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Part III: Burn me forever
Two weeks; it's been two fucking weeks, and he hasn't seen Elena once since their heated argument outside the house. He half-expected her to go back to Stefan, but it would appear that even she doesn't know what she wants, as she seems to be avoiding both of them. Not that he cares or anything; because he doesn't, and the large quantities of alcohol that he's consumed in those two weeks has nothing at all to do with her, and everything to do with the fact that he really likes the numb feeling that drinking the stuff gives him, and that his happy meals from the local sorority just happen to all have dark hair and brown eyes…well, that's just a coincidence, and one that certain people (Ric) would be smart not to point out in the first place.
This is the lie he tells himself the day he hears her approaching footsteps, and the insistent knocking at the door that follows.
He tosses back another bottle of his very expensive scotch, lounging on the sofa and trying his best to pretend he can't hear her outside.
"Damon, I know you're home!" she calls through the door.
He knows she's trying to call his bluff; because there's no way she could possibly know for sure. It's not like she has super hearing or anything, and all the curtains are (thankfully) drawn, so she couldn't even look in the window. Her muttered, "Fine, be that way," follows an exasperated sigh, and seems to indicate that she's giving up and leaving him to drink in peace. But then he picks up the sound of keys being removed from her pocket, and his eyes widen in horror, because oh shit, he forgot she still had her set from when this had been her "safe house".
He's at the door before she can stick the key into the lock, and flings it open with a look of pure annoyance.
She seems momentarily startled, but regains her composure quickly enough. "Can I come in?" she asks.
"Stefan's not here," he responds tersely. "He's probably out rescuing kittens from trees and helping little old ladies across the street. But I'll tell him you stopped by."
"Good." She sticks her foot in the door to stop him from closing it. "Because you and I need to talk."
"There's nothing left to say."
"Elena," he mimics her.
"Come on, don't be like this," she pleads.
He cocks his head to the side, studying her though narrowed eyes. "How did you think this was going to go? Did you think you would just show up here, and we'd go back to the flirty comments and playful banter? Sorry, doesn't work that way. You made your choice, now live with it."
"I chose YOU!" she cries. "I thought you knew that!"
He smirks bitterly. "You have a funny way of showing it."
"Damon," she sighs, reaching out her hand to touch his arm. He flinches away from her, and he's so very tempted to tell her to fuck off, but his stupid heart still aches for her, and he can't find that switch to turn off those feelings.
"I broke up with Stefan," she tells him, and in spite of his anger he can't help the flutter of hope he feels at her words.
"Well, that's news to me," he says sarcastically, "because Stefan hasn't tried to stake me yet."
"He doesn't know."
"Doesn't know you're broken up, or doesn't know about your infidelity?"
"You don't have to say it like that," she admonishes.
"It is what it is, Elena. You said it yourself; you and Stefan were still together when you went ahead and sampled the forbidden fruit."
"Only because we never officially broke up before he left!" she reminds him.
"Hate to break it to you," he says, "but when a guy leaves town and you don't hear from him at all for months..."
"I know," she sighs. "I guess I just feel guilty."
He scoffs at that, because really, he's the only one who should feel guilty. Elena might have technically been single, by the definition of Stefan leaving her to go tear up the countryside (literally), but that's only because he sacrificed everything so that his brother could live; and Damon repaid him by sleeping with his (ex) girlfriend while he was in rehab.
The worst part is that he can't even feel bad about all the things he's done with her, because fuck if it's not the best sex he's ever had, and he suspects that being hopelessly in love with her is part of the reason for that.
Still, he doesn't want to lose his brother, and he knows that it will hurt Stefan more if they keep sneaking around like they have been. Also, Damon really wants to be able to show Elena all the places he's travelled to, and the beautiful restaurants with views of the city, and of course he can't do any of that if their relationship has to be kept a secret. (There's a part of him that sometimes wonders if the reason she's been putting off telling everyone is that she still hasn't made a clear choice, or she's worried about what everyone might think…or she doesn't love him as much as he loves her).
"If you feel so guilty, then why are you here?" he asks her.
"Because I miss you," she whispers. "I miss us." Her voice is so soft, and tinged with raw emotion; it's impossible for him to ignore the desperate plea, and the answering need for him is as strong as his need for her. He's powerless to resist, and he knows it.
"If we do this," he warns, "then we're going to do it right this time; that means no more sneaking around, and no lying to Stefan about why you're here."
She lets out the breath she's obviously been holding, and then she falls into his arms.
This time he kisses her because there aren't words powerful enough to express how much he missed her, and how much he still wants her. He kisses her because these past few weeks have been hell, and because he's tired of constantly denying himself, and because he just can't stay away from her a moment longer without going completely insane. Most of all, he kisses her because he just doesn't want to fight with her anymore.
She responds with pure desperation, and he shuts the door by pressing her against it. He almost forgot how good it feels to have her legs wrapped around his waist and her fingers in his hair, or how warm and wet and sweet her mouth is; it's like he's home, and he wonders why he ever let her go in the first place. He trails his lips down her neck, letting out a low growl when she presses that soft apex against the almost painfully hard bulge in his too-tight jeans.
"Oh god, Damon, please," she gasps as he carefully nips at the thin skin of her neck and sends another involuntary shudder through her.
The sound of footsteps in the distance, approaching the house at no human pace, causes him to tear himself away from her tempting lips before things can get any more heated between them.
"Damon, what?" she starts to ask, but he quickly places a finger to her lips and nods toward the door meaningfully.
"Stefan," he mouths, not wanting to attempt even a whisper at this point. He seriously hopes that the bunny diet Stefan's on will be enough to dull his sense of smell, because Elena's arousal is as blatantly obvious as her kiss-swollen lips and disheveled hair.
"Moment of truth, Elena," he whispers, "now's your chance..."
He decides to wait in her bedroom for her to return after what he can only assume to be the long-awaited heart to heart chat with his brother. This way there's no chance she'll blame what she says on any outside "influence", and he won't be tempted to say anything if Elena gets cold feet about the whole telling Stefan the truth thing.
He doesn't quite know what he's expecting to happen, but as far as he's concerned, this is it; their defining moment. Whatever the outcome may be, the games will end for good, and he'll either be the happiest he's ever been, or he'll end up buying out every liquor store in Virginia on his way out of town tonight.
He picks up the sound of her footsteps on the porch, and the metal scrape of keys in a lock. Then the door swings open, and she calls out to Jeremy and Ric (neither of which are home), before sighing heavily and heading straight upstairs.
When she sees him, she immediately steps into the comfort of his arms, nuzzles into his neck, and breathes in his scent.
"I'm glad you're here," she whispers softly, her arms squeezing him tighter.
"Did you tell him?" Damon asks. He's instantly able to tell by her suddenly stiffened posture that she hasn't, and he lets go, stepping back from her and giving her a look of sheer disappointment. He should have known he was fooling himself when he believed she would actually go through with it.
"That'd be a no," he sighs.
"I tried," she says, "but he just started hunting again, and it's bad enough that I broke up with him, I just..."
"...didn't want to hurt him again," Damon finishes for her. "I know."
"I'm sorry," she says, lowering her head in shame. "I promise, I WILL tell him."
"Where have I heard that before?" he snaps bitterly.
"Damon…" she pleads with him in that weary yet desperate tone, "Don't do this…"
He cuts her off, because no amount of pleading, or pouting, or sad doe eyes are going to prove that she really means what she says. "Do you love me, Elena?" He says it rather abruptly, and it immediately catches her off guard; just as he intended.
"What?" she asks, somewhat stunned.
"It's a simple question," he says, "Do you love me, or not?"
She opens her mouth to answer him, but he can see the fear and the hesitation in her eyes. "I…it's complicated," she replies.
"No, it's really not," he sighs "Either you love me or you don't, so which is it?"
She worries her bottom lip between her teeth, but makes no attempt to answer him other than the pleading expression that begs him for more time; the only problem is that he already knows she loves him, but she's still too afraid to admit it. He gets it; she doesn't want to hurt anyone, but he's given her more than enough time to sort out her feelings.
"I can't do this anymore," he sighs when she still hasn't given him an answer. "I can't keep being the only one to say it."
"What are you saying?" she asks him, her voice quivering.
"Exactly what it sounds like." He can see the terror in her eyes, the fear that he's really done this time; that he won't be coming back. "I can't keep telling you that I love you and not have you say it back."
"Damon," she says softly, "come on, you have to know how I feel; all the times I've shown you...why do I have to say it?"
"Because it's not enough for me, Elena." He sighs, "I need to know that you're mine, completely, and while you've proven you want me physically, there's a part of you that's still holding back; I want all of you, and the fact that you can't say it, or tell even anyone about us..."
Tears glisten in her eyes and she tries to look away. He steps forward, cupping her face in his hands.
"Look at me," he rasps, gently brushing a few stray tears from her cheeks with his thumbs. He stares deeply into her eyes. "If you felt even a fraction of what I feel for you, you would have told everyone a long time ago, and we wouldn't even be having this conversation."
She does little more than gasp softly, as he lowers his hands from her face, but as he turns to leave, she grasps hold of his left hand and squeezes it.
"Damon, please don't go," she says.
He turns back to her. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't."
Elena slowly brings his hand up to her mouth, and places a gentle kiss on the inside of his palm, never taking her eyes from his. "Because I don't want you to."
He pulls his hand free. "That's not an answer."
"Because I care about you."
"Not good enough," he replies, shaking his head sadly. He turns his back to her and moves toward the window. He can hear the frantic pounding of her heart, can practically smell the salt of her tears as she starts to realize that he means it this time. And though it's killing him to leave her, he knows it would kill him more if he stayed, and she was never able to fully return his feelings.
"Because I love you!" she cries desperately as he has one foot on the window ledge.
"You're only saying that because you don't want me to go," he says, glancing back over his shoulder with a bitter smile.
Elena shakes her head and steps toward him confidently. "I'm not," she replies, "I mean every word."
There's a part of him that wants to believe her, but he just can't think clearly whenever she looks at him like she is now; like she can see his soul, and everything that he is, and everything that she believes he's capable of becoming for her. It scares the hell out of him sometimes, but especially now, when he's so close to running away from her and never looking back; because he meant what he said, he can't keep waiting for her to figure out what she wants, and he can't be around her anymore if she can't give him what he wants.
She reaches out to place a hand on his cheek, trapping him with her ever-expressive brown eyes; her touch is firm even when he tries to flinch away from it, as she says, "I love you, Damon Salvatore, and I'm not going to let you walk away from us."
This time, she kisses him. Her lips are soft as petals as they first graze his cheek, then the corner of his mouth, and when he doesn't pull away, she gently tugs his bottom lip between hers. Through all of this he keeps his hands at his sides, allowing her to run the show as he turns to face her fully and she presses her hands on his shoulders. He lowers himself to sit on the plush seating at her window, and as soon as he does she straddles his thighs, leaning over him. Hands framing his face, she pulls back to gaze into his eyes, whispering her love before she brings her lips down on his again.
He traces the smooth column of her neck with his fingertips, drawing away from her lips to kiss a burning path down to her throat. She moans softly, tilting her head to allow him more access to her, tempting him more than he would ever care to admit. He can taste the salt of her skin, feel the pulse beneath his tongue, and as his lips travel downward to the edge of her tank top, she helps him slip it off.
He feasts on the soft curves of her breasts and flicks one nipple with his thumb through her bra before reaching behind her back to unclasp it; he draws the straps down her shoulders, nuzzling her neck as she shivers in reaction and whispers his name like a prayer. This is how it should have been their first time; not desperate and hungry, just a languorous exploration, loving every inch of newly uncovered skin. She lifts up his shirt; he pulls back long enough to remove the barrier between them, pressing his chest to hers so that he can feel her heart beating as if it were his own.
She rocks against him, building that ache inside them both, with only their jeans keeping them apart; it drives him half mad with need for her, and he knows that if she keeps moving over him like that, he's going to end up fucking her against the wall. While that certainly appeals to him, he would much rather make love to her tonight, and so he presses his hand to the curve of her back and lifts them both to their feet before sucking her nipple into his mouth. She arches into him, begging for more, and he kisses down her sternum, over the soft curve of her hips, and carefully undoes the button of her jeans. Her eyes are darkened with lust, and she licks her lips in anticipation as he slides her pants down just enough so that he's pressing his lips to the damp triangle of lace.
She grasps fistfuls of his hair, trying to guide his mouth where she needs it. Her jeans are halfway down her thighs, restricting her ability to spread her legs any further as he deliberately teases the ever loving shit out of her; call it retribution for the hell she put him through these past few weeks.
"Damon, please," she whimpers, and he smirks against her inner thigh before giving her a playful love bite.
"Oh!" she gasps sharply, the sweet scent of her increasing arousal hitting him full force; her femoral artery pulses just beneath his lips, tempting him. It's been far too long since he's tasted her and he can already feel his control slipping, because if there was ever a perfect moment to claim her, mark her as his in a way that no one can deny, this would be it.
He traces the vein with his tongue, watching her face for any sign that she doesn't want this, and when she returns his gaze with one of anticipation he slides his hands under her bottom and brings her closer to his mouth. As soon as his fangs elongate and penetrate her skin, she begins to shudder and he focuses on giving her as much pleasure as he possibly can; after over a century of practice, he's honed his skills to the point that he's able to make her come three times in ten second intervals. He moans deeply at the taste of her; each orgasm he gives her just makes her blood even sweeter, like the most decadent chocolate soufflé, and he can't seem to get enough of her. Her legs have given out, and he has to make the decision whether he wants to keep holding her up, or move her to the bed; he chooses the bed, only because he plans for this to be a long night and his hands could be doing much more enticing things to her than merely keeping her from toppling over.
As he lifts her up so that her hips rest at the very edge of her mattress, he feels her grip on his hair start to weaken and realizes he's taking too much of her blood than is wise; yet when he pulls back from her, she lets out a little whine of disappointment; that is, until he bites into his wrist and presses the wound against her lips.
Unlike the other times when he'd forced it on her, she closes her eyes and savors the taste, the color slowly returning to her cheeks. He clenches his jaw tightly and tries not to focus on how fucking amazing it feels; so much like oral sex that he could most definitely come from this if he wasn't so determined not to. When he can't take anymore, and he's satisfied that she's not going to faint, he pulls his wrist free and dips his head back down to feast on the even sweeter nectar seeping through the royal blue lace underwear she's still wearing. They're completely soaked with her juices, just as he knew they would be, and she's so sensitive that even the soft brush of his fingertips along the crease of her hip bones has her shivering and on the brink of her release.
He slips his fingers beneath the fabric, dipping them teasingly inside her before finally tearing the last of her clothing off her and running his tongue over her sensitized flesh. Elena makes a strangled little sound, arching her back and digging her heels into his shoulders as his lips and tongue find her clit and attack it with wild abandon until she's writhing on the bed and tears streak down her cheeks. He knows she's at her breaking point when he can hear nothing but the pounding of her heart and her high-pitched cries ringing in his ears, and with careful precision he slides the tip of his tongue into the tiny crease beneath her pulsing jewel; his touch is feather light, but it's more than enough to send her hurtling over the edge into an orgasm so powerful that it's at least several minutes before she's able to recover from it.
The sweet honey floods into his mouth, coats his tongue and drips down his chin as she convulses violently, her inner muscles clamping down hard on his fingers as he presses against the spongy tissue and brings her to one last climax before finally shedding his jeans and hovering over her, his thick erection positioned right at her entrance. She bucks her hips up, trying to take him inside, but he holds her still, refusing to give her what she wants just yet.
"I love you," he rasps, stroking her tangled hair back from her face and placing a soft kiss to her lips.
When he hears those same words echoed back in a soft little whimper just beneath his ear, he sheaths his full length inside her in one powerful stroke that has her crying out in rapture all over again. Her sex clenches around him in a vice grip, testing the limits of his control as he thrusts inside her with determined movements, taking her higher, watching as she begins to fall apart in his arms. Heat spreads through his veins, and he buries his face in the crook of her neck, breathing in her scent; he falls into the flames with her, lets the fire consume him.
As the sweat begins to cool on his skin, he carefully rolls off of her, gathering her into his arms and pulling up her blankets to cover them both. His fingertips take on a mind of their own, gently threading through her hair and stroking skin wherever he can reach it, and she snuggles into him, whispering how good it feels and how much she missed him; how much she loves him.
"Marry me." The words leave his mouth before he can stop them from slipping out, and when she turns her head to stare at him in shock, he mentally kicks himself for saying it out loud.
"Seriously?" she replies in a tone that tells him she thinks he's joking; and she doesn't find it amusing.
Part of him wants to go along with it; let her think he was teasing her, and then spend the rest of the night making up for being a dick about something so serious, but his ego (and his heart) won't allow it, and he turns to face her fully.
"Yes, seriously," he says. "I'm not asking you to turn, at least not yet, but I am asking for you to make a commitment to me; a real commitment."
She bites her lip nervously, and for a moment he thinks she's going to turn him down, but then she takes a deep breath and nods her head.
"I'm gonna need a better answer than that," he tells her.
"I…" she sighs, weighing her words carefully. "Give me time," she finally says.
It's not what he wants to hear, and they both know it, but considering she's only eighteen, he decides to let it go for now and draws her back into a comforting embrace.
"I may be immortal, Elena," he rasps against her neck, "but that doesn't mean I'm going to wait around forever."
"I don't expect you to," she whispers back.
He strokes her hair, trying not to let the fact that she's technically turning him down affect him too much. He knows it's irrational to feel like this, because she's still young and he could just as easily make her his wife a few years from now as he could today; but having waited so long for her, he's a little anxious to make it official and tie himself to her in every way possible. So that he can never lose her again.
She shifts in his arms, her limbs growing heavy as sleep begins to overtake her.
"Damon?" she whispers sleepily.
"Hmm?" he answers her, already half asleep himself.
"Ask me again in a few years."
Of the many, many kisses that he gives her over the next three years, his favorite one comes the year she turns twenty one and becomes his wife. They'd been engaged already for quite some time, as he'd proposed to her two years earlier when she'd finally told him she was ready; the only reason he waited this long was because while he could easily compel every single person in the room, he would much rather she be legally allowed to drink champagne at their wedding reception. So for two years, he got to proudly call her his fiancé, and every time he looked down at her hand and saw his mother's ring, he couldn't help feeling just a little smug about it. Rightfully, it had been his, as such things were always passed to the eldest son to give to his future bride; but his father, being a sanctimonious prick, had kept it from him anyway and given it to Stefan after Damon had continuously disappointed him. According to Guissepe Salvatore, Damon wasn't fit to be his heir, regardless of birthright; and secretly Damon had often wondered if the reason he'd been sent off to fight in The War was because his father had hoped he'd be killed in battle. It wasn't that far of a stretch when you considered that he had been the one to fire the gun that did kill him.
It was Stefan who had given it back to him so he could give it to Elena. For almost a year after they went public with their relationship, Damon had wondered if Stefan was truly as accepting of everything as he'd claimed to be. It didn't matter that he had started dating Caroline, or that he often expressed how happy he was for the both of them. So when Damon had told Stefan that he intended to propose to Elena, he had expected some sort of negative reaction to the news. He'd assumed that Stefan had run upstairs to his room to sulk, but a few minutes later his brother had returned with a small box in his hands. It was something Damon hadn't seen since the day their mother had died, and that he'd thought had been lost. He should have known that Stefan would have kept it; but he could never have imagined it would be returned to him so he could propose to Elena. In that moment, Damon realized his brother had truly forgiven him, and that he had Stefan's blessing to marry her.
There were tears in her eyes when she said yes, and it was the best moment of his life.
Damon can still vividly remember the time when he stood at the foot of this very same staircase, and took the hand of the girl who would change his life completely. He waits for her now, feeling that same sense of anticipation come over him as her slim figure appears draped in a floor length satin gown, her hair curled and swept away from her face and pinned back with a sheer white veil. She carries a small bouquet of blue roses and white hydrangeas, which she gives to Caroline before taking his hand. He can't resist lifting it to his lips for a quick kiss, which causes every woman in the room to swoon; and then the minister starts talking about love and how precious it is, but he can't hear a word of it because he's too busy gazing at his bride (soon-to-be wife) and thinking back on everything that has led them here.
As Elena begins to say her vows, he's transported back to that first day he realized he was truly in love with her. He thinks of their time in Georgia, when their friendship blossomed; he thinks of the comfort he found in her arms, even when he tried to convince himself he didn't need it; he thinks of that deathbed kiss, and everything it meant for the both of them; and most of all he thinks of the night she finally told him she was ready to be his forever.
He also thinks of the times when she made him so angry he could literally kill; the times she slapped him because he was being an ass; the times when one or the other was tempted to walk away for good, and he realizes that all of it was worth it. Because even through the pain and the heartache that comes with loving someone just as stubborn and passionate as he is, there's just no other way that this could have ended for him; it's that undeniable truth that has kept him coming back to her. She makes him feel human, the way nothing else ever has. It's the one thing he wishes he could say in his vows to her, that he knows he can't (at least not right now, in front of the whole town), so instead he tells her she's a part of his soul, and conveys his true meaning through his eyes.
"I love you, Elena," he says softly, prompting the collective sighs from their audience. "And I promise to love you for all of eternity."
Women whisper to each other "how romantic" or "she's so lucky to have a husband who loves her that much", a few of the men groan as if to say "way to raise the bar to impossibly high standards", Carol Lockwood actually sheds a few tears, (which Damon can't help but find amusing considering how anti-vampire she'd once been) and Stefan can't help sharing a secret smile with Caroline, the both of them having (wisely) decided not to announce their recent engagement until after Damon brings Elena back from their honeymoon in a few weeks. To sum it all up, he's pretty much said The Most Romantic Wedding Vows Ever, that not even one of those girlie romance novels could hope to emulate, and Elena's $20 waterproof mascara turns out to be well worth the expense. She's smiling even through the tears streaking down her face, and she takes several deep breaths in an attempt to regain her composure as he slips the wedding band onto her finger.
"I love you too," she says, "forever and always."
The ring she places on his finger is slightly warm from her touch; undeniable proof that she has branded him forever as hers.
Before the minister can utter the words "you may kiss the bride", he sweeps his wife into his arms for the most thorough, most passionate, and most romantic kiss he can get away with.
Damon turns Elena Gilbert Salvatore when she's twenty four; three years to the day he married her. To the casual observer, he's completely calm and collected as he waits for her to wake up; the truth is he's going out of his mind. He has no idea how she's going to react once she gets her first taste of human blood, and if the past has taught him anything it's that things rarely go the way he wants them too; he's under no illusions that having Elena as his wife is just pure luck, and that one does not get that lucky twice in one century. To be honest, there are still days when he looks at her, sleeping peacefully (and naked) in their bed, and wonders if he actually died that night she kissed him, and that none of this is real. But then he rolls his eyes because it's ridiculous to think there's such thing as Vampire Heaven (or that he'd even get in if it did exist).
Also, holding her lifeless body in his arms feels more like his own personal Hell; it doesn't help that he's been holding her like this for the past several hours, and that he's starting to worry that she doesn't have enough of his blood in her system—which is also ridiculous, because they've exchanged blood every night since their honeymoon, just in case some new threat decides to show up and try to kill her.
Just as he's about to freak out and start shaking her awake, she gasps sharply; her eyes fly open to meet his and a smirk spreads across her lips.
"I thought the prince is supposed to wake Sleeping Beauty with a kiss," she says, arching her brow, "not wait for her to wake up on her own."
He doesn't reply; not with words anyway.
Instead he presses his lips to hers; kissing her for all the times he wanted to, all the times he has, and all the times he plans to kiss her for the rest of their lives. And really, that's the best Happily Ever After they could ask for.