Five a.m.

The light that shines through the lace curtains is weak, signals that today the sky will be grey. Dark and stormy, and a mere step up from night, and it makes Elena grateful. It matches her mood, for once – that's the thing about Virginia; it's sunny all the time. Sometimes, she wants it to be disgusting out – rainy, and grey, and windy, something that befits the mood that inevitably sets in with witnessing someone being murdered, or having someone you trusted completely turn into a monster, or having to watch an already broken girl shatter after you drop the bomb.

So when she opens her eyes and sees that the southern sun will most likely take a day off, Elena is satisfied – she plans to take a day off too. She's so tired, so exhausted, from just everything- Rebekah's story so dreary and just damn depressing that it's seems to have added another thin layer of weight on Elena's own shoulders just by hearing it.

Getting up with a satisfying stretch that makes her bones crack, she pads across the chilly hardwood floor to the dark bathroom, all the tea she drank the night before pressing against her bladder. Afterwards, she flushes, washes her hands, and splashes some warm water onto her face. Swishes some around her mouth and spits. Big brown eyes meet in the mirror – the bags are there, more obvious without makeup to cover. The bruise on her neck has yet to fade completely, waxy yellow tinged with green.

A quick flash in her memory – standing in front of this mirror maybe a year ago – her skin glows from a life free from stress. The morning melody of the Gilbert house plays- the sound of her father unsuccessfully trying to get Jeremy to wake up, the running water in the sink in front of her, and the music floating up from the radio in the kitchen where her mother is making breakfast, most likely already dressed for work, hair perfect and makeup in place.

In this memory, Elena's reflection looks healthy, if a little tired – homecoming is in a few days and she and Matt are going to be homecoming king and queen. And even if they aren't it doesn't matter. They'll still be together forever, anyway – a few crowns won't change that. Then-Elena smiles tiredly in the mirror, the fiery orange sun shines through the strands of her hair as she loads up her toothbrush, and then the memory flickers and fades, and all that is left is the Elena of now – tired. Standing in this dark bathroom, her skin pale and grey just like the sky outside.

She sighs, swishes and spits again, and dries her hands and face in the towel near the door before walking back into the bedroom to slip back into bed. Her step falters a little, just for a moment, when she sees Damon is still there, asleep. His black shirt and slacks are rumpled, dark hair an inky mess across her pillows. It's a sight that's familiar now, and a fact that she won't dwell too much on right now.

When she slides back under the sheets, they're cool and welcoming. He stirs a little, but doesn't seem to wake up. She could spend a long time looking at him, kind of does, to be honest. Studies the way his eyelashes smudge his cheeks, and how, even in sleep, his pale skin carries a healthy pink flush. Elena looks at his lips, a little thin but attractive all the same, and how straight his nose is, perfect in its alignment. For about five minutes she just watches him sleep, but with a sudden woosh and a double edging of her vision, the moment morphs into a few months ago when instead of Damon its Stefan, and she's happy again. As happy as she can be with her life falling down around her. It hits her in her bones, sharp and unpleasant; a kind of rip across her chest when she inhales, and it's what makes her reach over and shake Damon awake.

She's had enough nostalgia for the morning.

"Wake up." Her own voice is low and rough with sleep. "Damon," she shakes him again when he doesn't move. He groans and swats at her hand. "You fell asleep here last night. Again."

"Really," and his voice is muffled from the pillow he's buried his face in. "I had no idea, not with me being in your bedroom and all-"

"Shut up," she murmurs and watches as he sits up, stretches, and gets up to head to the bathroom. She tries to block out the sound of him peeing, isn't successful, and wonders if he uses her towel or Jeremy's to dry his hands in after he washes them. Sauntering back into the room he looks around casually, evidently still sleepy, before he begins to unfasten his pants.

"What are you doing?"

"Do you know how uncomfortable it is to sleep in pants?" he asks. His boxers are dark blue; Stefan was a boxer briefs kind of guy. He undoes a few buttons on his shirt before getting back into the bed, this time under the mound of covers, and Elena wonders why this isn't bothering her. It should be, shouldn't it? This, lying in bed with a pantless Damon should make her feel uncomfortable or… something. But all she really feels is mild irritation that he just assumed she'd be okay with it - and a little more annoyance that he was right.

"So, tell me the rest." His socked feet brush against her bare ones as they face each other.

"The rest of what?"

"Last night you said you'd tell me the rest tomorrow. Tomorrow is today – what happened with Rebekah?"

"Later, Damon," and it comes out like a sigh as she closes her eyes. "I… I just want to… relax for a bit. Before today falls down on us."

"You little ray of sunshine, you." She doesn't say anything to his sarcastic remark, doesn't even open her eyes. But she can feel him staring at her – his light blue gaze is a weight on her skin and where it used to be unsettling, a predator's stare, now it's… not. "How're holding up?"

"Good," she murmurs. "Fine? As good as I can be." He doesn't say anything in response, but when his palm lands on her hair gently, fingers smoothing away errant flyaways, she opens her eyes slowly. And the expression in his own – it's the same one that's been breaking her down lately. Chipping at her defenses, bit by bit, until all she feels right now, when they're in the dark, cozy, and warm, and muzzy, is a pull. A need to get as close as possible and just embrace every single thing about him. But she ignores it, that and the warm feeling in her stomach, and she smiles tiredly. "Really, I'm fine."

In the hazy, drowsy gray of early morning, it's okay to shuffle closer until her face is pressed against his chest. The fabric of his shirt smells expensive like his cologne, and a little tangy and smoky, most likely from that bar he was at last night. Thinking of which, she should probably mention Stefan, ask why Damon thinks he's on their side now. But as his hand smoothes up and down her back, and she fingers with his buttons, it doesn't seem right.

"How are you doing?" and the words bounce against the skin of his chest and back onto her lips.

He's quiet for a long time, and Elena wonders what he's thinking. He's quiet for so long that she thinks he hasn't heard her question. But then his lips are pressed against the silk of her hair and he breathes in deeply. "I'm good."

The quiet words bring a lump to her throat, one that she swallows away hastily, and she squeezes her eyes shut. No one moves around in the house, no birds chirp outside of the window, and no cars pass by on the street. All she can hear are their mingled inhales and exhales, and soon, the soothing motion of his hand on her back and the scent of his skin lull her back to sleep.