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The Return: Shadow Souls (Chapter 29)

Someone was trying to make her drink out of a glass. Elena's sense of smell was so acute that she could taste what was in the glass already – Black Magic wine. And she didn't want that! No! She spat it out. They couldn't make her drink.

"Mon enfant, it is for your own good. Now, drink it." Elena turned her head away. She felt the darkness and the hurricane rushing up to take her. Yes. That was better. Why wouldn't they leave her alone?

In the very deepest trenches of communication, a little boy was with her in the dark. She remembered him, but not his name. She held out her arms and he came into them and it seemed that his chains were lighter than they had been…when? Before. That was all she could remember.

Are you all right? she whispered to the child. Down here, deep in the heart of communion, a whisper was a shout.

Don't cry. No tears, he begged her, but the words reminded her of something she couldn't bear to think of, and she put her fingers to his lips, gently silencing him.

Too loud, a voice from Outside came rumbling in. "So, mon enfant, you have decided to become un vampire encore une fois."

Is that what is happening? she whispered to the child. Am I dying again? To become a vampire?

I don't know! the child cried. I don't know anything. He's angry. I'm afraid.

Sage won't hurt you, she promised. He's already a vampire, and your friend.

Not Sage…

Then who are you afraid of?

If you die again, I'll be wrapped in chains all over. The child showed her a pitiable picture of himself covered by coil after coil of heavy chains. In his mouth, gagging him. Pinning his arms to his sides and his legs to the ball. Moreover, the chains were spiked so that everywhere they dug into the child's soft flesh, blood flowed.

Who would do such a thing? Elena cried. I'll make him wish he'd never been born. Tell me who's going to do this!

The child's face was sad and perplexed. I will, he said sadly. He will. He/I. Damon. Because we'll have killed you.

But if it's not his fault…

We have to. We have to. But maybe I'll die, the doctor says… There was a definite lilt of hope in the last sentence.

It decided Elena. If Damon was not thinking clearly, then maybe she wasn't thinking clearly, she reasoned out slowly. Maybe…maybe she should do what Sage wanted.

And Dr. Meggar. She could discern his voice as if through a thick fog. " – sake, you've been working all night. Give someone else a chance."

Yes…all night. Elena had not wanted to wake up again, and she had a powerful will.

"Maybe switch sides?" someone – a girl – a young girl – was suggesting. Little in voice, but strong-willed, too. Bonnie.

"Elena…It's Meredith. Can you feel me holding your hand?" A pause, then very much louder, excitedly, "Hey, she squeezed my hand! Did you see? Sage, tell Damon to get in here quick."

Drifting…

"…drink a little more, Elena? I know, I know, you're sick of it. But drink un peu for my sake, will you?"

Drifting…

"Tr��s bon, mon enfant! Maintenant, what about a little milk? Damon believes you can stay human if you drink some milk."

Elena had two thoughts about this. One was that if she drank any more of anything, she might explode. Another was that she wasn't going to make any foolish promises.

She tried to speak but it came out in a thread of a whisper. "Tell Damon – I won't come up unless he lets the little boy free."

"Who? What little boy?"

"Elena, sweetie, all the little boys on this estate are free."

Meredith: "Why not let her tell him?"

Dr. Meggar: "Elena, Damon is right here on the couch. You've both been very sick, but you're going to be fine. Here, Elena, we can move the examination table so you can talk to him. There, it's done."

Elena tried to open her eyes, but everything was ferociously bright. She took a breath and tried again. Still much too bright. And she didn't know how to dim her vision anymore. She spoke with her eyes shut to the presence she felt in front of her: I can't leave him alone again. Especially if you're going to load him with chains and gag him.

Elena, Damon said shakily, I haven't led a good life. But I haven't kept slaves before, I swear. Ask anyone. And I wouldn't do that to a child.

You have, and I know his name. And I know that all he's made of is gentleness, and kindness, and good nature…and fear.

The low rumble of Sage's voice, "…agitating her…" the slightly louder murmur of Damon's: "I know she's off her head, but I'd still like to know the name of this little boy I'm supposed to have done this to. How does that agitate her?"

More rumbling, then: "But can't I just ask her? At least I can clear my name of these charges." Then, out loud: "Elena? Can you tell me what child I'm supposed to have tortured like this?"

She was so tired. But she answered aloud, whispering, "His name is Damon, of course."

And Meredith's own exhausted whisper, "Oh, my God. She was willing to die for a metaphor."

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