Hi there! :) Thanks for checking out my story! My intentions for The Things She Felt are two–fold. One, to write a story where Elena falls in love with and chooses Damon while she's still human. Two, to write D&E into some fun, angsty, sexy scenes. I know that most people like it best when D&E are happily in love – and so do I, of course! – but my muse likes it best when they are tragic and tormented and uncertain of one another, so while I promise that my D&E will eventually get their happily ever after, there will be lots of hiccups and misunderstandings (as well as love triangle angst) along the way. The first few chapters might be kind of slow as I get everything set up, but then then it should (I hope) get spicy. ;) The story starts the morning after the events of 2x22. *MATURE* readers only.

Chapter One: A Very High and Annoying Road

Ethereal ribbons of golden yellow sunlight began to creep across the hardwood floors and antique rugs, delicate, elongated fingers of hope stretching, reaching … right into Damon's drink-reddened, sleep-deprived eyes. He squinted, and his mouth curled down irritably.

Which was a strange reaction considering he'd spent last night practically on death's door thanks to an unlucky werewolf bite and hadn't expected to see today. He should be glad that he was here able to greet a new dawn. That was a good thing, right? Right?

He released a weary exhale and jammed a hand through already disheveled black hair. Yeah, right, just fucking great.

Unfortunately, the price to save him had been too high. To acquire a cure, Stefan had been forced to sell his soul in a devil's bargain. And when Damon got a brief glimpse of Elena's face after Katherine dropped the bombshell that Stefan had given himself over to Klaus, he knew she thought the price was too high, as well.

With a curse, he lurched to his feet, causing an empty bottle of bourbon to tumble from his lap and hit the floor with a dull clunk. He crossed first to one window, then to the other, yanking the heavy cloth curtains shut, blocking out the light that was paradoxically darkening his mood.

When he turned around, Elena was standing uncertainly in the entryway area, which proved how off he was that he hadn't even heard her enter the house.

Every cell in his body began humming with awareness, the same way it always did when he was anywhere near her. That awareness was quickly muted by worry. He hadn't expected to see her again so soon.

Not that he was complaining. She was so fucking gorgeous it hurt to look at her. Her long, straight hair glowed softly in the sunlight that was pouring in through the window above the front door. She wore only a purple tank, some faded blue jeans, and a pair of scuffed sneakers, and yet he couldn't prevent himself from noticing the exquisite curves and lines of her body. She could be wearing a trash bag and he'd still notice those.

And her eyes. Her beautiful, dark, haunting eyes were filled with so much sadness he was instantly moving toward her without a conscious directive to his feet.

He came to a stop right at the edge of the stairs leading up to the raised entryway, close enough that her subtle, lavender-infused scent teased his nostrils. "What're you doing here? Did something happen? Are you alright?"

She held up her cell phone. "Stefan hasn't responded to any of my calls or texts."

"You heard what Katherine said." He didn't mean for his words to come out so clipped and short, but he couldn't help it. "He's gone."

"No, I refuse to believe that. We're going to get him back."

"I admire your conviction, I do, but I'm a little unclear on exactly how we're supposed to do that. My brother and Klaus could be anywhere by now."

"I know." Her eyes drifted to the empty liquor bottle on the floor. "That's why I need you to sober up so you can help me. Bonnie's on her way. She's going to do a locator spell."

"Oh." He scowled thoughtfully. That was actually a good idea. An idea he would've come up with on his own eventually, of course.

"Jeremy almost died last night."

She spoke softly, but her words jerked his gaze fully to hers. "But he didn't? He's okay?"

She shrugged. "Apparently, Caroline's mom shot him in the heart, but Bonnie was able to save him. Barely."

Her words triggered a flashback from last night, most of which was so hazy and dream-like in his memory that he still had difficulty deciphering what had really happened and what was the product of his werewolf-venom deluded mind.

A flash of metal as the barrel of a gun was aimed directly at his heart.

Ghosting away.

The percussive shock of gunfire in his wake.

Sherriff Forbes had been trying to shoot him. Fuck, another thing that hurt Elena that was all his fault.

As he was trying to think of something comforting to say, her face crumpled. "Do you think I'm cursed? That I'm doomed to lose everyone I ever love?"

"No." He made a vehement gesture of denial. "No, I won't let that happen. Jeremy didn't die, you didn't become a vampire, and we're not going to lose Stefan. Everything's going to be alright. I'll make it alright."

She sniffed and forced a wobbly smile. "So that means you'll help me?"

"I'll do whatever it is you need me to do."

"Thank you." She rechecked her phone which still hadn't magically lit up to signal an incoming text or call from Stefan. "I'm going to go find something that Bonnie can use for her spell."

Turning, she took maybe two steps away before she stopped and whirled back. She rushed down the stairs and threw her arms around him, holding on tightly and pressing her face into his shoulder.

"I'm really glad you didn't die," she murmured. Her voice was mostly muffled by his black shirt.

Several sarcastic responses came to mind, but in the end, he simply put his arms around her and hugged her back, loving her for giving him a glimmer of hope, hating himself for wanting her even in this moment, thinking it would've been better for everyone if he had died. Death would've been a mercy for someone like him, and at least then Elena and Stefan would still be together and happy.

She released him and, with a sad smile, went upstairs, heading for Stefan's room.

And that was how, a short while later, he ended up with a witch in his library preparing to cast a spell. Bonnie lit several candles and spread a map on the floor in front of the fire place. Apparently, it was also necessary for her to burn several bundles of stinky herbs. He didn't know if they were supposed to be some kind of magical incense or what, but the smoke was starting to give him a headache.

When Bonnie seemed mostly done getting set up, Elena handed her one of Stefan's leather journals. "Will this work?"

Bonnie loosened the string tied around it and flipped through the pages, giving them only a cursory scan. "I think so."

Damon quipped, "While I don't recommend reading it – incredibly dense and dull – that is the essence of Stefan's personality, so you should have plenty of whatever it is your witchy mojo needs to find him."

Elena narrowed her eyes at him.

He smiled back blandly.

Bonnie said tartly, "Well, my witchy mojo is also going to need your blood."

"Why do you need my blood?" His tone was suspicious.

"To find Stefan, I need his blood – or the blood of someone who's related to him."

He squatted. "Gotta knife?"

She passed him a folding knife. He pressed the sharpened point against the middle of his palm. "Where should I … ?"

Bonnie made a gesture that encompassed the whole map, implying that anywhere was good.

Gritting his teeth, he pierced his skin and drew down. Drops of scarlet blood rained onto the map.

"That's enough!" Bonnie told him.

He removed the blade from his palm. It healed in seconds. All that remained was a smear of blood which he kind of wanted to lick off, because hey, blood was blood, but he was fairly confident that would completely freak Elena out so he refrained and surreptitiously wiped it off on his jeans instead.

Kneeling in front of the map, Bonnie placed Stefan's journal off to the side and took a cross-legged position. She started to chant. Power grew. It swirled around the room, prickled across his skin like the feet of a thousand ants, and made him shift his weight from one foot to the other uncomfortably. Had he ever mentioned how much he disliked magic?

The drops of blood animated, congregated together, flowed towards the southern portion of the map. They stopped over ….

"That's weird," Bonnie muttered.

"What is?" Elena asked anxiously.

"According to this locator spell, they're still here. In Mystic Falls."

"Maybe you did it wrong," Damon suggested.

Bonnie looked less than appreciative of his perfectly helpful suggestion. "No, the spell worked." She studied the map for another moment as though willing it to yield up a different conclusion, then declared, "Hold on, I'm going to try something else."

She looked around for Stefan's journal, found it, and picked it up. Gripping the journal tightly with both hands, she squeezed her eyes shut and moved her lips silently, whispering words of magic. This time, Power completely filled the room, swelled and burst around Damon like a flood of water, setting his teeth on edge and raising every hair on his body.

Just when he was starting to think that he couldn't stand even one more second of being in the library, Bonnie ceased whispering. Her eyes flew open. Damon and Elena both leaned toward her, breaths caught in their throats, waiting for her to tell them what had just happened.

When Bonnie was slow to speak, Elena demanded, "Did you see something? Did you see Stefan?"

"Yes." The word came out as a hoarse croak. The witch made a throat-clearing sound. "Yes," she said more strongly, "the spell let me see through his eyes. I recognize where they are. They're at Pastor Young's house."

"Who the hell is Pastor Young?" Damon asked impatiently.

"He's an old family friend, and his farm is about thirty minutes outside of town." Elena looked up at him with hopeful eyes. "We know where he is!" She jumped to her feet. "Come on."

Bonnie gave her an apologetic look. "I'd go, but I really think I should stay with Jeremy. He's still pretty shaken by what happened."

Elena smiled at her friend. "Of course you should stay with Jeremy. He needs you." She redirected her attention to Damon. "But Stefan needs us. Let's go."

She raced for the door, hair streaming out behind her like dark silk.

He scowled, because it was no doubt pointless to even hope for the possibility of talking her out of going. Just as he started after her, he heard, "Damon, wait." Bonnie's voice was low, too low for Elena to hear.

He looked back inquisitively.

A trickle of blood had begun to drip from one nostril, oozing down to stain Bonnie's upper lip red. "Stefan's not alone. Death is with him."

Her words contained the ominous ring of prophecy and sent ice-cold, twitchy fingers skittering down his spine. He nodded once to indicate that he understood and to thank her for the warning.

As he walked away, she whispered, "Be careful."

He pulled down a narrow driveway in the rural outskirts of Mystic Falls, Elena next to him on the passenger's side. He'd done his utmost to convince her to stay behind – Bonnie's last words still gave him the willies – but that went over about as well as he'd expected it to – which is to say, it didn't. He couldn't have budged her with a sledgehammer. And he'd been very tempted to use one.

"Wait in the car," he ordered sternly, putting the car in park directly in front of an old, one story farm house. Maybe this time she would listen to him.


Guess not. "Look, I don't know how you talked me into letting you get this far, but there's no way in hell I'm letting you go into that house. It's too dangerous."

Her chin thrust out belligerently. "You can't stop me."

He inclined his head in her direction. "Wanna bet?"

"Don't you dare try to compel me!" she snapped, quickly looking in the other direction.

His eyes flew to the tanned, bare skin just above the uppermost swell of her breasts where Stefan's silver locket used to hang until Katherine stole it. He might've also used the moment to glance directly at the whole swell of her breasts. But only for a second. Then, his gaze darted back to her face. "Tsk, tsk, forgetting to take vervain in a town full of vampires. Not too bright."

"I'm serious, Damon. Don't."

He sighed and pretended to flick a speck of dirt off the sleeve of his black leather jacket. "I'm not going to compel you, Elena. What I am going to do is tie your ass to that seat with the spare rope I have in my trunk."

She glared at him sullenly. "It's really creepy that you keep spare rope in your car."

"I know. And right now, it's also really convenient." His features hardened, and he inserted some steel into his tone. "Don't test me, because I will do it. You're not going in. End of discussion."

"Damon, please, what if he's in there? What if he needs me?"

"What if Klaus is in there?" he countered.


"So, Klaus thinks you're dead. Now I don't know if he'll care one way or the other about your miraculous resurrection, but I'd rather not find out when he instantly kills you. So unless you're just completely hell-bent on dying, stay in the car!"

As he started to climb out, she huffed, "Do you even have a plan?"

He replied testily, "Of course I have a plan." He didn't have a plan.

A skeptical eyebrow climbed her forehead.

"Just stay in the damn car!" he growled.

She nodded unhappily but at least appeared willing to stay put.

He slammed the door shut and headed for the farmhouse.

After striding up the porch steps, he tried the front door. Unlocked. He tested the doorway by swinging a boot over the threshold. It passed through with zero resistance. No need to be invited in. Whoever owned the house was dead. Something he'd known already because the scent of freshly-spilled blood saturated the afternoon air, tangy and delicious.

He flicked on the kitchen lights, illuminating a scene worthy of being in the goriest horror movie. Two bodies lay sprawled on the linoleum floor. Headless bodies, so there was also a lot of blood, huge pools on the floor as well as Jackson Pollock-esque spray patterns all over the walls and appliances. He entered and knelt to examine one of the heads. It belonged to an older male. There was so much blood in the hair, he couldn't guess at its original color. Now it was just a dark, tacky red.

When he stood and nudged the other head with his toe, so it rolled face up, he discovered a young girl with a pretty, round face and long black hair. She looked roughly the same age as Elena.

"Goddamn it, Stefan," he cursed angrily. This was literally the exact scenario he'd been praying he wouldn't find. Obviously, the possibility that Stefan might've gone off the rails had occurred to Damon, but he'd really been hoping that that wasn't the case. Unfortunately, all the classic signs of a Ripper binge were present. Only thing to do was burn the place down and hide the evidence.

He took one last look around. The blood was still wet, only beginning to thicken and congeal. Since he couldn't hear or sense anyone else in the vicinity, they must have just missed Stefan and Klaus.

Boards creaked on the porch. He twisted to see Elena, one hand on her stomach, the other over her mouth. Shit. "Get back in the car."

"Did Stefan - " Her voice broke and she had to start over. "Did Stefan do this?"

"Out. Now." Ice blue eyes flashed and jaw muscles clenched as he marched over to her.

"Did he?"

He grabbed her by the elbow. "Let's go."


She wrenched her arm out of his grasp, but only because he let her. He didn't want to bruise her. As she stormed off the porch, he followed more sedately.

She spun unexpectedly to face him. "Tell me the truth! Did Stefan do that?"

"Maybe," he hedged.

Such a simple word, just two little syllables, but he felt like the world's biggest asshole when he saw the devastation it caused her. He rushed on, "But maybe not. We don't know everything yet."

She pressed both hands to her stomach like she was going to be sick. "I know them. Pastor Young - he came over for Sunday dinners sometimes. I used to baby-sit his daughter. Her name is April. She's the same age as Jeremy."

Suddenly, Elena fell to her knees and vomited. Quick as a wink, Damon was by her side, gathering up the hair that framed her face and holding it back.

"Breathe, Elena," he instructed gently in between the heaves that wracked her body. "Deep breaths."

Eventually, the waves of nausea passed and her body stilled. She sat up and wiped the back of her hand across her mouth.

"Better?" he asked.

When she nodded, he helped her get slowly to her feet.

She clutched his arm. "I want to go back to the car."

That was the smartest thing she'd said since they'd gotten here. He led her back and helped her get situated and comfortable. Then he went to the trunk and pulled out a can of gasoline and a matchbook. Would Elena find it creepy that he also carried around spare gasoline just in case he needed to set something on fire? Of course she would, and she'd probably have some smart-ass thing to say about it. The thought brought a smile to his face.

He made a quick sweep of the house and nearby grounds, searching for any clues left behind. Doubtful there were any, but it was possible he could get lucky.

He didn't.

His next move was to douse the front porch with gasoline, which he did, then remove himself to a safe distance. From there, he lit a match and tossed it. He hung back just long enough to make sure the fire was going to catch and take the rest of the house with it. Once long columns of smoke climbed high into the sky, he returned to the car.

As they drove away, Elena asked, "Can I stay at your place tonight? I just feel … safer when I'm there."

He gave her a thin-lipped smile. "Of course."

"Why would Stefan kill Pastor Young and April?" She sounded so lost, so distressed.

Damon shrugged. He didn't really want to talk about this. The answer was only going to hurt her more.

"We'd been practicing. A little blood every day. He was getting better. He was learning control. Why would he do that?"

A spurt of irrational jealousy flared through him as he envisioned Stefan bent over Elena, tasting her blood as she willingly offered it to him. "Well, for starters, I highly doubt that Klaus is interested in hanging out with the repressed, neutered puppy-dog version of Stefan."

"What do you mean?"

He applied the brakes as they approached a red light. "I mean that Klaus probably forced Stefan to turn off his humanity."

She stayed silent for a moment, then asked, "You've seen this before, haven't you? The – the bodies like that."

The light turned green. He nodded curtly and hit the gas, resuming speed.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a horn blared somewhere off to their right.

Elena shrieked, "Damon!" as they simultaneously spotted a huge truck barreling down on them with no respect for the red light on its end. If it hit them, it would smash into the passenger's side. Directly into Elena.

It was only thanks to his enhanced reflexes that he had time to do anything. He slammed his foot on the gas, and the Camaro jumped forward like a horse that'd just been spurred.

They almost made it clear. They were just the tiniest bit too slow. The truck clipped their rear bumper and sent them spinning. Elena screamed. He let up on the gas pedal and steered them until all wheels had traction again and he could start slowing the car. They skidded through a full 180 degrees before he brought them to a stop in the middle of the road, now facing the wrong way. Miraculously, no one else was coming in either direction, so at least they weren't struck again by oncoming traffic.

He looked over at Elena. "You okay?"

She was no longer screaming. Her eyes were wide and fixed straight ahead, heart beating rapidly like a frightened rabbit's. Judging from the strangled sound of her breathing, she was about to hyperventilate. Well, why wouldn't she? Today, she'd witnessed a brutal murder scene - and the murderer was her boyfriend - and now she'd just been in a near-fatal car accident, a trigger for the traumatic night her parents died going off Wickery Bridge.

He grabbed her chin and forced her to meet his assessing gaze. "Are you okay?"

She swallowed hard. "Yes."

"Wait here."

From the dazed look on her face, he didn't think there'd be any issue this time that she'd do as he said.

He got out and inspected the rear of his car for damage. A tail light was busted and crunched in. Could've been worse. But it shouldn't have happened at all.

His lips pulled back from his teeth in a snarl as he considered how close Elena had come to being injured or worse. Meanwhile, the other driver had already exited his truck and was heading in their direction with a panicky look.

Damon appeared in his path with a whoosh, beyond pissed off and a heartbeat away from ripping this idiot apart until it was raining unidentifiable body parts. The only thing restraining him at all was the desire to shield Elena from any further bloodshed. It wouldn't stop him, though.

"Okay, here's the situation," Damon said, "I was in a pretty shitty mood to begin with, and now you've gone and dented my car and scared my girl." Not your girl, an obnoxious voice in his mind corrected, not your anything. "So I'm gonna need you to give me a reason why I shouldn't kill you in the next ten seconds."

Veins pulsed hotly, spider webbing out from his eyes as the last vestiges of his self-control started to erode. He probably wasn't going to make it a full ten seconds.

The driver noticed and gasped out hurriedly, "Oh god, is everyone okay? I didn't mean to – my truck, I couldn't get it to stop! I swear, I tried! What's wrong with your face?"

Damon blinked, reasserting control over his vampire aspect, and grabbed the man's shoulders, immobilizing him so he could be compelled. "Tell me exactly what happened. Calmly."

In a dazed monotone, the man recited, "The light turned red and I tried to stop. I hit the brakes, but nothing happened. I swear I tried to hit the brakes, but they weren't working. Please believe me!"

Damon smiled insincerely and patted the man's cheek. "Congratulations, it's your lucky day. I do believe you. I just have one more question. Do you work for Klaus?"


"You know – accent … pure evil … super dramatic … ?"

He could've spent the rest of the day listing all of Klaus's negative qualities, but the driver just gave him a blank look and shook his head.

"Never mind. I predict your brakes will miraculously start working again. Go home. Forget this ever happened."

The man turned and staggered back in the direction of his truck.

Damon strode back to the Camaro at a regular, human pace. When he got in, Elena looked over. "What happened? What did he say?"

"That he lost control. Apparently, his brakes stopped working." Damon frowned thoughtfully.

"We got so lucky." She shivered. "Good thing you were driving."

"Yeah," he said distantly, still lost in thought.

Nothing about this made any sense. It was too coincidental that some huge, jacked-up truck had malfunctioned and almost T-boned them right when they trying to track down Stefan. Call it a hunch, but this had the unpleasant stench of magic all over it.

He was inclined to suspect Klaus, who might not be too pleased that they were tracking Stefan, but if the Original vampire was going to kill them, he'd gleefully eviscerate them in person. He wouldn't set up an elaborate scheme to make their deaths look like some freak accident.

But if not Klaus, then who?

Of course, it was possible that Damon was being overly paranoid and looking too deeply into what was nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His eyes narrowed. But he probably wasn't.

While starting the car back up, he caught a glimpse of Elena in his periphery. She was so, so pale and sitting with her arms wrapped tightly around her midsection. The sound of her pounding heart beat against his eardrums.

"Are you sure you're alright?" he pressed.

"I'm fine," she said. He didn't believe her, and his expression reflected that. "Really," she insisted, forcing her hands down into her lap.

"If something starts to hurt or if you feel sore later on …." He pulled up the sleeve of his jacket, baring the underside of his pale wrist. "All you have to do is ask."

"No!" She turned away hastily, an evasive moment, and he knew that the memory of when he forced his blood down her throat in a reckless attempt to save her life hung in the air between them like an awkward, unresolved ghost.

But then, she caught herself and sent him a genuinely kind look, the tension all but gone. "I mean, no thank you. I was just scared, that's all."

A long silence ensued. Finally, he said, "Alright, then, you good to go?"

She nodded. "Yes, let's get out of here."

He waited another minute until the truck that hit them had disappeared down the road. Then he got the Camaro turned around so they were once more facing the right way and headed home.

Once they were safely back at the Salvatore boarding house, Elena settled on one of the red couches in the living room. Damon slipped out of his jacket and poured himself a crystal whiskey glass full of bourbon, downed it in one swallow, and poured himself another. Not as good as blood, but it would do for now.

Without asking, he poured her a glass, too. Surprisingly, she accepted it and took a generous gulp. She made a face afterwards where her nose scrunched up and her lips puckered in distaste. It was easily one of the cutest things he'd ever seen in his very long life.

He extended the decanter. "More?"

She nodded gratefully.

He refilled her drink and sat down beside her, still holding the decanter. "I don't want you to worry. It'll be okay. Stefan's come back from worse than this." He neglected to add that it had taken years, sometimes decades, before his brother was his old insufferable, mopey self again.

"Yeah," Elena replied, "but he wasn't under Klaus's control. How are we going to free him without Klaus killing us in the process?"

"I'll think of something."

She stared down into her almost empty glass of bourbon, then set it down and raised her lovely face to him. A whole gamut of emotions blazed in her darkly mesmerizing eyes: pain, hope, grief, desperation. "Maybe it wasn't Stefan. Maybe Klaus is the one who killed Pastor Young and April, and he just wanted us to think it was Stefan."

When he stayed silent, not willing to burst her feeble bubble of hope, she added defensively, "There's a chance, right?"

"Yeah, maybe."

Nope. Not even a tiny one. He was all too familiar with the carnage left in Stefan's wake. The Ripper was definitely back. Which meant that not only would he and Elena have to fight Klaus to get Stefan back, they'd have to fight Stefan to get Stefan back. Because if Damon knew anything at all, it was that his brother was not going to willingly come back and subject himself to the kind of crippling guilt he'd feel for hurting Elena, especially not when she'd be looking at him with such woeful eyes. No, Stefan would fight dirty and viciously to avoid that kind of pain. Damon didn't think Elena quite grasped the magnitude of what they were up against yet.

"I'm not giving up on him." She looked like she was about to cry. "Promise that you won't, either. Promise that you'll help me."

Tears welled in her dark eyes, and he would've done anything – anything - in that moment to keep those tears from succumbing to gravity. God, if he knew where Stefan was right now, he'd gladly walk barefoot over hot coals or crawl on his belly over broken glass or swim through an ocean of boiling acid the entire way just to stop this girl from hurting for even one more second.

A fucking lump clogged his throat. He swallowed it in order to speak. "Elena, I will do whatever I have to to bring my brother home to you. I promise."

She sniffled. "I'm so glad you're here." She laid her head on his shoulder and placed a dainty, warm hand on his thigh. "Thank you for everything. For being my friend."

He smiled briefly in response, even though she couldn't see it, and laid his cheek on the top of her head. Her words had relaxed the knot of dark, painful emotions that lived inside him. In less than twenty four hours, he'd gone from unforgiven to friend.

He'd even gotten a kiss from her. Granted, he'd been pretty much almost dead, so he hadn't been able to properly enjoy it, and it'd only been a small, sweaty – on his part, not hers – and chaste kiss, but he could still remember how velvety-soft her lips had felt, like pink rose petals, so cool against his fevered flesh. She had tasted like absolution.

"You got it," he murmured. "We'll get him back."

Minutes later, her breathing evened out as sleep claimed her. Even though the sun still hung stubbornly just above the horizon, he wasn't surprised, not after everything she'd been through, not just today but in the last several days. She had every right to be exhausted.

He knew he needed to take her upstairs and tuck her into his brother's bed, but he selfishly let himself linger, enjoying the sensation of her body against his. She was all soft curves and warm skin.

He turned his face so that his nose pressed into her dark, silky hair. She smelled clean and feminine, like a sunny meadow filled with blooming lavender. He inhaled deeply, filled his lungs with her scent, filled his entire being with a longing that was as powerful as it was hopeless.

He wanted her. More than anything. But she would never be his. She belonged to someone else. His brother. She said their love was epic.

And now in some sort of cruel, perverse, karmic twist of fate, she was expecting him to help reunite her with said epic love.

And he would. He would make her world right again if it killed him. He'd fucked up when he impulsively fed her his blood against her will. He'd fucked up when he'd been careless enough to get bit by Tyler Lockwood of all fucking people, thus forcing Stefan to make a deal with Klaus for a cure. He'd fucked up when he'd escaped from the cell they'd locked him in and let his venom-induced delusions put Elena's and Jeremy's lives in jeopardy.

But he would fix all of it by dragging his brother home, willingly or not. Klaus didn't get to win, not this time. Elena deserved to be happy, even if that happiness was found with Stefan and not him.

Far sooner than he wanted to, he set aside his bourbon and scooped her up in his arms. She weighed almost nothing and felt so fragile. So human.

Releasing a sleepy sigh, she cuddled against his chest like an adorable, content kitten. He carefully made his way upstairs and set her down gently on Stefan's bed. To keep her from getting cold while she slept, he grabbed the blanket folded at the foot of the bed and spread it over her, tucking it around her prone form. When he tenderly swept aside a few wispy strands of hair floating about her temple, she stirred, eyes fluttering open.

"Stefan?" she whispered softly.

He pulled his hand away. "Just me," he whispered back.

A smile spread across her face, and she breathed out, "Damon." Then her eyes slid shut and she lapsed into a peaceful repose.

He gave her one last soft caress, a guilty caress, knuckles brushing just the slightest bit down her cheek. Putting aside the fact that she was already off-limits because she was his brother's girl, he still had no right to touch her. Not after all the things he'd done to hurt her.

But … he was weak like that. She made him weak. Made him want things he couldn't have. Things he didn't deserve.

He turned and walked away.

As he was closing the door to Stefan's room, he couldn't resist glancing back one more time at the girl he loved. She looked so small. Stefan's bed practically swallowed her up. And so young. A perfect vision of innocence and angelic sweetness that pulled on his heart in ways it shouldn't.

Definitely not for someone like him.

That's why he had to get Stefan home as soon as possible, hopeless as that mission seemed.

"Goddamn you, Stefan," he swore under his breath, "I didn't want to be saved."

He closed the door and went downstairs.