Title: When all is said and done
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters. I just mess with them because it's so much fun!
So, now: a big thank you to written in dreams, who has been the beta-reader for the original version of this story, and to Avecia, who was the beta-reader for this slightly changed one^^.
Now, on with it!
Everything is going to be all right.
We'll find a way out of this.
Don't worry – we found a way to keep you alive, we'll find a way to save him.
There's a light at the end of every tunnel.
Over the past few hours, Elena had heard these platitudes, and too many more to count. And still she was lying in a bed with a dying man (she would never think "dying vampire," because that was just what he was, and not who he was).
She'd never thought that, out of all of them, it might be Damon who would end up weak, nearly helpless and…well. Dying. But here they were; Damon, drenched in sweat, breathing hard and with a cruel, rattling sound, falling in and out of consciousness. And she – Elena – still alive and mostly well (there were scars of course, but none that could be seen on the outside. Yeah, she was well, physically. But she thought that she might never be well again, on the inside).
If that really was destiny or whatever the fuck else, it could just go and screw itself; because really, she's had it up to here with all this bullshit…and now she was starting to cuss. It might only be in her head, but it was a definitive sign that she's been either spending too much time with Damon, or that she really was that close to losing her mind. It might just be a little bit of both, too. Whatever was easier to believe.
Hours had gone by since she had brought him back to the Boarding House. First, he had been so out of it that she just sat on a chair she had placed beside his bed, dabbing his forehead and cheeks with a wet cloth. There was not much else she could do. She had tried to make him eat, but he had thrown the blood up nearly as soon as he had managed to swallow even a little bit of it.
Then he had woken up for real; first, pleading with her to get out of here, that he could hurt her. She didn't go, of course. She knew he wouldn't really do something to her. Sure, he had bitten her earlier, but as soon as her voice had grown even a little desperate, as she had told him that he was hurting her…well, he had stopped, and managed to clear his head.
So she didn't worry about herself as she lay down beside him, drawing him close.
While he was saying goodbye – and she was under no illusion that his words weren't exactly that – she had a hard time not breaking down in tears. It was not too long ago that she had told him that people tend to die around him. She was rethinking her words now, nearly regretting them.
Because, upon a closer look, people died around her. It had begun when her parents (the adoptive ones) had died in that car crash and she had survived. And it hadn't stopped since.
Vicky, Anna (even Pearl, though she hadn't cared in the least about the woman), Mason – and a whole lot of the other wolves that followed him to Mystic Falls, Caroline (sure, she was still around, but her heart wasn't beating anymore. Dead enough), the Mayor, Isobel and John (the birth parents whom she hadn't seen as those until it was too late), and Jenna.
Jeremy and Alaric had had their fair shares of snapped necks, and stakes (or other pointy objects) through their hearts as well.
And all because of her. If she had just died the night of the car crash… if Stefan just hadn't been there to get her out of the car, then everything (probably; most likely) would have been all right.
But she didn't, and now Damon was dying, too. So she did the only thing she could. She held him, told him she had forgiven him (and it was the truth, too; for some reason, she never had been able to be angry at him for too long); told him she liked him just the way he was. And then she kissed him. Short and sweet – just as much a goodbye as his words had been. She might be telling him that there was still hope, but in reality she had given up hours ago.
After he thanked her for that small kiss, his eyes drifted shut once again. But this time, his expression was neither sad nor agonized. He actually looked at peace; Elena realized then, that he had not only said goodbye earlier…no. He had made his peace as well. Had made sure she would tell his brother sorry, had told her what he needed her to know.
And now he was ready to go. She wanted nothing more than to shake him awake again, tell him to stay strong just a little bit longer, until Stefan came along with a miracle. But in the end, she didn't do it. She watched him fall asleep peacefully, and then watched as his skin slowly turned from pale to grey, and still looked at him as the veins drew a sharp contrast to his ash-colored face.
She was still like that an hour later, tears running down her face – even though she was not making a sound – as she heard footsteps behind her. She didn't bother to turn around though. Whether it was friend or foe, it didn't matter now. A friend would understand her behavior, and an enemy…. Well, it wasn't like she would be able to defend herself anyway. So no use in turning around.
Turned out it was neither friend nor enemy…for Katherine had stopped being the big bad evil some time ago, but she wasn't a friend either. She was just…there, unwanted most of the time.
As the other woman stood at the foot of Damon's bed, looking at the both of them, Elena couldn't quite identify the expression on her face. It wasn't the smug grin she usually wore or the seductive smile she liked to throw left and right. It wasn't angry or disgusted either. Subconsciously Elena thought that she really should be able to distinguish a certain expression on Katherine's face – seeing as it was the mirror image to her own.
But she only realized what it was she was seeing, as she heard first a cracking sound, and then a wail that surpassed any human sound. There was blood dripping from Katherine's right hand, and she could see a few glass shards falling to the floor, too.
It was surreal, really. Here they both were – Elena, crying the tears, and Katherine making the soundtrack to them. As if they were the same person, split apart, and each part was given one specific task.
If the whole scene wouldn't be so incredibly sad, Elena might be tempted to laugh. She'd been hoping to see something human in the other doppelganger again for months now…the first time being as she had told her about her past. And the first time it happens again, is at a time when she really can't appreciate it.
But as it was, Elena just kept on lying there, head cushioned on a steadily cooling chest, while Katherine still stood – nearly folded in on herself – rooted to the place, screaming and screaming and screaming, seemingly not caring that her voice got hoarser by the second, and soon would be gone altogether. There was so much pain in that voice, that Elena finally broke herself. Now she wasn't quiet anymore either. Hiccups and sobs were escaping her throat, and she wouldn't have been able to stop them if she tried. And then she and her ancestor were separate beings again, because as Elena started to make sounds of her own, the wetness in Katherine's eyes spilled over, and tears ran down her face.
Hours later, both Elena and Katherine heard voices and footsteps coming up the stairs and down the hall in their direction. Soon the door opened, and in came…everyone still left. Alaric, Caroline, Tyler, Bonnie, Jeremy, and even Matt.
The scene they came upon must have been straight out of The Twilight Zone for them. Katherine, kneeling on the floor, hands clutching the footboard of the bed, head bowed to obscure her face, and still there were sounds coming from her. Raw and painful sounding, but still there.
Then there was Elena, dried tear tracks on her face, and the odd hiccup still present – and clutching a corpse to her as if it were a safety line.
And then Damon, who would quite obviously never do anything, ever again.
Bonnie was the first to move, slowly stepping up to Elena, trying to unwind her fingers from the other, and colder pair. All she got for her effort was an angry look though. Elena wouldn't budge.
After that, everyone else tried their luck, but not one of them was more successful than Bonnie had been. Just as the witch wanted to resort to a harsher way – namely force her asleep with a little magic, Katherine spoke up.
"Just leave her, will you? She'll let go in her own time."
She swallowed then, giving her throat time to heal itself, before she spoke up again.
"She's grieving. Just let her be; let her get it out of her system."
It took them a while to understand that Katherine might actually be trying to be understanding (or might even really understand), and by the time that had clicked, her words had started to make sense. Somewhat.
Elena was still cuddling with a corpse, and the sight was utterly disturbing, after all. But so was the fact that someone who had seemed indestructible was dead, or that Elena was still breathing after everything that happened. Never mind that the-evil-doppelganger-bitch was acting like a somewhat human being.
So they did what Katherine said, and left Elena to mourn on her own. At least for now.
Elena had stayed with Damon until the sun rose again. Only as the first rays of sun crawled over the bed sheets, did she let go of him, got out of the bed, and stretched.
It was a new day, and it looked like it would be a bright and warm one. So she went to the windows and drew the curtains shut, so she wouldn't be able to see anything of that cheery crap. She did the same thing as she reached the living room and had poured herself a healthy dose of Damon's bourbon. It's not as if he'd need it anytime soon.
After she turned away from the now covered windows, she discovered Katherine on the couch opposite the fireplace.
Sitting down beside her, she stared into the fire, for the moment content with the thick silence.
Stefan was out of either of their reach, Klaus knew that Katherine was still out there – which in turn meant that she would soon be forced to run again - and she had pretty much proven that she had felt something for Damon. Something big, too. Otherwise she would never have bothered with coming to the boarding house, delivering The Cure to the fucking wolf bite. Neither would she have crumbled like she had, as it became obvious that she'd been too late.
They sat there, silent, for a little while, just staring into the fire, contemplating the future and how bleak It seemed all of a sudden.
It was Elena that broke the silence at long last.
The other woman turned her head slightly, just enough so she could see her out of the corner of her eye. Then she shrugged her shoulders, and returned her gaze to the dancing flames.
"There really is nothing we can do. Stefan is probably back to his Ripper ways, Klaus right there with him, enjoying the show. And Klaus is even more invincible as he had been before. If anyone would be stupid enough to go after them… well, it would be their own funeral, and their own damn fault, too. And as for Damon…there is nothing left to do other than to lay him to rest. I'm pretty sure he once told me he wanted to be burned. Something about not being able to stand the thought about being eaten by worms…"
Katherine trailed off then, her voice sounding choked up once again.
"So…you're just giving up? You're just taking for granted that Stefan is lost, and Damon is gone? I came back to life after Klaus killed me, Bonnie brought Jeremy back from the dead…there has to be a way for Damon, too! And Stefan…"
"Don't. Just…don't. Listen, Elena…I'd rather have Stefan here – all brooding and devoted to you – than with Klaus. And god knows that I hate the way Damon looked all smug and like he knew something you didn't all the time; that should be my job… But I'd take that over reality anytime, too. But the thing is, Damon escaped death once already by becoming a vampire, and not even he can pull that stunt twice. And we won't be able to save Stefan, because by now he won't want to be saved."
Elena blinked her eyes owlishly, then…
"Again: are. You. Giving. Up?"
Rolling her eyes, Katherine heaved a long-suffering sigh, before an evil smirk adorned her lips for the first time in days.
"No, of course I'm not. I was just trying to give you an out. But it seems like you're being too stubborn for that. Guess I was right – there really is some of the Petrova blood left in you."
With that, she stood up again, and held out her hand to Elena – who in turn, only stared confused at her.
"Well, come on, let's go."
"Let's go…where, exactly?"
The offered hand fell down again, and Katherine looked ready to turn around and leave – but she visibly pulled herself together before she explained.
"Away. I know a witch down in New Orleans who might be able to help. At least with Damon. Once we took care of that, we come back, and make him help us get Stefan back. So, let's go. Now – before your pesky little friends get the idea that I'm bad influence, and stop you from going."
She held out her hand again, and this time Elena took it without thinking twice.
"Just for the record though: you are bad influence."
"Oh, trust me darlin' – I know that!"
The fake southern drawl somehow broke the ice, and Elena grinned right back at her ancestor.
There was no trust or love lost where Katherine was concerned; but for now they had the same goal. So the two of them strode out of the boarding house and…straight to Damon's Camaro. Elena threw her partner in crime a questioning look, and her only answer were the car keys, dangling from Katherine's fingers.
"Thought we might as well travel with style. You drive."
With that, she threw the keys to Elena, who caught them just in time before they smashed into her face. Then she shrugged, opened the door and sat down in the driver's seat.
As Katherine got in on the other side, and she started the engine, she had to think about the other road trips she had taken in that car. One, to get away from her life for five minutes, the other to find truth in mysteries. Might as well up the ante, and use the next one to save one life, and bring another back.
Reaching over to the glove compartment, she took out the sunglasses she knew where in there, put them on her nose and the drove away, leaving the boarding house, Mystic Falls, and probably her old life, behind.
You guys probably wonder why I posted this story again, and with so little changed to top. Well, it's simple: those little changes are needed, because otherwise it won't fit the sequel I wrote for it. Yup, you read right, there is a sequel now! And it's going to be my next multichapter story, too! So look out for it, it's gonna be put online under the title "With the devil riding shotgun"!