So... this chapter. I have, probably even in the entirety of this story, never loved a chapter more than this one. Immediately after I finished my review replies, I started writing this one and it was like the words just didn't stop flowing. I was finished with this chapter two days early which basically never ever happens to me. And I loved it! I loved the fact that I had very few writing blocks. I loved the events of this chapter and all of the little details. I loved the character development. I just loved it. I had a huge grin on my face as I wrote it, I'm sure. It probably scared the people I was in Starbucks with. :) And when I edited today, letting myself take a break from it to see if I felt differently after a few days, I still loved it. Very little editing needed to be done and I was proud of myself.

Now this is an odd way to start off this chapter, I know. But I say this mostly as a way to convince you that I don't hate every chapter I post. I promise I'm not sitting here saying every chapter sucks just digging for compliments. There are chapters I'm very proud of and this is one of them. This is obviously a very risky move. If you all hate it, after I've been so excited, it will probably sting a lot more. I could be completely wrong and this could be the worst chapter I've written yet and you may hate it.

Honestly, I express my love for this chapter because I hope you feel the same love for it. I hope you read it with a smile on your face and leave me a review with the same sentiments. But it might not happen. And that's fine. I'll probably go back to hating every word I type next chapter, but for now, I'm content.

Woo, super personal annotation, but I'll go back to talking about the story in the bottom one. Now on with the chapter!

Chapter 11: Such Great Heights

They will see us waving from such great heights
Come down now, they'll say
But everything looks perfect from far away
Come down now but we'll stay

When Elena's alarm went off early that morning, she was fairly sure it had never been as loud in her entire life. Typically, the events of the past day or week would take some time to sink into her groggy brain, but what had occurred at dinner rang out loud and clear in her mind the second her eyes opened. The plans she'd been formulating as she'd tried to fall asleep the night before were at the forefront and she ripped the blankets off of her bed in order to start them as soon as possible.

Elena had already taken a shower the night before so getting ready took far less time than it normally did in the mornings. She threw on a white t-shirt and some worn in jean shorts, knowing she wouldn't be outside for too long. She yanked a black and white tuxedo blazer off of a hanger, and some black ankle boots from the floor, hastily shoving them on her feet. She didn't bother with any makeup and just threw her hair into a high ponytail, knowing she could fix herself up a bit more at her destination. Grabbing her giant color block bag, she put in the clothing she knew she'd need inside, along with the other essentials. Purposefully leaving behind her laptop, notebooks, and anything else that would remind her of work, she took one last look at the room before closing the door behind her. She knew she'd be back. She just needed a breather.

Marching down the stairs she'd now mastered, regardless of heel height, she made her way into the kitchen where she was confronted with three faces from the previous night. Elijah and Lexi were behind the counter and Caroline was on one of the stools. The spoon she'd been holding dropped with a loud clang onto the marble counter, obviously shocked that Elena had made an appearance.

"Good morning," Elena said briskly. She made sure to not include a hint of warmth in her tone. Today would not be spoiled by her good girl nature. No, there was no room for that. She made her way to the fridge, grabbing a bottle of water and chucking another into her bag. Now it was time to go through the necessary business.

"Elijah, can you get me in touch with the driver?" Elena spoke as though none of the previous events had occurred. Her lackadaisical attitude was more than likely the cause of the dropped jaws and stunned gazes.

"Elena-" Lexi began.

"What?" Elena cut her off, her tone sharp. "If you don't mind, I have somewhere to be so whatever you're going to say needs to be quick."

Lexi faltered a bit at Elena's agitated tone. "Don't you think we should discuss what happened last night?" She asked, sounding like that of a concerned mother.

Elena let out a bitter laugh, cocking her hip to the side and placing her hand on it. "Actually, I thought we should have discussed what happened last night last fucking night, but obviously, I was in the minority." At this point, Elena was desperately trying to hold back her smile. The looks on the faces of the three people she was facing were hysterical. Hearing Elena swear was a rarity they were seldom introduced to, so the f-bomb alone had caused them to go nearly white.

Lexi looked as though she was about to speak again, but Elena interrupted her once more. "Look, what happened last night is done. It's an issue that can be dealt with at a later date, as much as you all think otherwise. But honestly, you all gave up the right to decide when we dealt with this when you all developed selective muteness at that dinner table."

Caroline spoke up, her voice almost timid. "Are you leaving?" It reminded her of when Damon had come into her room all those weeks ago, wondering the same.

"Just for the day. Since you all obviously won't be any help, I'll just head down to the garage. That's where he normally hangs out, right?" She paused, a thought suddenly occurring to her. Why shouldn't she start the fun early? "Oh, screw it." She strutted back to the fridge, chucking the bottled water back in and yanking out a beer. If she'd thought their faces has been hysterical before, she hadn't seen anything yet. Grabbing the nearby bottle opener, she let the cap fly and gulped down her first taste of alcohol in over four months. "God damn, that's good," she smirked.

"Um, Elena, are you-" Caroline mumbled.

"Happy fucking birthday to me!" She snapped, cutting off the blonde. She watched as the realizations crossed over their faces and grimaced. "Whatever," she mumbled, grabbing the beer bottle as she left. "I'll be back tomorrow."

As she walked down the large driveway toward the garage, a niggling sense of embarrassment hit her. She'd acted crazy in there. It was bound to happen eventually. She'd been playing a role for the past four months, pretending to like everyone in that damn house for weeks and weeks. She ignored the part of her saying that she hadn't been pretending, especially with Damon, and took another gulp of the beer, letting the amber liquid push her cares away.

She found the driver, Tom, leaning against his car as though he was expecting her. "Miss Gilbert. I just got off of the phone with Elijah. He said you needed the car?"

Elena bit her lip, some more remorse from her previous actions hitting her. But she knew the routine by now. Take a sip, continue forward. "Yes, thank you very much." She slid into the seat, stretching her legs out in front of her and enjoying the heat of the car. The area had been freezing lately and she was grateful for some warmth. Leaning back into the leather seat, she watched as the driver got into his own.

"Where to, miss?"

"What's the fanciest hotel in Lyon?"

"That far ma'am? There's a wonderful ski lodge in the village."

"Oh no. Definitely in Lyon."

"Well, there's La Cour des Loges."

Elena smirked. It even sounded expensive. "Perfect."

"Oh and Miss Gilbert?"


"Happy Birthday."

Elena grinned, sliding on her black sunglasses. She was going to raise some hell. If she was going down, she was going down in style.

Unfortunately, once she arrived, Elena was remiss to learn that the hotel, which had previously housed the King of Spain, Celine Dion, and the Rolling Stones, had already booked their most expensive room. They assured her that all of their rooms were flawless, so she selected a junior suite instead. Her fingers had shaken a bit, agreeing to spend almost six hundred dollars a night on a freaking room, but once she was taken to it, she could understand why. The room was all sleek hardwood floors and exposed brick. The living area was lovely, but what blew her away the most was the second story exposed bedroom and bathroom. She ran up the wooden stairs and threw herself down on top of the king sized bed, giggling like a maniac. Standing in the bedroom, she could see the entirety of the rest of the space, the area lofted directly above the living room. The bathroom was stunning as well and she couldn't wait to take a bath in there. Screw the rooms at the cottage: this is how the other half should be living.

After oh so graciously tipping the man who'd taken her and her small bag up and watching him exit, she squealed. She couldn't believe she was actually doing something so amazing. Birthdays in the past typically included a small dinner at a fancy restaurant and a few gifts, but this… it was indescribable. She'd never done something so spontaneous and luxurious, but she was invigorated by it. She had the money now. Well, maybe Damon would force her to give the money back, given that he now knew everything. She should probably spend as much of it as she could before it was ripped away from her.

Elena groaned, hearing her phone go off. Really? They were already trying to contact her? She grabbed it, but instead was confronted with Victoria's name on her screen. Oh, yeah… that. Elena knew she'd have to let Victoria down as well. She was sure she'd only be in that house for a few more days, if that, and there was no way she had enough information to do that tell-all anymore. But today was Elena's day and nobody was going to ruin that for her. She threw the phone back on the bed, allowing it to ring through.

A knock interrupted her suddenly sobered thoughts and she bounded back down the stairs to answer it. Thanks to her informing the concierge, she'd received birthday champagne. She grinned, once again handing the highly attractive worker a generous tip and closing the door behind him. She put the ice bucket away, deciding she wasn't in the mood for it at the time. Instead, she went back upstairs and pulled out a far more French-approved outfit. She knew they were notorious for their sense of fashion and she was eager to please. She slid on some orange skinny jeans and paired it with a chambray shirt. After sliding tan boots up her legs and throwing her things into a geometric patterned bag, she waltzed down the hall and waited for the elevator. She had some birthday gifts to catch up on.

Elena let out a deep breath as her body sunk into the city bench. She plunked all of her bags down next to her and settled her purse in her lap. She'd spent the better part of the past four hours buying something in almost every shop on the Rue de la Republique. During her excursion, she'd received a birthday message from Bonnie. She'd purposely been ignoring all attempts at communication with her, since Bonnie had gone into absolute panic attack mode once she'd heard about the Original girl thing. Email after email had clogged up her inbox, Bonnie attempting to give her input on the situation. She'd neglected to respond to a single one of them, so she was surprised Bonnie had actually called. The message had been short and sweet, Bonnie saying how much she loved her and that she missed her, with only the faintest reminder that Elena needed to call her back. Elena knew that she would be able to explain everything soon, but she really did need her day off from everyone and everything.

Elena watched all of the people pass her by in the street. Gorgeous women in beautiful outfits. Older men in suits headed home for the day. Rowdy teenagers rapidly talking in their romantic language. Before all of this Original nonsense had occurred, Elena could easily picture herself as those that walked around her. But now, she felt separated, an outcast from the group. She wasn't exactly sure why. Maybe it was caused by all of the time she'd spent with the Originals. Lexi had seemingly expressed earlier that she'd always felt so different from those around her. It had probably rubbed off on Elena.

After deciding she'd spent far too much money and time, Elena headed back to her hotel. She stopped on the way, ordering a Nutella crepe in French, shocked by how much she had recalled from her school days. She'd always wanted to study abroad in college, but she'd had to spend far too much time catching up on credits to be able to do so. The hotel staff yanked the bags straight out of her hands once she arrived in the doors and helped her take them back to her room. Once they'd left, Elena plunked down on the couch, staring at the bottle of neglected champagne. Now, she determined, was the time for alcohol. But popping it open and allowing some of the foam to escape down her fingers wasn't nearly as fun as she'd thought it would be. Champagne wasn't something you opened in a room by yourself. You were supposed to share it with people. As much fun as she'd had that day, she'd never spent a birthday completely alone. After drinking two glasses worth of champagne straight from the bottle, Elena put into action the next part of her big, extravagant plan.

Elena had purposely brought the most scandalous dress she owned for the affair. It was a black corset dress, creating cleavage she could only describe as devilish. It fit tightly on her body, the skirt crafted from tightly wrapped chiffon as though it had been customized just for her curves. The straps were thin and Elena grabbed the box labeled Cartier from her bags. She nearly gasped as she felt the cool gold rest on her collarbones. She curled her hair and pulled it into a high yet messy chignon, allowing a tendril or two to fall from its secured position. Elena then applied a smoky eye and blood red lip, going all out for the occasion. Finally, she selected another small box from her multitude of bags and held the delicate fabric up to her face. The matching red and black lace mask finished off the look.

Given that her birthday was always the day before Halloween, Elena had been subjected to many a costume party in her childhood. She'd always enjoyed the vast amount of candy she'd received the day after, but once she'd reached her teens, she'd grown tired of the correlation between Halloween and her special day. She'd begun to avoid costume parties at all costs. But when she'd heard about this one, she couldn't resist. It was a massive masquerade party, one that extended beyond the main hotel it was located in and onto the Place Bellecour, otherwise known as the largest clear square in all of Europe. She could barely contain her excitement after discovering it online the night before. No invitation needed, just a costume and a mask. Elena hadn't exactly decided what she was, but she was fairly sure it had something to do with sex.

Elena wobbled a bit in her tall heels, the alcohol from the day still having its effect on her. Her energy had been amped up the entire way to the square. She'd decided she would act like a native and take the metro and she was glad she did. Seeing everyone in his or her costumes all in full-on party mode was energizing and left her with a huge grin on her face. But once she arrived, the thrill was quickly gone.

It was absolutely packed with thousands upon thousands of partygoers. Around the perimeter, random people had set up folding tables stacked with beer or punch bowls filled with various concoctions. Elena had been an idiot to come. You should go to these types of things with a friend or a group of people, not alone. What did she think was going to happen? A white knight that wasn't drunk off of his ass would whisk her away so she could have a magical birthday? She was so naïve. She'd hoped that by drinking she could gain enough liquid courage to just find a group herself, but instead, she'd stayed latched onto the same place.

She looked down at the carefully chosen outfit, growing more irritated with herself. She'd put far too much effort in something that was only earning her gropes and catcalls. No one had actually approached her yet. Well, until this guy.

Elena's senses were assaulted with the heady scent of alcohol and cologne as a fairly attractive guy in his twenties practically jumped her. Her eyes widened in shock as his lips smashed on to hers, roughly grabbing her by the waist and pulling her closer. Okay, breathe, Elena. This is why you came here. You've done shit like this before. Go with it. As she closed her eyes, allowing his tongue to enter her mouth and allowing her hands to grip at his shoulders, she was aware of his gang of buddies loudly cheering him on in an unfamiliar language. Thankfully, he was a good kisser.

Elena had done this before, many times. As much as everything Damon had said that awful night had been true, Elena had made out with guys before in high school. It had been an exceedingly long while since she had, but the rhythm was fairly easy to maintain. But of course, as soon as that night replayed in her mind, the hands on her lower back felt rough and heavy and his tongue just an unwelcome intrusion. Her panic started to increase a little bit. She wanted him off of her and she wanted him off quickly.

Elena shoved hard against his chest and watched as he stumbled back without so much as a second glance in her direction. When he turned back to his friends, they all let out a loud cheer and then pushed their way back into the depths of the crowd, obviously prowling for their next victim. Elena took a deep breath, happy that the situation hadn't turned out as badly as it could have. Being assaulted by some guy was not a way to make her birthday memorable.

Elena finished her drink and pushed back through the crowds towards the line of taxis at the end of the square. She was officially done. She'd been stupid to come to Lyon, stupid to think she could have a good time for her birthday. Sure, the fancy hotel and the extravagant shopping spree had been entertaining, but standing in this crowd of people only reminded her of how alone she truly was. Sliding into the seat and directing the driver back to her hotel, Elena made her way back to her room with a sad expression and a wilting appearance.

Elena kicked off her ridiculous heels the second she walked in and headed up to the bedroom area in order to change into sweats, but was instead interrupted by the violent ringing of her cell phone. Grabbing for it drunkenly, she realized it was her parents who were trying to reach her. Oh, right. Them. Elena attempted to sober herself up as much as possible in five seconds and answered, once again being a complete idiot.

"Hello?" she mumbled, sliding down to lean her back against the bed, her body facing the open living area.

"Happy Birthday!" Her parents must have been on the speakerphone. "How's our little twenty-four year old?" Her father laughed.

Elena scoffed. "Dad, isn't it a little weird to refer to your twenty-four year old daughter as 'little?'"

"You're still a hell of a lot younger than me, baby doll." Elena smiled sadly, hearing his nickname for her.

"You sound sad, sweetheart." Her mother asked hesitatingly. "Is everything all right?"

"Oh, no. I'm just tired. You guys know it's like one in the morning here, right?" Elena inquired.

She heard their gasps on the other end of the line as they both registered the time difference. Like parent, like child, Elena thought. "Oh, honey. I'm so sorry. We completely forgot!"

"Don't worry about it, Mom. You didn't wake me. I was up."

"Well, can you at least tell us how you celebrated your big day? I know you're not supposed to talk about anything but…"

Elena took in a deep breath, looking around the empty room far away from the big fancy cottage in the Alps. "Um, yeah, that's fine. It shouldn't be a problem. I, uh…" Elena paused, biting her lip. "They woke me up with a cake, the girls that is, and, um, we went to the nearby lake together. They all signed a card." Elena's breath grew shaky, recounting the faux tale. "Right now, they're all playing board games in the den."

"Oh, don't you lie to me," her dad admonished. Elena's breath caught, wondering how he possibly could have known when he continued his statement. "We both know somebody participated in some birthday shots."

Elena let out a choked laugh. "You caught me, Dad. But just one." She attempted to change topics. "So how's everything at home?"

"Oh, the same old, same old. Nothing new to report. Nothing you'd be interested in anyways," her mother added. "Your dad's still working hard. I'm still in all of my committees."

"That's good," Elena replied. "You have to keep aging minds busy so they don't rot."

"I'm only letting that one slide for your birthday, Lena." Her dad chortled.

Elena knew her next question wasn't going to lead to any positive news, but she knew she'd have to ask it anyways. "And Jeremy? Have you visited him lately?"

The line went practically silent, just an awkward cough from her father. "Hello?" Elena asked. "What is it? Is he okay?! Did something happen?" She grew more panicked as each second ticked by.

"No, Elena, he's fine," her father reassured. "It's just…"

"It's her birthday, Grayson," Miranda scolded quietly, as though Elena couldn't hear her. "It can wait."

"Um, no it can't, Mom," Elena snapped. "You can't just not tell me. What's going on with him?"

Miranda took a deep breath before replying. "It's nothing major. It's just that… Jeremy will be moving into a long-term care facility next week." Her mother gave her a moment to absorb the blow and then continued. "But it's a wonderful facility. Both your father and I have visited. He'll have his own room, which he's very excited to decorate. They're even allowing him to hang up some of his artwork-"

"Mom, I have to go," Elena cut her off. If she thought the guilt that had appeared with lying to her parents was bad, she was far from prepared from the guilt that hit her now. Her heart was beating out of her chest and her throat felt like it was closing in on her.

"Elena," Miranda murmured. "Please. It's all going to be alright-" Elena hung up, the telltale signs of crying starting to appear. She couldn't hear it anymore. She threw her phone to the side and stared through the wooden slats of the platform her bed was on. It was officially the worst birthday ever.

But suddenly, her ears were filled with the sounds of loud, furious knocking. Who in the hell would be coming to see her at one in the morning? Was this some other hotel perk? But before she could even stand, her door shot open and in walked in…

Damon. Well, an incredibly disheveled and exhausted looking Damon, who for some unknown reason was wearing a full suit. "No, no, no, no, no," Elena moaned, placing her head in her hands. "How the hell did you get in here?!"

Damon raised his hand, not really showing any sort of emotion in his eyes other than fatigue. In his left, he was holding a key card.

Elena balked. "Obviously, you have a key. I'm asking how you got into my goddamn room. Don't hotels usually have a policy on that?"

"I told them you were my cousin who had extreme bipolar disorder and that you'd run away from home," he replied solemnly. When Elena gave him another dubious look, he continued. "I used my card with my actual name on it. They would have believed anything I said."

"Elena, I have paid my driver almost double his salary just to get the city you went to. I've been in every hotel in this god damn town, asking for your name." Elena shook her head. He shouldn't have come in. She shouldn't be here. None of this should have happened.

"I was worried about you." At those words, she broke. The tears that had building for hours and hours began to pour out of her eyes and she let out a choked sob. She'd closed her eyes but she heard him as he came up the wooden stairs and crossed to her side, sliding down next to her. She heard him take off his suit jacket and place it on the bed along with his belongings and then kick his shoes in front of him. Finally, she felt his warm arms wrap around her, pulling him into her chest, but the part of her telling her to push him away was overshadowed by the much larger part of her that was just happy she was no longer alone.

"Elena," he murmured.

"No!" she cried. "I can't talk about that right now! I can't. That's why I left!"

He sighed, gripping her a bit more tightly. "We're not going to talk about that right now. We can deal with it later. I just want to know what happened tonight."

Elena let out a shaky breath, the sobs still coming in heavy doses. "I wanted to get away so I came here and I found the most expensive hotel I could and I bought a ton of stuff and I drank… a lot." She paused, wondering if he would react, but he didn't even flinch. Elena mentally cursed her stupidity, realizing it was pretty obvious how wasted she was. "I went to this huge party and made out with some guy and it sucked really bad so I came back here and…" She couldn't finish that part of her sentence. The phone call from her parents and the connotations that came along with it were much too complicated and personal to explain right this second. Besides, right now, all she wanted to do was cry.

Damon just sat there with her while she did. He smoothed her hair down and ran his warm hands down her arms. She cried for her stupid decisions, for this awful trip, for every horrible thing that had occurred at the Originals' house. She cried for her parents and her brother and all of the mistakes she'd made to get herself to this uncomfortable floor with this enigmatic man. They were there for almost half an hour, her slowly decreasing sobs and his slow breaths, attempting to calm her down. Finally, her sobs turned to sniffles and her tears went dry. Her breaths evened out to match his, the rise and fall of his chest equal to her own.

"Was it that giant one on la Place Bellecour?" Damon asked after the room had gone silent.

"Um, yeah." Elena awkwardly pushed herself up so she was no longer leaning on him, but she maintained contact through their touching shoulders. "How do you know about it?"

"I went once with the guys a few years back." He let out an exhale. "You're right. It does suck. It's like an oversized and overrated frat party." Elena let out a small giggle.

"I thought it would be so much fun," she spoke sadly. "But I was just standing there, alone, drinking some awful combination of someone's liquor cabinet and… I used to do it all the time. I was able to show up at any party by myself and have the best time out of anybody in there, but I couldn't do it tonight. I felt like an idiot."

Damon smirked, looking at her in a teasing manner. "Elena Gilbert? Party girl? Who would have thunk it?"

She laughed again. "I was infamous for it back in the day. Well, in high school." Elena recognized that she had a choice. She could continue to talk, let Damon in just a little more, or she could shut up immediately. Elena wasn't sure if it was her comfort with the man sitting next to her or if it was the alcohol talking, but she decided to continue on. "My parents sent me to this all-girls boarding school in the next state and I just lost it. I partied with the best of them, drinking and drugs and all of the above. Well," she hiccupped. "Except for the sex part. A bit hard to accomplish with no guys." She heard Damon's light smirk. "But then, my senior year, I had nothing to show for it. Shitty grades, very few extracurriculars I could actually report… So…" she paused, mentally preparing herself to share the next bit of shameful information. "I ran crying back to my parents. Having to tell them there was no chance in hell I was getting into a college was awful. I had to get my daddy to pull strings at his alma mater and the only reason I got in was purely on my last name." The disgust in her tone was practically tangible.

Elena sniffled. "I was so embarrassed of myself. I felt like such a failure. I didn't deserve to go there. It was far too nice of a school. I was in classes with people in the top ten percent of my class…. So I cut it all out. The second I stepped in my dorm, I didn't drink, didn't go to any parties. I didn't even go on a date with a guy, not that I'd ever been on one before." Elena shook her head, able to see the slight cock of Damon's eyebrow in her peripheral. "I worked my absolute ass off for four years and discovered that I was actually smarter than I thought." She paused, zoning out for a second and reminiscing on her college years. Even if they hadn't been spent in the stereotypical way, she'd still enjoyed them.

"How'd you get into writing?" Damon asked, interrupting her daydreaming.

"Oh," Elena shifted in her position. "I took a writing class with an English teacher that actually cared about me. He told me how much I sucked in the beginning, but was willing to work with me. Besides, I'd always kept a journal, no matter where I was in my life. Writing had become second nature to me. I'd just never considered a career in it."

"Well, I'm glad you did," Damon replied after a few moments of silence. "It would have been a waste of a really great writer if you hadn't."

Elena felt her chest tighten as her mind went back to the ever-daunting book issues. She physically shook her head as if trying to force the thoughts out of her mind. She stared ahead, letting the silence fill the room for a moment before deciding that neither should have to have their minds focused on that not-so-fortunate aspect of both of their lives.

"Why are you so dressed up?" Elena asked, turning to look at him. She hadn't seen him in a suit since they'd been back in LA. Although he did look completely wrecked from his day, she noted how well the suit fit him and the fact that regardless of fatigue, he was still ridiculously handsome. In fact, her breath caught once her dumb girlish hormones registered just how close his face was to hers. Of course, she was reminded of the fact that she was sure she looked like death warmed over and her face didn't even deserve to be in the same room as his.

"I, uh…" Once again, Elena had caught Damon in a vulnerable moment. She noticed the faintest of blushes hit his chiseled cheeks and his gaze attempting to look anywhere but her. "Once I found you, I was going to take you to dinner for your birthday." He paused, as though his statement was the most humiliating thing he could have possibly said. "I just didn't realize it was going to take me this long to find you."

"Oh," Elena bit her lip, feeling the strange urge to start crying again. There he was again: sweet Damon. Way, way too sweet Damon. His appearances were rare and short, but when they came, they nearly knocked the wind out of her. "I'm sorry you got all dressed up for nothing" was the only reply she could fathom and it was as lame out loud as it had been in her head.

"It's fine," he replied, finally looking back on her. "But I guess I should give you your gift now." Elena gasped. So apparently sweet Damon was planning on staying for a little while.

"Damon, you didn't have to get me a gift." This was the typical polite phrase one offered up when the gift giving was generous, but this time, Elena really meant it. Damon hadn't been in control of all that the media had said about her. And really, the money she'd been spending all day was his first… She watched as he reached up behind him to grab the small box he'd placed on the bed.

"This is another reason I was late. There are no good jewelry stores in the area we're staying so I thought I'd wait until I got here." Elena let out another gasp at the red and gold box he handed her. It couldn't be… Elena opened the box and checked the inside lid. Yep, it was Cartier, too. But Elena really almost lost it when she looked at the beautiful gold creation sitting in the red velvet.

"Damon." She let out a half giggle, half sigh, and buried her face in his shoulder for a moment, her brain trying to fully grasp the coincidence that had just occurred.

"Do you not like jewelry?" His tone was panicked. "I should have asked. I thought about calling your parents and seeing what you liked, but I just went with the jewelry. I can return it if you-"

Elena lifted her head back up, grabbing onto his chin and holding his head in place so he was forced to stop speaking and stare at her. "Damon! Look at my necklace." She watched his eyes hesitatingly roll down to the gold chain that was on her chest. Her tone grew softer as she saw the recognition in his eyes and she let out a light giggle again. "You bought me the matching earrings of the necklace I just bought myself today." Damon's curious expression turned into a soft smile as she turned her head to face out and dropped her hand, another laugh escaping her lips in her amazement. There had to be a million different pairs of earrings in that store and he had picked the ones that perfectly matched her taste. She shook her head lightly and turned to look back at him, but noticed his expression was back on her face… her lips to be exact.

Elena let out a shuddering breath, but this time, it wasn't because of her crying. The room was filled with the same tension that had filled hers the night he'd come in all those months ago. But the nature was incredibly different. Neither was furious with the other. They hadn't spent the past twenty minutes screaming. Whatever desire was between the two in this moment wasn't marred or triggered by their anger or hatred. It was far more pure in its motives. If either wanted the other, it was because they truly did. And that was more nerve wracking than any of the other experiences she'd had there.

She watched as Damon did a double-check with his eyes flashing up to hers before he slowly began to lean in. Elena licked her lips in preparation for it, fully prepared to give in to whatever it was that was between them, but when he came only a hair's breadth from her face, she whipped her head away, taking a deep breath to calm herself down. It wasn't right. She was drunk and he was exhausted. She'd just made out with a random stranger only hours ago. Her common sense kicked in as she realized it was also incredibly stupid to kiss your boss the day before he's going to let you go.

They stayed in silence for a few minutes, each not daring to make eye contact quite yet. "Are we going home?" Elena inquired, breaking the talking moratorium.

Damon let out a sigh, running his hands through his hair. "Tomorrow, yes. Tonight, no."

Elena gulped, shaking her head. "You're staying here, right?" Damon turned to look at her with a curious expression. "I'm sorry," Elena scoffed. "It's dumb of me. I just… Is it ridiculously girly and clingy of me to not want to sleep alone tonight?"

She watched Damon's eyes as he considered what she'd just said. She could almost see him make that decision, the same one she'd made only moments earlier. Tonight they were going to leave behind the job and the book and his parents and the media and expectations and all of the other consequences. Those would be there in the morning. For now, they were just a boy and a girl. One was drunk and lonely and the other exhausted and distressed.

"Yeah, of course."

Elena awoke the next morning to some light shaking on her shoulder from behind. Warm breath hit her ear as Damon gently told her to wake up. Immediately, her senses noticed the lack of warmth and safety that came with him pulling away from her and getting out of the bed. Groggily, she sat up, feeling like absolute shit.

"If you get up, I promise coffee," he shouted from the bathroom.

Elena's eyes widened as much as they could in their pained state. "Coffee good," she mumbled, stretching herself but groaning as she felt the stiffness shoot through her joints.

She must have sat staring at the wall for a good twenty minutes before Damon emerged from the bathroom, freshly showered, but wearing the now wrinkly suit from the day before. She smiled lightly, remembering his comment from early that morning when he'd said he'd forgotten to pack anything. She'd stopped laughing at his idiocy when she realized that meant the only thing he was sleeping in was his underwear.

Awkwardly, she maneuvered around him, grabbing her bag and toting it into the bathroom so she could freshen up. Glancing at herself in the mirror, she had to stifle a groan. She looked like the same shit she felt. Her heavy eye makeup from the night before had turned into raccoon eyes and the ratty sweats she'd packed were meant for nobody else's eyes but her own. She hopped into the shower, hoping the hot water would wash away the sins of the previous day. Elena had never experienced the forgetfulness that hangovers typically brought, but she was grateful for it today. Sure, there were parts of the day before she wanted to forget, but there was one very important one that she always wanted to remember.

She threw on her simple black skinny jeans and used the same white t-shirt from the day before to go under her beige trench coat. She slid on her leopard print loafers and adjusted a bright blue scarf around her neck. She didn't have the energy to do much with her hair or makeup so she threw the now-wet hair into a tight bun on top of her head and just dabbed on some mascara and lip-gloss, hoping the Greek god on the other side of the wall wouldn't be too repelled by her appearance.

Elena walked back into the bedroom, looking down from the balcony and seeing Damon messing on his phone in the downstairs area. She hurriedly packed her bag back up with her belongings and after doing a quick check of the room, descended the stairs as quickly as her pained body would take her. Damon smiled at her once she reached his level. "Got everything?"

"Yep," she replied. "Now how about that coffee?"

Elena moaned as she took her first real gulp of the coffee walking down Lyon's downtown streets. Damon laughed. "Alright, if that's your reaction to the coffee, I can't wait to see your reaction to the croissant." Elena bit her lip, a bit embarrassed by her dramatics, but continued onwards with him, letting the warm cup heat up her freezing hands. It was gorgeous out, the sun filling the sky, but it was even colder than the previous day so Elena was grateful for her warmer clothes.

"Isn't the French thing to do to sit at a café?" Elena jested.

"Yes, but I have a far better spot for us to eat." Damon had escorted her to a boulangerie a few blocks away from the hotel, claiming it was the best in the city and Elena had yet to make any complaints. The place had been incredibly small and unassuming, but as Damon rattled away in French (his third language), Elena had lost herself in the mouth-watering scent of the bread. She was now carrying a bag filled with whatever Damon had ordered for her as they headed towards what appeared to be the bridge and waterfront.

"Let me help you," Damon suggested as they reached the riverside. The area next to the river was for pedestrians only, a large sidewalk dotted with benches and the occasional playground. There were stairs a little ways over, but they'd come to it at a point where there was only a wall that dropped down. Damon easily jumped but offered his hand to allow her to have a steady object to hold on to. He spotted a bench and led her to it.

Elena couldn't believe the incredible view. Although it was just a river, their position in between two of the main bridges and their view of the massive hill ahead, the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière standing formidably at the top, was indescribable. Elena had admired the Saône every time she'd crossed it going over the bridge, but sitting there now, she was truly able to appreciate it.

Damon interrupted her gazing, waving the hot pastry underneath her nose and she suddenly registered how famished she was. She'd barely eaten yesterday, her stomach too upset, but biting into the croissant and having the chocolate center hit her taste buds, she was practically required to let out another embarrassing noise indicating her approval.

"God damn, that's good," Elena mumbled and she heard Damon laugh in agreement. She turned her head to face him, watching him watch the water. She noted his strong jaw as he swallowed some more of his coffee and his hands that clasped around the cup. There were countless people walking across the sidewalk in front of her, people with stories and lives that were probably incredibly compelling and interesting, but her gaze was only focused on one. The man sitting next to her who had driven to Lyon in a tux, bought her a pair of earrings that perfectly matched the necklace she already owned, had searched high and low for her in every hotel in the city, had held her while she cried over things he didn't know about and had wrapped her tightly in his arms while they slept. This was the man with the most compelling tale. This was the man she wanted to know the most about. In fact, she felt her chest clench as she realized she'd never get to hear that whole story. The secrets she was supposed to be telling in his book would be forgotten when she packed up her things and went home. She'd never truly understand him and that made her crave him all the more.

Elena flashed back to a moment from the previous night. Well, make that early that morning. After Damon had agreed to stay the night, they'd rested on the floor for a little while longer, both claiming they were trying to work up the energy to move. Elena had found herself lying with her head in his lap as he attempted to untangle the now utterly tangled hair on her head with his fingers.

There'd been some comfortable silence as Elena's thoughts had flashed through everything they'd been through together and she'd gone back to that night. Her virginity and lack of experience had never been something she was particularly proud of. She was fairly sure that if her high school had been co-ed, she would have lost it a long time ago. She remembered how hurt she'd felt as he'd wielded the information like an insult and all of her insecurities had come rushing back. Although on the surface, Elena knew it had honestly been her decision to never sleep with anybody this far along in her life, deep down she held insecurities about it, wondering if whenever it did happen that it would never be special or perfect because she was neither of those things.

But then she remembered his reaction afterwards, how his voice had grown weaker and his tone more desperate. There'd been a moment where he'd stopped using it to offend and instead used it to express how much more appealing it made her. The words "I would be your first" rang in her head.

"You still would, wouldn't you?" Elena whispered, staring up into his blue eyes.

Damon cocked his eyebrow, his eyes clouded in confusion. "Would what?"

"You would still sleep with me… even though it would be my first time." Elena knew her statement would typically have made her blush, but the alcohol made it much easier to state.

She watched as recognition washed over Damon's face. She didn't need an answer. His face said it all.

Her flashback was interrupted when she realized that Damon had spoken. "I'm sorry. Got sidetracked there."

He smiled. "It's fine. I just said you look right here."

Elena cocked her head, her eyebrows furrowing. "What do you mean?" She laughed nervously.

Damon sighed, as though regretting saying it in the first place. "You just… you look like you belong here."

Elena wasn't quite sure what he meant by his statement. Did he mean here, in this beautiful city, surrounded by wonderful food and interesting people? Did he mean in her job, working as a writer for him and living with the Originals? Or, most nerve wracking of all, did he mean with him, sitting on this bench and eating breakfast? To the others around them, did they look like a couple, like they were in love or meant to be?

Elena shook her head sadly. Although she wasn't completely sure of the meaning of his question, the answer was the same for all three. "You and I both know that I don't."

Ugh, feelz. Is that okay? Am I allowed to have feelz for the characters I (partially) write? Well, I do. :p

So, first and foremost, the location. About three summers ago, I participated in an exchange program where I was able to stay in Lyon for two weeks and it was incredible. Being able to write about it and be geographically accurate with all of the locations was so much fun for me. I've been to all of the places I mentioned (except for the fancy hotel, of course) and it just made writing all the more easy for me when I was able to physically picture D&E in these locations. It is a beautiful city and if you have been and I stated something incorrectly, please let me know in the reviews.

Secondly, Elena. This chapter was basically a character study for the girl and I loved it. I've already crafted the backstories for these characters in my heads so being able to help you all as readers understand the characters more is so wonderful. I know many of you have expressed in the reviews that you aren't happy with Elena, and I hope this chapter allows you to grow to like her even the slightest bit more. I love her and I wish you all could, too.

Thirdly, Damon. I got to write romance! That was definitely my favorite part/scene to write. From Damon showing up to her hotel room on, I just had the dopiest grin on my face. This is definitely a major step forward when it comes to their relationship so for those of you wondering when the heck I would move forward with that... well, here it comes.

Alright, so I guess here's the part where I let go of this chapter and let you all respond. Feel free to crush my hopes with this one and tell me my love affair with this chapter is terribly misguided. Don't feel like you have to lie just because of what I said above. I'm just letting you know where I am as an author and, again, hoping you all can feel the same way. But beyond that, let me know if you liked the bit of a breather this chapter provided, letting go of the drama that the "Original issue" provides. Did you enjoy getting to know more about Elena and what's going on in her mind? Was anyone else happy with Damon's arrival? I'll hopefully be writing some of Damon's point of view when it comes to what went down this chapter in the next so you can look forward to that. What are your theories for what happens when they come back to the house? And finally, what has been your favorite chapter/scene so far? (Note: doesn't have to be this one. Just curious)

Once again, I do hope you enjoy this chapter as much as I do and did. I love you all regardless and I will update soon.

love love love :)