Fandom/Pairing: The Vampire Diaries, Damon/Elena
Spoilers/Universe: Showverse, picks up right at the end of 1x22
Word Count: 2,909 (this chapter)
Summary: In the aftermath of the events on Founder's Day, Elena must decide which Salvatore brother she can really trust.
Notes/Disclaimer: Many thanks to my BFF and beta reader extraordinaire unbrokensky. I own nothing; Mystic Falls and all its occupants belong to the CW and I'm just playing in their sandbox.
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Elena’s dreams are chaotic and terrifying, involving lots of running and hands grabbing at her and her own voice chasing after her with taunts and threats. Then through the fog of fear and panic, she hears a deeper voice calling her name, and it sounds worried and soothing at the same time, and she fights toward it.
She wakes in her own bed, and by the light of her bedside lamp she can see that Damon Salvatore is leaning over her, holding both her wrists and with one leg weighing down hers. “Shh, Elena,” he murmurs, and her breath catches in her throat at the look in his eyes. “Back with us?” he asks, letting go of one of her arms and brushing his thumb over her cheekbone.
Elena nods. “Bad dream,” she offers.
“You don’t say,” Damon murmurs, smiling. “If I weren’t in possession of miraculous healing powers, I’d have bruises by now.”
“Oh, God, I’m sorry,” Elena says, and she can feel her cheeks going pink with embarrassment but she doesn’t look away from Damon’s face.
“Miraculous healing powers,” he repeats, and Elena thinks he shouldn’t be able to speak in a tone so light when his eyes are so intense. “No bruise, no foul.”
They stare at each other for several seconds and Elena suddenly realizes exactly where they are and how much of his body is pressed against hers and how his lips are inches away from hers. As soon as she processes it, she can tell he knows what she’s thinking and he does that eye thing she told him not to do and she thinks maybe sometimes he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it and before she can start to wonder if he’s getting closer she forces her racing thoughts to stop. “Damon,” she says, perhaps not as sharply as she (should have) intended, but it’s enough that his eyes shutter slightly and he releases her other wrist and rolls away from her.
He sits up and swings his legs over the side of her bed. “You should get up anyway,” he says, and then he looks at her over his shoulder. “We need to talk, and it’s close to morning.”
Elena sits up and nods. “Just let me change,” she says softly, and wonders why she feels slightly regretful. It’s neither the time nor the place for whatever had just almost passed between them and he’s not the Salvatore she’s supposed to be waking up in bed with anyway.
“I’ll make coffee,” he says, and he’s gone before she can blink.
She shakes her head and gets out of bed. She strips out of yesterday’s clothes and pulls on new ones. She catches a glimpse of her hair in her mirror and winces, then spends several minutes brushing it out before piling it on top of her head in a bun, leaving a few strands to frame her face. She stares at her reflection and thinks about Katherine, and about Stefan, and she remembers how she had felt the first time she saw Katherine’s picture. She’d run, she thinks, and it had been Damon who’d caught her, who’d taken her away and given her time to think. She shoves the thought aside guiltily, takes one last deep breath, and heads downstairs.
True to his word, Damon has brewed coffee and Elena follows the promise of caffeine down the stairs. She hesitates slightly as she approaches the kitchen, but she knows she’ll have to go in there sooner or later, and thinks it might as well be now. She takes a steadying breath and the last few steps she takes towards the doorway are purposeful.
Damon is waiting for her, sitting on one of the stools at the kitchen island. He has a grim smile on his face and she thinks maybe he was testing her, pushing her by waiting for her here instead of taking the coffee and the conversation into the living room, making her deal with it instead of bottling it up. If anyone knew the consequences of that, she realizes, it’s Damon Salvatore. She crosses to him and takes the cup he offers her.
“Thanks,” she says softly. She sits down on the stool next to his and takes a sip of her coffee, resolutely ignoring the spot on the floor where she had last seen John.
Damon nods, and she thinks she sees approval in his eyes. Then he pokers up and takes a sip from a glass of amber liquid, and Elena realizes he’s raided the liquor cabinet. She decides she can’t fault him for it.
“Before we get our story straight,” he says seriously, “there’s something I need to tell you.”
Elena raises her eyebrows; she doesn’t like the tone of Damon’s voice. “Okay,” she says cautiously.
“I didn’t tell the whole story about what happened earlier when I thought Katherine was you.” Damon takes another sip of his drink. “I came over to talk to Jeremy, like I said. And when I was leaving the house, you were – or rather, Katherine was – coming up to the porch. I had things to say to you.”
Elena tilts her head slightly, tries to get a read on what’s going on in Damon’s head, but he’s got years of practice on his poker face and she can’t read him if he’s trying not to let her. “What did you say?” she asks.
Damon shakes his head, but then he downs the rest of his drink and gazes at her, and now she can read determination in his eyes. “I wanted to tell you that I’ve suddenly found myself wanting to do the right thing. By this town, by the people in it. By you. And that I don’t know how or when it happened. It’s not my thing. It’s your thing, Stefan’s thing, Bonnie’s thing.”
Elena reaches out and touches Damon’s hand briefly. “You underestimate yourself.”
“You overestimate me,” Damon responds. “I thanked you, because I know Bonnie only helped Stefan to rescue me because she did it for you, and so somewhere along the line, you decided that I was worth saving.”
Elena nods and thinks, you are worth saving, but doesn’t say it out loud because she can tell he can’t believe it of himself quite yet.
“And then I did this,” he says, and to Elena’s surprise he leans forward and kisses her cheek softly, pulling back only slightly to stare into her eyes.
“Oh,” she says softly, and she finds herself inexplicably even angrier that Katherine had been impersonating her that evening. “And then what happened?”
“Well,” Damon says, his voice gone slightly gravelly, “I leaned in, and you didn’t back away.” As he says the words, he leans in and Elena finds that indeed, she doesn’t want to back away. Damon stops, his lips hovering less than an inch away from hers. “I kissed you. Her.”
Elena opens eyes she hadn’t even realized had fluttered closed and finds herself lost in Damon’s gaze. “Why?”
“I thought it was you,” he says, and his breath tickles her lips and they part ever-so-slightly despite the fact that she knows this shouldn’t happen.
“And then?” she asks, and she’s trying to remember the reasons why she shouldn’t be a breath away from kissing Damon Salvatore, why she should pull away right now. Damon doesn’t answer right away, and Elena is pretty sure she’s about to make a massive mistake. She’s trying to recall the curve of Stefan’s smile because surely that would be a reason to put a stop to this when Damon finally breaks the moment.
“Jenna caught us,” he says, and pulls back. “That’s when she said it was late and you – Katherine – should come in.” Elena blinks rapidly, tries to clear the fog from her brain.
“Jenna saw you kissing Katherine?” Elena asks. Damon nods and Elena’s stomach sinks. “Crap,” she mutters. “There’s nothing Jenna hates more than cheaters. I can’t imagine what she thinks of me right now.” She grimaces. “She’ll be even more upset when she gets up and finds you here, which isn’t going to make telling her about Jeremy any easier.”
Damon seems to hesitate for a second. “I could make her forget.”
Elena shakes her head. “After what’s happened with Jeremy?”
“It wouldn’t be like that,” Damon says quickly. “She’s just angry, not traumatized. And,” he adds before Elena can speak, “even if she does feel residual anger, she’ll still be mad at you – and me, for that matter – over not waking her up when we took Jeremy to the hospital, so she won’t notice a little extra mad.”
Elena sighs. She feels like it might be making the same mistake twice and that’s something she hates doing, but Damon’s making sense. They wouldn’t be leaving Jenna with feelings she couldn’t explain, and not having to deal with the repercussions of Jenna seeing a kiss between Elena and Damon that hadn’t even actually happened would make dealing with the repercussions of leaving Jenna asleep in her bed whilst they rushed Jeremy to the hospital after a suicide attempt much easier.
Elena looks up into Damon’s face and maybe he can see that she’s weakening, because he leans forward slightly and his voice is serious when he says “Elena, I need you to trust me. I don’t want another situation like this any more than you do; I wouldn’t have suggested this if I didn’t think it were safe.”
Elena closes her eyes and wonders when exactly she had started trusting Damon as much as she does.
“Do you trust me, Elena?”
Elena opens her eyes, decision made. “I trust you. Do it.”
Damon doesn’t move a muscle, but he feels some of the tension drain out of his shoulders at Elena’s words. It still surprises him (worries him) how much he craves her trust, how much he wants to earn it.
“All right,” he says. “I’ll do it as soon as she comes down. She won’t remember seeing you at all before going to bed. As for our story, we should make it as simple as possible.”
Elena takes a deep breath. “Okay.”
“We’ll say that right after you found Jeremy, before you had a chance to check to see if Jenna was home, I showed up looking for Stefan.”
“I told you what I’d just found, and you also did not think of looking for Jenna before you rushed me and Jeremy to the hospital.”
Damon nods. “And once we got back, you were so tired I thought it was best to just let you sleep for a little while before we woke Jenna and told her the whole story.” Damon resists the urge to brush his thumb across the dark circles under her eyes, mostly because it makes him feel ridiculous. “You were exhausted, so that part isn’t even a lie.”
“I just wish…” Elena trails off.
“That none of this happened?” Damon asks, somewhat sharper than he intends. “Don’t we all.”
“You’re the one who told my brother it’s easier to live as a vampire and shut off your emotions!” Elena exclaims.
Damon stops himself before he bites off a stinging reply about how she was the one who asked him to wipe Jeremy’s memory of Vicki’s death in the first place, and thinks he must be growing if he’s actually trying to avoid conflict. How does that happen, he thinks, even though he’s pretty sure the answer is now glaring at him.
“He asked,” Damon says wearily. “I told him the truth. I also said that life sucks either way.”
He and Elena stare at each other for a moment, and then Elena shakes her head. “I know,” she mutters. “I’m just edgy and looking for someone to blame. It’s no one’s fault.”
Damon shrugs, speaks in a deliberately light tone. “Blame Stefan, he’s not here to defend himself.”
The corner of Elena’s mouth quirks into a tiny smile before she sobers again. She takes another sip of her coffee and then just gazes into the cup, swirling the liquid around slowly. Damon reaches across the counter and grabs a bottle, pours himself a few more fingers of whiskey.
“Did anyone ever tell you that you drink a lot?” Elena asks conversationally.
“Takes the edge off,” Damon replies automatically.
“So I’ve been told,” Elena says, her voice dry. She swallows down the last of her coffee and grins. “I still think you drink a lot.”
“Just wait till it’s you,” he says without thinking. “Then see how much alcohol you drink in a given week.” Elena stiffens beside him and he realizes what he’s said. “You’re in love with a vampire. It’s going to come up eventually, Elena. He’ll want to keep you.” Damon meets Elena’s guarded gaze, and he can’t quite tell if he’s talking about his brother or himself, isn’t even sure if she knows. He thinks about how forcing Elena to drink his blood was the thing that convinced Stefan to hand over Emily’s grimoire, and wonders if saying that Stefan would ever want to turn Elena makes Damon a liar. He wonders which makes the better man – loving enough to keep her, or loving enough to let her go. Damon’s never been good at letting go, but he’s never cared much about being the better man, either.
They stare at each other wordlessly, and Damon wishes that he could read Elena’s thoughts, because he hates not knowing where he stands with her. It was easier when he didn’t love her and she hated him. At least then he knew how to act around her, knew how to expect her to react.
Finally, Elena drops her gaze back to the empty mug in her hands and says in a painfully awkward must-change-the-subject tone, “What about John?”
Damon blinks. “What about him? Stefan and Alaric are taking care of it.”
“No, I mean…” Elena sets down her mug and pushes it away. “What are we going to say about him when people ask?”
Damon shrugs. “That we haven’t seen him since the fireworks. Hell, for me that’s technically the truth.”
“I suppose,” Elena says. She hugs herself, rubbing her arms as if she were chilled. “I don’t know how to feel. About John, I mean.” She raises her eyes to Damon’s. “I never liked him much, and he tried to kill you and I hated him for that.”
Damon feels his heart lurch when she says it, and he wonders how many people would hate someone for trying to kill him. Most people, he thinks, would probably hand out awards. It’s an odd feeling, mattering that much to someone.
“But he didn’t deserve this,” she adds quietly. “And he was my father. I feel like I should feel something… more. More than just pity for such a violent end. And I feel guilty.”
“Why?” Damon asks curiously. “You couldn’t have stopped Katherine. And if you’d come home any earlier, she might have hurt you to keep you from trying.” Damon pushes the thought away as soon as he says it. He doesn’t want to think about what Katherine could – and still might – do to Elena.
Elena shudders, and Damon thinks she probably wishes he hadn’t said it either. “No, I feel guilty because I feel relieved. He can’t hurt you again. He can’t come after you or Stefan or anyone else I care about anymore, and I’m relieved. My father is dead, and I’m relieved.”
“Hey,” Damon says, lifting a hand to Elena’s cheek. “Your father died in a car crash and you grieved for him. John Gilbert never earned your loyalty or your love, and the fact that you can pity him after everything he put you through just shows what a good person you are.”
Elena blinks at him. “That’s quite a speech, Damon.”
Damon drops his hand self-consciously. “It’s the truth.”
“Thanks,” she murmurs.
The sun has risen while they talked and now it streams in through the kitchen windows and catches in the strands of Elena’s hair that have escaped from the bun on top of her head, and Damon gives in to the impulse to touch. He tucks a few strands behind her ear and doesn’t miss the way she leans ever so slightly into his touch when the backs of his fingers brush against her cheek.
He’s saved from trying to think of something to say when he hears Jenna moving upstairs.
“That will be Jenna,” he says, and Elena nods. “Are you ready?” he asks.
“Yeah,” she says, and Damon is relieved not to hear uncertainty in her tone. Jenna’s footsteps move towards the stairs.
“And you’re sure you want me to make her forget?”
Elena sighs. “Yes. I wish you didn’t have to, but yes.”
Jenna walks into the kitchen dressed in pajama pants and a tank top and doesn’t even have time to ask what Damon is doing there before he’s blurred to a stop in front of her and made her forget what she’d seen the night before. He blurs back to the stool next to Elena before Jenna can so much as blink.
She does blink, and then starts at the sight of Elena and Damon at the counter. “Damon! What are you doing here so early? Is Stefan here?” She looks at Elena. “What’s going on, Elena?”
Damon takes a fortifying sip of whiskey. Here we go, he thinks.