The house was dark and quite, a heavy tension in the air once Katherine was gone. Elena sat at the foot of Damon's bed, watching the shower door nervously. They hadn't talked about what Katherine had said, but she knew that they were going to. It couldn't be avoided. She just had no idea what she was going to say. Did she love Damon? In some way she did, but she didn't think it was in the same way she loved Stefan. And poor Stefan. Who knows what Klaus had done to him in order to save his brother. She jumped as the bedroom door opened, revealing him freshly showered and dressed, the notice of death gone from his features as she handed him the mug of blood she had warmed up for him. "You look better," she said folding her arms.
"Thank you," he said, drowning the crimson contents. He was watching her with a guarded expression, unable to figure out how she was feeling and how to respond to it. She didn't want to talk about what was going on with them, it was too confusing for her. She cared about him, more than she let on, but that didn't mean she wanted to confront her feelings right now. "Elena…" But he was interrupted by the ringing of her cell phone.
She dug her phone out of her pocket hastily, more than grateful for the interrupting but she frowned when she saw Rick's name. "Hello?"
"Elena," Rick said, softly. "I know you're with Damon, but you need to come to the hospital. It's Jeremy."
"Is he okay?" she asked, her eyes meeting Damon's as they left his room, already heading down the stairs. She was amazed at how easily he knew she needed, and he would follow her every step of the way.
"I'll drive," Damon said, as she hung up. The trip over to the hospital was fast, as Damon broke every speed limit, trying to ignore her clutched hand in his. She had every right to be worried. She had enough to deal with right now. He parked in front of the emergency room, and she hopped out before it even came to a stop. In the waiting room she was surprised to find most of the little gang all present, with grief stricken faces.
"Damon," Caroline said in surprise. "You're okay."
"Where's Jeremy?" Elena asked, not wanting to explain Damon's situation right now. Her priority was her brother. "What happened?"
"I'm so sorry Elena," Liz said, tearfully.
Elena glanced up at Damon then back at the sheriff. "Where is he?" she demanded, as fear settled in the pit of her stomach. She didn't like the way everyone was looking at her, full of pity and sorrow.
"Elena," Caroline said approaching the tearful girl. "He got shot. And… we tried to save him, but it was too late. We did everything we could"
Elena's eyes widened and she almost felt sick as her vision blurred. Her stomach churned as her throat tightened. "No no no," she said moving away from them, a tear sliding down her cheek as Damon gently grabbed her hand. "Don't touch me." She tried to push him away as her body started trembling with sobs.
Very easily, Damon's strong arms closed over her body, hugging her to his chest as he rocked her gently. She had just buried her aunt and her father. Her boyfriend had now disappeared, and now, her brother was dead. As her knees buckled, he carefully scooped her up, settling into a chair with her in his lap and he nuzzled her temple, trying to offer any bit of comfort. Her hands were curling against him, as she tried to get closer to him and he wanted to shield her from all this. It wasn't fair.
"It's Damon's fault," Bonnie said angrily. "Damon moved and Jeremy got hit instead."
Elena's head shot up to stare at her friend then at Damon in horror. "You… knew?" she whispered, almost ready to bolt from his arms. There was no way he wouldn't tell her, no matter what state of mind he was in. He wouldn't keep it from her, she just knew it.
Damon shook his head as his hold tightened on her. "I don't know what happened to Jeremy," he said. "I was with him in the Grill… but I was just looking for you. That's all I remember."
Elena sniffled and wiped her cheeks. "You were sick," she mumbled, putting her head back on his shoulder. "It's not your fault." Damon had needed her. That's what his instincts were based on, getting to her and protecting her. He hadn't been able to do anything else. "I'm so tired Damon." She wanted to sleep and never wake up. She was going to have to bury her last family member and that thought made her cringe with agony.
"I know sweetheart," he whispered in her ear. "Let me… take care of some stuff and we'll go home." Where the hell was that? Why would she go back to house, that she had grown up in with her parents and Jeremy, and Jenna, who were all dead?
"I don't have one of those anymore," she said, getting off his lap. She folded her arms as he kissed the top of her head. "Hurry." She wanted to leave. Right this minute. She couldn't handle another funeral.
Damon left her reluctantly but Caroline immediately wrapped her arms around her. "Where's Stefan?" she asked softly.
Elena nearly burst into tears again at the thought of her missing boyfriend. "He gave himself up to save Damon," she whimpered against Caroline's shoulder, as tears slid out of her eyes. "He's all I have left." And he was. Everyone else had their own life. But she didn't know what was going to happen.
"It'll be okay," Caroline said rubbing her back.
Elena shook her head. "It hurts. It'll never be okay again," she whispered, as her arms tightened around Caroline's waist. "I hate it."
Ric followed Damon as he headed to the front desk. "What happened?" he asked. "You look.. Much better then you did before I got knocked out."
Damon rubbed his face tiredly. "Stefan gave himself over to Klaus to save me," he said sadly. "He's gone." As much as he hated his brother for so many things, he felt like the last few months had been different. They had put their differences aside to keep Elena safe, and they had started to repair the damage that had been caused. He appreciated what Stefan had done, but now what? Elena was going to hate him for Stefan being gone, and for Jeremy. He had left her brother unprotected. He had failed. Like always.
"Jesus," Ric said. "I can't imagine what Elena's going through." He rested a hand on Damon's shoulder. "At least you're okay."
Okay? Was this the definition of being okay? "Yeah," Damon snorted. "Managed to kill Elena's brother and my own all in one night. That's the way you win the woman you love." He wasn't even sure if he was going to do that to begin with. He had made a choice months ago to strictly be her friend, so that he could stay in her life. She wanted to be with Stefan, and if he wanted to be in her life, he had to accept that. And he did.
"You know she's not going to blame you for this," Ric said. "You were sick. You had no idea what was going on."
"She might not blame me today," Damon said. "But eventually she will. But I'm still going after Stefan." And kick his ass into the next century. All he wanted was for Stefan to not tell Elena. He had accepted that he was going to die. He was ready. And having Elena with him in the end had made it all worth it. He never counted on a cure. Never counted on losing his brother for that cure.
"What?" Came Elena's startled whisper from behind them. "No you aren't."
Damon sighed. "Elena…" He was really off his game if he couldn't sense her near him. He could already see the fight starting up on her face, and he didn't have the energy to do this now. He just wanted to sleep.
"Haven't I lost enough already?" she asked, tears stinging the corner of her eyes. "You're not going."
"Wouldn't you rather Stefan be here with you for this?" Damon countered, trying to find the logic in the girls brain. He couldn't just sit back and do nothing.
Rather than confront the feelings he knew she had conflicting in her, she just repeated her statement. "You're not going," she said, firmly as she crossed her arms. She had that stubborn pose, the one that she always had when people, mainly him, tried to defy her. He just wasn't sure that even Elena could convince him to stay here.
"Why don't you guys just go home?" Alaric said. "I'll make sure the arrangements go through you. It's.. been a long night and you don't need go through this now."
Damon glanced at Elena and she nodded. "Okay," he said in defeat. "Thanks Ric." Elena walked next to him like it was the most natural thing as they headed back out to his car. "Where to?" he asked sliding behind the driver seat. He could barely look at her, unsure of what he would find directed at him, but she didn't object to leaving with him, so that was a good sign.
"The boarding house," she whispered, leaning her head against the window as tears leaked out of her eyes, leaving trails down her beautiful face. His fingers itched to wipe them away, to ease her pain, but how could he when his own pain was causing such a nightmare within him?
He drove home more slowly, not eager to get back to his house, and Elena didn't seem to mind. No words were spoken the entire trip and she immediately went upstairs when they returned home. Damon watched her sadly as he leaned against the door in exhaustion. He pinched the bridge of his nose and headed to the couch, plopping in front of the fire, resting his head in his hands. He should get drunk, really drunk. It would take a lot of alcohol to dull this. He stared at his hands in wonder as tears dripped off his jaw onto them. If his mother was alive she'd kill him for not protecting his baby brother. He never cried, ever.
He wasn't sure how long he sat there, but Elena eventually came downstairs, still silent as the dead. When she came to stand in front of him, he barely raised his head as she nudged between his knees and settled in his lap, cradling him against her. It took him a moment to realize she was trying to offer him some comfort, and he hugged her to him tightly as he buried his head in her shoulder. "I'm so sorry Elena," he whispered, not knowing what else he could possibly say right now.
"Don't be," she whispered with a sniffle and his brows creased in confusion. "This isn't you're fault."
"But it is," Damon said angrily causing her to jump a little. "I was ready to die. I had lived a long life, done everything I wanted to do. Stefan didn't have to do this. And I left your brother unprotected, knowing he was the most important person to you and he got killed. That bullet wouldn't have killed me. I would have been fine."
Elena kissed his temple. "If its anyone's fault, it's mine," she said. "You were just keeping Caroline and Tyler safe, knowing it was important to me. You got bit protecting me. Everyone's gotten hurt or killed because of me. Stefan knew what would happen if he went after Klaus. And Jeremy was an accident. You were sick, and you just wanted me. You couldn't help yourself."
"You should hate me," he said sadly. "For so many things. And you probably still would if I hadn't been at death's door."
"I probably would have been mad at you, yes, but I could never hate you Damon, ever," she said. "And I may not have said those things if you weren't dying, but I still meant them. I just… don't know what that means." She pulled back slightly. "Let's get some sleep."
That meant discussion over, and truthfully, that was okay with him. He didn't want to have this talk either, not right now. He dropped his arms from around and stared at her as she rose to her feet, and she offered her hand to his. "Elena…" Even though his brain was telling him this was a bad idea, his hand was still sliding into hers. She led him upstairs silently to his room, and he was surprised to find clean sheets on his bed, ones that didn't wreak of death or of Katherine. "You don't have to stay you know. I'm all better."
"I know," she said, shrugging. "Just don't think either of us needs to be alone tonight. We're just going to sleep."
Damon sighed. "Elena, this isn't comfort for me," he whispered. "I can't… just be your friend and give you what you need right now." There was no way he'd be able to have her in his bed, just sleeping next to him innocently. He'd fuck that up in half a second.
"Maybe I need the same thing," she said, tilting her head in the most adorable way as she stared at him.
He almost snorted at the absurdity of that comment. "I highly doubt that," he muttered. "I'm going to bring Stefan home, whether you like it or not. So its best not to cross any lines and do things we're going to regret when that time comes."
"Awww," came a voice from behind Damon, once again startling him. "You two are cute."
Damon moved his body more in front of Elena as he turned to face Klaus. "Where's my brother?" He demanded. He was no match for Klaus right now. If the… hybrid wanted to kill him or Elena, he could do so without blinking an eye right now and Damon was helpless as a kitten.
"Don't worry about him," Klaus said. "He's fine. I see Katerina did as she was told."
"So how about you let Stefan come home and I'll go with you now that I'm all better," Damon said.
"No!" Elena cried out from behind him and he almost rolled his eyes. Why did she have to complicate everything he tried to do?
"There is no room for negotiations," Klaus said in amusement. "I had a feeling you wouldn't listen to reason, so I came to warn you. If you come after him, I'll kill your girlfriend, for real this time. So think about that before you start tracking the massacres."
Damon growled softly once they were alone and glared at her. "What in the world are you doing?" he asked, folding his arms. "Why do you have to fight me on everything?"
Her eyes widened in shock. "Damon I just…"
"You just what?" he flared angrily as he paced around the room, dragging his hands through his hair in agitation. "I could have gotten Stefan back and you put a stop right to that."
"You were asking for a trade," she said shaking her head. "I couldn't let you do that. I almost lost you Damon. There was no way I was going to let you give yourself up like that."
"And why is that?" he growled, stalking closer to her. "What kind of game are you playing?"
Elena shoved him roughly, putting some distance between them. "Because I care about you," she said, furiously. "And I have been trying to show you how much. You think this is easy for me Damon? You know how terrified I am of falling in love with you? And you almost died. So forgive me if I don't want to watch someone else die for me." She turned on her heel and wiped her tears as she headed to the door, jumping when he blocked her path.
His eyes were a lot softer, the anger gone from his face. "You didn't even let me try to talk to him to get Stefan back," he said softly. "Klaus could be doing anything to him. You don't even know if you'll ever see him again Elena."
"I know," she whispered, folding her arms as Damon went to collapse on his bed. "I knew the consequences when he said goodbye. He's trying to protect us, both of us. He wouldn't want us to ruin that Damon." Slowly , she joined him, just leaning against the headboard, her knees pulled up to her chest. She watched Damon's face, his closed eye lids and tilted her head back to do the same.
Damon reached out and pulled the covers back on the other side of the bed. "Lay down," he mumbled, never opening his eyes.
She smiled a little and shimmied under the blanket. She curled toward him, but nowhere as close as they were before, not wanting to crowd him when things were so confusing right now, for both of them. "Good night Damon."
Damon flicked off the light and toed off his boots before climbing into his clean sheets. A moment later, his hand was tangled with hers. "Goodnight Elena."