Okay, so I haven't updated this fic in a while. A long while. This would be because I had massive writer's block. It was the really annoying kind where you know exactly how the scene in your head is going to go, but you just can't get the words to come together on the page and you don't dare scribble just anything because it needs to be just right. Yep. That kind.
Fortunately I finally figured out what the problem was. And I fixed it, by publishing the second half of Chapter 10 first. I realize this may seem a little backwards. However, there is a method to my madness. Do me a favor and read it, tell me what you think, and then as soon as I write it, I will publish the first half of this chapter. For some reason, I think it works this way. Let me know.
Also, the title references the first half of the chapter, which is thematically centered around Beltane and the May Day ceremonies. Since May Day is sometimes known as "Lady Day," I thought I'd refer to that custom in the second half of the chapter.
After it was over and they'd lain there in the darkness, letting the cold sweat dry on their skins and the silence spin out until it choked the words that lay in both their throats, he could take no more of it. He knew what she was thinking, the tangled mess of divided loyalties and unquestionable guilt that was spinning through her mind. He knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that she was thinking of Stefan right now, comparing this moment to all the others she'd shared with his brother. And that certainty was driving him out of his mind.
Without a word he slipped out of her bed and rose to pick up his discarded clothes, a bitter tinge of irony curving the corner of his mouth as he followed the trail they'd left on the floor of her otherwise tidy bedroom. He'd clean up after himself, he thought with the cold taste of fury like iron in the back of his throat. He'd tidy up her life, make sure that she didn't have to deal with the fallout of falling in love with two brothers at the same time. He'd fade out of her life, let her forget that he'd ever been a part of this incredibly twisted story. She'd never remember he'd been there, if he had anything to say about it.
He was buttoning his shirt with quick, sharp movements when he heard the sheets rustle behind him. He turned, prepared to give her a flippant remark and a casual goodbye, and then the look in her eyes stopped him cold. She'd never looked at him like that before, even through all the pain and the memories they'd shared, and it had his stomach tightening in both anticipation and dread. She was going to say that this couldn't work, that it had all been a mistake, that she'd committed a terrible sin and that this could never, ever happen again. Of course she was going to say that. How could she say anything else?
And so, when she drew in a long, ragged breath and opened her mouth, he had to fight the urge to hunch his shoulders as if preparing for a blow. It would be like a hard uppercut to the face, he thought—hurts like hell, but you get over it. He'd heal fast. He had to.
Which was why, when she finally spoke, he didn't hear her properly the first time, and had to ask her to repeat it over again.
"I said I'm not sorry," she said steadily, eyes wide and unreadable in the darkness. "I'm not, Damon. Maybe I should be. But if I could go back and change what happened tonight, I wouldn't." She stopped and looked at him for the space of a single breath. "I wouldn't."
He knew he was staring at her like an idiot. His mouth was probably hanging open, too. Quite frankly, he was too busy trying to sort out the implications of what she'd just said to care. She couldn't possibly mean what he thought she did. She couldn't. It simply wasn't possible.
She shook her head and smiled at him just a little bit, as if she could read the lightning-fast revolutions of his thoughts.
"I know it's not exactly what either of us expected. No one thought this was going to happen. But it did. And now all we can do is move on from here."
He wasn't aware that there was a "here." He didn't even know where he was anymore, which meant he certainly had no idea where the hell she thought she was in this little menage a trois. All he knew was that all the recent drama in his life must have driven him insane, and he needed to get out of there as quickly as possible before the hallucinations got any worse.
He was busily tucking his shirt into his jeans and looking fruitlessly for his shoes when she slipped out of bed and came to stand in front of him, one small hand coming to rest on his shirtfront, her fingers worrying at the buttons.
"Damon," she said quietly, and he tried his best to ignore the way the blood thrummed in his veins despite his mind's warning that it was no use. He couldn't think straight around her. If he was going to be honest with himself, he never really had.
"What?" he managed through a painfully dry throat, and finally spied one shoe over by the closet. She was still fiddling with his buttons, though, and somehow he didn't feel like pushing her away.
"I meant it when I said I wasn't sorry. I know you're thinking I should be, that it's what everyone expects of me…including you. But I'm tired of doing what's expected. This is who I am, this is what I feel. And if tonight was part of that, then so be it."
He doesn't know what's wrong with her, but she must be on some sort of mind-altering drug or something. The Elena Gilbert he knows is madly in love with Stefan, is loyal and responsible and makes good decisions. That girl would never sleep with her ex-boyfriend's brother, would never stand there in front of him and tell him to his face that she made a mistake and she's not sorry for it. That girl hates his guts. And instead he's talking to a stranger with Elena's face.
"You don't know what you're saying," he tells her roughly, hating the harsh note in his voice. She might as well realize it now, though. Before it's too late, before she finds out the true extent of the mistake she's already made. Before she rips his heart out like Katherine did.
"No, I'm not," she whispers with conviction heating her every syllable. "I know what I want, Damon. I have for a long time. I just didn't want to let myself believe it."
He's hearing things. It's finally happened. His extra-perceptive vampiric senses are picking up phenomena that aren't actually there. He wishes this had happened a few years down the line, but what's a few years when you're immortal, really?
Her mouth is set in that adorable little pout she gets when she's really stubborn, and there's a line digging itself into the smooth space between her brows. She's giving him a look that strips him down, peeling back muscle and skin until he's standing before her bare to the bone. He almost flinches, and has to force himself to look at her straight on.
"I know you don't believe me yet, Damon," she whispers, every word carrying the force of a carefully calculated punch to the jaw. "But I'm not lying to you. I want you. I have for a long time. And if you turn away from me now, it's going to be your choice. Not mine."
He gives her one long look, one hundred and forty-five years of utter loneliness condensed down to a single gaze out of ice-blue eyes. She doesn't mean this. She can't. He'll ruin her in ways she never thought possible, break the generosity in her smile and rip the warmth in her eyes into a thousand bleeding pieces. She doesn't know what she's asking for. And he's here to make damn sure that she never gets it.
So he turns away from her, pushes her hand away, slips on his shoes and sticks his wallet back into the rear pocket of his jeans. She'll thank him for this later, he thinks with a sick tug in the pit of his stomach. She won't stand here with dazed dark eyes and trembling lips when she realizes what a favor he's doing her. And he'd rather know that she'll miss him later than hate him now.
He's at the window before she has time to draw breath to plead, and he's poised on the sill before he looks back over his shoulder at her, hands outstretched to him in the moonlight. She'll get over this, he tells himself. When Stefan gets back to his normal self, they'll work all of this out, and she'll be happy again. Of course she will.
"He'll come back, Elena," he tells her emotionlessly. "He'll get better with time, and he'll come back. And when he does, he's not going to find you with me."
He blurs out the window and leaps to the ground in a single, graceful move. He feels rather than hears her move over to the open pane and look out into the night, trying to find him somewhere among the shadows. He's already running, though, weaving aimlessly through the forest in search of questions to which he'll never know the answers. Right now it's just enough to run and not think, not feel, not remember the girl he left standing at an open window, staring at an empty lawn. She isn't his to remember. She never was. And he's better off pretending that nothing ever happened between them.
Oh, but it's a bitter moon tonight.