Damon was driving home from the Grill. He couldn't stop thinking about everything Jules told him, about what was coming for Rose. The terrible agony, the slow death. There had to be a way. And he was going to find it. No matter what.
Before he knew it, Damon had already reached home. He got inside and he heard something that made him shiver.
"No, Rose, please, stop! It's me, Elena! Stop it!"
Elena's panicked voice was coming from upstairs. Damon rushed there and saw one of the most terrifying sights in his long existence. Rose had Elena pinned against the wall, and was dangerously close to her neck. Elena was crying, trying to free herself. Damon pushed Rose away from Elena and pushed her to the ground.
"Rose, look at me!"
But she refused to do it. She continued groaning dangerously, primary, like a wild animal.
"Rose, it's me, Damon. Look at me, listen to my voice! Focus, Rose. Focus on me!"
His voice seemed to calm her a bit, and for a moment, Damon thought it worked, because she looked him in the eyes, and he could recognize her in that look. But it lasted only a second. After that, she groaned again and disappeared in the night through the window.
Damon rushed to Elena, trying not to think of what could've happened if he had arrived even a minute later.
"Are you ok? Anything hurt?"
"I'm fine. She tried to bite me, but…"
"It's ok, you're ok. Do you want me to call Stefan?"
Elena shook her head, and looked Damon in the eyes.
"It was like… she wasn't herself. It was like a beast possessed her body. I don't think she knew what she was doing, Damon, but… She was really gonna kill me."
She started sobbing again, and Damon pulled her into his embrace and for his surprise, she wrapped her arms around him, holding on to him, like he was the one thing that kept her from falling apart right then and there.
Maybe he was…
Elena had calmed down and fallen asleep. Damon was sitting in front of the fireplace, going again and again over what happened the last 24 hours. He was deep into his thoughts when his phone rang. He looked at the caller ID and sighed.
"What is it, Stefan? I'm really not in the mood for your drama."
"It's about Rose, Damon. She's killing random people in town. I tried to stop her, but she escaped me. Did you find anything about a cure?"
Damon closed his eyes. He knew the cure…
"She went after Elena today, tried to bite her. I came in time to stop her. Elena was pretty shaken. She's sleeping now, but I don't wanna leave her alone. Come home and I will go find Rose. I know what to do."
For the second time in the past few months, Damon threw his glass in the fire. He knew what to do. He knew what he had to do. That's why he threw the glass with as much force as he could. That's why he then hit the table so strongly that he crushed it into pieces.
He wasn't meant to have anything, anyone. He wasn't meant to be even partly happy just for a day.
Damon loved Elena, there wasn't even a shadow of doubt about that. She meant everything to him. She had brought back pieces of him he thought were dead. She had brought back his humanity, she had made him care, feel again.
And because of that he had to do it. He had to kill Rose. She was not herself, she was killing recklessly. She was dying, slowly and painfully, losing little by little everything that made who she was. He had no choice. Because he had to protect Elena, Jeremy, and everyone else in this stupid doomed town that he called home. That was the right thing to do. In some ways it was even the better way out for Rose too. But still, it hurt.
Because he cared about her. Deeply. She was more than just a random chick he slept with a couples of times. She had become his confidante, his person. She made him laugh and feel like not the whole world is falling apart. She had started healing his broken time after time heart. She had become the one thing that kept him from going insane between watching the woman he loved loving his brother, trying to save her from death, and coming to terms with the facts of what he had done in the past century and a half. Rose was the one who helped him keep it together. And now he had to drive the stake through her heart and kill her. And it hurt. It really did hurt.
He turned around and saw Elena standing by the stairs, looking at him worriedly.
"Go back to sleep, Elena. Stefan will be here any minute."
"I don't want to sleep. I want to know how you are."
"Well, I'm not in the mood for sharing, sorry to disappoint you. Now, go back upstairs."
"No!" she said confidently and walked over to him, standing right in front of him, locking her warm brown eyes with his ocean-deep blue ones, then she took one of his hands in her small palms.
"I care about you, Damon, more than you know. And I am not gonna leave you alone when you need someone more than ever."
They continued looking into each other's eyes, but it felt like they were looking in each other's soul. Damon opened his mouth to say something, but in the end, he just let out a sigh and closed his eyes. He then felt Elena's small fragile hand tenderly cupping his face. Usually, he would never let anything like this happen, he would never be that vulnerable in front of anyone, and he knew she wouldn't share such intimacy, but today, today was different. Today, he was the one who needed to be saved. And that was what she was doing – saving him.
Stefan's voice got them out of their trance. Damon looked at his brother and saw his worried face, the questions in his eyes. He then pulled away from Elena and his face became unreadable and cold again.
"Don't let her out of your sight. Be careful and please, this time don't do something as stupid as getting yourself locked up in a tomb with Katherine or something equally dumb."
By the time Damon had finished his sentence, Stefan was already by Elena's side, gently stroking her back. But she wasn't looking at the younger brother. In fact, it was like he wasn't even there. Elena's eyes were still fixed on Damon, even though he was not looking at her. He was slowly walking towards the door, when she called his name again. He turned around and looked at her, but he made sure he wasn't looking in her eyes. Elena then ran to him again and took his face in her hands.
"Look at me."
Damon still looked away from her eyes.
Her tender whisper. That, he couldn't resist. Then, she lifted her face and brushed her lips against his cheek before their gazes locked again. Once again blue eyes met brown ones, once again two people so different told each other everything they wanted and needed without a single word. He was silently asking her why, and she was silently telling him it was not fair, that she was sorry, and that she'd always be there for him. And he silently thanked her.
Words were useless.
Damon found her sooner than he expected. Sooner than he wanted. It took him just around 10 minutes of searching before he found Rose near the wood, slumped against a tree, breathing heavily, sobbing. He kneeled in front of her and caressed the side of her face. She looked at him, and he knew. He knew she was in there again. Momentarily, temporarily, but she was Rose again. And she was scared. And disgusted. And hurt. Because now she knew perfectly well what was happening with her, and what the outcome was going to be.
"I… I killed tonight, Damon. I killed 5 people. 2 of them were barely teenagers – 14, 15 at most. And I still did it."
"You didn't know what you were doing, so, it wasn't really you."
"Still, I feel the guilt. Tonight, I was a monster. God knows what could've happened with Elena if you hadn't showed up…"
"But it didn't. I don't want you beating up yourself."
She buried her face in his neck and inhaled his scent while her gently brushed his fingers through her hair with one hand and caressed her back with the other. They stayed like that for a few moments, just cherishing those moments together.
Eventually, Rose pulled away and looked into Damon's eyes.
"I need you to promise me something."
"Don't go after her seeking revenge."
Damon looked intensely at her, and then slowly nodded her head.
Rose smiled a little.
"Good. This way you will be able to focus on protecting Elena."
He rolled his eyes. Even at time like this…
"Don't give up on her. I know you think it's what's best for her, but trust me, do not give up on Elena."
In that moment, Damon pulled her closer and kissed her. He kissed her with passion, and with care. He kissed her with sadness, and with gratitude. And she kissed him back equally emotionally and passionately. They kissed like there was no tomorrow. Cause there wasn't. After long moments, they pulled apart and looked in each other's eyes once again. For the last time. She then smiled again.
"I like you."
Damon smiled bitterly too.
"I think I like you too."
Rose slowly nodded her head, giving him the push she knew he needed. She then buried her face in his neck again, as he raised the stake in his hand. He closed his eyes and then…
It was over.
It had been over 4 hours since Damon left. Elena was pacing around the living room of the boarding house, going crazy with worry. She couldn't understand how Stefan was so calm, when he knew perfectly clear what was going on, when he knew what his brother was going through. Just as these thought passed through Elena's mind, Stefan returned from the kitchen, and put his hands on Elena's shoulders in attempt to calm her down.
"You should relax, Elena."
"How can you say that, Stefan? She's gonna die! And Damon is gonna be the one to do it. And it's killing him, Stefan. You have to be blind not to see it! He… He cares about her, a lot, she means something to him, and now he has to kill her! Your brother is devastated, and you are telling me to relax? I'm sorry, but I can't relax, when someone I care about is going on through something like that! If you can, then you are not the person I thought you were…"
"I am worried about him, too, Elena. And I wish there was any way I could help her for him. But I can't. There's nothing anyone can do. It's hard, but it's true. And you worrying yourself to death won't help either. So, I'm telling you to relax now, because when Damon comes back, he is gonna need you."
Elena looked at Stefan and sighed.
"I just… can't see him like this, Stefan. I can't see him go through another heartbreak. I know he's done terrible things, but… He is my friend, and I can't stop carrying about him, no matter how I try. And knowing what he's going through… It makes me sick. He does not deserve that, Stefan. He doesn't…"
Elena buried her face in his chest and let the tears fall as he gently stroked her head. They stayed like that for a long time, until they heard the front door open. Elena immediately pulled away from Stefan, and ran to the door.
Damon was standing with his back pressed against the front door. Still, Elena could tell he was shaking. She slowly walked over to him, her eyes never leaving his.
Elena was standing barely inches away from him. She continued looking him in the eyes, and she saw the screaming pain, the desperate need. Tears filled her eyes as she wrapped her arms around him, and she felt him hugging her back, holding her tighter than anyone has ever held her, like he was holding on her for his life. She felt a few tears dropping on her shoulders, and she pulled him even closer if it was possible.
Second, minutes past, and Damon and Elena held on each other, not moving, not saying a thing, just feeling each other. After long, long time, Damon pulled away and Elena took his hand and guided them both to the living room. Stefan was there, waiting for them. He looked at Elena, and she mouthed him "Thank you". He just nodded and then went over to Damon. The two brother looked at each other, and then Stefan put his and on his brother, squeezing it gently, giving him the reassurance that he was still there, and he was going nowhere. Then he left. Because he knew that he was not who Damon needed. Elena was.
After Stefan left, Damon sat in front of the fireplace. And poured a drink for him and Elena, who sat next to him. He handed her the glass and stared at the flames, remembering being on that same couch 24 hours ago…
"It should've been me."
His voice was low, barely audible, husky. But Elena heard him.
"Don't say that, Damon."
"It's true. It was supposed to be me. I was the one that pissed Jules off. I was the marked one. I was the one she aimed for. Rose pushed me aside to save me. And…"
"She knew the risk she was taking, Damon, and she took the chance. It has to mean something."
"It means that even though I treated her like hell when I saw her here, she still cared enough to die to save me. It means she was the better person of the two of us. It means she deserved to live more than I did."
Elena couldn't bare that. The hurt, the loss, she could deal with; she could help him with that. But seeing him drowning in guilt - that she couldn't take.
"Please, stop blaming yourself, Damon! You are worth saving! You're worth saving to Stefan, that's why he went into a burning building to save you. You were saving to Rose, that's why she jumped in front of the werewolf to save you. You are worth saving to me, that's why I would've done the same thing she did! You are worth it, Damon! That's why Rose saved you. And you will be disrespecting her and her sacrifice if everything you do is thinking about how you should have died."
Damon turned around and looked at Elena in disbelief.
"I need you to promise me something, Elena. If you were telling the truth and you care about me, you have to promise me."
"Promise you what?"
"That you will never do anything like this. Sacrifice yourself. Let alone for me. I need you to promise me, Elena."
Elena looked at him.
"Can you do the same for me?"
"You know I can't."
"Then how… Why do you expect me to do it?"
"Because you have people to live for. Many people to love for. Jeremy, Jenna, Stefan, Bonnie, Caroline… Me."
"And you have people to live for, Damon."
Damon turned his head back to look at the fire, doubtful what she said was true.
"Nor Stefan, nor I, would be able to go back normally to our lives if you are gone. Remember that."
Then, Elena stood up to leave, but Damon reached and caught her hand. They looked at each other again, and once again, they connected on a level neither one of them could explain.
"I… I miss her. I know it sounds crazy, since I've known her for such a short time, and she's been… gone… for just a few hours. But I miss her. And it hurts, Elena. It does hurt. "
Elena squeezed his hand and whispered.
"You won't be sad forever, Damon."
Then she leaned and kissed his forehead. She let her lips rest there for a few moments, while she was remembering the promise she made today.
"Promise me that you will take care of him, and that you won't give up on him."
"I can't give up on him even if I wanted to. I tried. And I promise I will take care of him. Always."
That was a promise Elena wasn't willing to ever break.