Chapter Six: The Funeral
"At every occasion, I'll be ready for the funeral
At every occasion, once more, it's called the funeral."
"Morning," Elena said as she walked in the door. She dropped her keys in the dish next to it and dropped the bag of bagels she had just bought onto the table next to her sister. Katherine was currently bent over her catering menu, making sure it was perfect. There were two days until they left for Maui and Katherine was having a mental breakdown.
"Morning," Katherine muttered as she crossed something out in red pen. "You would think professionals would be able to get this right." She shook her head and put down the pen. "Are you going to the funeral later?"
Elena nodded. "Yeah," she said as she sat down and pulled a bagel out of the bag. She tore a piece off and ate it without bothering to toast it first. She wasn't really in the patient mood. "Wanna come?"
"Pass," Katherine said. "I'd much rather sit here in your apartment and argue with these damn Hawaiian caterers all day."
"I don't blame you. I'm just mentally preparing myself for all the Salvatore drama that's going to go down today."
"Speaking of," Katherine said, grabbing Elena's cell phone which she had forgotten when she had gone to get breakfast. "You have seven missed calls from Caroline and one from Damon."
Elena sighed and took her phone from her sister. "Caroline doesn't take hints very well." It had been a week since Elena had talked to Caroline. She was still as angry about the lie as she had been the night she had found out about it. Friends didn't do that to friends. It was sick and disgusting and Elena wasn't ready to talk about it.
"What'd she do?" Katherine asked, tilting her head to the side.
Elena pressed her lips together. She couldn't tell Katherine about it else she'd be telling her this entire thing with Damon was fake, but lying to her sister also wasn't her favorite past time. To appease both side, Elena chose to be as imprecise as possible. "I found out she's been lying to me about something really important for a long time."
Katherine rolled her eyes. "Go vague or go home," she said with a raised eyebrow.
"I'm sorry," Elena apologized as she leaned back in her chair and scrolled through her missed calls. How Caroline could call every five minutes and not get the point was completely beyond her. "I just really don't want to talk about it."
"Fair enough. Let's talk about sleeping arrangements."
"Hang on," Elena said as her gaze rested on the missed call from Damon. He'd called about a half an hour ago. "I'm going to go call Damon back really fast and then we can talk about all this."
Katherine made a whipping sound. Elena stuck her tongue out at her and made her way into her bedroom. She sat on her bed and hit the callback button. The phone rang and rang and Elena began to worry if it was just going to go to voicemail. Finally, just as she was going to hang up, he answered.
"Hey, it's me," Elena said. "Do you need me to pick you up from a bar?"
"Very funny," he deadpanned.
"You're the one who called me at six in the morning," Elena reminded him.
"What kind of bar is open at six in the morning?"
"Plenty," Elena replied as she laid back onto her pillows. "Anyway, why'd you call?"
"No reason," he said. Elena narrowed her eyes at his tone. It was light, which was strange considering his father's funeral was today. "Just wondering if you wanted to ditch my father's funeral and go do something else."
Elena rolled her eyes. This was the seventh attempt at getting her to let him skip the thing in a week. Normally, she wouldn't be pushy about something like this, but she knew Damon. He was like her. He needed closure, even if he wouldn't admit it. "Damon, I think you should drop it. I'm not going to go hang out while your father's funeral is going on."
"Fine, we don't have to do anything. You can stay at your apartment and I can stay at mine and we can just not go."
Elena shook her head. Maybe she should just give it up "You're a grown man, Damon. Do what you want."
"See, I usually would, but I seem to have this idea in my head that if I do, I won't be the safest man alive."
"And why would that be?" Elena asked, stifling a yawn. It was too early for this shit.
"Because you've been acting a whole hell of a lot like my brother and his wife this week, Elena. Being nagged by two people is enough, I don't really need it from you, too." The lightness in his voice had disappeared. Now, he was pissed. Elena cursed herself silently. He was right. She'd been doing exactly what Caroline and Stefan had been doing. She wasn't being fair, and now he was calling her out. She wondered why he had waited so long to do it.
"You're right," Elena sighed. "I'm sorry. I just – the funeral helped me when my parents died. I was projecting it onto you. If you don't want to go, we don't have to."
"Oh, I decided I was going days ago," he said. She could hear the smirk in his voice. "I just wanted to hear you apologize."
Elena wanted to smack him. "Careful, or I'm not going to be nice to you today."
"I'm so scared," he mocked jokingly. "I'll see you there."
"Yeah, okay. See you."
Elena hung up and stared at her ceiling. This past week she realized how easy friendship with him could be. It was like breathing. What she hadn't realized, however, was that he didn't take well to pushing, even from her. She seriously owed him.
She pushed up off her bed and walked back out to talk to Katherine about the wedding like she had promised. She glanced down at her phone which had begun to ring again. It was Caroline. Elena pressed her lips together and hit ignore.
"Okay," Katherine said as Elena took a seat in the chair across from her. She pulled out a flyer and placed it in front of Elena. "Closest family and friends get to stay in these. They're villas. Cute, right?"
Elena's eyebrows rose. Cute wasn't the term she would've used. The villa was huge, probably the size of a middle class home, but with all the upgrades of a high class one. There was a pool out back and beach access behind that. Hot tub, hammock, wet bar, everything.
"You expect me to pay for this?" Elena asked. "I work in a bar. I can barely afford the plane ticket as it is."
"Well, you'll be splitting it with Damon, Stefan, and Caroline for the week, so it shouldn't be too bad. If it is, just dip into your inheritance."
Elena blinked at her sister in shock. "One, Damon and I are sharing it with Stefan and Caroline? Have you not been paying attention? Two, you know I hate doing that." Sometimes she swore her sister was out to destroy her life.
"Caroline is your best friend since, like, birth. I'm sure you two will figure it out," Katherine said, taking the flyer back and admiring it.
"In two days? You think we can work out two years of lies in two days? Are you insane?" Elena shrieked. Her in the same house as Caroline, and Damon in the same house as Stefan was not going to make for a very enjoyable week. In fact, the chances that the place would be burnt down by the time they left was extremely high.
Katherine sighed, and Elena could see the nice bride rush out of her. She now looked a whole hell of a lot like the sister she'd known in high school – the conniving, manipulative little brat no one liked. "Elena, sweet, innocent, Elena. You think I care about your drama? You think any of this matters to me? I'm trying to do what's best for my wedding, and you are making that very difficult. So, why don't you leave me to the wedding planning and go worry about some stupid fight with Barbie. It's not like you've been of much help anyway."
"I planned the entire damn thing, Katherine," Elena said angrily. "It isn't my fault you changed it and put two couples who hate each other in the same villa."
"Get off your high horse, Elena," Katherine drawled as she sat back. "You aren't any better than Caroline. You've lied plenty in your lifetime. You lied to me for half our lives."
Elena stood abruptly. "That was different," she snapped. "It wasn't my truth to tell. Caroline had no excuse to lie to me like this. It was petty."
"Why don't you tell me what it is and I'll decide whether you have a right to be angry."
"Just like you, Katherine. I can't feel anything unless you approve it. Newsflash: you don't own me, nor are you old or mature enough to tell me how to feel." Elena shook her head and stepped backward toward her room. "Put us wherever you want to put us. You win."
Elena walked back into her room and slammed the door.
Two and a half hours later, Elena walked into the church where Giuseppe Salvatore's funeral service was being held. Her black dress swayed as she walked, her black heels soundless on the carpet. She spotted Damon, Stefan, and Caroline in the front row. They all looked uncomfortable to say the least. Elena guessed even a funeral wasn't enough to set their differences aside.
Elena took a deep breath and ignored Caroline's greeting as she went to sit next to Damon. She crossed her legs and crossed her arms over her stomach. The last funeral she had been at had been her parents'. She hadn't realized what a reminder this would be. From the corner of her eye, she saw Damon looking at her with concern – like she was the one who had just lost someone.
"You okay?" he asked lowly.
Elena looked at him and forced a smile. "I'm fine. I'm more worried about you." The redirect. He'd see right through it.
His eyes narrowed. "What's bothering you?"
"I don't like funerals," Elena told him as she looked away. "They remind me of my parents."
He nodded and then forced her hand into his. She felt her heartbeat spike as his skin came into contact with hers. "We won't be here long," he said as his thumb traced unconscious circles on her hand. Jesus. If she hadn't been embarrassingly distracted by the contact, she would have asked what he meant, but the second it was out of his mouth it was forgotten.
Elena forced herself to breathe. "Um, there's nobody here that we need to fool," she whispered, squeezing his hand to signal what she meant.
He looked at her, amused. "Sorry," he said as he let go of her hand.
"Why are you in a good mood?" Elena asked suspiciously. In fact, he'd been in a good mood since the night he had found out his father was dead. It wasn't normal. But then again, when had Damon ever been normal?
He shrugged. "Would you rather me cry before my father's casket and beg for his everlasting forgiveness?"
Elena didn't dignify that with a response. She just stared ahead as the service began. It wasn't long, though, before she found herself zoning out and thinking about other things. Like, for example, the man to her right. They were the same thoughts that had been running through her head since she found out the truth. What would have happened if she hadn't been lied to? Would they have been real friends? Would they have been more? Would he have had to pretend to be her boyfriend for this wedding? Or would it have been honest?
She glanced over at him and saw his jaw tighten at whatever the Reverend was saying. Elena hadn't been listening, but she assumed he was saying Giuseppe was a good man – something that was typically said at funerals. It was wrong to speak ill of the dead, after all, even if they had been terrible human beings.
Elena felt Damon tense as the Reverend called Stefan up to say a few things about his father. She bit her lip nervously.
"My father," Stefan began, "was not a perfect man. He was sometimes angry, and sometimes impulsive, but none of that matters now. All that matters is the good he did for the world with his company, and with his vision for a good future for his sons. He raised my brother and I to be honest and fair, and I think those are two ideals we all can live by." Stefan paused, his gaze landing on Damon. "If my brother, Damon, would like to say anything. . ." He stepped away from the microphone, and looked directly at Damon. For the first time in a long time, his eyes didn't challenge.
Damon nodded and stood. His face was tight, completely different from how it had looked when Elena had walked in. She realized now, that he had been burying all of his emotion and waiting for the perfect time for it to explode. From the looks of it, this was that time. Elena gripped the pew beneath her and waited for fallout.
After Stefan had returned to his seat – wearing a very similar worried expression to Elena's – Damon approached the microphone and cleared his throat. "For those of you who knew my father, you probably know that he wasn't the most morally sound human in all of existence. He may have owned a green energy company, but hell, that means nothing anymore. Wait –" he said, as he took in the slightly shocked faces staring back at him. "I'm not supposed to say things like that am I? I'm supposed to talk about what a wonderful humanitarian he was, and what a resourceful father he was." Damon stopped for a moment, feigning thought. "I've got nothing. Sorry, folks. All I have for you is that Giuseppe Salvatore was a disgusting bastard with a happy fist and swollen liver." He leaned down into the microphone. "Good riddance."
Elena shot upward at the same time Stefan did. "Shit," she muttered under her breath as Damon walked hastily down the center aisle of the church. He didn't glance around at the enraged faces, he didn't wait for any reaction. He just kept walking until he pushed the double doors open and disappeared into the sunlight.
Before Elena could take a step forward, Stefan was running down the aisle. Caroline turned to Elena, looking desperate. They both knew what was going to go down if they went out there. They also knew they had to stop it or someone was going to get hurt.
Caroline sighed in defeat and ran after her husband, leaving Elena stunned in a church filled with the angry mutters of the people who actually had respected the man. They all looked at her, searching her face for an explanation as if she had one for them. Not knowing what else to do, Elena motioned to the Reverend to keep the service going and then ran down the aisle and out the double doors.
She blinked against the sunlight, her eyes frantically searching the yard until they came to rest on Stefan who had his fist in Damon's collar and Caroline, looking scared behind him. Stefan was saying something lowly, his knuckles nearly turning white. Elena took a step forward, but stopped when Caroline shook her head at her.
Damon shoved Stefan away roughly. "You have got to be kidding me," he growled loudly. "Now, you're telling me to calm down? The golden child is telling me to calm down?" His lips curled savagely. "That man never laid a finger on you. You want to know why, Stef? Because your older brother was always there to protect you. You aren't the one with the goddamn scars, and you're telling me to calm down?"
"This is neither the time, nor place to deal with your past with him, Damon. This is to grieve him, and move on. If you want to be angry, then good. Be angry. Just don't embarrass the entire family in front of everyone like you did in there."
Damon narrowed his eyes. "Don't talk down to me, brother."
"I wouldn't have to if you didn't insist on acting like a child, brother," Stefan countered, not backing down when Damon raised his fist. "What are you going to do? Hit me? Go ahead, Damon. Hit me. Be what you've feared becoming your entire life."
The air was thick with tension as Damon battled with himself. Elena watched him carefully, waiting for him to break. But he didn't. He dropped his fist in defeat and sighed. He turned slowly, as if just now sensing that Elena had been standing there the entire time. When his eyes met hers, they were repentant. Her lips parted, wondering why he was apologetic to her. Then, he turned away and walked to the curb. He whistled to a cab and it stopped. He pulled the door open, and Stefan got in after him. Elena stared as the cab pulled away and the Salvatores headed who knew where in the city.
"What just happened?" Elena asked almost to nobody. One second Damon was about to hit Stefan, and they next they got in a cab and left. Sure, she knew the brothers were bipolar when it came to their relationship, but she didn't know it was that extreme.
"They do that," Caroline answered, walking slowly toward her friend. "They have this weird telepathy or something."
Elena's eyes fell on Caroline and the confusion was immediately swept from them. All they held now was contempt. She valued honesty more than anything, and her best friend had kept something like this from her for two years. It wasn't something that could just be forgiven.
"I'm going to go home," Elena said, taking a step toward the street.
Caroline grabbed her arm. "Elena, please. We're best friends. You can't ignore me forever."
Elena turned on the other woman and crossed her arms over her chest. "I don't have any illusions about who Damon is. I know that his record is spotty and that he can be a dick. I know that letting myself fall for him would be an idiot move on my part. I know that if I did, he'd have complete power to shatter me. You weren't protecting me, Caroline. I can protect myself. You were being petty. What I know about him, what I have seen him actually do is enough to keep me away."
Caroline shook her head. "Is it, Elena?"
Elena took a deep breath. "Yes, Caroline. It is."
"Except it's not, Elena. It's different with you, and I think you see that. He doesn't treat you like any of those other girls and I think that makes you think he cares about you. And I think you like that. You might just like the thought of him caring about you now, but somewhere along the way, you're going to start actually caring about him. That's where you're going to get hurt."
Elena blinked. It was true. Damon didn't treat her like he treated the other girls – like toys. He was there for her all the time. He was there for her that time when her car broke down in New Jersey. He was there with a bottle of tequila when she got dumped for the fiftieth time since he'd known her. And he was there when she needed to act like she had her life together for her family. She'd never thought anything of it. She'd always assumed he was groveling for her forgiveness for that night in his own way, but now that there was nothing to forgive, Elena was just confused.
"We're friends," Elena said, falling back on the only excuse she could think of. "Of course he cares about me."
Caroline smiled humorlessly. "You know what I mean."
Elena did know what she meant, but that didn't mean she had to take it. Besides, her best friend was taking this conversation way off course. "You know what, I think you're just trying to get me all confused so I start talking about how I feel about him, instead of how I feel about you right now."
Caroline threw her hands up in surrender. "I'm trying to get you to see the truth."
Elena narrowed her eyes. "Seriously? You're going to talk about the truth?"
"Yeah, Elena, I am. Because I don't think it matters what I told you. I think you were falling for him anyway. I think if you hated him as much as you let on, this entire arrangement wouldn't be happening in the first place. I think if you hated him you wouldn't have gone after him when he stormed out of that party. And you know what I really think?" When Elena didn't say anything, Caroline took a step forward and narrowed her eyes. "I think that if you had truly hated him before you found out what had actually happened that night, you wouldn't have been so eager to put yourself in the middle of his life so fast. It's like all you were doing was waiting for a reason for it to be okay."
"God, Caroline," Elena said, exasperated. "Why is this so important to you? Why is it so important to discuss whatever the hell is going on between me and Damon rather than something that is ruining our friendship?"
"I don't want you to get hurt, Elena. The way you were all over him at that party scared me a little. I didn't want him to have any power to hurt you."
Elena sighed. "That isn't your decision to make, Care."
"I know it isn't," Caroline said. "This is what I do. I mettle and I make decisions for other people and I do stupid things and I ruin relationships. I'm just sorry, okay?"
Elena jumped as the doors to the church opened and its occupants spilled out onto the front lawn. Most of them looked like they had just gotten out of a funeral, sad and tired. But one of them was still looking intensely angry. He walked toward Elena and Caroline deliberately, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides.
"Where's Damon?" he asked Elena.
"I don't know," Elena told him suspiciously. "If you don't mind me asking, who are you?"
"His uncle. Zach," he replied shortly. "I would really like to know where my nephew is, miss. We have some things we need to discuss about what happened in there."
Elena glanced at Caroline who was looking defiant. "He and Stefan left a few minutes ago. They didn't tell us where they were going."
"Well, when you see that poor excuse for a Salvatore, you tell him I have something to say," Zach sneered.
"Hey," Elena said. "There's no need to be rude."
"Damon just ruined my brother's funeral. There is plenty of reason to be rude, Miss Gilbert."
"How do you know my name?" Elena demanded.
"Not important," Zach said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Just tell him I need to speak with him and all will be well, all right?"
With that, Zach stalked off, leaving Elena and Caroline confused in his wake. Elena swallowed and turned back to Caroline.
"What the hell was that?" she asked.
"Zach," Caroline sighed. "He's basically Giuseppe's duplicate personality. He's always resented Damon because Damon got the company and he didn't. Some not very pleasant things have gone down between the two of them in the past. Zach ended up in the hospital the last time they met."
"What?" Elena said, shocked. "Damon put his uncle in the hospital?"
Caroline nodded. "The Salvatores have raging issues. All of them. Combine that with Damon's anger problems and you get a very broken nose and cheekbone."
"So, it's safe to say, I shouldn't tell Damon that his uncle wants to talk to him?"
"You can tell him. I'd just wait until we're in Hawaii."
Elena nodded and then sighed. As much as she wanted to skirt the subject and head home, she knew she couldn't. "Listen, Caroline. I know you're sorry and I know all you wanted was to protect me, but I just don't know if I can forgive you right now. You know how much I value honesty, and this was a huge breach of my trust."
"I know, Elena. Trust me, I regret it. Just be careful with Damon, okay? If this ever becomes more than it is right now, I don't see it ending well for either of you."
"I'll be fine, Care. I'm just going to go home and pack. See you at the airport, I guess."
With a sad smile, Elena turned and walked down the street. She felt bad, although she shouldn't have, for not forgiving Caroline. What else was she supposed to do? Just say it was okay that her best friend lied to her for two years? No. It wasn't okay. It didn't matter that Caroline had done it to protect her. It was still wrong and it still hurt.
As much as she wanted to go back to Caroline and tell her it was all okay and they could just go back to being best friends, she couldn't. This was a matter of self-respect, and she respected herself enough to allow herself to be angry about this. Caroline knew this. At least, she hoped she did. Elena wasn't the kind to just accept an apology and heal. She was someone who needed time, and sometimes, depending on what the incident was, a lot of it.
Twenty minutes later, Elena arrived at her apartment. She unlocked the door and walked in, expecting to be ambushed by her sister. Instead, she found a note on the table with one word on it. Out. Elena crumpled the piece of paper in her hand and tossed it back onto the table. Katherine was pissed, and she didn't even have a reason to be. Not that this was anything new. Katherine had been easily annoyed for her entire life. Elena gave props to Elijah, because spending a life with Katherine did not sound appealing.
Elena sighed and went to change out of her dress. She pulled on a pair of sweatpants and a tank top and then spent ten minutes staring at her suitcase. She thought through everything she owned and just couldn't decide what she wanted to pack. Not that it mattered. She had all day tomorrow to pack. After today, all she wanted to do was lay on the couch and do nothing. Before she went out of her room to do just that, something caught her eye.
Her family scrapbook laid innocently on her dresser. Elena stared at it. She hadn't taken it out in years. It brought up too many things, too many memories. Katherine must have been looking at it. Although, she had no idea why. Katherine avoiding talking about their parents as much as possible. She'd had the chance to take the scrapbook, but had given it to Elena instead.
Against her better judgment, Elena took the book off her dresser and brought it out to the living room with her. She held her breath as she opened it, and let it out as her gaze fell on the first picture. Her mother holding her as a baby, a wide smile on her face. She looked tired, but happy. Elena felt her heart contract. She had taken that away. It had been her fault. If not for her, her parents would still be alive. If not for her, there wouldn't have been a Gilbert funeral. Her brother wouldn't have had to go to rehab. She might even still live in Mystic Falls. Hell, maybe she'd be married to her high school boyfriend Matt right now.
It took her a moment to realize she was crying. The tears slowly ran down her cheeks, leaving trails of regret. Elena wiped them away impatiently, but they just kept coming. It had been years since she'd cried like this about what happened ten years ago. It had been years since she'd allowed herself to feel the full weight of what had happened. She knew now was a terrible time, and that she had more important things to worry about, but instead of stopping, she just cried harder.
Her hand pressed against her stomach, her other gripped the couch next to her. She was such a mess. She couldn't even look at a picture without losing it. Ten years, and she still felt as destroyed and guilty as she had the day it happened. There was something very wrong with that – something very wrong with her inability to heal.
Her breath caught as someone knocked on her door. The sobs stopped, but the tears kept falling. She waited for whoever it was to go away, but another knock came slightly louder. With a groan, Elena stood up and wiped the tears from her eyes as well as she could. It didn't do much good, though. Her eyes were still red and puffy, and her mascara was still smeared beneath her eyes. She prayed her appearance would send whoever it was packing.
Elena pulled the door open and cursed silently. She should have known it would be him.
He looked her over, concern the dominating emotion in his bright blue eyes. "Elena."
She forced a smile and wiped one of her eyes with the pad her thumb. "What's up, Damon?"
"Doesn't matter," he said. "What's wrong?"
Elena shook her head. "Nothing. I'm fine. How are you? Where did you and Stefan go?"
"Don't do that, Elena," Damon sighed. "You can talk to me. You know that."
Caroline's words about him treating her differently surfaced in her mind. She knew it shouldn't affect how she regarded him, but it did. Especially now, if he was pretending, it could break her. She couldn't let him weasel his way into her currently very fragile heart. She had to protect herself.
"This isn't a good time, Damon," Elena said, stepping back into her apartment and preparing to shut the door. "I'll talk to you later."
Damon placed his hand on the door and pushed it back open. He forced himself inside, challenging her. Elena crossed her arms and looked away from him as he closed the door. She could feel the tears burning behind her eyes again. She would not let him see her break. She couldn't. She didn't want him to be there for her like this. She didn't want him to know about everything she was struggling with, she didn't want him to know how badly she needed someone. She didn't want him to hold her or to wipe her tears. She just wanted him to go.
He took her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him. "I'm not going to leave you like this."
"I can't do this with you right now," Elena whispered. "Please."
"Okay," he sighed, tucking her hair behind her ear and then pressing a soft kiss to her forehead.
Just as he was about to release her, Elena grabbed his wrist, forcing him to stay. She cursed herself silently, feeling her heart beat at an unnatural speed. "Wait," she whispered. "The, uh, the funeral today. It brought up some memories. And then I found an old scrapbook. That's all."
Damon nodded and then wiped a new tear from her eyes with his finger.
"It's been ten years," she whispered hoarsely. "I shouldn't – I shouldn't still feel like this."
"It's okay," he told her as he pulled her against him and wrapped his arms around her shaking frame. "It's okay."
Then, Elena broke. Her sobs were the only sound that filled the apartment, her legs felt weak beneath her. And the only thing that was holding her up, was the arms of the man she had always tried to protect herself against. Her hands fisted in his t-shirt, her tears soaking the material. And all she felt was his hand stroking her back comfortingly.
And she all but forgot they were pretending.
A/N: Hello, all! I'm back! After a long last month of school, I am finally able to sit back and write! I hope you all enjoyed this chapter. It was really interesting to write because we really got to see how confused Elena is and how it kind of lead to her breaking down. And that entire scene right there is going to be the basis of a lot of her future struggles with him, so that'll be fun. Anyway, I should be replying to reviews now since I have the time, so go ahead and leave one! I love hearing from you guys! xoxo Ana