A/N: I want to thank everyone for your amazing support and for sticking around, even though I disappeared for so long. It warms my heart to know that you still enjoy my stories and I promise I'll finish each and every one of them. I hope you enjoy the new chapter.

"I will fucking kill you bastards!" Damon's angry snarl rent the air, making Elena cringe at the pain in his voice. She would rip them limb from limb she swore to herself. But for now, she had to keep it together. She needed a cool head.

She and Klaus were crouched behind some boxes, only a few feet from the building they were holding Damon in. They had scouted the area and discovered, to their complete shock, that Dieter was so cocky, he'd actually not thought to post even a single guard. The three of them were having too much fun torturing Damon and they probably thought the twenty other vampires with them would be enough protection.

Elena eyed the building. They needed a distraction. She and Klaus were virtually indestructible but Damon wasn't. So, the easiest way to diffuse a situation like this would be to cut the head off the snake. Without a head, the body would wither and die eventually. In this case, it would simply ensure Damon would be safe because Dieter's lackeys wouldn't know what to do without him. If they took out the guards first, there wasn't anything stopping Dieter - or the other two for that matter - from killing Damon.

So, Elena would be the diversion while Klaus snuck in and compelled the three to stop them from harming Damon. They wouldn't be expecting Klaus and with the three of them compelled, they'd have more than enough time to deal with the others.

Elena gestured to Klaus that she was going to scale the building and drop in through the roof. He nodded and showed her a side door that would allow him to slip in unnoticed. She winked and was gone in a flash.

Damon glared angrily at the vampires surrounding him. He was in agony. Vervain-laced ropes burned his skin where they had tied him down to a chair. Said chair was likely bolted to the floor since he hadn't been able to move it an inch. On the one occasion he'd managed to break the armrest, he'd received a stake to the gut for his efforts so he wasn't keen on attempting that move again.

Of course, as was his wont, he still ran his mouth off, which had led to multiple vervain stakes being inserted into his body none to gently. He was practically delirious with the pain, but even so, all he could think of was getting hold of Katherine and strangling her with her own intestines. Stefan would be next and Dieter… Well, Dieter held a special place in his heart and he would make sure that fucking vampire suffered for eternity.

They had laughed and joked about how they would capture Elena when she came to save him and give her over to Stefan. Apparently, his brother had lost all his marbles and thought that by locking Elena up in a dungeon he would break some compulsion he was convinced she was under. It was official. His brother was a certifiable lunatic.

He would die before he let them hurt one hair on Elena's head. He knew she'd come. He wished she wouldn't. He fervently wished that for once she wouldn't put herself in danger, especially since she stood no chance. There were simply too many of them for her to take on. But he knew she wouldn't stay away. It was in her nature to try and save those she cared for and it was one of the things he both loved and hated about her. But he would to find a way to stop these bastards from hurting her, even if it meant goading them into killing him. If he was dead, she had no reason to come.

"All you have to do is admit you still love me Damon," Katherine purred, "and the pain will stop."

Damon gritted his teeth as he stared up at the woman he had once loved body and soul. All he felt was a murderous rage. "I'd rather take a dive into a vat of vervain," he hissed angrily. He snapped his jaw shut as she pushed one of the stakes deeper into his body. He didn't know how much more he could take. Why didn't the bitch just stake him through the heart and finish it already?

Honey, I don't think you need to go to those extremes to get out of bonding with me, a voice said in his mind. He snapped his head up and looked around.

Elena, you have to get out of here! It's a trap!

Trust me, baby. The next thing he heard was a loud crash from above. He looked up and his jaw dropped as he watched Elena fall through a newly formed hole in the roof. She landed on her feet gracefully, as if she hadn't just dropped down over thirty feet from the roof of the warehouse.

"What the fuck?" Dieter exclaimed.

Elena smiled menacingly as she drew her sword. The metal glinted wickedly in the artificial light. "Taking Damon was a mistake," she said softly. "And it will be the last mistake you'll ever make."

"What exactly are you going to do? Guardian or no guardian, there are twenty of us and one of you," Katherine snickered.

Elena shifted her stance to glance at Damon. He was covered in blood and his face was frozen in a mask of pain. The rage she felt reached volcanic proportions. One thing stood between her and Damon. Katherine was about to get hacked to pieces.

Calm, Elena. You need to stay calm. One mistake could get Damon killed. Sorcha's voice vibrated with fury. Elena was like a sister to her and she had also grown rather fond of the loony vampire, which made him family. No one messed with her family and lived to tell the tale. Well, at least not fully functional. If only she was in one piece. Then she'd show them what a trained guardian could do to fifty Original vampires, let alone a paltry twenty fledglings. As it was, all she could do was guide Elena but some day, she would be whole again and be able to protect her family.

I'm rather upset. The understatement of the century, she was sure, but she needed to get herself under control. Elena breathed deeply to try and center herself, even if she wanted to bathe in their blood.

I know, honey, Sorcha said soothingly. I wish I was there with you but I'm trying to protect you both. You need a cool head or you'll make a mistake and Damon may suffer for it.

Elena nodded slightly, to herself more than Sorcha and turned so that her back was to the wall. She looked straight into Dieter's eyes, her gaze as chillingly calm and cold as the steel of the sword she held. "You don't know much about Guardians." It was a statement of fact but apparently Dieter wasn't aware of it.

"I know more than enough. I know the legends but that's all they are. You're a weakling that I can rip to pieces without breaking a sweat. However, I'm a man who sticks by his word. Give me the dagger and you can both go free."

Stefan chose that moment to intervene. "But you said Elena would be mine!"

"Shut up, fool," Dieter exclaimed.

"No, you promised she would be mine and that you would kill Damon to break the compulsion!"

Dieter rolled his eyes and looked at the younger vampire. "Listen to me, idiot, I want that dagger. Once I've got it, I don't care what the rest of you do. As far as I'm concerned, they're free to go."

Elena shook her head. It was like being in a lunatic asylum. She glanced around and was stunned to see that the other vampires hadn't made a move, which further proved that Dieter was about as capable a leader as a constipated hamster. That's when she noticed Klaus had snuck in. He was a few feet behind Dieter and was creeping up on his former second-in-command quietly. Their gazes locked and he nodded.

He was ready. Now she just had to remove Katherine to get to Damon. Once he was free, he could get out and they could finish the job. All her muscles tensed as Klaus got ready to leap into action. She took a deep breath and watched in awe as Klaus jumped, grabbing Stefan and Dieter by the backs of their necks.

"What the hell?" Dieter exclaimed.

"I'm not alone," Elena said quietly.

The other vampires chose that moment to galvanize into action. If the situation hadn't been so tense, Elena would have laughed. It was as if they had been asleep for the whole encounter.

"If anyone moves a muscle, I'll rip Dieter's head off and start on the rest of you." Klaus' growl was apparently enough to freeze them all in place.

"What are you doing, you fools? Kill him!" Dieter's scream startled them but they still seemed quite reluctant to take Klaus on. They had only been expecting the barely-turned Guardian, not the thousand-year old Original hybrid who was known for his cruelty and his inability to die.

Katherine, in the meantime, had begun to inch closer to Damon. She would not be robbed of her revenge. Elena would suffer the agony of losing the man she loved, even if it was the last thing she did.

Elena noticed movement in her peripheral vision. She moved so fast, Katherine couldn't follow her. Suddenly, she was sailing through the air and crashing into a concrete wall. She crumpled to the floor, her breath knocked out of her. She probably had a few broken bones too, but that wouldn't stop her from achieving her goal. Katherine pushed through the pain and struggled to her feet, leaning heavily against the wall behind her. But before she could set one foot in front of the other, she found herself struggling against an incredibly strong grip around her throat as she was being raised off the floor.

She paled when she realized who the hand around her neck belonged to. It was none other than her doppelgänger, who looked extremely pissed, with her lips drawn back in a snarl that revealed sharp fangs, her golden gaze glittering dangerously. "I should kill you." Katherine blanched at the threat she had finally realized Elena was more than capable of carrying out. "But I won't."

Katherine almost fainted in relief but she still couldn't help the bitchy retort. "You're so pitifully weak," she managed to croak out painfully.

Elena simply cocked an eyebrow. "And you are a fool for taunting me. I could kill you with one move, Katherine. And this time, you'd stay dead. Even though I'm thoroughly tempted, what you've done to me doesn't compare to how you've hurt Damon. It's his decision what to do with you."

Katherine grinned. She would be fine. Damon still loved her. He'd always love her. She'd easily be able to convince him to let her go. Elena's next words, however, chilled her to the bone. "That doesn't mean I don't want my pound of flesh for what you've done to me and those I care about, though." And that was all the warning Katherine got before she was being hurled against another concrete wall.

Elena was barely restraining herself. She wanted to rip the bitch's heart out and stuff it down her gullet but Damon deserved closure. He deserved to be the one who decided the face of the selfish bitch that had destroyed his life and that of his brother. Still, she wanted to see Katherine hurt a bit. Confident the bitch wasn't getting up any time soon, she turned back to Damon who was glaring angrily at her.

Klaus seemed to have everything under control and judging by the way everyone was standing around docilely, he'd probably compelled Dieter and Stefan. "Klaus, we good?" she asked.

"All good," he replied with a grin.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" she grumbled as she started ripping open the vervain ropes holding Damon in place. He hissed in pain and Elena clenched her teeth. She hated hurting him, but it had to be done.

"You shouldn't have come after me," Damon snapped. He knew, deep down, he was likely overreacting. After all, he'd just seen her Katherine across the room as if she were a rag doll. But still couldn't get over the idea that she could have died. What if Dieter hadn't been such an idiot? What if the asshole had managed to find a way to incapacitate Elena? God, the thoughts just wouldn't stop.

"Are you serious?" Elena drew back, gaping in shock. "What was I supposed to do? Let you rot?"

"I'm not worth your life," Damon said stubbornly. "Don't ever put yourself in harm's way for me again."

Elena's gaze narrowed as she yanked out one of the stakes with a lot more force than necessary, making Damon yelp in pain. "Hey!"

"You deserved it, you idiot," she hissed. "This is not the time and place for this conversation, but we are definitely going to be having a long –" Elena's sentence was cut off by a shouted warning from Klaus. Unfortunately, it had come a second too late because Katherine had already plunged a stake into Elena's back that went right through her heart and come out the other side, spraying Damon with her blood.

He started shouting and tried to wrench himself free from the ropes that still bound him. "No, Elena! Please, no!" His screams were filled with anguish and despair. He couldn't lose her. Not now.

Elena looked into his eyes, her gaze warm and full of love. Damon almost choked in his desperation, no longer feeling the pain of the vervain that was trying to eat through his wrists as he tried to free himself.

And then Elena lifted her hand and grabbed hold of the stake from between her breasts. She pulled on it hard, wrenching it out of Katherine's grip and out of her body with a loud sucking sound. "Fuck!" she said through gritted teeth. "That fucking hurt!" She turned around to face Katherine, who was staring at her in complete shock. "And you ruined my favorite jacket!"

Elena glared at Katherine as she drew her fist back and let it fly with the strength and weight of her entire body behind it. Her punch landed and she could hear and feel the satisfying crunch of bone and cartilage as the bitch was thrown back across the room. She stalked to the bitch and leaned over, grasping the vile woman's head in her hands. "This should keep you quiet for a bit," Elena growled as she wrenched Katherine's head around hard, breaking her neck in the process.

"Nicely done," Klaus complimented.

Elena inclined her head graciously. "Thank you. You don't seem to be doing too badly yourself." She gestured to the heart he clutched in his hand and the ten vampire bodies lying at his feet. Klaus grinned unrepentantly and turned back to his task. He seemed to be doing quite well on his own so she shifted her attention back to Damon, who seemed catatonic.

She ripped the remaining ropes off him and though he was free, he didn't move an inch. Elena stepped between his knees and cupped his cheek, angling his head so he was looking up at her. Still, he didn't react. It was as if he couldn't see her.

"I'm right here baby," she whispered softly to him. "I'm alright." Some awareness seemed to be coming back to him.

"Elena?" he croaked softly.

"That's it Damon. Look at me. I'm alright." His eyes began to focus on her face. His gaze slipped down to her chest and his hands came up in a flash of motion, ripping her shirt open. He put his palm over the uninjured skin covered in blood where the stake had penetrated.

"I thought I lost you," he growled softly. His arms went around her and he pulled her tightly to him. He needed to feel her, to smell her, to know she was really there. For one split second in time, he'd thought his miracle had been ripped away from him.

Elena's hands cupped his head, holding him against her chest as he nuzzled her skin tenderly. "You'll never lose me," she whispered to him, her lips against his hair.

A second later, they heard a feminine moan of pain. The bitch was coming around. Damon froze and then surged to his feet, surprising Elena who stumbled backwards. Damon caught her and steadied her but murderous rage was written across his features. He turned to where Katherine lay and was looming over her a moment later. He took hold of the bitch's neck and pulled her upper body off the floor, bringing their faces so close together that he could count each and every eyelash.

"You hurt Elena," he snarled in her face. "You tried to fucking kill her, you little bitch."

"Damon, I did it for you! I did it so you could be free and we could be together," Katherine screamed.

Damon looked at her in disgust. "You tried to kill the woman I love," he repeated. He drew his fist back and punched through her chest easily. His fingers curled around the sluggishly beating organ that was Katherine's heart. He was actually surprised to find it because he'd become convinced she didn't have one.

"No Damon! Don't!" Katherine's plea came out gurgled as blood bubbled up into her mouth.

"Good-bye Katherine," he said softly, pulling her out heart with a wet plop. He threw the offending piece of tissue away from him and watched with satisfaction as Katherine's body turned the grey of permanent vampiric death. This was one death she would not be rising from ever again.

Damon looked up, though he dreaded the censure he expected to find on Elena's face. After all, he'd just reverted to his psychotic ways, hadn't he? The sight that greeted him was definitely not one he had expected though.

Elena stood behind a kneeling Dieter, who had a wicked sword poking through his chest. But more importantly, all he could see reflected in the gaze that locked with his was fierce pride and love. Certainly not the censure he had expected. That's when he heard an unladylike but definitely very feminine snort in his head.

Of course I'm proud of you and I love you, you idiot. Elena's declarations of love were always unique but that's what made them even more treasured. Mind you, I'm a bit disappointed.

And why's that? Damon asked, his insecurities having evaporated in a puff of smoke. He glanced around to see if Klaus needed any help. There were still six vampires left so he rushed over, grabbing one and pulling out his heart.

I thought we'd keep her around and play with her for a bit. A bit of kidney table tennis, or intestine jump rope, or body-part poker, that kind of thing. She grinned when Damon couldn't help bursting into laughter, while he broke a neck.

I'm sorry, love. But I promise to make it up to you.

You'd better. I'm expecting to be impressed with our honeymoon, she warned him.

Oh, you definitely will be. Damon still couldn't believe that they would be bonding very soon and that they'd be together forever. It really was his very own personal miracle.

I really hope you still think that after a few centuries of me hogging the covers and complaining about your snoring.

You won't need to hog the covers because I'll always be there to keep you warm. And I don't snore. But there's nothing you can do or say that will stop me from thanking the powers-that-be for giving you to me every day for eternity.

For the record, you do snore. And that was such a sweet thing to say, Elena gushed. I'm going to thank you properly for such a lovely compliment as soon as we get out of here.

Damon grinned. All the vampires were dead, Dieter had a massive hole in his chest from a sword that was spelled so the wound would actually fester and it would take months to heal. Considering Klaus had a firm grip on his former second-in-command and the furious look the hybrid sported, Damon almost felt sorry for Dieter. Almost, but not quite.

That just left Stefan for them to deal with. "What should we do with Stefan?" Damon asked.

Elena shrugged. If she had her way, they'd lock him up and throw away the key. She couldn't kill him because of the past they shared, but he was no longer that man. He had sunk into a madness so severe, it was unlikely he'd ever come back from it.

"I don't know Damon. He's your brother but I think the best thing for him is if we lock him up in the dungeon at the boarding house. Maybe he'll come out of this insanity." She doubted there was much of a chance but you never knew. Stranger things had happened, especially in their world.

"Good plan," Damon said with a small smile. He bent over to pick Stefan up and threw him over his shoulder, like a sack of potatoes.

"Well, I'll be heading out if you don't need me anymore, Elena," Klaus said. Elena smiled warmly at him and reached up to kiss him on the cheek.

"Thank you, Nik," she said. "You really are a good man."

If she hadn't known better, she'd swear Klaus had just blushed. "See you soon, love," he said with a wide grin. "I've got to teach someone a lesson about betrayal." His soft, warm gaze turned cold as steel as he glanced down in disgust at Dieter. One moment Elena was looking at Klaus and Dieter and the next moment she was staring at empty space. Bonnie so had to learn that teleportation spell.

She turned to Damon, who was holding his arm out. She slipped next to him and they held each other tightly as they left the warehouse. An hour later, Damon slammed the door to the dungeon, with Stefan safely locked inside. Klaus' compulsion was still in place, so he had been cooperative and silent for the entire journey. Elena smiled at Damon and let out a sigh of relief. Both of them had been loath to let the other out of their sight after the night they'd had so she had followed him down here, even if she had only been watching.

"So, now what?" Damon asked, when he suddenly started swaying on his feet. "Shit, I need to feed."

"Are you surprised? You did lose a lot of blood," Elena said as she slipped under his arm and took hold of him to steady him.

"Yeah, that's true. And I was so hoping to see how you would be expressing your gratitude," his dejected sigh made Elena laugh.

"Don't worry, lover boy. I'll be feeding you tonight so you'll be fine in no time."

Damon grinned. "Well, then, my lady. Lead the way."

"Gladly," Elena replied with a smile. She hesitated for a moment, "I also want us to complete the bond tonight," she continued, looking up into those blue eyes she'd thought she'd never see again. "I don't want to take any chances with your life anymore but you can still back out, if you want. I –"

Damon cut her off, "Tell me what we need to do. I want to complete the bond as soon as we can. I hate feeling helpless and that's exactly how I felt when I saw that stake sticking out of you. I love you and never want to be parted from you, so we do this tonight."

Elena nodded with a smile. They would be good together. They would disagree, they would argue and they would fight but it would make their lives interesting and the making up would be fun. They'd never be bored. But, in the end, all that mattered was that they loved each other and always would.