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~ The Vampire Diaries ~

 

Stefan hurried to class, binder under his arm, rushed and somewhat flustered.

A lot had happened the past couple weeks, there were too many things that needed to take priority. Damon killing Tanner, Damon killing Lexi, Elena finding out about Katherine, breaking it off with Elena, other vampire(s) coming to town. But Elena would always take precedence.

The bell had rung, he could already hear the lesson starting. He was not having a very good morning. He felt like a cursed (vampire) teenager; he didn't have a very productive night's rest, got shampoo in his eyes, Damon was being irritating, the bottled blood in the fridge had spoiled and there was no time to go out and hunt.

He stepped into class, hoping to just slip into his usual seat in the second row, four back, one back adjacent from Elena who looked both surprised and even pleased to see him, when the high school's new history teacher turned to look his way.

Both men froze for an instant as they locked eyes and the situation they found themselves in enveloped them.

"Sorry I'm late, R-- Mr Saltzman." Stefan recovered first, eyes flickering pointedly at the chalkboard with his name written. "It won't happen again."

Alaric cleared his throat. "See that it doesn't, Mr...?" he followed the teen's lead.

"Stefan. Salvatore." He hadn't given the man his surname when they met the first time.

"Well, Mr Salvatore. Have a seat. It's my first day so I'll give you a pass. I won't be so nice next time."

Stefan quickly took his seat to the murmurs and giggles of his classmates. If he had any blood to waste he wasn't sure if he'd be pale(er) or tomato-red.

"So, what are we learning?" Alaric asked.

"The '50's!" a girl called out helpfully.

"Right," Alaric quickly turned to the board and started to write. He attempted to get his heart under control and surreptitiously wiped the nervous sweat that broke out on his forehead. He'd slept with a teenager! One that could possibly have been sixteen at the time of copulation a few months ago. He was going to go to prison! "What can I say about the ‘50’s?"

Alaric spent the period avoiding looking at Stefan, and Stefan tried to ignore Elena's attempts to talk to him. Stefan never had a sexual escapade blowback on him before—that was more Damon's territory. But this was something that he was never going to go to his brother with.

...

As soon as the end-of-class bell rang, Stefan practically ran from class, barely holding back using his vamp-speed to do it. It felt like the longest hour of his life and that was saying something. He just needed to get away from Elena's pressing stare and Alaric's avoiding one before he decided that the better alternative was to start tearing into necks.

"Stefan. Stefan!" Elena did have to actually run to catch us with him back outside the cafeteria, on his own way to lunch in the woods behind the school. "Hey!"

He thought about playing deaf and keep going before she grabbed his arm and he sighed, reluctantly allowing the doppelganger to literally yank him to a halt in the grass. Of course she had nothing on him. He stared at the grass, scuffing his boot as he felt the continued warmth of her hand on his arm.

"Hey," she said. "I've been trying to talk to you all day." He could hear her heart pick up a little as she went to continue.

Stefan finally lifted his gaze to hers. "What I said still stands, Elena. We can't be together. I'm sorry." He shifted his arm out of her hand and he could see the disappointment flash in her brown eyes.

"But you're staying...?" Elena asked in confusion. Stefan nodded. "But if you're staying, we don't have to break up."

"I think it's better if we just stay friends, Elena." Stefan told her gently. "Your were right; it's messed up, the whole Katherine-thing. I shouldn't have let it happen in the first place--"

"You didn't let anything happen." She retorted angrily, taking a step back and crossing her arms over her chest. "I know you're a vampire but it doesn't change how I feel about you, Stefan."

"Elena," he sighed, stuffing his hands into his pockets.

She uncrossed her arms and lay her hand on his chest where his still heart lay. "It doesn't have to change anything. We have time, let's just talk about this. Please?"

Stefan licked his lips and rallied against the spell she would always have over him. "Look, I really need to feed." He nodded his head at the tree line behind the fence and put an end to their conversation. "I'll see you in class after lunch, okay?"

"Yeah. Okay, fine." She gave a short, reluctant nod, letting her hand drop away from his chest and he simply became a blur as he flitted over the fence and disappeared into the woods.

...

Stefan returned to school flushed and feeling a little less frazzled now that he had a belly full of animal blood. He actually had the luck to come across a boar. It was in it adolescence still, but large. It filled and sated him more than the five rabbits he would have only time to drink at such a short period.

He passed Bonnie in the hall going to class and nodded. Amusement lit up her eyes and she chuckled. "Hey, Stefan."

Bemused, he turned towards her. "What?"

She went on her tiptoes and reached towards him. "Or should I say... Tarzan?" she plucked a leaf from his styled hair.

He gave a little grimace of embarrassment and took the leaf from her, crushing it in his palm. He shot a glance around, but the other students passed them by in ignorance. "I don't think Tarzan eats his animal companions, Bonnie."

A grin on her lips, books clutched to her chest, she leaned forward conspiratorially. Stefan couldn't help but be pulled in. "I know. He'd spend every night eating out (of) Jane." She laughed at the shocked dance his thick brows did and spun around to disappear into the crowd of passing students.

Stefan chuckled to himself as he continued on to his next class with Elena. He and Bonnie had been a bit rocky when she found out that he was a vampire, but after feeding her his blood to save her life after she was possessed by Emily and Damon tore her throat open and rescued her from the tomb under the old Fell Church, their friendship had been growing on its own as the new witch discovered that he could be trusted.

The day was easier to get through with his belly full of blood, but by the expression Elena occasionally flashed him, he knew she wasn't done talking after their discussion at lunch.

~ T V D ~

Stefan managed to write a little in his journal but he was too restless to stay cooped up in the Boarding House that night. He couldn't focus on the book he was trying to read. The whiskey did nothing to settle the flight-y feeling. He wasn't in the mood for hunting. So he went into town.

He of course ended up at the Grill. Thankfully Elena and friends weren't present; he was not in the mood or mind to continue their 'talk'.

He loved Elena, he always would. But he just couldn't love her like that, he could never trust it, just like he learned of the real truth of his 'love' with Katherine after he turned and discovered she had compelled him.

His first thoughts when he pulled Elena out of the water at the bridge that night of the car crash and saw her face, pale in the moonlight, was Katherine followed immediately by Kill! before he let her frantically beating heart erase his vampire-rage to immediately consume him with guilt and shame. There was no way that this girl was Katherine Pierce, his sire was dead. So when she started to regain consciousness, he compelled her to forget him and then watched her over the summer to make sure that it truly wasn't Katherine; he wouldn't put it passed the vampire to somehow find a cure to vampirism. It wasn't. Her name was Elena Gilbert, she was human and by then Stefan had already fallen in love.

Luckily for the both of them, they had yet to have sex. Just some very intense make out sessions on her bed, and clothed heavy-petting.

He immediately spotted Jenna and Jeremy in a booth and didn't want to have some awkward family encounter now that he and Elena had broken up, and was just about to turn right around and leave before his eyes caught the sight of a bowed head of dirty-blond hair sitting alone at one of the cocktail tables.

Ric. Stefan worried his bottom lip but his feet were already moving him through the crowded tables to the history teacher. He was already sliding into the stool across from the man.

"Mr Saltzman-just-call-me-Ric," Stefan said lowly, shocked at himself for sounding flirty when he was sure that had not been his intention. Maybe he was just being paranoid.

Alaric’s head snapped up from where he had been engrossed in reading one of many history texts on Mystic Falls; though he came here for a reason he could not help but get pulled to distraction by such deep and rich history. His eyes widened as he took in Stefan across from him and shot a quick glance around.

"I didn't think I would see you again." Alaric admitted, sitting back stiffly and speaking quietly so there was no chance that others around them could pick up their conversation. "Least of all under these circumstance."

"Neither did I," Stefan admitted.

Alaric narrowed his eyes. "How old are you really, Stefan? Is it too much to pray that you've been held back because if you're just starting senior year then--" he couldn't voice the rest, too disgusted with himself.

"I was 17 when we met," Stefan told him; which was true. "My birthday was a week ago." Also true; technically he wasn't lying. That was why Lexi had come, that was why she was now dead. He shoved the thought aside. It was his human birthday, not the date that he turned. Alaric didn't seem very much relieved at the news. "I'm more mature than I look?" he tried to joke. It fell flat and he grabbed Alaric's glass of bourbon and threw it back like a seasoned drinker.

"You're not old enough to drink." Alaric instantly reprimanded and a look of horror came upon him and Stefan grimaced a little. If he had to be a vampire, fine, he just wished he could have turned at the perfect age like Damon; 24, legal for everything but becoming the president.

"I can't believe I just said that." Alaric uttered more to himself than anything. He gave his head a shake and set his shoulders, putting his hand over the now empty glass that Stefan still held on the table and looked at him firmly. "It wasn't appropriate the first time and it certainly isn't now. I am your teacher and you are my student and that is it. What happened--" he shook his head. "Was a mistake. I wasn't in a good place, I was lonely—it was a mistake, Stefan."

Stefan couldn't stop the ache in his chest. He was pathetic. It was a one-night-stand. If Alaric wasn't sitting right across from him, would he even be so hung up?

"Go home, Stefan." Alaric told him sympathetically. "Go to your girlfriend. Live your life."

"See you in class tomorrow, Mr Saltzman." Stefan said politely, properly, that mask slipping in place as he stood.

Alaric nodded. "Have a goodnight, Mr Salvatore."

Stefan stepped outside, looked left then right to see the coast was clear and flitted home, ignoring the call of blood and the urge to vent in the form of Ripping things—people—apart. He was passed those days and he refused to lash out in the very Damon-like fashion. When he got to the Boarding House, he took to the alcohol like a fish much to Damon's amusement; who tittered around him irritatingly, twittering about his brooding and split from Elena. He refused to rise to the bait, though he almost failed a few times before he finally drank enough to feel the effects of the alcohol through his vampire metabolism.

...

When Stefan went to school the next day, in history class he and Alaric pretended not to know each other and it was all just as well. Life went on. He had a rogue vampire with an Elena-fetish to kill and that was all the motivation he needed to put his focus elsewhere.

~ T V D ~

It was the school's '50's themed dance and Damon came up with the brilliant idea to use Elena as bait to draw out her creepy deliveryman vampire stalker. Damon went as chaperone and Stefan went with Elena as her 'date'.

Stefan tried to ignore the twist in his gut as he spotted Alaric talking with Damon and he spun Elena to the music. It wasn't out of jealousy but fear, the last thing he wanted was the teacher near his brother who happened to kill the last history teacher to teach him a lesson. So the teen knew that last thing he should do was react and show concern, warn his brother away; that would just pique the dark-haired vampire's interest.

It wasn't long before Elena was led on a cat-and-mouse chase through the halls and the night ending with Stefan staking the vampire who was unwilling to depart with the information of his other tomb-cohorts.

And if Alaric was a little more stiff with him after the dance, Stefan didn't make the connection to him finding out about Damon.

~ T V D ~

Stefan found out not long after when he was tasked to retrieve the Jonathan Gilbert Journal which Jeremy had loaned to Alaric after he struck the deal with Damon to help him get the tomb open and rescue Katherine on the promise that they would both leave and never return to Mystic Falls so long as Elena was alive and thereafter.

The school was closed, dark and empty at this time of night. Stefan may have been the undead, but it still felt a bit creepy as he made his way to the history classroom. His ears told him that he was alone, but the raised hairs on his nape contradicted it—he put more trust in the latter.

The classroom was unlocked and he quickly checked the teacher’s desktop and drawers. He cursed as he came up empty. Alaric must have taken it home with him. If that was the case then he'd have to wait until school tomorrow to get his hands on it. Stefan didn't think Damon would very happy with that.

The sound of compressed air had him spinning around at vamp-speed and grasping a flying wooden stake out of the air with hardly any time to spare.

"Ric?" his gaze darted to the stake in his hand, to what looked like a stake-launcher in Alaric's, to the face of the man himself. His mind wanted to refuse the obvious implication but it couldn't. Alaric knew. "You were gonna kill me?"

"You're a vampire!" Alaric growled, face twisted in misery. "That's all the reason I need."

Stefan schooled his expression of the hurt. He sped over and quickly disarmed the human, shoving him roughly into one of the desk chairs. "How did you know I was a vampire? How did you know you just weren't about to kill an innocent student?"

"You're Damon's brother. I made the connection."

"How did you know that Damon's a vampire?" he wondered curiously. If Damon realized Alaric still wouldn't be alive

Alaric swallowed the lump in his throat. "He killed my wife. I saw him... feeding on her. And then they both disappeared. I've been looking for him for almost 2 years, trying to find answers. Why? Where he... dumped her body."

"Oh, Ric." Stefan slumped back against the teacher's desk. "I'm so sorry. I didn't know."

"Why should I believe you?" Alaric demanded.

"I guess you have no reason to, but it's the truth." Stefan promised. "Damon's dangerous, Ric. You should stay away from him." Alaric said nothing more and the vampire sighed. "I just want the journal." Stefan whispered. "Jonathan Gilbert's Journal. Give it to me and I'll go." He stood up.

Alaric narrowed his eyes. "What do you need it for?"

"It holds very dangerous information that I can't let get into the wrong hands." He explained. When Alaric didn't answer he assured, "I'm not going to hurt you."

"You can't compel me, I have vervain."

Stefan shouldn't have been surprised at the accusation. "I'm not trying to compel you, Ric. I'm asking you. There are other vampires in Mystic Falls, dangerous ones and they're going to use the information in the journal to release 26 more into town. If that happens, they'll wipe all the humans out. Please."

Alaric swallowed. "It's on my desk."

Stefan shook his head. "It's not."

"Yes it is," he denied, getting up and standing around Stefan, he searched the desktop to no avail. "It was. It was here ten minutes ago." He turned to Stefan, "I heard something and went to get my stakes..."

"And when I came it was already gone." The vampire cursed and palmed his forehead in frustration, pacing shortly. "That means they got the journal! Shit. I don't know who they are, how many there are. I don't know what's in the journal--"

Alaric's arm suddenly shot out and he put a hand on Stefan's arm, stopping the vampire's frantic passing. "I made a copy."

"What?" he blinked.

Alaric nodded. "I can't believe I forgot. Earlier today. They're in my locker." Relief flooded Stefan and they quickly retrieved them from the man's locker. "Here." He handed them to the vampire.

Stefan fought the urge to hug Alaric, to crash their lips together hungrily. Alaric must have seen it on his face because he turned away. Stefan sighed in defeat, his fists tightened on the papers. "Thank you," he whispered sincerely.

Alaric turned back around but the teen vampire was already gone. Sighing in frustration, the history teacher and amateur vampire hunter carded his fingers through his hair and slammed the locker door shut. That had not gone at all as he had intended but definitely a lot better than he anticipated. Logan Fell had been his very first kill, he'd been very lucky with it instead of his skill. But when he thought he was going to have to kill Stefan...

He hadn't even realized that it was the teen standing in the dark until he had turned around. What the hell was going to happen now that Stefan knew that he knew, and with his brother, and now 26 more vampires?! Things just got a helluva lot more complicated than he had anticipated.

~ T V D ~

Stefan kicked in the motel door with more force than was truly warranted, but his seething mood said that it was.

His plan to burn the spell book buried in his father's grave to keep Damon and these other vampires from ever opening the tomb backfired on him with whiplash. Damon had cohorted with Anna for the journal and found them at the grave where he forced Elena to drink his blood and then threatened to kill her unless Stefan handed over the grimoire. Stefan did. Then he and Elena found out that Bonnie was missing, only for Anna to kidnap Elena with Damon's blood still in her system.

Stefan went to the only ally he had—Sheila Bennett, Bonnie's grandmother. Her locator spell led him here to some Motel 6 at the edge of town where he was out for blood.

The door splintered inward and he heard Elena and Bonnie shout in surprise, but their guard dog, a baby vampire, shrieked as he was hit with sunlight. He flailed into the shadowed recesses of the room.

"Stefan!" Elena cried in relief.

"Go!" Stefan ordered and tore open the curtains, flooding the room. He could hear the newbie's skin sizzle in the direct sunlight as he dove for protection between the two beds. The two teens rushed passed him. "I'll be out in a minute." He said.

"Please. Please don't kill me," the night bartender from the Grill begged.

Stefan tore a chunk off of the splintered door and silently stalked forward. He grasped the coward around the neck and lifted him up, where he struggled and cried out as the sun hit him through the window.

"You shouldn't have taken her. You shouldn't have taken either of them. You shouldn't have touched them!" Stefan growled menacingly, veins crawling around his green eyes threateningly. "This is a true mercy." And he plunged the makeshift stake into Ben McKittrick's stomach, up under his ribcage and into his still heart.

The new vampire grunted and cringed in pain, writhing for a moment in Stefan’s hold before he stilled, arms dropping, eyes glazed over, and he desiccated. Stefan dropped him, shut the curtains and closed the splintered door. He replaced the Do Not Disturb sign on the crooked knob.

"Are you two alright?" Stefan questioned quietly as he found them standing nervously at the end of the walkway. Elena immediately flew into his chest, wrapping her arms tightly around him. He wrapped one arm reassuringly around her. "Bonnie?" he reached out and put a hand on the witch's shoulder, squeezing it in concern. "Okay?"

"Yeah." She gave a small nod and him a grateful look. "They wanted me to do the spell to open the tomb and took Elena as leverage to make sure that I did it."

Stefan rubbed her arm comfortingly. "Come on, we need to get out of here before Anna comes back. I took care of the jackass easily enough, but she's 400 years old." He quickly led the pair across the lot.

Elena finally pulled back. "How did you find us?"

"Sheila did a locator spell."

"Is this Grams' car?" Bonnie said in surprise as they stopped at a car.

Stefan nodded with a small smile. "She lent it to me with the sole promise not to adjust the seat; said it was just right and not to mess with it."

Bonnie gave a light chuckle as she and Elena climbed into the back and Stefan behind the wheel. "That sounds like Grams."

"I'm taking you back there," Stefan said, pulling out into the street. "It'll be safe there. No vampire will be able to get you."

"I'm not just going to hide away," the witch protested.

"Damon's never going to stop trying, Bonnie." Elena tried to reason, remembering that taste of his blood as he got the grimoire. "It's not safe."

"I'm not going to let the likes of Damon Salvatore force me into hiding!" Bonnie declared firmly, fire in her chocolate brown eyes. "So if the only way to get him to leave us all alone is to open that tomb and give him that bitch, then so be it. He'll be out of our lives for good."

...

Stefan went through the motions of his shower, the water swirling down the drain grey and ash-y.

Sheila and Bonnie had managed to break the spell on the tomb, opening it. But Katherine was not down there with all the other desiccated vampires from 1864 like Damon had been lead to believe all these years. That meant that she was still alive, undead, somewhere out there. Stefan shuddered and shivered at the thought, while the realization that Katherine never loved him devastated Damon.

As they had all expected, Anna had made an appearance at the tomb for her mother, Pearl. She burned with the other 25 vampires in that tomb; imprisoned in their desiccated flesh for the last 145 years, only to meet the flames of hell via the flamethrower Stefan acquired. It was the deal he had made with Sheila; Damon got Katherine and the rest would perish.

It was one huge burden off of his shoulders. He and Damon were back to being the only vampires in Mystic falls; Bonnie and Elena were no longer in danger. His life could go back to relative normality and it finally left him the time to dwell on the dirty-blond.

He hadn't had the chance to talk to Ric since the encounter at school a few days ago. He wanted to help Alaric find out the truth about what happened to his wife but Stefan didn't think now was a very good time to question his brother about his one-night-stand's dead wife and draw attention to the teacher with Damon's no doubt volatile mood.

Stefan stepped from the shower, dried and dressed in comfortable pants and a tee. It was better that he stay here, keep an eye on his brother. Help if he could though he didn't hold much confidence in success. He quietly went downstairs and stood in the doorway, observing his brother with a bottle and tumbler, slouched in the middle of the couch, feet on the table and staring sightless into the crackling fireplace.

"Come to watch the show, brother?" Damon opened the floor, not turning to look at him.

"Damon," Stefan sighed quietly, stepping down the steps into the parlor room.

"I just know that you're enjoying this." He finished the bourbon in his tumbler and poured another from the bottle. "Because once again, Saint Stefan in all his wisdom—was right!" he waved his hand. "Katherine didn't care about me. She just used me as a play-thing. I was the poor sap who fell for it; hook, line, and sinker!" he drank again and when Stefan was still silent, turned to his brother. "Nothing to say, brother? This day really is for the record books."

"Seeing you hurt gives me no pleasure, Damon." Stefan finally spoke. "I'm not here to 'rub your face in it'. I know you truly felt for Katherine and I'm sorry that she wasn't in that tomb. But... maybe you can start new. Have a fresh slate--"

"I just spent wasting the last 145 years for the day the comet passed to open that tomb so I could free Katherine so we could be together." Damon informed him tartly, twisting to face him. "Let it go? I don't think so! If I did that because I thought it was love—what do you think I'm going to do now, brother?" he hissed, seething. "My new diabolical plan, track down dear Katherine—and make her suffer!" he swallowed the shot and slammed the tumbler and bottle on the table. He stood. "You could help me, brother. We could tear her apart together!" he was delightfully maniac at the idea. "What do you say," he circled around the couch, "Want to get your hands bloody with me, Stefan?"

"Damon," the teen vampire watched him warily, "I finished with Katherine a long time ago."

Damon snorted. "Says the man who dated her doppelganger!"

"Elena may look the same, but she is the utter opposite of the monster and manipulator that Katherine is!" Stefan snapped back in a wave of frustration at how stubborn and stuck his brother insisted on being. He gave a sigh and took a calming breath. "I didn't come down here to argue, Damon. I'll be in my room if you need anything," Stefan offered sincerely, turning away, hoping but knowing that his brother never would.

"What the hell could you possible give me, Saint Stefan? You are the cause to all my misery!" Damon flashed in front of the brunette and plunged his hand into his abdomen, wrist deep, with zero forewarning. He should have known better than to turn his back when Damon was in this mood.

Stefan grunt in pain and surprise, his knees shaking as he grasped his brother's arms for support. "Damon," he wheezed.

"So you can face a little agony with me, right, little brother?" He yanked his hand out, fist full as Stefan spluttered in distress, blood bubbling at his lips. "After all... we're in this together." He gave a too-bright smile and dropped Stefan's liver onto the wood floor with a wet plopping sound. "Goodnight, Stefan." He brushed off his brother's crushing grip easily, whereupon Stefan's knees gave out and he fell to the floor alongside his discarded organ, groaning. Damon strolled out and up the stairs, "If I need anything, I know just where to find you—cross my heart!" and he drew an X on his already soiled shirt with his baby brother's blood over his still heart.

Stefan was left on the floor in agony. He bit his lip to stifle the cry as he pressed his hand to the open wound in the hope of stifling the blood loss. Because of his animal diet, he didn't heal as fast and proficient as he would on human blood. What blood he had consumed that morning, he expended at the tomb and hadn't the chance to feed since making sure the Bennett witches and Elena (who he had to convince to stay from the Boarding House) got home safe—and by the time he got back he just wanted to wash it all off.

Healing from a complete organ removal was not an easy task in his condition and diet and he was fading fast as his body used its last reserves to heal him, curled up on the floor.

...

"Okay?" Alaric stroked his cheek and down his neck...

Stefan's eyes flickered behind his lids at the light, warm touches over his face, drawing him back before his eyes flickered open and he stared up into the worried brown eyes looking down at him set in olive-toned skin.

"Elena," he'd almost said Katherine.

When she would compel him to let her feed from him until he passed-out from the blood loss, he would often wake up naked in bed, his head pillowed in her lap, her strong fingers tracing the angles of his face, over his lips, down his throat over his fluttering pulse. This whole Katherine/tomb thing was bringing things back. But it was different when Elena did it.

"Stefan, thank god!" she gasped in relief and gave him a worried smile. "I was so scared when I found you on the floor with blood everywhere, I thought--"

"I'm a vampire, Elena." He reminded her. "It'll take a little more than spontaneous liver removal to kill me."

Tear glossed over her brown eyes. "It sure looked like you were."

"I'll be okay." He whispered reassuringly, reaching up to caressed her wet cheek; this wasn’t the first time she had cried, he realized. "I'll heal."

"It doesn't seem like you are," she told him, glancing down where she had bunched up her sweater and was pressing it to his upper right abdomen.

He reached down and moved her hand to get a look at it; she blanched and swallowed at the sight. Stefan grimaced but it wasn't as gaping as it was when he passed out. He put her hand back with the sweater, his over hers, squeezing it reassuringly. "It'll heal, it's just a big wound to mend on animal blood." He explained.

"What happened, Stefan?" she sniffed. "Was it--?"

"Damon." He sighed. "I tried to talk to him, but it was too soon. It was my fault." Stefan reasoned. "I knew how he was but I still pushed it."

"I know Damon is hurt, but that doesn't make it okay for him to attack you like this."

"This is just how Damon acts when he's hurt. He doesn't want to go through it alone, but is unwilling to ask for comfort, so he makes people hurt so they're on the same level as him. I'm used to it,"

"That shouldn't be something you get 'used to'." She responded.

"Maybe it's better if I give him some space," Stefan mumbled in acquiescence.

"I think that's a good idea," Elena agreed. "You can stay at my place,"

"Elena," he sighed, but it was in defeat. He let the human girl pull him up. "I need to feed."

She looked at him in concern. "Are you well enough to hunt?" it was the conundrum he faced. "We could stop by the butcher's for blood on the way home," Elena suggested.

Stefan's scrunched up in disgusted and she snorted cutely at the expression. Animal blood was an acquired taste, and that was when it was warm and fresh from the source. The blood from the butcher's was going to be cold and old, but he was out of options—he needed the blood.

"You need clothes!" she said suddenly and was already turning for the stairs.

"Elena, stop." He said and she looked back at him. "You don't even know where it is, you've never even been in my room." He started up the stairs. "Just give me five minutes?"

"Do you need help?" she offered.

He stopped and looked back at her. She's just worried about me, he hoped that was all it was—she did find him passed out on the floor with his liver ripped out after all. But he might have to re-enforce their break-up. Later. He wasn't sure he could deal with it right now. "I'm okay. Just let me change." She nodded and waited by the front door as he made it to his room, moving like an injured human.

Stefan stripped from his bloody clothes, cleaned away the blood with a cloth, grimacing. His wound was still open and weeping; he managed to find an old compression bandage under his bathroom sink that looked like it was from the '90's but it would hold until he got blood and healed. He slipped on some jeans and a black shirt in case of blood, grabbed an extra set and sweater before he headed back down. He didn't know how long he'd been out, but Damon was gone and he didn't run into his brother.

Elena stopped at the butcher's on their way through town, it was dark out but luckily still open, while Stefan waited in the car. She came out fifteen minutes later carrying a large paper bag carefully in her arms.

"Well, that's the one of the top 10 weirdest things I've done." She told him when she got back in the car, handing over the bag. "And that's saying something these days," was her tease with a wink of playfulness.

"Sorry." She just shook her head. He opened the bag and pulled out the container of blood. He wasn't sure what to expect, but it wasn't this. It was sealed in what looked like two litre plastic ice cream tub. He raised an eyebrow at her, this was not a practice he participated in.

"I know, but the guy said it was fresh of today." Stefan opened the container and they both grimaced at the scent. He wanted to drink it before they got to her house but-- "Oh!" he watched as she dug in her purse and produced as straw with triumph. "Will this help?"

Stefan took it and stuck it in the tub of blood. "Avoid the bumps," he said wryly, already drinking.

She chuckled lightly and drove responsibly. By the time Elena pulled to the curb outside of her house, the tub was empty and stained red. He put the lid back on and wrapped it back in the paper bag. They didn't move from the car.

Stefan sighed and lay his head back against the seat, his eyes closed as he ran his tongue over his bloodied teeth, cleaning it away. He ignore the sour tang in the back of his throat and instead focused on matching his breathing with hers in the quiet, already knowing that the blood helped exponentially. He was roused from his head as he felt the pad of her thumb brush the corner of his mouth; he looked over at her.

"Did it help?" Elena asked.

He sat up, lifted up his shirt, and removed the blood-spotted bandage. He twisted to show her the blood-stained skin of his torso, that was otherwise unblemished. She reached out and traced her fingers gently over the skin, making the newly healed skin jump out with goosebumps.

She gave a sigh of relief as she pulled back and he dropped his shirt. "I was worried when it wasn't healing," Elena admitted.

"The blood did what it was supposed to. Thank you, Elena." Stefan whispered. "It still aches, but that'll be gone in a few hours too."

"I'm glad I could help," she said honestly. "So, ready to sneak in?" she grinned mischievously.

He chuckled. "I think I've been a bad influence on you, Elena Gilbert."

He easily slipped up the stairs through the front door and to her room. She closed the door behind her. She went to her bed, and pointedly tossed the blanket back.

"Elena--"

"Stefan, you need the rest." She told him sternly.

He was dead on his feet, despite the blood, no pun intended. And don't forget emotionally exhausted. "Thank you." He said.

She stood there for a moment. "Right," she said awkwardly, pointing at her joint bathroom with Jeremy. "I'll just--" she grabbed some clothes and went to the bathroom, closing the door behind her and giving him some privacy as she got ready for bed herself.

Stefan took off his shoes and socks, and slipped out of his jeans and into sleep pants. He slipped under the covers. He slept over a couple times when they were a couple, but it had been strictly sleep between them and always when some vampire was out for her because of her likeness to Katherine.

Stefan sighed. If only he could have been born in the 21st century with Elena instead of being caught in Katherine's claws in the 19th.

"Hey, you okay?" Elena whispered in concern, leaning over the side of her bed to touch his shoulder. Stefan looked at her almost in surprise; he'd been so in his head that he hadn't heard her leave the bathroom. "Talk to me, Stefan. You know you can tell me anything." She sat on the empty space on the other side of the bed, her knees tucked under her as she faced him.

"I know that I've overly complicated your life, Elena." Stefan admitted sadly after a moment. "Now that the tomb vampires aren't a problem--"

"No!" she told him firmly, cutting him off, knowing exactly where he was going. "The danger was always there, Stefan, whether you came back to Mystic Falls or not. I'll still look like her, be mistaken for her, be her bloodline whether you stay or not. I'm still alive because of you, Stef. You were saving me before I even realized it."

"I wish I could be human for you, Elena." He whispered, sinking down into the bed and looking at her regretfully. "You deserve more than that, better than me. Better than this."

"I love you, Stefan. I know you love me, too, and as much as I wish we were still together, that's not what you want. I'm not going to resent you your feelings. But I would rather have you as my friend then not have you in my life, you're too important to me." She caressed his cheek. "Please."

He looked into her caring eyes and nodded. "Okay."

She lay down, turning off the lamp. And almost like it was rhythm, he opened his arm to her and she shifted to his side, laying her head on his chest over his still heart. He thought they both needed the comfort, the connection, the relief that the other was alright right now.

His worries didn't hold him awake as he fell asleep to the beat of her heart and rhythm of her breaths.

...

The soft murmur of voices guided Stefan smoothly towards wakefulness; there was no rush or urgency. He stirred lightly and nuzzled back into Elena's pillow, able to smell the faint scent of her shampoo.

"Hey, Sleepy Head." Elena teased him.

"Mm." Was his only response. He may be a 162 years in total, but he was still a 17 year old boy. The scent of blood had the skin around his eyes tingling and mouth watering.

"I got breakfast in bed," she enticed him and he cracked his eyes to see her wiggle a bottle of blood under his nose. He was already reaching for it as he sat up in bed, taking a gulp and his hooded gaze landed on the owner of the second voice, standing next to Elena beside the bed.

"Bonnie's here!" Elena said brightly, waving her arms at the other girl. The vampire and witch shared amused looks.

It was nice to know that he had built a life here, with relationship that he trusted enough to leave himself exposed and vulnerable. Lexi was the last person he'd had that with; it was a relief to know that he still had it in himself to cultivate that still.

"It's a relief to see that you get bed head just like the rest of us," Bonnie chuckled. "And you're welcome for the blood."

"Thank you. How are you, Bonnie?" Stefan asked licking the blood from his lips. "Sheila?"

"The spell took a lot out of her; she's resting. But she'll be okay." Bonnie told him.

"Good. I was worried. You're doing alright?"

"I'm good, Stefan. I'm just glad that this whole tomb/vampire thing is finally over," she admitted. "For now, at least," was the wry adage. It was the weekend so that would give them all time to unwind before having to go back to school on Monday. Bonnie sat on the foot of the bed, a leg tucked under her. "So what are we doing today?" she looked between them.

Stefan raised his eyebrow as he continued to drink. "Are we doing something?"

"You promised you would give him space, Stefan." Elena reminded him gently but firmly. "You both just need a minute from each other."

"Damon got what he deserved if you ask me." The witch said sharply.

"Bonnie--" Stefan started, holding the empty bottle in his lap.

"No. Elena told me that he ripped out your liver, Stefan. Who does that?! You're his brother!"

How he wished that would just magically make everything between them alright. Stefan sighed, rubbing his eyes. "Relationships get complicated over the span of a 145 years, Bonnie. I've done things just as bad, if not worse than Damon." Needing something to distract him, he swiped his finger around the inside neck of the bottle, collecting the remaining traces of blood and sucked it off his finger. He set the bottle aside and looked up at the two teens and nodded at the foot of the bed to Elena.

Taking the cue, but slightly confused, the girls exchanged looks as Elena sat on her bed next to Bonnie.

"You already know that Damon and I were turned together," they nodded. "That we were trying to save Katherine but were killed in the attempt—that started our transformation—and believed Katherine perished in the fire at the church." They nodded again, questions dancing in their eyes, but they stayed silent and let him speak. "Damon was shot first," Stefan's green eyes grew distant as he was thrown back into his last minutes of truly being human and not some transmutative in-between creature, "Right in front of me. He was dead before he hit the ground. Was already gone before I could even cry out his name, let alone get to him. Shot through the back with a rifle. I was not as fortunate. The musket ball buried in my stomach," his hand fisted into the material of his shirt on his stomach over the spot of his first wound. "I lay on the cold ground, staring into the dead eyes of my elder brother for the longest, most agonizing three minutes of my human life—of my future eternity—as I slowly bled out."

Elena and Bonnie grasped hands as he continued: "But the next thing I knew, I was awake, I was alive, and so was Damon. I didn't understand it. Emily, who had saved our bodies, told me that Katherine had been compelling me for months to drink her blood and that Damon had been taking it willingly.

"Katherine was dead. Or as I knew it and Damon was set out to believe. We were going to allow ourselves to die, not complete the transformation, to just let ourselves fade away out of existence. But I was stupid, sentimental. I wanted to see father, say goodbye. Damon warned me not to go, but I didn't listen. I should have...

"I heard father talking to Jonathan Gilbert about the town record, telling him to put Damon and I's death as civilian casualties so as not to bring shame to our family for being traitors. That was what he cared about, not that we were dead, but the shame of why we were killed. How he was the one that killed us! I revealed myself and he called me a demon. I just wanted to say goodbye, to understand and he attacked me. I didn't know my own strength—and then there was just so much blood. I couldn't stop myself. It just tasted so good, made me feel so good! I didn't even care that my father lay there slowly bleeding out--" They gasped at the confession. Stefan gave his head a rapid shake to dislodge himself from the potent memory.

"I went back to Damon a vampire. I wanted it to be us, together, like it was before Katherine came into our lives. Brothers for eternity. I was selfish. I made Damon drink blood, made him complete the transformation. And so Damon made me a promise of his own..."

"An eternity of misery." Bonnie whispered.

Stefan didn't even realize that he was silently crying until Elena gently brushed the tears away, pulling him into an embrace. He allowed it, resting his cheek on her narrow shoulder and looked over at Bonnie. "Don't you see?" he asked the witch. "Damon loved her, he truly loved her and she was just using the both of us for her own entertainment. The favoured toys until something newer and shinier came along; forgotten in the move. She stole Damon's heart, his soul, and she poisoned it without care, she twisted it until it became something mutilated—and then she just abandoned him." He pulled back from Elena's hold, palming his face dry and looked at the both of them. "Damon has spent the last 145 years believing that Katherine was in that tomb, just waiting for the day that he could save the woman that he loved and they would walk off into the sunset—only to find out that love was a lie, that he had been abandoned and no one cared enough to tell him. His heart is broken, he's hurt, and there's nothing I can do to help him!" He pushed the blanket back. "Thanks for the blood, Bonnie. And thanks for letting me spend the night, Elena, I needed it; but I should go."

Stefan went to stand but four hands grabbed onto his arms, two on either and pulled him back. He looked in surprise at the two determined looking girls.

"Oh, no you don't." Elena said.

Bonnie nodded. "We're doing something today, remember?"

He gave them a wondering laugh—already feeling better for it.

tbc...

~ The Vampire Diaries ~