damon? What are you doing at Elena's so early? And why didn't Elena answer her phone," Bonnie asked.

"Elena's… not feeling well at the moment. Is it important?"

"No, I guess not. My mom and I are still working on spells to open the coffin. I just wanted to tell her I'm skipping school today."

"Enjoy the maternal bonding."

"Whatever. Just tell her to call me when she feels better."

Damon ended the call without another word, too distracted by the dead look that had come across Elena's face. This wasn't like her. He moved to retrieve the plate of pancakes and sat them in from of her.

"Eat, Elena. Please."

Slowly, she picked up the fork and did as he said, trying desperately to concentrate on the food.

"These are really good," she complemented.

"They came out of box. It wasn't that hard."

"The last time I made pancakes I kept burning them." There still wasn't any emotion in her voice and Damon's face was growing more worried by the minute.

"Elena… what happened in this dream?"

At first, she was so quiet, he didn't think he'd get an answer and was even considering compelling her. Then her troubled eyes met his as she relived the nightmare.

"I was in some clearing in the woods. Klaus was there… and we were both in pain. There was a witch, and I think she was doing some kind of spell on both of us. I think she was about to kill me. And Michael was there with this man. The man had black eyes…"

Elena stopped, focusing on the black eyes of the mystery man, until Damon took her shoulders in his hands.

"You're shaking, Elena."

"I've never seen a face that evil. It was like he could stare right into your soul and burn it. It was just… wrong. That's the face I saw just now, in the window."

Damon flashed to the window, staring out into the empty back yard. He extended his senses, listening to every rustling leaf and barking dog until he ascertained that there was nothing there. But she'd seen something.

"Elena? You're up early. And what are you doing here Damon," Alaric asked, voice still thick with sleep.

No one answered him and he slowly keyed in to the tense situation.

"What's going on?"

"Elena had a bad dream," Damon informed him once it was clear that Elena wouldn't speak. He stopped himself from saying any more, not sure how much Elena was comfortable with sharing.

"Okay… that still doesn't explain why you're here; though you practically live here."

"If it'll shut you up, I made pancakes," Damon offered. Although his smirk was present, Alaric noticed something brewing behind his carefree façade and guessed the situation was more than just a frightening nightmare.

"Elena, you can tell me what happened. I know something's wrong."

After staring deeply into Alaric's caring eyes, Elena finally retold her dream until she was once again stunned into silence.

"This seems significant. Maybe we should tell Bonnie," Alaric suggested.

"Please don't make me describe it again," Elena pleaded. It was the first time Alaric had heard her sound so scared, but for Damon it brought back the memory of the night Lexi's boyfriend had tried to kill him, and Elena had begged for his life.

And then, Elena had a revelation that had her shooting right out of her chair.

"Maybe I don't have to. I can just show you."

"What do you mean," Damon asked, not sure he liked the crazy fire he was seeing in her eyes.

"You can go into my dreams… see it for yourself."

"Are you sure? You're just giving me permission to walk around in your head?"

"If it really is important, I want you to see it for yourself."

Damon contemplated the idea. He hadn't been in Elena's head since almost a year ago, though he'd wanted to, many times. Though this was enticing, he was afraid she'd regret it later, especially if he saw something she didn't want him too. And what if he saw something he didn't like? It's not like navigating someone else's subconscious is an exact science.

But if this dream was important, he needed to see it for himself.

"Where do you want to do this?"

Elena smiled and took his hand, guiding him to the stairs. Alaric sat at the now empty kitchen table, staring after them.

"This is going to be bad."

A/N: So what do you think? Good story line or worst idea ever?