Post-season three finale. Basically, a Matt Donovan appreciation fic. With Meredith, Rebekah, Caroline, Damon, Stefan, and Elena.

Title from play crack the sky - brand new.


like water in my lungs.

There's a moment—barely—but it matters to Matt, so. There's a moment when he's lying in a bed in the corner of the hospital and he's overcome with a bout of nostalgia for Vicki. His eyes roam around the dimly lit room and he remembers sitting in the chair right there and falling asleep to the sound of his sister's breathing. He remembers it and there's an ache that spreads throughout his chest. But Matt just thinks that has something to do with the wires that are connecting him to the machines and not the fact that everyone dies or leaves him; Vicki left him.

The moment passes when Meredith comes in suiting a small smile that Matt's never seen before because, frankly, he doesn't know Meredith. All he knows is that she uses vampire blood to heal patients, so she knows just like he knows and she's in danger, dangerous, just like he is. It comes with the territory. Matt still smiles back at her the best way he knows how and she laughs, but there's nothing funny about this; he still tries to match hers.

She checks machines and asks how he's feeling and he gives her a quick nod and tries to muster up another smile, but this time it's watery and Meredith places a soft hand on his shoulder like she understands. And maybe she does.

She leaves soon after and it's dark again, always dark in these rooms, Matt thinks. He's alone and there's no bout of nostalgia for his sister or his mother or his best friend or the girls that he loved and lost and loved against, but never quite had.

Matt doesn't think about anything. Closes his eyes and tries to sleep.

–;

He wakes and Rebekah is sitting in the chair that he sat in once when his sister was here and she had said vampire but he didn't believe her, would take that back now, if he could.

He tries not to, but still flinches when he catches her staring. Her eyes are hard and glossy and she looks apologetic like I didn't want this to happen to you—

You killed my friend, Matt thinks. I hate you. You selfish bitch.

He only tells her to leave though, and his voice isn't even strong or harsh. In fact, it's soft and hoarse and desperate. Just let him be. He'd like to be alone.

"Leave," he says again. He blinks and she's gone.

Bitterly, he laughs, thinks that's just what everyone does nowadays.

–;

It's after four in the morning and he opens his eyes and Caroline's there—this girl that he loved and lost and never quite had all at the same time—and she's not smiling and there are tears in her eyes.

And like always, Matt slides over and pats the bed beside him. Caroline climbs in and places her head on his shoulder, her hand over his heart. The steady thumping beneath her hand puts both of them to sleep.

(In a dream once, Matt asks questions that need to be asked and gets answers that not only suffice, but are true and Matt understands what he's getting himself into and he's ready for it and he's okay in the end.

Matt always wakes up.)

–;

Caroline's lips are soft against his neck and her tears are wet rolling down the scoop in his hospital gown. Shh, he says against her hair.

He always consoles, he thinks. Even when he's in the hospital and there's bruises on his body and a dead girl staring back at him when he closes his eyes—if he had only watched the road, had he not swerved—Matt takes care of Caroline and doesn't ask her about Tyler or Klaus and can't bare to ask her about Elena.

He settles for kissing her hair over and over again until the feelings settle in his chest right along with the ache, until she stops crying.

But that's a long ways away. Matt closes his eyes and tries not to think about not saving Elena like he should have or paying attention to the bitter fucking vampire in the middle of the road or swerving or the way the water engulfed the truck so quickly that he immediately lost his breath.

Elena had screamed, he remembers. And he had tried to do something, but the water took his words away and the darkness took his sight and then she was silent. Matt thinks the water must have gotten her too.

–;

He wakes up and Caroline's gone. Damon's hand is tight around his throat and his face is an inch away from Matt's and he's yelling and cursing at him and Matt can't breathe, but he understands.

"I know, I know, okay." He grabs at Damon's hand, tries to make him release his grip, but Matt knows Damon is everything and he is nothing. He tries again, his voice muffled and his breath gone—it's all too familiar—"I know."

It's all his fault.

Damon releases his grip and Matt notices the tears in his eyes and he recognizes them, thinks they may match the ones in his.

Damon stares at him, nods his head once or twice or three times and walks away with a huff.

Matt gets it. He does.

–;

Stefan's there this time when he wakes up. Matt flinches because he is a Salvatore, Damon's brother, and it was his girlfriend that he killed. Matt wonders, absently, if Stefan even knows she picked him. It's always him. And he's not bitter, no, because he killed her. Matt doesn't get to want Elena, hasn't in a long time.

Stefan places a hand on his shoulder, says something along the lines of "I'm not going to hurt you," and something clicks for Matt. Like the click of Caroline's tongue against the back of her teeth when she is amused, or the noise of a cassette tape being shoved into the holder—that click noise. And it's simple. Matt remembers that Stefan is good and pure and he loves, loves loves until he can't anymore.

(Matt only knows this because he's talked to Elena and Elena loves Stefan, has never not loved Stefan, and he knows when she's talking about Stefan in a way that she never talked about him. So, Matt getsit.)

Relief spreads throughout his body. Stefan asks how he's doing and Matt is quiet for a long moment before he can't handle it any longer— "Just say it." Matt stares at Stefan and he watches Stefan's eyes widen for only half a second before he sighs and takes a seat.

"She's made the transition." His voice is quiet and ashamed and something else clicks—like Caroline's tongue, the cassette tape—Matt gets this too. Probably can't fathom how much. Stefan blames himself because he know, he knows, that Elena never wanted this.

But, now, Matt knows. Stefan is ashamed and he is guilty because he could have saved Elena, but he didn't.

There's a notion of guilt that consumes Matt and tears form in his eyes. Stefan saved him when he should have saved Elena.

Matt gets it. He should have died. Not the girl that everybody loves and would die for. Him.

This only makes him feel worse and it's like something clicks in Stefan—but not like Caroline's tongue against her teeth or his cassette tapes, maybe something different; maybe like the way Elena says I love you—because he tries to reassure Matt that saving him wasn't a mistake. He should have done better. Should have saved them both.

Matt gets it.

–;

He isn't sure how long he's been in the hospital or what day it is, can't tell if it's morning or midnight sometimes. He sleeps days away, sometimes nights too, and only when Caroline is beside him does he know that dawn's approaching. There's another day that he is alive and everyone he cares about has died in one way or another.

Meredith comes in early one morning and she's smiling, but Matt doesn't know her so he still can't tell if it's genuine or fake. He doesn't really care, it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things.

And what exactly does matter? Matt wonders. What is the grand scheme and does he even fit in anywhere. Does anyone.

Meredith pulls him from his thoughts. She's telling him that he's being released, but to be careful because his concussion is still hanging around. She tells him to get his rest and is there anyone to drive you home? And there, I've signed your release forms, you're free to go.

She smiles and tells him that he should be lucky he's alive. She says it in a voice that's cautious, she's treading softly and Matt thinks she should turn around and leave, because no, he's not lucky.

Luck doesn't give you all of these people and opportunities simply to take them away in the shortest, briefest of instances. This is life and it sucks and he should have died but he didn't. So, maybe he should be grateful, if anything. But he can't be grateful because he saw Elena in a dream once and her mouth was covered in blood and she was shaking and Matt feels like he should have done something about that in the beginning, should have kept going, shouldn't have swerved, should have paid attention.

So fuck luck and fuck Meredith Fell because she doesn't know losing losing losing until there is absolutely nothing left except for the boy standing in the mirror who isn't even a man anymore. Just poor excuses and sorry, Matt, really.

Meredith Fell doesn't know anything. But Matt doesn't say anything. He smiles as she retreats, runs a hand over his face when she's gone, and wipes tears on his hospital gown.

He changes into some clothes that Caroline must have brought him; a clean pair of pants, his favorite blue shirt, and the boxers she bought him for Christmas a few gag gifts back.

–;

The front door of his house is locked and he can't remember where he hid the key and his head is starting to hurt.

Caroline lifts a flower pot by the door and picks up the key, hands it to him, and runs her hand over his shoulder blades as he unlocks the door.

She leaves when she feels like she has him settled in; a baseball game playing on the television, a pillow behind his head, and a blanket pulled up to his chest.

Matt knows Caroline. So he knows that she's trying to busy herself with him so she doesn't have time to think about Tyler or Klaus or the ring she needs Bonnie to make for Elena.

Matt lets her. She coddles him and it feels nice for a little bit, but then she leaves and he turns the game off and it's just him and the silence and he's been used to it for far too long now.

–;

Elena's different and he knew she would be. He knew it. But as he stands in front of her and thinks about her face always looking this way even when he's old and brittle, something clicks—Caroline's tongue against her teeth, his cassette tape—and she's different.

But, yet, she's still the same girl. She's the girl he shared a sandbox with, the girl who gave Caroline a funeral instead of a party, the girl he gave a funeral, the girl standing between Damon and Stefan, beautiful, olive skin and brown eyes.

There's a hint of redness around her eyes and Matt wonders if that's permanent, but then the thought passes.

She's different but she's the same and he never thought that was possible until it happened to Caroline and now Elena. Matt doesn't think he will ever get used to it.

Or the tears. Matt doesn't think he'll ever get used to the way his face feels numb when they roll down his cheeks. Elena's in front of him now and she catches them before they fall onto his shirt.

He sucks in a deep breath at the sudden proximity. He hasn't been this close to her in weeks. Her skin is cold to the touch. A fresh batch of tears spill from his eyes as he tries to look anywhere but at her. He catches Stefan's gaze and then Damon's and they're totally the same and completely opposite at the same time.

They get it. This is their girl. The one they love, but can't hate, couldn't save, should've saved.

This is his girl. Elena is his when she runs her hand over his cheek and pulls him into a hug and whispers into his ear that she's so glad he's alive. Matt mumbles something like and me you into her hair, through his tears.

Elena pulls away and gives him the same look he remembers from each time he loved her, and Matt thinks she gets it.

–;

He goes back to the bridge and runs his fingertips over the tire marks his truck left behind, the places where he stopped being Matt Donovan and became the ghost of a boy. Matt doesn't want to be the ghost, the only one left behind when everyone leaves, doesn't want to be the one who killed the girl he loved and lost and never really had.

He lies down on the bridge, the hot concrete scorching his back, the sun burning his eyelids.

Here lies Matt Donovan —

He decides that he should live whatever is left of the life that he has. He is alive.