Disclaimer – I do not own The Vampire Diaries or any of its characters. Oh, how I wish I Damon of my very own though.

Author's Note – Finally! This has taken me much longer to flesh out and write than I had originally anticipated. Also, a HUGE thank you to my spectacular beta, pandora03! Her insight and additions have been extremely helpful. I'd still be stuck in a quagmire without her gentle prodding and encouragement.

Damon and Elena had been locked in their own private bubble for twenty-four hours. Holed up in Damon's suite of rooms at the boarding house, they had made love so many times Elena had lost count. Finally, when she could take no more, he had run her a hot bath to soothe her achy muscles. They sat, her back pressed against his front, until the water cooled. By then she had been so exhausted, she needed him to lift her out of the tub. He dried her carefully, attending to all of his favorite places with the utmost gentility before placing her in his bed.

That had been ten hours ago, and she hadn't moved an inch in all that time. Damon's chest puffed in self-congratulatory pride as he looked her over. She never looked that worn out after an evening with Stefan. Turning on his side to face her, he ran his finger down her plump cheek, ghosting over her slightly parted lips, before tracing it over the ends of her silky hair.

Damon, who had lived fearlessly for the last one hundred and forty-five years of his life, was shaken to the core when he realized that the small girl in his bed now held his heart in her hands. She had the power to crush him and it would be far more devastating than anything Katherine had ever put him through.

Katherine had been his first love and he had genuinely loved her. He had been charmed by her confidence and inherent sensuality, her brash and impetuous nature. At the time, those qualities were practically non-existent in the proper southern belles he had been raised with. The novelty of her selfishness and overt sexuality drew Damon like a moth to a flame, completely entranced by the fact that she lived life on her own terms. He had always been a bit of a black sheep; rebellious. Falling for her was inevitable. In Katherine he had seen a partner, someone who not only accepted the murkier aspects of his personality, but encouraged him to fully explore his dark side.

He flinched when he thought of how naïve he had been.

In the throes of passion he was blind to her cruelty. The night she had taken him to the country road and demonstrated how easy it was to kill, his conscience had attempted to rear its ugly head. He stamped it out easily enough. Telling himself it was just who she was – a vampire. This was how he knew she would choose him over Stefan. Stefan had to be compelled to see past her wanton destructive nature. That wasn't the case with Damon. If he was going to love her, he was going to love all of her. It was the way he wanted to be loved and that was what he gave her, unconditionally. He never realized that she was incapable of reciprocating.

Of course he had been wrong, she hadn't chosen just him. She wanted them both. Selfish bitch wanted her cake and wanted to eat it too.

Even that hadn't been strong enough to deter him. His conviction had never wavered. Not until Anna had spoken those reality shifting words to him on the night of the tomb opening, did he finally see her for what she really was.

"She knew where you were, Damon. She didn't care."

His love and devotion transformed into contempt and blind rage almost overnight. Contempt for his own prolonged rose-colored stupidity and rage at the bitch that had inspired it.

He ran his hand down Elena's arm and she began to stir. His feelings for her, though relatively new, carried a depth that made his affection for Katherine look like puppy love. She was his true match. Her warmth and kindness balanced out his occasional bouts of brutality. Elena encouraged him, making him strive to be a better man; making him want to be a better man. With Katherine, he would have spiraled into darkness and lost all traces of his humanity.

She cuddled closer, eyes still closed, and spoke into his chest, her words muffled. "I'm hungry."

He rolled onto his back dragging her with him. The tension that had coiled in his body evaporated as he laughed, "Mmmmm…I'm sure you are. Come on." He sprung out of bed and threw on a pair of jeans. "I'll make you," he glanced at the clock, "a midnight snack."

Elena sat up, startled. "I slept all day?" The sheet had dropped to her lap and Damon was distracted by the way her hair fell over her breasts, hiding them from his gaze.

Simply because he could, he pounced on top of her, pushing her hair away. He kissed the warm curve under each soft mound before pressing a lingering kiss on her mouth. Raising her arms automatically, she hugged him close.

Fighting the urge to take her again, he pulled away reluctantly. He wanted her to eat and the last time he had been inside her, the desire to sink his teeth into her neck had been almost overwhelming. The act of biting her would be even more intimate than having sex with her and he was content to put it off for now. Savor the anticipation until he could wait no longer. The thought made him shiver.

He grabbed a plain black t-shirt from his closet and threw it to her, grimacing at her slow reflexes when it hit her in the face. As much as he loved her naked, he had no idea when Stefan would be returning and was determined that his brother would never be enjoying that particular sight again.

"Thanks," she said, favoring him with a mock glare. Elena pulled the soft material over her head, inhaling deeply. It smelled like him.

He grasped her hand, twining their fingers together and led her downstairs. In the kitchen, she sat on a stool seated at the island in the middle of the room and enjoyed the view as Damon peered into the refrigerator. She smirked when she saw the tracks her fingernails had left on the expanse of his gorgeous back. She liked that she had marked him somehow, stamped him as hers.

"Hmmm…what'll it be? I can make you an omelet…or," he paused, shuffling items around, "would you rather have leftover spaghetti?"

"Omelet, please." She wanted to watch him cook. This whole situation was surreal. A little over twenty-four hours ago, she had broken up with Stefan. Now, being with Damon felt like the most normal thing in the world. The way he had touched her, like she was unbelievably precious to him, melted away any lingering reservations she may have had. He loved her. Watching him crack eggs into a bowl, she was hit by a fierce wave of possessiveness. In that moment she knew that nothing her friends or family said would change her mind. She would never be able to give him up.

Moving silently from her seat, she made her way to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. She pressed her cheek against his back and clutched him tightly. "I love you."

Turning to face her, he cupped her cheeks, thumbs stroking her skin tenderly. "I love you, too." He lowered his face to hers, kissing her deeply, his tongue stroking hers as he hauled her against his chest.

She made a soft sound in the back of her throat and her fingers dove into his hair, struggling to get closer to him. Obliging her, Damon lifted her onto the counter and quickly situated himself between her open thighs. Lost in her mouth and the feel of her skin as his hands slid up her legs, Damon failed to hear the footsteps approaching.

"What the hell are you doing to her?" Stefan roared. Damon barely had time to pull out of Elena's grasp before Stefan had grabbed him by the back of the neck and flung him effortlessly into the island, where he landed in a heap, his back cracking the marble countertop.

"Stefan, stop!" Elena jumped from the counter and reached for Stefan's arm, an attempt to restrain him, but he was far too fast for her. Fury and adrenaline making him stronger than he had ever been, he picked Damon up and shoved him into the wall pinning his arms with brutal force. His fangs were snapping millimeters from Damon's face as he screamed, "Answer me! Did you compel her?"

Recovering from the surprise attack, Damon broke free of his brother's hold and slammed his hands into Stefan's chest, shattering several ribs. The impact sent Stefan flying across the room in to the fridge, the door buckling and bending inwards.

Damon moved to lunge forward again, but halted as Elena screamed, "Stop!" Stefan began to rise to his feet, eyes fixed on his brother, hatred rolling off him in waves. Planting herself in front of him, Elena's voice was shaky as she spoke to him. "He didn't compel me Stefan." She fished her necklace out from underneath her t-shirt. "See?"

Stefan's eyes flicked from the necklace to her face. "Then what…?" She looked down, face etched with guilt and he glanced at his brother. Damon was leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his chest, eyes glued to Elena. "Is this why you broke up with me? For him?" He spat out the last word.

She raised her eyes to meet his gaze. "Yes." She looked at Damon, who seemed to positively glow at her admission. "You and I couldn't make each other happy Stefan; on some level you must have felt that."

He barked a short, bitter laugh. "And you think you'll be happy with him? 'The self-serving psychopath?' That is what you called him, right?" His eyes roved over her face, desperate to figure out why.

Elena recoiled as he threw her words in her face. Her voice was subdued as she responded, "I don't expect you to understand." Tears slipped out of her eyes as she lost the battle with her emotions. "I didn't want to hurt you, Stefan. I'm sorry."

"You're the one who's going to be sorry, Elena. He'll bring you nothing but misery; it's the only thing he knows how to do." Stefan glared in his direction and Damon growled low in his throat, his patience running thin. Stefan raised his hands in defeat, and made his way out of the kitchen. He turned back to her, his expression heartbroken. "Elena…?" he asked desperately, his voice cracking.

She wiped at her cheeks, hating herself when she saw the devastation in his eyes. "I'm so sorry, Stefan."

He left and Damon appeared in front of her, cocooning her protectively in his arms. He laid his chin on top of her head and let her cry for a few minutes. Tightening his arms when she began to shudder, he whispered to her sarcastically, "I think that went well."

She pulled back and smiled against her will when she saw his smirk. "This isn't funny, Damon!" Her forehead rested on his chest as she exhaled a breath. "I still have to tell Jenna….my friends." She winced as she imagined Bonnie's reaction. "And…I need a favor..." she trailed off, stepping back.

"What kind of favor?" his tone was guarded as his eyes studied her. Her face was flushed pink and her eyes were puffy. Right now, he was liable to agree to anything. He hated seeing her cry.

Swiping at her damp cheeks, she inhaled a calming breath." Want to be my escort for the Founder's Day parade?"

He groaned and rolled his eyes. "Is there a costume involved?"

She smiled and kissed his cheek, grateful for the change in topic. "Yep. And you have to stand on a float and wave at the crowd with me."

He squeezed her waist affectionately and smiled into her neck. "Fine. You're lucky I love you. I wouldn't humiliate myself for just anyone."

She squeezed him in return and responded softly, "I am lucky you love me." Burying her head in his shoulder, she relaxed slightly. She knew everything would be fine as long they stuck together.