Chapter 003 – Make Your Own Conclusions

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Chapter 003

Make Your Own Conclusions

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Sunday, May 30, 2010; around 1 AM

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Jeremy lay down in my spare room beside Bonnie around nine.  I check on them both periodically except for the two hours when I ask Elena and Caroline to watch over them so I can go to Elena’s house and tell Ric what’s going on without anyone else overhearing.  Since no one else is there, I tell him the complete truth instead of the half-truth I told everyone else earlier in the night.

When I return to the boarding house at around one in the morning Elena gives me a hug as I enter the living room and then immediately excuses herself to Stefan’s room to go to sleep.  A few minutes later Caroline goes upstairs and lays down in the room across the hall from my brother’s room despite all of Zach’s stuff still being in there.  It’s the only other vacant room with a made bed so I’m sure that’s why she uses that room instead of one of the other four empty rooms on that floor of the house.

About half an hour later, just after I hear Caroline’s breathing even out as she finally falls fast asleep, there is a hesitant knock on my front door.  Even from my spot in the doorway of Bonnie and Jeremy’s room, the scent of the shampoo and body wash that I know Liz uses reaches my nose.  Since she’s the only person I know in this town who uses the rare high-end bathing products, I cautiously head down to answer the door.  I’m acutely aware that the last time she showed up here she was planning to kill me so I offer up a small prayer, ‘Please, Goddess, let her be here for more peaceful reasons this time.’

She knocks again a moment before I open the door.  I smile and after looking past her and seeing as well as hearing that she’s alone I tell her, “Liz, I trust you mean no one in this house any harm this time around.”

She flushes at that and nods, “You, you haven’t acted how I was taught your kind acts so I have some questions.”

I nod and step aside, “Then please come in, but try to keep your voice low since I have a full house tonight and I’d prefer not to wake them.”

As she enters and then follows me into the living room she raises an eyebrow and asks, “Oh, who’s here?”

I smile as I walk to the alcohol cart and pour two glasses of the finest Bourbon I own and tell her, “Elena, Caroline, Bonnie, and Jeremy are all sleeping over tonight.”

She nods and says, “Oh, I knew Caroline was staying with Elena and Bonnie.  I just assumed they’d be at the Gilbert house.”

I nod and tell her, “Yeah, I was sick from a Werewolf bite so they were here watching over me, but I was cured so I’m better now though I thought it was too late for them to be driving across town so they crashed here.  I hope you don’t mind.”

She shakes her head no but says nothing as I hand her the drink I poured for her.  Then a moment later, all of my words seem to register and she says, “Werewolves are real too?”

I smile slightly and tell her, “Yes, though they’re pretty rare in this day and age since Vampires spent a few millennia killing as many as possible.”

She takes a good size sip of her drink then swallows hard as she frowns and asks, “Did you kill the one who bit you or do I need to worry about a Werewolf on the loose too?”

I chuckle and tell her, “No I didn’t kill him as he’s actually a friend of mine and his biting me was an honest accident.  They’re as a rule only dangerous on the full moon and this one usually locks himself up to prevent himself from harming anyone.  Things happened the other night that kept him from being able to secure himself but I’m confident it won’t be an issue again as the situation was a once in a lifetime type of thing.  Also so far as I know he’s the only Wolf currently calling Mystic Falls home so other than the occasional Wolf passing through on their way elsewhere the town should be safe from Wolves.”

She nods and we lapse into silence.  She’s fidgeting though and shifting back and forth on her feet as she studiously looks everywhere but at me so she’s making me leery, therefore, I remain standing but motion for her to take a seat as I take a sip from my own glass.  As she sits down, I ask her, “So you have questions?”

She takes a big swallow of her drink and then nods and says, “Yes, I, well all of the members of the council, were taught that Vampires are monsters with no emotions, but earlier my aim was off and you took three bullets protecting Jeremy as you pushed him out of the way.  I know, as you obviously did, that I would have killed him, and you protected him.  Then you didn’t attack me, you just asked Jeremy if he was okay, then he helped you get up, and I was so stunned that I let you both walk out of the bar.  None of the journals account for a Vampire willingly taking wooden bullets to protect a Human.”

I frown and tell her, “First of all, I protected Jeremy because he’s like another little brother to me.  Secondly, I didn’t attack you because despite what you might think of me I consider you my friend.  Friends don’t generally attack or try to kill their friends.  That said, thirdly, take everything you read in the council’s journals with a grain of salt.  Just as history is written by the victors those journals were written by people who considered my kind to be their enemy, so they had their assumptions and biases about us but no way to double check their facts and honestly most of them wouldn’t have bothered checking because their hatred ran so deep.”

I pause to take a sip of my drink and then admit, “Conversely we viewed them as enemies too so we weren’t too apt to share the finer details of our existences with these people either.”

I take another sip then tell her, “The most important thing I’m going to tell you is that just as not all Humans are good and pure, neither are all Vampires evil.  Don’t get me wrong, honestly most of us at some point do something that could be categorized as evil, but well Vampires have a Humanity switch that we can turn on and off.  When we first finish the transition the hunger is very strong and often that can lead to tragedy, which leads to guilt, which leads to the Vampire flipping the switch, which leads to not caring and therefore to evil acts.”

I pause again and look at her hard.  She’s making eye contact and seems to be listening so I take a calculated risk by telling her, “I’ll be honest I’ve killed a lot of people in my life time, some I didn’t mean to kill and for the record that number is actually pretty high and mostly from my first few decades while my control was still shaky.”

Her eyes widen and she seems slightly impressed that I admitted that so I continue to keep my story as honest and frank as I can, “The other thing to know is that Vampires feel everything more strongly, every emotion is magnified by the process that makes us a Vampire.  So I was a good and decent man when I transitioned.  Fundamentally I was a good and decent man as a Vampire too so the guilt I felt every time I accidently killed someone led me to flip my switch.”

I take another sip and then close my eyes briefly as I remember and tell Liz, “My wife is the only reason I turned it back on.  I missed my love for her so at her urging I turned the switch back on and then almost turned it back off immediately as the guilt came crashing down on me.  She implored me to work through the guilt and I wanted to love her badly enough that I allowed myself to suffer the almost debilitating guilt.”

I pause and she narrows her eyes before she asks, “So you could turn the switch off right now and kill everyone in the house?”

I shake my head, “No once a Vampire reaches somewhere between 200 and 300 years old the switch breaks.  Now usually it turns itself back on first and that was true for me.  I wouldn’t be able to turn the switch off no matter how badly I might want to, but truthfully I prefer to try to honor my victims by forcing myself to feel the guilt associated with the pain and death I’ve caused.  If I’m badass enough to kill someone I should be badass enough to deal with the emotional consequences of that action.”

Her eyes widen slightly but she’s nodding so I continue, “Though I’d like to point out one thing I’ve found the council seems to completely disregard, even though I could kill everyone in the house so could you.  You have a gun, you could kill them all in their sleep and they’d never see it coming.”

At her narrowed eyes and shake of her head I smile slightly and tell her, “Now we both know that that idea is abhorrent to you and you would sooner kill yourself than harm an innocent.  Truth of the matter is I feel the same way.  These days I only harm those who are a threat to me and mine and for the record everyone asleep upstairs is mine by my way of thinking as are Stefan, Alaric, Tyler, and Matt.  I almost died protecting several them from our Werewolf friend the other day and I would do it again even if it meant certain death because they’re my family and that’s what you do for family.”

I pause and shudder at the realization of just how close to tragedy we all truly came then I shake my head to clear the thought and tell her, “I mentioned that we feel everything stronger and you should note that that includes the positive emotions, which is why the Vamps who willingly turn their switches back on do it.  When the switch is off there’s no emotion at all, and between you and me that’s really not living, it’s just existing if you don’t have emotions to color everything.”

She’s nodding again as I pause and then clarify, “Now don’t get me wrong there are definitely Vamps out there who are exactly as the Founder’s Council believes all Vampires to be.  They have no Humanity and they kill for fun.  Some of them are even unfortunate enough to have their switches break in the off position.  So I’m definitely not saying all Vampires are good, but just as Hitler, who was very Human by the way, is not a proper representation of every Human to ever exist the Vampires with their switches off also aren’t a good representation of the species as a whole.”

I move to sit across from her and smile slightly as I tell her, “It’s been my experience that no one species has the market cornered on good or evil.  There are members of each species at both extreme ends of the spectrum and then the rest of the species falls somewhere in between.”

Her shoulders have been slowly relaxing as I speak so after taking a sip of my drink I tell her, “Stefan is one of the good ones and he drinks from animals because he has control issues and therefore decided the best bet was abstinence.  That abstinence weakens him physically, but he finds it easier to accept what he is if he eats thumper despite his diet making him weaker.  That’s the price he’s willing to pay to ensure he doesn’t kill innocents.”

She’s nodding again or still nodding so I tell her, “Now I drink blood from blood bags, no one gets hurt that way either.  I actually know a lot of Vampires who use blood bags as they prefer not to risk losing control.  Now I know the council would say that that blood could go towards saving Human lives, and I would counter that statement by saying it already is saving Human lives.”

She nods apparently agreeing with me so I say, “There are so many factors that go into how well someone can control their hunger and bloodlust.  Not feeding regularly is a huge factor.  The last Humans I killed were, I will admit, here in Mystic Falls because I had been locked up and starved for a week.  I deeply regret those deaths including Vicki Donovan’s but if you don’t feed regularly for whatever reason the hunger will take over and you’ll lose control.”

Her eyes widen and she asks, “You’re the one who killed Vicki?  Who starved you?”

I frown and cautiously tell her, “Yes, I killed her, which for the record I deeply regret.  And as for who starved me, that would be Zach mostly because he feared me and what I might do if he let me stay free.  Sadly, I wound up killing him that day too, which I also regret since he was family.”

She gasps at the news that Zach is dead but she seems to be taking the news about both Vicki and Zach well all things considered so I continue my lesson, “Another factor is our emotions, if we turn the switch off obviously we’re more likely to kill but heightened emotions can wear on one’s control just as much.  Anger is probably the most obvious trigger in terms of heightened emotions feeding the bloodlust.”

I pause and at the risk of freaking her out a bit I tell her, “Then there’s the Human’s emotions.  Not to freak you out or anything but just sitting here right now I can hear your heart beating and your blood pumping through your veins.  I can hear your breathing accelerate and your heart rate pick up speed, which both just happened as your level of fear spiked.  Your emotions have physical manifestations and I can hear or otherwise sense all of them.”

She’s stiff and clearly considering bolting so I tell her, “If you act like prey then my instincts are more likely to view you as prey.  Now don’t get me wrong I’m not blaming Humans you’re just as much a slave to your emotions as Vampires are.  Your instincts take over and tell you I’m dangerous to you and if I weren’t completely in control I could undoubtedly pose a threat to Humans.”

She relaxes ever so slightly and rolls her almost empty glass around in her hands so I smile and say, “The good news is the older a Vampire gets the more in control they are.  If they’re one of the good ones who has their switch firmly on and tries their best not to harm innocents, then with every year that goes by the fight gets slightly easier.”

I pause and consider how much of my story to tell her then decide I’ll save most of it for another time, “Now I’m not going to bore you with my history tonight though, since I do consider you my friend, I might be persuaded to share some of my long history with you at some point in the future.  That said, know that I’m pretty much the oldest thing in Mystic Falls right now.  I’m even older than all of the trees here and some of the water features in the area hadn’t formed yet when I was already considered ancient so my control is as close to a sure thing as that sort of thing can get.”

Her frown deepens and her stiff posture returns full force but she doesn’t say anything so I tell her, “Liz, whatever just popped into your head, I can’t address it if you don’t tell me what it is.”

Her brows draw together and I notice her hands trembling ever so slightly as she raises her glass to take a sip and then after she swallows she asks, “If age is a big factor in a Vampire’s control am I safe with Caroline living in my house?”

I sigh but smile slightly as I tell her, “Liz, your daughter has been a Vampire for months now and she hasn’t harmed a hair on your head.  In fact, she only killed one innocent when she first woke Vampire and that’s because we didn’t know she was transitioning so we weren’t there when she woke with the hunger and didn’t even know she needed to be taught control.  As soon as we discovered she had transitioned, Stefan approached her, and he offered to teach her how not to be a monster.  She latched onto the idea immediately, and she hasn’t harmed anyone other than those trying to harm people she cares about since.”

I chuckle then explain the laugh when she looks at me with a question written all over her face, “She tried the animal diet for a while but she had issues with killing the cute little fury things Stefan was trying to get her to eat.  Now she does blood bags and another little known fact about Vampires the age of the Vampire whose blood causes a Human to go into transition affects the new Vampire’s level of control.  I’m the Vampire whose blood was in Caroline’s system when she was murdered so her control is better than it would have been if I had only been a few decades old.  Katherine who turned Stefan and me was over 390 years old when she fed us her blood so our control was better than it would have been if she had only been 170.  And before you ask, I firmly believe Stefan’s control issues would have been even worse than they are if she had been younger.”

I smile gently and after taking another sip I tell her, “Your daughter is actually handling the changes within herself better than most.  She’s strong physically because of her sire’s age but in terms of will power, well I’ve only met a few creatures in all my years who had greater will power to do good than your daughter.  She was horrified when she killed her only victim and Stefan actually found her in the bathroom bawling because she didn’t want to be a monster.  You should be proud of her and yourself.  You and her dad raised a wonderful young woman who got dealt a horrible hand and yet has taken the cards dealt to her and turned them into a winning hand.”

I frown then cautiously admit, “I can admit that at first, when she was Human, Care was a little much for me but she grew on me and I proudly call her Sister at this point.  You don’t have to worry that your baby is off in the middle of the night killing innocent people.  She’s not and just as killing everyone in this house is abhorrent to you and me both that sort of thing is just as abhorrent to Caroline.  She understands what’s at stake and she fights to keep control at every moment mostly because you raised a loving and caring woman who genuinely cares when others are hurt or in pain.”

I pause to let that sink in and a moment later Liz looks at me with tears in her eyes and asks, “She was murdered?”

I nod and explain what I can without putting Liz in a position to get herself killed trying to avenge her daughter, “She was.  I gave Caroline my blood after the car accident her, Matt and Tyler were in.  I overheard as the doctors told you she only had a 20% chance of surviving, so her friends and I decided the best bet was to feed her some of my blood and ensure she’d survive.”

I frown and sigh, “Sadly, I made a bad call though when I left her unprotected in the hospital.  Honestly, I figured it was a hospital so she’d be safe.  What I didn’t factor in was that a Vampire who has been hunted for over 500 years would know she had my blood in her system and kill her in an effort to give the one hunting her what he wanted.”

My frown deepens as I lean my elbows on my knees before I take another sip and then tell her, “That came to a head a few days ago and I rescued Care and Tyler, unfortunately it put Tyler’s friend and Jenna Sommers in harm’s way and they were both killed in Care and Tyler’s places.”

She asks the obvious question as her nostrils flare and she flexes her fingers, “Who?”

I sigh and cautiously tell her, “A very old Vampire named Klaus, who now has my brother.”

Her teeth are bared and her shoulders are tense again.  She looks ready to go hunting Klaus so I tell her, “I need you to stand down Liz or your daughter will end up having to bury you much sooner than she should have to.  One he’s not a regular Vampire so he has much fewer weaknesses.  Two he’s much too old for a Human to stand any chance against him, especially since at this point, the only way to kill him is by tearing out his heart.  Stakes won’t do anything but hurt and piss him off further.  The good news is I’m older than Klaus by thousands of years so I can and will end him and rid the world of his brand of crazy.  But I need you to trust me on this at least; I will not rest until he’s dead, especially since he has Stefan.”

She reluctantly nods but tells me, “I’ll trust you on this for now, but if you need anything to help, even if it’s only information, please don’t hesitate to call me.”

I nod back, “I may very well take you up on that as I’m going to need to track them and I’m guessing there’s going to be a trail of bodies left in Klaus’ wake so you might be the only one who can help me do that.”

She nods again and then yawns so I smile and tell her, “You’re tired Liz and it’s been a long day for all of us.  Unless you have any other questions you absolutely need answered tonight I suggest you go home and get some sleep.  My door is always open to you provided you come with peaceful intentions.”

She nods and then blushes and stammers out, “I’m really sorry about that, I—”

I interrupt, “It’s okay Liz, you were taught we’re all monsters and no one had ever shown you any evidence that that fact was wrong.  You and John Gilbert were both good people who finally decided to get all the facts and make your own conclusions instead of taking someone else’s word for it that we’re all unredeemable.”

She catches my use of the past tense and asks, “He was?  Is he…?”

“Klaus needed to complete a sacrifice and his chosen targets, for reasons I’ll explain some other time, were Elena, Jenna, and a Werewolf named Jules.  Technically, the sacrifice was successful and all three of them died.  John brought his daughter back to life, but it sadly cost him his own life.  He knew that was the price he’d have to pay when he revived Elena but he did it anyway and left her in the care of me and my brother despite having been taught that all Vampires are evil.”

I smile despite the sad subject matter and tell her, “He did what you’re doing now.  He evaluated what he was seeing in Stefan and me, and he realized that not only do we not go around killing people but the three of us all had several things in common.  One we all love Elena and are willing to sacrifice ourselves to protect her.  Two, we want the same thing… for Elena to live a long, happy, healthy, and safe life.”

Now I frown and say, “I regret that we weren’t able to save him as I think he and Elena would have been close once he took his head out of his ass when it came to Vampires.  He also probably would have been helpful in helping Elena deal with all the grief that’s plagued her life in recent times.”

She’s nodding again as I take a quick sip of Bourbon and then tell her, “I mean she has, me, Stefan, Jeremy, Caroline, Bonnie, Matt, and Tyler.  She has Alaric too who is obviously going for sainthood since he’s not only taking her and Jeremy in but he regularly puts up with my bullshit and often manages to tone my shit down a bit.  However, none of us can replace John, Grayson, Miranda, or Jenna and I wish she at least still had her father in her life.  I wish Jeremy had him too actually, anyway, now you’re evaluating things and coming to your own conclusions.”

She nods and yawns again so I laugh and tell her, “I’m serious Liz, go home and sleep.  I know you’re conflicted about me but I want you to know that I consider you my friend.  The first friend I had had in a really long time and I regretted that I couldn’t tell you the truth, but I didn’t think you’d be willing to give me an honest chance.  I apologize for not giving you enough credit, but in my defense Vampire haters usually can’t see beyond their own bias and rarely change their minds.  Not always mind you since as I said blanket statements about entire groups of people are rarely always correct but anyways, I’ll be here to answer any other questions you think of some other time.”

I pause then tell her, “And just as you offered to help me find Klaus let me extend the same offer.  If you think you have Vampires or other Supes hunting in our town let me know and I’ll help in whatever way I can as I’m genetically programed to hunt, so I might be able to sniff them out more easily than the council members can.  Plus, I’m stronger and faster than any Supe who might show up, and I have contacts that would sooner kill you guys than talk to you but they’ll give me information with little argument.”

I pause then decide to be a little more honest so I add, “Also I plan to make it known to the Supernatural world at large that Mystic Falls is off limits when it comes to killing and I fully plan to enforce that so hopefully that will help lessen the number of wild animal attacks.”

She nods and as she stands and hands me her empty glass she says, “I’ll let you know the next time we have evidence of Vamps being in town, or well other Vamps being in town.”

I smile as I stand and then remember something so I say, “Great.  Oh and while I remember I’d like to continue supplying the council with Vervain.  As much as being able to be compel the majority of the council would make my life easier ultimately you’re all safer on it so when the new crop fully matures I’ll drop some off with you to distribute however you see fit.”

She smiles as her eyes pop open wide, “Thank you Damon.”

I can tell that my offer to continue supplying Vervain has actually had an unintended consequence and helped to strengthen her inclination to trust me despite what I am, so I smile and escort her to the door. “You’re welcome.  Oh and not to interfere in your duties as a mother but if you could let Caroline spend as much time as possible with us that would be great.  Truth is they’re all much safer the closer they are to me and I find myself rather paranoid anytime they’re out and about while Klaus is still on the loose, though I’m fairly certain he’s going to be leaving town soon if he hasn’t already.  Still if you could allow sleepovers and such as frequently as possible I’d sleep better at night and we might be able to kill him sooner rather than later if we’re not having to concern ourselves with curfews as often as we normally would.”

She laughs and tells me with a smile, “I’ll see what I can do, but the odds are in your favor since school is out now so if I were you I’d try to kill him before September when I will get stricter about curfews and sleepovers on school nights.”

I laugh back, “Duly noted Liz and for the record I’m hoping it won’t take that long but realistically it might take longer.  If you, in your sheriff duties, hear any talk of piles of bodies appearing in any kind of pattern or line let me know.  I hope to get ahead of the piles and prevent Humans from ever knowing what’s happening but I know I’m going to need a few piles first to figure out where he’s headed.”

She nods and says, “I’ll let you know what I hear.  Thank you, Damon, for not chasing me off tonight.  I feel better having some much needed answers and I think I will take you up on your offer for more answers if I think of anything else I don’t understand.”

I smile and offer, “Good, and at some point if you want to hear my history let me know and I’ll tell you what I can.”

She surprisingly sticks her hand out so I shake it and then watch as she walks to her cruiser and gets in before driving off.

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