Home > The Fury (The Vampire Diaries #3)(15)

The Fury (The Vampire Diaries #3)(15)
Author: L.J. Smith

Alaric let out his breath in a soft whistle. "Well, I can try to convince them, but-I don't know. Your principal is dead set on keeping everything looking normal. And it isn't as if I can give any rational explanation for wanting to shut it down."

"Try hard," Elena said.

"I will. And meanwhile, maybe you should think about protecting yourself. If what Meredith says is right, then most of the attacks have been on you and people close to you. Your boyfriend got dropped in a well; your car got chased into the river; your memorial service was broken up. Meredith says even your little sister was threatened. If something's going to happen tomorrow, you might want to leave town."

It was Elena's turn to be startled. She had never thought of the attacks in that way, but it was true. She heard Stefan's indrawn breath and felt his fingers tighten on hers.

"He's right," Stefan said. "You should leave, Elena. I can stay here until-"

"No. I'm not going without you. And," Elena continued, slowly, thinking it out, "I'm not going anywhere until we find the Other Power and stop it." She looked up at him earnestly, speaking quickly now. "Oh, Stefan, don't you see, nobody else even has a chance against it. Mr. Smallwood and his friends don't have a clue. Alaric thinks you can fight it by waving your hands at it. None of them know what they're up against. We're the only ones who can help."

She could see the resistance in Stefan's eyes and feel it in the tenor of his muscles. But as she kept on looking straight at him, she saw his objections fall one by one. For the simple reason that it was the truth, and Stefan hated lying.

"All right," he said at last, painfully. "But as soon as this is all over, we're leaving. I'm not having you stay in a town where vigilantes run around with stakes."

"Yes." Elena returned the pressure of his fingers with hers. "Once this is all over, we'll go."

Stefan turned to Alaric. "And if there's no way to talk them out of having the dance tomorrow, I think we should keep an eye on it. If something does happen, we may be able to stop it before it gets out of hand."

Elena tilted a doubtful eye toward Bonnie. "Well... it would mean missing the dance itself-for those of us who could have gone, I mean."

Bonnie drew herself up. "Oh, who cares about missing a dance?" she said indignantly. "What on earth does a dance matter to anyone?"

"Right," said Stefan gravely. "Then it's settled." A spasm of pain seemed to overtake him and he winced, looking down. Elena was immediately concerned.

"You need to get home and rest," she said. "Alaric, can you drive us? It's not that far."

Stefan protested that he was perfectly able to walk, but in the end he gave in. At the boardinghouse, after Stefan and Damon had gotten out of the car, Elena leaned in Alaric's window for one last question. It had been gnawing at her mind ever since Alaric had told them his story.

"About those people who'd encountered vampires," she said. "Just what were the psychological effects? I mean, did they all go crazy or have nightmares? Were any of them okay?"

"It depends on the individual," Alaric said. "And with how many contacts they'd had, and what kind of contacts they were. But mostly just with the personality of the victim, with how well the individual mind can cope."

Elena nodded, and said nothing until the lights of Alaric's car had been swallowed by the snowy air. Then she turned to Stefan.

"Matt."

Chapter Twelve

Stefan looked at Elena, snow crystals dusting his dark hair. "What about Matt?"

"I remember-something. It's not clear. But that first night, when I wasn't myself -did I see Matt then? Did I-?"

Fear and a sick sense of dismay swelled her throat and cut her words off. But she didn't need to finish, and Stefan didn't need to answer. She saw it in his eyes.

"It was the only way, Elena," he said then. "You would have died without human blood. Would you rather have attacked somebody unwilling, hurt them, maybe killed them? The need can drive you to that. Is that what you would have wanted?"

"No," Elena said violently. "But did it have to be Matt? Oh, don't answer that; I can't think of anybody else, either." She took a shaky breath. "But now I'm worried about him, Stefan. I haven't seen him since that night. Is he okay? What has he said to you?"

"Not much," said Stefan, looking away. " 'Leave me alone' was about the gist of

it. He also denied that anything happened that night, and said that you were dead."

"Sounds like one of those individuals who can't cope," Damon commented.

"Oh, shut up!" said Elena. "You keep out of this, and while you're at it, you might think about poor Vickie Bennett. How d'you think she's coping these days?" "It might help if I knew who this Vickie Bennett is. You keep talking about her, but I've never met the girl."

"Yes, you have. Don't play games with me, Damon-the cemetery, remember?

The ruined church? The girl you left wandering around there in her slip?"

"Sorry, no. And I usually do remember girls I leave wandering in their slips."

"I suppose Stefan did it, then," Elena said sarcastically.

Anger flashed to the surface of Damon's eyes, covered quickly with a disturbing smile.

"Maybe he did. Maybe you did. It's all the same to me, except that I'm getting a little tired of accusations. And now-"

"Wait," said Stefan, with surprising mildness. "Don't go yet. We should talk-" "I'm afraid I have a previous engagement." There was a flurry of wings, and Stefan and Elena were alone.

Elena put a knuckle to her lips. "Damn. I didn't mean to make him angry. After he was really almost civilized all evening."

"Never mind," said Stefan. "He likes to be angry. What were you saying about Matt?"

Elena saw the weariness in Stefan's face and put an arm around him. "We won't talk about it now, but I think tomorrow maybe we should go see him. To tell him..."

Elena lifted her other hand helplessly. She didn't know what she wanted to tell Matt; she only knew that she needed to do something.

talk about it now, but I think tomorrow maybe we should go see him. To tell him..." Elena lifted her other hand helplessly. She didn't know what she wanted to tell Matt; she only knew that she needed to do something.

Elena looked at him hard. "Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"But-will you be all right? I should stay with you-"

"I'll be fine, Elena," Stefan said gently, "Go on."

Elena hesitated, then nodded. "I won't be long," she promised him.

Unseen, Elena slipped around the side of the frame house with the peeling paint and the crooked mailbox labeled Honeycutt. Matt's window was unlocked. Careless boy, she thought reprovingly. Don't you know some-thing might come creeping in? She eased it open, but of course that was as far as she could go. An invisible barrier that felt like a soft wall of thickened air blocked her way.

"Matt," she whispered. The room was dark, but she could see a vague shape on the bed. A digital clock with pale green numbers showed that it was 12:15. "Matt," she whispered again.

The figure stirred. "Uh?"

"Matt, I don't want to frighten you." She made her voice soothing, trying to wake him gently rather than startle him out of his wits. "But it's me, Elena, and I wanted to talk. Only you've got to ask me in first. Can you ask me in?"

"Uh. C'mon in."

Elena was amazed at the lack of surprise in his voice. It was only after she'd gotten over the sill that she realized he was still asleep.

"Matt. Matt," she whispered, afraid to go too close. The room was stifling and overheated, the radiator going full blast. She could see a bare foot sticking out of the mound of blankets on the bed and blond hair at the top.

"Matt?" Tentatively, she leaned over and touched him.

That got a response. With an explosive grunt, Matt sat bolt upright, whipping around. When his eyes met hers, they were wide and staring.

Elena found herself trying to look small and harmless, nonthreatening. She backed away against the wall. "I didn't mean to frighten you. I know it's a shock. But will you talk to me?"

He simply went on staring at her. His yellow hair was sweaty and ruffled up like wet chicken feathers. She could see his pulse pounding in his bare neck. She was afraid he was going to get up and dash out of the room.

Then his shoulders relaxed, slumping, and he slowly shut his eyes. He was afraid he was going to get up and dash out of the room.

"Yes," she whispered.

"You're dead."

"No. I'm here."

"Dead people don't come back. My dad didn't come back."

"I didn't really die. I just changed." Matt's eyes were still shut in repudiation, and

Elena felt a cold wave of hopelessness wash over her. "But you wish I had died, don't you? I'll leave now," she whispered.

Matt's face cracked and he started to cry.

"No. Oh, no. Oh, don't, Matt, please." She found herself cradling him, fighting not to cry herself. "Matt, I'm sorry; I shouldn't even have come here."

"Don't leave," he sobbed. "Don't go away."

"I won't." Elena lost the fight, and tears fell onto Matt's damp hair. "I didn't mean to hurt you, ever," she said. "Not ever, Matt. All those times, all those things I did- I never wanted to hurt you. Truly..." Then she stopped talking and just held him.

After a while his breathing quieted and he sat back, swiping his face with a fistful of sheet. His eyes avoided hers. There was a look on his face, not just of embarrassment, but of distrust, as if he were bracing himself for something he dreaded.

"Okay, so you're here. You're alive," he said roughly. "So what do you want?"

Elena was dumbfounded.

"Come on, there must be something. What is it?"

New tears welled up, but Elena gulped them back. "I guess I deserve that. I know I do. But for once, Matt, I want absolutely nothing. I came to apologize, to say that I'm sorry for using you-not just that one night, but always. I care about you, and I care if you hurt. I thought maybe I could make things better." After a heavy silence, she added, "I guess I will leave now."

"No, wait. Wait a second." Matt scrubbed at his face with the sheet again. "Listen. That was stupid, and I'm a jerk-"

"That was the truth and you're a gentleman. Or you'd've told me to go take a hike a long time ago."

"No, I'm a stupid jerk. I should be banging my head against the wall with joy because you're not dead. I will in a minute. Listen." He grabbed her wrist and Elena looked at it in mild surprise. "I don't care if you're the Creature from the Black Lagoon, It, Godzilla and Frankenstein all rolled up into one. I just-"

"Matt." Panicked, Elena put her free hand over his mouth.

"I know. You're engaged to the guy in the black cape. Don't worry; I remember him. I even like him, though God knows why." Matt took a breath and seemed to calm down. "Look, I don't know if Stefan told you. He said a bunch of stuff to me -about being evil, about not being sorry for what he did to Tyler. You know what I'm talking about?"

"I know. You're engaged to the guy in the black cape. Don't worry; I remember him. I even like him, though God knows why." Matt took a breath and seemed to calm down. "Look, I don't know if Stefan told you. He said a bunch of stuff to me -about being evil, about not being sorry for what he did to Tyler. You know what I'm talking about?"

Matt nodded. "So it was your basic crap. I should have known."

"Well, it is and it isn't. The need is strong, stronger than you can imagine." It was dawning on Elena that she hadn't fed today and that she'd been hungry before they'd set out for Alaric's. "In fact-Matt, I'd better go. Just one thing-if there's a dance tomorrow night, don't go. Something's going to happen then, something bad. We're going to try to guard it, but I don't know what we can do."

"Who's 'we'?" Matt said sharply.

"Stefan and Damon-I think Damon-and me. And Meredith and Bonnie... and Alaric Saltzman. Don't ask about Alaric. It's a long story."

"But what are you guarding against!"

"I forgot; you don't know. That's a long story, too, but... well, the short answer is, whatever killed me. Whatever made those dogs attack people at my memorial service. It's something bad, Matt, that's been around Fell's Church for a while now. And we're going to try to stop it from doing anything tomorrow night." She tried not to squirm. "Look, I'm sorry, but I really should leave." Her eyes drifted, despite herself, to the broad blue vein in his neck.

When she managed to tear her gaze away and look at his face, she saw shock giving way to sudden understanding. Then to something incredible: acceptance. "It's okay," Matt said.

She wasn't sure she'd heard correctly. "Matt?"

"I said, it's okay. It didn't hurt me before."

"No. No, Matt, really. I didn't come here for that-"

"I know. That's why I want to. I want to give you something you didn't ask for." After a moment he said, "For old friends' sake."

Stefan, Elena was thinking. But Stefan had told her to come, and come alone. Stefan had known, she realized. And it was all right. It was his gift to Matt-and to her.

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