title: love, i get so lost sometimes
pairing: damon/elena. mentions of stefan/elena. post season finale.
summary: "I love Stefan." She says automatically, like she always does, it's a non sequitur but please, god, please don't let him know that. [elena's pov]
a/n: companion fic to 'a road trip for absolution', but can be read as a stand alone. I just saw Say Anything for the nth time ergo the title. Also, ff is being a bitch about the format. Dunno if people are getting multiple updates, but sorrry!
It's the longest car ride in the history of the world.
She looks and pretends she isn't looking and it's the stupidest thing ever because he's a freaking vampire, he can catch all of her movements half a second before she's thought them out.
In her mind, he's still lying down, his hair plastered over his face, dying. And every time it happens, she clenches her hands before she can do something stupid, like reach out and never let go. Like she's five and believes that everything she can't feel beneath her hands isn't real, as if she's afraid he'll just disappear if she can't touch him. But she won't. doesn't. can't.
"Stop fidgeting, Elena," he says, dragging her name out, "I know every time Stefan moves, your Epic Love Connection makes you carry out a corresponding movement, but Jesus, this is just distracting."
And then she's angry at herself so obviously she takes it out on him, "don't talk about him, you jerk."
"Yeah, the whole kissing his girlfriend thing. Buuuurn. Don't worry about it, he's used to it. It's sort of our thing. It's what we bond over."
She almost says something then, hates him for making it sound like those sickeningly broken moments were some sort of grand farce. Then realizes he's saying it like he started it, when she'd been the one to kiss him, and then hates him for caring so damn much. She's overrated.
"I love Stefan." She says automatically, like she always does, it's a non sequitur but please, god, please don't let him know that. And she does, she loves Stefan.
"It's always going to be Stefan," he completes, his tone dripping boredom "how fabulously original of you, Elena."
She goes back to looking out the window as his mouth sets in a straight line and its uncountable miles of Damon and I love you and her sanity.
She doesn't know what she's looking for. She just sits and pores over maps because if she doesn't do something, she'll lose her mind.
He looks at her sometimes, with the phone in his hand, gripped too tightly with that half smirk that sets all her nerves alight because he's just so damn annoying, "how romantic, I'll be sure to tell Stefan how hard you worked to find him. Maybe you'll be rewarded with mind blowing sex. Or, let's be realistic here, maybe a couple of free dinners at the grill."
His eyes involuntarily slip down as he speaks and it's odd that she's never thought of it that way. That he wants her. That apart from the whole being in love with her thing, he wants to be inside her, sleep with her, make love to her, whatever.
She isn't going to ask it, "could you hear us?" she's asked it.
"Hm," he pauses, his glance transferring from the directory to her, "hear what? Where?"
"Us," she says again, because she's stupid, she's so, so stupid, "Stefan and I. In your house, when we…could you—" she stops, and tries to swallow, throat dry. What the fuck is wrong with her?
He's in front of her faster than the speed of light and she finds she can't look up at him, "Elena," he says, warning, "don't go there."
They're familiar, those words, in a way that's completely unfamiliar.
I'm sorry you're in love with me, she doesn't say, because that's ridiculous and pathetic and meaningless and she's pretending she's none of the above. Badly, but still.
He's on the bed before she's even out of the shower, and for a moment she just stands there, and it feels like it would twenty years later, coming home to something, someone every night. Except this is Damon and the picture is just sort of messed up. Like she's trying so hard to fit two pieces in and they don't even belong to the same puzzle.
"We're not sleeping together. In the same bed." She clarifies and she shouldn't have because that makes it sound like it was ever an option and it isn't.
He shrugs and doesn't look up, "whatever, the couch is all yours, darling."
She takes in a deep breath and lets it out slowly, the irritation making inroads in her skin and mingling with something else, "don't call me darling." Because that was so the most important part in the whole thing.
"Whatever you say," he says, flipping through the paper, "darling".
"We can at least try to get along," she grits her teeth because she wants him so badly, and maybe if she just stops breathing for a while, it'll go away, "for Stefan. You know, your brother? Who exchanged his life for yours?"
He finally looks up, "it wasn't for me, Saint Stefan was playing the hero as per the usual," he shrugs again, "I've lived long enough, it wouldn't have mattered so much, but trust Stefan to get on his white horse and charge ahead whenever he can find the least provocation to."
And then she's by him, kneeling in front of the bed because he never understands, after everything, after the whole night, he still doesn't freaking understand, "shut up, Damon."
"Fine, he throws a disinterested glance at her position, "I won't say anything about my saintly brother. You can martyr him all you want."
"It would have mattered," she says fiercely, "It would've mattered to me."
He stares down at her, face carefully blank and she stares back, refusing to look away, begging her eyes to say everything she can't with her hands, her skin, her mouth.
"Well, then it's a good exchange for you."
She gets up, strangely deflated, because this is how they always end, awkward and pointless, "you're a dick."
"Thank you," he says, "I'm used to getting compliments on the size, but it's a pleasure each time."
And suddenly she's laughing, and he's looking at her strangely, like he can't believe her and it only makes her laugh harder.
And then she starts to cry and wow— she's such a mess, it's not even funny.
He's sighing, like he can't believe this is what he's been reduced to, and then she's in the bed, in his arms and it's just like the last time except he's not dying and it's not.
Caroline calls every day and talks about everything and she realizes she's jealous. Of Caroline, because she can still do this. Still be alive, even when she's dead. And she has blood flowing through her veins and air through her lungs and it wouldn't make a bit of a difference if she dies right now.
"You'll find Stefan," Caroline says, and Elena realizes with a start that she's not even forcing the cheerfulness, she genuinely believes it. Like she believes in saving the environment and bake sales and the right dress and boys and everything. She believes in everything with the same passion, the same intensity, she never stops believing.
"I'm jealous," she says, this one time, honestly, "of you."
Damon's in the shower and hopefully he can't hear because he's been collecting parts of her that Stefan left behind and 'fixing' her and one of these days she's not going to be enough to make a whole and he'll have too much of her for her to ever take it all back again.
Caroline laughs, and it's bright and it reminds her of something golden, she's glad Caroline never lost that, "is that a role reversal or what."
"Please," she scoffs, "what have you been jealous of. My hair? Which is beautiful, admittedly, but…"
"Gentlemen prefer blondes," Caroline reminds her, the eternal laughter in her voice easing her heart a little. She stops for a while, like she knows it but she doesn't know how to say it, "I've never been loved like you have."
"What," she says, startled, because of all the things she would have thought, that wasn't it.
"Like Stefan and Damon love you," she can almost hear Caroline shrugging, "I've never been loved like that. Probably won't ever be."
And later, when his legs tangle with hers at night, she wonders when it became Stefan and Damon.
Most times he looks at her like he wants to leave her in the middle of the road and not look back and it scares the hell out of her. Because she doesn't yet know him well enough to know if he can just walk away, and maybe he can. Maybe she'll wake up one day and he just won't be there. Maybe he'll—
And then he's kissing her feet, looking at her like he worships her, like he would die for her and she just cramps, aches inside with tenderness.
(That scares her the most).
It's beginning and middles and no ends, they start and stop and never get anywhere closer to what they'd set out for and she hates him in the mornings and she fights with him in the afternoons and they end up at bars by night, pretending like they're normal or something.
He doesn't let her drink. He compels the guard to let her in but he refuses to compel the bartender and sits and drinks as she looks at him, the palm of her hand itching to make contact with his skin.
"We've drunk before," she argues even though it's useless, he's just doing this because he wants to, "with Bree that one time. And you know your tolerance is lower than mine."
"I'm a vampire," he says, "I was pretending. Getting a girl drunk is the first step in every seduction manual ever written and I wrote half of them."
(He didn't seduce her though, even when she was drunk. She'd point that out but then this'll be something— more, and she needs it to not be that).
"You're just being contrary."
He grins at her and raises his glass in a mock toast, "to adulthood and licenses and finding lost lovers slash idiot brothers."
"Fine," she says, "be that way."
She doesn't need him for every single thing in the whole freaking world. She can handle it, it's easy, much too easy, and it's weird she's never thought of the fact that she's a girl.
"I'm impressed," he drawls, as she makes her way back to him, "you almost blinded him with cleavage there, Miss Elena Gilbert. That seemed pretty practiced to me, and I should know"
She flushes, and it's odd that they never knew this side of hers, these boys who love her. The Elena Gilbert before the deaths and blood and grief, the slightly shallow, selfish, loved creature used to getting her own way, and she misses her. She misses her so, so badly. She doesn't want to be a better person, she just wants her parents back. And then she's irrationally angry because Damon knows it before Stefan does and it's not fair.
She drinks then. Pretends her mother will scold her and ground her for a month. Pretends her dad will side with her mom and then secretly buy her a bottle of wine for her sleepover— licensed anarchy under parental control, he'd say and put a finger to his lips. Pretends Matt will carry her home in his arms because she'll be pretending she's too drunk to walk alone, but the truth is, she just likes being cared for. And then she's drunk.
"See," she tries not to slur, "I can handle it, you just want to make life difficult for me. Compel the bartender next time, jerk."
"Uh, let me think about that," he models his expression into 'thinking', "no. Use your assets. You aren't getting to use them much with Stefan gone anyway."
And because she's Elena Gilbert of three years ago, she dumps a glass of vodka on his head. And laughs.
"Elena," he says getting up, and tries to hold her. She squirms out of his hands and before she's thought it out, she got salt on her lips and his vodka-soaked skin under her tongue. She bites on his collarbone, licking the vodka off and he tastes so…his eyes, god…she's just…they're both—
"Elena," he breathes her name through clenched teeth, drawing the syllables out, till each letter is twisted with want and need and revulsion and love and guilt, and oh god, what is she doing, "stop."
She (doesn't want to) stops.
She doesn't look at him on the way back.
He sleeps on the couch and it's back to square one and it's forward to square hundred and fifty seven and she's so lost.
And she's selfish.
"I'm going out for some time," he says and it's so obvious, it makes her mad.
"You need to sleep around even when your brother is with the strongest vampire in the history of time, the guy who could kill him with a flick of his finger? Give the guy a medal someone." She's snapping and she has no right, but she's too tired to care.
He's in front of her then, and he does this too often. They do this too often.
"Fine," he says, "since you're so desperate to talk about it, let's talk about it. Let's go there. You don't want me, but you can't stand the idea of anyone else having me?"
"You're so full of yourself," she says, because he's right, "it's not always all about you."
"So kindly tell me, what it is about Elena, because that's just the way it looks from where I'm standing. The whole passive aggression thing is amusing, but it gets old really fast."
She raises her eyes in provocation and he does this to her, he brings this side out and she hates him and loves him equally for it. "I'm a girl," she says defiantly.
He raises an eyebrow. He's calm and collected and she needs to see him break down a little like she does every day, every moments she spends with him, goddammit "I've noticed," he replies dryly, "is there a point or purpose to this conversation?"
"If that's all you want," she's pushing, she's always pushing, "then I'm a girl."
Because this is different. She's not being pathetic, it's sex, it's just sex. It's not please don't leave me, I can't, please, just, stay, I need, you're, I can't live, Damon—
She squares her shoulders to meet his sarcasm and promises herself she won't break this time, just like every other time, won't be the weak little seventeen year old, clutching on to the guy who loves her but doesn't need her, won't say she needs him, even if she wants him. "Go ahead," she takes off her necklace.
And then he's looking at her, and really? he's just as lost as she is and she's sorry because she's the one who put that godforsaken look in his eyes and she does this to him every single time and she doesn't mean to. She's so sorry.
"What do you want, Elena?" he asks, tired, defeated.
"I—" she doesn't know. "stay. Please, Damon." She's pathetic.
He looks at her a long while and she's afraid she's said more than she means to, that she's been trying not to so hard.
"Whatever, she wasn't that hot, and I need to go meet Carlyle tomorrow about the killings fifty mile south." He'll stay.
And they're both pretending, except they both know exactly what the other's pretending so it's kind of pointless and stupid, but mostly just sad.
"Stefan loves you more than he loves me."
She says it casually, looking up at the ceiling, because it's true. It's always been true.
He turns around in the bed to look at her, he's near enough and she'll pretend she can feel the warmth from his body. "We're going to find him."
And because Damon believes it, she believes it too.
I'm trusting you, she doesn't say. She doesn't need to.