Don't Give Up, Give Up
The next day, Damon and Elena found themselves making the rest of the trip to The Windy City. With Damon's ultimately mad driving skills, it did not take longer than five hours until they reached an old rusty building that was entirely unfamiliar to Elena. This was not the case for Damon, however; the building looked just as sturdy as the last time he had been here. It was not too long ago, really. He had visited his brother in the 1980's and knew then that this place held more sentiment than Stefan had always let him on to believe. This was where his brother lived most of his glorious days and Damon was not one to forget.
"Damon, where are we?" asked Elena curiously. He led her upstairs, completely ignoring the curious look of the dazzled receptionist. Stefan's apartment was on the seventh floor and with Elena's slow walking it would take a while before they reached their destination. Damon had no trust in old elevators that the owner of this building seemed so fond of, so yes, they were taking the stairs. He was still in no mood for small talk so he opted to go on without a word. Elena knew better than to argue with him, so with a heavy sigh, she looked up into the eternity that the staircase seemed to take, and followed. She smiled as she realized what nice view she had, what with Damon's ass displayed so temptfully in low-hung Armani jeans. She almost let out a giggle, which Damon did not fail to miss. His vampire hearing allowed him to hear even the slightest intake of breath from Elena. Still, he ignored her.
It was only when they were right outside Stefan's apartment when Damon signaled Elena to be still and quiet. When he was sure that neither a heartbeat (other than Elena's) nor any other sound was audible to his ears, he pushed the door open and let himself in. Just as he had expected, nobody was in Stefan's apartment. He could not place even the faintest scent, not even a human's. The place looked completely deserted besides the old furniture that Stefan never bothered to store away or replace with modern ones. It almost looked as though nobody had resided here or touched anything in it in years.
"Great. Where could Edward Cullen be?" Damon could not help but sulk, now knowing that Stefan did not even bother to drop by his own apartment. Now how else would he find him?
Elena almost laughed at what Damon said, but stopped herself when she realised that she was about to laugh at her ex-boyfriend. It would be mean to do that, no matter how much she agreed that Stefan truly shared a lot of similarities with that sparkly vampire from that Twilight series. She had never bothered to read the series but she had watched the first movie with Caroline and Bonnie not too long ago. But now that she thought about it- yeah, maybe it was that long ago. She was absolutely busy with her own life now that she could not even find time to just relax and see for herself what fictional vampires were like. Damon had assured her that she had absolutely nothing to miss. He once admitted to reading the first book just so he would understand why girls all over the world were suddenly so excited by the thought of vampires. He concluded that it was a waste of time, and that was saying something because Damon had a lot of time to kill. "Really, vampires with glitters all over their body? If it happened to me, my dick would be so ashamed that it would probably shrink in size. Please," Damon had said, utterly insulted. "Besides, the guy broods a lot. He thinks being vampire is a curse, which is so far from the truth. Come on, look at me. It's cool not growing old. I like being the eternal stud." Caroline, however, had a different argument. Like most women in the continent, she thought that Edward Cullen was the most amazing guy. In fiction, of course. With every description Caroline had of Edward Cullen, Elena thought that maybe the author had stolen Stefan's character or something.
"This is Stefan's home in Chicago. He lived here since the forties or so," said Damon as he looked around, hoping for any signs of life or just, whatever.
Elena looked at every corner of the place in awe. The man she knew would not live in a place so simple and dull —so lacking of details. Stefan had always looked so sophisticated to her but this room just would not relate to the Stefan she knew. "This is where Stefan lived?"
Damon looked at her with a questioning brow. He understood that Elena was slightly suprised. He imagined that Stefan would not dare divulge information about his Chicago years to Elena. "Yup," he answered simply. Damon walked toward Stefan's mighty wall; that wall that Stefan had always been so proud of.
"What's in there?" Elena asked curiously. Damon had been standing right in front of it for a couple of minutes, wondering if Elena should see this.
"Are you sure you'd like to know?" Damon challenged. Now he felt absolutely certain that Elena would not like to see this.
Elena suddenly feared what was behind that door. If Damon had to contemplate whether or not she should see this, then she trusted him to know better. But she felt like she needed to know. She had to. With a firm nod, she braced herself for what Damon was about to show her.
Damon pulled the door open, knowing fully well that Stefan's favourite part of this apartment still held the same essence as fifty years ago. There on the wall was a long list of names, all written in red ink. There were about four long lists of names, and now Elena simply found herself clueless.
"What are they?" She asked, still confused.
"Just a list. Stefan's list," Damon answered. If there was an easier way to do this, he would have already done it. He did not want to see Elena hurt but somehow he knew that it was bound to come out sooner or later. Stefan was a dick and there was no denying his character.
"List of what?" Elena snapped, almost impatient to hear the truth.
"List of people that he killed. He was a ripper, Elena. Do you know what that means?"
Elena had always thought that Stefan was a good person. Of course she knew that he had a shady past that he insisted to keep a secret. She understood that. She never questioned the events that happened before they were together, knowing that what was truly important was the present. The last year and a half that she had shared with him meant everything to her, and to Elena there was no man better than Stefan. She had made him out to be someone whom she wanted in a boyfriend - the man of every girl's dream, to be exact. She had chosen to see only the good in him and decided that she would look past every flaw. She did not even realize when things changed. Suddenly she realized that the Stefan she knew never truly existed.
She eagerly browsed the pages of Stefan's diary, the one that Damon had clung to the previous day. With a little begging on Elena's part, she successfully managed to take it away from Damon. Okay, so she did more begging in the last hour or so. Besides, Damon felt his ears were about to fall off due to Elena's incessant asking about his dead fiancée. He decided that he did not want to talk about it anymore and since he knew that Elena would not stop prying, he handed her the damned journal. If she read Stefan's entries then she would find out what he already knew and she would ask him no longer. That was just as much as Damon knew, anyway.
Damon needed some 'air' so he decided to take a walk outside, leaving Elena by herself in Stefan's apartment. Elena was so absorbed in what she was reading that she did not even notice that hours had already passed by. She had finally reached the entry from January 12th 1864 before she heard heavy footsteps right outside. With a rapidly beating heart she quietly walked toward Stefan's wall. There was a tiny space in that room where she would fit, and hopefully the visitors would not come near.
The door outside opened and she heard their voices better this time. There was no denying the acceleration of her heart rate and she could only hope that neither Klaus nor Stefan would realise she was here.
Not now. Not without Damon.
She was not ready to face Klaus. Not Stefan. She planned on seeing them some time in the future but she did not think that it would have to be this soon. 'Oh God, I'm gonna die,' she thought nervously.
"Why did you bring me here, Klaus?" She heard Stefan ask in a bored tone. She had never heard him so monotonous before and hearing him like this, she found herself feeling all the pain and longing that she had for Stefan. What happened to him?
"You need a reminder of who you are, Stefan," Klaus said with a sadistic laugh.
"You think I don't know myself?" Stefan asked in the same tone that he had before.
"Let me show you," Klaus said as he tried to pull the door open, only to be stopped by Stefan.
Stefan knew what was behind that door. He knew what was on the wall. He had written it, after all. What he did not expect to see was a scared ex-girlfriend hiding just right next to that wall.
"Look what I found," Stefan said with a smirk. Elena shook her head pleadingly, wishing to all the living and the dead that Stefan would not tell Klaus that she was here. She found herself looking at Stefan, hoping to see her old Stefan in those green eyes. She needed to know that he was still there, that there was a chance that he would come back to Mystic Falls and be the same man that he once was. Again, Elena felt conflicted. Who was this man, really?
She held his eyes for more seconds, in what almost felt like hours to her, and there she saw remorse, pain, and love. He longed for her, she knew that now. But then he immediately realized that he was with Klaus now, that he left Mystic Falls to protect the people that he loved, including Elena.
Klaus left with Stefan after a couple of drinks in Stefan's apartment. All throughout their stay, Elena successfully hid herself in the small closet. It had been difficult, but Klaus was adamant to stay a while in Stefan's old home, perhaps hoping to remind him of his old glorious days.
Elena had heard them talk. The two men had been completely ignorant that they were just loud enough to be heard by passers by in the hallway. Even Elena had heard Klaus say the familiar words 'hybrid', 'werewolves', and 'army'. To an outsider's point of view they would have seemed as lunatics. That or they were completely drunk. Either way it was not like people would pay curious attention. This was Chicago; people minded their own business.
Elena let out a breath as she read the rest of the entries in Stefan's journal. There were a couple more left to be read before she heard someone else making way into Stefan's apartment. This time she was guarded, but still hopeful that it was anyone but Klaus or Stefan. She would have to deal with Stefan later.
"Damon! You scared me!" Elena told him about the visitors that came just about three hours ago. This angered Damon and made him realize that he had done a big mistake by leaving Elena alone. How could he be so stupid? By now he should have known by heart that Elena was never safe when left alone. He could not trust Elena with someone else but himself. Only he would protect Elena until the very last of his existence.
Elena silently cried in his arms that night, momentarily giving up and just letting herself feel the warm comfort of his embrace. She realized that she had had enough of Stefan and that perhaps Stefan left because he wanted to. There was a nagging voice at the back of her head, reminding her that Stefan had sacrificed and left Mystic Falls for Damon, that still he was the person she once knew. Stefan loved Damon. Stefan loved her. But how could he love Damon if he chose Katherine over his own flesh and blood? How could he love Elena if he had never really revealed his true self to her during those months they had together?
She did not know Stefan all that well, was her conclusion.
So when she felt like she had given the very last of her misery tears, she reluctantly pulled away from Damon and tenderly kissed him on the cheek. The sweet feel of her lips lingered on his rough, strong skin, ultimately sending shivers down his spine. "Thank you."
Damon had bought her a dress. It was a pretty baby blue-colored dress that hung perfectly on her magnificent body. He had asked her to wear it tonight. He then proceeded to tell her about his plans and how he planned to execute them play-by-play. To Elena's relief, she would not have to just stand back and wait for Damon. She had a part in this plan, too; she had a say. Elena would play her girlfriend part by convincing Stefan to come back with them to Mystic Falls. He told her not mess this up. His life was on the line and with a chuckle, Damon said she better make this work because he planned to live to see the day after 2012.
Elena stood weakly in a dark, deserted street, with a couple of cars parked nearby. Damon had told her to wait for Stefan here while he distracted Klaus inside a crowded bar. She counted seconds and then minutes passed. She did not think that it would take longer than ten. She looked at her phone and saw that twenty three minutes had already gone by. It was then when Stefan showed up, looking for her.
At first she tried to beg him to come back. She reasoned out with him, playing the depressed girlfriend part, just as Damon had told her. She did not have to pretend; she was already depressed enough as it is. She was bawling her eyes out but even with stained cheeks, she looked so beautiful to Stefan. He almost caved, allowing himself to be wrapped in her embrace. She was armed with Alaric's weapon this time and was ready to attack in three... two...
And failed. Stefan looked so angry now and Elena felt her heart skip several beats. She should not have waited, should not have been so hesitant. If she had used her mind rather than her emotions, Stefan would be in Damon's car now. Oh God, Damon would be so mad once he found out.
"What the hell, Elena?" Stefan exclaimed. "When will you understand that I left Mystic Falls because I wanted to? That I left because that part of my life is over? That I left because I'm already done with you?"
Elena felt the tears at the back of her eyelids, knew that they would roll down her cheeks soon. But instead of focusing on the implications of Stefan's words, she chose to dismiss his rejection of her.
"Okay, Stefan. I get it. But you don't have to come back to Mystic Falls for me. You owe it to Damon," she said passionately. She knew for a fact that Stefan had left Mystic Falls in exchange of the cure for Damon. Katherine had been so smug to say that to her face. Still it did not change the fact that Damon felt hurt and guilty for it.
Stefan smirked maliciously. Oh, so she's playing the Damon card now. "Damon, really? Have you two been close or something?"
Elena shot him a glare. It might not have resulted to her desired effect but she tried. She really hated his guts right now and would like to know about 1864. If he would not come home with them tonight, at least she would like to know the truth for Damon. Stefan owed him that.
"What did you do to Damon's fiancée in 1864, Stefan? What did you do to Elena?"
A/N: I borrowed the scenes from an episode in season 3. From this point onwards, it will take an entirely different route. You'll get some answers next chapter. ;)
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