Author’s Note: Thank you to all of you who have been reading this from the very beginning. This has been a much longer journey than I ever anticipated! And to all of you who remember me from last year’s History, I cannot tell you how much you mean to me… I was absolutely astonished when I started getting comments from you guys who remembered that story. It really just meant everything to me. So thank you! Thank you! Thank you for sticking with this from the start and coming back to read!
“Are you sure this is going to work?”
Caroline watched as Bonnie looked up at Damon, a grim expression on her face. “No,” Bonnie told him, matter-of-factly. “I’m not. This could bring back the curse. This could bring over a doppelganger. This could do a lot of things.” She hesitated, looking down at the heavy, ancient book in her hands. “But I think it will work.”
“Well, we’ve got to try,” Stefan pointed out. Caroline watched as he placed a hand on Damon’s shoulder. “She doesn’t belong there.”
Bonnie nodded, exhaling deeply. Caroline watched as she wrapped long chains of herbs around the frame of the mirror, encircling it. Damon reached out, pulling a piece of paper taped backwards on the mirror off of the mirror as Bonnie stepped away. Caroline craned her neck to read it, making out the words, Tomorrow night before he crumpled it in his fist.
Bonnie went to the circle they had drawn in chalk on Damon’s floor, kneeling down in front of the cauldron. She tossed a match inside and as the smoke flared in a rainbow of hues, she began to chant.
“I wonder what she’s like now,” Caroline murmured to Tyler. “She’s been gone for, what? Almost two months?” She drew back as she met Damon’s glaring eyes. “I’m not saying I don’t want her back!” she protested quickly. “It’s just, I mean, what if she’s all evil now? Or, oh!” Her eyes widened as a new thought struck her. “What if she talks backwards? That makes sense, right? She is inside a mirror. What if everything she says sounds like a bunch of garble?”
Damon’s eyes blazed. “You want to leave?” he threatened.
She fell back. “No.”
“Then shut up.” He turned back to the mirror, his eyes darting across the glass.
Caroline made a face at him, then looked over at Stefan, who had a peculiar look on his face. It wasn’t quite dread, but it was something akin to… anxiety, maybe? She had thought it odd Damon was the one urging them to get Elena out of the mirror and not Stefan, but Stefan had been supportive and encouraging, and he agreed with Damon completely, so she had dismissed it as Damon just being overly aggressive as he always was.
But, a small part of her couldn’t help wondering if the curse really had been toying with Stefan and Elena all along.
She sucked in a breath, her attention caught as the mirror began to fade, a dark reflection of Damon’s room appearing in front of them, covered in cobwebs and dust. There was an uneasy shift around the room as everyone stared, transfixed.
“What happened to your house?” Caroline couldn’t resist asking, frowning. Her next words died in her throat as Elena suddenly appeared in front of them, looking virtually unchanged, a hesitant, frightened look on her beautiful face.
Her eyes widened at the sight of all of them in Damon’s room, and even though they couldn’t hear her delighted laugh through the mirror, Caroline could almost hear it, having heard it so many times before.
She felt tears spring to her eyes as she stared at the girl behind the mirror. It really was Elena. It was their Elena, and she was trapped in that mirror… In that world she didn’t belong in. Silently, she urged Bonnie to chant faster, for the spell to work quicker, for them to get Elena back where she belonged.
Damon started to step forward, and then he suddenly stopped, a small, sad smile gracing his striking features. Caroline watched as he gently pushed Stefan forward, toward the mirror, watching as Elena and Stefan faced each other for the first time in months.
For a moment, neither looked like they knew what to do. And then Elena smiled, a smile that jarred Caroline straight to her core. She recognized that smile. It was the same smile Elena had given Matt after they had broken up and seen each other for the first time in weeks. A friendly, caring, tender smile, but lacking in the fiery love that had once been there. And then Stefan returned it, nodding at her. Elena nodded, reaching a hand up to the mirror. He did the same, as if to touch her through the glass. Bonnie’s chanting reached a crescendo, the final syllables falling from her lips.
Elena’s eyes widened with disbelief. Caroline heard Stefan suck in a breath.
And then Stefan’s hand disappeared inside the mirror. They all watched, stunned, breathless, as Elena hopped up onto the dresser, both of Stefan’s arms disappearing into the mirror.
And then he yanked backwards, holding Elena firmly in his grasp.
For a moment there was only the sound of Elena panting for breath and Stefan gasping for air as they clung to one another, Stefan keeping her on her feet. And then Bonnie’s voice quickly began chanting, closing the portal to the world behind the mirror. Caroline looked between Elena and the mirror, watching as the dark image faded away, leaving only their reflections staring back at them.
Elena looked up, clearly shaken, taking in all the faces surrounding her. Her lips turned up into a trembling smile.
“It’s good to be home,” she said.
Elena cautiously opened the door to the bedroom, her heart hammering painfully against her ribs. The room was completely dark, except a few rays of moonlight filtering in from behind the curtains. She waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, frowning at the empty bed in front of her. She looked around, her breath catching in her throat as she saw Damon sitting on the floor, leaning against the foot of the bed. His eyes were fastened on her but he remained silent, watching her.
She swallowed the lump in her throat, slowly approaching his side. She thought of all the things she had wanted to tell him when she had been in the other world, but somehow, she couldn’t make herself speak. She knelt beside him, facing him, his eyes never leaving hers.
And then, with a racing heart, adrenaline rushing through her, she leaned forward and kissed him.
She felt him straighten, pulling her into his arms, clutching her to him as if afraid she would pull away. It was strangely natural to be in his embrace; to be with him like this. It was passionate and frightening and so full of love she was overwhelmed by it, wrapping her arms around his neck and threading her fingers through his hair.
It was Damon who pulled away, not her, holding her tightly in his arms.
“I love you,” he said softly, his breath inches from her ear.
She smiled, a shrill of excitement rushing through her, followed by an overpowering sense of happiness and peace. She nodded, resting her cheek against his shoulder. “I love you,” she said softly. “Thank you for bringing me back where I belong.”
He leaned back, kissing her lightly on the forehead, and then hugged her close, as if determined to never let her go.
And if she had her way, he wouldn’t.
Author’s Note: I am so. so. so. sorry! Things have been crazy. Crazy-crazy. Out-of-control crazy. I haven’t even checked my e-mail in over a week. But I am so sorry you guys! I know I left you on a cliff-hanger and right at the end of the story, and I haven’t replied to anyone… I’m so sorry!!! So here you go… The last two chapters! Thank you to everyone who stuck with this story for so long!
Elena looked up sharply, pausing with her paintbrush against the long white butcher paper where she was filling in the letter ‘W’. Caroline was frowning at her, an unhappy, frustrated look on her face.
“What?” Elena asked, startled.
Caroline placed her hands on her hips, staring hard at her. “I’ve been calling you for almost a minute.” She looked down at the paper. “And you’ve filled in half of the W? How long have you been at this?”
She swallowed hard, forcing a smile. “Sorry, Car. I was just off in my own world.” She cringed inwardly at the words, a wave of pain washing over her. “What’s up?”
Caroline studied her. “You’ve been acting really weird lately,” she told her, frowning. “Is everything okay?”
She nodded, trying to smile. “Everything’s fine. I just wasn’t paying attention.” She peered over in the direction Caroline had been standing. “Do you need help with something?”
Caroline let out a small, frustrated sound. “I’ll take over painting this. Can you go help Shane with pouring juice?”
Elena nodded, handing over the paintbrush, and made her way to the table littered with refreshments.
She knew she had been off lately… Unable to focus or concentrate, unable to think about anything but her world and how different it really was under the surface. She kept waiting for some horrible, life-threatening drama to unfold, but it never did. It was always the same, every day. Peaceful. Quiet. Calm.
No vampires. No werewolves. No witches.
The world she belonged in.
She fell back into her thoughts as she began pouring the cups of punch, wondering what her friends in her world were doing. Were they moving on with their lives? Was the curse truly lifted?
Were Damon and Stefan all right?
She paused at the thought of Stefan. When was it, she wondered, that she had stopped dwelling on him? When every thought stopped being consumed by him? It was hard to pinpoint, exactly… She thought it was sometime after her connection to him, but since she had arrived in this world, she had barely spared him a thought.
Oddly, it was Damon who she thought of when she closed her eyes at night. Damon who she kept expecting to see every time she turned a corner, flashing her an irresistibly charming smile. Damon who she expected to hear toss out a witty comment whenever someone said something boarding on idiotic. Elijah had said she would be torn between the two brothers, but she didn’t feel torn. She felt… sad.
If the curse truly had been lifted from all of them, and her emotions were truly her own once again, then what did her constant thoughts of Damon mean?
At night when she laid in bed, she found herself wondering why she had never opened up to him. Damon could be a monster, yes, but he cared about her. He had loved her. And even if he had done a lot of horrible things in the name of that love, she knew he never really meant to hurt her.
But she had been so blinded by her love for Stefan, of putting Stefan first… Even when she had seen it inside Damon, and even when she had started to acknowledge her feelings for him, she had never been able to cross that barrier. She had never been able to really love him.
Could it really have been the curse all along?
She let out a soft sigh, setting another cup down on the table. It didn’t really matter anymore… She would never see either of them again. She would never get the chance to talk to Damon or hear his voice ever again. In this world they were long-since dead, buried in the Mystic Falls cemetery.
She knew, because she had been to their graves herself.
She looked around at the students surrounding her, laughing and working on their projects for the next football game. She felt eerily out of place, disconnected from everything around her.
“Elena!” Caroline exclaimed, appearing in front of the table with Bonnie. Her eyes were wide with surprise, confusion and shock marring her pretty features.
Elena jumped, looking down at the wetness on her hand. She had filled the cup to overflowing, the punch trickling down onto the grass in front of her. She stared at her sticky hand, then up at Caroline and Bonnie, who wore matching expressions of concern and bewilderment.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized, setting the cup down and stepping away. “I-I need to go.”
And then she turned and fled.
She hadn’t meant to go to the boarding house. She had been driving around, trying to calm her racing thoughts, and when she looked up, she had been staring up at the Salvatore home.
She climbed out reluctantly, slowly making her way into the familiar house. For days she had returned to the house, sitting in front of the mirror, but Damon had never appeared again, and no longer able to face the disappointment, she had been unable to bring herself to come back. But there she was again, drawn to the house, unable to fight it.
She drifted along the hallways, finding herself back in Damon’s room before she knew it. She sighed as she gazed around, her eyes lifting to the mirror that had allowed her a brief glimpse at him almost two weeks earlier.
There was a note on the mirror.
Elena gasped, choking in disbelief as she ran to the mirror. The note had been taped up on the other side of the mirror, facing her. He had written it backwards, or had taken a copy and made it backwards, from the look of his familiar penmanship.
She felt tears well up in her eyes as she stared at the familiar sight of his empty room. She looked down at the note on the mirror, reading the few, simple words.
We’re going to get you out of there.
She sobbed, a hand flying to her mouth as she read and re-read the words. She trembled uncontrollably, racing back down to her car to grab a notebook and pen from her backpack. Then she ran back into the house, straight up to Damon’s room. He had reappeared, lying on his bed with a book. Her heart leapt into her throat as she stared at him, pounding on the glass to try and catch his attention.
He glanced up seemingly off-handedly, his eyes widening at the sight of her. He was in front of her before she could blink, pointing at the note.
She shook her head, quickly scribbling a note on her notebook. Then, remembering she needed to write backwards, she quickly tore the page off, grateful for all the times Caroline had made her participate in town functions so she had to learn to write on windows from the inside, making it legible to people passing by.
Jenna’s alive. No curse. This is where I belong.
She quickly pressed it against the mirror, tears streaming down her cheeks as his eyes fell to the note. He read it, then looked back up at her, his blue eyes blazing. He quickly looked around, then disappeared out of sight for a moment. Her breath caught in her throat as she waited anxiously, afraid they would lose their connection, but he was back a second later. He leaned down over his dresser, then straightened, holding his own paper against the mirror.
You belong here.
It was so good to read the words, so painfully good, she felt another sob choke her. She shook her head, leaning down to write over her notebook again. And then she paused, thinking of the portrait she had hung in her room, of Damon and Stefan and their wives, looking happy, healthy, and human.
She ripped the page out of her notebook, prepared to start again. She glanced up at the mirror, startled to see new words on the paper Damon held up.
I love you, and I’m bringing you home.
She looked down at the note in her hand, then up at him, meeting his serious, unwavering eyes. In that moment, everything seemed to fall into place, and even if it was wrong, she was too tired of fighting. This world didn’t need her. It had gone on just fine without her.
She slowly lifted her paper to the mirror, facing it to him.
I want to come home.
She watched his expression soften with relief and understanding, and then he smiled, a gentle, caring smile. He nodded, leaning back down over his dresser. He held the paper up against the mirror.
Bonnie’s working on it.
She laughed out loud, relieved, nodding back at him. He flashed a grin, then suddenly turned, his head snapping in the direction of his door. She protested as the image suddenly faded away to reflect herself, staring back at her in the darkness.
Damon was gone, once again.
She slowly looked down at her paper and began to write. Then she faced the paper to his side of the mirror, sliding it into the wooden frame, and reluctantly left the house once again.
Damon tossed aside the grimoire in irritation, looking up at the mirror that had connected him to Elena for just a few short minutes. His heart skipped at the darkened, cobweb covered room staring back through the mirror. Elena had stuck a note in the glass, at the bottom of the mirror.
He leaned down to read it, his heart stilling for several seconds as he read the words, reading them over and over again, trying to burn them into his mind.
I miss you.
Just two more? I trust you now. I'll start at one!
It was strangely… the same.
Elena found herself falling uneasily into a new routine in the strange, same world. Every now and then she would run into something different—like Jeremy having never gotten into drugs, and Caroline not being a vampire and finally dating Tyler—but it was mostly the same.
Except for two major differences.
Two major, huge differences.
One was that Jenna was alive. Elena had walked into the house and thrown her arms around her aunt, who looked flabbergasted and confused at the sudden display of affection. Elena had burst into tears, clutching her aunt, hugging her fiercely and insisting they spend the entire night together watching movies and eating ice cream. Her bewildered aunt had complied, looking pleased that Elena wanted to spend time with her.
The other difference was no matter where she looked, Damon and Stefan did not appear. She didn’t have any pictures of them in her room. She didn’t see Stefan at school. It was as if they didn’t exist.
On a bright, sunny Saturday morning, Elena found herself in her car, her heart pounding against her ribs as she set off. She drove the relatively short distance to the Salvatore boarding house, her breath catching in her throat as she stared up at the decrepit, run-down building.
She parked her car, feeling anxiety build up inside of her as she slowly made her way to the front door. She reached for the handle, shoving her shoulder against it to break the rusted lock. The door squealed open, falling back against the wall.
The smell of mildew was overwhelming. She sucked in a quick breath, slowly entering the house. It was covered in cobwebs, thick coats of dust over every piece of furniture. She felt tears well up in her eyes at the state the familiar, grand house was in, memories flooding through her mind as she walked along the hallway she knew as well as her own.
She turned to the living room, stepping inside. The house seemed different, somehow, aside from its unkempt appearance. As if it hadn’t been touched in decades.
Maybe even a century.
She slowly gazed around the room, her eyes falling to a portrait that had fallen from above the fireplace. Her heart hammered against her ribs as she knelt down, reaching for it to turn it over.
Tears flooded down her cheeks as she stared at the portrait, running her fingers over the familiar faces. There stood Stefan and Damon, side-by-side, older than she knew them to look, but unmistakably them. They stood beside two women she could only assume were their wives, and in front of them, tiny children stood, looking prim and proper. The portrait had to be at least a century old, faded slightly with age, but it was still in remarkable condition.
And it was still them.
She hugged the portrait to herself, sobbing in grief, relief, sadness, and joy. And all at once, it made sense. The doppelganger had not existed in this world. In this world, Damon and Stefan had been allowed to live out their lives the way they were meant to—as humans, not bound by a curse. They had never been turned or become vampires. Katherine had never existed.
It was why no one at the school had ever heard of Alaric. He had never come to Mystic Falls, searching for leads on his wife’s murderer.
It was why Jenna was still alive.
It was why Jeremy had never done drugs—in a downward spiral after Vicki’s death.
It was why Caroline wasn’t a vampire.
This was how their lives were supposed to be. Without the curse of the doppelganger hanging over them.
She hugged the portrait to her, tears still streaming down her cheeks as she stood, surveying the room for any other signs of Stefan and Damon. She fingered the glass bottles on the serving table, her fingers leaving deep impressions in the dust covering them. She choked on another sob, seeing a ghostly image of Damon standing there, pouring himself another drink.
She turned away, going to the bookshelves. Her eyes fell to a photo album, the black faded with age, and slowly pulled it out, sitting with her back against the dust-covered shelves as she opened it to the first page.
She let out another sob, from deep inside, gazing down at the picture of Damon holding his arms out to a small little boy who was running to him. Underneath was a picture of Damon and Stefan standing together, each holding a small child on their hip, their arms around each other. They were smiling brightly, even in the faded photograph, and again she cried, careful not to get tears on the pictures, as she saw the lives they were meant to have.
There were more of the two, sometimes together, sometimes with their families. Near the end of the album were pictures of two old men, surrounded by dozens of people, and she knew without a doubt she was seeing Stefan and Damon after they’d grown old. Aged.
She sobbed again, hysterically, clutching the book to her chest with the portrait. She cried for everything she had lost and everything they had gained, knowing she had done the right thing, even if it meant never seeing either of them again.
When she was finally able to stop her tears, she stood, making her way up the rickety, unsteady stairs. She looked between Stefan and Damon’s doors, but found herself pushing open Damon’s, stepping into his room.
It was dark and musty in the large, spacious bedroom, but it looked almost unchanged from how she knew it. She inhaled deeply, but his scent was long-gone, filtered out throughout the ages. She gazed around the room, slowly walking to his dresser, covered in tiny knickknacks he had collected. She looked up at herself in the mirror in the darkness, seeing her tear-streaked face gaze back at her.
And then melt.
She gasped, her heart pounding against her chest, her adrenaline rushing through her body. Damon stared back at her, looking stunned; unsure.
She swallowed hard, hesitantly placing her hand against the mirror. She watched as he glanced down at her palm, then slowly raised his own, a sad smile spreading across his face. Tears streamed from her eyes as she smiled up at him, moving her hand away from the mirror to turn the portrait she still clung onto to face him.
His eyes fell to the portrait, a look of astonishment and vague confusion marring his handsome, striking features. He studied it for several seconds, then looked back up at her.
She watched as his hand raised, pointer finger extended to the mirror. She followed his movements as he traced out I love you.
A sob of pain tore through her, so overwhelming and brutal she felt her knees weaken. She forced herself to nod, wanting to apologize to him for a hundred things—wanting to tell him all the things she could never make herself say to him.
So instead she turned the picture back to herself, hugging it to her. She placed her palm back against the glass, hating it when the cool, cold surface of it was all she felt. Damon placed his hand where hers was, giving her a sad, apologetic look.
She bowed her head, fighting back more sobs. It was cruel, allowing her to see him. It was cruel, and unfair, and hateful. This was a good world—the right world. Things were as they were supposed to be in this world. This was where she belonged.
She raised her head to look back at him, a cry escaping her lips when she only saw her own tear-stained reflection stare back at her. She protested, pleading, desperate, but Damon’s face did not reappear.
Damon was gone.
Why did everyone like the last chapter so much? Can I start at chapter one and find out for myself?
The woman who emerged from the box Elena had stepped into looked like Elena in every way. She was older, of course, but it was undeniably Elena. She looked strangely innocent and goddess-like in bare feet and a long white dress, dark hair spilling out over her shoulders. She looked around, at all of them, finally focusing on Elijah.
“Elijah?” she asked, and that was not Elena’s voice anymore than Katherine’s was. “Elijah!” She threw her arms around him, hugging him fiercely.
Damon watched as he hugged her back, clutching her to him in something akin to relief. Beside him, Klaus had tensed, but he made no move to strike, almost as if the woman were a shield. A barrier he could not cross.
“Where are we?” the woman asked, pulling back to look up at him. “Where are the children?”
Damon had never seen the composed, strangely inflectionless gentleman look so emotional. He cupped her cheek gently. “They are gone, Annabelle,” he said softly.
“Gone?” she repeated, sounding bewildered. She turned around, surveying the occupants of the room again. “But…” She paused, studying Klaus, her eyes widening with horror. “You,” she whispered.
Klaus stepped forward. “Hello again, Annabelle,” he greeted calmly.
She staggered back several steps, backing into Elijah. “What have you done to me?” she cried. “What did you do?”
Damon watched Elijah’s tender expression sharpen into one of fierce hatred as he lifted his eyes, glaring at his younger brother. Klaus’ body was tense, but his voice steady. “I merely… traded you, for awhile,” he told her.
Elijah stepped forward, putting himself in front of the woman. “What have you done?” he seethed, his eyes burning red.
Klaus’ hands curled as if into claws. “It was her fault,” he growled. “She was always shooting me coy looks—taunting me with what could never be mine. She is to blame here, brother! Not me!”
“What did you do?” Elijah shouted thunderously, his voice shaking the room.
“I traded her,” Klaus repeated coldly. “For the woman inside of her who could not resist me.”
Damon quickly jumped out of the way as Elijah threw Klaus against the far wall. He hurried to the others, shepherding them and the woman into a corner, standing in front of them as the two vampires flew from one side of the room to another, their backs cracking the stone under them.
“What… how are they…?” he heard the woman breathe.
He turned around, struck by her resemblance to Elena. He steeled himself. “You were replaced with a doppelganger. A bunch of curses later, I’m your descendant a million times removed, and those two are vampires.”
He seized her shoulders, ignoring her gasp of surprise. “And the woman I love just traded her life to bring you to back, so you better be able to stop it and lift all these curses!”
She trembled, nodding, and for a moment, Damon thought he could see a shred of Elena inside of her. And then she stepped past him, holding up her hands as she began to chant, her voice wavering.
The two original vampires suddenly stopped fighting, looking over at her.
“No!” Klaus yelled.
Elijah clutched onto him, holding him back. The woman stopped chanting, her hands hesitating. “Finish, Annabelle,” Elijah urged. “Finish it now, and let us all rest in peace.”
The woman’s arms straightened, firming. Her powerful voice rose as she continued her chanting. Damon watched Klaus struggle against Elijah’s grip, fighting to get to the woman, but Elijah held firm, holding him back.
The woman finished with an explosive cry, the two vampires collapsing in front of them. The woman panted for breath, taking unsteady steps to Elijah’s quickly deteriorating body. She held it in her arms, hugging him tightly.
She chanted softly under her breath, still holding him, tears streaming down her cheeks.
And then she collapsed on top of him.
Katherine Pierce let out a shriek of pain, clutching her arms around her stomach. She looked up at the nameless, faceless man in front of her, who she had charmed into being her hot lunch. The man straightened, alarmed, staggering away from her.
She watched in horror as her arms began to gray, the veins bulging from beneath weathered, leathery skin. She was dying. She was dying, and it didn’t make any sense.
She thought of Stefan and Damon, then, the two Salvatore boys she had always loved and held a strange fondness for. Of all the boys she had ever loved, it was those two who had stolen her heart the most. She stared at the white ceiling above her head, remembering the feel of both men on her arms.
And then everything went black.
Stefan Salvatore felt his foot lift from the gas pedal, frowning at the open road in front of him. He slowly pulled off to the side of the road, stopped the car, and stared into the distance. He looked down at his hands, feeling strangely… connected. Almost like a missing part of him had been restored.
He thought of Elena, back home in Mystic Falls, and his brother, at Klaus’ mansion. Before, he hadn’t been able to control the urge to get back to Elena and see her again so they could figure out how to see Damon, but he suddenly felt unsure about the burning desire. This was his brother, after all… And even if they both died trying to fight Klaus, they would die together. There was no need to involve Elena in it.
He pulled a u-turn on the open road, heading back in the direction he had come from, a renewed sense of determination in him. He would get back to Elena when he could, but first, he needed to save his brother.
Alaric watched, stricken with grief as Damon finally stumbled forward, almost like a zombie. He fell to his knees beside the woman holding Elijah’s quickly-decomposing body, and pulled her into his arms. Alaric felt tears in his eyes as Damon hugged the woman’s lifeless body to him, clutching it.
“Wherever you are,” Damon said softly, “remember that you’re loved here.”
Elena’s eyes flew open as she woke with a gasp.
Author's Note: Thank you guys so much for your comments! This is the chapter idea that spawned this whole story--I had been waiting to write it since I started the story! I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it! <3
Wow, the chapter that started it all? Can I start at chapter one?
“The elder Mr. Salvatore,” Klaus greeted, his silky voice booming across the living room. “To what do we owe this pleasure?” He flashed a taunting smile, full of teeth. “It’s not to take your baby brother back, is it? I fear he’s rather…” He cast a long look over his shoulder, where Stefan stood with an arm around two badly bitten, half-dressed women. Klaus smirked. “Enjoying himself.”
Elena felt the disbelief and horror go through Damon at the sight before him—at the sight of his little brother’s unkempt, disheveled appearance. He looked heavily intoxicated, but as Stefan’s eyes met Damon’s, something inside of him seemed to shake loose and he straightened, looking stricken.
“Not really,” Damon drawled. Elena felt his burning need to protect his brother overtake all instinct to survive as he strolled easily past Klaus, putting himself between the vampire and Stefan. “I just missed my brother, is all. Wondered why he should get to have all the fun.”
“Really,” Klaus drawled. “Now tell me, Mr. Salvatore, why would I let you tag along with us? We’ve been having so much fun by ourselves, you see.” Elena felt Damon’s fury surge as Klaus leaned past him, to look at Stefan. “Haven’t we, Stefan?”
“Damon,” Stefan finally choked out. Elena felt the ache in Damon’s heart as he turned back to look at his brother. Stefan looked torn—horrified. Elena felt Damon’s disgust at Stefan’s clothes, covered in blood, and what he had been doing to get that way. “What are you doing here?”
“Trying to find you,” Damon returned flippantly. Inside, Elena could feel his heart aching. “You look like hell, by the way.” She watched through Damon’s eyes as he turned back to look up at Klaus. She felt him steel his nerves, preparing himself for what he had to do to protect Elena. Even if it meant her hating him forever. He could deal with her hating him, as long as she was still alive to do it.
A wave of brief sorrow washed over him, but she felt him push it down. Inside him, she cried silent, unheard tears, desperately begging him to stop. “I offer you a proposition,” he told Klaus. “One I’m sure you’re going to like.” His gaze swept deliberately around the room, taking in the surroundings. They were lavish and rich, clearly a mansion. “I could get used to this kind of place. We never would have thought to look for you right under our noses.”
Klaus studied him curiously, ignoring him. “A proposition, you say?” he asked.
Damon jerked his thumb at Stefan. “You let him go,” he began, “and I’ll tell you what I know.” Elena felt him deliberately flash a devilish grin. “I guarantee you it’s worth it.”
Inside his head, Elena screamed, desperate to stop him. Desperate to make him listen. Klaus arched an eyebrow at him. “That’s a very bold statement, Mr. Salvatore,” he drawled. “Are you sure you’re worth my time?”
“Damon,” Stefan said, his breath catching in his throat.
Elena felt Damon relax inside, knowing that his brother was still in there, despite the appearance. “I guarantee it.” Damon shrugged. “After all… I am your descendent, aren’t I?”
Klaus’ eyes blazed. “Leave us,” he ordered Stefan.
“Ah ah,” Damon corrected, quickly sliding in front of Stefan. “The deal was you would let him go.”
Elena choked for air as she saw Klaus’ arm come into Damon’s vision, wrapping firmly around his throat. She felt the pain as Klaus’ finger pressed right on his windpipe, almost crushing it. Damon struggled for air, trying to suck in as much as he could, but she could feel the strength inside of him. He wasn’t going to talk until his terms were met.
She would die if he did.
Elena sobbed brokenly as he looked up at Klaus. “There are no terms,” Klaus told him coldly. “The terms are that I haven’t killed you already. You can be grateful for that.” He gave Damon’s body a rough shake. “Now speak.”
“You kill me, and everything I know is going with me.” Damon flashed a cocky smile, one she knew he didn’t feel. “And don’t forget—I served during the Civil War. I know what torture is.”
And Elena knew it, then, too. Knew how to disassociate from the pain of burning coals shoved against the skin, and tiny rods of metal being shoved through delicate tissue. Damon had experienced torture first-hand, and he had never broken. He would never break.
The woman he loved and his baby brother depended on his silence.
Elena sobbed, trying to hug him. He was released, staggering back several steps as he gasped for air. Stefan was already at his side, trying to hold him up, trying to comfort him.
“Very well, then,” Klaus agreed, his voice strangely amiable. “You are released, Stefan. In your place, I shall take your brother.”
Elena felt the relief flood through Damon; the jolt of shock that jarred Stefan. “But if you disappoint me,” Klaus warned Damon, “know that I will find him and torture him for centuries while you watch.”
She felt the shiver go through Damon; the tremor of terror. It was quickly covered up with a confident smile. “I’m worth five of Stefan. I’m way more fun than he is.” He turned to Stefan, holding out a pair of keys. She felt the heaviness of his heart as he waited for Stefan to take them. “You’ll be home in time for dinner,” he said lightly.
“Damon,” Stefan breathed. “I won’t just—“
She felt the ache in his heart as he shoved the keys into Stefan’s hand, knowing he would never see his brother again; knowing he would never see Elena again. His hand seized Stefan’s shoulder, throwing open the door and shoving him outside.
And then he slammed the door shut and turned to face Klaus.
Elena gasped haggardly for breath as she opened her eyes, her vision blurry. She blinked, feeling wetness on her cheeks. She looked around wildly, meeting Bonnie’s terrified eyes and Jeremy’s stricken, alarmed ones.
“Are you okay?” Bonnie asked desperately. “Elena?”
Elena panted for air, her heart aching in her chest. “They’re within a few hours of here,” she gasped out. “In a mansion of some sort.”
Elijah pivoted. “A mansion a few hours from here?” he repeated, studying her. “That would be the Virginia estate. I know where it is.”
“Let’s go,” Elena ordered, trying to sit up.
“Elena, wait,” Bonnie begged. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Elena looked at her wildly. “I’m fine. We have to go. Damon’s about to tell Klaus we’re going to go after Annabelle and break the curse. We have to stop them.”
“If he does all that,” Elijah drawled. “Wouldn’t it be safer to assume they will head to her body?”
Elena looked up at him, stricken with the realization. She nodded slowly, trying to get to her feet, which felt strangely weak and unsteady.
“Elena, take a minute,” Bonnie pleaded, as Jeremy and Alaric helped her to the couch to sit down. Elena tried to protest, but Bonnie’s dark brown eyes were desperate. “I couldn’t pull you out, Elena. I tried… I kept trying… But you wouldn’t let go. I couldn’t get you to come out of it.” Bonnie’s eyes were fearful, scared of what had happened. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Bonnie, I’m fine,” Elena insisted.
“Damon is a ruthless, cold-blooded—“ Bonnie began uncertainly, uneasy.
“He’s doing this to protect us,” Elena shot back, a surge of anger rushing through her. “He traded himself for Stefan. He knows what he’s doing is wrong but all he can think about,” she suddenly lost all air in her lungs, and had to take a breath, “all he can think about is how to save us.” She looked around the room, desperate to find a sympathetic eye. She finally zeroed in on Alaric, who looked as sad as she felt. “We have to go now. Please.”
Alaric nodded, reaching down to help her to her feet. She clung to his shoulders as he swept her up in his arms, carrying her out of the house and down to the car. “Thank you,” she whispered, burrowing her head in his shoulder.
“Yeah, well, I don’t want to see Damon in servitude to that vampire any more than you do.” Alaric reached for the car door.
“Wait!” Bonnie yelled out. Alaric turned, still holding Elena in his arms. Bonnie ran to them, her dark eyes wide and flooded with fear and understanding. “I can transport us there. It will be faster.”
“Are you sure you can do it?” Alaric asked hesitantly.
“I can do it,” Bonnie assured him confidently. Her eyes met Elena’s. “If this is your choice, then I have to let you make it.”
Elena grasped her hand gratefully. Alaric carried her back into the house, setting her down on the ground. Bonnie drew a wide circle on the ground, encompassing all of them, and knelt down as she began chanting.
A fierce, painful burst of wind washed over her. She cringed, opening her eyes when the wind died down.
They were in a basement of some sort, the walls lined with large crates like the one Elijah had emerged from. Elena forced herself to her feet, allowing Alaric to support her as Elijah immediately went to the last one in the row. He easily lifted off the front of it, pulling it away.
An older version of Elena stood there, her expression peaceful, her body still and unmoving. She looked almost like a doll, frozen forever in time. Elena stood, transfixed, unable to look away. Long brown hair tumbled over delicate shoulders in large waves. Tanned skin appeared smooth and ageless. Long lashes rimmed large, closed eyes. Perfectly shaped lips were pale, smooth and soft looking. She wore a long white dress with long sleeves, a deep scoop around the neck. A simple gold chain hung from her neck.
“Annabelle,” Elijah said softly. Elena watched as he lightly touched her hair, his movements full of reverence. He slowly turned back to Elena, who looked up at him.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Elijah asked, then. “It is not your duty to end this curse.”
Elena nodded, with more courage than she felt. “I’m sure,” she declared.
Elijah turned to Bonnie. “I believe you know it as the mirror spell,” he told her.
Bonnie swallowed hard, tears shimmering in her eyes. “I know it,” she agreed quietly. She wrapped her arms tightly around Elena, hugging her close. Elena clutched her, hugging her best friend for all she was worth.
And then Bonnie released her, sinking down to her knees as she began to chant.
Elena took Jeremy’s hand, hugging her younger brother fiercely. “I love you,” she told him.
She felt him clasp her tightly. “I love you, too.” He pulled back, staring at her as if trying to memorize her face. “Don’t forget that, wherever you end up.”
She flashed a watery smile, nodding. She looked up at Alaric’s broken expression, and still holding Jeremy’s hand, addressed the man. “Take good care of him for me, okay?”
He nodded. “I will.”
Her fingers started to tingle. The sensation spread up her hands and her arms, until it encompassed her entire body. She slowly looked down at Bonnie, who was still chanting, and then up at the original woman.
The heavily-lashed eyes gently pulled apart, gazing down at her.
“I’m here to free you,” Elena told her softly. The tingling began to grow stronger, a strange sense of disconnection spreading through her.
The woman in the crate’s lips parted, her eyes widening in surprise. As Elena’s body started to feel weaker, almost as if she weren’t even controlling it anymore, the woman began to move, her hands unclasping from in front of her.
The horrified shout tore across the stone room. She snapped her head to the left, finding Damon’s stricken, terrified face staring back at her. She offered him a smile, silently pleading with him to understand.
He had betrayed her to protect her.
And she would betray him to save him.
She looked back at the woman, feeling her body fall away from her mind as she slowly stepped into the tomb with her.
Author’s Note: To clear up some confusion around the original woman’s “lifeless” body—she wasn’t dead. Just lifeless. Her “spirit” “soul” etc. had been taken by the doppelganger, and her body was just left in the woods.
There’s also been some questions about Elena having broken the curse because she already fell in love with Damon. But what kind of story would this be of mine if there wasn’t another twist to it? ;)
Elena drew in all of her strength as she made her way from the hallway to the living room, bracing herself for more of Damon’s anger. She had already checked his bedroom, but it was empty, so she knew he had to be down there, sitting on the couch, probably already nursing a glass of whiskey.
As she stepped into the room, she noticed with confusion it was empty. She cocked her head, listening for any sounds in the house, but it was eerily silent. Her eyes fell to a note on the coffee table, her heart plummeting into her chest as she read her name on it, scrawled in Damon’s unmistakable handwriting.
Her fingers trembled, anxiety wracking over her as she reached for the note. She unfolded the sheet of paper, finding it blank except for two words.
“No,” she said aloud, as if she could fight them off just by speaking. She didn’t need to ask; didn’t need to have been there to know where Damon was. What he was doing. She raced up the stairs, desperate for it to be a lie, rushing into Damon’s empty bedroom. Her eyes scanned the walls for the bag he had taken on his road trip with Alaric.
It was gone.
“No,” she said again, pleading. She rushed to the next room, throwing open the door and flipping on the light. Alaric’s eyes flew open, looking over at her. Her breathing had become ragged, tears blurring her vision.
“Elena?” Alaric asked, sounding stricken and wide awake. He sat up, quickly standing from the bed. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
She strode into the room, thrusting the note at him. He looked down at it uncertainly, the frown of concern on his face shifting to dawning realization. “No,” he said softly. Still holding the note, he held firmly to her shoulders, locking her eyes onto his. “We’re going to find him. He still doesn’t know where Klaus and Stefan are, either. We’ll find him, Elena.”
“We need to find Bonnie,” Elena told him, shaking. “She’ll be able to locate him.”
He nodded, releasing her shoulders. She turned and hurried out of the room, back down the stairs, yanking out her cell phone. On the third ring, she heard the phone connect.
“Elena?” Bonnie asked, sounding surprised. “I was just about to head over there. What’s—“
“Damon’s gone,” she told her, frantic. The words seemed to have some power over her; a weight she hadn’t expected. She clutched the arm rail of the stairs, lowering herself to them, and hugged her arms around herself. “He—he left this note, and… He’s gone.”
“He’s… gone?” Bonnie repeated uncertainly. “What do you mean, he’s gone? What did the note say?”
She trembled, holding the phone with both hands to keep it steady. “We think he went after Klaus.”
Bonnie sucked in a breath. “To kill the original woman?”
She nodded quickly, trying to maintain calm. “We’ve got to find him, Bonnie. We’ve got to stop him.”
“I’ll be right there. Don’t go anywhere.”
“Please hurry,” Elena begged, running a hand through her hair. She ended the phone call with Bonnie, holding her head, curling into herself. She focused on her breathing, trying to force her terrified thoughts from her mind. Damon still didn’t know where Klaus was. They still had hope of reaching him before he found Klaus. They could still stop him.
She looked up at Elijah’s voice, releasing her hair. He stood at the bottom of the steps, staring at her with a look of concern, his head cocked as his eyes took in everything.
“Damon’s gone,” she said softly, her voice thick.
All at once Elijah’s face cleared, a look of understanding smoothing his handsome, timeless features. “To find our brothers, I trust,” he drawled.
She shook her head, shrugging helplessly. “We think so.”
“To stop you from trading your life for Annabelle’s.” He straightened, inclining his head at her. “Shall I tell you, Miss Gilbert, of the rest of the curse placed on you and my descendants?”
She lifted her head, stricken. “What?” she asked.
“Surely you did not miss the parallels between our paths. Two brothers, in love with the same woman.” He arched an eyebrow at her. “But it was I, the elder brother, who was Annabelle’s husband.”
Elena slowly straightened. “What are you saying?” she asked, scarcely able to get the words out.
Elijah was strangely calm, and yet she sensed a touch of sadness in him… Of sorrow for what he was about to say. “The doppelganger is merely an image of the woman who she came from. The feelings she had for me could not be quelled by any spell. As every doppelganger after her was cursed, and every one of my descendants cursed, those parallels of our lives maintained.”
Elena drew back. “You’re saying…?” she began, a sickened churn growing in her stomach. “You’re saying I’m also cursed to love Damon?”
He arched an eyebrow at her. “Is it so hard to believe?” He studied her. “I would think not, from looking at you.”
It was the last thing she expected to hear. She stared at him, stunned, unable to form words. There was a sound behind her, a loud creak of a floorboard. She whirled around as she leapt to her feet, looking up at Alaric as he stared down at her. From his face, she knew he had heard, and even as she tried to explain, his expression cleared. He joined her on the stair, placing a strong, comforting hand on her shoulder.
“What you do with your life is your decision, Elena,” he said quietly. “Cursed or not.” He gave a light squeeze. “We’ll find him.”
She was struck by the familiarity of the words, even as she remembered Damon’s from the night before. Damon must have known even then what he was going to do.
She forced herself to nod, her heart feeling like it would splinter in her chest. The front door of the house opened, Bonnie and Jeremy appearing in the doorway. Bonnie was panting for air, a bag over her shoulder. Jeremy’s eyes were wide, confusion and concern turning his features into a frown.
“I’m ready,” Bonnie said, patting the bag.
Elena nodded, trembling as she broke away from Alaric. She ducked her head as she passed by Elijah, following Bonnie into the living room. Bonnie quickly laid out the stack of maps, removing the cauldron and some bottles from her bag. She looked up at Elena. “We need something of his,” she said.
Elena quickly scanned the room, finding one of Damon’s gloves sitting on the table. She stood and retrieved it, bringing it back to Bonnie. Bonnie poured the herbs from her bottles into the cauldron, then tossed in Damon’s glove.
A dark smoke drifted up from inside the cauldron. As it had done when Lucy had done the locator spell, the smoke covered the map completely. Elena could barely hear Bonnie’s chanting through the pounding in her heart, waiting in breathless anticipation for the smoke to clear.
Bonnie’s eyes suddenly opened, her chanting stopped. She had a strange frown on her face, alarmed and uneasy. Elena watched, her heart jumping into her throat, as she began shuffling through the maps.
“What is it?” Elena asked quickly. “What’s wrong?”
Bonnie slowly settled back, a sickened look on her face. “He found a witch,” she said softly. “I can’t locate him.”
It was like a dagger to her chest. Elena stared at her, trying to swallow the lump in her throat. “What do you mean?” she asked, trembling. “What do you mean you can’t locate him?”
“He’s cloaked.” Bonnie looked down at the maps, empty of all ash, then back up at Elena. Her dark eyes were flooded with sorrow. “I can’t locate him.”
For a moment, it was like the world had stopped spinning. Everything around her lost color and movement as she stared at Bonnie, unable to think clearly.
And then she slid in front of her friend, gritting her teeth. “Then connect me to him,” she ordered.
Bonnie’s eyes flashed in fear. “Elena—“
“Bonnie, it’s Damon!” Elena pleaded. “We have to find him.” She stood, grabbed a pair of scissors from the table, and snipped off a chunk of her hair. She returned to the cauldron, sitting across from Bonnie. She held out the chunk of her hair and the note in her hand, seeing the items jerk as she shook.
And then Bonnie seemed to make up her mind. She took the items in Elena’s hand, and began chanting.
How Damon feels about what curse? Can I start at chapter one to catch up and find out?
“I told you once,” Elijah began, as if addressing an entire auditorium of people and not just the handful of them clustered around the room, “the story of how we became vampires was long and convoluted. I was hoping to save you from having to know the truth, but I see that is no longer possible.”
Elena’s heart skipped into her throat. Beside her on the couch, Damon tensed, his hand gripping his thigh almost imperceptibly, as if he were trying not to make a fist.
“The original woman…” he hesitated. “Annabelle… She was my wife.” Elena’s heart ached at the obvious pain in Elijah’s voice before he seemed to get a hold of himself, steeling himself. “We had three children—Josiah, Aiden, and Olivia.” His eyes took on a faraway look. “We were blissfully happy, the five of us. I recall thinking a man should never be so blessed.” He offered a wry smile. “As it turns out, I was not.”
He lowered his head, as if seeing everything unfold right in front of him all over again. “I had come in from the fields early one night… It had started to rain and my wife had been acting strangely for weeks, so thinking she was ill, I decided to tend to her.” Bitterly, he went on. “But I arrived home to find my brother tending to her instead.”
Elena sucked in a quick breath, the innuendo lying heavy in the air around them. “I knew in that moment something wasn’t just wrong with my wife,” Elijah went on, his voice soft. “My wife loved my brother as her own. To lie with him… It was not something she would have done. But my brother…” He glared coldly out the window, as if he could see Klaus standing there. He shook himself and turned back to them, his voice clipped once more. “When I discovered my wife’s lifeless body in the woods near our house, I knew the truth. Some creature of darkness had taken her image and replaced her. I rallied my family together, except my brother, desperate to save my wife.”
Elijah’s face took on a haunted expression. “She slaughtered my children before my very eyes. My youngest son—Aiden—managed to escape into the night, but the rest of us she decided to torment for all of eternity.” He lifted his eyes to them. “She turned our lust for her death into a curse. And thus we became vampires—creatures of darkness. Destined only to kill and hunger for blood, as she believed we had done to her.” He paused. “But my younger brother, who had protected her, she protected in kind. She released his werewolf side, making him nearly invincible. And she promised, as he had loved her, her descendents would always love him.”
Elena’s stomach churned as Elijah’s eyes leveled on her. “The curse of the doppelganger placed on my only surviving son was to always be drawn back to the very thing he had run from. And every time his lineage contained two brothers, as mine had, the fate that fell upon us would fall upon them.” She was sure she would throw up when Elijah turned to Damon. “The elder brother would not be able to stop himself from loving the doppelganger, but she would always choose the younger brother.” He gave a dry smile. “The symmetry of it is really quite poetic.”
There was a heavy silence in the room as they all absorbed Elijah’s words. Elena’s head spun, unable to keep all of her thoughts straight. “So you’re saying,” she began, nearly choking on her words, “that I’m cursed to love Stefan?”
His eyes came down and met hers. He cocked an eyebrow at her. “Aren’t you?”
“But…” she protested, feeling sick inside. “It feels real. How can you say everything was just the curse? Was just a lie?”
“It is cursed to be love,” Elijah returned smoothly. “There is nothing false about it.”
“What about our baby brother’s bonding?” Damon broke in, sounding strangely irritated. Elena’s heart skipped as she looked up at him, then over at Elijah.
Elijah’s face turned grim. “There is only one way to destroy a doppelganger. To return her to her world and restore the original. That would remove her curse—all of her curses—forever. But to make the doppelganger’s curse permanent, the original must be destroyed.” He let out a deep breath. “If Klaus has Stefan, as you say, he can only be trying to use him to destroy Annabelle. For good.”
“How?” Damon pestered.
“My younger brother has no weakness. No shred of humanity left inside of him. But he still cannot kill an original.” He stared into the distance. “Not without the blood of her kin.”
“Stefan,” Elena breathed.
Elijah nodded slightly. “He will use Stefan’s blood to destroy her.” He picked up the stake on the table, the same one Damon had held against him. “Just as this dipped in ash can stop one of us, dipped in our kin’s blood, it can kill us.”
“Then why hasn’t he done it already?” Damon asked, frowning.
Elijah shook his head, setting the stake down. He clasped his hands in front of him. “Why?” he returned. “Klaus believes all of us to be safely tucked away in,” he glanced back at the crate he had emerged from, “boxes.” He turned back to them. “Why not spend time with one who was made in your image? I’m sure it does his ego good.” His face grew serious. “When he tires of him, he will use his blood to destroy the original.”
Elena’s heart skipped. “What do you mean, made in his image?” she asked uneasily.
Elijah turned from Damon to address her. “My descendents were all doomed to follow the fate of my brother and I. And like our fate, they are much like us.” His eyes fell to Damon. “You were much like I was when you were younger.”
Damon stood abruptly. “Good thing I grew up,” he returned tauntingly, clearly irritated. He stalked to the serving table, pouring himself a glass of whiskey.
“It appears as though you regressed,” Elijah corrected, then turned to face him. “Though you seem different since we last saw one another.”
“Well, I did get bitten by a werewolf,” Damon reminded, a mocking smile on his face.
“Yes,” Elijah agreed, almost thoughtfully. “And Klaus gave you his blood to heal you.”
Damon made a face. “Because my brother sold himself for it,” he retorted.
Elijah studied him. “Perhaps…” he drawled.
Damon polished off the contents in his glass, setting it down on the table with a loud crack. “While I’m really enjoying you undressing me with your eyes, I gotta tell you—it’s not going to happen. We’re—distantly—related, and that kinda puts a big ‘do not pass go’ sign on you.”
Elijah blinked at him, drawing up straight. He looked back down at Elena. “You are prepared to trade your life to break the curse?”
She sucked in a breath, unable to meet Damon’s eyes. She nodded. “Yes.”
Elijah nodded slowly, then briskly clapped his hands together in front of him. “Then,” he announced. “We need a witch.”
Elena hesitantly entered the large, grand bedroom, not bothering to knock as she stepped through the open doorway.
Damon was stretched out on his bed, his head propped up by a half a dozen pillow against the headboard. A book was open on his chest, his eyes fastened on it. He lifted his eyes from the book to her, his expression cold and dark.
“Your mother’s journal,” she said, sinking down onto the edge of the bed beside him. “Does she say anything about why it was in the Lockwood slave quarters?”
Damon snapped the journal shut, closing it on his chest. “Does it matter?” he returned accusingly. “You’re not going to be here to care.”
She sucked in a breath. “Damon,” she pleaded. “You know why I’m doing this. Why I have to do this.”
“To save everyone, blah blah blah,” he growled. He sat up. “Spare me, Elena, I’ve heard this speech before.”
He slid off of the bed behind her, standing. Her heart ached as she rose to her feet, desperate for him to understand. To not let their final moments together be with them fighting.
“It’s not just for all of you,” she countered, her heart aching with silent tears. She met his cold blue eyes as they pierced through her. “Damon, you and Stefan aren’t the only ones cursed here. I am, too. Everything Stefan and I have gone through together, everything I feel for him…” She shook her head. “It’s all just been a curse. I didn’t have a choice to love him.”
He stalked toward her, glaring down at her. “We can’t control how we feel,” he agreed, his voice rough. “But we can control what we do about it. And you and Stefan ran right to each other. You can call that a curse, or destiny, or whatever else you want to call it, but those are simple facts. If it wasn’t meant to be, it wouldn’t have lasted. You would have been in some horrible push and pull relationship with him, unable to stop loving him but unable to walk away.”
She spun as he started to walk by her, feeling tears well up in her eyes. “Is this fair to you?” she demanded, silently begging him to understand. He froze with his back to her, as if rooted to the ground by her words. “You had no choice in it, either, Damon.” She crossed the distance between them, stepping in front of him to look into his cold, unforgiving face. “None of us had a choice. None of this is real.”
He glared at her, so coldly she trembled. “Think what you want,” he returned flatly, then turned to the door.
“Damon—“ she protested, grabbing onto his arm.
She cried out as her hand was caught, Damon’s flashing blue eyes trained on hers. He seemed to have expanded in her vision, until she could see nothing but him looming over her. Her hand ached where he held it between them, so close she could feel his chest heaving with every breath.
“I had a choice to love you,” he told her, his voice dark. “I had a choice to walk away. It would have been easy a hundred times. I chose not to. Even watching you and my brother, I chose to stay. So you can think whatever you want about this curse, or who you were ‘forced’ to love, but I decided what I did with how I felt, Elena. Just like you did.”
She choked on her breath, a hundred emotions washing over her. She stared at the empty space in front of her where Damon had occupied only seconds before, and slowly sank to the floor, wrapping her arms around herself.
And there, in the solitude of Damon’s room, she cried.
What great comeback? What's going on? I should start at chapter one. I'm confused.
Elena hesitantly eyed the stake in front of her. She studied the once handsome, refined face in front of her, ashen and shriveled in his state of inanimation. All she had to do was pull the stake out, and he would burst back to life. She had done it before, and she could do it again. She just needed to gather her courage.
“Don’t do it,” Damon sing-songed warningly, his voice right in her ear. She jumped, looking up at him. His blue eyes were intense, strong and heated. “Remember he turned on us? He’s the whole reason Klaus was able to get away from Bonnie in the first place!”
“But Klaus turned on him,” Elena reminded, thinking back to what the others relayed Lucy had heard from Katherine. “So maybe he’ll want him dead. Again.”
“Or maybe he’ll want us dead,” Damon returned, impatient. She looked up through her lashes as he leaned an arm against the open edge of the crate, looming over her. “Come on, Elena,” he urged. “Don’t fall for this.” He sneered at the corpse-like figure in front of them. “He deserves this.”
She didn’t know why, but she suddenly thought of Damon, laying soaked with sweat, dying in her arms. “I deserve this,” he had said. “I deserve to die.”
But Damon didn’t deserve to die. He didn’t deserve to die anymore than Elijah deserved to be entombed in his own flesh for eternity, just for trying to find his family. She steeled her nerves, her mind made up, and yanked on the stake in his chest.
Damon was in front of her before she could blink, the stake no longer in her hand but his, pointed right where she had removed it. The body in front of them began to flush with color, a solid, milky white hue, filling out the withered flesh. The eyes flew open, the mouth gaping to gasp for breath.
“One wrong move and I’ll stake you,” Damon stated warningly. “I don’t care if it kills me, too.”
“Damon,” Elena pleaded, tugging on his arm to no avail. She watched Elijah’s eyes flit between them, then scan around the room, taking in his surroundings and his company. And then Elijah seemed to settle back, his breathing slowing.
His eyes fell to her, then to Damon. “You may remove that,” he told him, without looking down at the stake. “I mean you no harm.” He turned to Elena, his head cocked. “Though I must confess to feeling a bit perplexed… Why have you brought me back after I betrayed you?”
Elena swallowed hard. “I betrayed you once, and you gave me another chance,” she reminded him. “So now I’m offering you the same.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “But if you betray us again, we will shove this stake in you and put you right back where we found you. Do you understand?”
Elijah inclined his head at her, studying her closely. “I never fail to find the ability of the human heart’s capacity for forgiveness… astonishing.” He looked up at Damon. “Do you, Mr. Salvatore?”
Damon sneered at him, jamming the stake harder against the flesh. “I prefer simple answers,” he told Elijah angrily. “So just answer with yes or no—do you want to help us find and kill your brother?”
Elijah’s eyes dropped to Elena. “My family… You found them?”
Elena hesitantly looked back to the others, who were standing behind her and Damon in a semi-circle, as if protecting them.
“Was one of them about, this tall?” Alaric finally asked, gesturing to his eyes. “Light brown hair?”
Elijah’s expression brightened. “So he did put me with them.”
Elena frowned up at him. “You knew he would kill you?”
Elijah looked down at her. “I have known my brother for far longer than you can imagine, Miss Gilbert. I know full well what he is capable of.” His expression lifted into one of amusement. “I had the cloaking spell cast on me removed.” Elena’s heart skipped as one corner of his mouth quirked into a slight smile. “In case anyone ever came looking for me.”
Damon suddenly stepped forward, again ramming the stake against Elijah’s chest. Elena’s heart skipped, uttering sounds of protest as the stake began to pierce flesh. “That’s still not a yes or no,” he retorted. “Should I repeat the question for you?”
All amusement vanished from Elijah’s face as he leveled Damon with a stare. “Mr. Salvatore, I want my brother dead more than you can possibly comprehend in the tiny little speck of existence that has been your lifespan,” he returned, his voice clipped with anger. “I merely wanted my family returned to me. That is all.” He arched an eyebrow. “Something I trust you can understand?”
Damon flipped the stake in the air, catching it in his hand as it fell back down. He leaned back, allowing Elijah an exit from the crate. “Guess that’s close to a yes,” he offered, rolling his eyes.
Elena felt relief wash over her as Elijah stepped out, once again looking around the room. “And where is the younger brother?” he asked, turning to Elena.
“Klaus has him in some sort of indentured servitude,” Damon answered. “We want you to get him out.”
Elijah stared at him, seeming to pale. Elena’s heart skipped. “I’m sorry… I must have misheard you… Did you say my brother has… your brother… in his care?”
“You want the short version?” Damon snapped. “Wolf-boy over there bit me,” he jerked his thumb at Tyler, “Klaus’ blood was the cure. Stefan is paying for it for a few years by being his bitch.”
Elijah’s eyes locked onto Damon’s endlessly. After another few moments of uncomfortable silence, Elena spoke up. “What?” she asked, frowning. “What is it?”
Elijah’s eyes fell closed, and then reopened, settling on her. She thought there was some fondness there, but mostly, it appeared to be sadness.
Her heart began to beat in pronounced thuds against her ribs.
“Klaus can only want Stefan for one thing,” he said, his voice heavy.
“A conscience?” Damon offered, with a derisive snort. Elena felt a chill go through her. “I doubt he’s the type.”
Elijah’s eyes pierced Damon’s. “No,” he returned flatly. He let out a soft sigh. “To aid him in his quest to destroy the original.” He looked down at Elena again. “The original woman.”
Elena felt a chill go down her spine. “Destroy the original woman?” she repeated. “The one who created the doppelganger?”
Elijah’s face turned to stone, his eyes darkening in anger. In his vehemence, he seemed to grow larger, his presence more massive and intimidating than his slender size. “Created her?” he repeated. “She did not create her. She was stolen by the doppelganger. Cursed by her.”
Quickly, hoping to placate him, Elena hurried on. “We found Damon and Stefan’s mother’s journal,” she told Elijah. “She was visited by a woman who told her about the original woman, and the curse of the doppelganger. And she said her sons would look after Damon and Stefan because they were their…” she trailed off, slowly looking between Elijah and Damon.
She didn’t know how she had missed it before. How she hadn’t realized what the statement meant. But somehow, amongst everything else that had happened, she hadn’t put it together. She hadn’t understood what the words were really saying.
“Great to the power of a hundredth grandchildren,” Damon finished, rolling his eyes. He turned back to Elijah. “So then someone got it in their head that she needed to go to the original woman and take her place, even though it doesn’t say that in the journal. It just says that Stefan and I needed to find you and your brother.”
Elijah’s head lowered, then rose. When he addressed them, it seemed as if his mind had been made up. “It sounds like my mother,” he announced. “She was always trying to lift the curse of the doppelganger.”
“Whatever,” Damon declared, sounding irritated. “Now that you know what we know, why don’t you tell us what you know?”
Elijah studied him, then Elena. To her surprise, there was a look of tenderness and sorrow there. “Very well,” he agreed. “May I have something to drink, first?”
Elena turned back to the others. Alaric was already holding a glass filled with red liquid, which he extended to Damon. Damon took it, turning back to Elijah. The ancient vampire tipped it in acknowledgment, then polished it off in seconds.
Then he let out a deep breath. “Perhaps it is best if you sit,” he suggested, gesturing to the couch. He met Elena’s eyes. “You will not like what I am about to tell you.”
Who's our favorite girl? What's going on? Start me at chapter one!
“Is everyone… okay?”
Caroline Forbes slowly straightened as the smoke and dust began to settle. She could tell immediately they were no longer in the warehouse, even though they were all together. The armed vampire guards were nowhere in their vicinity, and as she gave a quick sniff of the air, she realized why. It smelled differently here, wherever they were—familiar.
“Jeremy, oh god, Jeremy,” she heard Bonnie sob.
She pivoted quickly, turning to see Bonnie cradling Jeremy’s lifeless body. A jolt of horror went through her at the wrong, twisted angle of his neck. She recalled the gut-wrenching cracking sound before they had all magically been yanked out of the fight; Bonnie’s terrified scream.
Alaric knelt beside them, beside Jeremy. He slowly placed a hand on Jeremy’s arm, and as Caroline watched in disbelief, Alaric, who had only drank himself into an empty stupor after Jenna’s death, looked like he was trying not to cry.
“Jeremy,” he said softly.
“Jeremy, no,” Bonnie pleaded.
Caroline felt a presence at her side. She looked up, finding Tyler’s stricken eyes on Jeremy’s prone figure. “Car,” he said, his voice low, “can’t you…?”
She forced back her tears, looking back at Jeremy, wrapped in Bonnie’s arms. She shook her head, frustrated at her own helplessness. She was a vampire—but what good was being a vampire if she couldn’t help cure people with her blood? Was being a vampire only good for eating people?
“It’s too late,” she whispered, feeling a tear trickle down her face.
She felt Tyler’s hand rest on her shoulder, a comforting, supportive gesture. She leaned into him, relieved for the connection, watching as Bonnie continued to sob and Alaric placed his hands over his eyes, as though consumed by grief.
“What about his ring?” Tyler asked, sounding frustrated.
Caroline felt a shrill of hope before it exploded with Bonnie’s tear-soaked words. “It won’t work,” she told them brokenly. “Death had him marked after I brought him back. He won’t let him go.”
Caroline watched as Alaric stood, surveying the room. She followed his eyes, disbelief flooding through her as she finally realized where they were. Alaric was gone in an instant, disappearing down the hallway.
She wanted to ask how they had gotten there, but she had a feeling only Bonnie and Lucy’s shredded, lifeless figure behind her would have the answer. She turned, her heart heavy with grief, as she heard the pounding of footsteps in the distance.
Elena appeared in the entrance to the living room, Damon right at her heels. Normally Caroline thought it was funny, sweet, and borderline annoying how Damon was always following Elena around like a protective bodyguard, prepared to shield her when she jumped into battle. But now she was grateful, as tears cascaded down Elena’s cheeks and she fell to Jeremy’s side, clutching him to her and away from Bonnie. Damon knelt at her side, a hand on her shoulder, lending her his strength.
“Jeremy,” Elena whispered. She trembled violently, her hands brushing his hair from his face, her fingers skittering over the odd angle of his neck. Caroline watched as Damon lifted Jeremy’s hand, looking at the ring on his finger.
“Will it still work?” Elena asked, her voice unsteady.
Damon looked up at Alaric. The man shook his head slightly, his eyes heavy. Damon slowly, reverently, set Jeremy’s hand down and moved his arm around Elena’s shoulders, keeping her steady.
It seemed to be all the answer Elena needed. She let out a sob, curling down over her brother. Caroline brushed the tears from her cheeks, grateful for Tyler’s arm anchoring her in reality.
She didn’t know how long they remained there, no one moving, listening to Elena’s tears. But slowly, Elena stopped crying, reluctantly unfolding herself from around her brother. She lifted her eyes to Bonnie, who was staring at Jeremy’s lifeless form, silent tears streaking down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” Elena whispered to her.
Bonnie’s gaze lifted to meet Elena’s, and then Bonnie’s stone-cold expression crumbled into a massive heap of hysterical sobs.
A loud gasp filled the room, as if devoid of air for a long time. Caroline’s eyes snapped back to the figure in Elena’s lap, staring in disbelief as Jeremy struggled desperately for air, his eyes wild as he looked around in confusion.
Caroline choked on her own breath, stunned.
“Jeremy?” Elena asked, breathless, as if scarcely daring to hope.
He winced as he struggled to sit up, Damon finally releasing Elena to help him. He looked around, wincing again as he rubbed his neck. “What…?” he started, then trailed off, his eyes fastened on empty air above him. They watched as his vision lowered, as if following someone, listening.
Anna and Vicki. It had to be.
“That was it?” Jeremy asked the empty space incredulously. “If that was all it took, why didn’t we just have Damon snap my neck?”
An uneasy wave of confusion washed through the room. Caroline shifted, watching as Damon frowned, his sharp eyes taking in everything in front of him.
“Jeremy?” Elena asked, peering into his face and then at the space in front of him. “What…?”
“Anna says I had to die to pay back Death,” Jeremy repeated, looking stunned. “But that because I died from a supernatural, my ring brought me back.” He looked up suddenly, as if stricken, his eyes widening. There was more silence in the room, everyone waiting, breathless. “You don’t have to go—“ Jeremy objected.
There was another moment of silence, and then Jeremy fell back, subdued. He stared at the ground for a moment, then looked up, an expression of sadness and affection on his face. “Will you send Jenna our love?” he asked. He looked up at Alaric, smiling slightly, and then looked back at the air in front of him. “And tell her Ric’s taking good care of us.”
Caroline watched as Elena placed a hand over her mouth, tears sliding down her cheeks. Alaric shifted, looking touched and heartbroken.
Jeremy’s head inclined, as if leaning into an invisible hand. He gazed straight ahead of him, his expression soft and tender. “I’ll miss you,” he said softly. “I never got a chance to tell you how much I loved you.”
Caroline felt another tear slide down her face, even as Jeremy looked over at Bonnie, who was crying silent tears of relief. Jeremy reached out a hand to her, squeezing the hand she placed in his. He looked back up at the air in front of him. “I’ll be okay.”
For a long moment Jeremy was still, staring in front of him. And then he turned, looking around at them. “They’re gone,” he said, his voice low. He looked up at Alaric, then at Elena. “They said Jenna’s doing okay.” He slid a long glance up at Alaric. “Apparently she and Isobel are bonding over things they have in common.”
Caroline watched as Alaric’s eyes widened in disbelief, and then a look of pain flashed across his face. And then he smiled, nodding. Elena let out a soft sob, wrapping her arms around Jeremy’s neck. He released Bonnie’s hand, hugging his sister.
Caroline slowly looked behind her, then again at the rest of the room. She cleared her throat, drawing everyone’s attention to her. “So… Now that Jeremy’s alive again… Can we talk about this?” She lifted her hand, thumbing back at the large crate behind her and Tyler.
Elena reluctantly pulled away from her brother, looking up at her, then at the others. “You brought back the original woman?” she asked, her voice uncertain.
They all exchanged uneasy looks. Elena was probably not going to be happy when she learned the truth of their mission—and why they had locked her in the cell in the Salvatore house with Damon. “Speaking of getting back,” Caroline offered brightly, looking over at Bonnie. “How did we get here, anyway?”
Bonnie’s gaze fell to Lucy’s shredded, bleeding body. “She brought us back,” she said softly. Caroline watched as Bonnie lifted her hand to the fireplace, which suddenly burst to life.
Caroline felt her heart drop into her stomach as Bonnie looked back at them, a small smile of relief gracing her features.
“And she gave me her powers.”
And because I think it's fun, I'm going to share the top themes in the comments with you--
1. Everyone should listen to Damon more.
2. The idea of Ric and Damon go-carting is hilarious.
3. Seeing Elena in her bedroom was emotional.
Thank you so much for reading this story and commenting--I cannot tell you how happy it makes me!
What's up with those top theme comments? I should start at chapter one to find out...
“Elena? Elena! Come on, Elena… Open your eyes…”
The low voice was scared; heavy with barely-contained fear. She hated to hear that voice like that. Not again. Not so soon, when she had just heard it sounding so happy and full-of-life. It was too soon for it to sound so miserable—so anxious.
She fought against the fog holding her down, feeling her lashes flutter against one another as she struggled to pull them apart. The darkness was soothing, lulling her back to the blissful void, but she resisted, fighting against the urge to escape back into her dream world. There was someone out there. Someone she needed to see. Someone she needed to comfort and protect.
Her vision finally returned, a hazy, fuzzy vision of a face peering down at her from less than a foot away. She blinked, trying to bring it into focus, wincing against the cold, hard ground under her.
“Elena,” she heard the person breathe, the familiar voice full of relief. She felt hands wrap around her arms, helping her sit up.
She blinked again, her dry eyes watering and finally clearing her vision. She found herself looking up into Damon’s concerned, worried face, his expression tender and alarmed, but reassured nonetheless. He was kneeling beside her, his hands still around the back of her elbows, keeping her up, holding her steady.
“Damon?” she finally asked, stunned. “What are you doing here?” The fuzziness in her mind evaporated with a frightening clarity, bringing the situation into an alarming focus. She quickly looked around the small prison in the Salvatore house, taking in their positions on the floor, as if they had been dumped, the locked door, and most importantly—Damon. “Why are we here?” she asked, alarmed.
“I live here,” he drawled flatly. His sarcastic tone and expression faded as he studied her intently. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah… I’m fine.” She stood slowly, watching as he mirrored her. He looked unshaken in a black t-shirt and jeans, his black hair falling over his pale skin, which held its normal unusually pale sheen. He looked… healthy. Perfect. Strikingly handsome. “What are you doing here?”
He shot her a look of annoyance. “We were in Virginia when I called. After you turned off your phone, we raced back here to find out what life-risking mission you were on this time. We walked in, I woke up here.” He surveyed the cell, then looked back at her. “Looks like your plan backfired.”
She let out a soft breath. “Damon—“
“They were kind enough to leave us this,” he said, turning and picking up a square mirror, about a foot in diameter, off of the floor beside him. “Maybe Cheer Vamp is supposed to be in here, too?”
Elena frowned at the mirror, taking it from him. It was completely flat, a dull, flat gray on the back, clearly meant to be placed in a mounting of some kind. The mirror itself wasn’t decorated in any way—not even the edges were beveled, like most mirrors. It was just a flat, reflective square.
And such an odd thing to leave them.
She held it in her hands, looking up at him. He was staring bitterly at the door, as if knowing he couldn’t break it down even if he tried. His body was tense, poised to strike, a caged, wild animal.
“What about Alaric?” she asked, brightening. “Maybe he’s still out there. Maybe he’ll let us out.”
Damon reached out, gripping the iron rods in the small window in the door. “If he were out there, we wouldn’t be in here.” He turned back to look at her, releasing the door. His bright blue eyes burned accusingly into hers. “So. Since we’ve apparently got all this time in here together, want to tell me what the big suicide march was for this time? Or can I guess?”
She exhaled sharply, her breath catching in her throat. “We were trying to get to the original woman.”
Damon’s eyes blazed, his eyebrows knitting together. “The original woman?” he repeated. “The one who brought the doppelganger into this world?”
She nodded slowly, looking down at the mirror in her hands. In the dim light of the cell, with her long hair hanging beside her face, her features looked strangely foreign, dark and haunting. Was that, she wondered, a shred of fear sending a shiver down her spine, what she looked like on the other side?
“Why?” he demanded.
She braced herself, forcing herself to meet his eyes. “To restore her,” she answered, with more strength than she felt. “To bring her back and send the doppelganger back to her world so the curse could be lifted and she could end all of this.”
Damon stared back at her, his face contorted in confused annoyance, saying nothing. She could see the wheels in his head turning, processing her words. And then he finally spoke. “You mean you,” he reiterated finally. “You mean you were going to… what do you mean, back to her world? What world?”
She swallowed against the vehement anger in his voice, holding herself firm as she spun the mirror to face him. “This one,” she answered. “The world behind the mirror.”
He glanced down at it, then back up at her, his face incredulous. “You were going to trap yourself in a mirror?” he repeated. “Like in some horror story? That was your master plan? What? You’re going to take to haunting little kids who say, ‘Elena’ twelve times at midnight while staring in the mirror?”
She frowned at him, fighting back her urge to be annoyed. She knew it was his way of repressing his fear; of hiding his true emotions, but she wasn’t in the mood for it. They were locked in the cell in the Salvatore house, there was no one to let them out, and she didn’t know why they were in there.
With a mirror.
“We can restore the original,” she told him, trying to keep her voice even. “We can restore her, and then she can end all of this, Damon. She can break the curse. She can destroy Klaus and the rest of the originals. We can save Stefan. All I have to do is go back where I came from.”
“Last I checked you were from Mystic Falls!” Damon shot back. “Did that suddenly change? Did your parents pull you out of backwards land?”
“Damon—“ she complained, irritated.
“Where did you even get this stupid idea?” Damon demanded. “Last I checked, all we needed to do was get Stefan and I to the original woman and Elijah and Klaus would know what to do. Where did all of this about the original woman and the doppelganger needing to trade places come from?”
She hesitated. “Lucy,” she admitted reluctantly.
He stared at her, drawing back. For a moment she held his eyes, then had to look away, unable to meet his accusing gaze. “Lucy,” he repeated. She nodded. “Katherine’s Lucy. The Bennett witch who I told you not to trust told you that you needed to trade your life for the original woman’s, and now we’re locked in this cell with a mirror?”
An image of Lucy standing before her, her hands on either side of Elena’s head, suddenly flashed in her mind. “Lucy,” Elena whispered, more to herself than Damon. She looked up at him quickly, finding him staring at her expectantly, his fury still evident. “Lucy’s the one who put me in here, Damon. I remember coming into the house, and it was silent… And then Lucy was standing behind me. And she said, ‘I’m sorry,’ and when I woke up…” She gestured around the cell. “I was here.”
Damon looked away in disgust. “And that’s what happens when we trust Katherine’s minions,” he declared flatly. He looked down at the mirror in her hands, scowled, and yanked it away from her. “Give me that. Who knows what kind of spell she put on it? She might be trying to pull you into it as we speak. And that’s a very tiny mirror.”
“But what doesn’t make sense is why you’re here,” Elena drawled thoughtfully. And then, as soon as the words were out of her mouth, she realized the truth. If Damon were out there, and she was inside, he would stop at nothing until she was free.
And Lucy probably knew that.
An echo suddenly filled the room, the strange sound of something breaking. Elena jumped, looking up in terror. Damon was suddenly in front of her, shielding her, but the door was still in one piece. The entire room was still solid.
“What the hell…?” Damon asked.
“Jeremy, look out!” Bonnie’s voice cried, sounding far away. It echoed around the room, small and distant, as if far away.
Elena followed the sound, scouring the room desperately for the source. She heard more shatters and crashes; the unmistakable sound of explosions.
“What is that?” Elena asked desperately.
Damon suddenly lifted the mirror in his hands, holding it up as he moved to stand beside her. “It’s this,” he said, his voice soft.
Alarmed, she followed his gaze, her heart squeezing in her chest as she stared down at the mirror. Instead of her and Damon’s reflection, gazing back at her was the inside of what appeared to be a warehouse. It was flooded with smoke, so thick it was almost impossible to see. The mirror appeared to be some sort of camera, as if someone were holding it and running at the same time.
“What is this?” Elena asked, her breath catching in her throat.
“Bonnie, behind you!” a girl shouted, sounding closer to the mirror than the others. They watched as in the distance, something exploded, a cascade of fire scattering around them.
“Lucy,” Elena whispered. She looked up at Damon, feeling tears in her eyes as she stared up at him. “Damon, it’s Lucy. She’s doing this.”
Damon frowned, looking back down at the mirror. “Ric, over here!” they heard Jeremy yell. The scene shifted, as if the camera man had panned left, and they could see Jeremy and Alaric prying open a large, massive crate, at least eight feet tall.
“Caroline!” Alaric shouted.
The camera moved again, and they saw Caroline ducking, throwing off a man twice her size. They watched a hand, close to the camera, raise, the fingers extended before clutching into a fist. The man fell to a heap, clutching his head.
“I’ve got him!” they heard Lucy shout.
They watched as Caroline rushed to the crate, yanking the front of it off easily. She suddenly screamed, two large men on either side of her grabbing her and lifting her into the air.
“Caroline!” they heard Tyler shout.
“Caroline,” Elena whispered, tears of horror welling up in her eyes.
The men suddenly collapsed, Caroline staggering to stay on her feet as they fell to the ground, their bodies already graying. She looked quickly to her left, where Alaric held up a crossbow, and then to her right, where Tyler stood, holding a stake.
“It’s not him!” Jeremy shouted. “Who is this guy?”
“Move!” Alaric ordered, shoving him.
The camera gave a sudden jerk, tilting to stare up at the ceiling. They heard Lucy scream, horrific, blood-curdling screams.
And in front of the mirror, they could see lines of red streak on the cement where her arm lay.
“Got him!” Caroline yelled triumphantly. Then, “Jeremy, look out!”
“Jeremy, no!” Bonnie screamed.
There was a monstrous growl, unlike anything Elena had ever heard before. Then the sound of feet stomping, and a shatter.
And then the image on the mirror and the sounds slowly faded, revealing their reflections staring back at them.
“Jeremy?” Elena asked, staring at her tear-stained face in the mirror. “J… Jeremy?”
An arm wrapped around her, tight and fierce. “We don’t even know if that was real,” Damon pointed out, but his soft voice told her he believed it was just as much as she did.
She uttered a sob, her heart feeling like it would break in her chest. “They went without me,” she cried, the strength leaving her legs. “They went to find Elijah without me, Damon. They were trying to save me.”
“I know,” he said, his voice quiet.
“Oh god,” she sobbed. “Jeremy.”
Her friends… her brother… they had all gone to save her. To avoid breaking their promise, they had done the unthinkable.
And they had traded their lives for hers.
Her knees gave out on her, Damon’s arm around her the only thing keeping her from crashing onto the cement. He gently guided her to the ground, holding her to him as she cried heavy, heartbroken tears.