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Elena Gilbert uses a third diary in The Return since her previous two were put in the Fell's Church library.

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Dear Diary,

Today I ran away from home.

I guess you can't really call it running away when you're almost 18 and you take your own car - and when nobody knew you were home in the first place.

So I'll just sAy, tonight I'm on the run.

The other slightly shocking thing is that I ran away with two different guys. And neither of them is my guy.

I say that, but...I can't help remembering things. The look in Matt's eyes in the clearing - I honestly think he was prepared to die to protect me. I can't help but think about what we once were to each other. Those blue eyes...oh, I don't know what's wrong with me!

And Damon. I know now that there's living flesh under the layers and layers of stone he's wrapped around his soul. It's deeply hidden, but it's there. If I'm being honest with myself, I have to admit that he touches something deep inside me that makes me shiver - a part of myself even I don't understand.

Oh, Elena! Stop right now! You can't go near that dark part of yourself, especially now that you have Power. You don't dare go near it. Everything is different now. You have to be more responsible (something you're not at all good at!).

And Meredith won't be here to help me be responsible, either. How is this ever going to work out? Damon and Matt in the same car? On a road trip together? Can you imagine? Tonight, it was so late and Matt was so stunned by the situation that he couldn't really take anything in. And Damon only smirked. But he'll be in demonic form tomorrow, I know he will.

I still think it was a great pity that Shinichi had to take Wings of Redemption from Damon along with his memories. But I firmly believe that, deep down, there's a tiny part of Damon that remembers how he was when we were together. And now he has to be worse than ever to prove that what he remembers was all a lie.

So while you're reading this, Damon - I know you'll get hold of it somehow and snoop - let you me tell you that you were nice for a while, actually NICE, and it was fun. We talked together. We even laughed - at the same jokes. And you...you were gentle.

And now you're going "Nah, it's just another Elena-plot to get me to think I can turn around - but I know where I'm going, and I don't care." Does that ring a bell, Damon? Have you said those words to someone recently? And if not, how do I know them? Could it be that for once I'm telling the truth?

Now I'm going to forget that you're totally besmirching your honor by reading secret things that don't belong to you.

What else?

First: I miss Stefan.

Second: I didn't really pack for this. Matt and I swung by the boardinghouse, and he grabbed the money Stefan left for me while I grabbed an armful of clothes out of the closet - heaven knows what I've got: Bonnie's tops and Meredith's pants, and not a decent nightgown to my name.

But at least I also got you, precious friend, a present Stefan was saving for me. I never really liked typing in a file marked "Diary" anyway. Blank books like you are my style.

Third: I miss Stefan. I miss him so badly that I'm crying while I'm worrying about clothes. It looks as if that's what I'm crying about, which makes me seem insanely shallow. Oh, sometimes I just want to scream.

Fourth: I want to scream now. It was only when we got back to Fell's Church that we found what horrors the malach had left for us. There is a fourth little girl I think may be possessed like Tami, Kristin, and Ava - I couldn't really tell, so I couldn't do anything. I have the feeling that we definitely haven't heard the last of this possession thing.

Fifth: What happened in the Saitou house. Isobel is in the hosiptal with raging infections in all her piercings. Obaasan, as everyone calls Isobel's grandmother, was not dead as the first paramedics who got there thought. She was in a deep trance - reaching out to us. Whether some of the courage I got, some of the belief in myself, was really due to her, is something I'll never know.

But in the den was Jim Bryce. He had...oh, I can't write it. He was the captain of the basketball team! But he had eaten away at himself: his whole left hand, most of his right hand fingers, his lips. And he put a pencil through his ear into his brain. They say (I heard this through Tyrone Alpert, the doctor's grandson) that it's called Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome (sp? I only heard it said) and that it's rare, but there are others just like him. That's what the doctors say. I say it was a malach making him do it. But they wouldn't let me in to try to take it out of him.

I can't even say he's alive. I can't say if he's dead. He's going to a sort of institution where they keep long-term cases.

We failed there. I failed. It wasn't really Jim Bryce's fault. So he was with Caroline just one night, and from there he passed the malach to his girlfriend Isobel and to his little sister Tami. Then both Caroline and little Tami passed it along to others. They tried to give it to Matt, but he wasn't about to let them.

Sixth, the three little girls that most definitely did get it were al under the orders of Misao, from Shinichi said. They say that they don't remember anything about decorating themselves or propositioning strangers. They don't seem to remember anything about the time of their possession, and they act like very different little girls now. Nice. Calm. If I thought Misao gave up easily then I would be sure they'll be all right.

Worse is the thought of Caroline. She was a friend once and now - well, I think she needs help more than ever. Damon got to her diaries - she kept her own diary by recording herself on video, and we watched her talk to the mirror...and watched the mirror talk back. Mostly it was her own image that showed, but sometimes, at the beginning or end of a session, it was Shinichi's face. He's good-looking, if a little wild. I can see how Caroline might fall for him and agree to be his carrier of malach in the town.

That's all over. I used the last of whatever Power I know I have taking the malach out of those girls.

Caroline, of course, wouldn't let me near her.

And then there were those fateful words of Caroline's: "I need a husband!" Any girl knows what that means. Any girl feels sorry for another who says it, even if they're unfriends.

Caroline and Tyler Smallwood were going together until about two weeks ago. Meredith says Caroline dropped him, and that kidnapping her for Klaus was Tyler's revenge. But if before that they'd been sleeping together with no protection (and Caroline is dumb enough to do it), she could certainly have known she was pregnant and been looking for another guy by the time Shinichi turned up. (Which was just before I - returned to life.) Now she's trying to pin it on Matt. It was pure bad luck that she said it happened on the same night the malach attacked Matt and that that old man from the Neighborhood Watch saw Matt drive home and pass out at the steering wheel as if he were drunk or on drugs.

Or maybe it wasn't just luck. Maybe that was all part of Misao's game, too.

I'm going to sleep now. Too much thinking. Too much worry. And, oh, I miss Stefan! He would help me deal with the worry in his own gentle but keen-sighted way.

I'm sleeping inside the car with the doors locked. The guys are sleeping outside it. At least, that's how we're starting - at their insistence. At least they agreed on that.

I don't think Shinichi and Misao will stay away from Fell's Church for long. I don't know if they'll leave it alone for a few days, or weeks, or a few months, but Misao will heal and they'll come back for us eventually.

That means that Damon, Matt, and I - we're fugitives in two worlds.

And I have no idea what's going to happen tomorrow.

Elena

___________________________________________________________________________________________ Dear Diary,

Oh, God, I need help! Oh, Stefan - I need you. I need you to forgive me. I need you to kee me sane. Too much time around Damon and I'm completely emotional, ready to kill him or...ot to - I don't know. I don't know!!! We're like flint and tinder together - God! We're like gasoline and a flamethrower! Please hear me and help me and save me...from myself. Every time he even says my name...

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Dear Diary,

Well, I am writing to you still as a slave. Today we freed Lady Ulma, but decided that Meredith and Bonnie and I should remain "personal assistants". This is because Lady Ulma said Damon would seem odd and unfashionable if he didn't have several beautiful girls as courtesans.

There is actually an upside to this, which is that as courtesans we need to have beautiful clothes and jewelry all the time. Since I've been wearing the same pair of jeans ever since that b*st*rd Old Drohzne sliced up the pair I wore into this place, you can imagine that I'm excited.

But, truly, it's not just because of pretty clothes I'm excited. Everything that happened since we freed Lady Ulma and then went to her old estate has been a wonderful dream. The house was run down, and obviously the home of wild animals who used it as a lavatory as well as a bedroom. We even found the tracks of wolves and other animals upstairs, which led to the question of whether werewolves live in this world. Apparently they do, and some in very high positions under various feudal lords. Maybe Caroline would like to try a vacation here to learn about the real werewolves though - they're said to hate humans so much that they won't even have human or vampire (once human) slaves.

But back to Lady Ulma's house. Its foundation is of stone and it's paneled inside with hardwood, so the basic structure is fine. The curtains and tapestries are all hanging in shreds, of course, so it's sort of spooky to go inside with torches and see them dangling above and around you. Not to mention the giant spiderwebs. I hate spiders more than anything.

But we went inside, with our torches seeming like smaller versions of that giant crimson sun that always sits on the horizon, staining everything outside the color of blood, and we shut the doors and lit a fire in a giant fireplace in what Lady Ulma calls the Great Hall. (I think it's where you eat or have parties - it has an enormous table on a dais at one side, and a room for minstrels above what must be the dance floor. Lady Ulma siad that this is where the servants all sleep at night, too (the Great Hall, not the minstrel gallery).

Then we went upstairs, where we saw - I swear - several dozen bedrooms with very large four-poster beds that are going to need new mattresses and sheets and coverlets and hangings, but we didn't stay to look around. There were bats hanging fron the ceiling.

We headed for Lady Ulma's mother's workroom. It was a very large where at least forty people could sit and sew clothes that Lady Ulma's mother designed. But here's the exciting part!

Lady Ulma went to one of the wardrobes in the room and moved away all the tattered, moth-eaten clothes that were in it. And she pressed some different places at the back of the cupboard and the whole back of the cupboard slid out! Inside it was a very narrow stairway going straight down!

I kept thinking about Honoria Fell's crypt and wondering if some homeless vampire might have taken up residence in the room downstairs, but I knew that was silly because there were spiderwebs just inside the door. Damon still insisted that he go down first because he has the best eyesight in the dark, but I think the truth is that he was just curious to see what was down there.

We each followed him one at a time, trying to be careful with the torches, and...well, I can't find the right words for what we discovered. For just a few minutes I was disappointed because everything on the big table down there was dusty rather than sparkly, but then Lady Ulma began to gently brush jewels off with a special cloth and Bonnie found sacks and packages and she poured them out - and it was like poring out a rainbow! Damon found a cabinet where there were drawers and drawers of necklaces, bracelets, rings, armlets, anklets, earrings, nose rings, and hairpins and ornaments, too!

I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I poured out a pouch and found that I had a huge handful of glorious white diamonds dripping through my fingers, some of them as big as my thumbnail. I saw white pearls and black pearls, both smaller and perfectly matched, and huge and in marvelous shapes: almost as big as apricots with pink or golden or gray sheens to them. I saw sapphires the size of quarters, with stars you could see almost from across the room. I held handfuls of emeralds and peridots and opals and rubies and tourmalines and amethysts - and a lot of lapis lazuli, for the discriminating vampire, of course.

And the jewelry that was already made up was so beautiful it made my throat ache. I know Lady Ulma had a quiet little cry, but I think it was partly from happiness as well as kept complimenting her on her jewels. In days she has gone from being a slave who owned nothing to an incredibly rich woman who owns a houes and all the means she would ever need to keep it up in style. We decided that even though she is going to marry her lover, it was best at first for Damon to buy him quietly and free him quietly, but to play "Head of the Household" for as long as we are here. During that time we will treat Lady Ulma as family, and will put the jeweler Lucen back to work until we leave, when he and Lady Ulma can quietly take Damon's place. The feudal lords around here are not demons anymore, but vampires, and they have less objection to humans owning property.

Have I told you about Lucen? He's a wonderful artist with jewels! He has a burning need to create - in his early days as a slave he would create with mud and weeds, imagining that he was making jewelry. Then he got lucky and was apprenticed to a jeweler. He's felt sorry for Lady Ulma for so long, and loved her for so long, that it's like a little miracle that they are truly able to get together - and most importantly, as free citizens.

We were afraid that Lucen might not like the idea of us buying him as a slave and not freeing him until we leave, but he never thought he'd be free - because of his talent. He's a slow, gentle, kind man, with a neat little beard and gray eyes that remind me of Meredith's. And he's so amazed at being treated decently and not worked around the clock that he would have accepted anything, just to be near Lady Ulma. I guess he was an apprentice when her father was a jeweler, and he fell in love with her all those years ago, but he thought he would never, ever ever be able to live with her, because she was a young lady of quality and he was a slave. They're so happy together!

Every day Lady Ulma looks more beautiful, and younger. She asked permission from Damon to dye her hair all black, and he told her she could dye it pink if she liked, and now she just looks incredibly beautiful. I can't believe I ever thought of her as an old hag, but that's what agony and fear and hopelessness do to you. Every one of those gray hairs was from being a slave, with no property, no say in her future, no safety, no ability even to keep her children, if she had them.

I forgot to tell you the other upside of Meredith, Bonnie and I being "personal assistants" for a while. It's that we can employ a lot of poor women who make their living by sewing, and Lady Ulma actually wants to design and show them how to make our finest clothes. We told her that she should just relax, but she says all her life she's fantasized about being a designer like her mother and now she's dying to do it - with three completely different types of girl to dress. I'm dying to see what she'll come up with: she's already started sketching and tomorrow the man who sells fabric will come and she'll pick the materials.

Meanwhile Damon has hired about two hundred people (really!) to clean out Lady Ulma's estate, put up new wall hangings and curtains, refurbish the plumbing system, polish up the furniture that has kept nicely, and to get new furniture where things have fallen apart. Oh, and to plant ready-grown flowers and trees in the gardens and put in fountains and all kinds of stuff. With that many people working, we ought to be able to move in in just as matter of days.

All this has just one purpose, aside from making Lady Ulma happy. It's so that Damon and his "personal assistants" will be accepted by high society as the season of parties begins this year. Because I've kept the best for last. Both Lady Ulma and Sage could immediately identify the people in the riddles that Misao gave to us!

It just goes to prove what I thought before, that Misao never imagined that we'd actually make it here, or that we could get entrance to the places where they've hidden the two hales of the fox key.

But there's a very easy way to get invited to the houses we need to get into. If we're the newest, splashiest nouveau riche (sp?) around, and if we circulate the story that Lady Ulma has been restored to her rightful place, and if everyone wants to know about her - we'll get invited to parties! And that's how we get into the two estates we need to visit to look for the halves of the key that we need to free Stefan! And we're incredibly lucky, because this is the time of year when everyone begins to give parties, and both households we want to visit are having early celebrations: one is a gala, and one is a spring soiree to celebrate the first flowers.

I know my writing is shaky now. I'm shaky myself at the thought that we are actually going to look for the two halves of the fox key that will let us break Stefan out of his prison.

Oh, diary, it's late - and I can't - I can't write about Stefan. To be here in the same city with him, to know the direction to his prison...and yet not be able to get to see him. My eyes are so blurred I can't see what I'm writing. I wanted to get some sleep to be ready for another day of running around, supervising, and watching Lady Ulma's estate blossom like a rose - but now I'm afraid I'll just have nightmares about Stefan's hand slowly slipping out of mine.

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Dear Diary,

It's the night before the night of our first party - or rather gala. But I don't feel very gala. I miss Stefan too much.

I've been brooding about Matt, too. How he walked away, so angry at me, not even looking back. He didn't understand how I could...care for...Damon, and yet still love Stefan so much that it felt as if my heart were breaking.

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Dear Diary,

I don't know what to say. We're home.

Last night we each had a long bath...and I was half-disappointed, because my favorite long-handled back-scrubbing brush wasn't there, and there was no star ball to make dreamy music for Stefan - and the water was LUKEWARM! And Stefan went to see if the water heater was turned on all the way and met Damon going to do the same thing! Only, they couldn't because we're home again.

But I woke up a couple of hours ago for a few minutes to see the most beautiful sight in the world...a sunrise. Pale pink and eerie green in the east, with nighttime still full dark in the west. Then deeper rose in the sky, and the trees all wreathed in dew clouds. Then a shiny glory from the edge of the horizon and dark rose, cream, and even a green melon color in the sky. Finally, a line of fire and in an instant all the colors change. The line becomes an arc, the western sky is deepest blue, and then up comes the sun bringing warmth and light and color to the green trees and the sky begins to become celestial blue - celestial just means heavenly, although somehow, I know a delicious shivery feeling when I say it. The sky become a gemlike, celestial, cerulean blue and the golden sun begins to pour energy, love, light and every good thing onto the world.

Who could not be happy to watch this while Stefan held her?

We who are so lucky as to be born into the light - who see it every day and never think about it, we're blessed. We could have been born shadow souls who live and die in crimson darkness, never even knowing that there is something better.

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Dear Diary,

I'm so frightened I can hardly hold this pen. I'm printing rather than writing in cursive, because that way I have more control.

What am I terrified of, you ask? And when I say "of Damon" you don't believe the answer, not if you'd seen the two of us a few days ago. But to understand, you have to know a few facts.

Have you ever heard the phrase "All bets are off"?

It means that anything, anything, could happen. So that even somebody who figures out odds and takes bets from people gives them back their money. Because a wild card has entered the situation. You can't even figure out the odds to take a bet.

That's where I am. That's why my heart is pounding in my throat and head and ears and fingertips in fear.

All bets are off.

You can see how shaky even my printing is. Suppose my hands shake like this when I go to see him? I might drop the tray. I might annoy Damon. And then anything might happen.

I'm not explaining this right. What I should be saying is that we're back: Damon and Meredith and Bonnie and me. We went to the Dark Dimension and now we're home again, with a star ball - and Stefan.

Stefan was tricked into going there by Shinichi and Misao, the brother and sister kitsune, or evil fox-spirits, who told him that if he went to the Dark Dimension he could get the curse of being a vampire removed and become human again.

They lied.

All they did was leaving him in a stinking prison, with no food, no light, no warmth...until he was at the point of death.

But Damon - who was so different back then - agreed to lead us to try to find him. And, oh, I can't even begin to describe the Dark Dimension itself. But the important thing is that we finally found Stefan, and that by then we'd found the Twin Fox key we needed to release him. But - he was a skeleton, poor boy. We carried him out of the prison on his pallet, which later Matt burned; it was so infested with creepy-crawlies. But that night we gave him a bath and put him to bed...and then we fed him. Yes, with our blood. All the humans did it except Mrs. Flowers, who was busy making poultices for where his poor bones were almost sticking out of his skin.

They had starved him to that point! I could kill Them with my own hands - or my Wings Powers - if only I could use them properly. But I can't. I know there is a spell for Wings of Destruction, but I have no idea how to summon it.

At least I got to see how Stefan blossomed when being fed with human blood. (I admit that I gave him a few extra feedings that weren't on his chart, and I'd have to be an idiot not to know that my blood is different from other people's - it's much richer and it did Stefan amazing amounts of good.)

And so Stefan recovered enough that the next morning he was able to walk downstairs to thank Mrs. Flowers for her potions!

The rest of us, though - all the humans - were totally exhausted. We didn't even think about what had happened to the bouquet, because we didn't know it had anything special in it. We'd gotten it just as we were leaving the Dark Dimension, from a kind white kitsune who'd been in the cell across from Stefan's before we arranged a jailbreak. He was so beautiful! I never knew a kitsune could be kind. But he had given Stefan these flowers.

Anyway, that morning Damon was up. Of course, he couldn't contribute any of his own blood, but I honestly think he would have, if he could. That was the way he was back then.

And that's why I don't understand how I can feel the fear I feel now. How can you be terrified of someone who's kissed you and kissed you...and called you his darling and his sweetheart and his princess? And who has laughed with you with his eyes dancing with mischief? And who's held you when you were frightened, and told you there was nothing to be afraid of, not while he was there? Someone you only had to glance at to know what he was thinking? Someone who has protected you, no matter what the cost to himself, for days on end?

I know Damon. I know his faults, but I also know what he's like inside. And he's not what he wants people to think he is. He's not cold, or arrogant, or cruel. Those are facades he puts on to cover himself, like clothes.

The problem is that I'm not sure he knows he isn't any of these things. And right now he's all mixed-up. He might change and become all of them - because he's so confused.

What I'm trying to say is, that morning only Damon was really awake. He was the only one who saw the bouquet. And one of the things Damon definitely is, is curious.

So he unwrapped all the magical wards from it and it had a single pitch black rose in the center. Damon had been trying to find a black rose for years, just to admire, I think. But when he saw this one he smelled it...and boom! The rose disappered!

And suddenly he was sick and dizzy and he couldn't smell anything and all his other senses were dulled as well. That was when Sage - oh, I haven't even mentioned Sage, but he's a tall bronze gorgeous hunk of a vampire who's been such a good friend to all of us - told him to suck in air and hold it, to push it down into his lungs.

Humans have to breathe that way, you see.

I don't know how long it took Damon to realize that he really was a human, no joke, nothing anyone could do about it. The black rose had been for Stefan; and it would have given him his dream of being human again. But when Damon realized it had worked its magic on him...

That's when I saw him look at me and lump me in with the rest of my species - a species he's come to hate and scorn.

Since then I haven't dared look him in the eye again. I know he loved me just two days ago. I didn't know that love could turn to - well, to all the things he feels now about himself.

You'd think it would be easy for Damon to become a vampire again. But he wants to be as powerful a vampire as he used to be - and there isn't anyone like that to exchange blood with him. Even Sage disappeared before Damon could ask him. So Damon is stuck like this until he finds some strong, powerful, and prestigious vampire to go through the whole process of changing him.

And every time I look into Stefan's eyes, those jewel-green eyes that are warm with trust and gratitude - I feel terror, too. Terror that somehow he'll be snatched away again - right out of my arms. And...terror that he'll find out how I've come to feel about Damon. I hadn't even realized myself how much Damon has come to mean to me. And I can't...stop...my feeling...for him, even if he hates me now.

And, yes, damn it, I'm crying! In a minute, I have to go take him his dinner. He must be starving, but when Matt tried to take him something earlier, Damon threw the whole tray at him.

Oh, plesae, God, please don't let him hate me!

I'm being selfish, I know, in just talking about what's going on with Damon and me. I mean, things in Fell's Church are worse than ever. Every day more children become possessed and terrify their parents. Every day, parents get angrier with their possessed children. I don't even want to think about what's going on. If something doesn't change, the whole place will be destroyed like the last town Shinichi and Misao visited.

Shinichi...he made a lot of predictions about our group, about things we've kept secret from the others. But the truth is, I don't know if I want to hear any of his riddles solved.

We're lucky in one way. We have the Saitou family to help us. You remember Isobel Saitou, who pierced herself so horribly while she was possessed? Since she's gotten better, she's become a good friend, and her mother, Mrs. Saitou, and her grandmother, Obaasan, too. They give us amulets - spells to keep evil away, written on Post-it Notes or little cards. We're so grateful for that kind of help. Someday maybe we can repay them all.

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Dear Diary,

I don't know what to do. Matt has disappeared. Damon has taken Bonnie to the Dark Dimension - but is he taking care of her?

There's no way to know. We don't have any way to open a Gate ourselves and go after them. I'm afraid Stefan will kill Damon, and if something - anything - has happened to Bonnie, I'll want to kill him too. Oh, God, what a mess!

And Meredith...of all people, Meredith turns out to have more secrets than all of us combined.

All Stefan and I can do is hold each other and pray. We've been fighting Shinichi so long! I feel as if the end is coming soon...and I'm afraid.

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