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02 January 2011 @ 11:44 pm
These Hard Times (2/?)  
Title: These Hard Times
Rating: PG-13 (for now)
Pairing: Damon/Elena
Verse: Showverse
Summary: Katherine and Elena hear some disconcerting truths from one Damon Salvatore. Will it change anything? AU from 2.04 "Memory Lane"
Warnings: None unless you're a die hard Stefan fan.
Spoilers: I'll be cherry picking from season 2, so yeah, you should probably watch that first!
Disclaimer: If I owned them, Damon and Elena would have been together a LONG time ago!
Author's note: This is a continuation of a one shot I wrote back in October. The muses have been inspired to continue due to popular demand. I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter Two

For Elena, the following day passed by in a blur. She got up and went to school but her heart wasn't in it. In fact, she spent most of the day doing a reasonable impression of a zombie. Stefan kept giving her worried glances, but seeing as they were “fighting” he couldn't ask her out right was what was bothering her. The minute the final bell rang Elena bolted for the door and made a beeline for her car.

Stefan beat her to it though. “Elena, what is going on with you today?”

Elena tried but found she couldn’t meet his eyes. Not after what Katherine had said. “It's nothing, Stefan.”

Stefan frowned. “Don't give me that, Elena. Whatever it is it's not 'nothing'. Just tell me what’s going on.”

Elena didn't trust herself to speak. How do you explain to your boyfriend that you think he may still have feelings for your doppelganger? Even worse, how do you explain that you have deeper than friendship feelings for his brother? Her life was beyond screwed up. Elena needed time to think, but she knew she'd get precious little with Katherine lurking. Most of all, in that moment, she needed to be away from Stefan. She couldn't let her feelings for Stefan cloud her judgment. Elena steeled herself and looked up at him.

“We're supposed to be fighting, Stefan. This plan of yours is never going to work if you go chasing after me,” she said quietly, but firmly. “Please leave me alone,” she continued in a louder voice.

Stefan's face fell as he realized how right she was. They were taking an enormous risk with this plan. There was a part of him that knew they had practically no chance of fooling his ex. But he couldn't bear to let go of Elena. It was selfish and stupid, but he couldn't help himself. Elena was his whole world and he didn't know what he would do if he ever lost her. Right now, however, he had a part to play and it was about time he played it. Stefan nodded at Elena sadly and walked away.

Tears filled Elena's eyes as Stefan walked away from her. What was happening was so unfair. She hadn’t asked for any of this. Why couldn't Katherine just move on? Why did she have to return to Mystic Falls? Was it really to get Stefan back or was there something deeper at work? The more she thought it the angrier she became. Frustrated, she yanked open the car door and threw her bag inside. Then she climbed in, started the engine and took off. She needed to drive, to get as far away from Mystic Falls and her troubles as possible.

It was a clear day, not a cloud in the sky. It was so far removed from the endlessly clouded sky that Elena's life had become that she almost started crying again. The love and joy she'd felt in the early days with Stefan seemed like a distant memory. Now everything was doom and gloom and crazy exs. Elena had alienated, in one way or another, almost everyone she cared about. Jeremy. Bonnie. Caroline. Jenna. Damon. And now it felt like she was loosing Stefan too. Elena hadn't felt this alone and lost since her parents died. She had no idea what to do or how to fix the disaster area her life had become. At least not without sacrificing her one safe haven and that was something Elena was unwilling to do. Loosing Stefan might break her completely.

But what if Stefan wasn't the savior she believed him to be? Katherine's words kept haunting her. Did Stefan really see Katherine when he looked at her? Elena thought they'd gotten past this after her trip to Atlanta, but now she wasn't so sure. She was sure that Stefan loved her, but did he love Elena for who she was or for what wasn't? She simply didn't know. And that bothered her. A lot.

The afternoon faded into darkness and Elena continued to drive. She didn't have any particular destination in mind; she was just driving. Elena knew that Jenna would be worried when she didn't turn up for dinner, but Elena didn't think she could stand watching Jenna and Alaric being cute and couple-y when she was so miserable. As she drove, a fundamental truth began to dawn on her. Everything that had happened was – on some level – her fault. Not on purpose, of course. Hurting the people she loved was the last thing Elena wanted. However, by involving herself with Stefan, she invited the dangers of his world into her own, thereby putting the people she loved in danger. A danger they hadn't asked for or deserved. Although, to be fair, given the Gilbert family history, her involvement with vampires may have been inevitable. Either way, she was at least partially responsible for the fix she and those she cared about were in and she was determined to do something about it. With a renewed sense of purpose, Elena turned her car back in the direction of Mystic Falls. She knew what she had to do.

Elena wasn't surprised to find Stefan waiting for her when she got home. After giving Jenna a hurried explanation for where she had been, Elena climbed the stairs with a sense of both relief and dread; relief that a decision had been made, but dread at the heartache that decision would cause. Still, it had to be done.

Where the hell have you been, Elena?” Stefan practically shouted.

Elena gave him a hard stare. “Don't shout, Stefan. Jenna.”

Stefan lowered his voice, but didn't back down. “First, you won't tell me what's bothering you, then you disappear for hours! What was I supposed to think?”

I don't know, Stefan,” Elena replied. “Did it ever occur to you that I didn't want to be found? That I needed some time to myself. Contrary to popular belief, my world doesn't revolve around you.” Elena knew she was being unusually abrupt, but she hoped it would make this easier for Stefan to accept.

Stefan looked at her, completely dumbfounded. This was unlike the Elena he knew. He knew she was under an enormous amount of stress, but he'd never seen her like this. Something was wrong. “Elena,” he said, “what's going on? Did I do something to upset you?” He paused. “Has Damon?”

Thinking about Damon was the last thing she wanted right now. That line of thinking only lead to confusion and more self examination than Elena was ready for at the moment. Right now all she wanted was to keep those she cared about safe and that included the Salvatore brothers.

No one's upset me, Stefan.”

Then what?”

Elena sat on her bed and gathered her teddy into her arms. The slightly battered childhood toy gave her the strength to say something she never imagined herself saying.

I think we should break up, Stefan.” She said it so quietly only Stefan's vampiric hearing allowed him to hear her.

Whatever he was expecting her to say, it clearly wasn't that. “What did you say?” he said.

Elena looked up at him with determined but tear-filled eyes. “We can't see each other anymore, Stefan. You heard what Katherine said. People I care about are in danger. I can't just ignore that.”

But I thought we discussed this. We put on that show for Caroline. As far as Katherine knows we are broken up.”

Do you really think she's going to believe that? This is Katherine we're talking about. She's been one step ahead of us every time, Stefan. Can you guarantee that she won't find out? That Jenna and Jeremy and the others will be safe?”

You know I can't do that, Elena. But breaking up is not the answer.”

“Then what is, Stefan? Because if you have a better idea then I'm all ears.”

Stefan's face fell. He knew, just as well as she did, that there was no better idea. Until Katherine was neutralized they were taking too big of a risk, a risk that Elena wasn't willing to take. Stefan couldn't blame her or be angry with her. However, he was too selfish not to try and make her change her mind.

“Elena, I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know what's going to happen,” he said helplessly. “Please don't do this.”

“I have to, Stefan. As much as I love you, I have to put my family first. They deserve that. I've put them in danger. I can't even tell Jenna what's going on! And Jeremy...he didn't ask for any of this Stefan, he's just a kid. He shouldn't be worried about vampires and werewolves and witches. Now Caroline's a vampire. Tyler could become a werewolf at the next full moon. It's too much, Stefan. We're being selfish, making it all about us. It's not. It's about the innocents I've put in harm's way. I have to protect them as best I can, don't you see that?”

But who's going to protect you?” Stefan asked.

I'm not asking you to leave town, Stefan. I'm not naïve as you think. I know you and Damon won't let anything happen to me. I know this is an imperfect solution. Katherine's still a threat. She probably has some nefarious scheme, but until we know what that is I have to keep the others safe. Please respect that,” she pleaded, desperate to make him understand.

Elena,” Stefan began.

Elena cut him off. “I really think it would be best if you left. I'm sorry, Stefan.”

Stefan looked like he was about to argue again, but he thought better of it. Elena could be every bit as stubborn as he brother. With a sad, resigned nod, he climbed out the window and was gone.

Elena stared after him for a long time, tears streaming down her face. Her head knew she'd made the right decision, but her heart wasn't so sure. Stefan had been her world for so long. She sometimes had trouble remembering her life before she met him. That was a blessing and a curse. While he had been instrumental in getting her past the death of her parents, she'd become so wrapped up in him that she neglected other parts of her life. She needed some time to get to know Elena again. That knowledge didn't stop her from crying herself to sleep.

 

Damon sat on the couch staring unseeing into the fire. It had been another terrible day. He'd been in deep discussion with Alaric about their resident werewolf problem when he got a nearly frantic call from Stefan saying that Elena was missing. His first thought was Katherine, which made him even more paranoid.. Where could Elena have gotten too? So they had split up. Stefan scoured Mystic Falls while Damon and Alaric hopped in his car and expanded the search. As they were searching, all kinds of scenarios ran through Damon's mind. Each worse than the one before it. Had he gone too far the night before? Had his blatant defense of Elena pissed off Katherine to the point that she'd taken it out on Elena? If that happened, he'd never forgive himself.

I'm sure she's fine,” Alaric said from the passenger seat.

Are you trying to make me feel better?” Damon asked incredulously.

Alaric grinned at the sheer absurdity of it all. Damon was right; here he was comforting the guy who'd killed him a few weeks ago. How screwy was that? But he'd gotten a glimpse of the real Damon; he knew there was a decent guy in there. Deep down. Alright, very deep down.

You want to play the big bad vampire game, Damon, that's fine. But I know you. Better, I've seen you with Elena. I know you care about her. Hell, you might even love her. I'm not going to judge you for it,” Alaric replied. Damon raised a sardonic eyebrow. “Look, however improbably, I'd like to think we've become friends. You don't have to pretend with me. But by all means continue, if you feel that your manhood is in any way threatened.”

In spite of himself, Damon felt a sad, knowing smile spread across his face. Sitting next to him was a kindred spirit; Alaric got him if no one else did. He decided to do something he rarely did and confide in the history teacher.

I had a confrontation with Katherine last night. At Elena's house.”

And you think that might have something to do with Elena's disappearance?”

I hope not.”

Were you an asshole? Because I don't think pissing Katherine off is a good idea.”

No! I just told her the truth; it's not my problem that she's an egotistical bitch.”

Alaric didn't look convinced. “And this truth was...”

Damon kept his eyes on the road. “I told her that I didn't confuse her and Elena.”

And...what? That's it? You expect me to buy that? Whatever it was it has you spooked enough that you're confiding in me.

Damon scowled. “Fine. I said that loved her...Elena, that is. And I made it clear that Katherine was only going to get to Elena by going through me first.”

As he'd promised, there was no judgment or moralizing from Alaric. It was information he'd already known – or, at least, suspected – for some time. He never thought he'd hear Damon admit it out loud though. Instead, he found himself sympathizing.

Does Elena know?” he asked.

No, and I shouldn't have to say...”

If I tell her, you'll make sure my ring disappears and then kill me. I know.”

Just so we're clear.”

That had been hours ago. When Elena had arrived back home safe and sound, Jeremy called to let them know. Damon dropped Alaric off at the Gilbert house and returned to the boardinghouse alone. He desperately wanted to check on Elena, but Stefan was there. If there was anything amiss, he knew Stefan would call him. He resolved to go check on her himself later. Until then, he would get cozy with a bottle of scotch and a roaring fire.

Imagine his surprise when Stefan came home looking like he'd been hit by a Mack truck. Damon was immediately on alert.

What's wrong, Stefan? Is it Elena? How is she?” Damon knew sounded a tad frantic – and he hated that – but it was Elena, damn it.

She's fine, Damon,” Stefan said, his voice dead.

Damon's eyebrows knitted together in confusion. “Then why are you here? I thought you'd be busy fulfilling the not-broken-up part of your 'break up'.”

Stefan's look told him he'd been right all along about the not-so-fake break up he'd overheard. He was about to call Stefan on it when Stefan held up a hand.

Save the lecture, Damon. It's over.”

What's over?”

Elena and I.”

In other circumstances this would be music to his ears, but seeing his brother so...lifeless tugged at Damon's heart. “Why?”

Because she saw what I couldn't, or rather, what I was too selfish see.”

Which was?”

Elena's putting her family first, Damon. As she should. I can't blame her for that.”

Alright, Stefan, you're going to need to drop the cryptic and give me the Cliff Notes.”

Katherine demanded that I get Elena out of my life or she would kill Elena's family and then Elena herself.”

That explains a lot, Damon thought. “And you thought a fake break up would appease her? Are you insane? Have you met Katherine?”

Believe me, Damon, I know. I know I was being reckless. I know it was stupid. But I couldn't give her up.”

As much as Damon understood – the idea of cutting Elena out of his life, current troubles aside, made his stomach churn – he couldn't believe his brother could be so selfish. Well, that was only partially true. Despite Stefan's reputation for being the “good” Salvatore brother, Damon knew better than anyone that there was selfish streak a mile wide lying beneath that nice guy exterior. When it came to something he wanted, Stefan could be just as selfish as the next man.

And they call me the evil, selfish brother,” Damon spat. “You know how important her family is to her, Stefan. Do you really think she'd put them in danger if she can avoid it?”

This is Katherine's fault,” Stefan said. “If I'd have killed her when I had the chance...”

Confusion crossed his features again, but Damon pushed it aside. With it he felt his empathy with Stefan's plight evaporate, leaving anger in its place. He knew, if Stefan didn't, that this situation had more to do with Stefan than Katherine. Stefan only cared in so far as things affected him. It was easier to blame Katherine than to take genuine responsibility for his actions. Damon recognized the signs, having done it for a century himself.

Why didn't you, Stefan? If you had the chance to rid us all of her, why didn't you?”

I don't know, Damon.”

Damon looked at his brother in disgust. “Well, when you do know, be sure to share with the rest of the class. I have to go clean up your mess.”

It didn't take him long to get to the Gilbert house. It was very late. Silently, he climbed up to Elena's window and pushed it open. He hadn't come in through the window in months. In fact, he hadn't been in Elena's room since that night. This night, however, he needed to see her, even if she couldn't see him. He was careful not to wake her. The pillow was tear-stained and wet; his heart broke for her. So much had changed for her in such a short time. It was a miracle she hadn't broken down before this. More than anything in the world, he wanted to be the one she turned to for comfort, but he knew better. His own precarious relationship with her was too fragile, too fraught with tension. So he would be there for her when she didn't know he was there. It was the least he could do for the woman he loved.

 
 
Current Location: Salvatore Boarding House
Current Mood: calmcalm
Current Music: Bloodstream - Stateless
 
 
 
Love_Me_Softly: Delenacourjenna on January 3rd, 2011 06:18 am (UTC)
Just catching up with this story, and I love it! You capture the dynamic of each charecter so well!

Please hurry with an update! :D
michellemtsu: Damon Salvatoremichellemtsu on January 3rd, 2011 05:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm so glad you like it! :)
brightstarmarabrightstarmara on January 3rd, 2011 01:54 pm (UTC)
Hi! I want to read your story, but can't find chapter one. Can you tell me where I can find that? Thanks in advance!
michellemtsu: Daon/Elena - USTmichellemtsu on January 3rd, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC)
Oops! I'm sorry. I meant to post a link to chapter one and completely forgot. Here it is: http://michellemtsu.livejournal.com/42687.html#cutid1

Enjoy!
damon_s_86damon_s_86 on January 3rd, 2011 03:14 pm (UTC)
thank you. I'm so sick of Stefan's saintly act. he is selfish. you did good. I can't wait for the rest of it.
ambling_aboutambling_about on January 3rd, 2011 04:36 pm (UTC)
I agree with that 100%. He does have that huge selfish streak within him; when you love somebody like he says he does, you do whatever you can to help them. Love it when Stefan isn't the white knight! This is really well written, I love how you get inside Damon and Elena's heads, their thoughts are so in character. Can't wait to read more!
michellemtsu: Damon/Elena - I Need You Safemichellemtsu on January 3rd, 2011 05:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I agree about Stefan (obviously). I'm planning on doing what the show has failed to do so far and give him some character development. Like getting over himself! LOL So glad you liked it! :)
(no subject) - damon_s_86 on January 4th, 2011 06:04 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - persephone_20 on January 5th, 2011 06:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
damon_s_86damon_s_86 on January 4th, 2011 06:03 am (UTC)
yup, first he turns his brother because needs him, he didn't care what Damon wanted. he wanted him and so he had to turn him. Then he walks into Elena's life and isn't strong enough to leave despite all the dangers his presence brought into her life.

Damon stakes Elijah while Stefan runs to hug Elena. Seriously? Damon was the one who nearly died trying to save her. Seriously! Seriously!
(no subject) - ambling_about on January 4th, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - michellemtsu on January 4th, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - damon_s_86 on January 4th, 2011 08:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ambling_about on January 5th, 2011 03:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - damon_s_86 on January 5th, 2011 06:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
michellemtsu: Damon Salvatore - Die For Youmichellemtsu on January 3rd, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! :)
damon_s_86damon_s_86 on January 5th, 2011 06:23 am (UTC)
Sorry we're branching away from the story. but this is the beauty of this community. you get to meet awesome people who share your interests all over the place. I can't wait for the next chapter.
(no subject) - michellemtsu on January 5th, 2011 12:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - damon_s_86 on January 5th, 2011 12:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - michellemtsu on January 5th, 2011 01:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - damon_s_86 on January 5th, 2011 01:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - michellemtsu on January 5th, 2011 01:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - damon_s_86 on January 5th, 2011 08:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
~ danika jaidyn ~persephone_20 on January 5th, 2011 06:44 am (UTC)
This is a fantastic and beautiful continuation. I loved the one shot from October!! Running over to read the 3rd bit now :D
michellemtsu: Damon Salvatore - Die For Youmichellemtsu on January 5th, 2011 12:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :)
brightstarmarabrightstarmara on January 31st, 2011 07:32 pm (UTC)
Ehy *waves*

So I'm a morron. I've commented on your story before, than forgot I did, forgot which chapter I've read already. So I started over ;) Feel free to delete :P

His own precarious relationship with her was too fragile, too fraught with tension. So he would be there for her when she didn't know he was there. It was the least he could do for the woman he loved.

This to me is who Damon IS. He will never let anybody know who he really is. He's going to hide anything good he does. Poor baby.
michellemtsu: Damon Salvatoremichellemtsu on January 31st, 2011 07:42 pm (UTC)
I don't mind. Reread as often as you like. I posted the previous chapter links for that reason, especially since it took me so long to update. Incidentally, I agree with you. Elena has the best chance to see who he really is, but even that won't be easy. He's got too many scars. :(
brightstarmarabrightstarmara on February 4th, 2011 08:51 am (UTC)
It feels like she wants to help him, to fix him. But she can't. She seems to be naieve that way.

Not sure if I've asked you this already, but can I rec your fics? In my own LJ and a comm I'm a member of.
(no subject) - michellemtsu on February 4th, 2011 12:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - brightstarmara on February 5th, 2011 11:20 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - brightstarmara on February 5th, 2011 11:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - michellemtsu on February 5th, 2011 09:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - brightstarmara on February 5th, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)