Disclaimer: This story is based on characters created by L.J. Smith, as portrayed in the TV series created by Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec. All rights to their respective owners. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's Note: Thank you for your sweet reviews. A special thanks to Babi. who pointed out my mess-up, and I have subsequently fixed it so that it's hopefully more believable. This will be the final chapter. Thank you all so much for reading and reviewing, I've enjoyed every minute of it : ) Enjoy!
Less Than Honorable Intentions
~ IX ~
Elena fully intended to go to the doctor come Monday morning, but she just got so busy at the shop. Damon had left for California and the Broken Hearts Recovery Center, late Sunday evening, much to Izzie's chagrin. The loss was slightly compensated by the fact that he entrusted Ric and Jenna with the care of Izzie's Labrador, Lily, so she could see her all the time. Stefan would take care of Slater, Damon told her. He was coming back to Mystic Falls with his two boys.
Towards the end of the week, Elena was tired, but she hadn't felt sick since that weekend at the mansion. Damon called every day, but she didn't really have time to talk. It wasn't until Friday afternoon, when the last of her customers had left and Izzie was over at Jenna's house, that she had the chance to sit down for five minutes and actually talk to Damon. He asked her how she was doing, and she lied for the umpteenth time since he left.
"You sure? You sound tired."
"Well, it's been a busy week."
"I hardly see her – she's over at Jenna's every chance she gets."
"You miss her," Damon deduced.
"Of course I do. She's my baby."
"So… nothing else that's bothering you… making you feel tired?"
"Oh… ok." He sounded disappointed.
"How's…" Elena couldn't bring herself to say Katherine's name. Just thinking about her made Elena's stomach churn. So that's what her nausea originated in, Elena deduced.
"Improving," Damon said.
"That's good," Elena said, numb.
"I should go. I have to pick up Izzie."
"Ok… give her a hug for me."
"I will. Bye."
Elena put the phone down and rushed to the bathroom. Yes, definitely stress-induced nausea.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, and it became perfectly clear that even though her fatigue and nausea initially may have been caused by stress, its continuation was a sign of something else entirely. When she after two months still hadn't gotten her period – she would sometimes skip a month when she was particularly stressed – she made an appointment with Dr. Flowers, who confirmed the pregnancy.
After getting a handful of advice and prenatal vitamins, Elena returned to the shop after her extended lunch break.
"So?" Jenna said in a low voice, her eyebrows raised. The shop was close to empty, but Jenna didn't want to raise suspicions. When Elena had confided in her, she had sworn her to secrecy. Jenna couldn't even tell Ric, for fear it would get back to Damon. Elena did not want Damon to know. Elena gave Jenna an almost imperceptible nod.
"Would you mind staying a little while longer? I just need to…" she pointed upstairs.
"Of course, sweetie. Take all the time you need."
Elena had barely closed the bathroom door behind her before she broke into tears. This should be a happy occasion. She should be sharing the news with her baby's father, not crying her eyes out on the bathroom floor, trying to figure out how she could get away with him never finding out.
Over these past months, Damon had still called her every night, but she felt the distance between them increase every day he spent with her. She was doing much better, he said. The doctors were even talking about releasing her. How would Katherine react to Elena's pregnancy? Would it push her over the edge again? What would she do this time? All these concerns melted together to form a great big lump in Elena's throat, suffocating her. When Damon called and said he was coming back to Mystic Falls with Katherine, it was the final straw. She had to leave. She couldn't stay here once she started to show. Right now, the stress and morning sickness was wearing her down, and she was looking even skinnier than usual. She couldn't keep this up, or the baby would suffer the consequences. Leaving was the only available option. She would not make Damon choose between her and his family.
When Elena had collected herself, she returned to the shop.
"Thanks, Jenna. I've got it from here," she managed a weak smile.
"I'm gonna have Ric watch the kids tonight and you and I will have a girls' night," Jenna decided.
"Oh… thank you, but I don't really…"
"Feel like it? I know, but I also know you need to talk. Bottling everything up isn't doing you…" she lowered her voice, "… or the baby – any good."
"Ok," Elena conceded. "But what will you tell Ric?"
"That we're gonna watch some chick flick. Trust me, he won't be asking to join us," Jenna winked.
"So when are you planning on telling him about the baby?" Jenna asked as they crawled up on Elena's couch.
"I'm not. I'm planning on being gone before I start showing."
"Gone? You're leaving? Elena, that's crazy. This is your home now. Izzie has friends here, you have friends here. Don't let Katherine ruin that."
"I can't make him choose, Jenna. If Damon finds out about the baby, he'll never let me go. I know he won't. He'll insist that we move in together, that we get married. Katherine doesn't tolerate rivalry. She hates me, and I can't spend every waking moment worrying that she'll snap and do something to hurt me. She went after Izzie, Jenna. What if she does that again? Or the baby?"
"But he still deserves to know, Elena. Don't take that choice away from him."
The door buzzed, causing them both to jump slightly. Elena looked at Jenna. "Who could that be?" she frowned and tentatively made her way downstairs.
Her heart did a double-take when she saw his piercing blue eyes through the window. She unlocked the door.
"I'm sorry it's late. I just got back and I had to see you," he said and closed the distance between them in a single step. "Even more beautiful than I remembered," he said softly, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear and brushing her jaw line with his fingertips. His touch set her skin ablaze. "I missed you so much," he murmured against her lips before claiming them for his own.
Elena felt her body respond, leaning into him, welcoming him, then realized she had decided to leave him and pulled back. Looking into his mesmerizing blue eyes, she couldn't bring herself to form the words she knew had to be uttered.
"Spend the weekend with me. You and Izzie. Please?"
Elena frowned. "Didn't Katherine come back with you?"
"She did," he confirmed.
"Like I told you, she's doing much better. I told her about you, and she was furious at first, but I made it perfectly clear she had no influence over who I'm with and that I'd leave Mystic Falls with you and Izzie in a heartbeat if you wanted me to."
"Damon, you know I could never ask you to choose."
"I know, and that's why I love you so much. You're kind and selfless, and fiercely protective of those you love."
Elena felt her eyes brimming with tears that threatened to spill onto her cheeks.
"I'm sorry," Jenna said, coming down the stairs. "Don't mind me. I'm gonna go home and leave you two to talk," she smiled. "Good to see you again, Damon."
"Likewise, Jenna. Give my best to Ric and Ellie, will you?"
"Will do," she said, cheerful. She leaned in to hug Elena and took the opportunity to whisper in her ear, Tell him. "Have a good night, you two," she said aloud. "Izzie can stay over at our house."
"No!" Elena said suddenly. "No… I… I've hardly spent any time with her lately… I'm coming with you."
"We'll both go," Damon said, holding the door open for Jenna and Elena.
"No, that's ok… you should be with your family," Elena objected.
"I already am," he said softly and wrapped an arm around her waist. "Come on, let's go get Izzie and Lily."
Izzie was thrilled to see Damon again, and flew into his arms before starting to tell him everything he'd missed while he'd been gone. She kept talking until he tucked her into bed and she asked that he read her a story. When he had finished, Izzie was half asleep. He kissed her forehead and stood up to leave when her little voice called out to him.
"Are you leaving again?"
"No, I'm not going anywhere."
"Good," she mumbled just before sleep overtook her.
"You shouldn't make promises like that," Elena said sadly. She had been standing in the doorway as Damon and Izzie said their goodnights, and her heart ached at the scene. He took her hand and led her into the kitchen.
"Come spend the weekend at the mansion. Katherine really wants to see you."
"I really don't feel comfortable having her around Izzie. I'm sorry, I know you think she's better, but I just can't…"
"I'll be there the whole time. I won't let Izzie out of my sight, I promise. Katherine wants to apologize."
"Apologize?" Elena gawked.
"Just… please hear her out. It's part of her recovery – owning her mistakes and taking responsibility for her actions. You don't have to forgive her, or even try, but maybe if you hear what she has to say, you could let go of some of your fears."
"I don't know, Damon…"
"Please… come over this weekend, and make up your mind after that. I will respect and support whatever you decide."
"Even if I choose to leave you?"
"I can't force you to do anything, Elena. But you're kidding yourself if you think I'll give you up without a fight."
"Ok," Elena said after a long pause, "I'll hear her out. But you keep Izzie away from her," she pointed at him to emphasize her words.
"You got it," he smiled and leaned in to kiss her.
"No," Elena said, putting a finger to his lips.
"No?" he frowned at first, then his features settled into a pout.
"Not gonna work," Elena said, hands on her hips, "I've had years of practice at resisting pouty expressions."
"Hm…" Damon mused, losing the pout. "I guess I'll have to try something else, then…" he said, circling her.
"Like what?" Elena said, suddenly short of breath.
"Something like…" he pushed her hair to one side and ghosted his fingertips across the back of her neck. Elena shivered slightly at the feather light touch. "Or maybe…" he leaned down to brush his lips against her shoulder.
"Not… working," Elena breathed, closing her eyes.
"Hm… then what about…" he started kissing up her neck until he reached her earlobe and gently nibbled on it.
"I haven't seen you in months, Elena. I'm just making up for lost time," he whispered huskily in her ear as his hands found her waist and travelled upwards.
"Not here," she said. "Izzie…"
"Oh, I had every intention of relocating… I was just waiting for your invitation," he smirked and led her into her bedroom, making sure the door was locked behind them.
Elena awoke to the smell of coffee and oven-fresh bread, and to the sound of her little girl laughing. Elena sat up in bed, clutching the covers as she noticed her bedroom door was slightly ajar. She quickly wrapped a sheet around her and set out to find some clothes. She found a pair of sweats and a tank top and tiptoed over to the kitchen.
Damon was by the stove, with Izzie standing on a chair beside him, helping him flip pancakes. Lily stood wagging her tail and licking Izzie's feet, making the girl giggle every time the dog's raspy tongue came in contact with her toes.
"Good morning," Elena said, amused at the scene before her. When Damon turned around to face her, she burst into laughter. He had pancake batter all over his face. "Did you give Damon a facial, Izzie?" she managed to get out.
"I think mommy's looking far too clean this morning, don't you, kiddo?" Damon said with a mischievous sparkle in his eyes.
"Uh-huh," Izzie nodded.
"We should do something about that…"
"No… no, no, no…" Elena started backing away and ran when Damon grabbed a whipped cream can off the counter and chased her into the bedroom. She threw herself on the bed and tried to hide under the covers.
"Mommy's hiding," Elena could hear Izzie's voice piping.
"I'm sure the tickle monster can make her come out," Damon said conspiratorially.
Seconds later, Elena felt Izzie's little body climbing all over her, trying to find a ticklish spot. Elena squirmed under the covers and finally threw them off. "Ok, I give!" she raised her hands in surrender.
"Yay!" Izzie clapped her hands.
"Ok, so I'm just gonna…" Elena said, trying to slip out of bed.
"Oh, no, you don't," Damon said and lunged at her, squirting whipped cream on her face.
"Mm…" he reached out and scooped up a dollop of cream with his finger, tasting it. "Delicious."
Elena instinctively licked her lips and Damon quickly turned away. "Come on, kiddo, how 'bout we let mommy clean up and we finish making breakfast?"
"Lily can help mommy get clean," Izzie suggested.
Damon gave Elena a look that said So could I, but instead he said to Izzie, "Lily shouldn't have too much human food, it might make her tummy ache."
"Oh. Ok. See you soon, mommy," Izzie said and took Damon's hand, leading him over to the kitchen.
Elena was fidgeting in her seat all the way over to the Salvatore mansion. Damon, noticing her distress, reached out and covered her hand with his, rubbing soothing circles on her skin.
"Damon, is your doggy at your house?" Izzie asked from the backseat.
"He is," Damon confirmed. "So is Uncle Stef and Katherine, and their two boys."
"Oh. Where am I going to sleep this time?"
"Well, it just so happens I asked Uncle Stef to fix up a room just for you."
"Is it nice?"
"I think you'll just have to wait and see."
"Can Lily stay with me?"
"Lily has her own little basket to sleep in."
"In my room?"
"In your room," Damon confirmed.
"Everything's gonna be ok," Damon whispered to Elena as they were getting out of the car and squeezed her hand reassuringly.
Elena took a deep breath and let Damon escort her inside.
Katherine looked different from when Elena last saw her. She had her hair tied back in a loose braid and she wasn't wearing any makeup. She had a serene look on her face and her posture was relaxed. "Elena," she said softly, extending her hand. "I don't think we ever properly met."
Elena hesitatingly took the other woman's hand. "Katherine."
"I know it was difficult for you to come here, and I want you to know I really appreciate you giving me a chance to apologize for the horrible things I put you through."
Elena bit her lip.
"Damon," Katherine turned to the man by Elena's side. "Would you mind if Elena and I spoke in private?"
Damon looked at Elena, and when she nodded her consent, he took Izzie upstairs to show her new room to her.
Katherine took a seat on the couch and gestured for Elena to do the same. "I am so sorry for the way I treated you. I'm sure Damon told you about my past and my… uh… condition?"
"When I thought my husband was cheating on me with you, I went crazy. I wanted to send you a message so I hired someone to smash your shop window. But I crossed a line when I lured your daughter to go with me. I can't believe the way I acted, and I am so ashamed. I'm so grateful that Damon came home that day and found us. I'd like to think I never would have hurt Izzie, but I can't pretend like I had any real control over my actions just then. The doctors finally found a medication that works, and I expect I have years of intensive therapy ahead of me. I understand that you are wary of me. I don't blame you. I know Damon loves you, and you should know that I won't stand in your way. I want Damon to be happy, and I believe he will have a very happy life with you and your daughter and the child you're carrying."
Elena's jaw dropped. "How did you know?"
"I'm a mother, Elena, even if I haven't acted like one. You may have been able to fool Damon into thinking that stress and anxiety is the reason for your weight loss, but I know better. I didn't want to eat a thing during the first trimester, either, and I was constantly sick. I suspect you haven't told him because you're worried about my mental state. Am I right?"
"I could never ask him to choose between us," Elena said between clenched teeth.
"But I could. I did. And you know what he told me? That he chooses you. That he will always choose you. I'm not gonna pretend I wasn't hurt by that, because I was, but it also made me face some ugly truths about myself. I've been leaning on Damon instead of on my husband, and I've been neglecting my family. Stefan is willing to give our marriage another chance, and we're starting fresh. We're leaving Mystic Falls, Elena."
Elena stared at the woman in front of her. Could this be true? Could she actually have a life with Damon without worrying about Katherine?
"We only came back to Mystic Falls to pack up our things. We're leaving today, and you and Damon will have this house all to yourselves. Well, I suppose you'll be sharing it with a few dogs, of course. I just wanted to see you, and apologize, and let you know that I hope one day you'll call me 'sister'. I know I don't deserve your forgiveness, but I hope we can learn to co-exist. Maybe one day…"
"Yes. I hope so too," Elena said sincerely.
"I'm glad," Katherine said and rose from the couch. "Now I'm going to find my husband and my sons and say goodbye to Damon. Goodbye, Elena. Good luck with everything."
"Thank you, Katherine," Elena said and took her extended hand. Katherine covered Elena's hand with her other, sandwiching it and giving her a light squeeze, before leaving the room.
After Stefan, Katherine and their two boys had left, Damon and Elena tucked Izzie into bed in her new Princess Puppy room. Damon had really gone all out. Elena had never seen so many stuffed animals and books in one room before. Unless you count the shops, of course.
"You're spoiling her," Elena shook her head as they were getting into bed.
"Well, I want her to like me," Damon winked.
"She already does. She loves you, Damon."
"The feeling's mutual."
"You know, she told me once that she didn't want to call you Daddy, because daddies leave."
"I know. And I think she'll come around."
"Well, she has to. 'Daddy Damon' has quite the ring to it, don't you think?" he smiled.
"It does," Elena smiled back at him. "But 'Damon' can be pretty difficult to say for a baby, so I think we'll start out with Da-Da or something like that…"
"A baby?" Damon looked at her, puzzled. "Are you… Am I going to be a father?" he almost whispered.
"I'd say you have about seven months to decorate the nursery…"
"Elena…" he breathed, elation setting in. "We're gonna have a baby."
Elena nodded, her smile growing wider as she sensed the pure joy emanating from him. He took her hands in his, holding them tight to his chest. Then suddenly, he let go.
"We should celebrate," he said, jumping off the bed.
"Where are you going?" she looked at him in utter bewilderment.
"Getting the whipped cream, of course," he smirked.