Title: I'm going to make Strip Truth or Dare a real game.
Rating: PG/K+
Category: Delena fluff, I think. It got away from me a bit somehow.
Summary: Damon and Elena spend some unplanned time together, during which they converse about Damon's feelings.
Spoilers: Set post-Isobel, pre-season finale
Warnings: Two swears, unless Elena and Stefan still dating counts as a warning. It's not mentioned, if that helps!

So this is not the fic I intended to write. I started out writing a cute little fluff piece in which Damon and Elena are just hanging out and being flirty.

"Damon and Elena," I said to them. "I know. You shall go to the grocery store, because it is my personal opinion that couples only go to the grocery store together if they are married or considering marriage. You will flirt and it will be supercute."

"I don't actually do 'supercute'. I am a morally ambiguous vampire," said Damon. "Most people go with 'smoldering' when they choose an adjective to describe me."

"Don't worry," Elena told me, "I'll be there and he'll do what I tell him."

Which he did, but she didn't exactly do what I told her, as you'll see.

This is the first Vampire Diaries fic I've written, and only the second fic I've ever shared, so comments are appreciated and taken to heart, especially if you can enlighten me on the whole "turning off your humanity button", because I was pretty much just winging it. On the other hand, I feel I can safely say that, compared objectively, what I've made up is no more ridiculous than some of the things that happen in the books (although this is strictly a tv-verse fic). I'd also love to hear other people's opinions on what Damon's answer to Elena's question is.

And with that, here is "I'm going to make Strip Truth or Dare a real game.":

Damon Salvatore opened the door of the boarding house to find Elena Gilbert standing on his front porch, her hand poised to knock.

"Elena, darling, you light up my existence."

"Damon, you are a tolerable part of my own. Is your brother here?"

"No, Doom And Gloom is off hunting Thumper. Or Flower for all I know, gross." He stepped backwards into the house. "Care to wait for him inside?" He asked, pulling off his jacket to wait with her instead if going out himself. And by "wait with", he meant "flirt with" and, whatever, enjoy her company, god. He wasn't even saying that out loud and it still sounded wrong.

"Oh, you don't have to stay in just because I'm here. Where were you going?"

"Umm... the grocery store."

Elena couldn't help her fit of laughter. "Damon Salvatore, big bad-ass vampire and domestic goddess," she teased.

"Oh, ha ha. No, but you're here a lot and you need actual food. And also, Sheriff Forbes does her shopping around this time and it's good for her to see me out being not a vampire."

"Fine." Elena rolled her eyes, although she was secretly touched that his concern for her was his primary reason for going on such a degrading errand. "Well, you mind if I come with you?"

"What, grocery shopping?"

"No, to Paris. I mean, I don't want to bother you, but if Stefan isn't here there's no reason for me to hang around."

"You're only rarely a bother, Gilbert. Let's go. But I'm driving; your car is absurdly tiny."

"Hey, don't hate on my Mini!" Elena elbowed him in the stomach as they walked out of the house side-by-side.

Elena was laughing. She laughed a lot when she was with Damon. It didn't used to be like that, of course; he had been truly evil when she'd first met him, but now he was like a completely different person. There was still a wickedness about him, but towards her at least it was now more like a playful mischievousness, and she found that it matched the part of herself, that "more fun" part, that had gotten lost when her parents died and all the drama in her life had started.

Elena's genuine smile twisted wryly as she considered the reasons for their switches. Hers, of course, she knew only too well, but Damon was still something of a mystery to her. Thinking about this, she climbed into the car as Damon held the door for her.

After some flirting about whether or not they should both wear their seatbelts, a silence fell. It was a short, comfortable silence that would have soon blown over. Except...

"Damon, can I ask you a question?"

"Can I deny you?"

"Yes, but if you do let me ask you have to answer honestly."

"Oh, god, this is going to be about my feelings, isn't it. Sorry, pensive and tormented is the other Salvatore. This one is for easy and salacious."

"Okay," Elena said, ready to let it drop.

"No, no, in fact I can deny you nothing, Elena. Ask away, and I pinky swear I'll answer."

"Well..." she paused. Elena was curious, but not really even sure she wanted the honest answer. "You know how you said your humanity is like a button you can press? It's just, you'd been living without yours for so long, what made you change your mind? I mean, it's like you changed after we opened that tomb. I'd think something like that would have been easier if you hadn't turned on your humanity, but-"

"Okay, yikes. Stop, stop. Stop right there. Christ, Dr. Phil much?"

Elena looked over at him.

Damon rolled his eyes. He opened his mouth and then closed it, like he physically couldn't answer such an emo question.

Elena was still looking at him.

"Fine, but just... don't tell anyone. Especially not my brother. I'm trusting you here."

"You know you can."

"Yes, now," he said pointedly. "Okay, so you know how I was all doped up on love for Katherine. Well, without your humanity, you can't love, not really. You can remember that you love someone, you can lust and burn for someone, but love is a human thing and you need humanity to feel it. But I couldn't have Katherine. She was, I thought, locked up in the tomb for a century and a half until the comet came again, suffering the whole time. And it hurt me that I couldn't have her, couldn't help her, because she was the only thing that mattered in all the world to me.

"No, don't look at me like that. Anyway, I figured, turn off the humanity, turn off the pain. And that was how I got through the years without her. The thought of her, that I was waiting for her, was still my purpose in life, but it didn't hurt anymore.

"No, seriously, Elena, don't. I don't need or want your pity."

"It's not really pity. But my friend was hurting and hearing about it makes me hurt, too."

Damon glanced at her. Okay, Isobel was totally right; he loved her. Not like it wasn't freaking clear to him already that he cared about her, but thanks for sharing it with the world, you bitch.

"Sometimes you surprise me by how very not Katherine you are."

Elena heard tenderness in his voice. It made her feel warm and shiver at the same time, and it was not good. Not for anyone, and particularly not good for her not being like Katherine.

"Don't change the subject. This is about your emotional drama, not me."

You are my emotional drama, Damon thought, but he didn't say it. This is the longest car ride of my life, he also thought. Where the fuck is the grocery store, Maine? He didn't say that, either.

"Right, as you wish," Damon paused, thinking about how to explain. "So the thing about your humanity is that you also need it to experience any personal growth. Without my humanity, I stayed for a century and a half exactly as I was when I first turned it off: madly in love with Katherine, furious at Stefan, high on the newly discovered perks of being a vampire, and generally a self-serving psychopath with no redeeming qualities." He smirked at Elena, and she smiled a bit back at him.

"But then Katherine wasn't in the tomb and she never really loved me and my existence had been purposeless after all, and I couldn't move on because without my humanity I couldn't change. So I needed it back on. I guess if you think about it, that's a pretty selfish reason, so maybe you were right about me," he tried to grin.

Elena reached over and touched Damon's arm, stroking softly with her thumb. Damon's eyes flicked to her, then he fixed them back on the road.

"Oh, thank god, we're here. Next time you want a question answered, it's only happening in a game of strip truth or dare."

Elena took her hand off his arm. "That's not a real game, Damon," she said with a teasing smile, but her tone was warm and it still felt like a caress to him.


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