AN: This is the end, you guys! And believe it or not, I suddenly found myself needing the M-rating after all...;) Though it makes me a little nervous publishing it, so be kind, alright?

A giant thanks to all you wonderful readers and reviewers, I probably wouldn't have finished this story without you. And even though it was my first work, you all made me feel very welcome, thanks for that! Hugs for everybody!

I'm not working on another story at the moment, but I imagine I will be because I had so much fun writing fanfic. Maybe you'll hear from me soon!

Until then, I hope nobody's disappointed with this last chapter but even if you are, let me know, critic is always welcome and will hopefully help me with future writing.

And finally, again, so much credit goes to my amazing beta, waltzmatildah. If you have time, go read her story too, because it is simply perfect!

The End of the Party

When he finally lets her down on the ground again, Elena feels as if a little eternity has passed. As if she had just grown two more inches. She holds her spine very erect, looking Damon in the eyes with an openness that is still new and unfamiliar, yet immensely thrilling. His hands are stroking over her arms in long, savoring movements and once again his eyes on her are enough to send her pulse into a frenzy. Slowly, his palms slide up to her shoulders with a laziness that gives her all the time in the world to lose control over her breathing, before finally tangling his fingers in her hair and gently tilting her head back.

Time seems to run in slow, twisted patterns when he finally brushes his lips against hers, retreating again, stroking over her jaw, than coming back to her mouth until she's shaking all over and has to hook her thumbs in his belt loops. Dimly she wonders if he might be somehow drugging her with each languid stroke of his tongue because she can't really recall having unbuttoned his shirt but now she's gliding her hands over smooth skin with an indulgence that rivals Damon's.

A large part of her screams for action, for ripping their clothes off now! but his languorous touches seem to hypnotize her until all her blood seems like it's rushing through her body in a deep, drawn-out rhythm, making it pound from head to toe. It's because he's happy, she realizes with astonishment, so utterly happy that it pours out of every pore and his every movement seems to be covered in honey. Her assurance that she's not going to run from them anymore allows him to take as much time as he wants. Only Damon could make her feel this worshipped, Elena realizes dryly, when she's actually standing in a deserted driveway, clad only in shoes and underwear, her elaborate dress pooling around her feet on the gravel.

He's hoisting her up on his hips now, wrapping her legs around his waist and walking her slowly backwards to his Camaro, never once stopping the flow of caresses that he's pouring over her body. His hands are gliding over her shoulders, butt, hips, belly and breasts, like he's trying to impress his touch onto every single inch of her skin. It has her reduced to content sighing, to rubbing her skin against his and letting her tongue swipe over his collarbones. The hood of the car feels warm under her thighs due to a day of sunlight and she's all instincts and senses now. Even if she'd never been given The Talk, years ago, Elena is sure she would have known what to do. Her hands would have found his belt buckle on their own, would have drawn his pants down without her prompting them to. The second she finally feels him inside of her is so perfect, so achingly right and long waited for, that they both elicit a indefinable sighing, sobbing noise before holding still for a moment, savoring the closeness of each other.

"Elena," he whispers into her neck, making her name somehow sound like a love declaration.

"Damon," she answers, blindly searching his mouth as her whole being clenches with need for this man in her arms.

Elena can feel his mouth trembling when he meets her searching lips, his shuddering breath entering her own mouth with his hot, stroking tongue until she feels like going insane and then, finally, he begins to move. Bringing them together with a rocking motion in time with her own rushing blood, each beat molding them closer together until it seems their skins have melted and she can't tell any longer which part belongs to her and which to him. The sweat on his straining shoulder is glistening in the low porch light.

He's chanting her name again, urgent and low, as if it's all he ever wants to say from now on, and they're trembling against each other, clawing at skin, hands fisted in hair, every muscle tense until a keening wail tumbles forth from her lips, his arms pulling her impossibly tight against him. She can feel his shoulders ripple under her own shaking hands as he, too, tumbles over the edge, his forehead burning hot against her neck, and Elena pulls his jerking hips closer with her legs. And even as the colors and contours of her surroundings begin to twirl before her eyes, the clarity of the moment and the reality of everything she feels for this vampire is so sharp, so undeniable. How could I've ever walked away from this? she wonders incredulously, how did I succeed with not touching him, not looking at him, not loving him for so long?

While their breathing slows and the sweat dries in the cool evening air, Damon resumes his lazy stroking patterns on her back and Elena drags her lips dreamily over every inch of his skin she can reach. They're still so close to each other, still joined at the waist, that whispering is enough. Whispering I missed you, I was so stupid, I'm sorry, it's okay, you were right and again and again I love you.

She would be absolutely fine with staying like this for hours but the thought that she owes it to Caroline to at least show up at her elaborately planned party makes her nudge Damon's shoulder to indicate they have to get dressed.

"No," Damon pouts immediately. "I'm not going to Barbie's dress-up fantasy. I'm at my happy place right now, Elena, you, naked and sweaty, on my car, me still inside of you, very much alive…" he emphasizes his point with a gentle thrust of his hips, giving her the slow, post-coitus version of the Eye Thing and Elena has the urge to giggle, moan and punch him at the same time.

"I have to go there, Damon," she resists nonetheless. "Caroline has gone to sorts of trouble. And I also still have to tell Stefan about us."

This seems to sober him up instantly and he slowly lets her go before picking up their discarded clothes. After he has zipped her up he tries to rearrange her completely destroyed finger waves into something resembling a hairstyle while Elena tucks the silk handkerchief back into his breast pocket.

"You look wild," she laughingly comments as she's trying to smooth his hair back again and he carefully wipes off some of the smudged mascara from under her eyes. "So do you," and it sounds like the world's biggest compliment.

They make the drive to The Grill together in his Camaro and Elena asks him to pretend for another last hour.

"Just until I have told him," she explains. "I don't want him to find out from somebody else, I don't want to hurt him any more than necessary."

"'Course," he agrees. "But don't drag this out, Elena. I have pretended that we're just friends before and it was no fun at all."

When they arrive at the Grill, he holds her back for a second before she opens the door and grabs her hand. "He will get over this, Elena, no matter what you think or what he'll say. I know my brother - he always finds a way back."

Behind the entrance door it's like another world tonight, no pool playing teens, no blasting pop music, even the smell of frying oil seems to have disappeared. Caroline is nothing if not thorough and Elena almost has to laugh when she notices the number of large white flower bouquets that disguise the cooking smells and seem to have written classy on every single petal. What's even more breathtaking are the people who have clearly taken the twenties challenge quiet seriously. Feathers, shiny bobs and beaded dresses as far as her eyes can see, interwoven with the men's black suits and the white shirts of the caterers. She's almost sure that she detects the green of absinth on one of the tables. At the far end of the bar is a big band, momentarily playing a fast jazz number and some of her less known high school friends are apparently trying to conquer the dance floor by goofing around to the unfamiliar music.

Behind her, Damon is groaning in exasperation. "Jeez, this girl needs a hobby…"

It's the most beautiful birthday party she will ever not appreciate enough.

At a small table at the edge of the cleared dancing space her closest friends have gathered, with Stefan in the middle, wearing one of his timeless, not really disguising, suits.

Although Elena is still standing at the other side of the room, his eyes are trained on her, filled with the expectant, slightly possessive expression that has begun to make her feel suffocated lately. Another hour, she silently reminds herself before walking over and making sure to keep a carefree smile on her face.

But then Jeremy forces her to try every single snack on his plate, as if their lunch never even happened, Bonnie insists on teaching her the Charleston choreography and Caroline keeps going on about the perfection of her organization and the severe non-perfection of every girl Tyler decides to dance with. At the edge of her vision she can see Damon lounging at the bar, to all appearances completely enthralled by his drink, but for all she knows he could as well have eyes in the back of his head. She's not stalling exactly, it's just that she can't decide on how to go about telling Stefan and every distraction gives her more time to think. So far she's come up with absolutely nothing.

She's carefully slurping the last bit of coke from between the ice cubes at the bottom of her glass when Stefan suddenly appears at her side and slips an arm around her waist.

"Do you want to dance, Elena? It's only a waltz at the moment so I should probably grab the chance to not embarrass myself, and you, on the dance floor."

"I'd love to," she replies with a close-lipped smile, thinking how appropriate, I'm going to finally say goodbye to him during the 'Last Waltz'.

There are more couples on the floor now, made bold by the familiar, easy dance and Stefan has to pull her rather closer to avoid brushing elbows or stepping on somebody's toes. The loving smile is on his face again, complete with soulful, green eyes and Elena cannot for the life of her think of a way to begin the conversation they have to have tonight. Whoever said 'I love you' are the hardest words is an idiot, she thinks bitterly. The most difficult to surely has to be I don't love you enough anymore. Even harder to say I'm head over heels for your brother now.

"Are you enjoying your party?" he enquires thoughtfully and Elena almost snorts at the absurdity of it all.

"Yes, of course, absolutely," comes her instant reply, however, born of years of perfecting social talk.

"Why did you arrive together with Damon, earlier?" he inquires after a second, clearly aiming for the simply curious, not bothered at all tone. At a loss for words, Elena begins to chew on her lip before deciding on a slightly vague answer.

"Oh, you know, he just left something at my place and offered to give me a ride." Inwardly she is hitting herself at the missed chance to delve into what she has to tell him tonight.

Over Stefan's shoulder she catches glimpses of Damon who is now openly turned towards them, clearly issuing a plea with his eyes to finally tell Stefan the truth. The sleeves of his shirt are rolled up to his elbows and the first two buttons are undone and it worries her that she counts at least three refills of his tumbler during her glances. Returning her attention back to Stefan she can feel the song nearing its end and in desperation she abruptly stops and opens her mouth.

"Actually, there is something I wanted to talk to you about, Stefan." This must be the hardest thing she has ever done but determinedly she forces herself to keep going, to rip off this giant, hurting Band-Aid. "You must have noticed that we've been drifting apart for a while now and I'm so sorry, Stefan, but I don't think I can do this anymore. You and me, we're just -"

But he won't let her finish the sentence when she starts to search for words. "Yes, I know, Elena. Things haven't exactly been good between us lately but I want you to know that I love you and I know you're trying very hard. It's so much more than I'll ever deserve." At this point he gently cups her cheek in his hand while Elena mutely listens. "But we'll get through this, I promise. Look at everything we have overcome so far, Elena. We're stronger than this."

The song is over now, people are shuffling all around them on their way back to their tables while Elena feels like opening and closing her mouth in shocked silence like a fish. He's closing his eyes to the mess we're in, she realizes, he simply doesn't want to see that our drifting apart is so serious this time. Unable to think of a gentle but honest return, she stays silent which Stefan unfortunately seems to understand as confirmation, smiling lovingly down at her. The musicians start up again and Elena still hasn't found her voice, but that doesn't seem to bother Stefan.

"Do you want to keep on dancing? I'm sure I know the basic steps of tango…" he holds one hand out to her in invitation when she suddenly feels somebody stepping very close to her back, pressing a palm into the low dip of her spine.

"Sorry, baby bro, but nobody wants to see your 'basic tango steps'." Underneath the mocking, Damon's voice is laced with barely suppressed fury. "It might force me to deny our blood relationship."

Stefan simply inclines his head with a half-smile, clearly trying to avoid an argument, and steps back in surrender with a last, feeling look at Elena who has already been swept into the middle of the dance floor by his elder brother.

Under the disguising noise of the music, Damon pulls her nearer and whispers hotly into her ear, his closeness evoking memories of earlier this evening.

"He can waltz with you all he wants, jive, twist, I don't care. But he doesn't get to dance tango with you, not ever. That right belongs to me."

Angered by his possessiveness, Elena pushes two hands against his chest, trying to maintain a decent distance between them. "What are you doing, Damon? You can't dance tango with me, he'll know about us, you know he will."

Ignoring her hands, he pulls her closer again. "And that's exactly why we're going to do it, seeing as your method has failed so far. I'm not pretending anymore, not even for my brother. If he won't listen, he'll just have to watch." And as if to prove his point, he pulls her leg up around his waist while Elena registers for the first time the feverish tango music that will forever remind her of the day when, nearly boiling with jealousy, she saw him practically making love to a woman on another, smoky dance floor. If he was like that with Susanne, how on earth will it be when he's dancing with her?

She doesn't have much time to ponder this, because Damon already has her hand in his, draping her other arm around his neck and pulling her flush against him. "You remember the basic steps that Robert taught you?" She nods hesitantly, feeling herself succumb to his touch once again as if it's the only compulsion that he needs with her. "Good, then just follow my lead."

His 'up to no good' smirk is distracting her momentarily and before she can try to argue further, he's already twirling her across the floor. Her hair is flying around her face with the speed of his turns and her fingernails are digging into his skin with the unexpected sensation. Then he drapes her over his arm, pulls her upper body down until she can feel all her muscles stretching and she simply let's go.

Barely initiating any of the steps herself, there are only Damon's legs sliding in between hers, nudging her in the right direction and his hands molding her body in time to the music. It reminds her acutely of the last time they were dancing, of the humid air of New Orleans and of his hands, guiding her hips, hypnotizing her until she felt nothing but desire for him. His hands are so bold on her body now, it makes her feel like blushing and holding her head high at the same time. The figures he somehow enables her to perform should be impossible for her. Resting only on his thigh with her hip, having him stretch her out on the floor in an almost split or lifting her up so far that she looks down on him. His hands seem to be everywhere on her body, gripping here, pressing there and stroking up the outside of her stocking covered thigh, just for the pleasure and because he can now. Dimly she registers that they're by now the only couple left on the floor, which is increasingly being surrounded by a watching crowd. All the other pairs must have fled from Damon's sweeping figures or maybe from his intimidating expertise.

Every time she has a moment of clarity, realizing that everyone is seeing how intimately he's touching her, she gathers the last shreds of her will power to confront him, to make him move their dance over to the more platonic kind. But he just locks her in a second long, tense stand, eyes boring into hers, so incredibly close and a moment later she's melting again, already forgetting what her problem was to begin with.

All the time she can feel his hard body against hers, pressed to her hips, heating up the bare skin of her back, the soft hair of his forearms rubbing feverishly over her own skin. Elena's going wild in his arms, tensing and bending, following his impulses, fisting her hands in the collar of his shirt until one button gives way, then another. At the end of their next out-spin, her palm lands flatly on the naked triangle of his chest that the shirt is now exposing and Damon's hand reaches immediately up to hold it there. The next moment one of her legs is lying over his shoulder, his hand circling her naked calf while he's dipping her upper body back on his arm. She's not even sure how she managed to get it there, probably some left over knowledge from her cheerleader days. It should be impossible to be this in sync with another person but not once does she feel afraid of slipping, of falling down.

Damon was right: if New Orleans had never happened she would not be able to dance like this now, with the knowledge of sin and passion, of jealousy and giving in practically spilling out of her every movement. And she certainly could never dance with Stefan like this. Maybe it's the result of everything else she did today, admitting her love to Damon, having sex on a car, under the open night sky, but she's feeling positively grown-up and reckless and every touch of his hands emboldens her more. It's almost as if a string runs from her eyes to Damon's that seems to pull at her together with his hand, which is cupping the back of her head and slowly dragging her upwards until their noses are achingly close to touching. Lips quivering with a kiss that does not happen but might already have or might be desperately desired. Every last person in The Grill will be able to see.

The song seems to be coming to an end and Damon grabs her from behind, over her ribcage, her left leg twines around his hip while he's sliding his other arm all along the taught, graceful line of her right, outstretched leg and spinning her in a wide circle until she has to lay her head back down on his shoulder with dizziness.

Then the cello strikes its last, strong note and he swiftly flips her around, bending her down until her hair almost touches the floor and his own forehead comes to rest at the top of her chest.

There seems to be an audible, joined gasp as everyone registers what just happened. Elena Gilbert, the poor, orphaned birthday girl, just danced completely shameless with the dauntingly handsome, older brother of her boyfriend. And he was touching her like most of the present teenagers wouldn't dream of touching their boyfriends and girlfriends. In the short silence, Elena can almost hear the beginning whispers of the scandal, the outraged gossip and the judging, jealous eyes of the girls that are already gliding over her like an unpleasant touch. Right now, however, there is still Damon's head under her chin, his ragged breathing hot on her skin, mingling with her own, uneven exhaling. She can feel her heart beating furiously against his cheek. Finally he pulls her up, making sure to remain inside her personal space and his eyes are blazing down at her with something that looks like admiration and awe.

"Daaamn, Elena." His left eyebrow is twitching with mischief. "You just let me completely dishonor you in front of all your friends. I am so proud of you."

Elena knows she'll most likely regret this by tomorrow, or rather, ten minutes from now, but right this second she's riding high on adrenalin and the grin that splits her face is unstoppable. She has to bite her lip in order not to succumb to giggling.

In the background she can hear clapping and cat calling starting and they slowly turn towards the only table where the occupants' opinions matter. Caroline's face stands out because it's practically bursting with suppressed euphoria. Elena has the strong impression that, if given her way, her friend would be bouncing up and down right now, clapping madly while cheering her on with completely inappropriate comments. Bonnie on the other hand is staring at her as if she were a complete stranger, one she wouldn't be very eager to get to know. At least partly, Elena has expected it, but it definitely hurts to actually see this deprecative expression on the face of her oldest friend. Beside Bonnie, Jeremy is looking mildly surprised, watching her with raised eyebrows as if to say: Damon, really? Ok then…

Blessed be teenage, younger brother, nonchalant acceptance capabilities.

Alaric is not looking at her but fixing Damon with something she can't quite decipher, possibly because she doesn't speak their bro language.

The face she has avoided so far, a little to the side of the group, standing also out because of the whirlwind of emotions that's running over it, is, weirdly enough, also not focused on her but on the man at her side. She can see the snarl rising in Stefan's throat and is just starting to take a step forward when he's already launching at Damon, grabbing him forcefully by the shoulders while his brother mirrors his stance in defensiveness. From where she stands, Elena can feel the ground under her feet quaver with the barely controlled strength emanating from them. People are starting to turn, to watch with unashamed glee the fall-out of Elena's step out of line.

She hasn't felt this afraid in months. These are her two men, fighting because of her, fighting over her. Except that Stefan hasn't looked at her once since they stopped dancing. And maybe this isn't about her after all.

On Stefan's face, betrayal and wrath seem to wrestle with one another and his hissing voice is quivering with a dangerous mixture of hatred and pain.

"Tell me it's not true, brother," the last word falls on the ground between them like something gone bad. "Tell me you did not sleep with my girlfriend while I was gone."

It is like watching the fuse of a bomb burn off, as Damon's silence, second by second, solidifies into a confirmation of sorts. Alaric and Caroline seem to be the only ones still keeping their wits because as soon as Stefan starts to growl deep in his chest, they're both pushing against the fighting brothers, pulling them towards the back exit.

"Don't be stupid, Stefan," Caroline hisses at him. "You take this outside, now, before the whole town has front row seats to your family drama!"

When they've finally dragged them outside, in the deserted alley behind The Grill, Bonnie magickes the door shut behind them and Caroline, impeccable party planner that she is, hurries back inside to distract her guests. Elena stays in the alley but backs off with lightening speed as Stefan slams Damon hard into the next wall. She fists her hands into her hair, trying in vain to hold the hysterical tears back.

"How could you do this to me? After everything I gave up to save you?" Under the growling surface is a whining quality to Stefan's tone that makes Elena's hairs stand up.

"I didn't mean for it to happen," Damon tells him in a surprisingly calm voice, given the murderous force with which his brother is clutching at his throat. His own arms are hanging limply at his side, not even his pinky finger raised in self-defense.

"Why do you always have to take what's mine? Why can you never not begrudge me anything?" He's shaking Damon now, making his head bang repeatedly against the wall.

"It's not like that," Damon chokingly says, and suddenly Elena can see them, like they must have been once, the two, motherless brothers, looking out for each other, fashioning fishing rods, learning to ride, teaming up against the world. Damon's bed must once have been the place where Stefan fled to when he had a nightmare, when he didn't want to be alone.

"This is not about you," Damon tries to explain now. "I really love her, you know. And I'm pretty sure she loves me too. At least that's what she said," he elaborates, searching out her eyes over his brother's shoulder.

The cry that is tumbling from Stefan's mouth echoes brutally in the empty alley. And apparently she's not the only one with eyes. Not the only one who can see that under the apologetic, clearly remorseful surface, there is still happiness glowing out of Damon, unstoppable and so very obvious to him because Stefan probably hasn't seen his brother truly happy since 1864. Stefan's fist makes a sickening cracking noise on Damon's jaw and then he's raining hits and kicks down on him like a hail storm, all the while choking on his own tears and guttural cries. He appears to by oblivious to Elena's cries from behind his back, to her pleas to stop it, to leave his brother alone and she doesn't dare approach him while he's handing out blows so fast that she can't see them, his whole face so distorted that it resembles that of a stranger.

Damon is taking it all, not moving one muscle although he could certainly ward his brother off effortlessly, given the difference in their diets. It seems to egg Stefan on even more.

"Fight back! Why won't you fight back?" He's holding him up against the wall again, his forearm pressing down hard on his brother's air supply.

"I'm not gonna fight you, not today," Damon forces out between blood stained teeth and Stefan's blows become more erratic, but better aimed and more forceful too. In the background, Elena keeps on screaming, yelling at Stefan to stop, because Damon is hurting and she's not lingering on the irony of reversed situations and all that right now. Stop, stop, stop, she screams until her voice is hoarse and hurting. By now, Damon has slumped down on the dirty ground, bleeding from countless wounds, and Stefan's head has fallen down on his chest, heaving with sobs while his right hand is still methodically punching his brother's stomach. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you he mumbles in despair.

It's only that Elena dares to step up to him, to smack him on the back with her small, weak, human hands, trying to sound more intimidating when she cries: "Just leave him alone, can't you see that you're killing him?"

And finally he seems to remember her, the actual reason for this whole fight, and he's looking at her with closed up, flat eyes.

"Why was I not enough anymore?" he asks, eyeing her tear stained face with weariness and defeat.

Elena gathers every ounce of courage she has left and tries to at least be honest with him at the end. "I've changed, Stefan, I'm not the girl from the graveyard anymore." She draws a shuddering breath. "I'm now older than you." And at least in one way that's true.

"But why him?" he demands with indignation. "All he ever does is destroy things!"

"That's not true," Elena whispers, swallowing hard and lowering her eyes. "He makes me whole…"

And she thinks: Has he ever forced you to lie down when you were ill? Have you ever seen his face when he's sleeping? Have you heard the noises he makes when he's trying to comfort you?

Caroline chooses this exact moment to burst through the back door, gasping Oh my God at the sight that greets her before forcefully pulling up a stumbling Stefan and dropping the emergency blood bag that's always in her purse nowadays into Elena's lap. Over her shoulder she mouths Are you okay? to her friend and Elena nods in reply before Caroline leads Stefan out of the valley.

She almost trips with the haste to get to Damon's side, feeding him the blood while he's watching her with lowered eyelids as if just so holding on to consciousness.

"That was so incredibly stupid, Damon," she can't help but scold him when he's finished. "Why couldn't you just hold him back?"

"Ah, no," he slowly wheezes out. "He needed this, had to get it out of his system."

"And why the hell did you make me dance in the first place?" She knows she's just talking out of shock and fear now, is angry with him because it just comes so natural to her, but she doesn't care. "Why can't you ever be diplomatic?"

"I was the easiest way," he says with an effort. "Plus, I really wanted to dance with you, really inappropriate, seeing how far I could take it before you'd hit me…" She's not sure because of all the blood and sweat but Elena's pretty sure that he's trying to waggle his eyebrows at her.

"Your insufferable," she chokes out, trying to get a grip on her jumbled emotions. "Look at us, our first love declaration is not even three hours old and I'm already mad at you." Although she's not, really.

"It's alright," he grins at her, exposing a row of once again white teeth in the dirty mass of his face. "That's just your thing, Elena. Besides, I have a really good way to make you shut up now."

And before she can ask him what that would be, he has pulled her down and is pressing a sweaty, bloody, teary, slow and sweet kiss on her lips. When she pulls back, her face must be covered in blood and tear stains, her hair in disarray from her desperately gripping hands, she's sniffling rhythmically because she doesn't have a Kleenex and he looks up at her, clearly losing his grip on reality but his eyes still ablaze with hope and happiness.

"You're so beautiful," he whispers in wonder before closing his eyes and slipping into a sleep of recovery.