Disclaimer: I own none of this. Zilch. The writing style itself? Mine. That's about it. Lyrics used are Bright Lights by Placebo.
So I haven't given up,
But all my choices, my good luck...
Appear to go and get me stuck,
In an open prison.
Now I am tryin' to break free,
Be in a state of empathy.
Find the true and inner me,
Eradicate this schism.
Damon was not running away. He was not a coward, and he was not scared. He was regrouping. With Klaus off getting reunited with his family, and Stefan ripping humans to pieces elsewhere, Mystic Falls was out of the woods, so to speak, if only for the time being. They needed to regroup, he and Elena, somewhere far from the graves of their loved ones.
He knew she was trying, really, he did. And as angry as he got over those stupid bits of paper, deep down, he knew he had no right to be. For the reason Damon was finding it increasingly easy to let Stefan go, was the very same he was having difficulty moving on from: Andie.
It should have made his desire for her cool, if only a little, but it had yet to have any such effect. That she was in the bath, again, and had been for over an hour did little to help matters, and this old, tiny cottage didn't have any locks. But he knew the true nature of her new habit. Her sobs, however quiet she tried to keep them, could be heard throughout the house, even on the dock where Damon sat, watching the sunset across the waters frosted surface. It was all he could do to not go into that bathroom, and either a) have his way with her, or b) hold her until the paid stopped. He could make a glib remark, and she could smile, and they would be okay.
If only it could be so easy.
No, the things he wanted were not the things she needed. She needed space and time to heal her own wounds, before she could begin to fathom any of his own. And so he invented his current situation, option C. Here her crys were somewhat muffled, allowing him to resist his desires, and yet remain close enough that, were she to ask for him, he would be there at a moment's notice. It was all he could do.
And so he sat, and thought, trying desperately to think about something other than whether or not there were any bubbles left in Elena's bath. And he thought of Andie.
He never really loved her, he admitted it gladly. It was that he had never expected to not have her around, plain and simple. She was completely under his compulsion, his confidant, his lover, his saint. Rose had kept her free will, and look where that had gotten her. And so he worried, as the world began to dim, if he could allow himself to give his love to anyone he couldn't fully control, anyone who was so fragile. He could live with the loss of Rose, of Andie, even Katherine, who had owned and taken so much of the man he had once been. But if he lost Elena, he wondered, in this world without his brother, would he still be able to go on?
He was in the house before she could worry another second. And she was worried, her eyes were red, no doubt from the torn pages in hand, and her brow was furrowed in confusion.
"Elena?" he asked, mocking her.
"Sorry, I was afraid you had just left, or—"
"No, or, no leaving. I was just outside, by the lake."
She seemed surprised.
"Oh! Of course. Sorry, I forget, cold weather isn't much of a problem for you."
Elena looked exhausted, in a pair of black sweats with Mystic Falls HS printed on one pant leg, and a plain black tank top with a green sweater over it, as well as some rather hideous looking furry slippers. Her new hair, which Damon was still not used to, looked damp on the ends. She looked like she had just a marathon, which came as no surprise given the number of pages clutched in her small, pale hand.
He took her face in his hands, and even though he knew his touch must have been cold as ice, she didn't flinch, or turn away.
"I meant what I said before, Elena. I. Will. Never. Leave. You."
"I know, but…" she looked away, unable to face him, "going through all of this, it's like I'm reliving it. I keep thinking how impossible it must be, but there it is. I feel like I lost them all over again. And then I realize I've lost two sets of parents, and Aunt Jenna, and now Stefan! And…I just.." she just couldn't speak anymore. Not that she couldn't find the words, though that was part of the problem, but it was as if all of the air had gone out of the room, and Elena was fighting for her very last breath.
Damon wanted to hold her, he wanted to comfort her, and tell her it would be alright. But though Damon was many things, few among them good things, a liar was not one of them, at least, not to Elena that is. Though as he stood there, stuck in indecision, Elena fought her way to back, with clenched fists, breathing deep. He took the pages from her, surprised that she let him. He was polite, not looking, not reading; only counting.
"Seventeen, Elena? That's a pretty tall order," he said, brow worried as he moved towards the fire. "May I?"
She nodded, and threw the dreadful things nonchalantly into the orange blaze. He watched them go, disappearing into nondistinguishable ashes, and it was funny, he thought, how something so painful could be reduced to something so alike the ashes of a simple maple tree. But maybe that was just it, memories, like those ashes, were all the same in their infinity; pieces of the past to be forgotten. Damon was holding Elena close, before he realized what he was even doing, she spoke again.
"I know, maybe it's a bit much, but I don't want—"
"To ever stop crying?" he guessed.
"To keep you waiting."
He stepped back, taking his face in her hands again, because he wanted her to see the honesty there, the agony he was hiding so carefully. He wanted to look into her eyes, wanted her to understand, and remember these words always.
"Elena, you are a fool to think you're the only one here with demons to face and wounds to fix. I don't want you coming to me until you're ready, not a second sooner. Take your time Elena, I'm not getting any older," and though the bad joke and his cheekiest grin did not get a laugh, it did get a smile. Small, and brief, but there was more truth, more honesty, more sincere caring in that momentary expression than anyone he had ever known. Caroline, he noticed, would smile whenever necessary; it was all pretend. Elena only smiled when she had something to be happy about. He took it for the value and meaning that it was; a whole hell of a lot.
And so Damon did what he always did, he took care of her. Making sure she ate at least two bowls of piping hot soup (it was not unusual for her to forget to eat these days), wrapping her in a soft fleece blanket before the well-fed fire with her worn-out copy of Pride and Prejudice, he read it over her shoulder as he shielded her in his arms. And when she asked if he had seen Wuthering Heights about, Damon told her not in the cottage. He explained that it must have been left behind. He did not tell her that he reduced it to ashes days ago. It wasn't as if Stefan would be asking for it back anytime soon.
"We will get through this, Elena," he whispered to her now sleeping form. "We may be damaged, but we are not broken."
A/N~ Is is just me, or is Elena one of the most emotionally honest characters on the show? When she's upset, you know. When her smiles are forced, you can tell. I really love that quality in her. By some strange miracle of fate, I actually got the weekend mostly off. So, because I'm nice and this story is burning hot in my brain, here is probably the quickest post I will have for awhile. If there are any typos, they are the fault of me and no one else. I am my own beta, sadly. If you find one PLEASE let me know, they will bug the hell out of me. As always, R&R, I will respond to ALL OF THEM. And thanks to everyone who did last time, and all of you quiet lurkers faving in the background. Each one of you are the reason why this exists at all, so, thanks for being amazing.