A/N: To all those leaving "guest" reviews, since I can't respond directly, thank you!

Chapter 23

Elena sat on the examination table, her legs swinging slightly as she stared around the room. The walls of Dr. Fell's office were covered in health posters and bins of brochures with tips for pregnancy and new mothers. She couldn't believe it had been almost two months since Jenna and Alaric's wedding and she was now twenty weeks into her pregnancy. Damon had flown them all straight back to New York after the wedding and she was able to show her little brother around the Big Apple before he had to return to California. Since then, the weeks had flown by and she now found herself sitting in Dr. Fell's office waiting for her ultrasound.

Rubbing her now protruding belly she glanced to her side, she saw Damon lounging in a chair legs outstretched looking perfectly relaxed, the exact opposite of Elena's current mood. Even after everything that happened with the attack and Katherine evil schemes, she had never felt more fear than today as they waited to find out more about the health of their baby. Thinking back to their last doctor visit two weeks prior, Dr. Fell heard an odd echo when she listened to the heartbeat. She reassured them that it was probably nothing, but Elena could focus on nothing else but the possibility something was wrong.

As they sat in the exam room, Elena's anxiety grew until she was practically hyperventilating. Gentle hands cupped her face and cerulean blues stared into her own. She hadn't even noticed Damon had stood up and stepped in front of her.

"Breathe Elena. Just breathe" Damon said gently his thumbs rhythmically stroking her cheek.

"I'm. sorry. emotions. all. over. the place." Elena admitted between gasps of air.

"In. Out. Slow it down. In. Out." Elena closed her eyes and let the feel of Damon's hands and his soothing words calm her, letting the peace she felt in his presence assuage her fear and anxiety.

"I'm sorry" Elena said when her breathing was finally back under control.

"Today isn't a day to be anxious. Today is the day we get to find out if I win my bet." Damon flashed her an evil grin.

"Bet?" Elena questioned as she continued to take slow even breathes. Even as she calmed, Damon never left her side. In fact, he had hardly left her side since he found her in Mystic Falls. Despite pregnancy hormone induced rages, uncontrollable crying jags, and 3 am cravings, he had been the rock she leaned on and he had never wavered.

"We get to find out the gender today. Caroline and I have a slap bet on if it's a boy or a girl. If it's a girl she gets to slap me three times, but I don't plan on losing. This is definitely a boy." Damon wiggled his eyebrows at her as he rubbed her stomach tenderly.

"Slap bet? Where did you come up with that ridiculous idea like that? Wait….if you win does that mean you are going to slap Caroline? Why would she agree to that?" Elena's widened at Damon. She hoped this was one of those ludicrous things Damon said just to make her laugh and forget her troubles.

"First, this was Caroline's idea, not mine. She is a little obsessed with the show How I Met Your Mother and supposedly its a running joke on the show. Secondly, when I win, I won't be slapping Caroline. I would never hit a woman, even one as trying as her. I get to slap Stefan." Damon leaned his hip against the examination table a faraway look in his eye. He must be day dreaming about slapping his little brother which was probably the only prompt he needed to agree to such an idiotic bet.

"Stefan agreed to that?" Elena learned her head against Damon's shoulder.

"Of course not, Caroline volunteered him, but for once blondie had a genius plan." Elena rolled her eyes at the antics of her boyfriend and best friend. At least they weren't fighting. She had to grateful for the small things.

"How is mom today" Dr. Fell said with a smile as she walked into the exam room medical chart in hand.

"G-good." Elena tried to put on a brave face, but Damon ever the honest man destroyed her façade.

"Soooome-body, is nervous about the ultrasound and wants it over with" Damon said in a teasing tone.

"Well, let's not cause mom anymore anxiety than necessary." Dr. Fell made a new notes in the chart as an ultrasound technician entered the room.

Elena laid back on the examination and pulled up her shirt. The technician applied the cold gel and she shivered. Damon picked up her hand and brought it to his lips, soothing her yet again. She gave him a small smile before turning her attention back to the ultrasound monitored. The technician moved the wand across her stomach pointing out various body parts and taking pictures as she went.

"There is a shadow, can you retrace that area again?" Dr. Fell asked as she continued to watch the monitor. The technician did as requested and Elena started to panic as silence seemed to fill the room all eyes glued to the monitor.

"Let's talk about a couple of things before we finish." Dr. Fell looked up, her face giving nothing away.

Elena's heart dropped into her stomach. This was the bad news she had been dreading yet expecting from the second she woke up this morning. Frankly she had been expecting bad news from the second they told in the hospital she was pregnant.

"The heart looks fine. So no concern with the echo we heard a couple of weeks ago. There was a shadow on the ultrasound, but I don't see any abnormalities. We'll do some additional testing, but I don't think there is anything to worry about. The one concern I have is you have developed placenta previa which means the placenta is too close to the cervix. It's still early and it may resolve itself. We'll do another ultrasound at the 7 month mark to recheck. If it doesn't resolve itself, it means we'll have to do a c-section to avoid any bleeding issues that could occur with a natural birth. This is a really common issue and we'll just monitor and adjust the birth plan accordingly okay?" Dr. Fell gave Elena's arm a comforting squeeze. "Other than that, the baby looks fantastic and everything looks to be right on schedule."

"See nothing to worry about." Damon squeezed her hand again and Elena let out the breathe she had been holding.

"Are we finding out gender today?" The technician asked distracting Elena from the news that a complication had developed.

"Yes! Let's confirm junior is really a junior." Damon said letting go of Elena's hand, rubbing his hands together mischievously. Elena couldn't help but laugh at his confidence that the baby was a boy.

Elena watched the screen as the technician moved the wand around and made adjustments to the screen. The technician chuckled lightly. "Congratulations….it's a girl."

Tears immediately sprang to Elena's eyes as she was handed printouts of the ultrasound images. A girl. Elena hadn't cared about the gender, only wanting a healthy baby. Hearing she was having a girl made the prospect of becoming a mother real for the first. Minutes that seemed like hours passed and Elena realized Damon hadn't said a word. She looked up to see him staring dumbfounded at her stomach. She tentatively reached out a hand and touched his arm worried he would be disappointed that it was a girl when he had been convinced it was a boy.

The touch snapped him out of his reverie and he leaned forward his lips inches from her stomach. "There will be ground rules, princess. No boys in your room. EVER! No dating until you're at least...30. No make that 40. Finally, any boy breaks your heart I'll kick his ass. Better yet, I'll teach you how to kick his ass."

Damon looked at Elena his eyes wide filled with joy and little bit of fear. "Holy Shit!" Damon whispered and sat down with a thud. Luckily the chair he had seen sitting in earlier was still behind him.

"A girl" Damon jumped back to his feet and kissed Elena. "Think they'll give Alaric and me a two for one deal on shot guns?" Damon grinned pulling Elena into hug burying his face in her hair.

"Thank you" he whispered in her ear and she squeezed him harder grateful that they were experiencing this together.

Damon walked into the bedroom and saw Elena sitting on the bed leaning against the headboard the laptop balanced on her outstretched legs. He sat on the bed facing her and peered over the monitor of the laptop sighing when he saw she was again reading medical websites on placenta previa. He was constantly trying to combat her obsession with researching anything and everything that could still go wrong with the pregnancy.

Elena looked up at him and gave him a smile. Damon returned the smile, but his insides were churning. Elena had avoided all conversations of the future. The ultrasound a few weeks prior indicated, for the most part, everything was progressing normally. The time to start preparing for impending parenthood was now otherwise instead of panicking over the pregnancy Elena would start panicking over not being prepared. Damon secretly already been buying things for the past month. Now that he knew he was going to have a daughter, the kid already had a closet full of clothes thanks to Jenna and Caroline in addition to the things he had already bought. He wanted Elena to be able to set up the nursery how she wanted and enjoy choosing things for the baby. Plus they needed to decide if they would stay in the condo or get a new place, and there was the decision about Elena's book that still needed to be made.

"It's time we made some decisions about the future, Elena. This baby will be here before we know it." Damon said gently moving the laptop to the side of the bed so he could pull Elena closer.

"I-I can't Damon. It's too soon." Elena looked at him, her eyes wide in fear. He couldn't let this continue. As much as he didn't want to upset her, he needed to start pushing her.

"You can and we have to Elena. Every couple of days, we are going to make a decision about this baby. Today how about we discuss names." Elena just shook her head and tried to pull away but Damon held firm.

"I know that Jenna and Alaric have decided to name their daughter Miranda after your mom. I was thinking that maybe we could name our daughter Isla Marie. Isla was my mom's middle name and she always liked it better than her first name. Marie was my mom's first name and I know it was also Miranda's middle name. Our little girl could have a name that is part of both of her grandmother's." Damon had been fidgeting with the hem of Elena's maternity shirt staring at the comforter while he explained his rationale for the name. He had been thinking non-stop of names since they found out they were having a girl.

When Damon was met with silence his heart fell slightly. He wanted so much to be thinking and planning with Elena, but he just couldn't get her to see behind today. At the beginning he agreed, but they were far enough along in the pregnancy that he felt confident that he would someday soon get to hold that baby in his arms.

With a sigh he looked up and tears were streaming down her face. His heart sank a little more that he had made her cry. He reached up and wiped away the tears and tried to hide his disappointment.

"We'll talk about this another time then." Damon gave a sad smile and started to get up when he felt Elena clutch his arm.

"Isla Marie Salvatore. I love it." She said quietly pulling on his arm harder forcing him to sit back on the bed.

"It's a beautiful name and that it can be from both our mom's means even more. I'm sorry I'm making this difficult for you. I know you want to talk more about the future and start planning our lives. I'm not ready yet, but I'll try to be soon." Elena promised snuggling against him.

"Faith Elena. You just need to have faith we'll be okay." Damon said quietly. He usually wasn't one to be the optimist or brimming to the top with hope and platitudes of joy, but for Elena he would do anything.

"With that settled, we have a dinner to get to. Time to get moving preggo." Damon helped Elena to her feet and the two moved around the room getting ready for an evening out.

Damon ushered Elena into the waiting limo that was prepared to take them to a restaurant opening. The youngest son of a family friend was finally fulfilling his dream and Damon and Stefan wanted to be there in support. Glancing to his left and right before exiting the building, he saw they were flanked by two bodyguards. Since returning to New York he had insisted on someone accompanying Elena whenever she left home. He didn't trust Katherine, even with the restraining order in place. He wasn't prepared to take any chances with Elena's safety. She protested, loudly, but he ignored her complaints and hired the bodyguards anyway.

Once at the restaurant, they were quickly ushered inside. "Who's restaurant is this again?" Elena asked as they maneuvered through the small crowd looking for Caroline and Stefan.

"It's the youngest son of a woman that worked for my dad. Rosa came in a few days a week and cooked for us after we lost our mom. She was also an unofficial Italian tutor. Speak of the devil." Damon grasped Elena's hand and changed direction heading to the back corner of the restaurant where a little old lady was laughing and talking animatedly hands flying around to emphasize her words.

"Nona!" Damon pulled the woman into a hug lifting her off her feet. Once back on solid ground she laughed hitting Damon lightly on the chest.

"Suo così buono per vederLa il mio caro Damon." Rosa pinched Damon's cheeks and her eyes drifted over to Elena and back to Damon raising an eyebrow. Damon chuckled at Rosa's not so subtle demand to be introduced.

"Rosa, this my girlfriend, Elena." Damon wrapped his arm around Elena. "Elena, this is Rosa. The woman responsible for my impressive cooking skills."

Elena reached out her hand, but Rosa ignored it and pulled it her into a hug causing Elena to laugh in surprise. "It's nice to meet you."

"To tame this boy, you must be a special woman." Rosa scanned Elena from head to toe. A smile crept across her face and she turned to Damon. "Bambino?"

"Bambin-A" Damon said proudly.

"A princess to spoil." Rosa clapped her hands together and pulled Damon into another hug. They continued to chatting for few minutes flowing easily between italian and english. Elena eventually excused herself seeing Caroline. She wanted to give Damon some time alone with Rosa.

Caroline immediately squealed when Elena stopped next to her rubbing Elena's belly. "Hello there, baby. Its Auntie Caroline. I am going to spoil you rotten. Plus you made Auntie very happy because I get to slap your dad." Caroline clapped her hands excitedly making Elena smile. Caroline had started calling minutes after they had left they left the ultrasound appointment leaving voicemails and texts desperate to find out the sex. Damon groaned when he heard Caroline scream on the other end of the phone when Elena finally called her back after giving Jenna the good news. He begrudgedly admitted defeat and Caroline had yet to demand payment of his debt.

"I think you need to get behind Damon in the spoiling department." Elena laughed as she watched Stefan and Damon chat with various people in the crowd.

"How is daddy-to-be handling all of this?" Caroline gave Elena a concerned look. All of her friends were still half expecting Damon to bolt because he walked out on her in the hospital. She tried to explain she was equally at fault forcing him to run, but as usual people seem to more readily believe the bad in him waiting for him to screw up.

The truth was so much different than how people perceived Damon. In her wildest dreams she could never have imagined being loved the way Damon loved. He may have trouble saying the right words at times to express his feelings, but he loves like no other. His love is all consuming, full of passion and adventure, just like the man himself. As scared as she was of the future, Damon was the one getting her through each day and she was so grateful that he came into her life.

"I woke up the other day from a nap, to find him earbuds in place another set of headphones on my belly listening to Mozart with the munchkin. I think he is more than handling impending fatherhood." Elena saw the flash of surprise on Caroline's face before a gigantic grin emerged. The two friends laughed as their men continued to make the rounds of the room.

"Miss Forbes, Miss Gilbert." Both Elena and Caroline looked up to see Giuseppe Salvatore standing before them drink in hand. Rosa had worked for the Salvatores for years, so it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Giuseppe may attend, but it still caught Elena off guard.

"Mr. Salvatore." Caroline tried to force a smile on her face while Elena discretely scanned the crowd looking for Damon. The last thing anyone wanted was a confrontation between father and son.

"So the rumors are true. No ring. So my son demonstrates his irresponsibility again." Giuseppe motioned with his hand at Elena's stomach. Elena automatically moved her hands to cover her ever growing belly as if to shield her daughter from her grandfather's harsh words.

"Congratulations Grandpa." Caroline didn't hide the sarcasm in her voice. She crossed her arms over her chest and quirked an eyebrow at the elder Salvatore as if daring him to throw out more hurtful retorts. Elena was in love with her best friend in that moment, but Elena didn't want Caroline to completely destroy her chance at a relationship with Stefan's father.

"It's a girl." Elena said with a hesitant smile. She hoped that the news would refocus the discussion more on the baby and away from Damon.

"If it's a girl, then is it even Damon's? That boy always thought with the wrong head." Giuseppe grumbled his face a stone mask.

Elena took a step forward, trying to reign in her anger knowing she was supposed to avoid stress. "I won't even dignify that last comment with a response. This baby is a treasured miracle, Mr. Salvatore." Elena took a calming breathe and looked into his eyes. "My parents are gone. You are the only grandparent this baby will ever have. If it was possible, my parents would move heaven and earth to have the opportunity to love this baby and be a part of her life. An opportunity you seem intent on callously throwing away over pettiness and ignorance. Your son is an amazing man and will be an amazing father because his only dream for his daughter is for her to be safe and happy. I pity that you can't see the wonderful life that is within your reach and choose to be bitter and alone."

Giuseppe opened his mouth to retort finger raised in an accusatory manner when a velvety voice interrupted the impending tirade. "Looks like dear old dad is over the moon about impending grandfatherhood." Damon face was plastered with a sarcastic smirk. His face softened as he looked down at Elena gently kissing her cheek.

"They are getting ready to serve dinner, how about you go get off your feet and I'll bring you something to drink." Elena watched Damon give Caroline the head nod saying 'get her out of here' and chuckled to herself as Damon again was trying to protect her from whatever he was about to say to his father.

"Be the better man" Elena whispered in his ear after standing on tiptoe to return the kiss on his cheek.

Caroline quickly wrapped an arm around Elena steering her in the direction of their table, going on about how much of a jerk the eldest Salvatore had been to her. Once at their table Elena couldn't take her eyes off of Damon. It was like watching a train wreck and she was waiting for the crash to happen and hoped Damon didn't create too big of a scene.

Once Elena was in her seat and at a safe distance away, Damon rounded on his father. His instinct was to complete blow up and create a huge scene, but he knew that wouldn't be good for Elena's stress levels and Elena's words echoed in his brain 'be the better man.'

"Can you not keep it in your pants Damon?" Giuseppe practically growled at his eldest son.

"What can I say dad, you raised a stud." Damon said flippantly.

"For once in your life, can you take something seriously before you get taken for everything your worth." Giuseppe said with disgust.

"You can do or say anything you want about me. I know in your eyes I am the ultimate disappointment, but you will not hurt Elena. Not that you give a shit, but this hasn't been the easiest pregnancy. And I won't let you or anyone else hurt Elena or my child." Damon hissed his nose inches from his father's.

Damon stepped back replacing is scowl with his patented smirk and adjusting his father's tie.

"I don't think either of us want a scene so I suggest you leave. But if you choose not to stay, out of the two of us, only one has no problem instigating a scene that will plastered all over the tabloids for days." The corner of Damon's mouth ticked up in a half smile challenging his father. Giuseppe's mouth opened and closed a few times before scanning around the room sighing in defeat. He turned on his heel and without a word stalked out of the restaurant.

Damon headed over to the table and sat down. He turned Elena's chair to face him. "Are you okay? I'm sorry my dad is such an ass." Worry lines strained his beautiful face and he searched Elena looking for signs of distress.

"I'm so proud of how you handled him. No angry blow-up, no big scene. Maybe somebody deserves a reward for good behavior." Damon saw the mischievous glint in her eye.

"What kind of reward?" Damon lascivious grin erased all of the previous signs of worry.

"It may be a fun limo ride home." Elena wiggled her eyebrows at Damon before turning back to the table engaging their tablemates in conversation. Damon suppressed a groan grateful for pregnancy hormones that were making sex life even hotter.

Damon's phone started to ring and he picked it up without checking the caller ID distracted by fantasies of what would happen in the limo later. "Mr. Salvatore? Damon Salvatore?"

"Yes, this is Damon Salvatore."

"This is Detective Sloan. I'm the new lead detective on the assault on you and Miss Gilbert. We believe we caught your attacker and need you to come in for a line up to see if you can identify him." Damon grinned. He had been waiting months for this man to be caught. He noticed Elena give him a quizzical look and his grin widened. Maybe they could finally get the evidence they needed to put Katherine behind bars and get her out of their lives for good.

Katherine sat twirling a lock of hair around her finger nervously as she paced the across the floor. Her usual confidence was lacking as she tried to piece a plan together. Things were not going in her favor. There would be no rescinding the restraining order early so she would need to wait for the next hearing to fight it. Her bank accounts were still frozen and most of her contacts that she usually relied on when she needed a hand were shunning her. She screamed in aggravation.

There were too many loose ends, too many unknowns, too many secrets and lies to keep straight. Everything was out of control and she felt she had no way to reign things back in to ensure everything worked out in her favor. One misstep and her house of cards would crash around her and this time she had more to lose than just a man to warm her bed and money to fill her back account.

The cell phone from her earlier phone to call to Dr. Martin was clutched tightly in her hand. Dr. Martin resisted her plans, but she knew it was only a matter of time before he came around and saw her side of things. No one ever said no to Katherine Pierce. The phone started chirping incessantly demanding to be answered. Looking at the caller ID, she internally groaned.

"What do you want Lucy?" Katherine asked in a bored tone. She knew better than to show any weakness in front of Lucy.

"What the hell kind of game are you playing at Katherine?" Lucy practically screamed into the phone. "Jonas called me and told me what you want him to do. Then the police called. They want me to come in for questioning related to an attack on Damon and Elena from months ago. I'll repeat my earlier question, what the hell game are you playing?"

At the word police, Katherine sat up straighter. She had been so careful with Paul, prepaid cell phones, paying him from Klaus's account. She even used Lucy's computer to make the money transfer, but if they had traced the money to Lucy then they were close to her as well.

"We need to talk. Meet me on the Staten Island ferry in two hours." Katherine hung up before hearing a response racing to get ready, fighting the panic settling inside her. She didn't have a plan yet, but knew she would figure out to how deal with Lucy by the time she arrived.

Katherine leaned against the railing at the back of the ferry watching the inky black waters flow by her. The last minute impulsive retrieval that she picked up as she ran out of the house weighed in her pocket. Footsteps behind her alerted Katherine to Lucy's presence, but Katherine refused to turn around. She waited, needing Lucy to confess what she knew so Katherine could figure out what to do. Her world was still spinning out of control and she was worried Lucy's confession may only make things worse.

"Are you going to tell me what the hell is going on?" Lucy demanded but Katherine continued to keep her back to Lucy as she leaned against the railing.

"What do you know?" Katherine asked her voice even and calm.

"I know I am being questioned in the morning as a person of interest related to the attack on Damon and Elena. I know you somehow found out Jonas Martin is one of my clients and you are trying to blackmail him, but not for money." Katherine could hear clicking as Lucy took impatient steps, her high heels making contact with the deck of the ferry to stand at Katherine's shoulder.

Katherine slowly turned around and the wide-eye expression on Lucy's face told Katherine she needed to know.

"But Jonas said" Katherine pulled Lucy closer to her abruptly, the surprise stopping Lucy from saying anything more.

"Should have stayed out of things this time Lucy." The sound of a pop and splash echoed through the night as Katherine crossed the deck to the stairs to the lower level as the ferry prepared to dock. Her steps were uneven and shaky but managed to get off the ferry. The events of the evening were pushed aside as Katherine refocused fighting the feeling of walls closing in on her. Things could still work out in her favor. Things will work out in my favor, Katherine scolded herself. Katherine knew more than ever she was the perfect woman for Damon. Ruthless, willing to anything and everything to get what she wants. She knew Damon would see that in the end.

A/N: I know some of you are upset that Katherine seems to keep getting away with murder (now literally), but she is no longer the calm, collected schemer she was at the beginning of the story. Her world is crashing in on itself. Because of Damon and Elena's actions, she is cut off from her money, her home, and her support system which is forcing her to make mistakes. So hang in there! Probably about 5 more chapters to go!