A/N - So this is the final chapter of Lucid. Hope you liked my first story! I have a few ideas in mind for another. Please if you can, let me know what you think of Lucid and if you might be interested in reading a different story of mine when I have it ready. It would mean the world to me to know how my writing is being received. If you have any suggestions or advise, please feel free to message me. Thank you!
Chapter 3 – Clarity
Elena seems to be in a courtroom, observing some sort of trial. She looks around herself. Of course. It's Damon - he is the defendant being tried. She didn't hear the charges but she can probably guess. Strangely, Katherine appears to be his lawyer. Only Stefan, Jeremy and Liz Forbes sit in the row behind Damon. All the rest of her friends and family are on the opposite side and there doesn't appear to be one clear plaintiff. Perhaps they all are. Bonnie seems to be acting as the accusing lawyer. Elena rolls her eyes. Go figure. Klaus is the judge. Tyler is the bailiff.
Her breath catches in her throat as she regards the Jury. In the front row she can see Lexie, Zach Salvatore, Vickie Donovan, Mason Lockwood, Logan Fell, Greta Martin and Coach Tanner. All people Damon has killed. It's a jury of the dead.
Worse yet though is that behind them, she can see dozens, no, make that hundreds of strangers. Most of them are young, beautiful women. They stretch back as far as she can see. Her eyes widen as she realizes that these are all Damon's victims over the many, many years. Elena feels sick to her stomach just looking at them. They are comprised of both young and old, female and male, but the vast majority are girls about her age. Most of these have slim builds and long, brown hair.
Bile starts to rise in her throat as she sinks to her knees. Is it possible to vomit in a dream? She would prefer not to find out. She lowers her head between her knees and takes deep breaths.
She can hear Bonnie calling the first witness to the stand. It's Caroline. She keeps her head down and listens to Caroline recount how Damon treated her so badly during the first weeks they knew him. How he compelled her, fed on her, used her for sex, used her to get invites to places and eventually tried to kill her. Elena glances up and sees that Liz Forbes has moved to the other side of the courtroom to sit beside her daughter, who has stepped down from the witness box.
Next up is Matt, who testifies about his sister Vickie and how Damon killed and turned her into a vampire just for fun. Because he was bored. Elena feels another wave of nausea go through her.
Tyler testifies about Damon killing his uncle Mason – how he tortured him and then coldly ripped his heart right out of his chest.
When Alaric is up, he talks about his former wife, and Elena's mother, Isobel - how Damon slept with her and then turned her into a vampire. How Damon has killed him twice now (and if it wasn't for that handy "supernatural death revival" ring he and Jeremy both wear, neither would be standing here.) How utterly easy it is for Damon to lose it and go psycho on anyone standing too close.
Next, Bonnie calls Jeremy to the stand. He testifies about what he read in Elena's diary concerning Damon. How he slaughtered all Vickie's stoner friends that night in the cemetery. How he snapped Jeremy's neck once in a spiteful rage.
Her stomach clenches again. Even though she knows all this already, the reminders are so difficult to hear. Has she really forgiven Damon for all of this?
When Jeremy steps down, she sees that he, too, does not return to his seat behind Damon.
She hears Stefan speaking and realizes he is now up. What can Stefan testify about that she doesn't already know? Lexie, Zach, Coach Tanner. All pointless deaths.
Elena tunes him out after a bit and regards the "Jury of the Damned" again. All those women that look like her. So very many of them. She wonders how many she is really looking at. It's so hard to tell. Then she remembers an old trick for crowd counting. She counts a group of 10 and then uses that mental shape to multiply through the bunch to get an approximation. She comes up with about 190-200, give or take. While counting, she notices that most of them seem to be dressed in period clothing. Probably around three quarters of them are wearing old fashioned looking outfits.
Her thoughts are interrupted when she hears her own name. Elena's annoyed to realize that Bonnie has called her as the next witness. She notes as she walks over that Damon now sits alone on his side, with the exception of Katherine leaning against the front of his table.
Tyler asks her to place her hand on top of a Bible. "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"
Elena glances up the judge's bench to Klaus and rolls her eyes.
"What does God have to do with any of this?"
"I've yet to publish my Book of Klaus, pet, so this will have to do," he grins down at her.
Elena decides to push her luck, "And isn't the jury supposed to be impartial? There's nothing impartial about that lot. It's hardly fair."
"It's your dream, sweetheart. You put them there. I'm just going with it."
Bonnie clears her throat and starts the questioning. She asks Elena if Damon kidnapped her and took her to Georgia last year.
"No, it wasn't like that," she replies.
"Did he take you against your will, yes or no?"
"Well, technically, yes…"
"Did he compel you?"
"No! Damon has never compelled me! He wouldn't do that," Elena indignantly exclaims.
She glances at Damon as she says this. He looks guiltily back at her.
He speaks up "Actually…yes…I have. Once."
In surprise she blurts out, "What! When?" He doesn't reply; he just looks away. She frowns. For some reason she knows that it's true.
Bonnie's not quite done with her yet.
"How many times has he forced his blood on you, Elena, in the hopes that you might turn into a vampire against your will?
She pauses, not liking to think about that, either. She glances at Damon again. When he sees her looking, he quickly looks down and avoids meeting her eyes.
"Answer the question please, Elena."
"Um. Twice." She feels her face burn as she admits this to the room.
"No further questions, your honour."
Klaus turns to Katherine. "Your witness, my dear."
Has Katherine actually cross-examined any of the other witnesses? Elena doesn't think so. She wonders why not.
Katherine approaches her. "Hello, Elena."
Elena sighs quietly. Here we go.
"Do you love Stefan Salvatore?" she asks first.
What an odd question.
"What does that have to do with anything?" Elena replies. Other than her psycho vampire doppelganger's unhealthy obsession with her ex-boyfriend, that is.
"I…" she glances at Damon again. He still won't look back at her. "Yes, I love Stefan. But I'm not in love with him any more. I love him the same way I love Bonnie. Or Jeremy." Once again, she knows it is the truth as soon as she says it.
"Thank you, Elena. Now, what have you noticed about our Jury today?"
"They're all people Damon has killed," she replies, as if it's the most obvious thing in the world. Which, really, it is.
"What else? What about their physical appearance?"
Elena gulps. "Most of them look like me," she whispers.
"That's where you're wrong, my dear," Katherine smirks, "most of them look like me."
Elena gasps as she suddenly realizes that's exactly right. They looked like Katherine to him. It has nothing to do with her. Katherine is the bitch who screwed him up for so many years, who used him and turned him and left him. Elena can't figure out why anyone hasn't just staked her yet already. She should be the one on trial here, not Damon.
Katherine isn't done with her yet.
"Elena, you're my descendant, so I know you're a smart girl. How many people are in the Jury?"
"I have no idea. Lots."
Katherine rolls her eyes. "I know you can do better than that, Elena. About how many?"
"OK, well…about 200," she rounds up.
"I know you've figured out what all this means by now, haven't you?" Katherine delivers this like a statement rather than a question.
"Tell us, Elena. Talk us through your revelation."
Elena takes a deep breath.
"Well… Damon has been a vampire for 146 years. Young vampires tend to not have much self-control over their bloodlust for the first while and usually kill indiscriminately. Most of the victims I see are wearing outdated clothing, which means they were killed within the first, maybe, 50 or 60 years of his becoming a vampire...oh!"
She has a sudden epiphany!
Her words start to tumble out faster. "That means that the rest of them, maybe 60 people or so, were killed over about a hundred year period. That's less than one per year! He's been feeding and compelling, but not killing them far, far more often than he's actually killed!" Elena gasps and clamps her hand over her mouth. It's ludicrous how this realization makes her feel. He is still a mass murderer. But the truth of what she's just been made aware affects the way she sees him like nothing else has. Damon hides his humanity so well most of the time, but it is there. It's always been there.
"I have no further questions, your honour," Katherine smirks up at Klaus.
Elena steps down and starts to walk toward Damon, when she hears Bonnie speak.
"I'd like to call Damon Salvatore to the stand."
Still not looking at her, he makes his way to the witness stand. She feels a sudden wave of trepidation. This will not go well.
Bonnie gets straight to the point.
"You are accused, Damon, of murdering all these people," she gestures to the Jury. "How do you plead?"
"What about all the other accusations levied against you by the witnesses today? How do you plead to the many counts of manipulation, lying, compelling, forced bloodletting, forced blood-giving and attempted murder?"
"Guilty," he doesn't even hesitate.
Bonnie looks up at Klaus. They are ready to pass judgment. Elena feels cold and terrified. She needs to stop this somehow.
She scans the courtroom for Katherine but she's nowhere to be found. Neither is Stefan.
Klaus looks down at Damon.
"Well, obviously, you're found guilty of all charges, mate. Your sentence is, of course, death. Now, normally our sweet Elena here would be the one to carry out your execution. But since the method is up to me, I'm going to choose your personal favourite - it's got truly "heart-ripping" style, if you will. I believe I'll have to carry it out myself, as I don't think our girl is quite strong enough. It's poetic, really. I'm sure you'll agree.
Now, do you have anything to say for yourself, before your sentence is carried out?"
The courtroom is suddenly dead silent.
His voice is calm, "Nope. I know I deserve this. Carry on."
All eyes are on Damon as he leaves the witness stand and comes down, stopping in front of the throng. Elena is finally able to force her frozen legs to move and she approaches him.
"You don't have to do this," she clasps his hands in hers and tries to force the tremor out of her voice. "You don't have to give up."
"Elena, you don't understand. I want this. I welcome it. And I'll finally get to be reunited with the only person who has ever truly loved me. I'll get to see my mother again. You have to let me go."
She can't hold back her tears any longer.
Through strangled sobs she chokes out "You're wrong, Damon. You don't deserve this. And I love you. I love you."
The courtroom goes dark, but she can still hear his voice.
"Elena, wake up. C'mon, Elena."
She wonders why he's shaking her shoulder. It seems an odd reaction to such an intense conversation. She blindly reaches for him and pulls herself against him, burying her face into his neck.
"You don't deserve this," she repeats. "You're wrong. I love you."
She pulls back a few inches and presses her lips against his, trying desperately to make her point, to force him to understand. For a moment, he kisses her back. Then his hands are on her shoulders and he pushes her away.
"Much as I appreciate you waking up and throwing your arms around me and kissing me and all - and I do, believe me, I do – but, before we continue, you need to tell me what's going on. What's this all about, Elena?" He reaches behind her to switch on the bedside lamp so that she can see him. She squints in the sudden light as she realizes where she is and what she'd been dreaming about.
She hesitates for a second, then like a dam breaking, it all pours out of her. She tells him about the nightmares, starting from the beginning and she tries not to leave out any details. By about halfway through, her tears are falling freely again. He wipes them away with the pads of his thumbs. Amazingly her voice actually grows stronger as she speaks.
When Elena describes her most recent dream, she notices some shocked expressions flicker across his face. He just stares at her when she finishes.
After a long moment, he speaks.
"How could you possibly know that? Nobody knows that. Nobody," Damon is emphatic.
"About your…victims? I don't know. I just knew my conclusion in the dream was right. It was one of the two questions I was just about to ask you, actually. So…it is true, then?"
He nods slowly. "I have never told that to anyone. I don't understand how you could know."
He blinks, "What's your other question?"
Elena chews her bottom lip before she replies, "Did you compel me once, like I dreamed you told the court you did? I felt that this was also the truth when you said it."
He hesitates, "Is there any way in the world you'd be willing to drop that one? If I assured you beyond any shadow of a doubt that I didn't do anything to you and that it doesn't even matter now?"
She frowns and narrows her eyes at him. "Not a chance."
"I didn't think so," Damon sighs. He then explains what he said to her and then took away on the night he first returned her necklace, after he and Stefan rescued her. She doesn't think she has ever seen him look so guilty, like a child with his hand caught in the cookie jar. His expression conveys that he's waiting to hear his punishment.
Elena puts her hand on the side of his face, "Thank you for telling me." Then her voice hardens, "Don't ever, ever compel me again though. I mean it. I want things between us to always be real." She uses his words back at him and knows that they will be.
He rolls onto his back and stares at the ceiling. He is quiet for awhile and she begins to wonder if he's gone back to sleep.
Still looking away, he abruptly whispers, "Did you mean what you said?"
Elena knows exactly what he is questioning. What he needs to hear from her. And she realizes that she finally isn't afraid of her feelings any longer. It's like a great sense of clarity has befallen her.
"Yes, Damon. I meant it. Dream or not, it's still true. I do love you. I'm so sorry it's taken me this long to figure it out."
He turns towards her and reaches out to stroke her cheek with his fingertips. She could swear in the dim lighting that his eyes look wet.
"Can I kiss you now?"
She closes the distance between them, twines her fingers into his hair and responds without words.