Saved from one more day of misery.
Elena hadn't seen light in. . .she didn't even know how long. The only thing that measured the time she'd been trapped was how hungry she was and how raw her throat felt. Logically, she knew it couldn't have been more that a few days but it felt so much longer, and anyway, her mind was starting to lose the capacity to process logic.
The only thing she had to pass the time was wondering how she was going to die.
She thought she might suffocate before she starved or died of dehydration. She couldn't feel any wind and there was absolutely no sound, let alone one that could be attributed to a vent. But every time she felt the pangs of hunger stab away at her innards, she thought otherwise. Maybe that alone would kill her.
Sometimes she thought that maybe she'd go insane before any of that happened. She'd been isolated completely. Whoever was trying to kill her this time was nothing, if not the most sadistic, cruel person-thing-to ever roam the earth. She hadn't had any human contact to speak of in far too long, so maybe by the time death took her she wouldn't even be coherent enough to realize it was happening.
She tried to keep her eyes closed most of the time. She didn't like having her eyes open when she couldn't see anything. But then she'd fall asleep and although it passed the time Elena was afraid it would pass too much time and she'd miss it if someone came for her.
It became a sort of fantasy, trying to guess where she was and who with. The last thing she remembered was opening the door to her house and then. . .it was blank. So really, it could be any number of combinations. Was she above ground or below? Within the Mystic Falls town limits or outside of the state altogether? She wondered if people had realized she was gone yet, if Jenna was worried yet, if Jeremy cared. If Stefan or Damon were about to save her. . .or not.
And if not, she had to be alert enough to save herself if the opportunity was presented.
So she sat, leaned up against the wall for indiscernible amounts of time, trying not to nod off.
It felt like forever, but it probably only took minutes to scatter the broken, decomposed bodies around the underground room. Damon left Alaric behind to make sure all the vampires he'd hit with vervain ended up with a stake in their heart.
Once in the tunnel, it was a straight shot, no decisions he had to make about which direction he had to go. And then he heard it.
It was Elena's voice. But she was laughing and it was low and playful. And if it were really Elena. . .well, she probably wasn't in any state to giggle at the moment. Even though he'd overlain his emotions with the apathy he needed to survive, he could still feel his gut clench at the thought of what could be happening to her at that very moment. He needed to save her and he would fail if she was hurt.
He still felt the hate for Katherine. For lying to him, using him, leaving him. For robbing him of his life, and then of his afterlife. But so much more for the fact that she thought it was okay to waltz into his life, his town, and ruin everything all over again. To do whatever she pleased with people that mattered. To attempt to shatter the person who mattered most.
In the state he was in, though, it all blended into blind need.
Things he just had to do, by any means necessary.
Survive Katherine. Save Elena.
He was so much closer to both.
Damon knew that Katherine felt him coming. He knew she knew he knew and so on and so forth.
He had to hand it to her. He wasn't expecting to walk into a full on lair when he'd taken off down the hole up in the miner's shack. There were tall candle's flickering in all directions and sofa's pushed up against the wall. A globe, some tables, a dead human in the corner drained of her blood. She even had her vampire bodyguards standing by against the back wall.
And there she was, waiting for him with her hands on her hips, head cocked, a smirk pulling at her red painted lips. He was again confronted with just how alike and how dissimilar they were. The same skin tone, the same eye color, the same hair color, the same body, even. But Katherine's curls were pulled off to the side and Elena wouldn't have been caught dead in the red and black lace mock corset, or the skintight jeans, or the stiletto boots Katherine was looking so at home in. Elena wouldn't have radiated amusement at this moment.
He didn't say anything, yet. He stood facing her in their own personal Mexican standoff until she said, "Damon. What a lovely surprise, how nice of you to drop by."
"Cut the shit, Katherine." He said and his jaw twitched a little.
"Ooh," She said, lowly, her lips forming a mocking 'o', "Such language. Didn't your mother teach you not to swear at a lady?"
She took a few long, slow steps towards him, giggling to herself. And Damon wanted to rip her to shreds, but he was smarter than that, he knew he couldn't. He'd planned numerous ways to kill her, but once he turned on his senses he'd remembered how unlikely that was to happen. She'd kill him and then Elena would be gone too, if she wasn't already.
Katherine sobered, finally seeing that she wasn't going to get any more reaction from him than the glare he was sending her. She sighed to herself, "Fine, be that way."
"Where's Elena, Katherine? I'm not playing your games this time," He said, voice dangerously low.
She circled him, like a predator would do to prey and Damon stood stock still following her with his eyes as she did. Her index finger brushed along his chest, across his shoulder blades and around again smiling that evil smile at him. The one he used to mistake for simply mischievous. Sexy, even. And then she said the words, "Oh, but you already have, love. And you've won. Congratulations."
His brow furrowed and the sick sensation of realization pooled inside him. She'd played him. Again. Even coasting on base instinct, he didn't take well to being made for a fool. He'd spent days wildly searching for a girl he half thought was already dead. . .and here he was being told it wasn't real? He couldn't tell if it made sense or not. Katherine loved to play with people. But she also loved killing them.
"Aw, you thought I was going to kill her, didn't you? Damon, my dear, I thought you knew me better than that," Katherine taunted, "Everything is a game. I just wanted to see who'd go furthest, fastest. And now I have. I suppose I should've guesses after that touching display of yours."
Words failed him, and his control slipped away completely. His canines lengthened and the veins around his eyes raised as he lunged for her neck, slamming Katherine against the rock wall behind her. The slight pain she'd felt seemed little more to her than an annoyance as she peeled his fingers from her throat with ease.
"Did you really think that would work?" She raised her eyebrow staring into Damon's eyes, his face still contorted in vampiric rage, "You'll never be strong enough to kill me, Damon, and you know it. Now, I'm giving you what you came for. Patrick will take you to your Elena and you'll both walk out unharmed."
"Until you decide you're bored enough to come after her for real, right? That's how it works? The world stands still when Katherine Pierce says it does?"
"See? You do know me well," She smiled indulgently at him, pushing him away from her, "But no, I don't take issue with Elena. In fact, I'm quite intrigued by her. Besides, she is of my bloodline. If she were to die, so would it. And we can't have that now, can we?"
With that, she fell backwards, draping herself across a plush sofa, to study her nails, feigning boredom.
He was almost embarrassed by himself at this point. He really did know absolutely nothing about Katherine. He could decipher her no better than the next man. Everything he'd been through, all the worry and fear he'd felt the past couple of days, all the pain and loneliness he had ever felt was a game to her. Just something that passed her time.
One of the large vampire men who'd stood by watching their interaction caught Damon's attention when he abruptly stepped away from his post and silently disappeared down another staircase. He followed without a backwards glance.
Elena could feel her consciousness slipping away again. She held her head in her hands, pressing the heels of them into her eye sockets. Her hair was sliding through her fingers from the grease. Not only did she wreak but the toilet across the room from her was giving off a putrid smell. She'd found out that although she could used it, it wasn't actually hooked up to any plumbing. That and the onset of starvation and dehydration contributed to the various vomiting fits she'd undergone. It was a vicious circle and she just wanted it to end.
She wanted to give up.
But then she heard something. Something that was probably much louder to her than it actually was. It was the first sound not made by her that she'd heard in what could have been days. It sounded like the decompression of air.
Was someone here?
She lifted her head, but she collapsed against the wall when her weak legs gave out on her in her attempt to stand, landing her in an awkward position between the two.
Her chest swelled with hope, for the first time since she woke up. If this was a hallucination. . .oh God. If she was making this up she really would be done. She wouldn't be able to make herself come back from that devastation. She wouldn't be able to keep pushing.
There were the tiniest pin pricks of light forming around a door that couldn't have actually been there. She checked. To the point of monotony, she had checked. There wasn't a door before.
But then it slid aside and standing in front of blinding white light were two shadows of what she thought were men. She couldn't tell because she couldn't look. She folded in on herself to shield her sensitive eyes from the light they'd become unaccustomed to. It burned and she couldn't swallow the scream before it bubbled up out of her.
She heard foot steps. Graceful but still heavy.
Someone whispered her name, tentatively reaching out to touch her. The body shielded much of the light, making it safe for her to peek out from behind her hands, just enough to take a glimpse at who had come for her.
She saw an angular, set jaw. And stormy, dark blue eyes swimming with rage and horror. It was Damon.
Patrick, Katherine's vampire bouncer, led Damon down into a cavernous, modern storage room, of sorts. Bright work lights were mounted into the rock above large white refrigerators, powered by a giant whirring generator on the far end.
But there was another room. This one wasn't cut jaggedly out of the mountain, the roof of it wasn't rounded, like the rest of what Damon had seen. It was a standalone metal and plaster. . .cube. The walls were smooth and the corners were sharp. He couldn't see a way in or out and when he tried to listen to what was inside, he heard nothing. Whatever this thing was made of was too thick to get through.
Patrick didn't say anything. He didn't do anything either. He planted himself directly in front one of the metal walls and just stood, staring at it.
"Hold your horses," Called a distinctly female voice from the direction of the stairway. She was tall and tan with long dark hair in tight spiral curls. She was probably in her thirties, at least. She walked the way all people with power walked, with their head held high and slowly as she pleased. She was a witch.
"Sorry, that ship's sailed," He said with a tight smirk.
"Mm-hmm," The woman didn't care about anything he said. She was bound to Katherine and did what she was asked and nothing else, which made her slightly bitter towards all things, "Step aside."
Damon didn't move, but Patrick took a sidestep to allow her to squeeze by. She rolled her shoulders, stretching her neck, and started a chant from memory. Within moments Damon could see and hear the effects. A large rectangular section of metal was raising in their direction. It was like taking off the top of a can, the air rushing through the cracks. Finally, he could hear passed the walls. There was a heartbeat and there was low, even breathing.
"There. Enjoy," The witch said with a sigh, dusting off her hands and disappearing back upstairs.
Patrick stepped forward, both palms flat against the new door. He gave a push and it automatically popped out the rest of the way and slid aside.
What he saw would be permanently seared into his brain. Elena, hunched over, against the back wall, her hands over her face, screaming in pain. His humanity was shocked back into place. He swore to himself, then and there, that no matter what Katherine said, even if she did never come to kill Elena, she deserved to die and he would make that happen. Someday, someway. It would be a long and agonizing death.
His face had fallen into disbelief.
He walked over to her slow enough to not startle her. When he reached her he raised a hand to her shoulder, whispering, "Elena?"
She was whimpering from the left over pain from the light, but chanced a quick look up at him. When she did he could tell the exact moment she realized it was him and she was safe.
Elena fell into him sobbing. He wrapped his arms around her, pressing her head against him, his cheek at the crown of her head. Her voice was raw as the sound of his name continuously crept over her cracked lips but no matter how many times he shushed her she wouldn't stop. She couldn't stop. Because he saved her and she was going to be okay.
"It's okay, Elena, I've got you," He smoothed his hand over her hair one more time before scooping her up into his arms and out of her prison.
Damon carried her up the stairs and past Katherine. He didn't stop to so much as look at her, but everything about him tensed when he came near her.
"Bye now," She drawled from her seat. Her fingers waggling at them.
When he felt Elena shrink against him he used his speed to make it the rest of the way. Alaric was waiting in the shack and when he saw that Damon was back and he had Elena, his shoulders sagged with relief, "What happened?"
"Well, I have her don't I? Give her your jacket," Damon said.
Alaric didn't need to be asked twice. He took it off and passed it to Elena who looked up at Damon with a question in her eyes.
"It's still bright out there, cover your eyes with it."
It was sundown when they reached the car parked at the base of the mountain. Damon tossed Alaric his keys and slid into the backseat with Elena, "Nearest airport, go."
Damon checked them into a room at one of the hotel airports after a trip through the drive-through and Elena's request to please take a shower. She'd been mumbling her thanks to him every so often. Asking where Stefan was. If everyone at home was okay. But they were mumblings, and she said the same thing over and over.
Damon figured that it was a good sign that she was alert and talking though. He was worried, still, about the long-term effects the abduction would have even though he hid it from both her and Alaric well. This was one of the things he was most afraid of. He was afraid she was dead, and then he was afraid that she'd been tortured to insanity.
But as Katherine had stated, she wanted her bloodline to continue, so he had hope that she'd bounce back. He was certain she would because Elena always bounced back.
After her shower though, she came out blank. Her eyes were dark walls with nothing behind them. Her face was smooth as porcelain. She got dressed robotically and sat on the bed, waiting to be told what to do next.
She had finally slipped into shock, Damon thought.
Damon gave Alaric the keys to his car and directions to take it home. He was going on the plane with Elena.
They were sitting in the terminal, waiting for their plane back to Virginia to arrive, when Damon attempted to get a hold of Stefan again.
Why is it that every time he has something important to tell him he's out of range? Last time he'd turned his phone off while he was waiting for Caroline in the hospital, but this time there was no reason for it. So, he called Bonnie and, once again, gave her the message to relay.
He was nervously flipping his phone around when the announcer called for passengers to their flight to begin boarding. He stood up and reached for Elena's hand, pulling her with him. She hadn't done much on her own since the hotel room. She hadn't said anything at all.
That's why he was both shocked and relieved when she did finally speak.
"Damon? I don't want to back home," She said looking up at him, with a pleading look on her face.
"A little late for that, dontcha think, princess?" He sighed gently turning her in the direction of the gate but she shrugged him off and he let her. He was trying not to treat her like so much of a victim, even though she was. He had a feeling that Elena in any state wouldn't respond very well to that.
What Damon didn't realize, though, was that for the last thirty minutes or so she'd been quiet willingly. She'd been thinking. She wanted to go home to see Stefan and Bonnie and her family. But she'd developed a fear of home. She was afraid to go back and she was afraid to be without Damon. He'd saved her. Even though neither of them realized it, she was bonded to him now.
"I'm serious, Damon. Bad things happen there. I can't go back yet. I need a break from all the near death experiences and pain," Elena's eyes began to water as she tried to make him understand her position, "Please, take me away. Anywhere, I don't care."
He gave her a long look, contemplating whether or not this was a good idea or not. She'd just been through a trauma, shouldn't she want to be home, where she was safe and snug in her bed?
But that was just it. She didn't feel safe in her home anymore. Being in Mystic Falls made her feel like something was going to jump up from behind and either sink their teeth into her neck or snap it. She just wanted an escape. She wanted to pretend that her life wasn't made up of horror stories if only for a little while.
And she wanted Damon, of all people, to help her do that. Who was he to complain? So he turned her in the opposite direction so she was positioned in front of the departures board.
Gesturing grandly, one arm still hanging loosely around her shoulders he offered her the world. Literally.
A/N: When I wrote this I didn't really want Katherine to be the Big Bad. I wanted her to be sort of crazy but a little sympathetic. But now that I've seen the preview I think I'm gonna change that. She rubbed me the wrong way. Anyway, now that this part's over I think we're at the point of the plot I'm more comfortable in so it'll get better.
And thanks everyone for the reviews! Please feel free to keep 'em coming. :)