The Lady in Red

A Step Forward

"So," Damon said, "the big issue right now is keeping the grimoire away from Selina so she doesn't do anything stupid with it. But first we have to find it. How are we on that front?"

"Good," Stefan said. "Elena told me that her father's ancestor kept a journal, and that there might be something about the grimoire in there. And then of course, I can always check Father's. He wrote as religiously as anyone else. And about everything. I don't think it'll be difficult to find what we need."

"All right," Mitch said. "Are you planning to go over to Elena's today then, Stefan?"

Stefan nodded. "Yep. Elena told me that she'd have everything out when I got there and we'd devote the rest of the day to the search for the grimoire."

Mitch thought a moment. "And are we absolutely certain that we can keep Selina from finding the grimoire? I mean, she seemed to want it pretty badly, and she did say that there was nothing any of us could do to stop her from getting to it. Maybe the best plan would be to keep her away from the search entirely. You know, assure her that we'll do all the looking."

"I don't think she'll fall for that," Stefan said. "Unless…" he looked at Damon. "Do you think that you could distract Selina until Elena, Mitch and I find out where the grimoire is?"

"Of course I could, but does that mean we're changing plans now?" Damon asked. "We're going from 'tell Selina we're helping her find the grimoire' to 'Selina, we'll help you find the grimoire, but you don't get to help us with the search'? I hate to break it to you, but that's going to bring up more red flags for her then the original plan. She's not stupid, Stefan. She's going to figure out we're tricking her."

"That's where you distracting her comes in handy. Come up with something that'll take her out of Mystic Falls. Like another road trip. That way, the two of you will have fun, and by the time you get back, she'll be so mellow that even if she does find out, she's not going to care."

"Stefan," Mitch said, "I'm getting nervous about this plan of yours. So nervous in fact, that I don't want to be such a big part of it anymore. I mean, I'll still help look and everything, but I just know she's going to find out somehow, and when she does, she'll probably hate all of us. I don't want her to hate me anymore than she already does."

Stefan sighed, "All right, Mitch. You can stay out of it. But we're still going to look, all right?"

"Fine," Mitch said. "But it's your funeral."

Just then, the front door opened, and Selina entered the room, looking at all of them. She was wearing a short jean skirt with pink stitching, a hot pink blouse with puffy sleeves, and light pink flats. "What were you guys talking about?"

The three of them looked at one another. "Nothing," Mitch said.

"Nothing, except the fact that we've decided to help you look for Emily's grimoire," Damon said.

Selina's eyes lit up. "Really? You will? Oh, that's so great, thanks a lot!" She grinned and hugged each of them in turn. "It means a lot to me. When do we start?"

"I'm going over to Elena's house today," Stefan said. "She told me she found something that might be useful in one of her ancestor's journals, and I'm going to bring over my father's as well."

"Sounds good!" Selina was still grinning. "I'll go over Mama's with a fine tooth comb!"

"Honey," Mitch said.

"What?" Selina's face went still.

"Your Mama's journal is still back at the house. I'll run over and get it."

"Oh," Selina brightened again. "All right. I'll be in my room when you get it. Just go right ahead and bring it on up!" she hugged him, then took the stairs two at a time, and once she was gone, they just looked at one another.

"Is anyone starting to feel a little guilty?" Mitch asked. "I mean look at her; she's so happy because she thinks we're going to help her when what we're really doing is lying to her and crushing her dreams."

"Maybe it's good you're not helping us with the big plan then," Damon said, putting his hand on Mitch's shoulder.

Mitch nodded. "I think you're right. I should probably prepare myself for the inevitable; her finding out, getting angry and needing somebody to vent to."

Selina looked up at the knock on her door. "Come in," she called.

When Damon entered, she felt herself smile. "Did you find anything good?" she asked.

"Actually," Damon said, pulling up another chair and sitting beside her, "since Stefan and Elena seem to have the majority of pertinent material in their possession, I decided to devote myself to something else."

"What?" Selina asked, intrigued.

"Well," Damon answered slowly, "I have an idea that you might be a little resistant to because of wanting to unlock the tomb and all, but I've been thinking. You've been through a lot these last few weeks, what with finding out your father is still around, and that Dr. Stensrund was a good guy—"

"That I saw my father every year of my life until I was fourteen but don't remember it at all because he and Dr. Stensrund erased my memories so I wouldn't give something away to my mother."

"Exactly," Damon said. "And that's a lot to deal with. I think you need a break."

"A break?" Selina said. "No, I can't take a break right now. We have too much to do."

"Come on," Damon said. "Let's have a little fun. I have a nice trip lined up. If you miss it, you'll be really sorry."

"Well-"

"Please?" Damon said. "We'll be able to look for clues while we're out and about."

"I thought you said that Stefan and Elena had all the pertinent materials," she said.

"No," Damon said, "I said, I think they have the majority of pertinent materials. There is a difference between all and the majority."

"Where would we be going?" Selina asked.

"Charleston," Damon said.

"Why?" Selina asked. "What are we doing there?" She paused a moment. "Will there be alcohol and is this outing going to end up being clothing optional?"

Damon grinned to himself before he answered. "Yes, there will be alcohol, and if things go well, then it probably will end up being clothing optional. And as to where we're going, it's a surprise."

Selina laughed a little. "It's always a surprise. Is that code for 'we're going to see another one of my exes'?"

Damon shook his head. "Not this time, no."

"All right," Selina said. "I suppose if we're doing research along the way, a little road trip wouldn't hurt."

"All right," Damon smiled and got up to leave, but he turned with his hand on the doorframe. "How long will it take you to pack?"

"Ten minutes, I think," Selina said.

"All right," and with that, he headed back downstairs.

"I got her," Damon said as soon as he hit the bottom step. "How long do you think we're going to need to be gone?"

Stefan thought a moment. "Until late tomorrow, at the very least," he said. "Will you be able to keep her away that long?"

Damon grinned. "Of course. We're leaving for Charleston in ten minutes."

"Charleston?" Mitch asked. "Why Charleston?"

"Well," Damon said, "Whenever Selina is talking to other people about herself, you know, the self she made up, she tells them that she's from Charleston, so I thought we'd go there and see the sights."

"It's not because she knows anyone there?"

"No," Damon said. "Who would she know in Charleston?"

"Well, my brother lived there after he became rich because of the steel mills. He thought it would appease Father if he moved back south."

"So your brother's still alive somehow?" Damon asked. "Did he get turned too?"

"No, no!" Mitch said quickly. "I've seen his grave. He lived a good long life. I just thought that maybe Selina had looked up his descendants or something and wanted to visit them."

"He doesn't actually have any descendents," Stefan said. "He had three kids, but none of them lived past infancy."

"Poor Andrew," Mitch said after awhile.

Damon looked up as he heard Selina coming down the stairs, bag in hand. "I'm ready to go," she told him.

"I'll go start the car," he said.

"And I'm going to leave for Elena's now," Stefan added.

They left and Selina found herself alone with Mitch. For a little while, she wasn't sure what to say. Then, it finally came to her. "Thank you for helping me with this," she said, sitting down next to him. "I know how against it you were."

"Sure," he said. "I mean, I know what it's like to want something so badly and then be denied it. I felt horrible after I was turned and then Dr. Stensrund told me that I couldn't go back home to you and your mother because the army had already told her I was dead. There was no closure for me. That's what this is all about, isn't it? Closure?"

"Yeah, it is," Selina nodded, surprised at how perceptive he was. "When the tomb finally gets opened and I get to be face-to-face with Katherine, I'll probably feel like you did the first time Mama brought me to Dr. Stensrund's and you saw me again."

"Yeah," Mitch smiled. "I said it before and I'll say it again: That was a really good day for me."

"All right, Damon said, coming back in. "Car's all ready to go."

"Coming," Selina told him.

He nodded and headed out the door. Selina followed, but turned to face Mitch before she was out the door entirely. "I really can't say this enough: thanks a lot, Matthew."

And then she was gone, leaving her father alone to ponder what she'd just called him. Before, she'd always called him Mitch, which of course was his made-up identity. Now she'd called him Matthew, which was his real name. Maybe soon, she'd get comfortable enough to start calling him 'Dad.' He hoped so. That would be a really good day.

A/n- Breakthrough, yay! From now on, Mitch will be referred to by his real name, Matthew, by all characters. And next chapter: Selina/ Damon road trip numero dos! Alcohol and sugar-induced hi-jinks by Selina included.

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