Disclaimer: I don't own anything or anyone from The Vampire Diaries.

MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone! I hope you have all had a great day and ate lots of turkey!

Another special shout out to anglcdmn1986 to beta'd this chapter on Christmas! So go wish her a merry Christmas on twitter cos she's awesome.

PS, please read the AN at the end of this chapter…there's a Christmas surprise for you all.

First part will be from Klaus' POV.

April 5th 2013.

Friday 8:55pm

Mystic Falls

I don't know how long it had been but eventually it all came to a stop.

Vaughn gave Damon one last kick in the stomach before nodding his head at Connor and rolling down his sleeves. He wipes some blood from his knuckles and looks down at Damon with a smirk. I lock my jaw when he bends down and says something into his ear so only Damon can hear it before standing back up to his feet.

He looks at the three of us, only Stefan and I looking back. Elena is turned away in my arms. Her entire body is shaking and I do my best to hold her still and keep her calm as she whimpers against my chest.

Connor slowly lowers the gun and Stefan goes to move but stops when Connor lifts it back up silently as a warning.

"I don't ever want to see or hear from any of you again, got it?" Vaughn threatens us and I nod silently, holding my breath as they walk away back towards their car.

We stay completely still until the car drives out of sight and then Stefan is leaping towards Damon who is gasping and whimpering in pain.

"Elena," I whisper soothingly into her ear. "It's over."

She tenses slightly and it takes her a moment to bring herself back to reality. She pulls out of my grasp, a sob escaping her lips as she takes in Damon's broken form. In a flash she is on the floor beside him, her arms wrapped around him and holding him against her.

I quickly move down beside Damon, his whole face is covered in blood and his breathing is short and quick.

"Ssh baby, you're going to be okay I promise." Elena whimpers against his skin as she presses her lips to his forehead. "We need to call an ambulance!" she looks up at my frantically. "He needs to get to a hospital." Her voice is cracked and desperate as she continues to mumble reassuring words back to Damon who looks semi-conscious.

I glance at Stefan nervously who slowly rises to his feet, looking unsure and I cringe. There's an unwritten rule within the Salvatore family to never go to the hospital unless it is absolutely necessary. Hospitals equal questions and questions lead to the cops.

"What are you doing?!" Elena cries at us in disbelief. "Call an ambulance! Do something!"

Damon coughs and splutters in her arms, a groan escaping his lips and I make the decision for all of us.

This is no longer a Salvatore call to make.

It's Elena's.

"You got your car?" I ask Stefan hurriedly and he nods. "Go bring it round here now!" I order him and he freezes slightly before following through with my orders and I watch as he runs up the stairs towards the back alleyway.

"Okay, Damon? Do you think you can walk?" I come down to his other side, taking in the cuts and blood on his face with a cringe.

"I…I don't know." He breathes out, while hissing in pain. "I feel dizzy. My head is spinning."

"Well we need to try." I throw his arm over my shoulder. "Elena," I motion for her to do the same and she shifts onto her feet so she is crouching before placing Damon's arm around her. "Okay, ready?" she nods. "Stand." I order her.

Damon lets out a painful wail and Elena moves to let him back down but I quickly stop her. "Elena we need to get him to the car! Keep him up!" She nods frantically, tears falling freely and fast down her cheeks.

"Jesus Christ this hurts," Damon spits out between gasps.

"Don't worry we're going to get you to a hospital." Elena tells him reassuringly while struggling to hold up his weight as he we move towards the edge of the alleyway towards the road where hopefully Stefan will pull up any second.

"No, no, no." Damon shakes his head and we have to still for a moment as he trips on his own feet, we nearly stumble over and I pull Damon's body back towards my direction before he topples on top of Elena. "No hospitals." He whines and I go to argue but Elena beats me to it.

"I'm not giving you a choice, Damon!" she snaps at him angrily but it's coming from a place of fear.

"She's right." I agree and thankfully Stefan's car comes to a skidding halt ahead of us. He quickly jumps out and runs back towards us, taking Elena's place to hold Damon up and this time we are able to move quicker.

Elena climbs into the back seat first and we help Damon in after her and I cringe as I look down at my now free hands to see them covered in blood.

I blink out of my trance and run around to the passenger seat, Stefan speeding away the second I shut the door. The journey to the hospital is a quick one and I keep looking over my shoulder to check on Damon. He's still conscious which is a good sign, but it's only just. His eyes are heavy but Elena is doing her best to keep him talking to stay awake.

Once we get there Stefan drops us off at the entrance and I run inside to go get help. After a lot of commotion Damon is taken through some doors and we are told to wait where we are. I sigh and run my hand through my hair, looking at Elena whose face is turning paler by the second. The strength that she showed earlier when helping Damon is slowly disappearing.

"Hey," I reach out and touch her arm. "You saw him. He's going to be fine." I tell her firmly but she doesn't look convinced. "Elena," I push her to look at me and eventually she does, her doe brown eyes looking pained and fearful. "Damon is the strongest person I know. I promise you it won't be long until he is walking back out of those doors with a smirk on his face and asking us what all the fuss is about."

She smiles, it's a small one but it's there, and I know that I've said the right thing. I sigh and take a seat in the waiting room by the reception.

The night starts to replay over and over in my mind and there's just something I can't get out of my head.

To anyone else it would be trivial and not a big deal. An easy guess if you'd like. But Connor and Vaughn aren't from Mystic Falls, and I know Vaughn – hell, I used to work for the guy. He's never even been there before. Even when Connor attacked Damon it happened out of town.

So how did Connor and Vaughn know to find us at The Grill?

I sit still on one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs in the waiting room, clenching and unclenching my hands as I try to block out tonight's events. Every time I close my ears all I can see is Damon getting hurt and all I can hear are the sounds of Vaughn's fist crashing against his bones, short gasps of pain falling from Damon's lips.

I jump slightly when I'm pulled out of my thoughts by a presence to my side. I turn to see that it's Stefan. He is standing over me with a nervous look on his face.

"Here." He clears his throat and passes me a see through plastic cup full of water. "I was going to get you coffee but I wasn't sure…" he trails off awkwardly and I force a tiny smile and take it from him.

"Thank you."

He nods his head and takes a seat across from me, letting out a loud sigh as his eyes quickly dart around the room. There aren't many people in here tonight; just two men sat across the room and a woman by herself a few seats down from Stefan. They all have their own story of why they're here I'm sure, their own problems to worry about.

"Where's Klaus?" I ask once I realize that he is no longer sitting next to me. God I never even noticed him leave.

"He's gone to clean up," Stefan replies with a frown before clearing his throat again. "He uh…he had some blood…" he trails and I cringe, looking down at my own hands which also have some of Damon's blood on them. I move one of my hands and start to play with the necklace that Damon got me for Christmas, my fingers moving around the pendant. The same necklace that belonged to his mother. For a moment I wonder if Stefan might recognize it but I don't even think he gives me a second glance. I wonder if Stefan even knew Damon's Mom.

We fall into a tense silence. I glance up at the clock hanging on the wall to my right and I scowl when I realize that we've only been sat here for forty minutes. It feels like so much longer.

"He's okay."

I glance back at Stefan, surprised to realize that he's still talking to me. He hates me and he's made is very clear throughout the years, more so now that I'm dating his brother.

He clears his throat yet again and runs a hand through his hair. "He uh…he's probably just gotta get some stitches, you know? Bandaged up too I suppose."

"I don't think it would take forty minutes for some stitches." I snap without meaning to and Stefan sighs and looks away. I cringe and look at him guiltily. "Sorry…" I trail and he nods his head. "I'm just scared. He was in a pretty bad way…what if there was some sort of internal damage or bleeding or something? Or damage to his brain, I mean he was bleeding from the head pretty badly and he was so dizzy he could barely stand up on his feet." I ramble on nervously.

Stefan stays silent for a moment before looking back towards me. "He'll be fine." He states assertively just as Klaus comes back.

"Hey." He looks between the two of us warily before sitting down beside me. I send him a small smile that he slowly returns as we fall into another tense silence.

The sound of the door opening puts us all immediately on alert and we all jump to our feet when a female doctor comes through and looks around the waiting room with her eyes.

"Damon Salvatore?"

We all approach her quickly and she looks between the three of us surprised. "Are any of you family?" she asks curiously and I frown. What does family matter in a situation like this? Damon's family abandoned him.

"I'm his brother," Stefan replies quickly.

"He's okay, right?" I ask impatiently.

The doctor goes to speak, her mouth opening slightly but Stefan cuts her off. "I know what you're going to say and it doesn't matter, they can hear this."

She sighs and nods her head slowly. "Firstly I'm Dr Meredith Fell, I've been treating Damon." She takes in all our concerned faces and finally breaks the news.

"He's going to be fine," she smiles and my entire body deflate in relief.

"Oh thank God." I feel tears sting my eyes as I run a hand through my hair.

"He has a concussion and it's a good thing you brought him in because he needed stitches. At first I was worried there might have been internal damage because he has some bad bruising but luckily he's okay. He'll probably be a bit sore for a couple of weeks but he'll recover."

I wipe away a fallen tear and smile. "Can we see him?"

"Sure. We'll be discharging him within the next hour or so once he fills out some medical forms for us." She explains before pointing us off into the right direction. "I'll be back soon with those for him."

I don't even listen to anything else she has to say, running off towards the room she told us he'd been in.

I stop outside and take a deep breath before swinging the door open.

I can't help it. I feel like such a weak distressed mess but the second I see him sat on the edge of a hospital bed, his face covered in cuts and bruises and some stitches on his right eyebrow and the top of the left forehead I just burst into tears.

"Hey, hey!" he calls out at me with a smile, opening his arms up and I immediately dive straight into his embrace. "Ooof," he winces in pain and I immediately pull back mortified. "Careful baby." He smiles and my eyes widen.

"I'm so sorry!"

His smile widens and he moves his hand to my cheek. "It's okay."

I bite on my bottom lip nervously, feeling my eyes start to tear up again but he immediately shakes his head.

"Stop it. Don't cry, Elena. Look at me, I'm fine." He smirks and I look at him in disbelief.

"Look at you?" I take in his battered face. "You look awful."

"Thanks." He rolls his eyes teasingly. "Just what every guy wants to hear from his beautiful girlfriend."

"Stop it," I say to him, "this is serious."

His smile falls slightly. "I know." He pulls me back against him. I gently wrap my arms around him, scared to rest too hard against him in case I hurt him again. "I'm sorry I had to put you through that." He kisses my head and runs a hand up and down my back soothingly. "I wish you didn't have to see it."

"I wish you didn't have to go through it." I pull back slightly so I can look at him. One of my hands slowly brushing back some of his hair that's resting on his forehead. "I was so scared."

He places both of his hands on my each side of my face and kisses me slowly. "Everything is going to be okay now." He tells me with a small smile and I'm not sure that he even believes it.

I accept it and nod my head, pressing my lips back against his softly.

Ignorance is bliss and all that.

I sign the final form that is needed before handing the document back over to Dr Fell with a smile. "Thanks Doc," I wink at her for good measure and she smiles rolling her eyes.

"Hopefully I won't see you back here for a while?"

"Not if I can help it." Elena joins in, helping me stand to my feet. I grimace in pain at the movement. Dr Fell said that I'd be sore like this for a few days but eventually the pain will dwindle. I guess that's what the medication is for.

"You want me to carry you to the car?" Klaus asks with a smirk from his place leaned against the wall by the door. "I'll even buckle you in."

"Funny." I send him a mocking glare and he chuckles before moving to grab my jacket. Stefan has surprisingly offered to give us all a ride home and I give him a nod of appreciation as he stands silently beside Klaus. He nods back before looking back down at his shoes and I guess that's progress.

I didn't even exist to him this morning.

"Oh actually, Damon, you can't go yet." Dr Fell interrupts with a somewhat nervous smile on her face and I frown.

"Why not?" I ask confused.

"You said he was fine." Elena looks at her with wide worried eyes, a frown to match my own creeping onto her face.

"He is," she quickly reassures Elena before looking at me with a hesitant look in her eyes. "You see, because of the case of your injuries, I'm obliged by law and duty to report this to the police."

I sigh loudly because I feared this would happen. "You called the cops?" I ask even though I already know the answer. She nods her head slowly and reads the tension in the room immediately.

"I'll go hand in these to reception." She excuses herself, clutching my file in her hands as she leaves.

"So are we all in agreement that we saw nothing?" Klaus speaks up first. "I'm sure this won't even go as far as a conversation."

"What?" Elena frowns and looks between us in disbelief. "You should tell them what happened! Make Vaughn pay for what he did!" she looks a little horrified that we would think otherwise and it's times like this when I'm reminded that she grew up with a cop Dad.

"And have Damon back in the hospital?" Stefan speaks up for the first time, an edge to his voice as he looks at Elena. "We don't talk to cops. End of story."

Elena gawps at him before looking at me, waiting for me to say something. I sigh loudly and look at her apologetic. "Stefan's right."

"Are you serious?!"

"I'm going to wait outside…" Klaus whistles under his breath before excusing himself from the room. I wish I had the same option.

"Damon, Vaughn could have killed you! Connor held us all there with a gun! You have to talk to someone about this!" her voice is shaky and distressed and I feel bad but she just doesn't get it.

"No offence, Gilbert, but the cops can't do shit." Stefan interrupts and I send him a glare to shut up.

"Oh," a look of realization dawns on her and I frown. "I get it." She swallows and looks at me with hurt eyes. "You don't want to talk to the police because you don't want to have to rely on my Dad because he's a Gilbert and you don't want to owe anything to my family. Right?"

I immediately shake my head but Stefan interrupts again.

"Pretty much, yeah."

"Damn it Stefan!" I bark at him with frustration. "Will you get the hell out of here?!"

He looks at me in disbelief before throwing his arms up in the air. "Fine." He snaps. "I'll go wait in the car." He mutters something under his breath as he leaves and I don't miss the fierce glare that Elena is sending him on his way out.

"So, does the same rule occur about me?" Elena raises her eyebrow and looks at me expectantly and I roll my eyes.

"You know it doesn't." I reach out and pull her towards me, my hands holding onto hers in front of her. "Ignore Stefan. What he said…it used to be true, but it's not the reason why I can't talk to the cops this time." I sigh and look away; hating to worry Elena even more than she already is but there is no other way around it. "Vaughn did this to me because I slept with his girlfriend many months ago. Can you imagine what he would do if I ratted him out to the cops?"

I watch as her eyes soften, her head tilting to the side as she realizes why we can't tell the truth about what happened. I squeeze her hands, bringing them up to my lips before kissing her knuckles slowly.

"Trust me, Elena," I murmur against her skin. "I'm doing this to protect us both. This is for the best."

She nods her head slowly while her eyes water just as we are interrupted by the door slowly opening. I sigh when I see who it is, and I watch as Sheriff Forbes steps further into the room, her eyes widening with surprise when she sees Elena here.

"Damon," she nods her head as a greeting before glancing. "Elena." There is a curious look in her eyes as she eyes my girlfriend and it makes me feel even tenser in her presence. I can't tell if it's a look of concern or if it is a look of disappointment.

"Don't bother with the pleasantries Sherriff," I cut in before she can speak. "I didn't see anything, I don't know who it was and I'm not pressing charges so…"

"Damon," she lets out a disapproving sigh. "Do you really expect me to believe that?"

I shrug casually. "No offense Sheriff, but I don't really care about whether or not you believe me. I'm telling you that's what happened, end of story."

She stares at me for a moment before looking at Elena who is stood a little nervously beside me. "So there were no witnesses?" she asks and we both stay silent. "Elena?"

Elena's mouth opens then closes for a second before she slides her hand back into mine. "I didn't see anything."

"You do know that withholding evidence is a criminal offence." She tells us both pointedly and I shrug again. "Fine." She shakes her head and slides her little notepad back into her pocket. "Elena, does your Dad know you're here?" she asks curiously.

Elena's eyebrows press together. "No, probably not."

"Maybe you should call him then? I'm sure he'd want to know what his teenage daughter is up to on Friday nights." She tells her pointedly and I scowl at the tone. "He'll be worried if he finds out you've been here from someone else."

"She'll call him in the car," I send her an obvious fake smile. "Come on, Elena, let's get out of here."

Elena follows my lead as I try to make a somewhat gracious exit but it's hard when my ribs are aching and my left knee is protesting in pain.

I do my best to hide my discomfort though, and I make a slow walk to the car. I brush off Elena's concern beside me as she flutters around me wanting to help in any way that she can, but she can't help me. I just need to fight through this pain and get on with it. I don't want to worry Elena any more than she is already.

I need her to believe that everything is going to be okay. I need her to be able to sleep easy at night without nightmares of bad things happening to us or this evening replaying in her mind.

I need her to just have one bit of normalcy. It's the least I can give her.

"I still don't think you should come to school." I eye Damon up and down cautiously as we stand in his temporary bedroom in Klaus' house.

It's been over a week since the incident with Vaughn and Connor. Although most of Damon's wounds have healed and he has almost made a full recovery, his ribs are still aching whenever he pushes himself too hard and I don't think he's ready to come back to school yet.

I still think that he should rest for a few more days but Damon being Damon is getting restless and bored and would now even prefer to go to school than laze around here all day.

"Elena, how many times? I'm fine," he stresses pointedly, his hands running down my arms as he presses a quick kiss to my forehead. "Besides, I don't think I can stand another day in this room alone, and there is no way you are skipping school again. We don't need yet another reason to piss off your parents if they find out, and they will if you miss any more classes this semester."

To say that my Mom and Dad were furious with me after what happened last Friday night would be an understatement. If anything, I actually made things ten times worse than they were already. However, I've continued to stand my ground, playing the role of the disobedient child that they have so easily cast upon me. It's not been easy, and there were many times when I just wanted to lock myself away in my bedroom, hide underneath my blanket and just cry. I understand why they are angry with me, why they're upset that I lied, but regardless of whether or not I'd have been honest with them about Damon from the start I know that their reactions would have been the exact same.

"We just need to ride this out until the summer," Damon continues as he drops his hands from my arms to pick up his jacket and put it on. "Just two more months and we can go to Klaus' beach house on the coast all summer if you want to. Anywhere you want to get away from this damn town," he mutters and I can't help but smile.

We decided to get the hell out of dodge this summer, even if just for a couple of weeks. Klaus' family has a beach house in Virginia Beach and he invited the two of us over this summer, Damon says that he normally goes for a couple of weeks every year but if we wanted to stay longer we could if I wanted.

The idea sounds too good of an opportunity to miss to be honest. I can't wait to get away from judging eyes and snide comments from people I don't even know.

"Hey, why don't we stay there when we go see The Arctic Monkeys next week?" I ask with an excited smile. I glance quickly at the calendar that hangs on the wall to my right to see that it's the 16th April, meaning that the gig is coming up soon.

"Ah, but you see I already have my own plans for that," he grins at me sneakily and I raise my eyebrow at him curiously.

"Oh yeah? You do realize that this was my gift to you right?"

"Of course," he smirks. "I just want to show you my gratitude."

"Right." I nod with a smile, butterflies erupting in my stomach as I wonder what he may have planned for next weekend. A nice private hotel room with a comfortable large double bed is immediately crossing my mind, a luxury bathroom with a Jacuzzi bath would also be a bonus. I know that Damon likes to enjoy the finer side of life whenever he can.

"Hey," Klaus knocks on the door and peeks inside. "I'm leaving if you both want a ride."

"Yeah man we're coming." Damon nods at him gratefully before glancing at me, noticing my smile fading slightly he sighs and wraps his arms around me. "I promise you," he presses a short kiss to my lips. "I'll be fine."

"Okay fine," I give in reluctantly even though I know that I didn't really have a choice in the matter. Damon had clearly already made up his mind. "But you take it easy, okay?"

"Of course." He winks at me with a smile. "Come on," he takes a hold of my hand, looping our fingers together as my smaller hand fits perfectly into his larger. I smile as I follow him out of the room and out into the Mikaelson driveway where Klaus is already sat in his car waiting.

The short car ride to school was full of playful bickering between what music to play, all three of us arguing for a different choice and in the end we make it to our destination without any of us winning and making the decision.

I climb out of the car, edging closer to Damon as he climbs out the front seat. I bite my tongue when I see him wince slightly, his hand edging to his ribs but it's gone in a flash. He looks and sees me watching, giving me a look of warning to not say a word and I sigh and roll my eyes before linking my fingers back through his.

He smirks and Klaus starts to go into mass detail about a movie he watched last night with his brother Finn. I ignore the usual stares as we walk through the car lot, they seem to be less intense than they were when Damon and I first became public but that doesn't mean that our relationship still doesn't intrigue everyone.

"Elena!" I stop, tugging on Damon's hand when I hear the familiar call of my name and I turn around to see Jeremy jogging towards me. I glance at Damon nervously, because the two of them have pretty much managed to avoid each other. There's been the odd awkward meeting when I was with either Jeremy or Damon, but one of them always made a swift exit.

"I need to talk to you." He says once he's close enough and his eyes briefly wonder to Damon before falling back on me. "Alone?"

I sigh loudly and nod my head. "I'll see you at lunch?" I ask Damon quietly and he nods his head before pressing a kiss to my cheek. "Take it easy, okay?" I warn him seriously and his smile widens.

"Of course," he winks at me before catching up to Klaus who is stood waiting a few feet ahead of him.

I watch him go for a moment before turning back to Jeremy who is looking into the distance awkwardly. "What is it Jer?"

"Mom and Dad are seriously pissed at you." He informs me and I immediately roll my eyes.

"Breaking news," I mutter sarcastically.

"Elena," he takes a step closer so there isn't much of a gap between us. "I'm being serious. If you keep sneaking out at night or every morning to go and see Damon then you are just going to continue to make things so much worse in the long haul."

"I wouldn't have to if they hadn't banished me from seeing him." I say defiantly.

"Yeah well I just thought I'd warn you that Dad is about one argument away from dead bolting your bedroom door." I roll my eyes at his words but I do know that he's got a point. I should probably start to make the effort to try and get back in their good books because there is no way I can keep this going until I move out for college.

"Okay," I hold my hands up. "I promise I'll make more of an effort."

"Thank you," he smiles slightly and I pause, looking at him curiously.

"What's changed your tune anyway? Why would you try and help me?" I ask him suspiciously.

Jeremy frowns and looks away and I wait silently for him to speak. He sighs loudly and turns back to face me. "I may not be happy with you right now, and there is no way in hell that I am ever going to agree with you and Damon, but you are my sister," he squints uncomfortably, "and despite what you may think, I don't actually hate you."

I feel a weight that I wasn't aware of leaving my body and I feel the ends of my lips tugging with a smile. "Thank you." I say sincerely because he has no idea how much those words actually mean to me.

He shrugs casually and pulls on the strap of his backpack. "I gotta uh…go." He mumbles awkwardly before quickly wondering off and I can't fight the smile.

Maybe things will get better after all?

I look down at the text on my phone with a frown on my face. I know that I should ignore it; I know that nothing good will come out of doing this but suspicion and curiosity overrides my common sense and I make an excuse to leave class early and head outside.

I see my Uncle Zach immediately, parked in a disabled bay close to the building. When he sees me he casually climbs out, leaning back against his car and folds his arms across his chest.

"And here was me thinking you were avoiding me." He tilts his head to the side and I frown as I get closer.

"I don't think it's called avoiding when you pretty much banished me from the family." I glare at him, looking around briefly to see that we are the only people around. "What do you want, Zach?" I ask impatiently.

"Aren't you going to ask me how I am? What I've been up too?" he asks in mock disappointment. "I'm hurt, Damon, I was kinda hoping you'd missed me." He smirks slightly and I scowl at him.

"Just get on with it." I huff. "You obviously came here for a reason."

"You get that bruise on your face from Vaughn?" he motions to the fading bruise under my left eye. Most of the damage on my face has faded away, but there is still a hint of what happened that is there to physically see.

I press my eyebrows together. "How did you know about that?"

He lets out a laugh. "Come on, do you really think I wouldn't?" he rolls his eyes slightly before clasping his hands together, his face straightening up. "Look, I know that we're not that close anymore but you're still my nephew and that's the only reason why I'm here, because despite me thinking you are a disloyal idiot, you are still family."

I frown at him confused. "What are you talking about?"

"I don't know if it's that damn Gilbert girls influence but you sure as hell picked the worst time to start having a conscious." He mutters coldly but that only just adds to my confusion. "I mean seriously, Damon? What the hell were you thinking? It was bad enough you sleeping with the enemy, now you're working with her old man too?"

"What?" I ask confused. "Working with whom? What are you talking about?"

Zach stares at me long and hard. "You don't know?"

"No." I snap in frustration. "Know what?"

"Vaughn spent the past weekend in jail being questioned about assaulting you." He explains and I freeze, my heart feeling like it has literally stopped. "I assumed you ratted him out."

My jaw opens in shock and I feel a shiver run down my spine and not the good kind. "I didn't speak to the cops." I swallow nervously.

This cannot be happening.

"No?" Zach shrugs casually. "Well someone did, Damon, and Vaughn sure as hell thinks it was you." I gulp and swallow the lump that is building in my throat, a sickly feeling taking over my body. "Maybe you should ask that girlfriend of yours? You know? The one with the cop Dad." He pats my shoulder roughly before turning around and opening his car door. "Have a nice day, kid." He winks at me before climbing inside, the door slamming shut loudly behind him.

I stand frozen as I watch him speed out of the school gates. My heart is beating painfully against my chest and I feel my entire body start to tremble. I don't feel fear often, but when I do it's for a damn good reason.

Crossing Vaughn once is bad enough, but twice?

I shove my sweater into my backpack before heading towards the doors of the girl's locker room. I am so glad that I have gym class at the end of the day, because now I am completely worn out and all I want to do is go home and have a proper shower.


I turn around to see Bonnie quickly walking towards me. I send her a nervous smile, because it's not like I've been her favourite person lately. At least she isn't pretending that I don't exist though, which has been Caroline's method these past couple of weeks.

"Here, you forgot this." She passes me my watch that I must have dropped and I look at her gratefully.

"Oh wow thanks, I never even noticed." I smile at her appreciatively and she nods her head with a smile. I slip it back onto my wrist and pull my backpack up further onto my shoulder. "So uh…how are you?"

"Good." She nods her head with a smile. "Same as always really. You?" she asks and I hold back a cringe at the weirdness of this all.

"Yeah I'm good." I reply with a frown because this is just not right. Bonnie has been my best friend since we were little kids, we should not be holding a conversation like we are just merely acquaintances.

Bonnie smiles slightly and pushes some hair behind her ear. "Elena this is silly," her smile widens and I feel my own lips twitch. "I miss you."

A feeling of relief seeps across my body. "I miss you too, Bon." I tell her sincerely, "and Caroline. I miss my best friends. I hate that things are strained between us right now."

"I can't speak for Caroline but I'm willing to forgive and forget. It hurt me that you lied to me for so long but…" she trails slightly and looks at me genuinely. "I understand why you did."

"Thank you." I tell her sincerely, a relieved smile playing on my lips. "You have no idea how good it feels to hear you say that."

She chuckles softly. "Do you want a ride home?"

"Yeah." I smile brightly. "A ride home would be great."

We walk out of the building side by side for the first time in weeks. I can't even fight the smile that is tugging at my lips because if Bonnie is willing to forgive and forget then hopefully Caroline won't be too far behind.

"Hey what are you doing this weekend?" Bonnie asks me as we walk towards the parking lot. "It's my cousins wedding in a couple of weeks and I really need to go to the mall and buy a dress if you want to be my helpful guide? You know how useless I am at that stuff."

"Yeah sure I can come with you." I agree instantly, knowing that I'm going to need to put in some extra time if I want to rebuild our friendship to where it was. "Wouldn't Caroline be better suited to this task though?" I ask hesitantly.

"Well I was kind of hoping she could come along too…" she trails. "I want the three of us to get things back to normal."

"You know that I want nothing more. Caroline, however, is treating me like I don't even exist." I sigh with disappointment.

"She'll get over it eventually." Bonnie tells me confidently, speaking the words that Damon has repeated to me over and over again since we made our relationship public.

"I sure hope so." I play with the end of my hair as we finally reach Bonnie's car, however before I even get a chance to open the door there is a hand on my arm and is tugging me back.

I swing around almost forcefully and look up startled for a moment until I realize that it's just Damon.

"I need to talk to you." He tells me firmly, his voice cold and hard and I'm instantly put back on edge.

"Bonnie was going to gi-"

"Now," he cuts me off instantly, his hand tugging harder on my arm. "Elena." His eyebrows are pressed tight and his forehead is creased.

I glance back at Bonnie who has a frown on her face as she eyes us both warily. "I'm sorry Bon," I offer her a slight grimace of a smile and her frown deepens. "Maybe another time?"

Her mouth opens to speak but before she gets the chance Damon is tugging on my arm firmly and pulling me away in the opposite direction. I try to protest and drag my feet but he is ten times stronger than I am and it's no use.

"Damon!" I hiss at him angrily for what feels like the millionth time in the past thirty seconds as he pulls me back towards the school. "Damon stop! Damon!" I snatch my arm out of his grasp finally, shoving him backwards with my other one when he swings around to face me. "You didn't have to be rude! Bonnie was finally starting to come around and now you've probably just ruined it by acting like an ass! What is wrong with you?"

"What is wrong with me?" he scowls at me in disbelief. "What is wrong with you, Elena? I thought we agreed to keep what Vaughn did to ourselves?"

I look at him confused as he stands rigid in front of me, his eyes cold and his body tense. "What are you talking about?"

"You told your Dad!" He hisses at me furiously and my jaw opens in shock.

"What? No I didn't!" I defend myself immediately, a wave of anger riding over me at the accusation. "How can you even think that? I told you that I wouldn't say anything and I meant it Damon!" I watch as he freezes, his eyebrows furrowed together and he squints slightly and looks away. "Damon? Wait…" a sudden realization dawns on me and I take a short step closer to him. "Does my Dad know?" I ask fretfully, the feeling of my beating heart speeding up faster and faster.

He turns his head to face me and clears his throat, a look of guilt crossing his features as one of his hands slowly comes to rest on my waist. "No," he breathes out quietly. "Sorry." He moves his other hand to my cheek and rubs it slowly with his thumb. "I'm sorry. I should never…I know that you wouldn't have done it…I just…I'm sorry, Elena."

"Damon I don't understand…" I look at him puzzled and worried all in one. "Why would you even think that? Do the cops know it was Vaughn?"

He stills for a moment before shaking his head and although I feel the worry lessen, I still can't fight the confusion. "So what was that?" I ask confused.

"It was me being a jerk." He sighs and looks away. "I wasn't thinking. Stefan just made a comment that made me think that you'd told your Dad about what happened. It was silly and I'm sorry. I overreacted. I'm sorry for acting like an ass in front of Bonnie; I know how much you want to repair things with her."

I watch him for a moment before sighing and letting out a small smile. "It's alright; she already thought you were an ass anyway." I smirk slightly and a smile tugs at his lips.

He leans forward and presses a soft kiss to my lips, pulling away and I realize that I can't ever stay mad at this face. No matter how much I try to sometimes.

"Let me make it up to you tonight? I'll buy you dinner? Money is pretty tight these days so I can't promise you much more than a burger at The Grill but I promise I will more than make up for that too with desert." He wiggles his eyebrows at me and I giggle and swat his chest playfully.

"As amazing as that does sound, and trust me it does," I wrap my arms around his neck. "I promised Jeremy that I would try and make more of an effort with my parents, and since I'm also kind of hoping to make amends with him too, I figured I'd start tonight and actually stay home for once. Hopefully we can sit through one meal together as a family without something going wrong."

"Look at you," Damon grins at me, twirling a piece of my hair around his finger, "building bridges. Very mature of you."

"Yeah, you should try it sometime." I smirk at him and poke him in the ribs. He chuckles before grabbing my rest and folding my hand underneath his.

"Come on, since I scared your ride away the least I can do is walk you home." He pulls back but leaves my hand locked in his, tugging on me to follow and I do without question because what else would I do?

"I've been looking for you everywhere!" I snap at Klaus in annoyance once I find him sat alone at the bar in The Grill.

"And you didn't think to check here?" he rolls his eyes at me and picks up a handful of fries from his plate in front of him.

"Well I thought you had detention and-" I groan and cut myself. "Not important! Look, I need you to do some digging for me."

"What kind of digging?" he asks casually while continuing to stuff his face with numerous amounts of cheese fries. I pull away his plate in annoyance and he tuts loudly and looks at me in disbelief. "I'm not finished!"

"I don't care!" I snap at him in annoyance. "Zach came by school today; he told me that the cops were talking to Vaughn about what happened."

"What?" Klaus' face turns serious. "Please tell me he was lying."

"I don't know." I admit honestly, a pit of nerves in my stomach as I glance around the fairly crowded restaurant. "Which is why I need you to try and find out for me. I think it was Zach just trying to cause shit between me and Elena by making it out as if she told Grayson when she didn't." I explain. "But I still to know for sure because if Vaughn really does think I went to the cops…" I trail off and clench my jaw.

"Shit." Klaus mutters under his breath. "I don't know if I can do much mate. Everyone who I used to hang with are all still working for Vaughn, there is no way that they will give me information when they know I'm loyal to you." He runs his hand down his face, a somewhat stressed look on his face and trust me I know that feeling. "I'll try and ask around but I can't promise anything."

I nod grimly and take a seat on the stool beside him, trying to figure out if Zach was just messing with me or not. I haven't heard anything from Connor or another one of Vaughn's friends but that could just mean that they are biding their time.

I order a soft drink, wishing that it could be something stronger but there is no way that they would serve me in here when they know fine well who I am. One of the many perks of having a reputation and being the son of the main founders council members.

"Listen," I break the tense silence that descended over the two of us despite the background noise and music around us. "Elena doesn't know. I said it was Stefan and made it out as if it was just my brother being a dick, so keep it quiet? She's been worrying about me enough as it is lately, the last thing she needs right now is to be thinking about what Vaughn might do next or if Vaughn is going to do something next. Especially if she finds out that I heard it from Zach."

"That's probably for the best." He agrees immediately and I feel a slight shift of guilt lift away from me because of it. I don't want to lie to Elena, but if it's to protect her? Then I don't have a problem with it.

We fall into another silence and I wonder what might happen if Zach was telling the truth. Would he have my back if Vaughn comes for revenge again? Or will he continue to turn his back on me just because I love Elena?

Klaus is in the middle of talking about him needing tutoring if he wants to pass Math to graduate, and I try to listen I do, but all I can think about is Vaughn. I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket and I pull it out tiredly before sliding it onto the bar in front of me. Klaus is still talking away by my side and I mumble and nod my head in the right places before distractedly glancing back at my phone to see that it's a text message from a blocked number.

I frown confused and open it up, my eyes widening instantly and I feel the blood leave my face.

It's a photo.

It's Elena, and she's standing at the bottom of her driveway outside her house taking the trash out. I gulp, noticing that she is wearing the same clothes as she was today. She clearly doesn't know that someone is watching her and that just makes me feel worse.

There is no writing in the text; just the picture but I know immediately who it is from.

"I gotta go." I mutter distractedly and leave Klaus still sat down by the bar, calling my name but I ignore him and push my way outside.

I immediately start to run, my leather boots slamming against the hard pavement below me as I run faster than I've ever ran before. By the time I make it to Elena's street, my heart is pounding painfully against my chest and I'm sweating and breathless. I stop at the edge of her driveway, in the exact spot that Elena was in when the photo was taken.

I look around; my eyebrows creased together, my breaths heavy while trying to hide my panic. There is nobody there. At least not that I can see and I'm briefly reminded about the past situation with Katherine and the all too familiar feeling of someone watching me.

I turn around slowly on my feet, trying to spot anything out of the ordinary in the darkness but there really isn't anything unusual or different. I gulp, realizing that Vaughn knows where Elena lives and I hate myself for dragging her into my mess.

This is my fault. I should never have slept with Andie, I knew she wasn't available, and I knew her boyfriend was a raging sociopath but I still went there because I was arrogant and cocky and believed that I could do anything I wanted to and get away with it because I'm Damon Salvatore.

Turns out, being a Salvatore means nothing when you don't have your own family there to back you up. I'm nothing now, I don't have Zach or Giuseppe to protect me and I'm assuming that Vaughn knows it.

I walk closer towards Elena's house, taking note that the downstairs lights are on but when I scale the upstairs with my eyes the only light is coming from Elena's bedroom.

I take the risk.

I need to see her.

I climb up the trellis easily, plenty of practice from sneaking up and down here over the last few months. When I slide open her thankfully open window, I peek inside to see that she is not in her room. I climb in anyway; making note of the shut bathroom door and when I hear the tap running I hope that it's her inside and not Jeremy.

I walk quietly to the door that leads towards the hallway and switch the lock just in case her parents decide to walk in and catch me in here, and then all hell really would break loose.

I run a hand down my face nervously. I can't leave Elena alone now, not if Vaughn knows where she sleeps at night. I take off my jacket and move back towards the window, locking it closed before dropping lightly down onto the window seat.

The sound of the tap is still running, and if I know Elena's routine as well as I think I do then she is probably wiping off her make-up before brushing her teeth.

I sit and wait silently and it's not until a long five minutes later when the tap stops. I hold in a breath, hoping that it is Elena inside and not Jeremy. I hear the twist of the lock and I wait tense as the door twists open, my shoulders dropping in relief when it's Elena in her tank top and short shorts and I wait a moment to admire her stunning long legs before I make my presence known.

"Cute PJs," I smirk at her when she jumps, not noticing me sitting there at first.

Her eyes widen comically and she immediately shuts the door behind her. "Damon! What are you doing here?" she hisses at me in a loud whisper, taking giant steps towards me.

I stand up and force a smile. "I wanted to see you. Is that a crime?"

"No but-"

"But nothing." I cut her off with a grin, my hands landing on her bare arms. "I missed you. I missed waking up beside you this morning and I want to make sure that we don't have a repeat of that tomorrow."

"What if-"

"Elena," I cut her off again with a soft smile, hoping to ease her worry. "Your parents will never know. I promise for once my intentions are completely pure and all I want to do is sleep." I send her a side smirk, watching as a smile tugs on her lips.

"When have your intentions ever been pure?" she challenges me with a raised eyebrow of her own.

"Well I confess that maybe I was hoping to cop a feel." I wiggle my eyebrows at her playfully and she giggles.

"I figured there'd be something, Salvatore."

"You know me so well, beautiful." I wink at her before pressing a quick kiss to her lips. "Now I don't know about you, but it's been a long day and I'm pretty tired."

"We best get into bed then," she grins happily and I smile, letting her out of my embrace and watch as she pulls open her duvet and immediately climbs underneath, snuggling against the thick blanket. "Come on, it's cold in here without you!" she urges me impatiently.

"Just a second," I walk back over to the window, looking out into the dark quiet street and again I can't seem to see anything out of the ordinary. I double check that the window is locked and I pull the curtains firmly closed, not leaving a single gap for anyone to see through. I pull off my jeans and lift off my shirt knowing that Elena prefers it when I sleep topless.

I shut off the main light and make my way back beside her through the darkness, purposely walking to her side of the bed so I have to climb over her.

"Damon!" she giggles again, lightly punching me in the arm and I grin and hover above her. "You're an idiot."

I grin and lean down before pressing my lips against hers softly. "I love you." I mumble against her lips before pressing another brief kiss, "so much."

"I love you too." She smiles against me, one of her hands finding my cheek before I move and roll beside her. She immediately gets comfortable and snuggles against me; her bare legs sliding between my own and she shiver slightly. "You're feet are cold."

"Good." I squeeze her waist and press another kiss to her lips before her eyes flutter closed.

"Goodnight Damon." She breathes out wistfully, sleep taking over her already.

I close my eyes and pull her closer against me, my arms wrapped around her tightly trying to protect her in the only way that I can right now. I'm grateful to have her wrapped up in my arms but I am also very aware that I may have unwillingly put her in danger.

I feel her breathing even out and I realize that she is asleep. I rest my lips against her forehead, kissing her skin slowly. Inhaling her scent and squeezing my eyes tightly shut.

"Goodnight Elena."

So, the next chapter will most likely include the prologue, and after that there will only be ONE more chapter left of Cannonball! It's been an amazing ride and you guys have all been awesome with your wonderful/inspirational reviews and tweets! Seriously, I would never have gotten this far without you all encouraging me!

Which leads me to this…

There WILL be a Cannonball sequel! Most likely to be posted in the New Year! So look out for it, I will give more details at the end of the final chapter :)

Thanks for reading! Merry Christmas!

Until next time :)