Elena stared down into the bloody sink, the red liquid endlessly flowing. They should repaint the porch. They should move. They should… do something. Her hands were shaking as she struggled to get rid of the blood that didn't seem to stop coming. That's all her life was filled with recently. She heard the front door open, and even though she knew it was him, it did nothing to help her relax. Of course he took care of everything, making sure Ric was healed up and disposing the body. "Think I got most of the blood off the porch," she said when he asked her how she was doing, wringing the towel, turning her knuckles white.

Damon's arms came around her, pulling her hands from the sink. Her heart slammed against her ribs at his closeness. They hardly ever really touched, not like this. This was so intimate, so crossing the friendship line, but she didn't care. "That's not what I meant," he said, guiding her away from the mess. "We'll figure this out." She stared at the bloody towel blankly wishing she could turn it white again.

Elena put a hand out to rest on the counter, leaving a pink liquid spot against the white tile, the knot in her stomach ten folding. "I um… made a deal with Klaus. I gave him Rebekkah," she said, staring at the far wall of the kitchen. And she predicted Damon's reaction, just concerned for her safety. "I had to do something. To keep Jeremy safe. He wasn't stopping, I had… I had to do something. This isn't a life for a teenager." With every word she spoke, she felt sicker. She just wanted to cry. Just sit in the middle of her kitchen and cry, but she knew she couldn't do that.

After a moment, he nodded in understanding. "What do you want me to do?" he asked, rubbing her arms gently.

Elena's vision blurred as she watched Damon compel her brother again. Compel him to leave Mystic Falls and never look back. Jeremy was leaving. She didn't want this life for him. She could keep him safe, and if her brother died, she wouldn't be able to handle it. At least if she made him forget he would still be alive. She wrapped her arms around her stomach and backed out of the room, making the way down the hall to hers, tears streaming silently down her face. She stood in the middle of room, a room that she barely recognized. The room of a normal teenager with boyfriends and parties and friends. But that was a lie. She used to love pictures. Pictures of her parents, Jenna, Jeremy, her friends, and it was all being ripped apart. There was a light knock as Damon leaned in the doorway. "You sure this will work?" she whispered.

"Yes," Damon said, tilting his head toward her. "You sure this is what you want? We can come up with another plan."

Elena snorted, which sounded more like a sob. "It's the only way to keep him alive. We… won't be able to protect everyone," she said. "I had no choice. He's just… he's my brother and I will probably never see him again. I'm just… a pathetic human with an un-killable hybrid after me, taking the last of my family away from me. But he'll be alive. I won't have to be responsible for killing him like everyone else in my family."

Damon closed the distance between them and cupped her face, his thumb wiping her wet cheeks. She couldn't stop the tears if she wanted too. She hadn't cried in so long, not really. This was the last straw. "We will kill him Elena," he said. "I promise you that. I am not going to let you live your life always afraid. And I will do everything I can to make sure no one else gets hurt. And if I have to hang Stefan by his toes from a tree, I will."

She leaned her forehead against his and sniffled as one of her arms came around his waist. "What would I do without you?" she murmured. She loved touching him, he was hard and soft at the same time, his muscles responded to every one of her touches no matter where they were. She would never allow this kind of contact before, before when her heart belonged to someone else. She had always been loyal and faithful with Stefan, never allowing Damon to push his luck without consequences, but now Stefan was gone. And she mourned him. But something about what was happening with Damon just felt right, an inner calm that she was accepting despite the horror that was dissolving her life.

She felt him sigh, not liking the way his body tensed next to her. "So, Stefan stopped me from killing Klaus because all his hybrids are compelled to kill anyone that brings harm to Klaus," he said taking a step away from her.

For a moment, Elena didn't know what to think. So Stefan had saved his brother. Again. She couldn't blame him, but she would never excuse what he did. Not helping her brother just because he wants Klaus to suffer. She would always hate him for that. "He's still a jackass," she said, folding her arms. "You're his brother, and I get it, and… I'm glad he stopped the you. Otherwise, he's still a monster. I begged him to give Klaus his family back because of Jeremy and Stefan just laughed at me. It's Stefan's fault that my brother is gone."

Damon stared at her, a little taken back at how much her view of Stefan had changed. "I thought he just left. It's been two months, and nothing's happened. Thought he was a dick and just left like usual. And we agreed not to look for him this time. But now, he just shows up with 4 stolen originals like its not a big deal, like he didn't piss off the most dangerous thing to walk around freely. Actually thought something good was going to come out of this and like always baby bro ruined it. You know, I thought for once I wouldn't have to feel guilty," he said with a saddened expression.

"Damon," she whispered. She didn't want him to feel guilty for loving her, for being here with her. They had gotten so much closer since they agreed to let Stefan go, both of them finally ready to test the waters of the friendship. They spent the night together regularly, either he snuck into her room, or he was already here. There was no use to tell him to stop, not when he was a perfect gentleman. Not when she was sleeping better then she ever had since losing her parents.

"No I get it," he muttered. "Brother's girl and all. This isn't anything new to me Elena."

But… she wasn't Stefan's anymore, was she? If he came back tomorrow, begging for forgiveness, what would she do? She was already living without Stefan. The world hadn't ended when he left her, although it sometimes felt like it. "I'm not," she said, more to herself than to Damon. Stefan was free from Klaus's compulsion, and he hadn't wanted to come back to her. And she had been okay with that.

"Not.. What?" he asked carefully as he took a step toward her.

"Stefan's," she said, meeting his eyes. "Not anymore. You said that you would bring him back to me, and… Klaus released his compulsion on Stefan. He was free to come home and he didn't. And you said that you wanted me to remember the things that I felt when he was gone and I did. I did remember Damon and I still feel them now."

"And that means?"

Elena let out a soft breath that was overwhelming her. She had to do this. "It means that I'm never going back to him. Neither of us should feel guilty about… anything. Not anymore," she said. She wasn't sure who made the first move, but the next thing she knew he was kissing her. She was a little shocked that he actually would but her arms came up around his neck, tangling in the soft hair at the base of his neck. Damon growled a little into the kiss, pulling the most guttural moan from Elena that she had ever heard.

"Elena," he whispered, pulling back a little. "You're heart is racing."

She giggled softly. "It usually does around you," she said breathlessly, curling against him. "That was… not something I could ever dream of, that's for sure." Another knock at the door to her room had both their attentions, but she made no effort to move from Damon's arms.

"Jeremy's ready," Ric said. "I'm going to drive him, if you… want to say goodbye or anything."

Elena nodded and slid her hand into Damon's before following Ric downstairs. She felt a tight squeeze around her fingers before Damon left her alone with her brother in the living room. She had Damon's support, she knew she did. Her brother would be safe, her promise to her parents to take care of her brother would be kept.

Damon rubbed his face as he leaned against the counter in the kitchen. His mind was still swirling from kissing Elena, a non death bed kiss. He had no idea what he thought was going to happen when he kissed her, but he didn't imagine that reaction. Usually Elena was so soft and gentle, but what they had shared had been passionate and heated. She matched him in every way, wanted to be close to him and feel everything about him. Just made him fall more in love with her.

"So what is the plan?" Ric asked from beside him, bringing him back to the present. Where Elena was saying goodbye to her brother.

Damon sighed. "I have no idea," he said with a defeated look. "Just keeps getting worse and worse. We always think we're ready for him and when he shows up he takes us by surprise. And all of this is because of Stefan. He's not even around and messing up her life." He ran a hand through his hair. "Think the first thing I'm going to do is… buy Elena a house."

"A house?" Ric asked, with a raised eyebrow. "Don't think you and Elena can do the white picket fence with a dog and two children."

Damon rolled his eyes. "Well it would be a house for you and Elena," Damon clarified. "Where Caroline and I are the only ones invited in. It would be a lot safer then this place. I know its her parents house and everything, but you didn't see her before. Cleaning up the blood. This isn't a healthy place to have to see everyday."

"What do you think she'll say?" Ric asked. "Like you said, its her parents house."

"We're not selling it or anything, but apparently I'm asking her before I make plans." Damon Salvatore never asked permission for anything. If he wanted something he went and he got it. He wanted Elena in a new house where no one was allowed in. But rather then just going and buying one, he was going to ask her. "I'm really going soft." Damon peeked into the living room, seeing the siblings hugging. "I think if we don't do something as soon as possible Elena's going to lose her mind," he said. "Klaus might not kill her, but that doesn't mean she won't get hurt. There's much worse things than killing someone."

Ric sighed. "Alright I shouldn't be gone long," he said, softly.

"Just be careful," Damon said. "If you get a bad feeling call me." The two of them met the teens in the foyer and Damon surveyed the front yard before Ric and Jeremy headed to the car.

Elena's hands were over her mouth as tears slid down her cheeks. "Come on Sweetheart," Damon whispered in her ear, shutting the door. He kissed her hair, taking her to the couch where she sat heavily. After shrugging off his jacket, he sat next to her, hugging her tightly as sobs wracked her body. He ran his fingers through her hair as he whispered stupid nonsense in her ear, using his free hand to tug off her shoes before pulling the blanket from the couch over her shoulders.

It felt like hours before she cried herself to sleep, but it was rather quickly. He hated when she cried. It was the worst thing to hear. Damon kept up the steady rhythm with his fingers, cradling her between his body and the couch, almost shielding her from the world the best he could. She wasn't even a vampire and she was watching everyone she loved being taken away from her. That was the worst thing about living forever, unless you had another vampire by your side, it just wasn't worth it. Losing people you care about over and over would destroy anyone and as much as he loved Elena he didn't want to see her hurt like this. He whispered how much he loved her and rested his head against a cushion. He wouldn't sleep, not like normal. The slightest nose would have him awake. He would never let anything happen to her on his watch.

When the front door opened, Damon's eyes were as well, as Ric arrived home, only an hour after he left. Slowly, Damon laid her down, moving her hair from her cheek, careful not wake her before heading to the kitchen with Ric, pouring them both a drink. "Everything went okay?" he asked.

"He's fine," Ric said, downing the amber liquid in one swallow. "He won't be back. How's she doing?"

"Not as good as she's leading people to believe," Damon said. "We'll just… get some sleep and worry about everything tomorrow." He downed his drink as well before heading back to his girl.

"Damon," Ric said, causing him to pause. "Take care of her."

"I will," he said, nodding and silently approaching the couch. He gently untangled the blanket from her before slowly sliding his arms under her knees and back. She mumbled his name as her head came to his shoulder before he headed upstairs. He stared down at her, frowning at her jeans and blouse. "Sweetheart?" he said, gently setting her on the end of her bed. "Wake up for a minute."

"Hm?" she asked drowsily, her eyes barely cracking open. They were still a little puffy, her face a little flushed.

"You should… change into pajamas," he said, crouching in front of her. She would not appreciate him changing her so early in their very fragile relationship.

"Just throw me anything," she said crawling up her bed, pulling her shirt over her head, revealing a black tank top and slipping under the covers.

Damon chuckled a little and headed to her pajama drawer, pulling out a pair of shorts with monkeys on them. "These are not sexy," he chastised as he handed them to her.

"You're a horrible liar. You think they're awesome," she said, shimmying out of her jeans under the covers before dropping them to the floor and pulling her shorts on. "Is Ric back?"

"Yeah," Damon said, toeing off his boots and sliding next to her. Elena curled up next to him immediately with no comment about him being here. He flicked off the light next to the bed, snuggling into her, inhaling her fruity scent. "I promise I'll fix this Elena."

"You're here with me," she said, tilting her head a little. "That's all that matters." She pressed a soft kiss to his lips before her eyes closed and her head once against found its place on his chest. "And that's all I want."

Damon could have cried. It had been so long since he actually had something he wanted, her sincerity really hitting him like it always did. "That's all I want too Elena," he whispered, allowing his eyes to close as well. For the first time in over a century Damon was at peace, because of a human girl. A human girl that he was hopelessly in love with, who could quite possibly love him back. And he couldn't be happier.