Notes: Happy Halloween, here is the last chapter! There is some sexual content in this part, but it's fairly brief and not that graphic so I think the 'T' rating still applies, although I can change it if people think I should.
Thanks everyone who has been reviewing, I really appreciate it.
Full from his meal of stolen blood he retreated upstairs, listening idly to the movements of the girls who had taken up residence in his house - and his life - as he entered his room. He kicked off his shoes and changed out of his still-damp clothes, swapping them for an almost identical, albeit dry, set because why mess with what worked. He settled on the bed and gave in to the lure of a nap, sleeping for a while before coming awake some time later immediately on alert for anything wrong. But nothing felt out of place, the house quiet but not too quiet.
He got up and left the bedroom. He could hear the television on downstairs, and someone was moving around in the kitchen - Caroline was raiding the refrigerator again. His mouth twisted; next time she could drive three hours to raid a blood bank far enough away not to rouse suspicion.
He sharpened his hearing further to suss out just where Elena had got to. Tuned in to the smallest noises, he realised he wasn't alone up here, turning towards the row of doors leading off the long hallway. He paced closer. There she was, in the bathroom, he could hear the sound of her quiet breathing bouncing off the tile, her heartbeat a steady thrum beneath.
He paused when he realised she didn't seem to actually be doing anything in there. He tapped on the door as he turned the handle, waited briefly for a protest, and when there was none pushed the door open.
Sitting on the bathroom floor, hugging her bare knees in that ridiculous sweater with the sleeves pulled over her hands, she should have looked pathetic, childish, like a lost little kid. Instead she just looked tired and world-weary as she tipped her head back against the vanity and regarded him evenly.
"I have a problem," she said.
"I can't sleep. I can't close my eyes. I washed my hands and the sound of the water freaked me out so much I almost had a panic attack. How am I supposed to deal with Katherine?"
"She threw you off a bridge." He stepped through the door and shut it behind him. "She threw you off a bridge Elena. Not just any bridge, the one where you almost died before, where your parents did die - because she thought it would be a cool way to kill you."
"You should be scared. You should be out of your mind terrified. Because you're a weak little girl and she's a centuries old demon bitch from hell and you're lucky all she did was throw you off a bridge."
"This is really helping, thanks."
His mouth tightened. "Why would you expect me to help you? Didn't I already saved your life today? Don't tell me I'm on warm-and-fuzzy patrol too - surely there are better people to guard your mental health."
"I think I'll take care of my own mental health, thanks. I just thought..." She was on her feet suddenly, moving to push past him and get to the door. "Forget it, I don't know why I -"
"Really?" His arm shot out around her waist, catching her in place. "I think I have some idea."
She pushed away, taking several steps back. "Damon."
"Probably has something to do with how you want to keep hating me but really can't get enough of me. How you'd like me to be around, to give you everything you need, without giving an inch in return."
She stared at him, feeling sick at his words. Her eyes searched his. "Is that really how you see it?"
That look on her face, it got him every time. He sighed, relenting, and propped himself against the bathroom counter. "Okay, no. Because every time I look at you, Elena, I see my better self in your eyes. It's still there, even now."
She took a tentative step closer. "I'm starting to see it again too, okay?"
She was relieved seeing his mouth turn up at her small offering. They shared a small smile, the tension dissipating. She was thinking they'd probably spent enough time hanging out in bathrooms in the past twelve hours, when he suddenly spoke again.
"I could take a swing at your mental health issues. I'd make a great therapist." He reached behind him to the sink and flipped the tap on. "Really? That's scary?"
Her mouth twisted in reluctant humour.
"You know what's more scary than that? Just about anything. Spiders. Freddy Krueger. That Miley Cyrus chick. Stefan's capacity for self-flagellation. Were you like this the first time, with your parents?"
The question threw her, and she shook her head, mouth working for a moment before she could answer. "No, I... cars. It was cars, I could barely stand to be in one. But then I didn't - I don't really remember the accident."
He straightened, and his eyes met hers seriously. "You don't have to remember anything about this, either. I'll take it away if you want."
She shouldn't have been surprised he would offer, but she was. And it was almost, almost tempting - the easy way out.
She moved closer, reaching out to hold her fingers under the water still running into the sink, and instead of thinking about the river, she thought about standing in the shower with Damon as he held her and the cold went away.
It had bothered her before, really bothered her to the point where she had to deliberately calm her breathing and tightly clench her hands to stop them from shaking as she went through an action as mundane as washing her hands. But this was all right. Somehow, miraculously, Damon was like the calm place in a storm. He'd taken her from the water, he'd made her warm again, it was as simple as remembering how he had first become someone to trust.
"No," she said slowly, finally giving an answer to his offer.
She turned the water off, and lifted her eyes to his. She didn't need him to fix her; right now she just needed him. She stepped closer still, sliding her arms up around his shoulders, and leaned against him.
The problem with this was that it wasn't exactly a friendly hug. When his arms wrapped around her his hands were restless on her sides, and she was too aware of every slight movement of his fingers, even through her thick sweater. And there was his cheek resting against hers, his breath on the side of her neck making her bite her lip and wonder at herself.
She could feel him tense, as if to pull away and she shook her head, tightening her grip on him. "Don't let go."
"You don't want -"
"Don't let go."
He wasn't a freaking saint and he didn't think she was stupid enough to expect him to be one. "Fine, I won't," he said. And he didn't. He held on tighter and dropped his mouth to her skin, lips brushing the curved muscle of her neck.
Whatever she meant by her words, she didn't stop him, clinging to him and shifting her head to the side in a move that could only be intended to encourage him. She sighed, eyes falling closed. It felt too good to stop.
In another moment she was going to kiss him, this couldn't be heading anywhere else.
His hand edged up the hem of her sweater, palm finding her bare hip above the low-slung waistband of her boxer shorts. Her sharp intake of breath might have stilled him but she came up on her toes and her mouth was an inch from his, hovering. He didn't close the distance; he wanted her to do it.
Her eyes opened wide and she stared into his. "God. Wait, um."
"No." His hand traced up her spine.
More staring. "We should -"
"You want me to take care of you, make you feel all better, I understand." His warm hands squeezed her waist. "I get this."
Her heart was racing, blood pounding in her ears, pooling low in her belly. She wondered how he could stand it. "Okay."
She shut her eyes and blindly found his mouth.
It happened fast, one minute she was learning the taste of him, the slide of his tongue over hers, the next she was letting him help her out of her sweater. She was pushing his shirt up, then it was on the floor and his hands were urging her shorts down off her thighs while her mouth travelled across his chest because she couldn't get enough of the taste of his skin.
He walked her backwards till she was pressed against the wall by the shower stall, barely pausing in kissing her as he opened the glass door and reached in to turn the water on. He waited only long enough to shed his jeans and then he was pulling her in after him, shutting the door as steam rose around them.
"Therapy," he murmured in her ear as he drew her under the flowing water.
Laughter bubbled out of her but it was soon lost in another kiss.
He'd been thinking about this for hours; since holding her frozen, shivering form against him in that other shower, he'd thought about how it could be under less dire circumstances. And he had grown accustomed to the things he wanted eluding him, but here it was, just like this: having her wet and willing, all steam and hot, drenched kisses and her damp, silky skin under his hands.
She felt weightless when he picked her up, the cold tile against her back made her gasp and arch into him. He pinned her to the wall and drove into her, thrilling at her response as she panted and wrapped herself around him. She trembled with every stroke, the heady force of his thrusts filling her with heat till finally she came apart, his demanding mouth swallowing her broken cry. He followed her, losing himself in the sweet pull of her body.
Her legs felt like jelly when he set her down after. She braced her hands flat on his stomach as he swayed over her.
"Oh I don't know about you," he groaned, voice heavy with satisfaction, "But I feel much better."
His hand smoothed over her wet hair and she lifted her face to him. Smiling at him came easy. He'd driven every thought from her head but one. "What's going to happen now?"
"That depends, don't you feel better?"
Well she wasn't scared, and she wasn't so worried about Katherine, and everything that was happening with Stefan, that her stomach hurt. It was strange how doing something like this, that a short while ago she would have sworn she would never do, would leave her feeling more like herself than she had in so long she couldn't remember.
"Yes," she said.
He shrugged. "Then who cares?"
He kissed her again, unhurried this time, and she found his hand with hers and held on. It was okay, she realised she knew exactly what was going to happen next.