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A Sinner Before the Gates of Heaven

Chapter Twelve: Choice

Before Elena asks him if he's going to die, Damon knows he could have cheerfully murdered Caroline and her big mouth when she had yanked him away from Elena just as things had been about to get interesting.

After he doesn't answer Elena's question with a firm 'no' and she looks at him like he's shattered every illusion she's ever had, Damon knows he will not simply murder Caroline cheerfully. He will gladly torture her and Stefan before murdering both of them slowly and happily.

Because neither of them should be anywhere remotely close to the kitchen, demanding things of him he has no answer to and interrupting the one thing he's been aching to do since Elena Gilbert opened her eyes earlier tonight.

"Oh, my God. You're going to die?" Elena sounds panicked as she speaks and Damon grips her hips a little harder than necessary when she speaks. She doesn't wince at the force of his grip, only pales slightly when he doesn't answer.

"Oh, my God. You haven't told her?"

Caroline's shriek makes him want to strangle her. "No, Blondie. I haven't. I've been keeping it as a special surprise. So, surprise."

Damon knows the look he shoots Caroline would easily have made others wither and die. It doesn't seem to have that effect on the blond standing in front of him.

Instead, he sees her bottom lip quiver slightly before she firms it and Stefan moves to stand next to his girlfriend, his hand sliding down her back to settle on the small of her back.

He's still going to kill both of them, he decides, simply for interrupting what was happening - or going to happen – between him and Elena.

"Damon?" Elena's quivering voice interrupts his dark musings and he looks at her.

She's so pale.

He decides he isn't going to kill Stefan and Caroline for interrupting him and Elena; he's going to kill them for taking the blush that had tinged the sweep of her cheekbones when he'd been pulled away from her.

"It's okay." He responds softly.

"Are you going to die?"

Damon stares at her as he realizes that he's not going to be able to deflect her questions sarcastically the way he's been doing with Caroline and his mouth firms.

Because this is not the way he wanted to tell Elena what little he knows of why she's in the Boarding House. It is definitely not the way he wants to tell her there is a possibility there is so much more to her existence then simply being a girl from Mystic Falls.

Elena opens her mouth again, about to repeat the question he doesn't want to answer and he shakes his head at her imperceptibly.

Damon keeps one hand firmly on Elena's hip – knowing instinctively that if he maintains contact with her that she'll remain calm – he turns to face Caroline and Stefan, one who is staring at him defiantly, the other somewhat apologetically.

"Leave." He commands.

Caroline's mouth drops open. "Excuse me?"

"Leave. It's one word that requires one action." Damon snaps and Stefan stares at him in shock. He has no doubt that Stefan thought he was going to explain it Caroline.

Even though Damon knows that Stefan is well aware that he's not going to tell either one of them anything before he's good and ready.

"Caroline. Come on."

The blond swings to face her boyfriend, effectively shifting her withering gaze to the other brother. "What? You tell me he's going to die and that you know and then expect me to leave? Are you insane? You are insane."

Damon sees Stefan's face tighten and is fascinated enough to watch his brother wrench his balls from Caroline's grasp long enough to issue an order that he knows Caroline won't be able to circumvent.

"Caroline, we're going. Damon doesn't want us to be here. Move." Stefan's tone is firm, unyielding and one he uses to his advantage once every fifty years or so.

Caroline gapes at him simply because he has never used that tone with her.

Before she can recover her equilibrium, Stefan grasps her upper arm and walks her from the room even as her expression changes from gaping surprise to mutinous.

For a moment, there's nothing but a charged silence they leave behind that reminds him that he has to turn back to the girl who hasn't taken her eyes off him, even with the show that Caroline and Stefan have so graciously chosen to put on for them.

Damon waits until he can barely hear Caroline's stuttering before he turns back to Elena, his hand falling back to her other hip as he forces himself to meet her eyes.

She looks like the rug has been pulled from beneath her feet as she meets his gaze and fear has darkened her gaze. Swallowing hard, Damon decides that maybe he should answer her question when he isn't holding on to her.

Reluctantly, he releases her hips and takes a step back. Elena watches him step away, clinging to the bench as if it's her lifeline.

The silence that Caroline and Stefan have left turns heavy and Damon knows it's because she's about to repeat the questions he doesn't really want to answer. He doesn't want to answer because he can only give her something that he has believed for over a century, an answer that doesn't make sense because he simply doesn't remember.

Elena slides her hands across the bench and he can see her considering what to say even as he watches her caress the bench top.

"Will you answer my question?" She asks quietly.

Damon eyes her, blowing out a breath before shrugging. "Do you want me to answer the question?"

Her eyes flash because he's already noticed that she hates him answering a question with one of his own before the fire banks and she nods.


He fights the urge to run his hand through his hair and then decides that he doesn't want to fight the urge to drink while he attempts to answer a question he's not entirely sure she wants answered.

"I need a drink. Come on." He says, holding out his hand without thinking.

Elena freezes at the offer of his hand and for a split second he pauses.

The realization that if he tells her what she wants to hear, if he admits that there's the possibility he's been fated to die, then he's going to tell her everything he's been sure to not tell her hits him like a sledgehammer. Because there's no way he can answer her question without telling her all the things he's been making her run around in circles to find.

Chasing close on the heels of that one realization is the comprehension that if she takes his hand then she's going to have to sink even deeper into a world he can't know if she wants to be involved in.

If she takes his hand, Damon suddenly knows with absolute clarity, he won't be able to let her go. Even if they only have a the rest of the night, three weeks or forever, if Elena takes his hand right now, he won't be able to let her go.

If Elena Gilbert takes his hand, she'll seal her own fate in a way more permanent than either of them could possibly understand.

"What the hell Stefan!?"

Caroline yanks her arm away out of her boyfriend's grip as he marches her into their room and whirls around to face him.

The inscrutable look on his face gives her pause for only a second before she folds her arm, ready for the fight she hadn't seen coming.

"Are you seriously asking me that? Storming into the kitchen, Caroline? Are you trying to get yourself killed?" Stefan's voice is level, calm and holds that infuriating note that is only vaguely patronising as he adjusts himself on the moral high ground.

"No. But then, what did you think I was going to do when you told me Damon was going to die?" She snaps.

Stefan folds his arms. "Wait. I expected you to wait until I told you the full story. Not storm off because you thought that Damon had neglected to tell you something oh so important."

Caroline gapes at him. She actually feels her mouth fall open as she registers what he's just said. Does he not get it? Does he not understand that the thought of not having Damon around – annoying, dominate jerk that he is – is like telling her that she has only one lung to survive with. She'll be able to breath, just not properly for the rest of her life.

"Are you kidding me, right now? Stefan, if you wanted me to the full story, lead with something that doesn't start with Damon's going to die! God! You're such an idiot sometimes!" Caroline snaps, throwing her hands in the air even as his eyes narrow.

"I can't, okay? Even if I wanted to, the only thing I could have told you is that Damon might die." Stefan's sounds pained, like he's revealing something that he shouldn't.

She snorts. "I don't believe you for a second. What aren't you telling me?"

Stefan sighs, closing his eyes in a move that speaks of bone deep exhaustion that normally would have made her soften. Except this time, she can't. Not when he clearly has no sympathy for what those words have put her through.

"I can't tell you, Caroline."

She almost explodes. "Why not!? What can you not tell me? What is so important about your little revelation that you can't tell me, huh? What?"

She's pushing and she knows she is. Caroline understands that the tone Stefan had taken with her in the kitchen when Damon had ordered them to leave is one he doesn't ever use. Not with her, at least. That tone and the fact that he'd dragged her from the kitchen should have been a testament to the fact that the subject she's trying to push is closed. The door to this subject has been slammed shut by Damon and, she realizes in some part of her mind that's not mad, is about to be dead locked by Stefan.

"I can't tell you because the less you know the better, okay? So don't ask, don't demand and don't go after Damon about it." Stefan's tone is commanding and Caroline has no doubt that it's an order he expects her to obey.

An edict that he thinks she won't defy in her need to find out what the hell is going on. Righteous indignation fills her and she glares at Stefan.

"Don't you dare try and order me around. You have absolutely no right." She says it contemptuously, her voice challenging even as every fibre in her being warns against saying something so outright defiant to her boyfriend in the face of one of the only commands he's ever issued.

Stefan doesn't command after all, that always falls to Damon. Stefan coaxes, cajoles and generally lets her do what she wants even if he first has to convince her that she wants to do what he wants.

But there's something else there, something that has caused the command to leave his mouth and she feels her blood pulse as the bond they've formed flares and knows that the reason her instincts told her to not challenge him is because the command hasn't come from the Stefan she knows. It's come from the animal part of him that wants to do nothing more than protect her from something that could hurt her.

Even as the thought registers Stefan starts approaching. His approach is vaguely predatory and his face has hardened into something more intense, something that makes her giddy and grasp at the anger that had propelled her to push him this far.

Caroline cautiously starts to back away even as Stefan moves closer. It registers when she's only a few steps away from his antique desk that Stefan is going to trap her against it and she knows that while she is faster than she could ever have possibly dreamed, Stefan is faster.

She feels the edge of the desk dig into her back as Stefan's arms curve around her, one of his hands resting on the desk as his body presses her more firmly against it.

The intensity on his face is unnerving as his hands come up to push aside the curls that cover the right side of her neck. Caroline feels her breathing shorten as his fingers trace the scar she has there.

The scar he left when he marked her as his for the very first time.

"This," he murmurs, his fingers cool against her neck, "says that I have the right to ask you not to do something for your own good."

"Why?" She wants to add more to her question but she can barely breathe.

"Because this," Stefan lowers his head and presses one propriety, lingering kiss over the scar. Caroline's head falls back as her blood heats and the bite tingles under his mouth. "Means your mine."

Oh yes, she knows, that bite mark means she's Stefan's forever.

Even as she thinks it, Caroline's hand slips beneath his white wife beater, over his rippled abdomen to her own imprint on his skin. Her fingers come into contact with the scar she has left him, just below where his heart beats, the scar of the bite which sealed their bond.

This scar means exactly the same as what Stefan's does.

"Mine." She whispers, her fingers tracing it as she feels the press of him against her stomach.

Stefan's mouth slides from his mark, shifting up over her jaw line to hover over her mouth. Caroline stares up at him through her eyelashes and she sees the flash of possession even as he opens his mouth to speak.

"Always." He waits a beat, knowing she can't wait for him to kiss her. "Stay away from Damon, Caroline. Please."

It is no less a command than the one which had started this shift in argument but before she can argue, Stefan covers her mouth with his and she's fisting her hand over the mark she has left behind that proclaims he is hers.

Elena can only stare at Damon's proffered hand.

It doesn't escape her that this is the first time he's asked her to go anywhere; the first time he's given her a choice in the matter.

She can't help but feel that he's giving her a much larger choice then going with him to find a drink.

That notion, that he's asking her for something more than simply taking his hand and letting him answer her question, frightens her.

Because there's so much she doesn't know about what's going on. So much that needs to be explained because she knows, deep in her bones, that the accusation Caroline has flung in their faces has something to do with what Damon has been trying to make her find out since she had woken.

That alone is enough to make her wary because it can only mean that whatever it is, involves her intimately.

And yet, Elena draws in a deep breath, if she doesn't take his hand, she'll have to walk away. She'll turn her back on this man who has made her feel more in only a few hours than she ever has in her whole life and she just can't.

She can't leave Damon alone. The thought of walking away from him and leaving him to deal with whatever it is he is about to tell her makes her stomach turn and an ache flare in her chest.

He is far to entrenched under her skin now and she can't simply walk away from him and leave behind what she feels.

If she felt less, Elena realizes, she could. She could walk away and leave behind the mystery of Damon's past, the fact that he's going to die and her role in it all.

But she feels more than she ought to and even with common sense telling her she should ignore his hand and walk away. Even as something deeper – the flare of heat in her blood, the yearning in her every fibre of her being – tells her that walking away would mean she will lose him and what she feels forever.

That certainty revolves slowly in her head and, for a moment, Elena finds it difficult to breathe.

But it's enough. The bone deep certainty is enough for her to reach out slowly and slip her hand into his grasp.

She concentrates on joining their hands, sliding her fingers through his until they are firmly intertwined. She is certain he won't miss the meaning of that, he won't miss that she's accepting whatever he's about to say and whatever comes next.

Looking up, away from their joined hands, Elena meets Damon's gaze.

It isn't as inscrutable as he thinks it is, she realizes.

He is genuinely shocked that she has accepted his hand and confused, as if he had thought she would run a hundred miles in the opposite direction with everything she doesn't understand he's offering her.

There is something deeper to. Some unidentifiable emotion lurking in the clear blue that she understands but can't name, as it's the same as the force which has propelled her to take his hand.

Shifting closer to him, Elena feels the need to reassure him, to let him know she's okay with the decision she's just made.

Swallowing hard, she lifts her other hand to touch his face. Rising on her toes, she presses her lips to his shyly.

Elena maintains the quiet kiss until she's sure that he understands what she's trying to make him feel.

Sinking back down, she strokes his cheek once, concentrating on the stubble that has begun to grow and the feel of it under her hand before meeting his gaze once more.

"Where are we going to get you that drink?" She asks quietly.

She's made her choice, she knows, and she understands that there's a high probability she'll never return to the life she had before this one night but that doesn't matter to her in the slightest because she knows with sudden clarity that she never would have walked away, if they'd met yesterday, tomorrow or ten years from now.

She would never have walked away because what to walk away from him would have broken her in some intrinsic way that would have always been irreparable.

And there is no way she could have lived with that for the rest of her life.

A/N:...what's this? An update? Why, yes. Yes, it is. Followed closely by an apology. I'm really sorry that I haven't updated in God knows how long! The truth is I kind of forgot where the storyline was heading. Seriously. I sat down to write one day and blanked. It was like writer's block except instead of being unable to write while knowing the plot, I could write, I just had no idea where this story was going because it got way out of hand. Especially seeing as this was only meant to be able ten chapters long and I'm onto chapter twelve with the feeling that it's going to be a hell of a lot longer than ten chapters! Anyway. I'm sorry it's taken me this long because I sincerely didn't mean to take forever or forget the plot or get so caught up in university and all my subjects that writing was placed on the back burner for a while. Anyway, thoughts? Even though I know nothing has been explained, at all?