Summary: And there, in her embrace, he could feel himself breathe anew. He felt alive again and, to thank her, he enfolded her in her arms and pressed his lips to hers.

~ Breathe ~

The fresh air barely grazed him as he stepped out of the tomb.

A strange hollowness had filled his body, making him numb to everything around him. He couldn't feel his arms or his feet, couldn't hear, couldn't see. A fog had taken place in his mind, engulfing him to the core.

The sound of his feet as he stepped onto the ground was hollow, lifeless. Only one thought dominated his mind.

Katherine wasn't in the tomb. She wasn't inside. She was out all along. She didn't bother. She didn't bother, and I did...

Damon perceived a faint sound, so faint in fact, that through the thickness of the fog, he thought he'd simply conjured it. It sounded like glass breaking.

He inhaled, but he didn't feel the air that came into his lungs. His eyes were focused on the ground, but all he could see was her face, staring back at him with the bright smile that lighted her eyes and brought the familiar twinkle that he'd loved so much. All he could hear was her joyful laughter, as delicate as bells. She was everywhere, her image mocking him.


And then Damon heard it again. That cracking noise that sounded like glass breaking. His thoughts were slow, muddled by the fog. Had he dreamed the sound again? Was Katherine making him go insane?

His shoulders sagged every so slightly. Wasn't that what she'd done for the past one hundred and forty-five years? Drove him insane with the desire to free her, when she'd been roaming the world free all along? Shattering everything as he'd known it and making him lose any purpose he'd had in his never-ending life?

Wasn't it?

The cracking sound came again and, suddenly, Damon knew it wasn't a product of his imagination. His hand went to his chest and he breathed painfully.

Just how far was he gone that he could hear his own heart – his own, non-existent heart – breaking?

Damon closed his eyes, but the only things that he could see beneath the closed lids were images – bright and crystal-clear – of her smiling face. It was everywhere, haunting him, taunting him, hurting him.

Crack, crack, went his heart.

Damon had never been one for crying; he'd always left the crying up to Stefan. But right now, if he had been another man, he would have fallen to his knees sobbing.

But he wasn't any another man – he was Damon Salvatore, and Damon Salvatore didn't cry.

And so he endured the pain noiselessly, letting himself succumb to the numbness of the fog and listening to his heart breaking piece by piece. Over and over again.

Her name kept repeating itself in his head, and the cracking sounds just kept getting louder and louder.


Suddenly, a rush of warmth enveloped him. Damon was still too far gone to even care or wonder where the warmth came from. It was just there.

Then he heard a voice, soft as velvet, whisper in the crook of his neck, "I'm sorry", the warmth around him increasing. He didn't bother to lift his eyes off the ground, though. The fog too thick, too numbing for him to wonder.

The warmth he'd felt pressed harder onto him, engulfing him as the fog had done before.

And miraculously, somehow, the fog started to clear. It was as if the warmth surrounding him was driving it away.

His eyes lifted a fraction, trying to catch a glimpse of this strange warmth.

And then Damon saw the brown hair, the slender body, the arms tied securely around his body. He knew the warmth.

It was Elena. Sweet Elena, so like Katherine in some respects and yet, so incredibly different. She was a person in her own right, a sweet, loving, selfless person.

And she was hugging him, her body pressed tightly to his as she fought to make him better. She wasn't saying anything, but no words needed to be spoken between them. He understood.

Slowly, he felt the pieces of his breaking heart glue themselves together slowly, one by one. He could see better, could hear. His thoughts became clearer as the fog rapidly dissipated away, taking away the numbness he felt with it.

Damon's arms twitched, free from their previous numbed position. Slowly, tentatively, he put them around Elena's waist, trying to show her in his way that he was thankful, that he was better in some ways.

Her arms around him tightened, and she whispered "Oh Damon." Her voice was relieved.

She had understood. Somehow, that healed him more than anything.

And there, in her embrace, Damon realized he could feel himself breathe anew. He felt alive again and, to thank her, he enfolded her in her arms more securely and pressed his lips to hers. The last of the cracks were now sealed with that last physical contact. It was merely a brush of the lips, nothing deep. But for Damon, it held more significance than any deepened kiss could have ever held. In that small touch, he was thanking Elena, showing her his gratitude, telling her that he was giving her something that he thought he would never give anyone – his trust.

Elena was making him better, making the blood pump in his veins with new vigor. Slowly, surely, her star was eclipsing Katherine's. Her face was slowly taking the prized place in his heart Katherine's face had one held.

Elena, Damon realized, was steadfastly reshaping his view of the world. She had given him a chance, she had healed him. And he'd be forever in her debt because of that.

And when her lips brushed back over his in response, Damon had the confirmation that she'd perfectly understood what he'd tried to convey in that one touch. He let her melt in his arms, catching her easily, just as she'd caught him only moments before.

Nobody would understand what they'd just shared, nobody would understand the deepness on which they had connected. Their bond was one of steel, the kind that very few could even imagine. But Damon was sure that it mattered little to her as well.

For now, both of them understood that they would never let each other fall, and that was enough.

Haven't watched episode 15 yet – I just wrote this at once, feeling inspired. That last scene in "Fool Me Once" was worthy of a story. I hope you enjoyed it!