The ride home was a silent one. Elena could see the white of Damon's knuckles as he gripped the car wheel, the muscle in his jaw twitching. She sensed Stefan behind her, shifting in his seat to make Bonnie more comfortable. She hadn't awoken yet but from the sound of her fluttering heart, and the soft moan that escaped her lips, she was pretty close to regaining consciousness.

And, oh God, she was so, so hungry.

"We're nearly there," Damon said, as if hearing her thoughts, and Elena nodded, unsure of what else to do. Those had been the first words he'd said to her since they'd left the house and Elena wasn't sure how to take the sudden silent treatment, but she had the uneasy feeling that it wouldn't last long and, when the dam broke, there mightn't be much of anything left.

She opened her mouth to say something about it, but then snapped it shut when she realised she didn't want to say it in front of Stefan. It felt too much like a betrayal, although to which brother she wasn't sure.

Jeremy's car was already pulled up in front of the Salvatore house when they arrived, and four sets of heartbeats told her they had a full house. She grasped at Damon's arm as they came to a halt.

"I can't go in there," she said lowly.

He gave her a long, calculating look, and Elena wondered once again what was going through his mind.

"Wait here," he said eventually as he extricated himself from her grasp, "We still have a supply in the freezer." And that was all he said. No snarky reply, no reassuring squeeze. Distance. He was putting distance between them. And that hurt more than she thought possible.

"What were you expecting?" Stefan asked quietly, from the back seat, and Elena caught his eyes in the rear view mirror.

"Don't," she said. "I'm really not in the mood."

He nodded and opened the rear door, pulling Bonnie securely into his arms. She was still unconscious, but her heartbeat was regular and no longer thready. It sharpened her hunger and, with a shiver, she pulled her eyes away.

"You're not coming with me, are you?" he asked abruptly.

"Is there any point?" she asked. "I'm not what you want anymore, Stefan. I'm not the person you fell in love with."

"Yes, you are," he said, his voice soft. "You will always be the person you were, Elena, all Vampire's are. That is what makes it so difficult." And then he was gone andshe could hear Bonnie's heartbeat merge with the others inside. Biting her lip, she gazed out the window, away from the house. She could already see a pale line of light over the treeline. Dawn was coming and soon she'd have to scurry inside and hide from the sun. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she roughly wiped them away. Self pity wouldn't get her anywhere. The car door opened and Damon sat in, handing her a filled glass of blood. He eyed her intently as she drank it down. She almost instaneously felt the tension ease from her body.

"Yeah," Damon said, "Almost like that first cigarette of the day, isn't it?"

Elena slumped back in her seat. "I never smoked."

"Yeah, well you will be smoking pretty soon if you don't put this on – and I mean that in the literal sense."

She turned to look and saw the daylight ring in his hand. A grin spread across her face as she snatched it and put it on. It wasn't quite as garish as Damon and Stefan's, but it was still more of statement piece that she was used to wearing. It didn't matter, though, all that mattered was she'd see a sunrise again.

"Yes, well...when you're ready. There's more blood in the kitchen," Damon said quietly, opening the door.

"Damon." She caught his arm. "What's wrong?"

He looked at her with that piercing gaze of his that seemed to look right through her, and gave her a meaningless smile "Nothing's wrong, Elena, everything is just peachy."

And then he was gone too.

Elena waited for the world to make sense again as the sun rose over the the trees, cloaking Mystic falls in an illusion of safety. She was reminded once again of the hard truth she'd learned when her parents died. There was no true protection against loss and change. No never ending perfect life. There were only moments you treasured to get you through the bad parts, people you loved who eased the pain. Her resolve hardened as she got out of the car. So Damon had decided to let her go, had he? Well, that was her decision, not his.

The livingroom felt almost crowded when Damon entered and he resisted the urge to turn around and walk back out again.

"Where is she?" Gilbert demanded.

"She's still in the car, resisting the urge to snack on you," Damon said, too tired to lie. "And you need to be somewhere else. Take Bonnie and Jer with you – where's Liz?"

"I'm not going anywhere," Gilbert said shortly, "And Liz's whereabouts is none of your business."

"Fine," Damon snapped, "Stay here, in the one house in Mystic Falls that Katherine doesn't need a invite into. What could possibly happen?"

Jeremy rolled his eyes. "Sheriff Forbes is still at the house Katherine was holed up in," he said, ignoring Gilbert's glare. "I overheard them on the phone."

Damon felt a pang of worry. "Please tell me she isn't there by herself?" he asked. Jeremy shrugged, and Gilbert glared at him sullenly. "Never mind, I'll find out for myself." He reached for his phone as he headed for the kitchen. The urge to rip someone's throat out was almost becoming too much to ignore. He heard Elena go up the backstairs as he reached the fridge, and contemplated joining her.

But he couldn't do that because alone time with Elena meant resisting the impulse to touch her and
kiss her, and he couldn't do that, because she needed to leave with Stefan. She needed to be kept safe and happy, and Stefan could do that. He'd just get her killed, it was only a matter of time. He transferred the blood into a mug and popped it into the microwave before phoning Liz.

"Please tell me it isn't another body." She sounded harried.

"Why? How many have you got?"

"Only one in the house, but the dogs have turned up three unmarked graves just beyond the treeline. They're still digging."

Damn blinked, Katherine wasn't usually this sloppy. "What is the official line?"

"A serial killer, what else could we say? Animals eat their prey, they don't bury them."

She had a point. "How many people are with you, Liz?" The words were out of his mouth before he could stop himself.

"Are you worried about me, Damon?" Her voice sounded amused.

"Just be careful," he said brusquely, sidestepping the question.

"You are!" she teased. "I thought I'd never see the day Damon Salvatore worried about anyone other than his brother. Relax, worrywart, I intend to be home well before nightfall!"

Liz didn't know about daylight rings. "Don't forget about compulsion," he warned her. " Don't think you're safe just because the sun is up."

There was a pause on the phone. "Why do I get the feeling you're not telling me something?"

He resisted the desire to roar at her. "Liz, just be careful, okay?" He hung up before she could ask any more questions. The microwave beeped and Damon opened it, gulping down the blood in two swallows. It didn't help. He knew what he wanted and what he wanted was upstairs.

He blurred up the steps and was stalking her scent before he had time to think twice about it. Poor impulse control, he told himself, mockingly, its made you the man you are. He pushed open his bedroom door just as he heard his shower being turned off.

She stepped out of his shower as he entered, a towel wrapped around her; her skin still glowing from the hot water and her hair hanging sleek and wet down her back. Damon knew he'd already lost the battle. It didn't stop him giving it the old college try, however.

"Aren't you in the wrong room?" he asked, as he sauntered towards her.

Her eyes looked away. "I'm not so sure about that."

A thrill ran through him at the words but he ignored it. "Can't decide whose bed you want?"

"Do I have to decide right now?" she asked, almost plaintively.

He came to halt in front of her. "Looking for a threesome?"

She gave his shoulder a half-hearted slap. "You're not going to make this easy, are you?"

"Nope," he said. "But I could make it simple." He tugged at the towel and it fell to the floor. Damon's took her in, not hiding his interest, his eyes drifting over her small but firm breasts, the curve of her hips as they tapered into her waist. He felt himself harden. "Tempting," he drawled. "Are you sure you want to go there, Elena? Because you know I'm going to come back for seconds."

She blushed but didn't back down. The water was still evaporating from her skin as she canted forward, pressing her lips to his and he gave up all hint of reluctance as he kissed her back, steering her towards the bed as he divested himself of his clothes.

He pushed her back onto the bed. "Be honest, Elena, say what you want," he said. "So we both know where we stand." He didn't know why he was being so blunt. He always thought their first time would be filled with pretty words and soft touches.

The colour in her cheeks heightened but the scent of her arousal was obvious. "Fuck me," she said. It seemed Elena was in the mood for bluntness too.

He slid a hand up her thigh, revelling in the silkiness of her skin, and Elena parted her legs. He took the invitation, dipping his head and pressing his tongue into her. She sighed, her back arching gently, and he captured her hands as they fluttered towards him, feeling them twist as he pressed them back into the bed.

"Damon," she sighed. "Please...please..."

Her scent enveloped him, sweetening her taste, and his fangs extended, grazing the tender flesh and drawing blood. She bucked, letting out a soundless cry. Damon knew what she wanted, teeth and tongue. He moaned into her as her blood and juices mingled in his mouth.

He felt her hands struggle to break free and he tightened his grip as he lifted his face to look up at her. Eyes black, teeth extended, her breasts full and aroused, she was a sight to behold. He slithered up her body, pulling her hands over her head as his mouth settled on one luscious breast and bit down.

She jerked beneath him "Oh god!" she gasped as he suckled, her blood flowing down his throat, rich and intoxicating. The next step came as naturally as air. He lifted his head, slotted his hips into hers and watched her lips part, revealing her fangs, as he sank into her. She craned towards him, all instinct and lust, her legs curling around him.

"No going back now, Elena," he ground out, as he pulled out and slammed back into her. She clenched around him greedily, her skin flushing. Neither of them were going to last long.

With a sharp piston movement, he pumped into her. In and out, in and out. Words babbled out of her mouth.

"Harder, oh yes, fuck, harder, Damon-"

Her lips became silent as her body twisted beneath him. She was beautiful when she came. He released her hands and she struck. Her fangs slicing into the curve of his neck and snapping his self control.

"Elena!" He spilled into her with a violent shudder, the pleasure flowing over him hotly as she fed from him. Is was so near perfect it was bloody terrifying.

It was going to be impossible to let her go.