Title: Fire
Rating: T
Type: Originally a one-shot; changed to short, multi-chapter
Pairing: Damon/Elena
Setting: Post-2.09 ("Katerina")

A/N: Hey, all! Here's a short little one-shot that wouldn't leave me alone. Hope you enjoy – please R&R. : ) For those of you following my other TVD stories, I should have both Push and Shadow Dance updated by the end of the week. : )

Part I: Fire

You say you don't love me
Girl, you can't hide your desire
'Cause when we kiss

-Bruce Springsteen, "Fire"

"Is Stefan here?"

Damon sensed Elena before she had even stepped into the Salvatore boarding house. Her quiet yet stunningly determined presence was extremely difficult to miss – at least to him. He had come to unconsciously memorize every aspect of her aura and every time that she was near, he privately revelled in its sweetness.

"No," Damon replied softly, swirling his untouched Bourbon as he gazed into the fireplace. The flames danced and licked at the edges, trying to escape their prison. Sometimes, just to remind himself that he was in fact real and capable of experiencing physical pain, he would daringly stick his hand close enough to the heat so as to burn his flesh.

There was a moment's hesitation before Elena tentatively walked up to him, standing in front of the fire and obstructing his line of vision. She wore her usual outfit; long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and those quirky Converse shoes. "Well," she began, locking her gaze with his, "where is he, then?" She wanted to thank him for last night.

Those searing brown eyes of hers almost had the power to melt his icy blue ones. Almost. "He went somewhere with Rose; hunting, maybe. Though knowing what I know about Rose, I don't necessarily take her for the animal-blood type. But Saint Stefan can have that effect on people, can't he?" Damon raised a dark brow at Elena, and then briefly contemplated the liquor in his hand. He didn't know why he had poured himself a drink in the first place.

"I see," Elena said slowly, looking Damon up and down, as if calculating the validity of his statement.

"Besides," Damon continued casually, the hint of a smirk gracing his handsome features, "I thought you two broke up." He looked past her and into the fire. It crackled furiously.

Elena's head snapped up sharply. "We're on a break – we're not broken up," she growled. Why did Damon have to be so infuriating? And why did she feel nothing but pain when she met his eyes?

"Sorry," he apologized stiffly, suddenly holding his glass still. God, he could barely stand to look at her. Every time he did, his sincere words of mere nights ago played on repeat in his head. And still, on top of that, the guilt he felt for sleeping with Rose cut through him. It didn't even make sense; Elena did not belong to him and he had vowed to let her go.

But he was bound to Elena, and no matter how hard he tried – confessing his feelings, having meaningless sex with someone he barely knew – he could not let her go. Why did he have to fall in love with those who would never love him in return?

"I'll come back tomorrow, then. It's getting late," Elena said, turning to move away from the fireplace. She noticed that Damon was once again staring vacantly into the fire; she also noticed that there was something all wrong about his entire demeanour. He was acting passive – and keeping silent.

She figured that maybe he was exhausted – Stefan had probably told him by now that she had been off gallivanting with Katherine in the tomb. She grimaced as she recalled collapsing into Stefan's arms in a heap. She had been a mess. But despite their 'break,' Stefan had been there for her.

Elena was momentarily startled by how much she seemed to even care about Damon's well-being. But then again, this man had saved her life more times than she could dare to count. And this past time, well – she felt she owed him something. So, instead of leaving, she stepped toward him and hesitantly rested her hand on his forearm. "Damon...are you...okay?"

Damon started from her hand on him, and quickly moved away, watching both her hand and her facial expression fall. He carefully set down his glass on the coffee table, and then replied in a clipped voice, "I'm fine, Elena. Tired, you know? This constant need to rescue people can become a bit wary after awhile."

Elena knew what he was doing, for she was no stranger to his games. Something was wrong, and he was going to shut her out by acting cold. Maybe she deserved it – she hadn't exactly been on a 'Damon-welcoming-committee' during the past few weeks. He had tried to kill Jeremy, for God's sake.

And even though she had proclaimed them 'done,' she couldn't stop caring.

And she couldn't dismiss the haunted look in his eyes.

So boldly, Elena stepped forward again, and boxed him in. The light from the fireplace washed over them in one direction, and the light of the moon in the other. "Damon," she said in her gentlest tone, "don't shut me out."

Damon clenched his teeth and refused to look at her, turning his head slightly away. "You've made it crystal clear, Elena, that 'shutting you out' is exactly what you want me to do. So if you could kindly move this pity party away from me, we could both return to our desired activities."

Cautiously, Elena reached up a hand to his cheek, and gently turned his face back towards her. The ice in those eyes trembled as she stood there, her palm laying flat against his cold cheek. "Please, Damon. It might not seem like it, but I don't want you to hurt any more than I want Stefan to hurt. What can I do to ease your pain?"

It was becoming more difficult to keep the switch in the off position, especially with Elena's hand pressed to his cheek like that. His thoughts spun wildly; he had vowed to let her go because to pursue her would be reckless and selfish. Why, then, were words forming on his lips before he could even stop them?

"Kiss me," Damon blurted, without a second thought. His eyes were glued to hers. What the hell would a kiss solve?

Elena gasped and dropped her hand from his face. "What?" She had not been expecting that.

"Kiss me, Elena. Just once." His voice held a note of hope and his tone bordered on pleading.

Elena had flashbacks of the last time they had 'kissed.' His mouth had been rough and demanding and had tasted like whiskey, as he held her face tightly between her hands, even as she begged him to stop. She swallowed hard. "Damon, I can't kiss you. That would be –"

"Once," he repeated, cutting her off. He had taken two steps toward her and their bodies were almost touching. "Please." His voice came out ragged as he mentally slapped himself. Why the hell couldn't he stay away from her? Why did he have to keep screwing things up between them, right when they seemed to be getting back to being friends? He was being completely and utterly foolish.

Elena realized then, with a sudden jolt, that she wanted to kiss him. Maybe if she did, she would ease his hurt...and maybe she would ease the ache that had suddenly swelled up in her own heart. But what about Stefan? Would she be cheating on him, even if they were technically on a break? Was a simple kiss an act of infidelity?

She loved Stefan, but suddenly, she had to know why the very thought of kissing Damon was pushing her nearly over the brink. It was like an electric switch had gone off in her head, suddenly compelling her to do irresponsible things.

And she was startled by a sudden image of Damon chastely kissing her forehead. She shook it away.

"Okay, Damon," Elena murmured, reaching a hand up to his face, gently pulling it down. "I will kiss you. Once."

Damon trembled underneath her touch, hardly able to comprehend the situation - so much for not being selfish. He felt the pad of her thumb caress his cheek and he leaned into it, reaching his own hand up to cover hers.

Elena reached around the back of his head with her other hand and urged him closer, until their lips were mere inches apart. She heard him draw in a shaky breath. In the time that she had known Damon, she had never seen him like this – this fragile, this vulnerable – not even when he had discovered that Katherine wasn't in the tomb. She was afraid of hurting him more; she didn't know what his pain was, but she suddenly wanted to take it away.

"Don't hide from me, Damon," Elena whispered before touching her lips to his.

Her world exploded.

His world burned.

His lips were unexpectedly warm and soft as Elena kissed him as gently as she could; he returned the kiss just as hesitantly. One of his hands had gone up to the side of her face, gently brushing her dark hair behind her ear, knuckles grazing her cheek. He moved his soft hand downward and stroked her jaw.

Her body automatically sought Damon's as she pressed herself closer to him, feeling the heat roll off of him in waves. How could he be so warm?

The kiss was so simple and pure that Elena never wanted to break it. So, hand still tangled in his hair, she pressed him down further and tenderly drew his bottom lip between her teeth, sucking softly.

Damon stood absolutely still, his body pulsing with something he couldn't quite identify. All that mattered in the world was this moment; Elena's lips moving over his, so carefully and tentatively – as if she was afraid that she might break him.

And just as she was pulling back, Elena felt something hot and wet splash her cheek. Looking up, she realized with a shock, that tears were spilling out of Damon's eyes, rolling slowly down his cheeks and dripping onto her own face.

Even though she knew that she had never seen Damon Salvatore cry, something in Elena's mind whispered to her that she had.

Damon let the tears spill down his cheeks, not bothering to hide them. There was something utterly redeeming about the moment, and he didn't think he could stop it if he wanted to. Elena wrapped her arms around his silent, trembling form as she whispered, "Shhh," into his ear.

He felt his knees give way and slowly – slowly – the two sank to the floor in front of the fireplace, on their knees, as Elena held him onto him and he clung to her just as tightly.

"There's something between us, Elena," he murmured into her shoulder, repeating words he had already said to her once.

Elena's response was different this time, though. "I know, Damon." How could she have been so God damn blind to it all? To avoid becoming another Katherine? That woman had inflicted over a century of pain onto Damon because he had loved her too much.

Before now, there had been only one thing that Elena had known for certain: that she loved Stefan and she wanted to be with him.

But something began to bubble hotly within her, churning her insides, as she gently titled Damon's chin up and looked into his eyes – no, his soul.

Damon's body thrummed with desire as Elena searched his eyes, running her hands through his hair. God, he needed her. He loved her. But even in the heat of this moment, he couldn't tell her that. She could never know that.

And Elena, as she quietly comforted the fallen one, suddenly knew; she had always known.

She loved Damon.

And that was one thing that he could never know.

The fire suddenly vanished, leaving behind an eerie puff of smoke as Damon and Elena clung to each other in the iridescent light of the moon.

11/17/10 - Due to the overwhelmingly positive response and generous, gracious, lovely reviews, I've decided to make this story at least a three-shot. Thank you so much, guys - your feedback is very much appreciated!