I hope this chapter is okay. There are no Stelena scenes yet but they should be in the next chapter. Thanks for all the favorites, follows and reviews thus far.
Almost two years later ... Portland ...
"Think fast!" A familiar masculine voice called out and Stefan heard the distinctive sound of a football hurtling through the air, spinning wildly as it zipped through the wind. He caught it by holding his hands above his head, not even needing to turn around to look in the direction it was flying from.
"Holy fuck, Salvatore, how do you do that?" Bobby White asked as Stefan turned and sent the football flying back to his friend. They had roomed together for a semester before Stefan joined Sigma Phi and moved into the fraternity house. Bobby also played on the football team with Stefan. Stefan was having the college experience he would have had if he were really alive. He studied hard during the week days and partied hard on the weekends. He was a BOMC (Big Man on Campus) and one of the most sought after bachelors at the university. He had done everything Lexi had wanted him to, except fall in love with someone. He had dated a few times but quickly discovered that it really wasn't for him. People had openly asked if he was gay. He told them that he just was not into dating right now. Honestly, it was hard not to be selective when none of the girls here made him feel like the one who came before them. He had a lot of friends who were girls though, one in particular who was jogging across the campus towards him now.
"Just lucky I guess," Stefan said with a smile.
Bobby shook his head as he saw Charley Abrams moving towards Stefan. "Your shadow is here," he said and laughed before heading off in the opposite direction. Stefan watched him throw the ball to some of their teammates who had started an impromptu game of flag football in the quad.
"Hey, Stefan," Charley greeted him as she came over to him and dropped down onto a bench. She offered him a brilliant, pink-lipped smile. She was decidedly attractive and very petite and blonde but she was just a really good friend to him. Lexi would have probably approved of her too. Despite looking like a daytime soap opera star, Charley was very down to earth and a bit of a tomboy preferring jeans and a jacket to skirts and fancy blouses. Stefan had at one time thought he could possibly be romantically involved with her but they had somewhere along the way fallen into the friendship zone and he was okay with that. He may not have found a second "epic" love but he hoped Lexi was watching from The Other Side and saying, "yeah, Stefan, you're doing a-okay." He thought of his best friend a lot; other people from Mystic Falls not so much... At least he tried not to and sometimes it almost worked.
Just not today. Elena and Damon had been on his mind all morning and he didn't know why. He had tried shutting off the thoughts, the feelings, but they were simmering beneath the surface of his mind.
"Stefan?" Charley prompted. "You know its socially acceptable in this part of the world to say 'hi' or 'hello' when someone greets you."
"Oh yeah, sorry," Stefan said, sitting beside her on the stone bench.
"One of those days huh?"
Stefan shook his head. "Not really. Just a bit distracted I guess. Finals are next week..."
"Yeah and then we're all going to Rio for two weeks. You're still coming right?"
"Yeah, of course," Stefan said quietly. It was humorous to think of a centuries-old vampire trying to catch a tan in Brazil but he would go because he knew Charley would have been disappointed if he didn't.
"Great. I can't wait to have sand in my toes and feel the warm water on my skin. I need a vaca like three months ago."
"Me too," Stefan agreed. "So what's on your agenda for tonight?"
"Studying, studying, studying. I won't pass trig if I don't."
"I can help you study," Stefan offered.
"And that means Party Boy Stefan emerges from his cocoon."
Stefan chuckled. "You're more important than any party." He would have blushed then, if a vampire could blush. That had almost sounded like a come-on and he hadn't intended it that way. They were friends and he didn't want to change that now.
Fortunately, Charley didn't seem to read too much into it. She smiled. "You really don't mind?"
"No. I will go to the Circle K and pick up all the 'study materials' we need."
"AKA chips, dip, soda ..."
Stefan nodded. "Yeah and maybe some of those good mozzarella sticks they make..."
"Yeah, those are good." She looked at the watch on her tiny wrist. "I gotta run. My last philosophy lecture is in ten minutes and its halfway across the campus."
"Yeah, get going. I'll see you around seven," Stefan said and offered her a smile. She waved to him and then took off running. She did that a lot, almost as if she was running from something or someone. He had told her once that she should join the cross country team here at the university and she had scoffed at the idea; said she liked junk food way too much though he'd never seen her actually gain a pound.
Stefan sat on the bench for a while longer, trying to clear his thoughts. He then decided to head to the market to pick up all the things he had mentioned he would get for his and Charley's study night. He watched the students on the quad as he walked towards his SUV. They had normal lives, they were human. He sometimes wondered despite his reputation as BMOC if he really fit in. He was a lot older than them; he was dead; he drank animal blood and yet he only claimed to actually like beer pong. He wasn't really what he had imagined he would be and sometimes doubts filled his mind.
He reached his car and climbed in, gunning the engine. He drove the four blocks to the mini-mart, wondering the whole time if he should have taken a page out of Charley's book and ran there. He was keyed up, restless, feeling as if he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. He didn't know why. It was a sunny day. People were playing Frisbee and walking their dogs. Nothing should be bothering him and yet...
He shook his head to clear his thoughts as he parked in front of The Circle K and dropped to his feet. He walked inside and immediately a familiar smell assailed him. A special perfume, the scent radiating off of her skin...
"Katherine," he murmured as he spotted a familiar figure lugging a carton of wine out of one of the refrigerators along the back wall. He would know her anywhere.
She must have heard him because she turned and looked at him with those familiar, ever-haughty brown eyes. "Stefan," she said with a smirk. "Help a lady out here."
"A lady you are not," Stefan said, feeling snide. What the hell was Katherine doing in Portland? Why was she in a mini-mart buying cheap wine and looking at him like she had expected him to come in here all along?
"Touche, Stefan," Katherine said and shoved the box back into the fridge before moving over to him. "Its so funny running into you here of all places. I heard you were on the west coast but imagine ..."
"Stop it, Katherine. Why are you really here?"
"Does there need to be a reason? Maybe I missed my old lover."
Stefan rolled his eyes. "What do you want? I am pretty sure this meeting was no accident."
Katherine sauntered over to him and linked her arm through his. He thought about tugging away but she whispered, "I think there is something you should know. Come outside with me."
Against his will almost, he walked with her outside. She immediately leaned against his SUV. "I never really picked you for an SUV type guy."
"I've been driving it for years."
"I know but still, its kind of tacky."
"Katherine, did you come all the way here just to talk about cars?"
Katherine shook her head, twining a strand of chocolate brown hair around her pinky. "No."
"Well then spit it out. I have places to be."
"You and that faux-blonde what's-her-name have plans tonight I am guessing? I can never remember her name. Connie? Cara...?" She smirked. "Are you sleeping with her?"
Stefan growled at her. "Leave her alone, Katherine."
"What can I do to her, really, Stefan? You know I'm not a vampire anymore thanks to your sweet little Elena." He stiffened at the mention of his ex. "Oh if only you could see the look in your eyes right now. You're still not over her, are you? I bet seeing me after all this time brings up a lot of memories."
"I'm done here. Stay away from Charley or I'll break you." He started to push her aside but she blocked him.
"That's right. Charley. Something ain't right about her. Just an observation."
Stefan paused in his tracks. "How long have you been watching us?"
"Not long, I promise."
"Your promises mean less than nothing to me. Now move or I'll move you."
Katherine stepped aside but she remained close by. "Elena..."
Stefan stared straight ahead. "What about her?" If he had a pulse, the mere mention of the woman he had loved and lost would cause it to race.
"I take it you haven't heard about the trouble in the little one Starbacks town called Mystic Falls."
"What are you talking about?"
"When is the last time you heard from my doppelganger or your brother for that matter?"
Stefan shrugged. "Its been a few weeks. I got an email from her a couple of days ago but -"
"Did you read it?"
"I meant to."
"She was probably asking you for help and you actually didn't read it? Seriously, Stefan? Do you really think if you don't respond to her, you can just forget her? I know how you feel about that woman for lack of a better word."
"Why are you doing this?" Stefan asked with a sigh.
"Because she's in trouble," Katherine said. "We all are, actually."
"From the 'heat' in Mystic Falls."
"Please. Old news. There's a new big baddie in town causing trouble."
Stefan's eyes went wide. "What's his name?"
"How do you know its a him? Sexist much? To be honest, no one really knows who this naughty little soul is but things there are getting really bad. Which is why I got the hell out of dodge."
"What do you think they want?"
Katherine shrugged. "Power, revenge probably - the usual stuff these types want."
"Why are they targeting Mystic Falls?"
"The hell if I know."
Stefan shook his head. "I don't believe you."
"I don't believe any of it. I think you just came here to stir up trouble. You were bored being human ..."
Katherine rolled her eyes as Stefan opened the door, climbed inside and fired up the engine. He heard her call after him, "Fine. Ignore the truth. It's your precious Elena's funeral..."
Stefan knew better than to put any stock into Katherine's words and yet he hadn't he felt a quiet foreboding all day? He supposed he could put in a call to Damon and see if things really were on the up and up.
As soon as he reached the Sigma house, he jostled past his frat brothers and went to his room, closing the door after him. He realized that he had never actually picked up anything at the mini-mart but that couldn't be his priority. His brother was. Elena was. If Katherine was actually telling the truth... Why she was telling him this at all he didn't know. She was always working some angle though, even as a human.
He called up Damon first but there was no answer. It went right to voice mail. His hand shook a bit as he dialed Elena's number next. Every time he talked to her, he had to remind himself that she was his past and that she didn't want him anymore.
An automated voice told him that her phone was out of service completely. He was very worried now and started to pace the length of his room, not sure what to do next.
He remembered her email, the one she had sent him a bit ago. He had tucked it in a file folder to possibly read later.
He went over to his computer and turned it on. He was logging onto the Internet soon enough and then opening his email program next. He went to the file folder that he had marked simply "ELENA". He pulled the email up and taking a deep breath, began to read, his whole body becoming more tense with each word that caught his eyes.
Damon and I really need you right now! Please come home.
Stefan shut off the computer and immediately jumped to his feet, a million and one emotions racing through him all at once. Elena's email had actually scared him. He was scared for her and Damon as well. It all seemed very unusual, surreal even. A tad bit suspicious too...
He sighed. He had no choice now.
He had to return to Mystic Falls.