Disclaimer – I do not own The Vampire Diaries or any of its characters.
Author's Note – Sorry for the delay on this chapter, for some reason I couldn't figure out how I wanted to end it. I'd still be stuck if it wasn't for the amazingly awesome pandora03. Not only did she beta this, she also wrote the beautiful epilogue. So be sure to message her and tell how much you liked it! A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to review this story! As Zoraya Windwalker told me, reviews are the only sort of payment we receive, so if you liked it (or hated it), I'd love to hear your thoughts =)
Six Weeks Later
The bright afternoon sun had been beating down on Elena for half an hour and she rolled over onto her stomach, not wanting to burn. She folded her arms and laid her head down, digging her toes into the warm sand of the beach. The bright sunshine had relaxed her muscles, making her warm and sleepy. This was heaven.
Even through her closed lids, Elena could feel a shadow settling over her and she smiled, keeping her eyes closed.
"You're going to turn pink."
"No, I won't." She motioned to her bottle of sunscreen nestled in the sand next to her. "It probably wouldn't hurt to slap on a second coat, though. Do you mind?" She heard Damon's low chuckle and felt him settle over the backs of her thighs.
He squeezed a generous amount of the sun-warmed coconut-scented lotion into his palm and proceeded to knead it into the skin of her back in his slow methodical way. She moaned in pleasure beneath him and he scooted down her legs, rubbing the lotion into the tops of her thighs. Every so often his fingers slipped beneath the material of her white bikini bottom, and he could feel her tense and then relax under his hands, shy about how he was touching her in public. He leaned down, his chest brushing the exposed skin of her back and whispered in her ear. "We're the only people out here, Elena, relax."
She flipped over carefully, arms crossed over her chest as she regarded him, her expression hesitant. Damon's eyebrows rose in appreciation at the deep cleavage she had unintentionally created. She glanced around quickly; their small stretch of beach was deserted. "But we're outside. During the day. It seems inappropriate," she stage whispered with a smile.
"Pfft. You shouldn't be so uptight," he teased her. He squeezed more lotion into his palm and gestured to her crossed arms. "Now move your arms so I can finish."
"I'm perfectly capable of getting my front, thank you," she retorted, arching a brow at him.
"Perhaps, but isn't it more fun when I do it for you?" he smirked at her as his hand went to her neck and he used his superior dexterity to untie the knot of her bikini top before she knew what he was doing.
"Damon!" her voice was shrill as she banded her arms more tightly over her chest holding her loosened top in place.
"People go topless in Europe all the time." He shrugged and offered her an unrepentant grin.
"But we're not in Europe," she informed him tartly. "This is America, where people get arrested for indecent exposure!" It was hard for her to maintain her irritation when she saw his sparkling blue eyes smiling down at her. They had been here for weeks and she still wasn't used to the sight of Damon clad in nothing more than black swim trunks. Her eyes wandered over the planes of his chest in open admiration and she wondered idly if she would ever become immune to how beautiful he was.
They had rented a house for the summer on Bald Head Island off the coast of North Carolina. It was a small island, secluded, and only accessible by ferry. Elena's parents had brought her and Jeremy here for a family vacation once when she was nine. It had been the best summer of her life and it was the first place she had thought of when Damon suggested this trip. Their rental was on the sparsely populated north side of the island and their nearest neighbors were located several hundred yards down the shoreline.
Damon laughed and opened his arms, gesturing to the deserted beach surrounding them. "Well, the only person you're exposing any kind of indecency to is me and I'm certainly not going to complain," he leered at her as he squeezed more lotion into his palm. "Now move your arms so I can finish."
Hearing the challenge in his voice, she surprised him by stretching her arms out above her head. She loved the way his eyes widened as they roved over her body and she fought to lay still, not used to being almost half-naked in public. Damon started at her waist and smoothed his slick hands up her stomach, moving slowly over her ribcage until his fingertips slid beneath the triangles of her bikini top. He palmed her breasts and massaged them gently, the pretense of applying sunscreen forgotten when she moaned and arched her back, pressing herself more firmly into his hands. Needing more contact, he stretched out on top of her and kissed her, enjoying the slide of her skin against the sensitive skin of his chest. Elena sighed into his mouth and he rolled them over, wanting to see her above him.
She broke away from him with a laugh and sat up. "This always looks so much more romantic in the movies," she chuckled as she refastened her top and tried to brush away the sand that was now clinging to her sticky skin.
Damon tucked his hands behind his head and enjoyed the show. The breeze from the ocean was ruffling her hair and her tanned skin was positively glowing in the afternoon light. He couldn't ever recall feeling this happy and content; not even when he had been human. They had been here for over a month and Damon was dreading going back to Mystic Falls. He and Elena had settled into domesticity with an ease that amazed him. Damon loved waking up with her every morning and going to sleep with her every night. Being able to reach out and touch her whenever the urge struck him. After living with her, how was he ever going to be satisfied rattling around alone at the boarding house while she lived with her aunt?
Elena saw his features cloud and ceased her movements. Settling back on top of him, she placed her hand on his cheek. "You look so far away. What are you thinking about?"
Not wanting to spoil the mood with his somber thoughts, he shook his head and smiled. "Nothing important." In a flash, he was on his feet and carrying her back into the house. "Come on, I'll help you wash the sand off," he smirked as he brought her into the bathroom.
Two days later, they celebrated her eighteenth birthday. When she had opened her eyes, the first thing she had seen was a Hostess cupcake with a pink candle poking through the frosting greeting her from the night stand. She sat up, breaking into a grin when she saw Damon leaning against the doorframe, watching her.
"Make a wish, birthday girl."
Elena closed her eyes, wishing for a thousand different things at once. She wished that they could stay here forever, that things would never change between them. That they would be together always even if she was still afraid of what that would mean for her. When her eyes opened, they clashed with his and her heart constricted at the sight of him. God, she loved him.
Her eyes fixed on a bead of melting wax that threatened to drop from the candle and tarnish the chocolate frosting of her birthday confection. The drop fell and she blew out her candle. For a fleeting moment, she wished he would turn her.
She couldn't sleep. They would be going home in less than a week. The thought of leaving this place and returning to Mystic Falls felt….wrong. She didn't want to let go of Damon and their perfect summer and finish high school, which after this past year, didn't seem particularly important anymore. She wanted to start her life with him. Elena tried to clear her head as she sat on the patio, concentrating on the sounds of the waves crashing against the shore.
The patio door slid open behind her, but she kept her eyes fixed on the horizon. She heard his quiet footfalls and tilted her head in his direction. "How old were you when you were turned?"
She was lying on a chaise lounge and he sat down next to her hip. "Twenty-four." Her eyes were tumultuous as he settled his hand over her knee.
Her brown eyes were filled with longing as they swung to his. "I don't think I want to wait that long. I was thinking we'd do it after I turn twenty-one."
For a moment, Damon could swear that his heart had started to beat again. They had never even discussed the possibility of turning Elena into a vampire. Of course, that didn't mean he hadn't thought about it. He had. Frequently. Often during their happiest moments together, the knowledge that she was human and would eventually die would flicker in the recesses of his mind, stealing a bit of his joy. It made those moments bittersweet and sometimes he fantasized about just doing it – turning her and begging for forgiveness after the fact.
But hearing that she wanted it? That she wanted to spend eternity with him? Relief and overwhelming happiness flooded through him. Hearing that made all of her I love you's so much more real and Damon fought to keep his face neutral even as his hand tightened on her leg.
His throat was constricted and his voice was husky when he spoke. "Move in with me."
That was not the reaction Elena had been expecting when she made her little declaration. His eyes were swirling with emotion and she could swear that they were even a little glossy with hints of unshed tears. Her reply was so soft, she barely heard it herself. "Okay." Damon wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her flush against him. Her face was buried in his chest and her voice was muffled when she asked timidly, "You heard what I said, right?"
He smiled into her neck and inhaled deeply, loving the sweet smell of her skin, "I heard you," he breathed into her flesh. He brushed his lips up the column of her throat before running his blunt teeth back down her neck and dropping a kiss over her pulse point which fluttered rapidly beneath his lips. "Why twenty-one?"
Elena shivered as his breath fanned over her neck and struggled to collect her thoughts. "Because that's the last exciting birthday to look forward to." She placed a lingering kiss against his chest and her arms stole up around his neck. "Also, I don't want to spend eternity looking like a teenager and getting carded constantly."
Damon laughed at her matter-of-fact tone and pulled back to look at her. "Are you sure you really want this, Elena?"
Her fingers threaded through the silky strands of his hair and she tugged his forehead down to hers. "Yes," she said definitively. Damon wasn't just her boyfriend or her lover, he was her partner, her other half. In her mind, there was simply no acceptable alternative. "I'm positive," she whispered against his parted lips before she kissed them. Her mouth was soft against his, and she kissed him again and again trying to show him without words how serious she was.
Elena's thumbs were caressing his cheeks as her lips brushed over his and she kept whispering, "I love you," into his mouth.
Damon shuddered at the intimacy and pulled her into his lap, her legs scissoring around his waist. One of the tears that had threatened to drop earlier reappeared and slid down his cheek. Elena was under no delusions, she knew everything about him – the good, the bad, and the downright awful – and she loved him anyway. Complete acceptance was a gift that no one had ever given him. He broke away from her kiss and let his features shift as his hand trailed over her slender neck. "Please….."
Elena nodded and kissed his wet cheek as she pushed her thick fall of hair away from her neck. He surprised her when his hand went to his own neck and a shallow cut appeared at the base of his throat. Leaning forward, her tongue licked at the small cut before her lips fastened over it and she gently pulled his blood into her mouth. She felt Damon kiss her softly and then the brief sting as his fangs pierced her skin. The pain receded almost instantly and Elena was stunned by the connection that opened between them. They had never exchanged blood at the same time and Elena was utterly overwhelmed by sensation. As she drew his blood into her mouth, it was as if she were drawing Damon himself into her. In that instant she knew him completely, his inner-most thoughts laid bare before her. Tears fell from her eyes and her arms and legs constricted around him as she realized the depth of his love for her. It flowed through him unchecked and flooded her mind. At the same time, she was aware that he could feel each of her emotions as richly as she felt his.
Damon pulled away, severing the circuit they had created, and closed the small wound at her neck. Even though he was drinking slowly and taking shallow pulls, he didn't want to risk taking too much of her blood. He felt Elena disengage from his throat and he clutched her more tightly as she released a shuddering breath against his shoulder. He had never shared that particular experience with anyone and was grateful it had never happened with Katherine. Neither of them wanted to move and they stayed locked in an embrace, enjoying each other's closeness, until Damon felt Elena go limp with sleep.
He carried her back to their bedroom and fell into a deep slumber beside her, secure in the knowledge that they would never again have to endure a night apart.
Epilogue - Elena's 21st Birthday
They were driving home from the Grill, Elena's head resting on Damon's shoulder, a happy smile on her lips. They had met everyone at the Grill earlier for the big birthday celebration, and had enjoyed dinner and drinks in the company of friends and family.
"So how's my birthday girl?" Damon asked, a smile playing on his lips as his arm tightened around her shoulder. This was "the night" and he wondered if she was as nervous as he himself was, although his anxiousness was for an entirely different reason.
"Mmm…so happy," she whispered, cuddling a little closer to him. He stopped the car in front of the house and flitted over to her side to hold the door open for her. He took her hand as she got out, interlacing their fingers and gently pulling her toward the front door. "Come on birthday girl, I have something for you." They were both smiling as Damon suddenly pulled her in front of him and put his hands over her eyes "no peeking" he whispered in her ear, continuing to walk her forward. "Damon…" she protested, but by this time he already had her through the door and into the foyer, removing his hands from her eyes.
Her initial annoyance faded at the sight before her. On the table next to the stairs sat a huge vase filled with different colored roses, and on every step of the staircase a single lit tealight had been placed. "Oh! When did you have the time to do all this?" Damon grinned at her and with his patented eyebrow wiggle, said "I have my ways". She glanced at him questioningly, but then remembered that Anna and Jeremy had discreetly left the birthday celebration a little early, so she just nodded knowingly at him and smiled.
Damon removed a red rose from the vase and offered it to her. "Happy Birthday, Elena" he whispered. She took the proffered rose and brought it to her nose, inhaling its scent. "Mmm," Elena sighed, "thank you, this is all so beautiful," she said, and stood on tip toes to wrap her arms around Damon to pull him in for a kiss.
As soon as their lips touched, the electricity that always flowed between them crackled to life, they both moaned into each others mouths as Damon deepened the kiss, and she ran her fingers through the silky stands of his hair. His hands stroked down her back and over her ass, and as he lifted her, her legs wrapped around his slender waist. He didn't break the kiss until he had her perched on the side of their bed.
Elena opened her eyes to find him kneeling before her, a nervous smile on his lips, his beautiful eyes stormy with an emotion she couldn't place. She placed a hand to the side of his face. "Damon… what's wrong?" she asked.
He licked his lips nervously, his eyes never leaving hers. "Elena…do you still want me to turn you?"
She smiled at him then, bringing both her hands up to cup his face, "Damon…yes, of course I do. One lifetime just simply isn't enough to love you. I'm going to need an eternity for that!"
He responded with a brilliant smile, "Then I have a request…marry me first," and pulled out a small velveteen box from his jacket pocket. As she began nodding her head the first happy tears rolled free from her eyes. Not trusting her voice, she merely whispered, "yes," knowing he would hear her.
They lay together, their arms and legs tangled under the sheets, completely sated and blissfully happy. Elena sighed contentedly against Damon's chest as his arms tightened around her. Today had been a perfect day, full of friends, family and happiness so acute neither could stop smiling. And there, in the circle of his arms, she was certain she would soon be entering into not only marriage but a beautiful eternity with the man she loved.
Thanks again to everyone who read and reviewed. And thank you, Stephanie, you're awesome. But you knew that ;)