*DISCLAIMER* I do NOT own Vampire Diaries or the characters associated with Vampire Diaries. No copyright infringement intended.
Don't Go Back To Rockville - REM
"At night I drink myself to sleep,
And pretend I don't care that you're not here with me.
'Cause it's so much easier to handle all my problems
If I'm too far out to sea.
But something better happen soon or it's gonna be too late to bring you back.
It's not as though I really need you.
If you were here I'd only bleed you.
But everybody else in town
Only wants to bring you down
And that's not how it ought to be.
Well I know it might sound strange, but I believe you'll be coming back before too long."
For nearly twenty years now, he's just kept going, kept moving. Never stopping in any one place for very long. Barely slowing down. Looking for a new distraction around every corner. Never finding any that manage to last more than a moment or two.
He'll never admit that he's running from anything. Not out loud. But deep down he knows that's just what he's trying to do. And he knows exactly why it isn't working – why it had never worked and would never work. He isn't running away from someplace or something or – believe it or not - someone.
And it's just not possible to run away from himself.
The only ways he's found to get respite for too-brief periods of time are in miniscule distractions. In sex. In blood. In fighting. In alcohol. Copious amounts of alcohol. Sleep doesn't work; those fucking dreams always haunt him (she dies over and over, every single night, and he's never once been able to save her.) But passing out from over-indulgence seems to do the trick nicely - for a while anyway.
He'd promised he'd never leave her, way back when. He'd meant it, too. But sometimes things change. People change. Life gets in the way of even our best intentions.
She hadn't needed him any more. She'd let him go. Metaphorically at first, then, when she'd found out he was leaving, she'd let him go physically as well. How could she do anything else, really? She couldn't. And he knew it.
If there's one thing he's learned over the course of his very long life, it's that you can force people to do an awful lot of things, but you can't force them to love you.
It doesn't matter anyway. She'd made the right decision. No matter how much he loved her, if they'd ended up together this 'thing' they had between them - it would have eaten them both alive. They would only have ended up ripping each other apart, annihilating each other. 'A love that consumes you' – ha! Yeah, like fire - burning fast, hot, intense, and ultimately destroying everything it touches. Being apart, it was for the best. It still is.
Even if it sometimes hurts so fucking much he can hardly stand it.
He hasn't been in touch with anyone from his time in Mystic Falls since that day – the day he finally drove away without looking back.
His phone had gotten destroyed in a bar fight a few weeks later. When he'd eventually gotten around to replacing it, he'd changed his number. It'd seemed like the right thing to do. It never rings, unless he's expecting a call back about something. He keeps it turned off most of the time.
Sometimes he sees a girl in a crowd with long dark hair and his breath catches in his throat. Just for a fleeting moment, a spark of hope flares. It's never her, of course. But he sometimes wonders if she thinks about him once in awhile. If she misses him occasionally. If he's left an unfillable hole inside her even one tiny fraction of the size of the gaping chasm she's left in him.
It's stupid and he knows it. Thoughts like that don't lead anywhere good.
But she had cared about him. They had been friends. They had been…something. He had seen it in her eyes, felt it in her kiss.
And then. Then she'd chosen his brother and left him to die alone. And died herself shortly thereafter and later woken up undead. And he'd promised his brother he'd leave. Everything became such a mess, tangled up in so many knots it was beyond any hope of straightening.
He hadn't left right away. He'd waited at first to make sure she'd transition. Then to make sure she was gonna be okay. He'd kept an eye on her from a distance for a few weeks. Sure, it hurt – seeing her with his brother, watching her try to comfort him instead of the other way around. It hurt even more watching Elijah patiently teach her how to master control of her urges, watching her try and fail and try again until she began to get the hang of it. It should have been him teaching her all this, God dammit. That hurt most of all - that he could never be who she needed.
He'd waited only until he was confident that she'd be fine.
When he'd told her he was leaving, he hadn't really known what to expect. Her back had gone rigid and a spark of…that 'something'…had flashed through her eyes. He thought it might have been regret, but she'd quickly hidden it away. She'd nodded her head and told him she understood. That she was fucking sorry, for Christ's sake.
Sure, she didn't want him to go, but she would never admit it. Because she knew he had to. And they both knew why.
Neither one of them had asked for this. Yet here they were. This constant cycle of hurt had to end. He had to be the one to end it. So he'd turned his back and walked away.
All that happened years ago, yet it still feels too close.
He catches an old movie on a hotel room TV one night. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." He's seen it before, of course, years ago, but on this re-watch it makes him stop and think. Really think. If a procedure like that actually existed, something that could wipe all the memories of his year and a half in Mystic Falls away, he'd jump on it in a heartbeat. The only memory he really wants to keep is of finding out the truth about Katherine – her deception and her sheer disregard for him. That memory he needs to hold onto, to remind him to never allow himself to trust or to care and most especially not to love.
Then the proverbial light bulb flashes.
He hates the word epiphany – it gets misused more often than not. He figures it's more a matter of him being dense and suddenly finding clarity.
This might just be do-able. There might actually be a way to find some relief from the weight he bears.
Tonight he doesn't pollute his last glass of bourbon before bed with a shot of vervain. His taste buds thank him. A small thing, but he's marginally happier for it.
A few days later he heads to New York City and makes a few phone calls. Not long after he finds himself standing in front of a barred gate guarding a large and elegant old building set back in from the street. All the windows have their shades tightly drawn.
The gate swings open for him; he is expected.
Of the four remaining Original siblings, three of them are violent psychopaths. The fourth he doesn't particularly trust. But he still thinks Elijah will help him. Out of guilt, if nothing else.
After an intense discussion, he finds out he's right.
Life is simpler now. There are gaping holes in his memory, but he knows they are there for a reason and that he doesn't want to fill them back up. He just drinks and fucks and feeds, same as always. He doesn't make friends. He trusts no one. And he's cool with it.
He may be bored most of the time, but at least he's not miserable.
He just feels empty. But a little voice in the back of his head keeps telling him that being empty is better than having what he lost. Elijah made sure he remembered that he did not want whatever was taken. And he'll gladly take this mental quiet and calm with its sense of incompleteness over feeling like he's drowning in the deluge of his own thoughts and regrets every fucking second of every fucking day.
There's still no real purpose to his life, but he moves through it more easily.
He's sitting in a bar in Chicago one night, definitely well on his way to drunk, but nowhere near the level he's shooting for. The cute young thing on the stool beside him is keeping him entertained with banter and typical flirtation, when someone sits down on his other side and an all-too recognizable voice shatters his carefully constructed façade of normalcy.
Stiffening, he turns to look into those familiar green eyes. Eyes he would've been fine with not seeing again for another hundred years or so, considering how many times his brother has betrayed him since their human days. As always, those eyes look pained. Or maybe just constipated.
"What can I do for you?" he asks evenly, sarcasm dripping.
"Have you seen her?" his brother replies, his brow etched in its usual furrows.
He's confused; all narrowed eyes and tilted head. Does he mean Katherine? "Fuck, no. Why would I?"
His brother looks chagrined. "Neither have I. I've been wondering and worried, though. I'd hoped she'd found you."
He just shakes his head. None of this makes any sense but he really doesn't give a shit.
Ordering two more bourbons, neat, they drink together in silence. He knows his brother's pensive face when he sees it. In fact, it's become the expression he's most familiar with. The hot redhead has moved on; yet another thing he'll place the blame for squarely on his younger sibling's shoulders.
Finally he can't stand this fake camaraderie a minute longer. He stands up to leave.
His brother's fingers tug at the sleeve of his leather jacket. "I left her, too. You probably don't know that, do you? I wasn't who she needed…or wanted…anymore. I just couldn't deal. So I left, too."
And his face looks so fucking sorrowful that just for a moment he almost feels bad for the man. He has no idea what he's on about, but it's obviously causing him grief.
Then he shakes him off his arm and walks out.
He dreams sometimes. Fleeting, ephemeral images that scamper out of his grasp when he opens his eyes. He senses that they're important, that the hidden memories are trying to push forth and tell him something. But he also knows he doesn't want them. That much he remembers very clearly. He doesn't know who the 'her' was that his brother referred to that night, and he emphatically doesn't want to.
But the dreams keep coming, night after night. He remembers colours. A hint of a voice, maybe. Flashes of…something warm, soft. He knows that it hurt and he does not want it.
He's starting to worry it might all come back. And then where will he be?
More months pass.
They've gotten worse, the dreams. He feels like he's on the verge of remembering.
It terrifies him to the core.
Finally, he makes another decision. And he's stone-cold sober at the time. It's not even a tough one. It comes remarkably easy. So easy, in fact, that he wonders why he didn't think of it earlier (he doesn't know it wouldn't have even been an option before.) It's certainly a far simpler solution than begging to be made to forget.
He's staying in a rented cabin on a lake deep in the Ontario woods. Secluded. Relaxing. Where normal people would come to find some peace. But he's found he can no longer find any. And he's tired. So very, very tired.
It's about seven o'clock, but it's June and the sun is still high in the sky. He goes down to sit on the end of the dock, dangling his boots over the water. The flat mirror of the lake reflects fluffy white clouds. Ripples form at the touch of an errant breeze. Loons call each other in the distance. Orange and black butterflies dance over the reeds.
If he can't find peace here, he knows he'll never find it.
He twists the ring on the middle finger of his left hand with two fingers of his right and he thinks. He strains to remember what it was that tore that hole in him so long ago. It's almost there; he can feel it right below the surface all the time these days. Scratching at his mind like scrabbling fingers on the underside of a coffin of some poor soul who's been buried alive.
It's right there, but it's not there. Still hidden. And he's so fucking tired.
This can finally all be over – his infinite and infinitely pointless life - if he just takes this ring off right now and tosses it into the lake. All he has to do is pull it off his finger and send it flying. The splash and then the sizzle.
He doesn't believe in an afterlife, in heaven or hell. After nearly two hundred years of walking it, he knows both are here on earth. And he no longer wants any part of either of them. In the end all he wants is to stop wanting.
A footstep treads lightly behind him on the dock. He freezes.
Whipping around, he sees…Katherine? What the fuck? Why? All the hairs on the back of his neck rise and he jumps to his feet.
Wait. That look in her eyes. Soft, not hard. And she's crying. No, not Katherine. No way. A girl that could be her twin, though. He narrows his eyes and considers her. The scrabbling fingers are now scratching insistently. Clawing at his brain. It hurts, almost.
She meets his eyes and runs to him. Calling his name, she flings herself at him.
His arms remain at his sides but he realizes the corners of his own eyes are now damp. He's still not totally sure why. Inhaling deeply, it quietly starts to seep back into him as she holds him tight and murmurs his name over and over into his shirt. Her tears leave damp trails on his throat. Her lips…
Something clicks. He feels it the moment he smells her. Honey and wild jasmine and home and, oh, it's been so, so long. He pulls her tight against him and buries his face in her hair.
- FIN -
A/N Thank you so much for reading. Pretty please let me know your thoughts by leaving a review? I'd very much appreciate it. A humungous thank you needs to go out to CreepingMuse and JWAB for all their help with this one-shot.
I've written a companion story about what Elena's been up to all this time, called "Forever". If you liked this, you might be interested in clicking on my profile and checking out that one. I'd love to know your thoughts on any of my stories. :)
follow me on twitter or tumblr: elvishgrrl