Heroinebigbang: Help, I'm Alive
Fandom: The Vampire Diaries
Word Count: 5,000
Rating: NC 17
Characters/Pairings: Elena Gilbert, Alaric Saltzman, Damon Salvatore
Warnings major character death; allusions to mental illness and self-harm
Summary: Goes AU in TVD 3x11. Stefan feeds Elena his blood, and drives her off Wickery Bridge. But everyday life has to go on. Somehow.
A/N: OMG I actually finished this story! I still can't believe it :D. Great thanks for vergoldung, swirlsofblue, Amanda and Antonia for all the help <333. Credit for the story idea goes to magisterequitum, although I'm pretty sure what I ended up writing isn't exactly what she intended when she suggested this AU ;). Written for heroinebigbang.
Please, be careful with this story; it can be triggering. The rating is there for a reason, and the reason isn't sex.
Also available on: my fic journal AO3
Link to mix master post: here
Help, I'm Alive
Help I'm alive
My heart keeps beating like a hammer
Hard to be soft
Tough to be tender
Come take my pulse the pace is on a runaway train
Help I'm alive
My heart keeps beating like a hammer
Beating like a hammer
Metric, Help, I'm Alive
Elena doesn't think she'll die.
It's funny how a near-death experience doesn't really stick when you have it often enough. Clearly death doesn't want you if it keeps not happening for the most absurd reasons, spells and sacrifices, and people loving you way too much. It doesn't happen even when you want it, invite it with your arms wide open, it doesn't happen when you challenge it, not when you taunt, or scream, or plead.
Except one day, it eventually does.
When the car hits the water, Elena's spine breaks nice and clean, and she thinks that she can actually hear it crack before she passes out. It's a nice final thought to have, loud and sharp like a bang, a good way to go. Here lies Elena Gilbert.
(“Fuck, the shirt,” she thinks as the car goes down, the engine still running. She was damn fond of this shirt.)
Some time later, she remembers to tell Jeremy it was all a blur. Just a snap, and everything went dark before her lungs could get filled with water. This is how their mother had died, quick and neat, no ugly struggle for yet another breath. Elena prefers it this way.
(She starts vomiting before she can roll to her side, so she chokes a bit, but then becomes hyperaware of the grass beneath her fingers. The grass is wet. Or her shirt is wet? Either. Both?
The phone in her pocket is dead and filthy, covered in sand and something slimy. Of course it is. She still tries to dial a few numbers, Caroline, Damon, Bonnie, Matt, then Caroline again. Stefan is long gone, and she doesn't even think of trying his cell. There's something about him that she understands better now.
It's strange that she should be alone on a river bank, when normally there're so many people around her, a neverending buzz of voices. And yet Wickery Bridge is silent as it's always been, except it isn't – there's a car pulling over by the hole in the barrier. The driver immediately calls the police, and Elena can hear his shaking voice from her place below the bridge.
When one of Liz Forbes' deputies gets to her, she's washing the vomit off her shirt.)
They drive her to the hospital, how dreadfully anticlimactic.
She tries to resist, of course, to wave everything off and convince them to just take her home. But no one in their right mind would buy that she wasn't in that sunken car, in Stefan's car (she doesn't bother to explain how she ended up driving Stefan's car, doesn't bother to tell them she wasn't, in fact, driving; truth to be told, there aren't many things she does bother to say), so whatever. ER it is.
A young doctor checks her pulse, and Elena watches him grow very, very pale. It's hypnotic, the way his hands move erratically as his own pulse starts racing, wrist, neck, wrist, neck, more panicked with every passing second. She's actually starting to enjoy the show when Meredith Fell storms in and ruins everything with her air of general competence.
Meredith is no fun at all, way too focused and composed for Elena's taste, tragically effective when she should know there's nothing she can do. Elena is dead, and she wants someone to acknowledge it. She feels like this should be a profound moment: there should be trumpets, or drums, or people wailing in the background; something significant and adequately melodramatic. Instead she smells some sickeningly sweet detergent, and loses her entire respect for death.
“What happened?” asks Meredith as if they were in a movie (“I died,” Elena doesn't say in a rude voice. “I died, threw up, and now I have to figure out if I want to die again. How was your day?”), her hand gently squeezing Elena's. “Do you want me to call anyone?”
Elena reaches to her pocket to grab her car keys and storm out, but when she only pulls out her dead phone, she remembers she didn't drive here on her own, so she just stares at her wet sleeve like an idiot.
(Maybe if she washes the shirt right away, it won't be completely ruined.)
“Could you call Alaric?” she asks reasonably, waving her phone for emphasis. “Or is there a pay phone anywhere here?”
But Meredith is already looking for the number on her own cell, and Elena is hit with sudden disappointment that no one even ran any tests; she's in the hospital, clearly undead, a medical mystery – surely there should be tests? There were a lot of tests the first time she went off that bridge, and maybe it was even Meredith who ran them, Elena isn't sure (she wasn't supposed to care about things like that back then, so she went numb like a good girl). But now there are just a few words over the phone, and everything is done. She hasn't even been here for an hour yet.
“Are you going to complete the transition?” asks Meredith, still serious and professional. Elena doesn't question how she knows. It's Mystic Falls, and sometimes it's easy to forget that not everyone knows. She's a Fell, after all.
Elena wants to answer, she really does, but a vowel gets caught in her throat, so she lets out a laugh to clear it, a short, cutting sound, and suddenly Meredith doesn't look like she wants to talk anymore.
Alaric is slightly too drunk to drive, but Elena gets in the car with him anyway. There are no bridges on their way.
(It's not like he can kill her, she realizes. It makes her want to start laughing again, mostly because she doesn't fully believe her own thought.)
She feels a bit like a delinquent youth being picked up from the local police station by her angry dad. She sits in the back seat, and does a great job avoiding Ric's gaze, feeling very rebellious. It's not a difficult role to play: all she has to do is look straight ahead and avoid mirrors. Surely she can do that.
She tries to look the part, bites her lip and crosses her arms, but the car is so loud it makes her head hurt, so she slips a few times; lets vulnerability alter her features before she corrects herself.
Hopefully, Ric doesn't notice.
They drive silently, each of them drowning in their own thoughts as if there was nothing to talk about.
(“Oh God, Ric, I'm dead,” thinks Elena loudly, but after this sentence come other, “Someone did this to me,” and “What do I do now?”, and the very worst: “Why did this happen to me?”. She can almost touch the tension in the car; Ric is angry, sad, confused, all of the above. Every bone in her body is telling Elena to keep her mouth shut, so she focuses on the noise of the engine, on how it pulsates in her head, and makes her want to vomit again.)
Damon is pacing around her living room like a big, concerned mother hen. Elena wonders what it would take for him to lay eggs, but then she notices he's holding bloodbags in his hands, and suddenly the world becomes so real she stumbles. There's no choice, no choice at all, you eat or you die, so Elena stalls, because the real world is just too scary.
“How come you're here?” she asks suspiciously, but then she hears Ric's steps behind her, and she realizes how stupid a question that was.
Damon and Alaric, forever a fucking team.
Alaric freezes at the door, his eyes fixed on the blood bags, but Damon ignores him, focused solely on Elena; his hands are shaking as if he was stopping himself from touching her cheek. It shocks her to see how much he cares, real, all too real; real hands and real eyes, real teeth and real eyebrows, real muscles clenching very real plastic bags, splosh-splosh, too much.
Elena takes a good look at the whole scene, at the blood, fear and determination, and suddenly she wants to be petulant about all this. Life and death decisions get pushed far away, and now all she wants is to give Damon and Alaric a good scare, to throw a fit and make them beg her to feed.
She isn't sure why she doesn't.
It's a split-second decision, her hand reaching for a bloodbag before she can process her own reasons (fear, rage, greed, guilt, spite). Expectations slide the straw into her mouth, her gums start bleeding, and it's done. Alive, alive, Elena Gilbert is alive, as if she could ever be any other way. She feels like she'll vomit the second she stops drinking, so she drains the whole bag almost in one gulp. Her fangs emerge despite her clenched jaw and cut her lower lip deep, but the wounds close themselves in no time, how bizarre.
(When she's done, she discards the empty bag and bites down on her lip just to see if her body will do that trick again.)
Suddenly a strange force starts pulling her outside, and she fights it with all she has, grabs the table, tunes out the world, and tries to focus. Two voices are yelling in the background, but it doesn't matter, what matters is that she's not allowed to give up, not now and not ever. Giving up is not what she's expected to do. She isn't sure what she's resisting, and before she can figure it out, the pull stops without warning, and she's left gasping at the strange lack of struggle.
Alaric invited her in.
She can feel drying drops on her skin, and it drives her crazy. She smells of river water and vomit; sounds and lights around her are so sharp she wants to scream, She doesn't even care that she's dead (alive), doesn't care about anything but the noise, noise outside and noise inside, how can people function when there's so much noise?
Damon makes a small gesture, and Alaric moves behind them to turn off the lights, then the dishwasher. Only now Damon dares to touch her face like he doesn't care he'll get blood all over his hands. It's poetic, in a way, bloody stains and skin on skin. (He should kiss her now. It would make a nice story if he kissed her now.)
(She moves forward to kiss him herself, but he mistakes her intentions and captures her in a hug, how strange, he's never hugged her before. But now he's holding her firmly, reeking of fear and anger, how the hell does she know what fear and anger smell like? Unspoken questions float around his head, who, when, why, at least that's how Elena sees it. Above Damon's shoulder she catches a glimpse of Alaric grasping the kitchen counter quite helplessly, panic settling down as he watches them, and Elena closes her eyes shut, she doesn't want to look and doesn't want to hear. Damon's arms are wrapped around her like ropes, and she goes limp to give him an excuse to carry her upstairs. A silly line from some TV show gets stuck in her head, “Theresa falls up the stairs, Theresa falls down the stairs,” so she mutters it all the way up.
She feels like she's flying.)
Her dreams don't make a lick of sense.
She feels that she should dream of blood, rivers of blood spread beneath her so she can jump into them head first, then emerge like a goddess, thick liquid drying in her hair, and start anew.
(Instead, she dreams of basketball.)
Damon and Alaric are getting drunk in her kitchen, and Elena starts eavesdropping on them like she used to eavesdrop when she was little and her parents had friends over. It's either that or absurd dreams, so she chooses listening, focuses on the sound of bourbon poured into glasses, splosh-splosh, she's not invited.
Elena used to think Alaric sounded a bit like her dad, but now the impression is gone, wrong steps and wrong laughter, all the things wrong. She can barely hear Damon, apparently he really does move like a cat.
They talk in whispers, their voices loud and clear in her ears, but she's too unfocused to follow the conversation. She gets distracted by little things, Alaric'ring hitting the bottle or Damon downing a shot way too loudly. They're talking about her, she knows they are, but then she gets scared that they aren't, so she covers her ears, she can't listen, she can't know. If they're not talking about her, she doesn't want to know.
Soon she joins them, because staying in bed feels like admitting that she's still a child.
When she enters the kitchen, Damon shoots her a look she doesn't understand, something between a question and a challenge, she isn't sure which, but she knows she doesn't want to face either. It feels like the kitchen is filled with divided loyalties, and they urge her to pick a side, look at everything fairly and get over herself.
There's an elephant in the room, so she names it in his head (Stefan, Stefan, Stefan, Stefan).
“Stefan is not gone,” she should say. “He's just doing all those things to make us hate him.
But for some reason she can't, can't force her tongue to form sounds and can't make herself look at Damon, who, she's sure, is waiting for her to say something profound. So she turns to Alaric instead, reaches for the bottle and drinks, the situation is dramatic enough to warrant the lack of glass.
It's kind of funny to watch a terrified expression appear on Ric's face out of habit, and then immediately drop as his brain registers that Elena's inappropriate alcohol intake just stopped being a problem. Damon gets up to get her a glass – to do something with his hands, really. He can't even sit down again once he does it, so he opens the fridge and starts clearing shelves, throws out some expired yoghurt, a piece of cheese that's not supposed to be green, and a half-eaten tomato. He smells like cheap bourbon and expensive aftershave, Elena registers idly, but Alaric smells like blood.
They sit and drink until dawn like in some goddamned war movie, three silent, weary heroes getting drunk the night before the final battle, or celebrating a fallen friend, she isn't sure which. Either way it's such a terrible cliché, and it doesn't even annoy her, not anymore.
She should be surprised that her death turned out to be so cheap, but she isn't.
Next morning, she gets up early enough to wash her shirt.
Damon isn't there when she goes downstairs, gone God knows where, but there are a few bloodbags in the fridge, and three dirty glasses in the sink. It doesn't make any sense that he didn't wash them, the neat-freak that he is, but then it doesn't really matter. Maybe she never fully understood him.
(She never understood either of them.)
Alaric groans from the couch, so Elena puts the kettle on. Social workers would have something to say about her knowing how her history teacher, slash, stepfather likes his coffee when he's hungover, but, whatever. She likes the simplicity, three teaspoons of coffee and more sugar than any sane person could handle, Alaric's favorite mug, blue-and-white stripes, no...
(Some thoughts are better cut in half.)
“Do you want toast?” she asks over the noise in her head, and Alaric replies with the funny sound he always makes when he hasn't had enough sleep, like he was trying to say “fuck you,” but then remembered he was talking to a minor.
“I take it as a yes,” she adds in a chipper tone, toast, yes, toast is good, but there's something missing, of course, eggs, she's forgetting eggs.
She breaks a few into a bowl, splosh-splosh, like bourbon in a glass. She can hear Alaric's pulse from across the room, and suddenly she's angry that Damon isn't here anymore, that he left instead of staying to make more noise; she needs noise right now, and she can only make so much.
(She should've learned long ago that in the end, the Salvatores always leave.)
She loudly throws a frying pan onto the stove, and Alaric gets up as if he knew, puts on the radio they never use and turns up the volume so much Elena's head starts hurting, good, good.
They have their breakfast with Queen blasting from the living room speakers, oversalted eggs and oversugared coffee. Elena quickly learns how to avoid the little bit of sun that gets through their flimsy curtains. Mid-way through the meal Alaric gets up without a word, picks something up from the couch, and next thing Elena knows, he's covering the kitchen window with his blanket.
The sheepish smile he gives her makes his blood smell even better.
There are wooden stakes everywhere in the house.
Elena only fully registers them now, although she's pretty sure they've been here ever since Ric moved in. He whittles when he's nervous, when he's scared or sad. Elena isn't sure if this makes him feel any better, but he picks up his knife as soon as he's sober enough to hold it. His bag full of broken broomsticks and God knows what else lands on the kitchen table, and soon Elena's head drowns in the sound of metal on wood: long, even strokes that let her focus on Alaric's breath instead of his heart.
She sits on the couch for what feels like hours, watching him work, arms tense and head bent. Seeing him like that is both soothing and absolutely terrifying; she isn't sure why, and doesn't want to think about it too much.
“What are we going to do now?” she asks after a new stake lands in the bag.
(“You don't have to take care of me if you don't want to.”)
“Honestly? I have no idea.”
Elena wants him to hug her (she wants someone to hug her), but he doesn't move, so neither does she. Alaric looks scared, though not nearly as scared as he should be. There's a monster in his house, and he should be sleeping with a knife under his pillow, his clothes and bedsheets soaked in vervain.
“What if I try to kill you?”
When Ric doesn't answer, Elena has a nagging feeling that he's trying very hard to not ask her something in return.
Damon comes back in the afternoon, and Elena keeps all her thoughts to herself. She can smell blood on the cuffs of his shirt, and it's familiar, but then she can smell blood on pretty much everything right now, so, whatever.
(“Your brother drove me off a bridge,” she doesn't throw in his face, “What do you have to say about it?”)
Since Elena doesn't want to talk about the present, she tries to think about last night, but that doesn't work either. Everything is a blur, a nonsensical string of people and places, rushed and messy. She should've had it better, she thinks, but she also knows she deserves no better, so Elena, locked between contradictions, almost asks Damon if her death would've looked better if it'd aired on TV.
“How are you doing?” he asks, his voice so filled with concern it's almost dripping.
“Alive,” answers Elena, hoping she sounds neutral rather than hostile. “Undead. Whatever.”
“It's hard at first,” says Damon, his eyes finding hers. “It gets easier.”
“Does it now?”
(Right now he should look her in the eye and say something romantic, use the special brand of melodrama he sometimes sports when he's alone with her. Elena waits for him to suggest that they should elope now, eat a migrant village, and paint the world red, hit the road like some bloodsucking Bonnie and Clyde, and begin a life of crime. It feels out of character that he doesn't.)
“Have you called Jeremy?” he asks instead.
“And say what? 'Hey Jer, I'm dead, how was school?'”
“He's your brother. You'll have to talk to him eventually.”
“Have you talked to yours lately?”
Damon's words keep ringing in Elena's head not the way they should, so after sundown she puts on the shirt she died in, and heads out to the Boarding House. She needs blood, and she needs answers; both seem simple enough to get. Of course she doesn't take her new vampire speed into account (what a rookie mistake), so she arrives before she has time to figure out what questions exactly she wants to ask, but, nevermind. Making long-term plans never worked very well for her.
Stefan is sitting comfortably on the living room couch, cold and unmoved just like Elena expected him to be. She has no idea how he's still alive after Klaus realized that the priceless source of doppelganger blood is no more, but somehow he is, even if he doesn't look so good. Elena finds that she can't yell at him even now (old habits die hard), so she freezes in the doorway, and they stare at each other in complete silence, pretending this isn't the most awkward moment they've ever shared.
She goes back home without the blood.
Elena almost calls Caroline and Bonnie, then Bonnie again, and Caroline four times. She wants to hear them, wants to be twelve and have a slumber party, to giggle and eat apple crumble in bed. But if she calls them, she'll have to tell them, and then slumber parties will be so far away she won't even be able to imagine them, so she gives herself time.
(She remembers Bonnie's face when she first saw Caroline in transition, and tries very hard to forget it.)
Slumber parties and apple crumble, she repeats until her mind goes numb with effort. Slumber parties and apple crumble, grand plans for the future. Elena was going to be a writer, to write a novel to end all novels. It was supposed to be a little bit funny, and a little bit sad, with the heroine looking just like Bonnie, a fairy godmother wearing Caroline's face, and Elena herself pulling the strings from outside the story. She always wanted to be pulling all the strings.
Alaric finds her crying in the kitchen in the dead of the night, and hugs her without a word.
(It feels like holding a piece of marble.)
Elena wakes Ric at dawn, and informs him that they're resuming their usual training. He looks somewhat murderous, but he drags his ass out of bed immediately, picks up his bag of weapons, and heads to the woods.
Elena decides not to remind him that he's still wearing pajamas.
(When they fight, it's the first time in days she feels really good, vibrant and solid, struggling for every breath like she really wants it. Ric doesn't cut her any slack; he goes after her with full force, just the way she needs it, and Elena loses herself in a series of blows. She constantly keeps an eye on a piece of copper pipe they use instead of a stake, and freely looks for Ric's weak points that she could hit, thinks about blood pumping in his veins, and the smell of adrenaline soaking his t-shirt. The best part is that the idea that he can never kill her starts sinking in slowly but surely, making its way into her brain – Alaric can't kill her, because nothing can. She became a paradox, dead therefore immortal, and nothing, not even Wickery Bridge, can hurt her now. So she dodges Ric's blows one after another, and feels invincible; powerful, eternal, and hungry.
She could get used to this.)
So Elena takes her death, and she gets over it.
She picks up her phone first thing in the morning, calls Bonnie, tells her what happened, and asks for a daylight ring. They neatly tick off five stages of grief in five minutes, then move on; death really doesn't stick when you go through it often enough.
(No one understands this like Bonnie.)
There's plenty to do: laundry, dinner, an overdue English homework, and five more phone calls. Elena has her story all sorted out, and she sells it to Caroline and to Jeremy so beautifully it astonishes her. The open ending she made up is especially good; it adds to the mood, and builds up hope.
Alaric gives her a suspicions look when he sees her peeling potatoes, but he doesn't say anything about her lack of cooking skills.
“I'll try not to poison you,” she quips, and Ric's veins go loud with what she thinks is fear.
(Elena is tempted to bare her teeth and let him look, make him face her sharp fangs and bloodshot eyes. He smells delicious when he's frightened.)
“You better,” he answers in a strange voice.
For a split second it looks like Ric is struggling, the way (she imagines) people do when they're about to leave her. Then he shakes his head, picks up another knife, and starts chopping up some parsley.
She has Caroline and Bonnie over for dinner, gets drunk with them, and lets the world go on.
It turns out you still have to do homework after you die. (“Homework, Thursday. No excuses, unless you drop dead,” said Mrs Olivier two days before Wickery Bridge, the sequel. When Elena goes back to school on Thursday morning, for a moment she is really tempted.) You still have to clip your nails, do your hair, and iron your shirt. That's how Elena knows she'll never catch a break from being Elena Gilbert, so she only falls apart when no one can see her.
“You're good at this,” says Caroline when they're sharing a bloodbag at lunch, thank God for thermal mugs.
“But...?” asks Elena knowingly; she's heard this tone of voice so many times she doesn't even have to stop and think before she answers.
“Why does there always have to be a 'but'? What if there isn't a 'but'?”
“ Care... There is a 'but', isn't it?”
Caroline takes a deep breath before she speaks. She's really nervous, even though they both know what she's going to say, and Elena fully understands.
“Elena, you're really good at this,” says Caroline finally. “I mean it! The whole vampire thing? You're dealing like a champ! But are you okay?”
Elena laughs, because if anyone has the right to ask her this question, it's Caroline Forbes – the girl who knows how to fix your makeup to not let it show that you've been crying, and who knows exactly what “Are you okay?” really means.
(Now for the first time it occurs to Elena that what they both always do whenever they have a problem might not be the best way to deal with life.)
“I have to be,” she says with a shrug, and Caroline gives her an obligatory concerned look.
(They fix their makeup before they go back to class, but Elena doesn't reapply her lipstick in an act of rebellion that she can afford.)
“Death,” she texts Damon in the middle of the night, “is arrested development.”
(Normally, she would've written this in her journal, but now that she can't die, and she'll never have her journals discovered after her death, she needs to practice performing for live audience.)
He texts back something both deep and flippant, just the way people do in movies – Elena can always count on him to do exactly that. She doesn't have the energy for him to be anything more than a story, and it's good. Damon doesn't mind.
(She remembers just how he kissed her on her porch not so long ago, and that's how she knows that Damon really likes stories.)
He shows up in the morning with rolls for breakfast, and some old papers for Ric's research. Elena writes a really nice story in her head while she makes him coffee. There's romance, drama, and a happy ending – a simple thing with no structural traps, nothing but pure pleasure. Damon would love it if he could see her thoughts.
Next time, Elena decides, she'll write something about a girl who had all the power; a girl who could slay dragons, and who never let people get away with their shit. Yes, one day, she'll think of a story just like that, filled with friends, choices, and growth; a story that does her justice, so that she never never needs to write another one again.
For now, she makes do with the simple story she has, and, for better or worse, it is hers and hers alone.
(There's a plot twist, and some foreshadowing, but Elena doesn't see this yet.)
Elena puts her apple crumble in the oven, and goes upstairs for a minute to call Jeremy, or maybe Damon, she hasn't decided yet. She has no sense of finality, none whatsoever, and why would she? There's nothing special about this day, and there shouldn't be.
(Elena Gilbert is alive; watch her have an apple pie life.)
She hears footsteps in the hallway, and yells to Ric that dessert is almost ready, but he doesn't answer, so she shrugs, and keeps looking for her phone. The footsteps get closer and closer, but she doesn't pay them any notice.
Ric closes the door and faces Elena with a cruel smile; familiar, unfamiliar, and absolutely terrifying. Elena smells blood and apples, quite an interesting combination that she focuses on before she notices just how big the ring on Ric's finger is. In this light, it seems to outweigh his hand; it's tacky and bright blue, but Elena has to admit that it goes exceptionally well with wooden stakes.
When Alaric stabs her, he catches her with her hand clutching the hem of her shirt.