A/N: This is my story that was donated to Fandom4Tsunami. Thanks to everyone who dug deep and contributed.

I've always been Team Stefan until the end of this season (my story is based off the TV series, not the books). There's something about the way that Damon loves Elena and will do anything for her that grabbed me. I'm not necessarily completely switching teams, but...

Thanks to Keye, Kat, Sandy and Wendy for prereading, general hand holding and their awesome friendship! Don't know what I would do without these ladies. A huge thanks to my awesome beta, Jess (jkane180), for some Damon pOrn for inspiration and her awesome skills.


~A Fragile Line~


~*Elena*~

I stand by the car, watching him through the picture window of Antonio's Restaurant. The large window offers a clear view of the cozy tables hugging the wall. Small candle lamps adorn each one, making for an intimate, welcoming atmosphere. Due to the evening shadows and the scant light inside, I can't tell who his companion is. When his intense blue eyes light on me, he does a double-take, and I smile to myself. He's interested... he's intrigued.

Before I have time to contemplate what this means, Damon is standing next to me. With a small start, I look up at him in surprise. His eyes narrow slightly, a cautious questioning peeking out from behind his usual cool façade. I've turned him away so vehemently, feigned disinterest so often, that he's begun to believe me.

Tilting my head up, my eyes meet his for a moment before I lower them shyly. It's hard for me to look into his eyes for any length of time, and I'm a little afraid to know what that means. Lifting my hand to his shoulder, my eyes follow my index finger as I run it along the arm of his soft gray sweater, feeling the muscles tense beneath my touch. My finger slides all the way down until it glides over the smooth skin of his hand and curls around two of his own.

I slide my other hand around his waist, and he looks down at me in surprise, although his arm instinctively wraps around my back firmly, holding me close to him.

"What are you doing, Elena?" he whispers, cocking his head slightly to the left.

"Flirting with you. Is that all right?" I ask casually.

I'm not sure who makes the first move, but our lips meet softly, and a thrill flares in my chest even as desire blooms between my legs. His lips are warm and firm against mine, but he pulls back suddenly, releasing me and stepping back.

Shaking his head, he mutters, "No, no, no. Uh-uh."

I miss his touch as soon as it's gone; I miss the feel of his lips on mine. I know he wants me, so I don't understand why he's pulling away. "What's wrong, Damon?"

He half turns away from me with a heavy sigh. The lights cast his face in shadow, and it's hard to read his expression. He seems to be debating something before turning to grab me by the shoulders. His fingers bite into my tender skin, but I remain unflinching.

"Elena... what are you doing here? Surely you know how I feel, so why must you torment me?"

"Because, Damon, I'm tired! Tired of fighting it—tired of fighting you." My voice rises, and I reach up to wrap my hands around his arms.

"Elena, you asked me to leave you alone, and I have. I don't know what else you want from me. I won't leave Mystic Falls. Not while I know Katherine is out there," he hisses, shaking his head slowly while maintaining eye contact.

His hypnotic blue eyes hold within them the depth of deep water. Most people's eyes darken when they're feeling anger or intense passion, but Damon's eyes lighten. I almost feel as if I can see inside his soul. He's so confused right now, and it's entirely my fault. He's so twisted up inside over his feelings for me and guilt for feeling them. Even though he pretends to be a total bad-ass, he's really just a big marshmallow under that tough-as-nails exterior. I've wounded him deeply, and he has no idea yet how sorry I am.

"Damon –"

"No. Don't bother. I don't give a rat's ass what Stefan said before he bailed. Katherine wants more than him, and she won't be satisfied until you're dead—or worse."

"There's something worse than death?"

"Infinitely." He widens his eyes, staring into mine intensely, but he doesn't expand on his answer.

"Forget Stefan," I say quietly. "This is about us."

Damon laughs bitterly. "There is no us, Elena. There's you—beautiful, exotic, innocent you—and there's me—the Big Bad Wolf. So, Red Riding Hood..."

"Stop it!" I yell, shrugging his hands off my arms and pushing against his chest. I'm able to shove him away, but only because he allows it. "Can't you ever just... be serious?"

He laughs again. "You think I'm not serious? Damn it, Elena!" He shakes his head, muttering to himself.

"Damon, I'm trying to tell you – I'm trying to say – I'm... sorry." I throw my hands in the air with a huff. "Just forget it, okay?"

Turning, I start walking back across the parking lot, into the yawning darkness. My high-heels click on the tarmac, and I realize the air is quite chilly now that darkness has fallen. Damon appears in front of me suddenly, blocking my way.

"Let's not forget it, Elena." His hands are on my upper arms again, but this time, they're gentle. In the shadows, I see a cautious hope in his eyes, and I look away. Damon places a finger under my chin, lifting my face to his, but I still avert my eyes. "Elena. Look at me," he whispers.

Damon won't compel me, even though he can. Months ago he informed me that he would never use his powers on me; he said if he ever had me, it would be because I wanted him on my own. He's been true to his word, and that's something I've come to trust in.

My brown eyes meet his cool blue ones, and I blink back the tears that threaten. Damon says nothing; he gazes into my eyes intently as though searching for something. It hurts, almost like flashes from a camera, but without the brightness. A moment later, I realize why it's so painful—Damon's let all that he feels for me into his eyes. It's raw, primal, wanting, hurting, rejection... all rolled up into one enigmatic vampire stare. The only vampire that stood by me even when I rejected him.

Stefan left me behind. He claimed he did it for my own good... because he loved me, because I deserved a chance to live a life without supernatural intervention. He can make all the beautiful speeches that he wants, but what I remember? He left me behind. Alone.

Damon refused to leave. It didn't matter that I took out Stefan's leaving on him—and I did. Without Stefan here to rail at, I abused Damon. I punished him for loving me, for caring about me. He put on a great façade, but I knew it hurt, and I didn't care. Early on, Damon promised he would never compel me, he would never leave Mystic Falls as long as I lived here, and he would always protect me even at the peril of his own existence. What did I do? I spit in his face and told him to 'eat shit and die again.'

"Damon, I'm sorry," I say softly. "I've treated you so badly. I hurt you all the time, and you don't deserve it."

"Do you think that's what I really care about, Elena?" He cradles my jaw gently in his hand, keeping our faces close and our gazes locked.

"I – I don't know," I stammer.

"No. You can abuse me and mistreat me, and I'll keep coming back for more. I'll always be here for you, no matter how hard you push me away. The only thing that would make a difference to me..." His words drift off, and he shakes his head, letting go of my face.

"What, Damon? What means something to you? What would make a difference?" I need to hear him say it. I know he loves me—wants me—but I need to hear him speak the words while looking into my eyes. He's always so flip and cavalier about everything; I'm about to take a huge leap of faith, and my courage will be completely blown if he says the wrong thing.

His eyes water, and he does what I need. He looks in my eyes and speaks softly. "You, Elena. If you loved me the way I love you. That's what I really care about—that's what would make all the difference to me." Damon lets out a breath, lowering his gaze to the ground. "Why are you doing this? In the end, I'm just a man, and there's only so much I can take. You've made it abundantly clear that Stefan owns your heart..."

"Not anymore," I interrupt.

"Please don't play with me, Elena." When he says this, it's not in a cruel way—he's afraid of hoping.

"Damon, can we go somewhere and talk?"

"My pad or yours?" He waggles his eyebrows at me, and I know he's trying to lighten up the moment, cover up his insecurity with a joke.

"Yours." I look into his eyes meaningfully.

"Are you sure?" He lays a hand on the side of my face, breathing heavy.

"Yes. Take me home with you." My words purposely hold a double entendre, and knowing how Damon's mind works, I know he'll catch it. The smirk on his face tells me he did, and he just shakes his head slowly as he offers me his hand and leads me to his car—a sleek, black '69 Camaro, fully restored.

"My lady." He opens the door, sweeping his arm out.

"She's beautiful," I murmur, running my hand along the side of the car.

"That she is." Damon's eyes never leave mine as he says this, and I'm pretty sure he's not referring to the car. My face heats up, and I busy myself settling into the passenger seat.

We both remain silent on the ride to his house, although the tension is thick enough to be a palpable presence in the car with us. Damon stares straight ahead, never glancing my way, his jaw set. I get it. He's not willing to allow himself to hope that I've come around. He's afraid that it's not real. I wanted it to be a dream when Stefan left me, but I've realized many things since, and I know now that he wasn't right for me. It's not that I didn't love Stefan—a part of me always will—but he's self-sacrificing to the point of being cruel and selfish. In a way, it might be noble of him to try to leave me to a 'normal life,' but it was done without my consent—without allowing me the courtesy of having a say. If I'd had the chance to argue my point, my first question would have been, 'Don't I get to decide what's best for me?' Why did he get to make the decision and then slink away like a thief in the night, taking my heart with him? It took me over a year to put the pieces of my heart back together, and I suspected, that like a broken piece of fine china, there would always be little slivers missing, never to be seen again.

My heart was not whole even now, but I was hoping that Damon could help me change that. It was only while near Damon or thinking of him that my chest didn't feel constricted. This was a realization that came to me over time, but the more I get of Damon, the less dead I feel. He's always there on the periphery, watching, protecting, hoping... hurting. And no matter how much he hurts, he'll never leave me behind. Damon respects my choices, but he also lays claim to the right to make his own—such as the one he made to be near me no matter how terribly I treat him. Such as the one not to compel me, no matter how badly he wants to.

"Elena..." Damon's voice breaks me out of my thoughts. "We're here."

In a split second, he's around to my side, holding the door open with a slight bow and a flourish. I take the hand he offers me, and as I stand next to the car, I look up at the Salvatore Mansion for the first time since Stefan left me.

The three story house—made up of brick and mortar, leaded windows, gables, and heavy wooden doors—is full of ghosts. The ghosts of Stefan and me. Our laughter, conversations... lovemaking. The first time he touched me was in this house; the last time he touched me was in this house. He left me broken and crying. I woke up after a night of love, of sharing my body with him, to find a note.

My Dearest Elena,

You are the most beautiful and precious thing in this world. I can't in good conscience continue to taint your life with what I am. You must be given a chance at a normal human existence without worrying about your loyalty to me. I will love you from forever until forever, and that's why I have to let you go. I won't return to Mystic Falls. You will never see me again, so be assured that you are free to move on and have the life that you deserve.

Stefan

The tears were hot and bitter, and they seemed to fall endlessly. Damon found me curled into a ball in the middle of Stefan's bed, clutching one of his shirts to my chest. My eyes were nearly swollen shut, my face red and splotchy. I shook, I could barely stand, and I would have let my fingernails be ripped away rather than let go of the shirt I held that was still saturated with Stefan's scent.

Damon snatched the letter off the bed, blowing out a disgusted huff of breath after reading it. "Has he been reading those ridiculous Twilight books? How well he plays the self-sacrificing vampire. Maybe he'll start to sparkle, too," he muttered.

I glared at him and told him to get out. He refused. Damon reached his hand out to me, and I slapped it away. He retreated to a corner of the room and watched over me. In one way or another, he'd been watching over me ever since.

"Are you all right?" Damon's soft voice draws me out of my thoughts. His pale blue eyes watch me carefully as if he knows what's going through my mind.

"Yes." And I will be soon.

"Shall we?"

I nod, and he takes my elbow, leading me up to the front door.

When I step inside, I'm hit with déjà vu. But Stefan is gone, and he's never coming back. Even if he did return, it's over between us for good. I didn't come to my decision lightly, and I'm not planning to break Damon's heart. Part of the reason I fought him so hard and pushed him away so firmly was to ascertain just how dedicated to me he really is. He's proven to be a rock—someone I can hold onto or push against—but he's always there, never wavering in his loyalty.

"Can I get you anything?" he asks softly.

"No thanks."

Leading me into the living room, Damon throws a few logs on the fire and lights it. He remains crouched in front of the grate, looking into the flames. I'm pretty sure he's avoiding me. I don't blame him at all; I've been a real bitch.

"Damon." I say nothing else yet, just his name.

He stands, turning slowly to face me. For once, his expression is serious, and his eyes aren't playful. "Elena, I can't do this..." he gestures between the two of us "...if you're just going to change your mind later."

"I won't," I answer quickly, shaking my head.

"You might when you hear what I have to tell you. I need you to know this before we go any further." Damon's head drops, and he looks down at his feet for a moment. It doesn't last long; he seems filled with resolve as his intense eyes come back up to meet mine. This is a part of him that I really appreciate—the part that doesn't allow him to stick his head in the sand when things get rough. He stalks over to me, grabbing my hands in his and pulling me down to sit next to him on the couch.

"What is it?"

"What if Stefan came back? Where would we be then?"

"He's not coming back. But it doesn't matter because I've realized that he's not right for me."

"Elena, Stefan's been around. He comes back every so often to check on you."

My head snaps back as if I've been slapped. Stefan has been checking in on me? Surely he saw how much agony I was in! The only vestiges of respect I had for Stefan existed because I kept telling myself that he didn't know of my suffering—that if he did, he'd come back to me.

"Oh, my God," I breathe, turning my face away from Damon's piercing stare.

"It's okay, Elena. I understand."

"No! No, you don't!" I cry out, gripping his hands tighter. "Stefan saw me, witnessed my suffering, and still he stayed away. You've been here for everything. I spit on you, and you stayed. Even knowing I might go back to him, you're still right here. You let me choose—even if my choices rip you to shreds inside."

"I'd much rather suffer than allow you to. I'd do anything to protect you, Elena."

And right there, he hit on the crux of the matter. Stefan would allow me to suffer for what he thinks is best for me. Damon would walk through fire to prevent me from hurting, while at the same time respecting my right to choose for myself.

I pull his hand toward me, placing it over my wildly beating heart. "It's over with Stefan. This is all for you."

Damon's expression darkens. "You're sure? Because I don't think Stefan will stay away once he knows..."

"That's not our problem, is it?" I say flippantly.

I'm so finished with Stefan forcing his view of what my world should look like on me. From the beginning, we were walking a fragile line. I was blinded by my fascination with his vampire nature, foolish enough to believe that an advanced age made him wise in matters of the heart. In the end, Stefan was just as 'human' as any other man, emotionally speaking. I have no doubt that it deeply hurt Stefan to leave me behind—that on some level he truly loves me—but I find his reasoning faulty, selfish... unacceptable.

Damon caresses my cheek. It's the first time he's really touched me since we left the parking lot of the restaurant. I lean my face into his palm, and he tucks a stray lock of hair behind my ear. "Elena, don't you think you'll feel differently when you see him?"

"I meant what I said, Damon. He left during the night, removing me from the decision making process. How do you make love to someone, knowing full well they'll be destroyed when they wake to find you gone?"

"I don't know," he murmurs. "I could never..." He shakes his head.

"I know." I reach out to him, grazing my fingertips across the angular planes of his face. "You would never do that to me. You've been nothing but patient and supportive, even though I hurt you over and over again. I'm sorry, Damon. I've treated you so badly."

"I would never do anything to hurt you."

"I know that now. I didn't always know it, but the fact that you warned me about Stefan hanging around proves it yet again. You could have taken advantage of me, got what you wanted."

"I could have, but that's not how I want you. If you do end up with me, I want it to be because you decided it's what you really want. But, Elena... don't make a move unless you're willing and able to commit to me—only me."

"I understand. You're what I want, Damon."

"Elena, take a little time."

"I took a year. I'm sure."

Damon's eyes conceal the beginnings of joy. He's afraid to let go, to believe that I want to be his. I haven't come to this decision lightly, though. Over this past year, I've burned down to ashes several times, only to rise up and do it all over again. I spent a lot of time writing my feelings in my journal; working through things on paper has always been a balm for my soul, and Damon had shown up more and more often throughout its pages.

Damon frequently watching over me from afar as I hung out with my friends or walked home from school.

Damon bringing me a flower and hugging me tight on the one month anniversary of Stefan leaving.

Damon leaving me a book or movie he knew I would enjoy.

Damon sitting on the roof outside my bedroom window more nights than I could count, never saying a word, just being there.

Damon making me laugh as often as possible.

Damon.

Always there.

"I'm sure," I say again.

He watches me closely, and I can see his mind at work behind his eyes. Cocking his head to the side, his eyes narrow as he assesses me. Damon's always had this uncanny ability to strip me bare with his gaze—something that made me infinitely uncomfortable when I was with Stefan—but now I welcome it because I know he'll see only truth in me.

"Elena, I know I said I would never compel you..."

"Do it. Ask me." I know he wants to compel me to tell him the truth about my feelings; this is the one way he can know for sure, and then we can move forward. I press closer to him, cupping his face in my hands, and look deep into his eyes. "Ask me."

There's some kind of rippling in the pools of his eyes, and something comes over me. The feeling reminds me of the gas they give me when I go to the dentist—I feel all floaty and silly, willing to say anything without reservation.

"Elena, what if Stefan comes back to you? What if he wants you back?"

"It's too late for Stefan. You're the one who's always there for me. I've grown to love you, Damon. It doesn't matter if he comes back or not."

The feeling—a lasso of truth wrapped around me—recedes, and I'm left looking into Damon's surprised face. He reminds me of an insecure little boy who just found out he can hit the ball out of the park; the shock slowly ebbs away, and his expression turns to elation.

"You mean it."

"I told you I did. I understand why you'd be suspicious of my motives, though."

Suddenly, I find myself cradled in his arms as he practically flies up the stairs to his room. He lays me gently on the bed, stretching out next to me on his side. Not speaking, he ghosts his fingers over my face and down my neck, trailing them lightly to the deep V neckline of my dress. His eyes follow his fingers, which play at the pearlescent buttons.

"Go ahead," I encourage.

Damon's touch is tentative and slow, as if he's afraid I might spook. His nimble fingers unbutton my dress, and his hand slips inside to caress me over the lace of my bra.

"You're so beautiful," he whispers.

Damon leans in to kiss the hollow of my neck, his lips soft and warm against my skin. He places gentle kisses up the side of my neck, sucking my earlobe into his mouth. This feels both awkward and natural at the same time. His touch is new and different, yet my body seems to recognize him at a cellular level.

With shaking hands, I run my fingers lightly over his chest, and I can feel the faint bulge of the ring he always wears on a chain around his neck. It's a pretty, delicate little ring set with rubies and appears to be very old.

"Elena," he whispers in my ear. "I want to undress you."

A thrill of anticipation shudders through me. "Yes," I answer breathlessly.

In the blink of an eye, I'm naked, and he's shirtless. The rough material of his jeans rubs against my thigh, and I feel a tingling between my legs. My hands move without my permission, exploring his six-pack and traveling over his pecs. His hands touch me gently—kneading, caressing, eliciting goosebumps—while his lips worship my skin, his sighs of pleasure arousing me further.

Damon pushes me on my back, nudging my legs apart so he can kneel between them. The ring lays against his chest, the rubies giving off a red glint as he moves, and I can see the evidence of his arousal straining against his black jeans as he looks down on me. He devours me with his eyes, and his hands run up my thighs—right past where I desperately crave his touch—over my hips to span my waist. He holds me immobile, still looking down at me hungrily, although his eyes don't linger on my body; instead, they rise to meet my own.

"You're beautiful. A goddess."

"Damon," I protest, blushing.

"Shh... you are, Elena."

He hovers over me, his jean clad hips pressing into my nakedness. The skin of his torso comes into contact with mine, the little ring lying between us on its chain. His mouth covers mine, kissing me slowly. My fingers dig into his shoulders in an attempt to ground myself—it feels as if I'm floating away, and I need to feel tethered to this world. He keeps throwing me off balance, though, and I think I could get used to it. As his mouth moves over mine, my lips part so I can catch my breath, and his tongue sweeps into my mouth, taking control of the kiss.

His hips thrust against mine, and I can't stem the moan that rolls up my throat. Tilting his head, Damon deepens the kiss just when I think I can't take any more, that it couldn't possibly be more intense. Shivers race through my body, and it hits me that I didn't even feel this much with Stefan. The realization is as jarring as a face full of ice water, but I finally know for sure that I've made the right decision.

"Want you, Damon," I murmur, running my fingers into his hair.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

Lifting up, Damon shimmies out of his jeans before coming back down over me, and now I can feel his rock hardness cradled between my legs. My hips rise involuntarily, seeking friction, and this time it's his moan that fills the air surrounding us.

"Are you ready?" he asks softly.

In answer, I spread my legs around his hips, opening myself to him, inviting him in. Unlike with Stefan, I don't have to ask twice; Damon pushes into me slowly until I'm filled with him. Caressing my cheek gently, he starts moving inside me. There are no words to describe what I'm feeling as Damon thrusts into me in long, even strokes.

"Are you okay, baby?" he asks in a strained voice.

"Yes. More than okay, Damon. This is incredible."

He sinks into me over and over again, caressing my face, kissing me deeply, gripping my hip. Sensation upon sensation builds, and as I cry out, he catches my screams in his mouth. A few seconds later, Damon throws back his head, his hips pumping erratically as he falls over the edge. I've never seen him let go, and it's magical.

After we catch our breath, we spoon, my back nestled against his front. His fingers explore my body, finding all the secret places that make me quiver. He slips his hand between my legs and brings me to ecstasy again, his face buried against the side of my neck.

I'm nearly drifting off to sleep wrapped in his arms when he speaks again.

"I want you to have this."

"Hmm? Have what?" I ask sleepily.

"My ring." He pulls the chain over his head and unhooks it to remove the ring. "Give me your hand."

"But, Damon, I don't understand –"

"Many years ago, a witch gave me this ring. She told me I would carry it with me always, in safe keeping for my true love. This ring will protect you, Elena. You can't die while you're wearing it."

"Does it really work?" I ask curiously.

"I don't know. I've never given it to anyone before. Will you wear it?"

"Yes." I smile as he slips it onto the ring finger of my right hand. It's a perfect fit.

"She wasn't lying." There's surprise in his voice.

"Who?"

"The witch. She said when I placed the ring on the right woman's hand, it would glow. Look at the rubies, Elena."

When I look down, I see the rubies shining brilliantly on my finger. The stones appear to be lit from within, just as I feel lit from within now that I'm finally in Damon's arms where I belong.

I sigh contentedly and fall asleep in his strong embrace.

Some time later, I wake up to a cool breeze blowing through the window, the filmy curtains billowing out. I pull away slowly, trying not to wake Damon. Pulling on his shirt, I pad over to the window. The cool air causes goosebumps to pebble on my skin. I take in a deep breath, enjoying the fresh air as I recall my time with Damon earlier and admire the delicate ring that now sits on my finger. The rubies still glow faintly, and I feel truly happy and at peace for the first time.

"Elena?"

The voice comes from down below. I would know it anywhere. Stefan.

I glance down to see Stefan gazing up at Damon's room, an aggrieved look on his face.

"Stefan," I greet stiffly.

"I made a mistake thinking I could stay away, especially seeing you with someone else."

"No, Stefan, you did the right thing. I'm where I belong now."

"You don't mean that –" He shakes his head.

"Yes, I do. A part of me will always love you, but I've found the place where I belong."

Stefan's face crumples, but he nods in defeat, backing up a few feet. The fragile line we were balancing on has broken. I really should thank him for showing me what I needed to see, but I don't think he'd appreciate the sentiment.

Turning away from the window, I slip back into bed where Damon's arms come around me protectively, instinctively. Snuggling against him, I know that I've found where I truly belong.

~*AFL*~


A/N: Sorry, Stelena fans, but this is what came out when I started writing. My characters kind of convinced me that there's something to Delena. *ducks tomatoes*

Would love to hear your opinions for/against Stelena and Delena! Support your arguments! Thanks so much for reading.