the vampire diaries
elena-centric, damon/elena, zombie apocalypse au, vignettes
→ i woke up this morning and decided i wanted to finish this. it's a character/relationship exploration and quite disjointed. i hope it's enjoyed! if i let it sit any longer i'd never have posted it. the title is a lyric from two small deaths by wye oak.
✇ features: all the character death, lots of death period, sex and sexual scenes, biting/blood play, elena's moral ambiguity, damon being a lovesick asshole, damon/elena/survival, and elena/guns
Every morning the same big
and little words all spelling out desire, all spelling out
You will be alone always and then you will die.
← "litany in which certain things are crossed out," richard siken
There’s a mass grave outside the church they stay at one night. Bodies upon bodies upon bodies, decaying and lifeless and heaping. She’s sweating off the dirt from a long drive under the baking sun; Damon’s unloading provisions and sweeping the area.
She’s stopped feeling. Or she’d like to think so after all this time, because the cool metal of the gun holstered at her side is being touched by calm, steady fingers, because she’s not looking for movement in the den of rot at her feet. She’s looking at sunken eye sockets and gaping jaws, the slack expressions of human faces that used to smile and frown, eat and laugh and twist into anger. When she closes her eyes at night she sees them: visages of her friends and family. Playing in a reel on the back of her eyelids, each image precious and blurring and slipping away.
She doesn’t hesitate when the time comes. Cocks the gun, aims between the eyes. She never looks any of them in the eyes. Not anymore.
They are in a small town miles and miles outside Philadelphia. The sky is truly opening up, angry and petulant and rumbling, swallowing what’s left of the world whole. (Elena thinks there has to be more, but so little to keep; she has to hold on and they have to keep moving. We always survive, she remembers saying, but the words slip through her fingers like rain.
No one else has had that luxury. More than ever she wonders if it’s a curse. Losing everyone she loved was one thing; losing everyone and anyone at all - )
It’s a quiet apartment building, and they chance it because the car roof leaks, and it’s cold, and it’s late.
Do you think this is such a good idea? is what she asks.
If you contracted pneumonia tonight in that fucking car and died, Elena; at this point? I’d kill you myself.
He ends up tearing the head off a toddler instead.
Elena barely hears the greedy, childish groans of rabid hunger before there’s a heap of too-small bones and rotting flesh on blood-splattered floorboards.
(It’s not the first child she’s seen die. Not the first monster or person or moving, undead flesh.)
There’s no warmth that night, but that’s not why she finally crawls into Damon’s arms later, something aching and raw still lodged in her throat, her thin fingers clutching at his jacket. He is solid, and he’s alive, and his arms hold her tight until whatever is coiled up inside of her spirals out and makes her tremble until the shadows fade.
There’s a drawing of a house and a sun peeking in the corner, like all masterpieces made by children, and it’s pinned to the refrigerator.
Maybe I should just eat them. The turn of Damon’s lips is impatient and predatory, the way his muscles move beneath the fabric of his threadbare white shirt is more so. She merely sends him a steady look that’s graced him countless times, in countless variations. The meaning is always the same: “No.”
No one will miss them, he adds with a dark, bemused bite. His icy eyes flash and widen as he leans into her space, all dirt and sweat and blood, and it’s enough to make her shiver even in the desert.
I’m not letting you kill the only living people we’ve seen in over a month, Damon, she says evenly, opening the battered suitcase housing her spare guns and ammo and toiletries.
We can’t trust them, Elena, he stresses in a hissing whisper against the side of her neck, his arm caging her between him and the trunk. Protecting her from the curious eyes behind them.
Her damp fingers slip over her semi-automatic, because everything is covered in a sheen of sweat in Nevada, everything except the place itself. They slip because she shakes, and her lashes flutter when his nose nudges below her ear.
We need them, she murmurs, and pulls out a magazine to slide it into place. She tells herself her eyes are stinging from the sand. There is no breeze. We both need them, Damon.
Sometimes she doesn’t sleep at all. They spend a few days in the hollowed backseat of a station wagon, somewhere south of Pennsylvania, and for two whole nights she listens to the wind weaving through the trees, feeling Damon’s breath condensing against the nape of her neck. Sometimes she thinks his arm around her middle, anchoring her to his body, is just that: her anchor, tying her inextricably to him, holding her thrashing and fighting to this world. (She doesn’t thrash anymore; she doesn’t fight him.)
What she imagines is slipping from his grasp, wandering outside, and waiting for day. She imagines the cool ground under her feet, the sprinkle of dew tall grasses would paint on her palms.
She never moves. Still, even free of losing everything, the last thing she wants is to die.
There’s not much they say on their drive west, and it’s scorching and water and food are scarcer the farther they travel past the Mississippi. Elena has buckets in the trunk she sets out for when it rains, and Damon’s been dining on any manner of animal he can find during stops.
(She would laugh over the irony, maybe, if it didn’t hurt to remember.)
He hates to leave her; she can tell by the pinning, sidelong looks he’s not always discreet about. Sometimes she has to press her lips together to keep from snapping under the burning heat of them. (She’s not going to disappear into thin air without his gaze; she’s not going to die if he’s not with her; she can look after herself.) But instead there’s a loaded M-1 and in the backseat he picked up outside Atlanta, and Elena leaves it close whenever he’s away, the safety off. She prefers the crowbar she keeps at her side. Less noise.
It’s just she’s sure he’s not above locking her in the car like a child.
It’s cold at night. There’s a fire, and its ember flames lick Damon’s grimy skim with brighter colors: warmer than the darkness and its shadowy blues. He’s not sleeping; she can feel it in the tenseness between his shoulder blades under her fingertips, in the way he pulls in a breath when she nudges her knee deeper between his.
It’s nothing new, their tangled limbs, and neither is the way she shifts into him. Cautious but brave, pushing and pulling and prodding when maybe she shouldn’t. It seems like lifetimes ago that this touch, them; what it wasn’t, what it was, it needed to be whispered and held close. She guesses in ways that hasn’t changed.
What? he murmurs with a familiar, sharp edge. It’s comforting, the agitation masking his worry.
Her lids are heavy, and so is his arm keeping her close. Like a pleasant weight. I like it here, she whispers, and it’s another truth, an unexpected one that lumps something in her throat. She keeps going, wanting to hold onto it. Not wanting Damon to respond just yet. I like being around people. That couple -- they have kids.
He’s quiet. The world is still. She feels him swallow, her cheek against his chest, and she closes her eyes.
(She’ll never have kids. There is no hope for life anymore.)
It doesn’t change anything, Elena, he finally replies, frustrated and only sorry that he’s not, because he knows. He knows what she wants. They-
-have the look, she finishes, because the man in charge is unkind, and brutal, and hardened. But there’s a yearning, sweet ache in her chest now. She’s selfish, she is. We’ll deal with it, Damon. When we have to, she reassures him, and it’s with an eager resolve. She thinks he still hasn’t made up his mind like she has.
But she wants kids. She wants laughter. She wants to talk about the weather. She wants neighbors and chatter and friends. She hasn’t cried in a long time. And his lips are warm and rough and sweet on her dry cheeks later, his fingers hot and searching when they slip between her thighs. There’s a inscrutable hardness (love) in his gaze until she trembles violently, writhing against him.
She doesn’t look away, and holds his hand until morning.
The first person they meet dies.
His name is Ben, and Ben is fifty-three years old. Ben was a car salesman from Kentucky, has a western drawl and a gap-toothed smile. When he laughs, he laughs with his entire body. Elena knows this because he still finds reasons to laugh. He carries a Smith & Wesson nine-millimeter and teaches Elena how to shoot. He reminds her of her grandfather.
Damon doesn’t like him. Damon doesn’t like anyone who could end up hurting her, and now that’s everyone.
You want to know a secret, cupcake?
Everything is dust and cans and ringing shots at their shooting practices, all easy smiles and Ben’s corny jokes. She’s curious at his conspiratorial wink and replies, Sure.
Ain’t nothing in this world you can’t get over by letting off a little steam, he proclaims. Go on.
She rolls her eyes and cocks her rifle.
He dies a week later saving her life. There’s not even enough left to reanimate. She digs a grave for the pieces until her bones ache and the ground swallows her up. She doesn’t let Damon help. Ben was wrong.
I don’t miss them.
It’s a confession, she supposes. She’s not sure if it’s for him. Maybe it’s for the haunted moans of the undead outside.
He doesn’t respond right away, but he hears her. Pauses rummaging through his suitcase to give her a look that says he knows better. He talks less now, she’s noticed. Gone are the sarcastic one-liners, the crude comments, the harsh lilting truth of his words at every break in conversation. Perhaps it’s because they spend all of their time together now. Perhaps it’s because almost everyone they know and loved and hated are rotted, ravenous flesh clinging to slow bones. Or they’re just dead.
This is a new level of denial even for you, he drawls, and she hates him a little for knowing her better than she knows herself.
Her lips purse and her fingers wring in her lap. She doesn’t want to scream and yell and fight with him anymore. She can’t anyhow, not now. It would attract attention, and Elena is ever practical. (They’ve argued enough.) What I mean is... I’m glad they don’t have to suffer through all this. Like we do. I’m glad that -- they have some peace.
She watches the steadiness of his gaze, the exaggerated rise of his brows and the flint lighting his gaze, the smirk tugging at his lips. How he seems to falter in his study and simply want her, want to say anything besides what he’s about to say. You call ripping each other to shreds peace?
Her lashes flutter, but she sets her shoulders back, because if she doesn’t, she thinks her whole body might cave into itself under the weight of her living nightmares. She will not remember their last few days in Mystic Falls, not like he does. She will not. We put them to rest, Damon.
The dark smile on his face twitches deeper, but the blue of his eyes are an endless drop of the things they’ve seen, the things they’ve seen done, and what they had to do to put their loved ones to rest.
Go to sleep, Elena, he tells her.
They take old roads, routes with rusted signs, highways that aren’t congested with roaming bodies and broken vehicles. She closes her eyes, feels a tug in the corners of her lips sometimes, and lets it all blow away in the breeze. Sometimes it’s that easy, to pretend.
They argue over what few choices of music they have with taunts and narrowed eyes. (-with glares and childish retorts.) She’s always spent too much time noticing him, but she wants to look at him all she can. Her eyes linger over the hollow of his throat, the sweat dampening the nape of his neck, the crinkles around his smirks. (She looks out the window for stretches of road; sometimes she can’t bear the sight of anything but emptiness.)
She doesn’t hide it, the affection and desire in her gaze, in her smiles, sometimes. (He’s all that’s left. He’s too much and not enough.) It doesn’t feel all that damning to have nothing else, sometimes.
He smiles back, something lewd and challenging on his tongue. (- something sharp and biting and cruel.) He simply drinks his fill of her, eyes roaming over her tan legs, the sheen of sweat on her shoulders, the curves in between. (- invades her space, reminds her there’s nothing else, no one else, they are alone and so she should hate him, please, please, please.) One day it’s just too hot and she sheds her threadbare tank top, spends hours in nothing but jean shorts and a lacy bra with weak straps. (She slams the car door shut and every step shackles her tighter to him, frees her in all the ways she never wants to be free; she hates him, she hates him, she hates him and it’s more than she’s ever loved anyone.) She reclines her chair back all the way and takes in the passing sky and watches him watching her. His eyes are hooded. Her fingers trace circles on her stomach as she dozes.
It makes me human, she thinks, and aches deep in her chest.
By the time they reach Arizona, she learns every inch of his skin in the backseat. He’s slick with sweat and everything is warmed by the sun, and the way he moves within her is desperate and a little rough. Her toes curl when his mouth and tongue devour the pulse at her neck, and she comes apart too sudden and hard when his fangs rip deep into her throat.
Afterwards, she kisses the blood from his lips and sucks the rest from his tongue. She’s finally touching him. (Gets to.)
She’s surprised it takes him this long to kill anybody. It’s possible he has and she just didn’t know it. Possible that somewhere along the way, on a deserted road or in an empty house, he tore into a leftover throat or two and never saw the point of mentioning it. (If he had wanted to spare her the pain of losing someone else to the world, he should know it wouldn’t have made any real difference. He’s been to blame for enough of them already.)
The blood is everywhere, and that’s what she sees. It spurts from the man’s jugular into Damon’s vicious mouth and he can't swallow it all, and she can’t help thinking it’s life pumping out of him, and that’s a waste, but maybe what Damon really needs is to kill.
The man’s frightened eyes are open and wide. The shock on her expression, the slow, calming acceptance that falls over it (death isn’t new; compassion isn’t either, but she clings more to one than the other nowadays) -- she knows he sees it all and probably wonders how, why, how. Maybe those smothered, dying gurgles are attempts to ask, but she has no answer that would appease him, or comfort her.
The body drops to the ground. Elena isn’t mad, and it might (should) worry her she’s not sorry. The man had to go, and they had to deal with it. She moves forward with eyes steeled over, lifts her hand to wipe the blood from his face.
They could have a life here.
(It won’t last, but that's better than anything else.)