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04 January 2011 @ 12:15 am
These Hard Times (3/?)  
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: I come bearing chapter three! There's a bit of POV switching in this one, hopefully it's not too hard to follow. Enjoy!

Chapter Three

When Elena arrived downstairs for breakfast the next morning, she felt like death warmed over. It had taken a long time for her to exhaust her tears; she had no idea how much sleep she had gotten. It couldn't have been much, because Jenna looked at her in alarm the second she stepped into the kitchen.

“Elena, are you okay? You look terrible!”

Elena mustered a weak smile. “I'm fine, Jenna. Just tired.”

Jenna narrowed her eyes at her niece. Elena groaned inwardly. The last thing she needed right now was for Jenna to get overly concerned. That could lead to awkward questions she couldn't answer. Luckily she was saved by Alaric.

“Elena, how's that project coming?” he asked. “I told you not stay up too late working on it.”

“I know, Ric. I just wanted to get it finished before the picnic today.” She nodded at her history teacher in silent gratitude, as Jenna turned back to making breakfast. He looked at her quizzically, but knew this wasn't the time or place for explanations.

Elena hated leaving Jenna in the dark, but couldn't bring herself to burden yet another member of her family with her secret. It was bad enough Jeremy knew. Without another word, Elena ate some breakfast. She wasn't hungry, but trying to maintain an air of normality was imperative, for Jenna's sake. Breakfast finished, Elena climbed back upstairs. As she showered and dressed for a day she so emphatically did not want to face, she wondered where her brother was. She hadn't seen him since her hurried arrival the night before. She hoped he stayed out of trouble; she wanted him as far from the supernatural as possible.

Elena!” Jenna called. “We're heading over to the park. Are you coming?”

Just a second!” she replied with way more enthusiasm than she felt. Quickly, she fastened her vervain necklace around her neck, grabbed her phone and went to join Jenna and Alaric.

They arrived at the park about fifteen minutes later. The party/community project was already in full swing. Elena had to hand to Mrs. Lockwood, she was handling the loss of her husband remarkably well. She wondered if her new responsibilities helped keep her mind off it. Who knew, maybe it could so her some good too. She did miss things like this. Before her parents' deaths, she, Caroline and Bonnie did these kinds of community projects all the time. Caroline's endless enthusiasm for them were a large part of that; she had a way of making them fun. And her mom always encouraged it; community had been important to Miranda Gilbert.

Elena! Over here!” Caroline called when she saw her friend. At least, she hoped Elena was still her friend. After the unfortunate Katherine debacle, she honestly wasn't sure.

Elena waved and headed over. She had resolved to forgive Caroline. Katherine was a manipulative bitch, Elena knew that. And if Caroline had helped her with her scheme, Elena was pretty sure that Katherine had threatened someone close to her. She couldn't be angry at Caroline for that.

Hi, Care,” Elena said.

Caroline smiled gratefully. “Elena, I am so sorry. I didn't mean to say those things. It's just that Katherine...”

It's alright, Caroline. I understand. Who did she threaten?”

Caroline's lower lip quivered; she was on the verge of tears. “Matt. She's scary, Elena. And if anything happened to Matt...” she trailed off.

Elena hugged her friend tight. “I know, Caroline. Shush, it'll be okay. We'll find a way to deal with her, I promise.”

Caroline pulled away and smiled. “Thanks, Elena.” She wiped at her tears with the back of her hand and looked around curiously. “Where's Stefan?”

Elena felt the knife twist in her chest. The look on Stefan's face when she broke his heart was still fresh in her mind. But she wasn't going to let it defeat her. She would not mope or feel sorry for herself. “You don't have to keep pretending Caroline. It's okay, I'm fine.”

Caroline looked genuinely confused. “Elena, I'm being serious. You didn't really expect me to believe that act in the Grille, did you? I told Katherine what went down word for word, of course, but I didn't buy it for second.”

Well, that just confirmed that Elena had been right all along. If Caroline didn't believe it, then there was no way Katherine would. “Caroline, I broke up with Stefan. For real. We had a plan, but it was a really, really bad plan. I couldn't put all of you at risk like that. I ended it last night,” she said quietly.

Caroline looked astonished. Then it was her turn to hug a crying friend. When Elena pulled away, Caroline said, “Are you sure you're okay with this, Elena? I know how much Stefan means to you.”

Caroline, all this is my fault. I've put you all in danger and that stops now. Maybe after Katherine's gone, things can be different, but right now, my friends and family are my priority.”

Caroline nodded in sympathy and acknowledgment. It meant a lot that Elena would sacrifice that mush for those she loved. “If you need to talk to someone, you know I'm here for you, right?”

I know, Caroline. Thanks.”

Anytime. Now let's go get some work done before Mrs. Lockwood spots us slacking.”

 

Damon really hated these things. Besides the temptation of hundreds of warm bodies, the endless barrage of mindless chatter was annoying as hell. Once upon a time, Damon would have either avoided outings like this entirely or used it as a snack bar. Either way was more than fine with him. Somehow along the way, however, he'd become attached to this godforsaken town and its insignificant inhabitants. A big reason for that, he knew, was due to the girl he was watching surreptitiously out of the corner of his eye. Elena was talking and laughing with Caroline. They were working on some painting project, trying in vain to keep paint off their clothes. To one who didn't know her, Elena looked like she was enjoying herself, like she didn't have a care in the world. But Damon knew better. He could only imagine how gutted she must feel. He'd left her room shortly before sunrise, careful to leave no trace that he'd been there at all. The last thing he wanted was for her to feel put upon by his unwanted presence. His love was a cross for him to bear and bear alone. He'd accepted that long ago.

Elena watching aside, he did have a legitimate reason for being there. Mason was still on the loose and undoubtedly pissed as hell. The wolf needed to be dealt with and soon. The full moon was only a week and a half away. In addition, Damon had a suspicion that there was way more to Mason's sudden appearance in Mystic Falls than met the eye. The fact that Mason had turned up within hours of Katherine couldn't be a coincidence, Damon was sure of it. There was some type of connection between them, but Damon was damned if he knew what it was. Interrogating the wolf before disposing of him was the only way to find out because getting a straight answer of out Katherine was as unlikely as hell freezing over. He'd been looking for the wolf all afternoon and had no luck so far.

His phone beeped. Damon pulled it out to check the message. It was from Alaric. Saw Mason talking to the sheriff. What's that about?

Don't know, not anything good. Where are they now? Damon replied.

A few seconds later the phone beeped again. They went their separate ways. Sheriff looked worried though. Watch your back.

I will. Thanks for the heads up.

Damon shoved the phone back in his pocket. He was pretty sure he knew what Mason had told Liz. And if he was right then both he and Stefan were in big trouble.

 

Elena was exhausted. She and Caroline had been working diligently all afternoon. They'd made a lot of progress and even got a thankful nod from Mrs. Lockwood. It felt like old times, just for a little while. There had been no talk of vampires or werewolves or spells. Elena tried to get Bonnie to help, but she was still having trouble accepting Caroline's new situation. Elena understood Bonnie's aversion to vampires, but lumping all vampires into one evil mass was unfair. Caroline was supposed to be her friend and desperately needed all the support she could get. Elena wished she could bridge the gap, but frankly it wasn't her problem. If Bonnie couldn't meet them halfway, then Elena wasn't going to force her. This was something Bonnie was going to have to figure out on her own.

Elena was surprised and a tad alarmed when Alaric came running up to them. “Elena, Caroline, have either of you seen Damon?” he panted.

I haven't seen him for days,” Elena said, which was true. The look on Alaric's face filled her with dread. “What's going on, Ric?”

Mason was talking the sheriff earlier.”

My mom?” Caroline asked, confused. “Why would Mason Lockwood be talking to my mom?”

I think he may have told her about Damon and Stefan.”

Oh my god,” Caroline said.

We have to find them,” Elena said.

I've been calling Damon's cell and he's not answering,” Alaric informed them.

Elena was already on her phone calling Stefan. No answer. “Stefan's not answering either. Damn it.”

Would Stefan answer a call from you, Elena?” Caroline asked. “Given the circumstances, he might be avoiding you.”

No, Stefan would answer, I'm sure of it.”

Alaric was more convinced than ever that something was amiss, but didn't have time to get the details. “Can we focus, ladies?” he asked in exasperation.

Right, sorry,” Caroline said.

Let's assume that your mom does have them,” Alaric said. “Where would she take them?”

I don't know!” Caroline said, in frustration. “I didn't even know about all this Council stuff until recently.”

Okay, okay. Process of elimination. What's close to here?”

We're near the woods, Ric, there isn't anything...” Elena said. Then she had a thought. “Wait, I think I know. Isn't the old Lockwood place near here?”

The one we thought was haunted when we were kids?” Caroline asked. “Yeah, I think it is.”

And if Mason was in on them getting taken, it makes sense,” Alaric said. “Okay, look, I'm going to go get a few things from my car, you two wait here.”

Elena had no intention of waiting. If Damon and Stefan were in trouble she was going after them. She was already walking in the direction of the old Lockwood place as soon as Alaric was gone.

Elena!” Caroline called. She caught up in a flash. “I can't...my mom...she can't know about me,” she said in despair.

I know, Caroline. It's okay. I'll go alone.”

But you can't!”

I can't abandon them, Caroline.”

Caroline was about to argue, when a figure of a man emerged from the trees. “I wouldn't go this way if I were you,” Mason said. “Nothing to see here.”

I doubt that,” Elena spat. “What did you do with them?”

I didn't do anything. I just let Sheriff Forbes in on a few inconvenient truths.”

Elena didn't have time to share in evil banter 101 with Mason. She tried to feign like she was going to run left, but Mason was too quick for her. The next thing she knew he had her in a strangle hold. She struggled, pulling uselessly at his arm but to no avail.

You look just like her,” she heard Mason mutter. “How is that possible?”

Elena never got to answer him because Caroline was on them in a flash. The young vampire pried Elena free with ease and tossed Mason against a tree like a rag doll. Elena struggled to her feet, rubbing her throat with her hand. She watched in awe as Caroline make quick work of Mason, knocking the werewolf out cold.

Caroline! Elena!” Alaric called. He came running up to them, his eyes wide as he took in the scene.

Tie him up, Ric,” Elena ordered. Mason knew Katherine, that much was clear. They needed to talk to him. “I'm going.”

Elena didn't stay to see if he followed her instructions. She took off at a dead sprint for the Lockwood ruins. As she got closer to the ruins, she heard voices. Then gunshots. Terror filled her heart as she slowly climbed down the ancient stone steps. One wrong step would send her sprawling. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, she reached the bottom. She pushed the door open and ran inside.

Stop!” she shouted.

Sheriff Forbes turned, looking at her in astonishment. “Elena! You shouldn't be here. You have no idea what you're dealing with.”

I won't let you hurt them,” she replied stubbornly.

Elena looked behind the sheriff and saw Damon and Stefan lying on the ground. Stefan was motionless with several bullet holes in his torso. Damon looked worse. He had cuts all across his face and a gaping wound in his abdomen. There was blood everywhere. It was clear Damon, at least, had put up a fight. They had both been drugged with vervain. Elena's blood boiled. Who could be so cruel? After everything the brothers had done for Mystic Falls, this is how they get treated?

Elena, get out of here. Now,” Sheriff Forbes demanded.

Out of the corner of her eye, Elena saw the sheriff's deputies closing in on her. They had their guns drawn. Elena had never been so scared in her life. For all the supernatural threats she'd faced, none of them scared her as much as a few regular humans with guns. But she couldn't just stand by and let Sheriff Forbes kill Damon and Stefan.

Elena, go,” Damon croaked. He sounded like there was blood gurgling through his airway. It was a sickening sound. “Please,” he said and suddenly Elena was in a very different cave. She was the one begging Damon to leave before it was too late. The memory hit her with such force it nearly knocked her over.

She looked over at him and said stubbornly, “Not without you.”

You leave me no choice, Elena,” Sheriff Forbes said sadly. She nodded at the deputies.

The deputies never saw Caroline coming. One second they were moving toward Elena and the next one was tossed against the wall and other was having his jugular torn out. Alaric was hot on Caroline's heels, crossbow drawn. He pointed it directly at a shocked Sheriff Forbes. Elena took the opportunity of the commotion to run to where Damon lay.

Elena knelt down next to him and cradled his head in her lap. He tried to shove her off, but he'd lost too much blood and the vervain was still in system. “Stefan,” he protested weakly.

Elena looked over at Stefan. He was still unconscious. There wasn't anything Elena could do for him until he regained consciousness. Damon was another matter. Her feelings for the elder Salvatore may be a confusing mess of confusion but she was not going to let him die no matter how much he protested. He was just going to have to deal with that.

Damon, you need blood,” Elena said emphatically. She held out her wrist. “Drink.”

The look in his eyes almost made her cry. “No,” he said. “I can't.”

What are you talking about? Of course you can. Drink.

Damon just shook his head and pushed her arm away. Elena growled in frustration. Stupid vampire!

Elena,” Alaric said, “I don't think he could stop himself if he drank from you. He could kill you.”

Then what are we going to do? We can't let him die, Ric.”

Alaric looked over at the motionless deputy. The man's head was lying at an unnatural angle. It was obvious he was dead; his neck probably snapped when Caroline threw him against the wall. Elena didn't hesitate. Carefully, she lowered Damon's head to cold stone floor and got up. It took all of her strength but she managed to drag the man's heavy body to where Damon lay.

Damon looked up at her gratefully and then sank his fangs into the neck of the dead man. As he drank, Stefan started to come around. Elena ran to his side.

Are you okay, Stefan?” she asked, worried. She'd never seen a vampire become nearly comatose before.

Stefan shook his head trying to clear out the fuzziness. “What's going on? The last thing I remember is Damon fighting some of Sheriff Forbes's deputies...”

He's going to need blood too, Elena,” Alaric interjected. “The vervain is still in his system.”

Stefan shook his head again. “No, I'm fine. I just need some time.”

Stefan's squirrel diet is hindering his ability to heal,” Damon said suddenly. “The after affects of the vervain will last longer too.”

So what do we do?” Elena asked.

Find him some bunnies in the relatively near future,” Damon replied. “Don't worry, Elena, he'll be fine.”

Are you okay?” she asked, trying to communicate her concern with her eyes.

He gave her that look again, the one that secretly made her stomach do flips. Then he nodded. Relief washed over her. Damon turned his attention to the still shocked and reeling Sheriff Forbes.

Stay...stay away from me, Damon,” the sheriff said weakly. She backed up as far as she could until she hit the opposite wall. She refused to took at Caroline, who was sitting quietly in a small alcove her mouth and chin covered in dried blood.

Alaric stood cautiously between Damon and the sheriff but Damon made no threatening moves. He just looked at her sadly. “Why, Liz?”

The sheriff looked disgusted. “I trusted you. And all along you were a...a...”

Vampire. I'm a vampire, Liz. And so's my brother. And so, as I'm sure you saw, is your daughter.”

I have no daughter,” the sheriff replied, raising her chin in defiance.

Caroline started crying silently. Elena went over to her and put her arm around her friend.

What are you going to do with me?” the sheriff asked.

Mom, please,” Caroline pleaded. “Don't tell anyone. Please. Please don't make Damon kill you.”

The sheriff ignored her crying child and faced Damon. “Is that what happens now? Do you have to kill me?”

Damon looked at her in surprise. “No, Liz. You're my friend.”

Elena could tell by the astonished looks on everyone else's faces that none of them expected Damon to say that. Elena wasn't surprised though. Damon was just like her. Loyal to those she cared about, often to a fault. Somewhere along the way he'd decided that Sheriff Forbes was his friend; he couldn't kill his friend, especially when there was another option.

Then what?”

We'll wait until the vervain has passed from your system and compel you to forget.”

Are you sure that's wise, Damon?” Alaric asked.

Oh, she'll have to be locked up in the boardinghouse basement until then, but yeah. I'm sure.”

 

An hour later, the motley group gathered in the Salvatore boardinghouse. Down in the basement, Damon guided Liz into the makeshift cell. “It should take about two days for the vervain to pass. Then I'll compel to you to forget this ever happened. And we can call go back to normal, understand?”

Liz nodded.

Damon heard Caroline coming with some of Liz's things, unfortunately so did Liz. “I don't want her in here,” Liz said.

Damon sighed. Parental rejection was not something with which he was unfamiliar. The pain of his own father's rejection flared in his chest. No matter what he did, it was never good enough for the stern Guiseppe Salvatore. Caroline's fault was something that was beyond her control. He didn't want what happened to him happen to Caroline and Liz.

She's still your daughter, Liz.”

The elder Forbes shook her head. “No, she's not. Not anymore. She's a monster.”

You don't know how wrong you are.” He handed Liz her things and left, locking the door behind him.

Caroline smiled in gratitude as he passed her. Damon silently nodded back. He didn't want a big production made of it. Caroline seemed to get that. Maybe he'd been wrong about her. Maybe she wasn't going to be such a liability after all.

Damon was surprised to find Elena waiting for him when he climbed the stairs. He thought she'd be fawning over Stefan, their brief truce over. He didn't expect anything from her. What he'd done today didn't change anything between them. In a way, it made things worse. His stupidity in attacking Mason caused this.

Come to lecture me, Elena?”

No, Damon. I came to thank you.”

For what? This is my fault. If I hadn't attacked Mason, he never would have gone to Liz.”

Stefan told me what happened in the woods, Damon,” Elena said quietly.

Damon couldn't forget what happened in the woods. He'd been replaying it over and over in his head for the last few hours. If he'd have been faster or smarter, this could have all been avoided.

After receiving Alaric's warning, he'd gone in search of the wolf responsible. He left a message on Stefan's phone about what was going on. No sooner had he done that, than he'd heard Stefan cry out. He took off in the direction of the sound and wandered directly into a trap. Stefan was in the middle of small clearing struggling between two deputies. He was already weak from a dose of vervain. Damon launched himself as his brother's captors. Once Stefan was free, Damon hoisted him into a standing position. That's when the shots ran out. Damon felt the tranquilizer embed itself in his skin, releasing the vervain. He yanked it out and struggled to remain standing. In the confusion, he dropped Stefan. Through the vervain haze, Damon tried to get a bead on where the next attack was coming from, but he couldn't. He fell to his knees when someone kicked him in the face sending him sprawling. Furious, Damon gathered the last of his strength and attacked. He never saw where the makeshift stake came from. He was just thankful they had lousy aim. He didn't want to think about how close he came to death, true death.

He's my brother, Elena,” Damon said, as if that explained everything. And it did. Stefan was his brother, his only family. He would do anything for him, despite their obvious issues. Fortunately, he knew Elena would understand that. He didn't have to explain himself to her. She seemed to instinctively get him. “How is Stefan?” he asked, changing the subject.

Better,” Elena replied. “Alaric's with him.”

Why aren't you?” Damon asked. The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. Then he cursed himself. She just wants to thank you for saving her precious Stefan, you ass. It doesn't have anything to do with you.

I think you know, Damon.”

You've thanked me. Now you can go back to hating me in peace.”

Elena looked stung. “I don't hate you, Damon. I don't think I ever really did. I wanted to. Damon, I wanted to hate you so much for what you did.”

Then why...”

I don't know. I was easier to pretend to hate you than admit that I hated myself for not hating you.”

Elena...”

I'm not saying I forgive you. I'm not ready for that. Not yet. But I wanted you know that I don't hate you.” She paused like she was going to say something else. She must have thought better of it, because instead she smiled and said, “Good night, Damon.”

Good night, Elena.”

 
 
Current Location: Salvatore Boarding House
Current Music: Winter Song - Sara Bareilles
 
 
 
damon_s_86damon_s_86 on January 4th, 2011 09:07 am (UTC)
I ache for him. It hurts to be the one on the outside constantly looking in. He's had a century and a half of looking in. poor baby.
michellemtsu: Damon/Elena - Near Missmichellemtsu on January 4th, 2011 12:42 pm (UTC)
I know, mine does too. But I think Elena will come around eventually. Both in the show and in this story. Like she said, it's just a matter of time. :)
damon_s_86damon_s_86 on January 4th, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)
I hope so, so badly.
traciaknowstraciaknows on January 4th, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC)
Interesting stuff! can't wait to read more. :)
michellemtsu: Damon Salvatore - Die For Youmichellemtsu on January 4th, 2011 04:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
ambling_about: leather jacket kirkambling_about on January 5th, 2011 12:59 am (UTC)
Hot damn, I love a quick update. :) Your ending here is perfect. This is where it starts - her not hating him. I like how you're going slower, not just having Elena forgive, forget, then hop into bed with Damon (though those are ok sometimes too, lol). Can't wait to read more.
michellemtsu: Damon Salvatore - Die For Youmichellemtsu on January 5th, 2011 01:04 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm trying to keep their reactions as real as possible. I don't want it to be an easy road. I'm working on chapter four right now, look for it soon!
Traciestrangedazey on January 7th, 2011 01:20 am (UTC)
Must. Update. Soon....Seriously, very nice.
michellemtsu: Damon Salvatoremichellemtsu on January 7th, 2011 02:05 am (UTC)
I'm working on it. I had a bit of writer's block. Then I realized it's MY story, I can do whatever I damn well please! LOL I'm hoping to have something for you guys tomorrow. :)
~ danika jaidyn ~: deadpersephone_20 on January 9th, 2011 06:21 am (UTC)
!!!!!!!!!!

Perfect. Simply cannot wait for more. :)
michellemtsu: Daon/Elena - USTmichellemtsu on January 9th, 2011 06:26 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm almost done with chapter 4. I should be posting it in a few hours. :)
~ danika jaidyn ~persephone_20 on January 9th, 2011 06:27 am (UTC)
*bounces*
brightstarmarabrightstarmara on February 24th, 2011 07:30 pm (UTC)
Loved this! The little differences you added to the scenes in the show are really well done! Damon saving Stefan and Elena running to him in stead of going to Stefan...

“Elena, go,” Damon croaked. He sounded like there was blood gurgling through his airway. It was a sickening sound. “Please,” he said and suddenly Elena was in a very different cave. She was the one begging Damon to leave before it was too late. The memory hit her with such force it nearly knocked her over. Keep writing like this and you might just sell me on Damon and Elena!