Elena woke to the sight of the Salvatore brothers poring over here with concerned expressions on their faces. She glanced at Stefan, who gave her a quick smile of what was supposed to be reassurance. She couldn't bear to look at Damon after what she was sure she did to him, and he didn't go out of his way to catch her eye either. But, as always, he had to say something.
"How are you feeling?"
She wriggled up from the hospital bed, and felt hardly any dizziness. "Great, actually. I'm a vampire aren't I?" she whispered.
Stefan turned away from her and bowed his head.
"Yeah, I guess that's what happened. Not that I had any idea. I come screaming in to this place sure you were dead, and then the Fell lady tells me you had a cerebral hemorrhage and that she gave you blood so you would live. I'm grateful, but I want to know how the hell it even happened, and that lump of misery and guilt over there wouldn't say a word to me."
"Dead. It's too bad we couldn't share one last drink," he scowled, rolling his eyes. "But that's beside the point. What happened?"
"Rebecca was upset that Klaus was killed and while Matt and I were driving home she stepped out in front of the car and we veered off the bridge. Stefan eventually came to save us but I made him take Matt first, and he did as I asked."
Damon clenched his jaw, withholding whatever snarky comment he had just been about to make. "Alright," he said with an unnatural amount of calm. "So, are you going to go through with the change?"
"I don't know," Elena murmured.
"What are you talking about?" Stefan said, entering the conversation with gusto. "I love you Elena. Don't make me wish I had chosen differently. That I had done what Damon would've done."
Damon slinked away to observe the vials locked away in cupboards throughout the room. He was sure this conversation would go nowhere with him involved. It was between Elena and Stefan, the one she had chosen.
"But I never wanted this, Stefan."
"Don't you think I know that?" He clasped his hands around hers. "But you can't leave me like this. Not now that we're so close."
Elena sighed. "For you."
Damon turned back to Elena and Stefan and pretended to gag. "As sweet as this is, I suggest that we just get this over with."
"Elena..." he mimicked.
"He's right, Elena. Better to do it now. I'll go get some blood bags."
"Are you kidding? She needs to learn control and I think a human with a pulse would help immensely with that lesson."
"I won't hurt anybody, Damon."
He shrugged and smiled. "Your decision, Elena. Let me remind you where those got you."
"Fuck you. Get me those blood bags, Stefan."
Stefan slammed the door behind him and Damon and Elena were left alone. The tension automatically spiraled out of control.
"So what went down with Alaric?" she asked, trying to ease the tension.
"We fought. I was getting beat to a pulp. Then right when I was about to lose, I had a sudden burst of strength and you decided to become a martyr."
"And Klaus is dead?"
"Yep. At least I sure as hell hope so. But you never know with that meddling bastard. He can escape almost anything."
"And how are you doing?" Elena breathed, lightly touching him on the arm.
"Fabulous. I just got back from Jamaica when you woke up. Smoking girls in bikini's, drinks, swimming pools, and some sick music to dance to." But then he fell silent, masking all emotion with a hard, cold expression
"Don't disappear on me Damon."
"But isn't that what you wanted, Elena?"
"No...no of course not. I just had to let you go."
"Whatever," he said dismissing her. "I don't want to talk about it. I'm just surprised Stefan...ah speak of the devil!"
Stefan strolled into the room with three blood bags in his hands. He handed one to Elena and kept the other two. She unstoppered the top and stared the red, gunky liquid down, her hand shaking slightly. Then she closed her eyes and took a sip.
Before long all three bags were bone dry and Elena had fully undergone the transition. She was just about to get up off the table and have the Salvatore brothers escort her out when a memory hit her with a bang.
"Hey Bonnie, I have to talk to you. I'm not sure what to do."
"About what?" Bonnie's voice crackled through the phone.
"Matt," Elena sighed. "I'm not sure I love him the same way anymore and on top of that he's talking about marriage again."
"Just tell him how you feel. Dragging him around like this won't make it any easier when you actually break up with him. You should set him free, Elena."
"I know, Bonnie. You're right. You and my mom both are. I just can't bring myself to tell him. At least not tonight."
"Well I've said my bit. We can talk some more tomorrow but I have to go. Gran wants help with dinner."
"I'll call you later," Elena said. Then she snapped the phone shut and continued walking down the deserted street a ways from the party. She really needed some time to collect herself and think about how she was going to break the news to Matt. He wasn't going to take it well. Then all of a sudden there was a soft wooshing noise and she looked up to see a man dressed in jeans and a black leather jacket saying, "Katherine."
"Um...no I...I'm Elena."
The smile on his face slowly faded to a more calculating expression. "Oh. You...you just look...I'm sorry, you just really remind me of someone," he said, inching closer to her. "I'm Damon."
"Not to be rude or anything, Damon, but it's kind of creepy that you're out here in the middle of nowhere."
"You're one to talk," he smiled devilishly, "You're out here all by yourself."
"It's Mystic Falls," Elena argued, "Nothing bad ever happens here."
He continued to smile at her, clearly teasing. He wouldn't say anything but she kind of wanted him to stick around. She couldn't explain why but he was intriguing. "Got into a fight with my boyfriend."
"About what...May I ask?" he said, raising his hands in the air, trying to avoid being rude.
"Life," Elena whispered, shaking her head back and forth. "Future. He's got it all mapped out."
"And you don't want it?"
"I don't know what I want."
"Well that's not true," Damon replied. "You want what everybody wants."
Elena smiled, and shook her head. This guy knew nothing about her and yet he came in pretending he did. There was no way he was getting off the hook after saying that. "What? A mysterious stranger who has all the answers?"
He chuckled. "Well let's just say I've been around a long time. I've learned a few things."
Another cryptic answer. Time to just cut to the chase. "So, Damon, tell me, what is it that I want?"
He stepped forward the teasing grin disappearing from his dark, but handsome face. "You want a love that consumes you. You want passion and adventure and even a little danger." Elena's smile was gone. She didn't know if that really was what everybody wanted or if he could read her mind. It was everything her and Matt's relationship lacked. She was stunned that this man had any idea where she had been coming from. Maybe she could figure out how he knew. How he could connect with her on such a level. "So...what do you want?"
He burst into laughter and turned away slightly, clearly trying to avoid to answer. But something about her must have changed his mind because he was about to cave when her parents drove up. She couldn't help being a little disappointed.
And she understood where Damon had gotten that burst of energy, why she hadn't woken up to his funeral like she had expected. She had told him during the phone call that she might have chosen him if she had met him first, and it turned out that she had. He had felt hope.
Then a second memory hit her like a speeding train.
Elena strolled into her room with all intentions of going to sleep when she saw Damon sitting on her windowsill. His hands were clasped between his legs and he glanced up when she walked in. "Cute PJ's," he whispered.
Elena sighed to herself. Damon wasn't who she wanted to see right now. Not at all. "I'm tired Damon."
He stood up and dangled her necklace in front of her face. "I brought you this."
"I thought that was gone. Thank you." She reached out her hand for the necklace to find Damon pulling it back out of her reach. "Please give it back," she pleaded. There was no time for this. She just wanted Damon out of her room and her necklace back where it belonged.
"I just have to say something."
"Why do you have to say it with my necklace?"
"Well...because what I'm about to say is probably the most selfish thing I've ever said in my life."
Elena scowled. He just couldn't move on. "Damon, don't go there."
"Look I just have to say it once. You just need to hear it. I love you, Elena," he murmured, his clear blue eyes looking straight into hers without wavering. "And it's because I love you that I can't be selfish with you. Why you can't know this. I don't deserve you, but my brother does." His lips approached her face until they lightly pressed against her forehead. His hand came up to her face and he brushed it with his thumb. She couldn't move, but he shouldn't have been doing this. It must have been a combination of everything that had happened today along with his declaration but she wasn't sure. She wasn't even sure she wanted him to go. "God, I wish you didn't have to forget this. But you do." Elena paused for a second too late. When she realized what he was about to do and protest her mind went pleasantly blank.
And in that moment something in her brain clicked. Damon had told her what she wanted and the entire time he had been standing right there waiting. Stefan had been comfortable and safe which was exactly what she had needed as a human, but the relationship she had with him paralleled very similarly to the relationship she had been having with Matt right before she broke it off. And now she could have an actual future with one of these two. A long one. Just when she thought she had freed Damon, it got more confusing. She really couldn't shake him.
Elena opened her eyes and gasped. Damon bright blue eyes pierced hers as he waited for an explanation...or in his case a verdict. Stefan was just utterly confused.
"Why'd you make me forget that?"
"Seems unfortunate in hindsight, I admit. But I didn't want anybody to know I was in town yet. I had different motives then, may I remind you.
"What's going on?" Stefan asked suspiciously.
"I met him first," Elena whispered, still in shock. "I met him first and I chose you..."
"You did? Where was I?"
"Not present. But I told Damon if you don't believe me."
Stefan turned to Damon. "She's telling the truth," Damon said.
"God damn it, Damon! What the hell am I going to do with you?" Elena cried.
"It's your choice."
"You are driving me insane! What to do I do?" she whispered, her voice tapering off. "What do I do?"
*Credit for some of the scenes in italics goes to The Vampire Diaries.