A/N: The final chapter of the story. I hope you're still hanging in there. I hope you've enjoyed it. If you have, please R&R. It makes my little heart warm.
Same club, same music, same booze. Exponentially more of it tonight than the night before. Different faces, different costumes, but basically, same women. Same back booth, same feeling of frustration and boredom. But tonight, he'd be damned if he was leaving.
Where is there to go?
Elena had disappeared from the hotel rooms. Here things were still there, but he had not seen her since she had walked away from the beach that morning. He had waited around for hours to talk to her, to try to fix what had become so broken, but she had not returned.
And then he'd just gotten angrier. And then he'd fallen into despair.
Damon ordered another round, made space for another girl to squeeze herself in. He'd been much less careful with his revelry tonight, and the marks he'd left on one girl were barely covered by her dress's low neckline. He'd already had more than he needed. His hunger was satisfied. There was something else in him, though, that might never be again, something that was decidedly broken, and that was the thing that had him lick-kissing his way up the neck of this sloe-eyed blonde even while he was finding fault with every way that she wasn't…
Damn you to all the hells there may be…stop thinking of her…
And he bit into the only thing that would stop the thoughts for even a second.
There was a moment, a palpable moment, in the club's atmosphere when everything shifted. It indicated someone or something interesting had entered the playing field. Damon could sense all the predators and prey realigning, taking notice, re-ranking themselves. As the current alpha predator in the room, he felt all the strings of hierarchy tugging, and even as half-intoxicated and jaded as he was, he decided to see what new plaything had made its way into his little demesne for the night.
He couldn't quite see the dance floor from where he was, a reason he'd taken the booth in the first place, its extreme privacy. A dark place for dark deeds, he smirked to himself. Just now, though, it was a real pain in the ass. He kissed one of his party partners who fussed as he disentangled himself and made some excuse about heading over to the bar. The ripples he was getting were getting stronger. Hmm….Could there possibly be something of interest tonight? God knew it would be welcome. Any sort of challenge would be wel…
He finally saw the dance floor, and he felt his fangs sharpen.
Fuck. Of course. Who else could make that kind of stir in my universe?
Elena Gilbert was in the middle of the dance floor with a partner who looked remarkably like a Norse god but with no shortage of potential replacements if he should fail to live up to her expectations. She was in a lipstick red dress Damon had never seen before, in heels so high and fragile looking he was surprised she could stay in them.
Oh, but she can… Oh, but she does…. Look at her go.
He ran appreciative eyes over her as her partner, whom he decided to call Thor, swung her around, pressed her illicitly close. Elena allowed it, but there was a look of distant amusement on her face that was somehow more erotic than any come-hither look he'd ever seen. Thor seemed to think so, too, based on the way his hand inched down to cup her backside.
She shimmied away from him with a little warning glance, and they resumed a distance for the dance that one might have slid, oh, perhaps an index card into. Damon wanted to kill him. Or her. Or both. He wasn't feeling particularly choosy.
He stalked around the edges of the floor, watching her. He could catch the scent of her, and he felt savagely hungry again, just as if he hadn't fed at all.
Maybe it's not savagely hungry. Maybe it's just savage, he reflected as Thor's hands went wandering again.
He turned with a curse and headed back to his table. Time for another round, I think….
He was contemplating the hollow at the base of a brunette's neck, cursing her mentally for smelling wrong, and allowing his rage to take him to places he had not been in ages when he heard the voice behind him.
"So sorry, ladies. This is last call for you. Time to go. Everybody out of the pool."
He froze, then smiled, stroked the brunette underneath the table in a way sure to elicit a moan, and looked over his shoulder. Sure enough, there was Elena composed, regal, as if nothing could ever shock her, not even the sight of him with four women, one of whom he was currently…well…
My, my. Hasn't she been hanging around with us too long? Something sad and dark flickered through the alcohol, the blood, and the pain to touch his heart.
One of the women, the blonde, poutily looked from Elena to Damon and said, "Who are you? The little missus?" She tried to make it a joke, but it didn't quite come off.
Elena took a step toward the booth and laid her hands on the high back. She leaned in and said simply, firmly, "Yes. Now. Get. Out."
Damon said nothing, and the other women gathered their belongings and with varying degrees of grace and sobriety scrambled out of the booth, muttering as they went. By the time they had reached the door, they no longer remembered anything about Damon or their encounter.
Elena slid into the circular booth at one end. A member of the club's staff appeared and cleared the table. She spoke softly and a glass of something was brought to her. Neither she or Damon spoke during this brief interlude. He merely sipped scotch from his glass slowly, studying her over the rim with a dangerous little smile.
When they were again alone, he sat the glass down on the table and tilted his head.
"Hello, princess. Have any trouble finding me?"
"Damon. No. None at all. I knew you'd be where the best was to be had."
He laughed at that outright, a brief appreciative bark at her understanding of his nature.
"Need something, did you?"
"I could ask the same of you." She gestured vaguely to the club, the booth.
His predatory smile came back, and his eyes glittered. He slid slightly on the bench, just enough so she was in arm's reach. "If I did…you rather deprived me of that, didn't you, now?"
Her smile was slow, calm, mysterious. "Perhaps." She raised her drink, sipped it slowly, lowered it to the table, considered him again with steady eyes.
"Didn't it occur to you that might be…dangerous?"
He had her pulled next to him faster than she could believe, had one hand pinned to the high back of the booth next to her head. She'd known that he probably intended to do it, had known when she'd followed him off the dance floor that this was always a possibility, but it was still breathtaking.
His voice was a low growl directly into her ear. "Didn't it occur to you that when you ran off my little delights that you might become their…replacement?"
She turned and captured his face in her hand. "Didn't it occur to you that perhaps the 'replacement' is what you wanted all along?" And she gave his face a little sharp provocative shove, her eyes full of that bright brave fire he loved. He saw no fear in them, and that knowledge somehow just incited him further.
He turned immediately back to her, eyes glittering and going dark. He leaned close. "Oh, don't provoke me, Elena. You really don't want to push my buttons just now and just here. You see, this isn't a cotillion or your front parlor. You're in the middle of my party booth, and I'm still hungry. We've already fucked. I know what you taste like. If you yank my chain one more time, I'm going to make you my main course tonight and finally get the particular monkey that is you off my back."
She tilted her head to the side to show him her already-bitten neck. His eyes were drawn to the wound there as though magnetized.
"Talk, talk, talk. Is that all you Salvatores can ever do?"
He was on her then, had her in his arms, one hand cradling her head, tilting her for the taking, his arm around her like a lover's embrace, and he laved her neck in long slow stroke of his tongue. She rolled her head back, and as he prepared to bite, he was struck by two sudden realizations.
First, she wore no vervain around her neck. The charm that she wore as naturally as breathing, the charm that had burned little marks on him that had healed instantly as they'd loved last night because neither had paused to remove it, was not on her neck.
Second, she lay trustingly in his arms. She was giving herself to him. Not only that, but she had instigated this, gone so far as to provoke it.
What fresh hell was this?
He gently, gently sat her back upright on the seat and pulled away from her, the bloodlust dissipating as confusion set in.
Elena looked at him steadily with no fear and with no sign of alarm or regret.
"What is this, Elena? Why are you here? What are you doing?"
"This is me trying to show you something."
He gestured for her to continue.
"I am here with you not because I am trying to manipulate you or con you. I have no tricks up my sleeve." She laughed a little, softly, humorlessly. "No sleeves even."
He was acutely aware of the cut of her dress, and he ran his gaze over its lack once again before turning impatient eyes back to hers.
"I came with no vervain. Not even my locket…"
"That's so foolish! What if you'd run into another vampire between the hotel and here..."
She kept talking. "…because that is what started the problem in the first place. I decided that you could do what you wanted to do. It would be up to you. If you decide to…you can take away my knowledge of everything that has happened here in the last two days. You can take away my knowledge of last night. You can take away my knowing of your telling me that you love me. You can even drink from me tonight and take that, too. I give you all this, Damon. I put it all in your hands."
His hands shook slightly as he reached for the glass on the table. "Why are you telling me all this? Why would you put yourself in this place like this?"
She covered his hands with hers, forced him to put down the glass, made him look at her. "Because I trust you. Because I am not toying with you. Because. Because you are always there for me. You protect me. You think of me first, even when it hurts you." She sighed deeply. "Because I love you, Damon."
He sat as though stunned.
She waited a moment, then smiled a small, sad smile. "I'll only make one request, then. When you make me forget, please take that last bit of mine, too. It would be horrible to remember that I told you that and you didn't return it anymore. I guess I know what it feels like now…."
She looked down at the table, tears welling up in her eyes. She felt a gentle hand cup her cheek, a thumb wipe away the falling tears.
"Shhh," Damon said, as he pulled her into his arms. He kissed her softly, sweetly, and when she looked up at him, she saw that face she'd seen so rarely, the face completely devoid of humor, sarcasm, or defense. "Neither of us will be doing any forgetting anymore. Instead, let's try to make things worth remembering."
She smiled through her tears, "Okay. Deal."
They kissed as the club pulsed around them, oblivious to everything else that existed.
Sometime later, he broke the kiss and sighed.
"Let's get out of here," he purred. "I have a few notions regarding you, me, and some furniture that have been sadly parted far too long."
She snorted and rolled her eyes. "That furniture will be there when we get back. This bit however…."
He looked at her in surprise. "I'm afraid I have no idea what you mean."
"You think I didn't see you back here with your coterie?"
He didn't even attempt to look abashed. "And?"
"You said earlier you'd make me a replacement."
His eyes kindled, and he looked at her as if sizing her up.
"Oh my darling, you could never be a replacement." He took her hand and pulled her into his arms slowly. "You are always, only, and ever the master copy." He cradled her head once again, stroked her neck, kissed her deeply.
"Are you sure about this? I know that you and Stefan, I know he drank from you, but…"
"No. Never like this. He never thought he could…He always told me he'd…"
Damon made a tiny face, shook his head. "Silly Stefan. No. Bunnies and squirrels will cause all kinds of problems if that's all you eat."
She laughed, ran her fingers over the familiar planes of his face. She could feel no fear with him. This was just what came next. She trusted him utterly. "So no worries, huh?"
He leaned down and kissed her neck. She drew in a breath. It felt good. He smiled. "Mmm.. No. No worries. Remember which brother you've got. I'm actually good at all this." And she felt his teeth slip into her.
She arched into the bite. The tiny flicker of pain was gone instantly, and all that was left was bliss radiating from his kiss. Each time he drew on her neck, she felt it. She bit her bottom lip to keep from crying out, heard and felt him making an answering sound low in his throat as her blood slid into him. It seemed to go on forever, but she knew in actuality, it was moments only, and then he was raising his head, licking the wound gently, applying pressure, as he cradled her to his shoulder.
He stroked her hair, kissed her forehead, and she sat back to look at him. She felt totally boneless, like she'd been wrung out and hung up to dry.
"That was…" There just aren't words. Forget it. I'm not even going to try.
A little tiny smug smile appeared. "Told you so."
She would have smacked him, but she couldn't summon up the energy. "Holy crap, Damon. What did you do?"
He leaned back against the wall of the booth, draped her across him, rubbing his hands down her back gently. He waved his free hand vaguely. "I don't know how to describe it. Booyah?"
She laughed. She couldn't stop.
He smiled down at her. Oh, to be this happy. It was dangerous. It had to be. He hadn't been this happy…ever? Could they be happy now? Was this the time when he finally had someone who was his?
She looked up at him. "Did…did it feel that way for you, too?" Or was I just another Happy Meal?
He kissed her. He heard the question she didn't ask.
"Do you know what it's like to be a vampire in love, Elena?"
So gave him a long level look. "Oh yes. Obviously. Years and years of experience."
He grinned, continued as though she hadn't spoken. "Everything we feel is made more extreme. When we hurt, it is exaggerated. The pain is more intense. But when we love…." He gestured with his hand. "Everything about the beloved is enticing…the sight of her, the scent of her, the sound of her voice…. but nothing is as intoxicating as the possibility or the actuality of the taste of her blood…."
He gazed softly down into her eyes, ran his thumb gently over the bite mark on her neck. "Being creatures who are created by blood and who live on it, perhaps you can understand how it is our ultimate obsession…."
Her mind whirled. So there was Stefan who I gave the most heady substance imaginable to unknowingly and then who was stealthily taking it from me in the name of "becoming more human" without telling me this. Then there was Damon on the beach who was tempted beyond all measure and turned away. And then there is tonight when it was freely offered and freely received. There was Stefan who never had control, who struggled every night we were together and would have, one night, drunk me down like a favorite vintage of wine. And then there is Damon who is so controlled that he gives me pleasure like no other as an act of love with the very same thing I had to fear in his brother. And he's the one everyone calls reckless and savage….
He let her mind walk whatever paths it would. He didn't have to be a mindreader to know where it was going. He knew there would always be moments when his brother was going to come up in their relationship….
"Damon," she said suddenly, "let's go back to the hotel."
He looked at her, a little surprised. "Anything you want."
She pulled him to his feet, and both of them were just slightly unsteady as they made their way out the door. Heads turned to watch the stunning couple as they passed, but neither of them noticed. They were too busy wrapped up in the newfound wonder of each other.
As they walked down the dark streets, she leaned up and whispered in his ear. "I think we should start with the chair."
Then she ran.