Oblivion is Calling Out Your Name
By Terri Botta
Summary: Post 4x09. Elena goes drinking at the Grill. Stefan and Caroline find her there. Drama and a few epiphanies ensue.
A/N: This is it guys. Story's over. I have TRK to work on so I will let your imaginations fill in the ass kicking Damon, Elena and the Scoobies get up to in order to beat Shane and win the day. :) I hope you enjoyed it. I might write a short MA scene with Damon & Elena when they wake up, but we'll see.
Part II - continued
Caroline's words had the opposite effect of what she was sure the blonde intended. Instead of her suddenly remembering how much she loved Stefan over Damon, she remembered something else, something she'd been harboring deep inside her since the morning Damon had saved her on the Wickery Bridge. It had been a horrifying truth that her soul had shrunk from at first, but now she dragged it out into the harsh light and considered it again.
The reality was even more ugly and horrible the second time around, but she couldn't deny it any longer, and she felt something break inside her. It tore through her with a bolt of agony, but it also set her free. Anger flared and burned white hot, clouding her vision for a moment before she opened her mouth and let the truth come blasting out.
"My soul mate, Caroline? He let me drown!"
The accusation hung heavy in the air, and all of them stared at her in mute horror. Then Stefan hung his head and shook it dejectedly.
"I knew you would blame me for becoming a vampire, even though I was respecting your choice…" he whispered brokenly.
"No," she snapped, making them jolt in surprise. "You don't get it. I was ready to die for Matt. I wanted you to save him, if you'd had to choose between us. But what I didn't understand then, but I do now, was that you didn't have to make that choice. You could have saved us both!"
Matt choked and Jeremy fumed as Caroline shook her head in disbelief and turned to Stefan, who was still hanging his head. She cast a glance at Damon, and the expression on his face told her that he'd known it all along. That only made her angrier.
"I figured it out, see?" she explained, spitting the words out through bared teeth, her fangs partially extended. "On the day Damon saved me by throwing us both off the Wickery Bridge. I didn't understand before I became a vampire. I didn't realize how fast and how strong we are. That day when he saved me, I felt how powerful he was, and how fast he could swim, and how he didn't have to breathe. That night… Stefan could have saved both of us. He could've ripped off my door, then Matt's, and taken both of us to the surface. He didn't have to make the choice that I thought he did. He was strong enough and fast enough to get us both out."
No one spoke, and she was on a roll, so she kept going, purging herself of all the anger and betrayal she'd been holding in.
"And you know what else I figured out? That morning after Damon saved me, he was trying to tell me that the "rough patch" we were going through wasn't what I thought it was, and that you were doing this all for me. He was trying to push me back towards you," she admitted, glaring at Stefan who glanced up at her, surprised, then dropped his eyes again.
She put her hands on her hips and loomed over Caroline and Stefan, seething.
"So while the two of you are telling me Damon is selfish and narcissistic and bad for me, I know he isn't. All this time you've badmouthed him, and every time it's turned out that what you told me wasn't the whole story. Damon sacrifices his needs and happiness all the time – he puts others over himself constantly. Now I find out that you made him make a promise that would have forced him to break one he'd made to me. He was willing to give me up for you, because he loves you. He was willing to send me away from him, even though I know how much he loves me, because he thought that was the right thing to do by you and me. That is love! This? This trying to convince me that it's not real, and these childish temper tantrums when you didn't get what you wanted? That's not love, that's obsession, and I'm done with it. My relationship with Damon is none of your business, and you forfeited any right to dictate to me what I should or should not do with my life the moment you took it upon yourself to let me die!"
"Is it true?" Caroline asked Stefan in a small voice, her hand clutching the neckline of her shirt. Her eyes begged him to deny it, but Elena knew that he couldn't.
"That night…" Stefan began, his hands wringing. "Elena was there in the truck, and she was pointing at Matt…"
"But if you could've saved both of us, why didn't you?" Matt questioned, betrayal written all over his face. He'd been carrying the guilt of living while Elena had died for all this time, only to discover that it had been for nothing.
Stefan looked tortured, as if the truth was even more horrible than Elena had originally thought, and she braced herself. What was coming was going to be ugly no matter what he said.
"I knew Ric was hunting Klaus," Stefan confessed in a harsh whisper. "I knew he would find him where Damon had stored him, and I knew he would go after Damon. I knew Damon would be at a disadvantage, because he wouldn't want to kill his best friend. When Rebekah forced Matt's truck off the bridge, I saw an opportunity…"
He raised his eyes, tears streaking down his face, his expression begging her to understand.
"I've been to medical school. I know CPR. Drowning victims are some of the most likely to survive if CPR is administered quickly enough. I was back for you within a minute of your drowning, and giving you mouth-to-mouth in less than two. You should have revived, but you didn't…"
"You let her die to save me," Damon's agonized voice moaned.
Too fast for Elena to see, Damon surged to his feet and shoved her behind him, picking up the cocktail table and throwing it aside. It smashed against the wall and shattered into several pieces.
"You let her die to save me!" he howled.
To her horror, Damon grabbed Stefan by the front of his shirt and lifted him up, shaking him like a rag doll.
"How many times do I have to tell you?! STOP SAVING ME!"
"Damon!" she cried, wrapping her arms around his waist, attempting to pull him away from his brother while Caroline grabbed Stefan and tried to wrest him out of Damon's grasp.
The brothers broke apart, Stefan falling to the couch as Caroline successfully managed to yank him away from Damon. The release caused Damon to fall backwards, on top of Elena, and their bodies slammed into the sofa behind them, scraping it across the hardwood floor. Elena winced when she heard the telltale rip on the wood, but it was the least of her worries because Damon was struggling against her, trying to break free, and she'd almost lost the battle until Jeremy jumped on him and helped keep him down.
"I think you'd better get him out of here Caroline," Jeremy warned. "Because I am seconds away from staking him myself for what he did to my sister, and Bonnie isn't here to stop me."
She didn't hear Caroline's response, but she did hear the two of them leave the house quickly, Stefan's sobs echoing in her ears. She couldn't say anything because she was still fighting with Damon, holding his upper half while Jeremy pinned down his legs.
"Do we have any vervain?" she heard Matt ask.
"In Damon's trunk! The duffel in the spare tire well," Jeremy replied.
"I need the keys!"
Which, of course, were in Damon's pocket. She twisted around, trying to get him under her to where she could free one hand to get the keys, all the while crying and begging him to stop fighting.
"Damon! Damon, please! Please Damon!"
Her tears fell off her face onto his cheek, and the drops seemed to have an immediate effect. He stilled and went limp, almost catatonic… like he'd been on the night when they'd opened the tomb and discovered that Katherine had never been in there.
She breathed a sigh of relief as she collapsed on top of him, still weeping and fisting his jacket in her hands. Jeremy reluctantly eased up his grip and slowly backed away, but it was obvious that he was ready to pin Damon again if he necessary.
"Damon?" she whispered, sniffling.
"I won't fight anymore. You don't have to vervain me," came his hollow reply.
She rested her cheek against his even as they were both still sprawled on the floor, and then moved to draw him into an embrace until she was spooning him.
"Thank you," she murmured against the shell of his ear.
"You guys okay?" she heard Matt ask.
"Yeah, I think so," she answered, trying to keep her voice calm and soothing.
"Okay. Okay, that's good."
"Can you take me over to Bonnie's?" she heard Jeremy ask Matt.
Panic surged through her, and she lifted her head. "Jer, what are you going to tell her?"
"Ric wants to see if I can contact Sheila. If I can't, I won't tell her anything about Shane, but I will tell her… about what we learned tonight," her brother answered, gazing down at her and Damon with a mix of sadness and pity on his face.
She swallowed and nodded. "Okay."
"I think she should know. Besides, it looks like the two of you are going to need some alone time. I'll stay at Matt's tonight."
Jeremy looked askance at Matt who nodded. "Sure, bro. No problem."
"You gonna be okay if we leave?" Jeremy asked.
She tightened her grip on Damon, who was being uncharacteristically placid, and nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, we'll be fine. Thanks, Jer."
They both gave her nods and beat a hasty retreat. She gave the wrecked living room a glance, and then rested her head back down on Damon's.
"They're gone," she said, stating the obvious.
His voice was completely devoid of any hubris or affectation, as if he had no energy for masks or illusion. Her hand came up, and she stroked his hair the way a mother would comfort a child. She heard him choke and sniff, but she didn't dare look at his tear-stained face. She loved him, and he loved her, and she knew there would come a time when she would be allowed to see him cry, but tonight wasn't that time. She held him, pretending to be oblivious to his silent tears, but weeping with him, until she decided they'd been on the floor long enough.
"You lied to me," she told him, trying to distract him from his self-flagellation.
She felt him go still, then he asked in a defeated voice, "When?"
"When I asked you if you would've saved me, even if it meant Matt would have drowned, you said you would have."
"That's no lie. It was the absolute truth," he answered.
"But you didn't tell me that there wasn't a choice. I accused you of being willing to let Matt die, but you would have saved both of us."
She felt him trying to get up and this time she let him. She pulled back as he sat up, turning to face her. His eyes were red, but that was the only sign of his weeping. She, however, knew her face had to be a wrecked, mascara-streaked mess. He gave her one of his tender gazes as he wiped her cheek with his thumb and smiled softly, his eyes growing misty and full of love.
"I would have let Donovan die, in a heartbeat. If the choice had been you or him, I would have chosen you without hesitation," he reaffirmed.
She took his hand and cupped his palm against her cheek, letting him cradle her face.
"But that's what I'm trying to say. There wasn't a need to choose because Stefan should have been more than capable of saving us both. You would have saved us both. You didn't tell me that. Once again, you didn't want someone to see the good in you. You didn't want me to see the good in you."
He scowled and lowered his eyes, letting his hand slip out of hers and slump to the floor. "I shouldn't have to. Maybe I was tired of you thinking the worst of me even after all I've done to prove otherwise. Maybe it hurt to know that you believed I would have let the quarterback drown if I'd had a choice."
She gasped, but realized that he was right, and the knowledge shamed her. "You're right. I did. I fell back on my old patterns, and I broke my own promise to myself to stop automatically thinking badly of you. I'm sorry for that. But you don't make it easy, and I was a new vampire. I didn't understand how fast and strong I would be."
"You figured it out though, didn't you?"
"Yeah, yeah, I did."
"There you go then." He said it as if her false assumptions had meant nothing.
"But nothing. You came after me with your convictions and your accusations, and you did what you always do, what everyone always does. It's not a problem. I'm used to it," he assured her with a shrug.
"But you shouldn't be. It's not right, and I'm going to stop doing it."
And just like that, she was forgiven – for everything – because that's how Damon was. Damon forgave… and forgave… and forgave. Even when the recipient didn't deserve it. She reached for him and kissed him tenderly. He returned it, chastely. She had no doubt that they would make love soon, but right now it was all about comfort and reassurance.
"Let's go upstairs. I'm a mess from crying, and I need to wash my face," she told him.
He gave her another one of his sweet smiles that made her feel cherished and adored, and stroked her hair.
"Why don't you go take a shower and get ready for bed and I'll…" He surveyed the living room and frowned. "I'll clean up this mess."
"You don't have to. We can leave it until tomorrow."
"Christmas?" he asked, one eyebrow raised.
She blinked. She'd forgotten again.
"I forgot about that," she admitted.
"I guess I'm not getting a present," he teased.
She snorted and flipped her hair back, preening a bit. "That depends on what you consider wrapping paper."
His eyes widened for a moment, then he laughed softly, kissing her with a little more passion than before. "Minx."
He gave her a little push. "Go on. Go get cleaned up. I'll be along in a little while."
She stood and gave him what she hoped was her best come-hither look. "Don't keep me waiting too long."
He chuckled and shook his head. "You know nothing of waiting."
She knew he meant it as a joke, but her smile faded. "I know."
He realized his faux pas and began to apologize, but she stopped him. "No. It's the truth. You've been waiting for years for someone to love you. You've probably been waiting your whole life."
She bent down and kissed him gently with all the love she had.
"I love you."
She pulled back, brushing his cheek with her fingers. "I'll be upstairs when you're done down here."
She gave him one more smile, then turned away and headed for the stairs. She knew he would follow her shortly, so she went to her bedroom and began undressing. She hung Damon's old leather jacket on a hook on the back of her door, and dropped the rest of her clothes in the hamper, before putting on her robe and heading for the shower.
Reality started setting in somewhere between shampoo and conditioner, and she had to stop rinsing for a moment as the pain made her dizzy and more tears threatened to fall. Stefan had let her drown in order to save Damon. He'd done so deliberately in the hope that he would be able to revive her after she was dead. Only she hadn't. If Meredith hadn't used Damon's blood to heal her of the brain hemorrhage, she would have truly died that night, and Stefan would have ultimately been responsible for her death.
But she would have died for Damon, and she was okay with that. He was definitely someone she would be willing to die for, but she also knew that Damon would never accept that. He was probably downstairs torturing himself with survivor's guilt, just as she had tortured herself for living after her parents' death.
'What a pair we are. I kept saying that I didn't want to be him, but I've been him for years. We're a matched set,' she thought dourly.
Well the time for guilt was over. They had survived, and now they had to pick up the pieces. A new big bad was coming, she could feel it, and they needed to be ready to face whatever was thrown at them – together. She needed to heal what was between her and Damon, then heal what was between her and Stefan, and help the brothers heal what was between them. That was going to be easier said than done. Stefan had loved his brother enough to risk her death in order to save him, but judging by Damon's reaction, he would rather have died.
Given those facts, and how much of a douche Stefan had been the last few days, it was going to take a lot of patience and cajoling before the two were even remotely close to being okay with each other, but that was for another night. Tonight was about Damon, so she shoved all the stuff about Stefan in a mental box marked "Later" and finished her shower.
She chose the same dark blue and plaid PJs she'd been wearing on the night Damon first confessed his love for her, then made her forget, and scrounged a battered hair bow from her drawer. It wasn't a gift bow, but she was sure Damon would get the message. She was just settling onto her bed to wait for him when she heard him trudging up the stairs, and she held the breath she didn't need any more as she followed the sound of his footsteps.
"Is it okay if I take a shower?" his voice asked from the top of the stairs.
She paused for a moment because she hadn't been expecting his question, and then replied, "Of course. Sure."
"Thanks. I'm all road-trippy and gross, and your floor is filthy. I'm gonna have to do something about that."
She smiled to herself, but held in her laugh. "Okay. Feel free to use my shampoo," she offered.
She heard him snort. "Because every man wants to smell like strawberries. Thanks, but no thanks. I keep a duffel with toiletries and a change of clothes in my car. Y'know, just in case I have to run from a human sacrifice practicing mass murderer on short notice."
"Damon Salvatore. Always prepared," she teased.
"I would have been an Eagle Scout. I got all my badges, but I ate the scout leader, and they kind of frown on that sort of thing."
She laughed out loud and put her palm to her face. "Go take a shower, Damon."
"Yes, Miss Gilbert," he sing-songed.
She was still giggling when she heard him get into her shower and turn on the water. What was she going to do with him? This insufferable, unpredictable, infuriating, wonderful man. She sighed and stared up at the ceiling, trying to get her thoughts and emotions in order before he joined her.
He came in about fifteen minutes later, fully dressed in a dark gray Henley and a pair of worn jeans. His hair was still wet so he'd draped a towel around his neck to catch the dripping water. The scent of his shampoo and body wash came in with him, something earthy and masculine, and he smelled amazing. She pressed her back against her headboard, giving him what she hoped was a sultry invitation into her bed.
She could almost see her reflection in his eyes, and she watched the emotions flit across his face as he took her in. She knew what he was seeing: her there in the tank top and plaid shorts, bow in her still damp hair, on her bed, waiting for him. His expression went from surprise to lust to love and then to quiet gratitude in the span of ten seconds. She smiled as he smiled back, his eyes warm and full of something she couldn't quite place as he stood by the side of her bed and stroked her leg with his fingertips.
"Not that I don't appreciate the offer, but… can I just hold you? I hate to say this, and I'll never admit it if you tell anyone, but I'm not really in the mood," he admitted, giving her one of his soulful-eyed looks.
His request surprised her, because she never thought she'd see the day when Damon Salvatore wasn't interested in sex, but she rallied quickly.
"Awww, the big, scary vampire wants to cuddle," she kidded, smiling so he would know that she wasn't mocking him.
He shrugged and tickled the back of her knee. "Well, it's either that or get shit-faced drunk and go kill someone."
"I vote for cuddling."
He smirked, but then his smug expression faded, replaced by pure anguish and guilt. She quickly kicked back the covers, and opened her arms for him.
"Come here, baby. Let me make it all better," she said, trying to make him smile at her attempt to be sexy and comforting at the same time.
He shook his head even as he obeyed, sliding into the bed and tucking his head under her chin as she hugged him.
"That's not possible," he choked, wrapping an arm around her waist.
"Shhh. It's okay. It'll be okay. We're going to be okay," she soothed, stroking his hair.
"I don't know how," his confessed, his voice ragged.
Tears began to fall from her tightly shut eyes, but she refused to give in to them. "We survive. We always survive."
"You didn't. He let you die for me." It was almost a sob.
"But I didn't die. I'm still here, and it's going to be okay."
"No, it's not. It'll never be okay."
No, it wouldn't, but the wound would scab over and heal, even though the scar would be between the brothers for centuries. "Then we learn to live with it because there's nothing else we can do about it. We can't change what happened."
"But the cure…"
"I don't want it. I don't want it, Damon. I can drink from blood bags now, thanks to you. If I don't have to hurt people to live, I can do this. I can be a vampire," she said, realizing that it was the truth.
"It's my fault you couldn't drink from blood bags in the first place."
"Don't go there. You didn't know, and you fixed it as soon as you did. Stop blaming yourself for things you had no idea you were doing."
"What are we going to do about the sire bond?" he asked.
"I don't know, but we'll work it out. There's nothing we can't overcome if we face it together, Damon, you know that. We'll find a way. We always do."
She heard him chuckle even as he sniffed. "My eternal optimist."
"My eternal pessimist," she teased, caressing his cheek. "What am I going to do with you?"
He lifted his head and gazed at her with his blue, blue eyes so open and vulnerable in a way she knew almost no one else had ever seen. "Love me?"
She gave him her sweetest, most tender smile. "Forever."
He shook his head. "Don't promise me forever. Not even a vampire can promise that. Promise me tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that…"
"And the day after that…" she repeated, then she glanced at her clock to find that it was now 12:02 a.m. "Merry Christmas, Damon."
"Merry Christmas, Elena. Are you my present?"
"For as long as you'll have me."
He grinned. "That'll be a few centuries at least."
She bent down to kiss him. "I love you."
He sighed into her mouth and reached up to caress her face. "I love you, too. So, so, so much."
He kissed her again, sweet and gentle, and then laid his head back down on her shoulder.
"Thank you," he whispered.
She pulled him closer, tucking him against her and twining her leg with his. "You're welcome."
They'd make love soon, she was sure of it; probably by morning, but for now she was content to hold him, reveling in the fact that he trusted her enough to allow her to see him so vulnerable and needy. She would strive to be worthy of his trust, as she knew he would strive to be worthy of hers.
His hand came up to rest on her chest, and she wrapped her fingers around it, holding his palm over her heart. He sighed again, and she felt him snuggle closer, his hair tickling the underside of her chin, but she tolerated it until he shifted, and the tickling stopped. They lay there, quiet but content, each in their own head, but committed to facing what was to come together.
Damon was the first to fall asleep, and it was a bit of a struggle to turn off the light without disturbing him, but she managed. Once the room was shrouded in darkness, lit only by the blinking lights from the neighbors' Christmas display, her own exhaustion finally caught up with her. She'd barely slept the last two days, and tonight had been an emotional bomb that had left her drained and numb. Damon's soft snores and subtle scent were a sleep-inducing lure that she could not resist, and she followed him into the land of dreams shortly thereafter.