Title: How To Make A Better Vampire
Chapter: 07 - Surprise, Surprise [Featured Characters: Damon, Meredith, Stefan, Rebekah, Elena, Caroline and TyKlaus]
Author: JenniferH (Arabian)
Rating: M (For future chapters/language, sex, violence)
Summary: Post 3.22 - Elena grapples with who she is as a vampire, struggling for control as she tries to find herself and accept who she loves (spoiler: it's Damon!) while her friends and enemies grapple with their own choices in this new world.
Word Count: 5,619
Disclaimer: The Vampire Diaries, and all her characters as presented, belong to Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec, the CW, etc., etc., so on and so forth. ;)
Notes: Thank you to my group of wonderful beta-readers who made this fic a ton better than it would have been otherwise. Following canon here, so there will be Stefan/Elena and as portrayed on the show, but fear not, this is very definitely a Damon/Elena story (with other pairings referenced, and some featured (Stefan/Rebekah, Matt/Rebekah, Stefan/Caroline).

After I had finally digested the season 03 finale, I began to think up where they could go from there, especially with regards to Damon and Elena. One narrative stuck in my head and as I continuing weaving it I became so fixated with two major turning points in the story that I just had to try and write it. I've immersed myself in this for the last two and half months, trying to avoid spoilers or even read other fic. I have a head-start of sorts on the story and am hoping that I can stay at this pace so that I can deliver chapters at a steady pace. I can't promise that will stay the case, but I'm going to try. :)


Chapter 07: Surprise, Surprise

Damon threw back his third, fourth? drink and then slammed it down on the top of the bar. Giving a quick shake of his head, he raised one finger and caught the attention of the perky blonde bartender with a wink. She sent a flirtatious smile his way and headed straight over for a refill.

"Thanks, Darlin,'" Damon offered with another wink and that shameless eye-thing that Elena pretended not to be affected by every time he did it. Ah, Elena. Elena, Elena, Elena, he thought, pain and love twisting together in a dance that he was infinitely familiar with.

A movement to his right dragged his thoughts from the girl he wished was his. "Dr. Fell." Damon lifted his drink in greeting as she settled into the stool next to him.

"Damon." She sent a nod in the direction of his raised glass. "Drinking alone, I see."

He shrugged and took a small sip. "Well, my drinking buddy is gonna be buried in a few days, so, whatchu gonna do?" He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. Her shoulders slumped and she let out a heavy sigh.

"Yeah." Meredith blinked a few times and forced a smile without cheer on her face. She turned to look at him. "Will it be here in Mystic Falls? Do you have a plot for him?"

Nodding, he looked away and down into the amber liquid. "There's room in the Salvatore crypt. Fuck it, he's going out in style." He held his glass up and swallowed it down. "To Ric."

Meredith reached out and laid a quick comforting hand on his arm. "I'm sorry."

Damon shrugged it off. "It's fine. I'm taking care of it, even made an appointment with the funeral director. He's an old geezer. Never gets out so it'll be easy as pie to compel a decent explanation for good ole Ric's unsightly corpse. I'm thinking some exotic disease."

"Where is his body?"

"In the trunk of my car."

She was quiet. He turned to look at her and her mouth was hanging open, her eyes narrowed in disbelief. "You've been driving around with his desiccated body in the trunk of your car?"

"Just today. Well, since last night when he bit it." He rolled his eyes. "You were there this morning. I needed it for the council thingie and until we get him into a pretty coffin, he's fine where he is." Damon bit his lower lip, nibbling lightly in contemplation. "I'm thinking mahogany, it would go with his hair." He sent a questioning glance her way. "Or maybe chestnut? A hearty oak?" He cracked a grin. "As long as it's not white?"

Meredith shook her head, nearly smiling. Damon gave a fake full-on body shiver. "Nah." His light expression dropped and he snapped his fingers with a sudden frown.

"What?"

"I forgot to tell Elena about it. The meeting with old geezer," he clarified. "I figured she and Jeremy would want to come with me." He sighed heavily, drawing it out in exaggeration. "Ah well, I guess I'll just do it alone." He faced her, an eyebrow raised. "Or you can come with me if you want?"

Meredith's eyes widened in surprise. Damon's expression shifted as he strove for careless indifference. The fact that he really didn't want to face the disposal of his friend alone wasn't something he wanted to broadcast. Heaven forbid people realize that Damon Salvatore has actual *feelings*! The world might end as we know it, he thought sarcastically while displaying not a whiff of it on his face.

Shrugging, he added as if an afterthought. "I mean you may have dated him for only like five seconds but you were there at the end. That should count for something." He offered a wintry smile. "You in?"

She laughed drily. "Thanks, but no thanks." Of course not. "I'll leave it to family, which you kinda were." She smiled, a sweet smile and it almost made him feel better. He reached for his glass, disappointed to find it empty. Sighing, he thought about what she said. Back when Stefan took off after Homecoming, for a short period there it did actually did feel like they were a family almost. Him and Ric, Jeremy and Elena. They had each other's backs. And then Jeremy went off the rails, quitting work and befriending and beheading hybrids. Stefan came back and Elena started to realize she didn't need Damon anymore since she had the saintly brother back in play potentially. All she had to do was get through to him and turn her back on Damon. Easy enough to do. And done, he thought with a wince remembering that fucking Original ball. At least it ended with a good fucking.

"The appointment's tomorrow?" Meredith broke into the silence. He nodded. "Well, you can just call Elena before you go, see if she and Jeremy can meet you, right? Then you don't have to do it alone."

Busted! He rolled his eyes. And so pathetic. So much for the exterior of the cool loner. And now he had to talk about Elena. Yeah, cuz that's what I really want to do. Explore my pussy-whipped feelings.

Damon looked at Meredith and damn if she didn't look as sympathetic as all out and he realized that he *did* want to explore his feelings. At least she's not playing at Elena's parental unit. Damon gestured for another drink, and let out a short bark of laughter remembering the look of distaste that his friend couldn't disguise whenever he'd break and piss and moan about Elena after they'd been drinking way too much. Good times.

Accepting the fresh drink with a smile, he sighed, his tone once again attempting to cover any vulnerability and dove into the sordid tale. "Elena cut me out of her life. And Jeremy hates me." He shrugged. "I did snap his neck once." He didn't bother to explain despite the surprise on her face. "Without Elena as a buffer, ain't gonna happen. No big, he's annoying anyway." Stupid emo teenager.

"I'm not gonna even ask about Jeremy. I don't think I want to know. But what do you mean Elena cut you out of her life? I mean, she cares about you, Damon." She rolled her eyes and muttered under her breath, "even if you snapped her brother's neck. But hey, she's all down with Stefan the ripper too."

Damon nodded, responding to her snarky comment first. "Yeah, she's kinda twisted that way. Has this weird, over-developed empathy thing going like you wouldn't believe. I bet that bitch is gonna be what's hyper-elevated by the whole vampire thing. God, martyr-Elena as a human is gonna be Sherman marching on Atlanta in comparison to a vampire with a savior-complex. Geesh."

"Damon? The cutting you out of her life thing?" Meredith reminded him.

"Oh, right. Yeah, I just came from seeing her. She pulled the 'if you love me you'll let me go' card." He took a quick swallow. "I'm impressed it took her this long to play it actually. Kudos, Elena." He raised his glass in salutation and downed it.

"You don't seem that upset."

He let out a short bark of laughter and turned to fully face her. "I don't?"

Shrugging, she shook her head. "Ric told me a few stories of you on your benders. This doesn't look like one."

She was right, he realized. Even though Elena had gutted him good, he hadn't even thought of killing anyone. Hell, he hadn't even indulged in suicidal sex. Either he didn't love Elena as much as thought or he was actually getting a handle on his meltdowns. Shrugging, he threw back the rest of his drink. Even if he was finally learning how to control his temper, he knew there was more to it than that. And while it was certainly wrapped up in Elena, it wasn't about any lack of feeling on his part, he damn straight knew that.

Damon was quiet for a moment, thinking. He looked to Meredith with expectation on her face and he decided to do his thinking out loud. "Yeah, I am actually doing OK. The thing is I know Elena. She's very, very stubborn and lives deep in denial-ville." He nodded and tapped the bar top absently. "She and my brother are very alike in that way. That's why they connected when they did. And it was good for them actually. Both of them. She brought him out of his shell a bit and he dragged her out of the darkness. Metaphorically and literally."

Damon rolled his eyes. "Of course he threw her right back in, same location. Bottom of the damn lake, but still, he was there when she needed him the first time." He shrugged. "He's her first real love, I don't have a problem with that."

She looked confused. Considering all she'd heard about him and his devotion to Elena, he wasn't all that surprised. He did tend to lay the whole heart on your sleeves bit pretty thick. Meredith's next words confirmed that thought.

"OK, but Damon, even the little bit I've seen and, yeah, mostly heard from Ric, you're crazy about Elena." She paused.

"Yup," he offered in the gap.

"So is this just some practiced speech to deal with her dumping you?"

He scoffed. "She didn't dump me! We had to be together at some point for her to dump me. And trust me if we were ever together at some point, we'd still be together."

Now she really looked confused. "But you're going on and on about this great love she shares with your brother."

Shaking his head, he lifted a finger and wagged it slightly. "Uh uh. Not great. First love. There's a difference and it won't last. I don't think so. Admittedly," he dropped his hand and picked up his drink not happy to find the damn thing empty again. He held it up to show the bartender. "I could be wrong, but yeah, I don't think so. See she wants to be with Stefan."

"You say that like it's a good thing in your favor."

"It is," he explained, actually pleased that Meredith was giving him this opportunity to coalesce all the thoughts that had been swirling in his mind since he left Elena's. All of the odds and ends that he'd observed over the last year or so were now creating a bigger picture in light of what had happened in her room. That bigger picture was offering up some relief for his heartache.

Accepting his drink, Damon took a quick sip and continued. "Because, you see, Elena wants to be with him because she believes she *should* be with him." He smiled and ignored the look that Meredith sent him that clearly told him she thought he was crazy. "The thing is she doesn't want *him.* Not anymore. He's her past, I'm her future." He nodded confidently. "Elena just hasn't realized that yet. She and Stefan, they never actually broke up, you know? There was no closure. Then what happened with Ric, losing more family again, it was too much. Elena needs a safety net, an anchor. Then with her whole turning, that just threw her even more for a loop. So she clings to Stefan, he's her safe, familiar place and she's holding onto that. I get it. I understand. I understand her better than she realizes." He said almost to himself.

Damon gave Meredith a genuine smile. "And I'm OK with it because I know her, and I know what she really wants and what she really wants is me."

Her brows raised in obvious skepticism. "Really?"

His smile shifted into a sly grin. "Oh yeah. It wasn't Stefan she was knockin' boots with last night after she took a turn for the vamp."

"What?!"

Wincing, Damon looked warily at the drink in front of him. Oops! He held a finger up to his lips. "Ssh. Probably shouldn't have said that." He picked up his glass and swirled the contents. "I think maybe I am a bit drunk." He looked at her, a stern expression on his face. "Pretend you didn't hear that. It's a secret." The memory of Elena panting and orgasming in his arms, her rich blood coating his tongue brought a delicious smile to his face. "A dark, dirty, very, very dirty secret."

Meredith was silent beside him and Damon turned to her. Her eyes were wide as she digested what he had just said. Finally, she spoke. "OK." She nodded. "I'm just gonna go with you being drunk off your ass and spewing crazy talk."

"Works for me." He grinned and winked.

She shook her head with a slight laugh. "So you were saying?"

"Right. I'm not upset," she raised her brows in incredulity. He rolled his eyes. "OK, I'm upset," he admitted, "but I can deal because Elena just needs to get Stefan out of her system. She just needs to grow up, grow out of this fantasy she lives in with him."

"Oh, so now it's a fantasy?" She tapped the side of his glass. "How much have you had to drink?"

He chuckled. For the first time, he could see what Ric liked so much about her. Psycho Doctor is not so bad, he thought and he responded drily. "Not nearly enough. Hey, I can be all philosophical about it, but girl ripped my heart into a million pieces tonight. Again."

She frowned, her eyes sympathetic. "I'm sorry. You do love her, I know. I can see that."

Shrugging, Damon looked away. "I'm getting used to it. Besides, like I said, she just needs to grow out of this relationship. And then it will be time for us." He looked to her, sincerity in his gaze. "Meredith, I know her and I *know* how she feels about me now even if she doesn't." She actually looked like she was listening to him and not just dismissing it out of hand. He continued, forgetting to pretend that he didn't care.

"You know, she never even had a thought of turning for him. Not once, didn't want to be a vampire. You can't have always without forever and you can't have forever if you don't turn." His face broke out into a wide smile. So much for 'it's always gonna be Stefan,' Elena.

Meredith nodded. "I can see where you're coming from here," she offered with a smile of her own.

He nodded. "And now they actually have the potential for forever which means that they have to deal with reality." Damon leaned closer to her, his hand over his mouth and whispered loudly, "they're not very good at that."

Straightening up, he grinned. "You know it's almost funny, until she played that card tonight, I still believed the 'always Stefan' line. But I do know Elena. And she's had her moments of being a real bitch, but she's not cruel, not deliberately and she would never do something that in your face, you know, shoving how much I love her in *my* face and using it as a bargaining tool. That's not Elena Gilbert. She just doesn't just operate that way." Damon was practically talking to himself at this point, Meredith a mere bystander to this epiphany that was practically putting all the pieces of his heart back together.

"No, she wouldn't do that unless she was desperate." He turned to look at the good, non-psycho doctor again. "And she wouldn't be desperate unless she desperately, *desperately* wanted me and couldn't control her feelings with me around." He let out a triumphant bark of laughter. "Ironic, isn't it? Her big move to push me away has given me hope that I'd just about lost completely."

She tilted her head to the side and looked at him. "I hope you're right. Someone deserves some happiness after everything that's happened."

"Yeah, and it's gonna be my turn. Finally." Damon nodded with a smile returned her way. "So I'll just sit this out. I'll respect her wishes, respect her choice," he rolled his eyes cheerfully. "We've got forever-potential too. I may strike people as impatient and impetuous, but when it comes to things that really matter?"

"Yeah?"

"I have the patience of Job." He held Meredith's gaze for a moment and then tapped on the bar, looking towards the bartender. "Hey, pretty lady, pour one for my friend. It's on me."

Meredith smiled, nodding her head in acceptance. "Ric liked you. He said you were a better guy than you pretended to be. You were his best friend, you know? Even though Esther was working to make him hate vampires, he couldn't hate you."

Damon's smile dimmed a bit, his newfound confidence over his future with Elena falling to the back of his mind as he thought of Alaric Saltzman, the best friend he'd ever had, in the moments before his death.

"I know. He told me that before he tried to kill me."

XxxxX

"You tried to kill Elena!" Stefan cried out as he burst through the doors of the Mikaelson mansion, determined to confront Rebekah.

"Tried? I thought I did." Rebekah raised a disdainful brow, unruffled by his abrupt entrance. "Oh and you're just now calling me on this? What is that saying?" Looking away, she ignored his furrowed brow and angry expression. "Oh, yes, a day late and a dollar short." She looked back to him with a bright smile.

Stefan closed his eyes for a brief moment before meeting her gaze. "I didn't know what you had done. I knew you were planning something, but I didn't know you'd actually gone through with it, Rebekah, until Elena told me."

She shrugged. "Well, now you know. " Pursing her lips, she tilted her head to the side. "Hmm, Elena ... the vampire." She slanted a sideways glance his way. "I wonder how much like Katherine she'll be?"

Shaking his head, Stefan was silent and then in a flash moved to her, his hands around her neck, her body slammed against a wall. Rebekah's eyes widened in amusement and with one casual push, flung him away. He fell to the ground, anger coming off of him in heavy waves now. Sighing, she stepped to a nearby seat and lowered herself into it. A considering tone once more entered her voice. "You know, I'm really not the one you should be blaming."

He scoffed. "Really?"

"Yes, really. After all, it was my mother, and that little witch, Bonnie Bennett, who turned Saltzman into what he became." She paused in contemplation for a moment, then sent another dazzling smile his way. "Actually, you should be thanking me."

Standing up, he shook his head in disbelief and let out a bark of laughter. "Thanking you!?"

"Yes, thanking me. When I killed Elena, I also killed Saltzman. When I left the storage unit, he was stalking your brother." Rebekah looked away with a light clearing of her throat. Unable to meet his gaze, she felt a small rush of guilt run through her. Her voice soft, she continued. "Or you could blame Damon for what happened."

"So everyone is responsible except for you." He looked away, running a frustrated hand through his hair.

A hint of vulnerability laced her words no matter how she tried to hide it. She couldn't help but see Damon in her mind's eye at the storage unit. "He saved my life. Your brother did. His friend would have killed me, but Damon saved me." She forced flippancy in her voice. "So I suppose I returned the favor, killing Elena." Rebekah was finally able to meet Stefan's gaze again. "Saltzman would have killed your brother and we all know that if you have a choice between saving Damon and anyone else, even your precious Elena, you'll choose Damon."

She managed another shrug. "Her human death meant that Damon didn't become a desiccated corpse like my brother," she finished bitterly.

Stefan was silent, clearly absorbing her words. Looking at his face, it was obvious that as much as he wanted to hold onto his anger over Elena's death, the thought of losing his brother forever was weighing heavier. It was faint, but too little time had passed for her since they'd been together that she could still read him like an open book. It may have been eighty years or so for him, but for Rebekah, it was a matter of months. She knew him too well, all of him. Ripper Stefan was just one of many sides. He was my friend and my lover too, she thought as he tried to hide his feelings, but there was relief, even if just the tiniest bit. She'd never told Nik, but during her time with Stefan, she knew that her brother had never been anything but a replacement for *his* brother.

"You saved Matt," he blurted out then.

Rebekah parted her lips to respond and then pressed them together, genuine surprise filling her. She hadn't realized that he knew about that. Finally, she simply nodded.

"Matt told me." He explained, and then stumbling slightly over his words, he continued. "He told Caroline, I mean and …" trailing off, Stefan looked away, his voice strained as he continued. "I don't know why you did it, but thank you. I didn't realize that he needed help."

She rolled her eyes. "Of course not, you had to get to Elena." Pausing, she added with bite in her tone. "I didn't do it for you so no need for gratitude. It was Elena who needed to die so that the rest of my family could live. I never intended to hurt Matt."

"Innocent bystander?" He sneered.

Rising to her feet, she moved closer to him. "I was grieving the loss of my brother whom I'd loved for one thousand years, Stefan. I wasn't exactly paying attention to anything other than how to save my other brothers." She released a steadying breath, knowing he would be hurt by her next words, but that he would also appreciate their truth. "Of all people, you can understand the love of family, the desire to save one's brother, consequences be damned."

Again, he was silent. Their gazes held for a moment and it struck Rebekah suddenly in that moment that this was the first time that they had been alone, open and honest with one another since she'd been undaggered in Chicago, since they'd been in love all those decades ago. His eyes softened and tension seeped out of Stefan's form; she wondered if he was realizing the same.

He glanced away finally with a long sigh. "You should talk to Bonnie."

"Why?"

Stefan looked back up at her and shook his head, as if surprised at himself. "Because Klaus isn't gone."

Her jaw dropped, her eyes widened in shock. Questions hovered on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn't form words. By the time she could even manage his name, he had disappeared. Rebekah fell back down into the chair, her hand rising to her parted lips. "Niklaus," she whispered as confusion and astonishment flooded through her wrapped up in a spiraling bloom of happiness.

XxxxX

Elena licked away the blood at the corner of her mouth. Caroline smiled encouragingly at her and handed her a baby wipe. "You did good for your first time." Glancing over at the brown furry creature half-hidden among some bushes to her right, Elena couldn't control the guilty shudder that passed through her.

"I know it's hard," Caroline continued. "You see the cute animal and you think how horrible it is to snap its little neck, but if you don't want to drink human blood at all, you don't really have any other alternative, Elena." She smiled brightly. "And Stefan is back on the animal diet only too so you guys can do it together. That's something at least."

Elena nodded.

"Well, how do you feel? You said you haven't had any blood since you drank Jeremy's to transition so you must have been starving."

Taking a deep breath, Elena stood and leaned back against a nearby tree. "I feel fuller. Not tired and weak like I did before."

"You know," Caroline began and then paused before continuing slowly, hesitancy in her words. "If you drink even the blood bags, you'd feel a *lot* better. There are definite downsides to the whole vampire thing, but the upsides are pretty awesome. On a full human-blood diet, you feel amazing physically."

Elena looked away, allowing herself to think of what Caroline was saying. Then with a quick shake of her head, she met her friend's gaze. "No. I'm OK. I don't need to feel amazing. I didn't feel that way as a human. I was weaker, slower, less than vampire-awesome physically and I was OK with that so that will do now. I can't crave or miss what I never had."

"Trying to pretend you're human isn't the answer, Elena."

"Maybe not for you, but it is for me. I never wanted to be a vampire and if it wasn't for Jeremy, I wouldn't be one now."

"But Stefan …" Caroline offered with another bright smile. "You and Stefan get forever."

"Just like you and Tyler," Elena returned, not missing the animation fade from Caroline's face. You idiot, Elena thought, mentally smacking herself. "I'm sorry, I know you're worried with the whole Tyler/Klaus thing."

"Yeah." Caroline forced another smile. "Never mind, we'll deal with it. Do you want to try a squirrel or chipmunk? They're not as cute as the rabbits so it's a little easier. At least I've found it easier. Sorta." She frowned. "They're still kinda cute." Sighing, she shrugged. "That's why I go more for the blood bags."

"Caroline …" Elena warned.

Laughing lightly, Caroline held up her hands. "I'm just saying. That's me. If you want to go full-bunny-diet, I am here to help you."

"Thank you." She took a step closer, gratitude in her eyes. "And thank you for meeting me, helping me with this." And then it struck her suddenly in that moment that she should have called Stefan. She had intended to; she'd even told Damon so. She honestly didn't know why she'd called Caroline instead. Maybe her friend wasn't wondering the same thing, maybe Elena was just imagining the question in her eyes, but none-the-less she felt compelled to explain even if it was with a lie. "I tried Stefan, but he must have been away from his phone."

She looked at Caroline and even though she felt guilty for lying to her, Elena didn't want to tell the truth because that might open the door to discussion of Stefan. Which was ironic because of all of her friends, Caroline was the most likely to be on Stefan's side. Elena offered a tight smile and turned away, looking around her, deliberately avoiding Caroline's gaze now because just as she thought it, she quickly got it; she knew why she didn't want to talk about it with her. With everyone else, Elena was on the defensive and it made it easy to concentrate on why she was happy that Stefan had done what he did. But to someone who saw Stefan's point of view, how could she not question all the reasons that there were to be upset? There are certainly enough, she thought wearily. Shaking her head, Elena closed her eyes for a quick second and turned her face up, enjoying the sunlight raining down upon her.

Breaking into the silence, Caroline moved closer. "It's OK you called me. I wanted to see you anyway." She shrugged. "I was with Matt, but it was definitely time to go. Past time." Elena looked at her, a question in her eyes. "Ugh. He has some *thing* about Rebekah -"

"What?"

Caroline hand-waved that away and continued, frustration in her voice. "And he's suddenly all Team Damon now. So annoying."

Elena was quiet, digesting this, Rebekah forgotten once Damon's name came up. She wasn't surprised that he wasn't on Stefan's side of things, but to go so far as to say he was with Damon was unexpected.

"Team Damon, huh?"

"Yeah," Caroline confirmed, annoyance in her voice. "Well, no, not really, but he's all defending him, and I don't get it!"

"Believe it or not, Bonnie's seeing his side too now," Elena offered, even as she desperately wanted the conversation to move away from Damon too. No Salvatore talk right now, please.

"I know!" Caroline burst out. "They were practically chummy when we met before going to the council meeting thingie. Well, I mean, they weren't insulting each other every five seconds and Bonnie wasn't giving him the brain whammy." Rolling her eyes, Caroline walked over and sat down on a tree stump. "At this rate, everyone except for me is gonna be Team Damon. Seriously, what is wrong with you people? I guess I kinda get you since he's all in luuuuuv with you and you two have this *thing* but Bonnie? Matt? Ugh." She shook her head. "It's just wrong."

Elena was quiet. Prove that you love me, Damon ... leave me alone. I don't want you in my life, not right now. I can't have you in my life. A heavy weight filled her as she remembered those words, but she knew that she made the right decision. Not just for her, but for Damon too. She was not going to string him along anymore. It wasn't fair to him and she cared too much to continue to hurt him so deeply, intentionally or not. She was giving him his freedom, letting him go. She was giving him his chance to find happiness.

Sighing, she straightened up and cleared her throat. Caroline looked up and groaned. "I really am not up for another round of rah-rah-rah Damon, OK?"

Elena shook her head. "No, I just - I figured I should tell you that there's nothing with Damon. I chose Stefan, I'm with Stefan and it's just easier with Damon out of my life right now. Completely." She nodded firmly.

Caroline's eyes widened, her mouth dropping open in surprise. "You're like cutting him out? For real? I mean, I have issues with the guy, but I thought, I mean, I *know* you and him... you're close." She stood up and smiled in understanding. "Look, I'm not blind. I know that Damon was majorly there for you after Stefan left. In a way no one else was. In a way you didn't let anyone else be."

"That was then," Elena offered with a shrug.

"OK, what happened? What did he do?"

"Nothing! He didn't do anything. He just is... Damon." She slipped her hands in the front of her jean pockets and looked down. "We had a fight. It wasn't his fault, it wasn't mine, we just butt heads and right now, I can't deal with it. So, yes, I'm cutting him out for real." And she was determined to ignore the hurt that came with saying those words aloud. This is the right thing to do. I have to do this. For him, for me, for Stefan. For all of us, it's for the best.

"Elena!? You two have been like super, super-tight and just that's it? Seriously, details!"

Pausing, Elena gulped and kept her eyes firmly planted on the ground, ignoring the laser-like stare from Caroline. "Things got... physical." She prayed that Caroline would think that meant nothing more than what she'd told her about in Denver.

"Oh." Elena finally looked up, taking in Caroline's surprised, but not too surprised face. "This was last night?" Shutting her eyes briefly, Elena gave a quick nod. "OK."

And then the need to explain rushed out of her. "He makes me lose control, Caroline!" She cried out. "I can't have that, I can't deal with that right now. You know, you know that when you first turn..." she trailed off, damn tears beginning to choke her voice.

Reaching out, Caroline rubbed her arm, giving a sympathetic nod. "Yeah, everything is crazy." She paused, giving a quick squeeze and then dropped her hand. Concern filled her face. "I get it, I do, but..." she sighed and then in a rush continued. "You and Stefan, you're gonna put things on hold then?"

Elena's head shot up, surprised confusion on her face. "No. No, why - no."

"Elena!" Caroline took a step back in dismay. "That's not fair to Stefan -

"Caroline, we've been on hold for six months!" Elena shot back, baffled at her friend's reaction. "We need to get back -"

"But you're into his brother!"

A bubble of guilt rose inside of her, the scene that had played out in her room last night popping into her mind, the devastation on Damon's face, the devastation she had felt at hurting him so badly. She snapped her eyes shut for a quick moment and then opened them to meet Caroline's frustrated gaze. Elena took a step forward, her voice a whisper as she denied what they both knew was true. "I am not."

"Elena! Just admit it! You. are. in. to. Damon!"

Elena shook her head, a furious rage beginning to build so quickly that she could barely contain it. Her fists clenched at her side as she repeated the lie, anger darkening her tone. "I am not!"

"Tsk, tsk, my vampire lovelies." Elena and Caroline spun around to face a smirking Tyler fully possessed by Klaus. "Are we going to get physical? If so, by all means, carry on. I do love a good cat fight."