title: to my ghostly devotion

pairing: delena

a/n: I didn't realize until this moment that I hadn't written a one-shot following 3x12, hadn't even thought about it. I guess I've just been busy getting back for the spring semester of college and I couldn't think about writing. But I'm back now and I wanted to write this. Hopefully I give the Vampire Diaries a hint of justice. (: Reviews are always welcome.

Fuck, his jaw hurts.

Damon rubs a calloused hand over the bruised skin of his cheek and winces as it throbs. Stefan's been building up quite a right-handed hook the past few months; that's for sure. He curses under his breath again as his brother's figure slips into the shadows, then a thought occurs to him.


"You deserved it," Stefan answers point-blank, eyes blending into the blackness. The veins sink into his cheeks and he looks venemous.

"Obviously," Damon groans, rubbing his jaw. "Stealing my brother's girl and all. I'm not stupid. I meant -"

"You didn't steal her," Stefan whispers, the fingers of his left hand digging into the wood of the wall adjacent to the stairwell.

Wrapping his hand around his half-finished glass of bourbon, Damon wonders, "And how did I manage to skip over that crucial detail, brother?" He takes a sip and winces as several drops leak down his chin onto his freshly cleaned t-shirt. It's no wonder his laundry is piled up a mile high in the back of the house like some cursed offering.

Stefan takes a step from the shadows into the flickering light of the front room, clearly tempted by the possibility of getting his point across for once. He never learns, Damon thinks, shaking his head and taking another sip.

"Elena belonged to me first," Stefan hisses. "She loved me first and there is always going to be a part of her loyal to me. She'll never fully be yours." Leaning against the wall decorating with crimson swirls, Stefan eyes his brother triumphantly.

Damon shrugs, "Unless you've used compulsion on your beloved, I would think overwise."

"Elena doesn't mean anything to me anymore," Stefan growls in return, instantly throwing his guard back up.

Laughter fills the room as Damon takes a moment to lounge in his brother's stupidity. Then he nurses his second glass of bourbon. Several minutes pass before he chuckles and says, "You contradict yourself, brother. If you weren't still hurting over the fact that she got over your masochistic, Klaus obsessed ass then you would be glad that she's finally beginning to be happy again after you crushed her heart into little pieces." Stefan visibly flinches.

"She'll never love you," Stefan grunts, his eyes flashing as he struggles to regain control.

Damon watches his brother's inward fight for moment before saying simply, "She already does."

"How dare you," Stefan begins, pulling back his arm to land another punch on his brother's face.

Damon takes several much needed steps backwards until he can rest his elbow on the mantle above the fire-pit. From there he gives his little brother a regretful smile and murmers, "I thought you didn't care anymore." His feet trace a path towards the door, fingers curling around the doorknob. "Be careful brother. Your humanity is showing."

A delighted smirk stretches across his lips as he exits the house, leaving Stefan to stew over his words.

It is far too quiet in Elena's bedroom.

Sitting here, perched on the trellis outside of her window, Damon has his ear trained for the sounds she makes when she's asleep. However, all he can make out is the barest hint of sniffs, suggesting that she's been crying.

"Is this becoming a ritual for us?" he asks softly as he slides through the window and lands on the floor beside her bed.

Elena's eyes shoot over to him - bloodshot and aching with their lack of much-needed tears - and Damon slaps a hand over her mouth just in case she gets any ideas to scream. When she just sits there staring at him with that little ache buried in her brown irises, he removes his hand and waits for her to get used to his presence.

"What are you talking about?" she whispers at last, shifting over and leaving a space for him.

Damon kicks off his shoes and rolls into bed beside her, accidentally knocking into her and sending her into a fit of giggles. When they subside, she gives him one of those looks that suggests she actually cares about him and pats his cheek. "What look, Mr. Insomniac?"

"Oh, you know," he starts, smirking in that way he knows affects her, "the ritual where Stefan has a jackass moment, you cry and I come in to save the day." He reaches a hand over, slowly enough that she could pull away if she wanted to, and strokes the thick locks her hair blanketing the pillows.

Elena rolls her eyes, "You missed the step where you punch Stefan for being such a jerk."

Chuckling at the irony of the situation, Damon responds softly, "I think you might have written the plan backwards, sweetheart." She tenses at the nickname; he feels her leg press against his. "My dear brother punched me across the jaw. Would you have any idea why?"

Her face darkens with guilt and her fingers brush his under the covers, sending shock waves up his arm. She really has no idea what she does to him and her constant touches are frustrating. There is a whole host of naughty images those touches suggest and he can't mention one of them to her, because she'd probably go get all offended and teach him a lesson about moral uprightness or something.

"I might have told Stefan that we kissed," Elena mumbles under her breath so fast he barely catches it. Her cheeks flush and those beautiful eyes of hers seek his as though hoping he's not angry with her.

Damon shrugs, and their shoulders brush. "He had to find out sometime," he mutters back to her.

A small smile traces her lips at his words, then fades away, which usually means she's revisiting earlier memories. "He was so upset," Elena whispers, knotting their fingers together - probably without being aware of it. "At - at first he didn't even say anything, but he looked so devastated that it almost made me want to turn my back on everything and make him stop hurting. But I - I couldn't do that, Damon. Not after everything." Her eyes meet his and he knows who everything is. The thought makes his blood boil and he wants to kiss her so badly that it hurts.

"It would have been easy for you to walk away," Damon whispers, shifting closer to her. Her lips seem to part instinctively.

"Not after - not -" Elena breaks off, breath catching in her chest as she seems to realize just how close they are. "But some part of me - it, well - I feel like I'd be betraying him if I ever moved on with -" she cuts off again, flushing deep red. It's the closest she's ever come to admitting her feelings for him and Damon knows just how hard it is for her to get the words out, especially while Stefan is still in the picture.

"You can't love a ghost forever, Elena," Damon breathes in such a way that it has her fingers clenching around his with brutal force.

Tears fill her eyes, dribble down her cheeks. "I know," Elena chokes out, throwing her arms around him in a tight hug. He pulls her close to him, rubbing her back as she cries and giving her the comfort she needs. Stefan was always there to hold her while she cried and she's probably remembering that now, Damon reflects with a little frown.

He kisses her head, wonders when they'll stop going in circles about this.

A moment later, Elena pulls back, cheeks wet with her tears. "I'm sorry," she mutters, wiping at her nose and cheeks while averting her gaze.

"Don't be," Damon says with a little smile, stretching forward before he can help himself and planting the most chaste of kisses against her soft cheek. She purrs against him, her fingers digging into his back a little and some feral part of him wants to take her right now.

It's not the right time, his brain reminds him.

"Sleep well," he whispers into her ear, feeling her shudder against him.

Elena's eyes follow him as he slides back out of her bed and leaps into the night, his shirt a splotched mess.

"I was wondering when you'd return," Stefan croons from his position standing by the fire.

Damon walks slowly towards his brother, a pleasant expression on his face. Then, he rears back and punches his brother right across the face. Stefan stumbles back, nearly into the fire, but manages to catch himself. His face is a mix of fury and shock.

"Why did you do that," Stefan sputters.

Damon stands up as straight as he can and gives his brother a dark look. "Elena told me to punch a jerk. I assumed she meant you." He turns and begins walking towards the stairwell, turning back at the last minute. "Some part of her may love you, but you'll never have her respect again. Good night, brother."

He takes the stairs two at a time, a gleeful little skip to his step.