Elena (/Stefan//Damon) | post-S3 | ~2250 words | PG
For rosaxx50, who prompted "They are the worst thing to happen to each other". I'm also combining this with an old prompt from bluesuzanne: You gave me love, but never hope, I am a raging fire and you are smoke in my eyes. This turned out more of a very moody and unromantic Elena-centric piece than OT3, but hopefully no one minds. :| Thanks a lot to dante_kent for the help!
In another story:
She is different. She is no longer the sad little girl who brought doom to everyone she loved. That girl is buried at the bottom of a river; in her family's graves; in a dungeon in a house in a town she left behind.
Those scattered parts of her are wasted. They are irrelevant to who she is now.
("Do you ever think about the future?" -- she had once asked this, or something like it. The boy of her dreams had said --
something comforting. She remembers that.)
In this story --
well, they have all of eternity to invent happier stories.
This is the beginning (of the end):
Damon is in her bed. It means exactly what you think it does.
"This was a mistake," Elena says, because this is what Elena says.
Damon exhales, long and bored. Damon is always bored. One day he might even get bored of her, and this will mean one of two things, neither of which she's decided yet.
They dress themselves on opposite sides of the bed. Almost unwillingly, she turns her head to survey the pale, perfect plane of his back, marked by her furious fingernails (I did that -- she thinks -- to him), before he pulls a shirt over himself. The shirt is black. When Elena remembers this moment, she will remember that the shirt was black.
She thinks he might leave quietly, but he pauses at the threshold. (As though this means something.) Before he can say anything that might ruin everything, Elena says it first:
"Don't say it."
An old memory:
Alaric had been watching her pummel his punching bag. "You're getting stronger," he had noted with some wryness; she had thrown a kick violent enough to almost topple the support stand.
"Yep. Watch out. One day I'll take you down, easy," she had agreed, methodically retying her ponytail.
It's Valentine's Day.
This means nothing, but it meant something once.
Stefan comes to her door with chrysanthemums, large and too bright; roses are too loaded for a three-week old rekindling. Elena's smile stretches across her face like an old, snug mask. She gazes at the yellow and white, and remembers happiness.
"Yeah, I - uh, I wanted to give you something that lasts," Stefan is explaining.
Elena nods in agreement. She doesn't know anything about flowers.
(They are trying.)
Her diary hasn't been touched in months.
These days, Elena lacks the will to read redundant words, dated stories from a girl who no longer exists.
The only story that prevails:
She was born. She lived. She should have died. She didn't.
(There is no ending.)
In the beginning (the new beginning), she had nearly torn out Jeremy's throat.
"It's normal," someone had said. "You'll get better at it," someone had said. Stefan, Damon, Caroline - whoever. They all know better than herself, you see.
Elena had nodded numbly, clutching the blanket one of them had wrapped around her. She had been small, and lost, and fragile. (She had been a monster.)
Damon had been the one to feed Jeremy his blood. She remembers that part. In no time at all, the unseemly gash on her brother's neck had faded to nothing. That's how easy it had been to fix a fatal mistake.
I take it back, Elena had thought, madly, uselessly.
Matt is Very Concerned for her these days.
"I just think you could do with some time… away," he is saying earnestly in a spotless apron.
"Away." Elena repeats.
"Yeah. From all of… this. Just go somewhere… else. You know?"
All Elena can think is, he looks exactly the same.
Elena is restless. Elena is temperamental. Elena is failing to be someone she might call "herself".
Elena sets a fire.
She tosses away a sizeable percentage of her old possessions without remorse. Ill-fitting clothes, books with crooked spines, ancient school dioramas. Into the flames. They are unnecessary. They are unwanted. They are irrelevant to who she is now.
(I take it back.)
Stefan is pained. Stefan keeps every single one of his old diaries. (Memories are important, you see.) Elena wonders if he feels betrayed. She wonders if he would let it show.
Damon is intently watching everything burn, because this is what Damon does.
Elena catches his gaze through rising smoke, presses her nails hard into her dirty palm as he glances away.
(I take it back.)
She and Stefan don't fight.
Except when they do.
"If this isn't working, Elena, just do me a favour. Just say it."
She drops her dinner plate on the pristine floor.
Stefan barely flinches. He is used to her mood swings. He is patient and concerned and everything she has ever wanted.
"Right," she says, hating the tremor in her voice. "So then it'll be my fault. There was nothing you could do. You left it up to me."
Stefan is ashen.
Elena has gone too far. She has strode across lines they have carefully agreed to skirt. She is wrong, and she is so very sorry.
Stefan swallows, sets his jaw. "Is that it?"
Not even close, she thinks. You lied, she thinks. You broke your promises. You used my worst memory to hurt me. You left me, and I died.
(I betrayed you, just like you feared I would.)
"Yeah," she says out loud. "That's it."
Stefan is gone the next day.
"He left town," Damon informs her from his piano.
Elena waits for him to go on, to look up at her at all. He doesn't.
She does the only thing she can do, and leaves. Slams the front door heavily, gets back into her car, and drives furiously. Wishes for pounding rain. She drives for hours, running the gas down, before shrieking to a halt at the edge of the new bridge.
This of all places is where she turns off the engine, and lets herself cry. The sound is harsh and violent in the calm midday, but no one is around to hear it. And if no one hears, then it isn't really real.
I take it back, she thinks. The dead at the bottom of the lake. I take it back. The six tombstones in the ground. I take it back. The choices that weren't choices, but rather just inevitabilities. I take them back. All of it, every one.
In another story:
Somebody is listening.
These days, she thinks about Katherine.
She thinks about running.
Elena doesn't run.
In her dreams, she floats downstream on a wooden raft, the sun warming her damp skin. Any moment she'll get up, wade through the gentle water, and place her feet on land.
But not yet. Not yet.
"You guys will work it out," Matt is saying, wiping down a table. "You always do."
Always. She had promised that once.
She had promised a lot of things to herself.
On day 34, Elena returns to the mansion. Paces hurriedly up the stairs, like she used to do when she was young and in love. Ignores the disjointed piano notes following her from below.
Stefan's sheets are clean and cold, the bed stiff and unused. It doesn't matter. Memories are here.
Elena lies still, and waits for something to happen.
She doesn't go back home.
Jeremy will probably miss her. But Jeremy can take care of himself. (He's happier without her, anyway.)
The Salvatore mansion is large and quiet and completely empty of life. Damon barely acknowledges her presence. This suits Elena fine.
I am alone, she thinks, and smiles.
When Stefan comes back, Elena has lost track of the days.
(This is a reprieve, she had told herself, one of the days lying in bed. It's a pause. Nothing like the last time he left you behind.
They really have always now, you see. )
When Stefan comes back, he stands in the doorway to his own room, mouth slightly agape at the image of Elena curled up on the bed with a faded book.
Elena sits up, fiddles with her hands. "You came back," she says unnecessarily.
A pause. "I worried about Damon," he says. I didn't come back for you, he doesn't say.
Elena nods. She understands. There is a pause, before Stefan moves toward the bed, seats himself beside her. They study one another.
"I missed you," Elena offers, because one of them has to say it.
Stefan merely looks at her, incapable of movement.
Elena doesn't know what else to say, so she closes the distance between them and kisses him, swallows whatever unfortunate words may be bubbling within. Stefan responds at first with caution, then with determination to match her own, his hands coming up to firmly cup her jaw. They fall carefully, hands and limbs fumbling, they are like strangers, but when Stefan presses her back into the mattress, Elena closes her eyes and it's almost like before again.
Afterwards, grasping her hand: "We'll survive this," he says --
-- ruining everything.
It's not like one of them says to the other,
This love is dead in the water.
Nobody says that.
Elena is hungry.
And she is running. Wild and furious through the deep dark woods, following the scent of that thing -- fresh blood -- that forbidden thing that she is not allowed to want, but still wants anyway. (This is: The Story Of Her Life.)
The girl on the side of the road has a broken-down car and a knife-sized gash on her upper arm. How it came to be there -- Elena doesn't care. Elena is fucking hungry.
There is a dead girl lying on the road and a dead girl standing over her. In another story, she might think: I used to be her. But the dead girl lying on the road was never her. The dead girl lying on the road probably had several living family members who will hear of their beloved (whoever)'s death and grieve loud and long, the way humans do.
In this story, Elena thinks, Let them.
These days, she looks at Damon, and Damon doesn't look back.
Elena wonders -- were she to keep living without the all-consuming inferno of his love affixing her to life as they know it -- if she would simply cease to be, and turn into a wraith, existing only in somebody's head.
Or maybe he would.
Elena is sure that one or the other would happen. (But she hasn't decided on which one yet.)
Elena is re-organising. She is separating sundry objects into two piles, one of which she will throw away. She'll decide later.
"You came back just to clean?" Jeremy asks from the doorway.
She takes hold of her feather duster. "Someone has to do it."
"Need help?" Jeremy offers, because he has always been the brother she never deserved.
"If you're not worried about getting a papercut leading to me eating you for dinner," Elena doesn't mean to say out loud.
There is a dreadful pause, during which Elena wonders how many more things she can ruin by simply existing around them. But then -
Jeremy's unbridled laughter. It starts, and it doesn't stop, and it spreads so that soon Elena is laughing herself, and laughing at herself, and hearing themselves laughing, and thinking that it is so loud and sharp and bright that it must be real.
The piles are large, and longing to be categorised.
Elena can barely tell one from the other.
The diary doesn't belong anywhere.
Elena is tired, longs to stretch her legs. She leaves Jeremy to watch over the piles, leaves to watch the sun set from the middle of a road. She is standing in the middle of this road when Caroline comes and almost knocks her over with her car.
"Elena! Oh my God!"
There are flaily arms, and hugs tight enough to crush regular human bone. Elena remembers that she hasn't seen her friends in weeks.
"Jeremy said that you were being a depressed hermit," Caroline is saying enthusiastically, before thoughtfully lowering her voice, "Because of Stefan, right?"
Oh. Yes. That, Elena thinks.
"But you're better now, yes?" Caroline's eyes are bursting with love and concern.
Elena is nodding, and thinking, I was missed. It's an interesting thought. People would miss me if I were gone.
Jeremy has started sketching again.
Elena is glad. Drawings are far more useful than words.
It is a lazy afternoon when Elena returns to the Salvatore mansion to retrieve the rest of her things. She walks in on broken glass, upended furniture. Damon and Stefan are fighting again.
Elena is tired.
"Is this how it's going to be?" she voices out loud. "For all of eternity?"
They don't even look at her.
"He started it," Stefan will insist later, then pause. "I spilled something on the carpet."
Elena will not be able to help but smile, and think, They'll always have each other. She will think, They are fine without me.
She surveys the piles, and says, "We should go away somewhere."
Jeremy looks up from his sketchpad. "Okay."
The suitcase is light.
They leave the piles of unsorted debris as they are. (The piles will still be there when they come back.)
Elena leaves a note. She does not obsess over word placement. The words she puts down won't mean the same thing next year. None of this will.
Some things could matter again, is her last word. But, maybe not.
And that's okay.
In another story:
Elena is happy.
(She has forever to make that story hers.)