A/N This is another story that I got the seed of an idea for back in September, wrote a page or two, then abandoned it as I didn't think I could write for this couple anymore. This takes place after 3.22 but you need to forget S4 and pretend it started this way instead. Got it? Thanks! I'd love to know what you think, so please review. It really helps me with my writing to know your opinion. Oh yeah, and this story is rated M for a reason, but not for a few more chapters yet. ;)
Special thanks for the research help to Inthisskin22x, proofreading help to morvamp and general opinion to lauren3210. These ladies have been invaluable to me. Love you guys!
*DISCLAIMER* I do NOT own Vampire Diaries or the characters associated with Vampire Diaries. S3 would have gone a lot differently after "Our Town" if I did. And don't even get me started on S4. Enough said. Oh and no copyright infringement intended.
Swirling thoughts in my head. Conflicting memories overlapping, doing battle to see which one will be more real than what I used to think was real.
They keep coming at me, when I least expect it. When I'm alone, minding my own business, they attack me. Overwhelm me.
I'm starting to not be sure anymore of what's actually happening to me now and what's a resurfacing memory. Long buried. Maybe they should have stayed buried.
Why did they all have to mess with my head? Why me?
Damn vampires. God. I did this – I did this to my own brother. I had Damon remove his memories. Twice. I am as bad as they are. I am the same as they are.
I don't know what I am anymore. Who I am.
My brain is turning to mush.
It started a few days ago. (It started a few years ago.) Curled up in a ball in my bed. Jeremy staying at Matt's (staying away from me.) Blessedly all alone for the first time since It happened. Trying not to break. Wishing I would just break.
Then Damon was in my room. He was handing me my necklace back. Which threw me for a loop, since it really didn't matter anymore, but the words that came out of my mouth weren't the question I was planning to ask. I could only listen to myself, to him. Feel his lips on my forehead. See his single tear. My heart was pounding.
Then I blinked and he was gone. Only he wasn't. He was leaning against my doorframe, silently watching me.
I was confused, touched, annoyed. I was a lot of things. He just stood there, drinking me in, like he always does.
"Why?" I asked him. The words I'd just heard him speak had made very little sense based on where we were now.
I had tried to be understanding, in light of what he'd just said to me. Tried to bury all my conflicting feelings. It was much harder than it used to be. And it had never been easy.
"Why do I have to forget? It's no big secret. You've told me before."
He just stared at me, dark brows drawn in tight. Perplexed, but only for a moment. Then he laughed bitterly.
"Oh. You remembered. Surprised it took you this long."
"Remembered?" At first I had no clue what he meant.
Then suddenly I did.
Annoyance launched to the forefront of my tumbling emotions (like it always does, with him.) My inner bitch just jumped right out to play. She controls my mouth like a puppet-master, sometimes.
"You compelled me!" Yep, there she was. Yelling at him. Again.
There were other more indignant accusations. He just stood there and took them. Didn't offer any explanation. Didn't say a word actually. Then he left.
I haven't seen him since.
Other things are seeping back.
Like Stefan. He did it, too.
Turns out they've both kept things from me. Stolen time from me. Brainwashed me.
So far nothing offensive or intrusive, but that's not the point. They messed with my mind, took away memories of them. And to what end?
Because I looked like her? I don't get it.
It changes everything, yet it changes nothing.
I went for a long run out to Wickery Bridge today. Needed to return to the scene of the crime, so to speak. Where It happened (again). It's the first time I've gone back since That Night.
As I stood there leaning over the rail, looking down into the rushing black water where Death tried and failed to grab me twice (well, He succeeded the second time, but only temporarily), I turned to my left and Stefan was beside me.
When I opened my mouth to speak and different words came out, I quickly realized it was another missing memory. I wanted to groan, but couldn't.
"Do I know you?" I ask him, clearly annoyed at the interruption of my private moment.
The tall, handsome boy shakes his head. "No, I…you just remind me of someone I used to know."
"Oh. Your girlfriend?" The expression on his face at that word confirms my guess is right. He looks sad. For some inexplicable reason, I'm curious. I want to know why.
"She used to be. It…didn't end well," he mumbles, looking over the concrete barrier and down into the murky depths of the river below.
"I'm sorry," I offer. I still don't understand why he's here. And he looks really familiar, but I can't quite place why.
"You're so kind, Elena." He gives me a genuine smile, but I narrow my eyes at him.
"How do you know my name? I've never met you before in my life…have I?" I ask him, with sudden deep suspicion. One of the nurses at the hospital told me that a young man had been by to see me after the car crash, and her description didn't fit Jeremy or Matt. And I suddenly realize that this boy in front of me has to be the young man she spoke of.
He grins again, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes this time. "No, but I've seen you around."
"Are you stalking me?" I ask bluntly, but I attempt to keep my tone light and teasing, rather than accusatory. I don't think I succeed very well.
"I wouldn't call it 'stalking'. I just wanted to see you again. Wanted to talk to you." He turns to face me head on and looks deep into my eyes. His are rich green and his pupils dilate as I stare back at him.
"Elena, I think it would be for the best if you forget you met me today. The timing's not right yet, for us. You never saw me here. You don't know me."
I can't look away from him as he speaks.
Then I blinked, and when I opened my eyes he was gone and I was still standing at the side of the bridge. It was darker now and I understood that my memory of Stefan happened during a brighter part of the day, not a gloomy late afternoon.
I'm getting nervous. I can't help but wonder what else might come back to me and throw me for an unexpected loop. What if I'm driving next time this happens and I lose control? What if I'm chopping vegetables and end up cutting off my finger? Can vampires grow back missing appendages? I actually have no clue.
My phone vibrates, and when I look down at it I see that it's an incoming call from Stefan. I squeeze my eyes closed and sigh in frustration. Now is so not the time. I hit the Ignore button.
I didn't know vampires could get headaches, but currently my brain feels like it's about to implode.
I haven't seen either Salvatore in a week now. Several messages have been left for me, I just haven't responded to any. I know they're worried about me, and I'll talk to them again – I will – but I'm just not ready yet. More compelled away moments have returned and I'm still puzzling it all together, rearranging my mental timeline of when they happened and trying to make logical sense of things. Right now, very little is making any sense. The overlapping memories and out of sequence-ness of it all makes me dizzy and disoriented whenever I concentrate on working through it. More and more, I feel like I'm losing my mind.
The unmistakable sound of my phone buzzing against the wood of my side table startles me out of my thoughts. Another text. I roll some mental dice to see who I think this one will be from. I pick Bonnie this time, so I reach for it, needing to see if I'm right yet again. So far I've guessed correctly eleven of the last fifteen times, which has made me pretty proud of myself. Do new vampires get precognitive powers, too? I make a mental note to ask about that.
This time I'm wrong, but I'm not disappointed. It's Damon. I know he's been trying not to bother me too much, to maintain the appearance of keeping his distance from me, but I also know how concerned he is and how much it must be killing him to not be able to be here for me right now.
'You can't hide in your house forever, you know. No point in wearing that new Daylight ring if it's never going to see the sun. Your friends are gonna need to stage an intervention soon. Stefan's brows are so furrowed they might just freeze like that. Call him.'
I can't help but smile. That's Damon-speak for telling me to get up off my ass and stop feeling sorry for myself. And the line about Stefan? It's just Damon's deflective way of saying that he's worried about me, without coming right out and saying it, of course.
But I'm still not ready to talk to them. Soon, maybe, but not right now. And I don't know if all my stolen moments have been regained yet. Part of me still thinks there are lingering gaps needing to be filled. Before I decide what to make of it all, I need to be sure I have all the information.
So far I know Stefan met me at least three times before actually 'meeting me' in school that day in the hallway. Each time he decided that it wasn't "right" yet and erased the memory. The third time he even stole a kiss before compelling me to forget. What the hell, right?
Damon met me at least once before he 'officially' met me at the boarding house that afternoon I was looking for his brother, too - mere minutes before the accident that killed my parents and nearly killed me, actually. It was the strangest thing. He thought I was Katherine for about two seconds, then immediately accepted that I wasn't when I told him my name. Which, I guess makes sense, since he thought she was desiccated and trapped in the tomb for the previous 145 years. But it still seemed pretty un-Damon-like for the man he was when he first came back to town. I don't really understand why he let me live that night, why he just compelled me to forget meeting him.
He told me he wanted me to get everything I was looking for.
If only I knew what that was anymore.
I've spent too much time holed up in my room lately. I haven't been to school since I turned. Don't see the point, really. It would be too dangerous. Dangerous for my classmates and teachers, overwhelming for me. It was an easy decision to just avoid it. Like I've been avoiding most things (and most people) lately.
At around 2:00 this morning I finally got fed up of lying on my bed feeling sad and frustrated, and I snuck out. Well, I walked out. No one else was home to notice anyway. On impulse, I decided it was time to get out of my house, stretch my legs and get some air.
My thoughts were tracing and re-tracing over the reinstated memories. Specifically that one of Damon telling me he didn't deserve me but his brother did. I couldn't seem to stop thinking about that one moment. It played on repeat in my head until his words became nonsensical, but the expression on his face continued to make my heart hurt. Before I knew it, my feet had brought me to the cemetery on the edge of town.
Now I slump to the ground before my parent's tombstone, clenching and unclenching my fingers in the dew-damp grass and wishing with everything in me that they were here to give me support and advice right now.
Mom, Dad, Jenna, John, now Ric is here, too. Every last parental figure in my life is gone -ripped prematurely away from Jeremy and me. And every last one of those deaths is my fault.
I know, I know. There's nothing I can do to bring them back, and there were other extenuating circumstances involved in their deaths, too. It's time for me to stop blaming myself, right? But that's far easier said than done. I should have died the night my parents and I went off Wickery Bridge. And I also should have died the night Matt and I went off that same bridge. The only reason I survived the first time is because Stefan pulled me out. And the second time, by a fluke, I had Damon's blood in my system and, though I did die temporarily, I came back. I was never supposed to come back. I should not be here, taking up space in this world anymore. So, yeah, survivor's guilt? I've got it in spades.
Can a vampire still call themself a survivor?
I hear a female voice say my name and it startles the heck out of me because, well, I'm all alone in a cemetery at nearly 3:00 in the morning. Looking up quickly, I see…Isobel?
No, she can't be here, she's…
Oh, God. Not again.
I look up from writing in my diary to see a woman in a long black trench-coat standing a few feet in front of me. The sunlight glints off her shiny, long brown hair. She's staring at me in a most intense way and it frankly makes me a bit uncomfortable.
"Do I know you?" I hear myself asking, parroting the very same words to her that I've said to Stefan several times over before he took each memory from me.
She smiles fondly and shakes her head. "No, you wouldn't. But I know you. I've known you your whole life."
I tilt my head to the side and study her, noticing her wide brown eyes and thick hair that's the very same colour as my own. "Are we family?" I guess, knowing instinctively somehow that we must be.
Laughing, she says, "I always knew you were a bright girl. I'm your mother, Elena."
I know she speaks the truth, but the me in the memory is shocked and offended by her ludicrous claim.
"No, you're not. My mother is buried right there, below the very stone you're leaning on! How dare you claim to be my mom!" I feel myself rise to my feet in anger, swinging my knapsack over my shoulder to go home and leave this clearly delusional woman – who might or might not be a relative – behind.
She steps toward me in a flash and tears my necklace from my throat, pocketing it in her jacket even as her fingers begin to sizzle. I understand immediately her vampire nature and freeze in fear, my fight or flight response rendered useless under the oppressive weight of her gaze.
"Elena, sit down," Isobel commands, and something inside me knows she means business. I drop back to the warm grass immediately, without breaking eye contact.
"That's better," she says, in a calm, even tone. "I just want to talk to you. I'm not going to hurt you. Okay?"
I hear myself reply, "Okay." Clearly the compulsion has already started. I'm aware that the me in this vision is fully under her thrall.
"You're very beautiful. Just the spitting image of Katherine. Do you know who Katherine is, Elena? Have Damon and Stefan told you about her?"
Drawing in a sharp, surprised breath, I say, "You know Stefan and Damon? Who are you?"
"I already told you that," she dismisses me. "Answer the question."
"Yes, Katherine is the vampire they both used to love. She's trapped in the old tomb." I reply, confusion still evident in my tone.
"Did they explain that you look exactly like her?"
I feel myself nodding numbly.
"Did Stefan admit that's why he sought you out in the first place? Because you could be her twin? It must drive them crazy every time they look at you. Tell me, how is Damon handling having a mirror image of his beloved around? He's been waiting for Katherine for a very long time, you know."
"I know," I breathe.
"She knows it, too. Poor boy. He can be so callous sometimes, yet when he falls for someone, he's completely love's bitch. He's waited 145 years to rescue her and she's been out the whole time. She doesn't even want him."
I feel my mouth fall open slightly in shock and sudden sympathy for Damon.
"She doesn't? How can she be so…cruel?" I ask.
"Katherine only loves herself." Isobel pauses, then she amends her statement. "And Stefan."
Gasping, I say, "My Stefan?"
"He's not really yours, Elena. Someday you'll understand that. You're just a stand in – the object of his transference. Being with you makes him feel better about his guilt over loving her." She raises one eyebrow at me. "I wonder if you realize you could have both of them, if you wanted. She did."
My eyes bug out at that thought and I shake my head wildly. "No! I'd never do that. I am nothing like Katherine!"
Isobel walks right up to me until her face is only a foot from my own. She stares deep into my eyes again and I get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.
"I'm concerned, Elena. You hanging out with the Salvatore boys can't possibly end well. I don't want this life for you." She stops speaking abruptly, like she's just decided against telling me what she'd originally intended.
"I want you to forget you met me today. You sat here, you thought about your parents, you wrote in your diary, then you went home. And your new History teacher, Alaric Saltzman? I want you to know that you can trust him. He'll help you. He's on your side. Got it?"
"Got it," I echo back to her, as she tosses my necklace to the ground at my feet.
And, as before, I blink and she's gone and I'm standing in the cemetery in the middle of the night, once again alone. I look around anxiously, half expecting someone, currently or from the past, to be beside me again. I can't help it. At this point I'm having trouble trusting what my senses tell me is real.
And I'm surrounded by ghosts.