Disclaimer: I don't own The Vampire Diaries or any characters or actors associated with it. I just like to play with them. Title comes from the song "Scream, Scream, Scream," by Ludo.

Author's Note: This story would not get out of my head, and so I poured it out onto the computer in the space of about eight hours. They jump subjects a lot, and it's choppy, but it's meant to be. The way I see it, with the year Elena has had, it's amazing she's even still relatively sane. Anyway, I promise, I AM working on more of "I Want To Feel Through You" and will hopefully have the next chapter out as soon as I work out the logistical issues I'm having with it.

Spoilers: Through the end of season 3.

Keep You Here And Human

It took Damon almost an hour to catch up with Stefan and Elena. They'd left the hospital just before he found where they'd been hiding out. Stefan's phone was going straight to voicemail. Damon would later find out that was because it had been in his pocket when he dove into the river to not save Elena.

He raced to her house and didn't find her there, then decimated the speed limit on his way back to the boarding house. He didn't even notice trivial things like stop lights or signs. In truth, it was a miracle he didn't kill someone between her house and his. He parked on the lawn and strode through the door, frantically extending his senses in search of Elena, knowing that every second was precious. If things somehow didn't go his way, any time spent with her could be his last.

Stefan emerged calmly from the parlor, his hands in his pockets as he struggled to look anywhere but at his brother. "Damon..."

Damon was having none of anything Stefan might have to say. It might have been some sort of consolation, or self-flagellation, or some misguided attempt to soothe him, but not a single one of those things mattered in that moment. He would deal with it later, just as he would later deal with just why in the hell Stefan had allowed this to happen. He slammed Stefan up against the nearest wall with more force than necessary, his rage and pain from that last thought driving him. "Where. Is. She?"

To his credit, Stefan didn't react. If he had fought back, Damon would have been compelled to further violence, and that wouldn't help anyone. "She's upstairs." Pain flickered across his features for just a second, his brow more furrowed than usual, and then it was gone. "She's waiting in your room."

Damon released Stefan without another word and sped up to his room. He was in front of his door in less than two seconds, and it was only then that he stopped, took a deep and entirely unnecessary breath to compose himself, and opened the door.

He looked around his room. Nothing was out of place...except that Elena Gilbert was huddled against the wall, her knees drawn up to her chest, and looking somehow smaller than he'd ever seen her be. A shaft of sunlight from his partially opened window hit the wall about a foot to her left. She'd been staring at the light, but her eyes moved to him as soon as he walked through the door. She didn't say anything, just stared at him. He could see just by looking at her that she was still in transition. Still deciding. Some corner of his awareness that was still functioning heard Stefan leave the house, giving them some privacy.

Damon grabbed a high-backed chair and dragged it toward her, intent on sitting backwards on it while he talked to her, but once he got that close, he changed his mind and slumped down against the wall next to her, leaving barely an inch between them. On her right side, away from the sunlight that had fascinated her.

"I wanted you to be a vampire," he admitted abruptly, not sure of what else to say at first. "I've always wanted you to be a vampire. My completely selfish desire to never have to see you die."

Elena nodded, accepting. "I know."

"Of course you do. But you also have to know that I didn't want it to be like this. I wanted you to choose to be a vampire." He shook his head, a little angry at himself. "Stupid, really. Humans rarely choose to change when they still have other options available. But there it is. I wanted you to want to stay with us." He sighed, then forced himself to admit the truth to her out loud. "With me."

"I do want to stay," she admitted. "I know what you must think, Damon, but I never wanted to die." Suddenly, her voice was choked with tears. Damon took her hand, and she intertwined her fingers with his, using his presence to ground herself. "I don't want to go. But I don't want to be a vampire either. And now I have this clock inside me, ticking down and forcing me to choose. Death or eternity."

To take her mind off that for a few seconds, he asked, "Why here, Elena? Why my room?"

His question, seemingly coming out of nowhere, shocked her enough that she stopped crying. Elena wiped her eyes and looked at his bed, observing the way the sheets fell and remembering how they felt against her skin, cool silk contrasting with Damon's feverish body. "You almost died in this room."

"Yeah, well, I personally hope you aren't planning to follow my stellar example. But you didn't answer my question, unless you're saying that my room seems like an appropriate place to contemplate death."

The word 'death' seemed to remind her of something else vitally important, and she used her dread of that subject to avoid answering his question. "Ric?" she asked.

If he had been talking to anyone else, or if this had been any other time, the conversation would have ended there. He would have left at great haste to drown himself in a bottle. But this was Elena, and she was in transition, and there wasn't a power on earth that could drag him from her side.

The truth was, even if he lived a thousand more years, he didn't think he would ever fully recover from the absolute gut-wrenching agony of that event. Watching his best friend die again and knowing that somewhere in Mystic Falls, far out of his protective reach, the woman he loved was dying as well. Helpless to do anything to save either one. Even if he'd known Elena had vampire blood, his blood, in her system, that moment would still haunt him for the rest of his life.

He didn't tell her any of that, of course. There might someday be a time to share that story with her – probably not, but anything was possible – but it wasn't now. "Gone," he said simply.

Elena jerked at the bleakness in his voice and turned to study his face. He shook his head. "Not today, Elena. I can't today."

"What if I don't have a tomorrow?" she whispered.

"Is that the way you're leaning?" he asked carefully, trying not to show any emotion while he screamed internally.

Elena shrugged as if all of his sanity didn't rest on her answer. "I don't know. I've only talked to Stefan about it, and he was very...well, Stefan. You know. He'll support my decision no matter what I choose. He'll help me adapt if I turn, teach me how to live off animals..."

Damon's rage reared its ugly head, and he couldn't help the less than kind words about his brother that came pouring out of him. "Well, of course he'll support your decision. He's already let you die once today. What's one more time? Hey, I hear it actually gets easier after the first time."

"It wasn't his fault, Damon. I made him save Matt first."

Damon wasn't too clear on all the details yet. All he'd been able to gather was from what he half heard from Meredith, who trailed on his heels as he made his way down to the morgue in search for Elena. She'd gotten her information from Stefan, who'd heard part of the story from a barely-conscious, guilt-ridden Matt. What he knew was simple. It was Matt's fault. It was Rebekah's fault. It was Stefan's fault. Matt put her in a situation that Rebekah could take advantage of, and Stefan, who, unlike Damon, had the opportunity to save her, failed.

"Right. Not Stefan's fault. Sure," Damon said, then veered slightly off that subject for something else stupid that Stefan was doing. "For the record, a new vampire shouldn't start off on the patented Stefan Salvatore Bunny Buffet. For one thing, it'll make you a weak vampire, and a weak vampire can't protect herself. Also, you'll need to learn moderation and control, not...whatever it is you learn from what Stefan eats. There's not an exact formula for how rippers are made, but I'm pretty sure that's a good place to start. He never learned to control his bloodlust for humans, and so it controls him."

"I kind of guessed that," she said. She leaned closer to him, and he untangled his fingers from hers so that he could wrap his arm around her. She rested her head on his shoulder. "Another thing I might have to look forward to. Eating people. Wanting to drink Bonnie's blood. Jeremy's."

"Elena...as a vampire, your strongest traits will be exaggerated. You love the people in your life. That, if anything, is your single strongest trait. I don't think for a second you'd harm them, even on accident." He turned his face into her hair, which smelled of the river, but he could detect her scent underneath, and he breathed it in before pressing his question again. "Why, Elena? Why were you waiting for me? You..." He took a deep breath, holding back the pain of his next words. "You made your choice, so why my room?"

And the tears were back. "No, Damon, I made my choice for right now! For today, I made my choice. But I didn't make my choice for always! I thought I did, a long time ago before Klaus and Stefan going crazy and you and me and...and things used to be so clear. I used to just love Stefan and wish you would stop flirting with me and confusing me and making me question, every single day, if I still loved Stefan or if I wasn't completely his anymore."

Damon pulled her closer and let her tears ruin his shirt. "I made you question that?"

"Yes, and it made me want to strangle you! But then I realized that I should question that! If I don't know, with absolute certainty, that I'm supposed to be with someone, that I want to be with someone, then yes, I should be asking myself that question. And Damon, there were times when I couldn't sleep because I was asking myself that question over and over again, and...Stefan wasn't always the answer. So I was wrong when I said that it was always going to be Stefan. It's not always Stefan. But...I don't want to be Katherine. I can't be Katherine."

He realized then that things had changed even more than he'd noticed in the past few months. While he'd still had to hear Elena say over and over again that she loved Stefan, he could barely remember the last time he'd heard her tell him she didn't love him. He had never been in love with two people at once. When he was in love, that woman owned him, body and soul. But he knew it was possible, in theory anyway, to love two people. The last thing he'd asked her before the crash was if she would have chosen him. Now, he asked a different question, his casual tone masking how much her answer meant to him. "Do you love me, Elena?"

She sighed and reined in her tears again. She couldn't seem to stop crying for long. "I know my emotions are going to get a little overwhelming at times if I turn. But right now...while I'm in transition, are they still...normal? For lack of a better word."

"Your emotions will always be your emotions. They'll just be exaggerated, and you'll have to learn to recognize that. But no, that effect doesn't start until after transition."

Elena pulled away from him, but only so she could force herself to look at him, to watch his face when he took in her words. "Then yes," she admitted, finally. "Yes, I do."

It was only because Damon knew that she was still considering dying that he was able to keep the happiness off his face, but he knew the wonder at actually hearing that from someone who meant it had to make an appearance before he was able to school his features again. "Then you're not like Katherine," he replied. "She might have loved me, enough to turn me at least, but she never loved me enough to even consider releasing me."

Elena lowered her head and studied her toes for a second. She'd told him she was letting him go, and then he'd found her sitting alone in his bedroom, preferring her own company to Stefan's, at least until she could talk to him. "That's why I couldn't choose, Damon. I knew if I chose one, the other would leave, and I'd never see him again. And the thought of having to go more than a day or two without seeing you or talking to you was killing me. But I knew I was being so selfish, so I chose, and now you can see me completely ignoring that I made a choice at all...right back in the middle. I couldn't even keep my mind made up for one day."

Damon smirked, but there was no humor in it. "Go a little easier on yourself, Elena. You couldn't have known that you'd be dead five minutes later. I know from experience that that can change everything."

"I'm here because I heard what Stefan had to say about what I should do. Now I have to hear what you have to say," Elena told him, finally answering another one of his questions.

He was able to read between the lines and understood what she was really saying. She loved Stefan, so she'd gotten his opinion. And she loved him, and she needed his as well before she could make a decision. He tried not to think too much about how she apparently found his room to be a source of comfort. If she wanted to wait in his bedroom instead of in the parlor or the library, he wasn't about to argue with her about it.

"Well, I won't support you either way. I don't support you choosing to die. But when you become a vampire, I'll teach you everything I know. I'll make sure you know how to survive. I'll make sure you get a ring so that you don't have to live in darkness, and I'll make sure that no matter how you choose to drink, whether it be from bunnies, blood bags, or straight from the source, you know how to control yourself and cover your tracks." He sighed. He wasn't sure how to sell her on vampirism, since he knew she didn't really want to be one. After a while, he said, "It's really not that bad. I mean, look at Caroline." He winced. He hated to use Vampire Barbie as a role model, but the truth was that she had adapted to life as a vampire far better than she'd ever adapted to life as a human.

Elena watched Damon carefully. "When I become a vampire? Damon...what will you do if I choose not to turn?"

He didn't even pause to think about it. He already knew exactly what he would do. "If you choose not to turn, I'll find Matt Donovan, bite him, and lock the two of you in the cellar together. See what happens."

She had figured as much, but she still had to ask, "You would do that? Even after the way you were turned?"

"Stefan all but forced that girl's blood down my throat because he loved me. I've always known that, but this is the first time I truly understand it." He shook his head again, then turned his intense gaze on her once again. "I know you don't want to accept this, Elena, but sometimes love is selfish. Or at least it can seem that way. There are times when letting someone go can be the truest expression of love...and there are times when absolutely refusing to let that person go, no matter what happens, can be love. The trick is in knowing the difference."

She could accept that. Now that she had a little more perspective, she knew that she didn't know everything about love, not at eighteen. Damon didn't know everything either, but he had some considerable experience on her. "How do you know the difference?"

Damon looked away, unable to look into her eyes while he thought about the one time he'd been able to let her go, even if she didn't remember it...which she would soon. "If the person you love benefits from being let go, then it's the right thing to do." He looked back at her again, both hoping she wouldn't notice his discomfort with the subject and knowing she would learn the reason for it soon enough. "And no one benefits from your death, Elena."

"Do you benefit from my letting you go?" she asked, her voice very small.

"No," he answered after some thought. "I don't."

She nodded, filing that away, and let her thoughts drift to Caroline, as he'd suggested. She knew Damon was right, at least about that. Maybe life as a vampire wouldn't be so horrible. She'd never have children, but she didn't particularly want to pass the doppelganger curse on to any descendants anyway. "I don't really have a choice here, do I? You're not going to let me die, no matter how I might feel about it."

"No, but I still want you to choose anyway." He shrugged. "It might be pointless, but I want you to choose to live, not to be dragged into being a vampire. You don't need any more reasons to be mad at me."

She sighed. She didn't know how much time she had left, but it couldn't be longer than another few hours. "I need to think."

"Do you want me to leave you alone?" Damon asked. He hated the idea of letting her out of his sight at a time like this – or at any other time, for that matter – but if she needed solitude to work things out, he could at least try to give her that.

He started to move to get up, but she said, "No." She moved closer to him again, leaning into him as she had before, and he carefully placed his arm around her again. "Just be quiet and sit with me, okay?"

He gave her one of his half smiles, squeezed her shoulder, and said, "I can...probably do that. Can I ask one last question though?"

"Sure. Why not?"

"What are you so afraid of? What is it about being a vampire that most makes you want to die instead of turn?"

Elena gave the question a good deal of thought, wanting to give him a fair and honest answer. "I don't want to lose my humanity. I know I'm flawed, and I've made some stupid decisions, and I've been completely unable to make other decisions that really matter...but for the most part, I like who I am. I don't want to lose that."

Damon made a dismissive noise. "Oh, that's the last thing you'll have to worry about. All these people you've surrounded yourself with – vampires, witches, humans, and even the annoying wolfboy – so long as you keep them in your life, they will keep you human. Luckily, at least half the people you care about are going to live forever too, so I don't think you'll ever lose your current idea of who Elena Gilbert is supposed to be."

She didn't respond, so he lapsed into silence as well, letting her think through her options, such as they were.

She would not be dead by the end of the day. That was a strange certainty to have for Elena. She'd been living with death hanging over her head for what seemed like forever. In truth, she was amazed she had even survived the week. Survived being a relative term, of course. So it seemed that all that was left to her was to decide whether she would accept her circumstances and become a vampire of her own free will, or if Damon would force Matt's blood down her throat and allow her to hate him – again – for doing what he thought was necessary. She didn't want to fall back into that pattern.

The more she thought about it, the more she felt that she could probably do it. She could be a vampire, so long as she had the people she loved around her to help ease the transition and to make the prospect of eternity less daunting. Stefan would be there to keep her from killing people, and Caroline could help her through the changes, having gone through transition so recently herself. Bonnie could make her a ring, and Damon –

Damon would leave her eventually because she hadn't chosen him. Even now that she'd all but taken back her choice, that left her still at that critical point where a choice needed to be made. She'd lose one of them if she made her choice, and she'd eventually lose both of them if she couldn't choose. Why did it all circle back to this? They needed her to choose – choose to live and choose one of them – and she could barely do one of those things. And she needed them to stay.

Finally, a thought occurred to her. It was selfish, and she knew it, but maybe Damon was right. If he didn't benefit from being set free, then she would give him his wish. It wasn't exactly making a choice between the two brothers, but it could at least buy her more time, which she would have in abundance in all other areas of her life. "Damon?"


"I'll make you a deal."

"I'm all ears, Elena."

"I'll turn...willingly...if you keep your promise."

"And which promise would that be?" he asked, though he had a feeling he already knew.

She paused to make sure she truly wanted to say what she was about to say. She thought of that horrible day, where she had been attacked by Stefan, drained by Klaus, and rescued from the hospital by Damon. How she had felt safe for the first time in months as he carried her out. His guilt over being gone when she needed him. She wasn't sure she was doing the right thing by holding him to his word, but it was what she needed.

"You promised you'd never leave me again."

She was asking him to stay, and Damon knew he didn't have the power to deny her. But she needed more information before she could make a request like that. "You know...you might find some stuff out soon...and it might change your mind about wanting me around."

"You mean how you compelled me?" she asked.

Damon tensed up immediately, but Elena didn't move away from him, so he relaxed a little. "How did you know?" he asked after a while.

"I wasn't sure until just now, but there's a little hole in my memory I always wondered about. You think it'll change my mind?"

"I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not."

"Did you make me do anything against my will and then erase it?" she asked, even though she already knew the answer. Deep inside her, she knew Damon wouldn't do that to her.

"No!" he answered vehemently.

"Then it won't change my mind, no matter what it is. So I'll turn if you promise me you'll stay. No matter what. I'll stay if you stay."

Damon angled his body to look into her eyes. "No matter what?" he asked. "What if you decide you want me to go?"

Elena bit her lip, thinking about it. "I've wanted you to go a lot of times before. I've always changed my mind. And you've always come through and saved our lives anyway. So yeah, even if I want you to go. I never seem to want that for long."

He nodded, closed his eyes, and kissed her forehead. "I'll go find you some blood."