So I had planned to never split any of the years up into two parts, but unfortunately at first Elena wouldn't talk at all about what was going on. Once we figured it out though, she wouldn't shut up and she kept talking and talking and then she decided to take a certain part of the chapter in a completely different direction than originally planned.

I also realize I sound crazy saying that Elena was talking to me and helping me write the story but anyway…

I did like how it turned out either way, but I noticed I was only half way through the chapter and it was already above my average word length.

Due to this AND the fact that I can't really work on chapters much longer until after fall final exams, I am posting Part 1 of Three now (obviously) and Part 2 after my exams. Sorry for any inconvenience guys, but overall this will let you read what's happening next a lot faster!

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters in this story, nor do I own the chapter introduction quotes.

Sometimes reality has a way of sneaking up and biting us in the ass. And when the dam bursts, all you can do is swim. The world of pretend is a cage, not a cocoon. We can only lie to ourselves for so long.

We are tired. We are scared. Denying it doesn't change the truth. Sooner or later, we have to put aside our denial and face the world head-on, guns blazing.


It's not just a river in Egypt. It's a freaking ocean.

So how do you keep from drowning in it?


Three years since all of our mistakes.

It is fascinating how one simple event can trigger so many others within the blink of an eye. The butterfly effect; a butterfly flaps it's wings and causes a tsunami to wash away and destroy an entire village across the world. Just like that, millions of people look for the reason that everything they knew was taken away from them, but they will never know that it was the simple nature of a beautiful species that could have been so cruel.

In case someone can't figure it out I'll give a hint, my 20th birthday was the butterfly and my life became the village, but I have no one but myself to blame...

"Caroline!" I called up the stairs, annoyed, "We're going to be late!"

"I'll be down in a minute, I promise!"

I rolled my eyes, "There's something wrong when it takes the vampire longer than the human to get ready for the human's party."

I turned away from the stairs and jumped when I saw Caroline standing in front of me, hands on her hips.

"Someone's a little anxious to get to the Salvatore boarding house," She looked at me with a knowing smile.

"Of course I am," I said casually, "We only have an hour to go check on Stefan and make it to the Grill on time for the party."

She laughed, "You were with Stefan all day. Damon on the other hand you've seen for all of three minutes when you passed off Stefan-duty to come get ready."

I stared blankly at her, trying to feign confusion even if I knew exactly what she was getting at, "Your point?"

My point Elena is that you want to make sure Damon sees how sexy you look before every drunk woman at the Grill scratch each other for his attention." She said with way too much enthusiasm.

I felt my cheeks blush red hot as I adverted my gaze, "That has nothing to do with it." She smirked proudly as I continued, "Besides, Damon's not even coming tonight…"

That wiped the smirk off her face immediately, "Why not!"

I shrugged, "He said he would stay at home and watch over Stefan so I wouldn't worry about him somehow breaking out and attacking half the town."

That was how it had been for a while now since Stefan finally agreed to check into the Elena & Damon Ripper Detox Luxury Suit. Between taking classes at the college, my new job at the bookstore, and my unofficial job as Ripper Sitter, I hadn't had time to do much of anything. Damon and I took shifts watching over his progress and ensuring that he ate his vegetarian animal blood meals; Damon during the day while I attended my classes, and me during the night so Damon could go out for his vampire blood errands, council duties and whatever else he needed to do. Sometimes we both stayed in for the night, but the electricity and tension oozing from our bodies was absolutely overpowering. Often feeling awkward when I remembered Stefan in the basement, I would head upstairs and go to "bed" before anything could happen. Our lives had become more about Stefan and the town's safety than anything else, and Damon surprised me that he was still going along with it.

Caroline had been rambling while I was lost in thought and I only caught the tail end of her words, "…I mean… it's a wonder you haven't jumped his bones yet!"

Her comment caught me completely off guard, "Excuse me?"

"Well it's true," she shrugged innocently.

I searched my brain for some kind of coherent answer; what would even make her think such a thing… "I thought you hated Damon Caroline."

"Don't get me wrong he's still a huge dick, but he's different…" she paused thoughtfully, scrunching her nose, "Ish…at least around you anyway."

She grinned as I stared at her like she had grown a second head.

"And seriously," she continued, "Any bad boy like Damon that hasn't taken advantage of his brother's vulnerable ex-girlfriend for over a year now is really just a sweetie on the inside," she winked.

I blinked at a loss for words; did the council replace the vervain in the water supply with crazy pills or was it just me…

"So why haven't you?" she continued on her ridiculous rant, "Acted on your feelings I mean?"

I stared blankly at her, were we really going to do this right now. Her grin widened as she waited… I guess we were.

I opened my mouth to actually answer her, but I didn't really have one. I didn't even know…

"It's complicated Caroline," I sighed, giving up, as I sat onto the stairs.

She sat beside me and grabbed my hands, "Life is complicated Elena, but it doesn't mean we should deny and ignore the things that make it that way."

I sighed and dropped my gaze into my lap, "I know…"

"You know Elena," she began slowly, "Maybe Damon is the exact distraction you need to get out of this Stefan misery and back to being you."

My eyes widened, "No Caroline!" I hissed, "I can't use him like that! He's not the next best thing that I can play with until I'm finally ready to move on from Stefan. He's not some toy I just throw away after I find a new one!"

I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly through my nose, calming myself before I whispered the last of my thoughts, "He means more to me than that Caroline…" I trailed off, what did he mean to me?

She got off the stairs and crouched in front of me, locking her eyes onto mine. "Elena," she said seriously now, "If you're this worried about using him and hurting him because you're under the impression that he's simply 'the next best thing', then you're completely delusional."

Ouch. Thanks Caroline.

"Please believe me when I say that you are completely ready for this," she paused, letting me absorb her words, "You and Damon have been a long time coming sweetie, and I think it's time you try it out," She gently squeezed my hands.

"But Caroline –"

She cut me off, "No buts Elena. Just listen to your all-knowing best friend and you'll be fine!" She smiled gently as she pulled me to my feet, "Now let's get going, alright? You only turn 20 once!"

She let me grab my purse before pushing me out the door and into her car. Surprisingly we drove in silence, but I was sure she was letting me think about her words and what to do about them, and for that I was thankful.

I thought I knew what I was doing this whole time, but now I wasn't sure. I distanced myself to protect him from harm, to protect his steady heart from my unstable one, but was I right in doing that? Was I right in denying whatever was going on between Damon and me right after my eyes had been opened to it just because I was too scared to face the truth? Even after Stefan came back and I, more or less, literally slammed the door on our relationship, I still couldn't face reality. I still couldn't accept my feelings for Damon even though I knew they were there because I feared the unknown. The unknown and uncertainty that came as a package deal with the notorious Damon Salvatore.

Was I read for that leap of faith?

As we pulled up in front of the boarding house I felt my heart pounding loudly in my chest. I hadn't been this nervous around Damon in a very long time.

I looked over at Caroline and she smiled, "I'll be in the car,"

I nodded slowly before stepping out the door. Each step I took towards the boarding house represented something different.

Right. Wrong. Selfish. Selfless. Now. Later. Yes. No…

I opened the door and made a beeline to the living room, only to find the wrong brother by the alcohol.

"Stefan!" I breathed.

"Hello Elena, what are you doing here?" he said edgily.

"I was looking for Damon," I answered automatically as I searched the room, "Stefan what the hell are you doing out from the basement?"

He smirked slightly and took a couple of steps towards me, "Damon lets me out sometimes when you're not in the house as a reward for good behaviour."

I backed away from him, I hadn't spoken to Stefan without the concrete door between us since he checked into Vampire Rehab three months ago, and I didn't feel safe without it.

"Why not when I'm in the house?" I asked slowly as I felt the wall behind me.

He grinned as I saw his eyes roam my body and rest over the area of my very exposed neck, "Let's just say the temptation would be overpowering."

My breath hitched.

"You look beautiful Elena," he whispered as he licked his lips, "Delicious…" he trailed off as his eyes darkened.

Before I could even scream, a blur flashed past my eyes and Stefan flew into the wall.

"What are you doing?" Damon growled before grabbing Stefan and sped towards the basement.

I let out the breath I didn't realize I was holding as I stood frozen by the wall. How could Damon have been so arrogant to think that letting Stefan out and not even watching over him was a good idea! When I could move once more, I went to the couch, sat down and crossed my arms to wait for Damon.

"He didn't even put up a fight," Damon said as he entered the room, "He did tell me to tell you he was sorry thought, and that it was just the cravings talking."

I scoffed as he poured a drink, "Maybe if Steffie had drank his Bambi blood bags like a good boy when I gave them to him instead of pouting like a two year old he wouldn't have been so blood crazy," he shrugged before downing his drink and walking to sit next to me on the couch, "Either way, when I gave them to him this time he drank them without even whining about the taste." He smiled at me, "So how are you."

I don't think I could have stopped the outburst if I had tried.

"What the hell Damon!" I shouted as I got off the couch, "When did we agree that Stefan got day passes from Ripper Rehab!"

"Well it's not like you were supposed to be home tonight," he said as he got off the couch as well.

"So it's my fault I was almost sucked dry?" I hissed as I crossed my arms.

Damon opened his mouth to answer, but no sound came out as his eyes traveled down my body. "What the hell are you wearing," he growled.

I looked down at the deep purple mid-thigh dress and black pumps Caroline had bought me, confused, "My party dress?" What did my dress have to do with anything?

"You're wearing that to Caroline's?" he said slowly.

I stared at him, "I think the old age is getting to you Damon because I did tell you Caroline was throwing me a party at the Grill."

His eyes bulged, "You're going to the Grill dressed like that?"

I placed my hands on my hips, "So?"

"So," he growled as he moved forward and grabbed my hands, "Do you have any idea what kinds of people go to the Grill late at night?"

I could pick out the caring and concern behind the anger of his words, but I didn't understand why they needed to be there.

"Considering it's the only social establishment and bar in Mystic Falls, I'm going to say a lot of people," I answered sarcastically as I reclaimed my hands.

He rolled his eyes, "People like me Elena."

I snorted, "So you mean the town has all turned into Jerky Vampire Assholes?"

I saw a smirk pass across his face before he looked at me seriously, "No Elena. People like me that will take one look at you tonight and they will never be able to get over how beautiful and sexy you look in that dress."

My breath hitched in my throat and my heart skipped a beat. Did he just say that? His eyes bore deep into mine, as if they were searching my soul. I felt my insides warm and squirm simply from the intensity of his gaze.

"And unlike me," he continued as both of his hands cupped my face, "They won't understand what you're going through. They won't understand that even if you are the strongest person they've ever met, that you're not strong enough to let go of Stefan so easily. They won't appreciate every moment they have with you even if they're only a friend. And they sure as hell will never love you the way I love you."

I was absolutely paralysed; I knew this because if I wasn't my jaw would have been on the floor. I almost turned to mush and melted into his arms until my mind reminded me of the anger I was feeling three minutes ago. I should have been mad now from his words that meant no other man would be good enough for me except him, but I couldn't be mad because I don't even think he thought he was good enough for me either.

His thumbs stroked my face gently during the silence as he continued his assault on my eyes, was he waiting for me to respond?

I tried to tear my eyes from his sink pools but they held me still, mesmerizing me with the different shades of blue found throughout them. Only when he blinked could I drop my gaze and escape his trance, only now my eyes studied his lips. Slightly parted, I could smell the sweet stench of bourbon on his breath that intoxicated my mind, only to trap me once more. Adrenaline and lust rushed through my veins as I thought about what they would taste like. I bit my lip and, like a magnet, his eyes captured mine again.

Not a word had been spoken, but so much was said.

The man in front of me loved me, maybe even more than Stefan did, but I always thought I was keeping him at arm's length to protect him. The truth; he had been keeping me at arm's length to protect me, hoping one I would be ready to close the distance.

I breathed in deeply before I exhaled his name, preparing to step forward


"Elena what's taking soooo," Caroline stopped short as she took in our positions, "Oh…" she trailed off with guilt on her face.

I heard Damon groan in displeasure and it was then that I realised the distance between us had grown substantially. I must have pushed away from him…

Caroline quickly covered her eyes and turned on her heel, "I wasn't here! I didn't get out of the car! Pretend I saw nothing! Carry on!" she squealed.

I looked back at Damon, but his eyes narrowed as he watched Caroline run out the door. My mind now clear of Damon's influence, I knew I needed to get out of the house and think seriously about what I was doing. I grabbed my purse and made to follow Caroline out the door.

"Where are you going," he called after me.

I stopped at the door with my hand on the doorknob, "To my party."

"I can't protect you while I'm stuck here with broody Stefan."

I sighed and turned to face him and smiled, "I'll be fine Damon, I mean I think I did pretty well keeping you at bay when you first came to Mystic Falls right?"

He grinned and I was sure he was remembering all of his antics.

I turned away from him and opened the door. As I stepped outside he called my name again, "Elena."

I looked back at him, not entirely trusting the strength of my voice.

"Happy birthday."

"Thanks you," I whispered before shutting the door.

I ran quickly to the car and got inside as Caroline began apologizing profusely.

"Elena I am so so so so sorry! I thought maybe something happened because I could hear nothing coming from the house for a really long time except your heartbeat!"

I looked down into my lap and sighed, "Don't worry Caroline it was just a mistake. Let's just go."


"Please just go," I insisted again as I leaned my head against the window.

She started the car and drove to the Grill. The whole ride there I remembered very little of what I was thinking. Only one small sentence stuck out in my mind, so much meaning behind it.

They will never love you the way I love you.

What was I doing to us both?

Caroline parked the car before turning to me, "Do you want to talk about it?"

I shook my head.

She waited a moment, "What would have happened if I didn't walk in Elena?"

I rolled my eyes, so much for not talking about it.

"Please, I'm trying to help you," she insisted.

I sighed, "I was going to kiss him…" Without a doubt I was going to.

Her eyes widened, "Would you have regretted it Elena? Would you have felt guilty that it wasn't Stefan?"

I thought for only a moment, "No." I said with confidence.

"Then don't beat yourself up about this," she said kindly, "If there is no guilt or regret for your actions, than maybe that means they are the right ones."

She looked me in the eye and I nodded slowly before she continued.

"But Elena, know that if that guilty regret ever does creep up, that maybe this thing between you and Damon wasn't meant to be, okay?"

She gave me a small smile before grabbing my hand, "Now I want you to just forget everything for tonight and leave all the Damon Drama in the car so we can go have a hell of a time at your party, okay?"

Maybe she was right; maybe I was ready for this.

Maybe I wasn't scared of the unknown and uncertainty.

Maybe I was finally ready to just face the world head-on, guns blazing; only thinking of Damon and me and not caring what others might think.


I grinned at her, "Let's get this party started."

Like I said, Elena had a lot to say.

I would like to thank everyone who added the story to their favorites and alerts, and everyone who reviewed so far. I was absolutely blown away by the amount of people who were reading my story.

I really hope you all liked the chapter and I would REALLY appreciate feedback about it.

Don't be a read and runner people, reviews are love :)