Home > The Fury (The Vampire Diaries #3)(7)

The Fury (The Vampire Diaries #3)(7)
Author: L.J. Smith

But she wasn't doing it. Because another part of her was saying that the town did matter. And because still another part was just terribly, terribly confused. So confused...

She felt a trembling begin deep inside her, and then she found she couldn't make it stop. Emotional overload, she thought, and put her head in her hands.

Chapter Six

"She's already made her choice. You saw it yourself when you 'interrupted' us. You've already chosen, haven't you, Elena?" Stefan said it not smugly, or as a demand, but with a kind of desperate bravado.

"I..." Elena looked up. "Stefan, I love you. But don't you understand, if I have a choice right now I have to choose for all of us to stay together. Just for now. Do you understand?" Seeing only stoniness in Stefan's face, she turned to Damon. "Do you?"

"I think so." He gave her a secret, possessive smile. "I told Stefan from the beginning that he was selfish not to share you. Brothers should share things, you know."

"That's not what I meant."

"Isn't it?" Damon smiled again.

"No," Stefan said. "I don't understand, and I don't see how you can ask me to work with him. He's evil, Elena. He kills for pleasure; he has no conscience at all. He doesn't care about Fell's Church; he said that himself. He's a monster-"

"Right now he's being more cooperative than you are," Elena said. She reached for Stefan's hand, searching for some way to get through to him. "Stefan, I need you. And we both need him. Can't you try to accept that?" When he didn't answer she added, "Stefan, do you really want to be mortal enemies with your brother forever?"

"Do you really think he wants anything else?"

Elena stared down at their joined hands, looking at the planes and curves and shadows. She didn't answer for a minute, and when she did it was very quietly.

"He stopped me from killing you," she said.

She felt the flare of Stefan's defensive anger, then felt it slowly fade. Something like defeat crept through him, and he bowed his head.

"That's true," he said. "And, anyway, who am I to call him evil? What's he done that I haven't done myself?"

We need to talk, Elena thought, hating this self-hatred of his. But this wasn't the time or place.

"Then you do agree?" she said hesitantly. "Stefan, tell me what you're thinking."

"Right now I'm thinking that you always get your way. Because you always do, don't you, Elena?"

Elena looked into his eyes, noticing how the pupils were dilated, so that only a ring of green iris showed around the edge. There was no longer anger there, but the tiredness and the bitterness remained.

But I'm not just doing it for myself, she thought, thrusting out of her mind the sudden surge of self-doubt. I'll prove that to you, Stefan; you'll see. For once I'm not doing something for my own convenience.

But I'm not just doing it for myself, she thought, thrusting out of her mind the sudden surge of self-doubt. I'll prove that to you, Stefan; you'll see. For once I'm not doing something for my own convenience.

"Yes. I... agree."

"And I agree," said Damon, extending his own hand with exaggerated courtesy. He captured Elena's before she could say anything. "In fact, we all seem to be in a frenzy of pure agreement."

Don't, Elena thought, but at that moment, standing in the cool twilight of the choir loft, she felt that it was true, that they were all three connected, and in accord, and strong.

Then Stefan pulled his hand away. In the silence that followed, Elena could hear the sounds outside and in the church below. There was still crying and the occasional shout, but the overall urgency was gone. Looking out the window, she saw people picking their way across the wet parking lot between the little groups that huddled over wounded victims. Dr. Feinberg was moving from island to island, apparently dispensing medical advice. The victims looked like survivors of a hurricane or earthquake.

"No one is what they seem," Elena said.

"What?"

"That's what Bonnie said during the memorial service. She had another one of her fits. I think it might be important." She tried to put her thoughts in order. "I think there are people in town that we ought to look out for. Like Alaric Saltzman." She told them, briefly, what she had overheard earlier that day in Alaric's house. "He's not what he seems, but I don't know exactly what he is. I think we should watch him. And since I obviously can't appear in public, you two are going to have to do it. But you can't let him suspect you know-" Elena broke off as Damon held up a hand swiftly.

Down at the base of the stairs, a voice was calling. "Stefan? Are you up there?" And then, to someone else, "I thought I saw him go up here."

It sounded like Mr. Carson. "Go," Elena hissed almost inaudibly to Stefan, "You have to be as normal as possible so you can stay here in Fell's Church. I'll be all right."

"But where will you go?"

"To Meredith's. I'll explain later. Go on."

Stefan hesitated, and then started down the stairs, calling, "I'm coming." Then he pulled back. "I'm not leaving you with him," he said flatly.

Elena threw her hands up in exasperation. "Then both of you go. You just agreed to work together; are you going to go back on your word now?" she added to Damon, who was looking unyielding himself.

He gave another of his little shrugs. "All right. Just one thing-are you hungry?"

"That's good. But later on, you will be. Remember that." He crowded Stefan down the stairs, earning himself a searing look. But Elena heard Stefan's voice in her mind as they both disappeared.

I'll come for you later. Wait for me.

She wished she could answer with her own thoughts. She also noticed something. Stefan's mental voice was much weaker than it had been four days ago when he had been fighting his brother. Come to think of it, he hadn't been able to speak with his mind at all before the Founders' Day celebration. She'd been so confused when she woke up by the river that it hadn't occurred to her, but now she wondered. What had happened to make him so strong? And why was his strength fading now?

Elena had time to think about it as she sat there in the deserted choir loft, while below the people left the church and outside the overcast skies slowly grew darker. She thought about Stefan, and about Damon, and she wondered if she had made the right choice. She'd vowed never to let them fight over her, but that vow was broken already. Was she crazy to try and make them live under a truce, even a temporary one?

When the sky outside was uniformly black, she ventured down the stairs. The church was empty and echoing. She hadn't thought about how she would get out, but fortunately the side door was bolted only from the inside. She slipped out into the night gratefully.

She hadn't realized how good it was to be outside and in the dark. Being inside buildings made her feel trapped, and daylight hurt her eyes. This was best, free and unfettered-and unseen. Her own senses rejoiced at the lush world around her. With the air so still, scents hung in the air for a long time, and she could smell a whole plethora of nocturnal creatures. A fox was scavenging in somebody's trash. Brown rats were chewing something in the bushes. Night moths were calling to one another with scent.

She found it wasn't hard to get to Meredith's house undetected; people seemed to be staying inside. But once she got there, she stood looking up at the graceful farmhouse with the screened porch in dismay. She couldn't just walk up to the front door and knock. Was Meredith really expecting her? Wouldn't she be waiting outside if she were?

Meredith was about to get a terrible shock if she weren't, Elena reflected, eyeing the distance to the roof of the porch. Meredith's bedroom window was above it and just around the corner. It would be a bit of a reach, but Elena thought she could make it.

Getting onto the roof was easy; her fingers and bare toes found holds between the bricks and sent her sailing up. But leaning around the corner to look into Meredith's window was a strain. She blinked against the light that flooded out.

Meredith was sitting on the edge of her bed, elbows on knees, staring at nothing. Every so often she ran a hand through her dark hair. A clock on the nightstand said

Meredith was sitting on the edge of her bed, elbows on knees, staring at nothing. Every so often she ran a hand through her dark hair. A clock on the nightstand said Elena tapped on the window glass with her fingernails.

Meredith jumped and looked the wrong way, toward the door. She stood up in a defensive crouch, clutching a throw pillow in one hand. When the door didn't open, she sidled a pace or two toward it, still in a defensive posture. "Who is it?" she said.

Elena tapped on the glass again.

Meredith spun to face the window, her breath coming fast.

"Let me in," said Elena. She didn't know if Meredith could hear her, so she mouthed it clearly. "Open the window."

Meredith, panting, looked around the room as if she expected someone to appear and help her. When no one did, she approached the window as if it were a dangerous animal. But she didn't open it.

"Let me in," Elena said again. Then she added impatiently, "If you didn't want me to come, why did you make an appointment with me?"

She saw the change as Meredith's shoulders relaxed slightly. Slowly, with fingers that were unusually clumsy, Meredith opened the window and stood back.

"Now ask me to come inside. Otherwise I can't.

"Come..." Meredith's voice failed and she had to try again. "Come in," she said. When Elena, wincing, had boosted herself over the sill and was flexing her cramped fingers, Meredith added almost dazedly, "It's got to be you. Nobody else gives orders like that."

"It's me," Elena said. She stopped wringing out the cramps and looked into the eyes of her friend. "It really is me, Meredith," she said.

Meredith nodded and swallowed visibly. Right then what Elena would have liked most in the world would have been for the other girl to give her a hug. But Meredith wasn't much of the hugging type, and right now she was backing slowly away to sit on the bed again.

"Sit down," she said in an artificially calm voice. Elena pulled out the desk chair and unthinkingly took up the same position Meredith had been in before, elbows on knees, head down. Then she looked up. "How did you know?"

"I..." Meredith just stared at her for a moment, then shook herself. "Well. You- your body was never found, of course. That was strange. And then those attacks on the old man and Vickie and Tanner-and Stefan and little things I'd put together about him-but I didn't know. Not for sure. Not until now." She ended almost in a whisper.

"Well, it was a good guess," Elena said. She was trying to behave normally, but what was normal in this situation? Meredith was acting as if she could scarcely bear to look at her. It made Elena feel more lonely, more alone, than she could ever remember being in her life.

"I asked Bonnie to come over at seven o'clock, if her mother would let her. It's probably her. I'll go see." Meredith seemed almost indecently eager to get away.

"Wait. Does she know?"

"No... Oh, you mean I should break it to her gently." Meredith looked around the room again uncertainly, and Elena snapped on the little reading light by the bed.

"Turn the room light off. It hurts my eyes anyway," she said quietly. When Meredith did, the bedroom was dim enough that she could conceal herself in the shadows.

Waiting for Meredith to return with Bonnie, she stood in a corner, hugging her elbows with her hands. Maybe it was a bad idea trying to get Meredith and Bonnie involved. If imperturbable Meredith couldn't handle the situation, what would Bonnie do?

Meredith heralded their arrival by muttering over and over, "Don't scream now; don't scream," as she bundled Bonnie across the threshold.

"What's wrong with you? What are you doing?" Bonnie was gasping in return. "Let go of me. Do you know what I had to do to get my mother to let me out of the house tonight? She wants to take me to the hospital at Roanoke."

Meredith kicked the door shut. "Okay," she said to Bonnie. "Now, you're going to see something that will... well, it's going to be a shock. But you can't scream, do you understand me? I'll let go of you if you promise."

"It's too dark to see anything, and you're scaring me. What's wrong with you, Meredith? Oh, all right, I promise, but what are you talking-"

"Elena," said Meredith. Elena took it as an invitation and stepped forward.

Bonnie's reaction wasn't what she expected. She frowned and leaned forward, peering in the dim light. When she saw Elena's form, she gasped. But then, as she stared at Elena's face, she clapped her hands together with a shriek of joy.

"I knew it! I knew they were wrong! So there, Meredith-and you and Stefan thought you knew so much about drowning and all that. But I knew you were wrong! Oh, Elena, I missed you! Everyone's going to be so-"

"Be quiet, Bonnie! Be quiet!" Meredith said urgently. "I told you not to scream. Listen, you idiot, do you think if Elena were really all right she'd be here in the middle of the night without anybody knowing about it?"

"But she is all right; look at her. She's standing there. It is you, isn't it, Elena?" Bonnie started toward her, but Meredith grabbed her again.

"Yes, it's me." Elena had the strange feeling she'd wandered into a surreal comedy, maybe one written by Kafka, only she didn't know her lines. She didn't know what to say to Bonnie, who was looking rapturous.

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