Elena paced the parlor restlessly as Caroline tried to calm her down. But her friend's efforts were futile. She had argued briefly with Stefan about going with him to rescue Damon and while she knew it would be stupid for her to go but she just wanted to see that Damon was okay. Her heart was in her throat as al the worst scenarios ran through her mind. What if Rebekah killed him? Or worse? They had been on more than rocky terms since the ball, and if she was honest with herself, she hadn't done anything to really mend fences. She didn't know what to do. Now with Stefan back, and acting more like himself every day, it just confused her more. She cared about them both, that much wasn't a secret but was she in love with them? Was she just like Katherine?
She could often see the hurt on Stefan's face, even when he claimed to not care, while she got close to Damon. She hadn't done it to hurt Stefan, or to toy with Damon. Stefan had done some pretty horrible things to her the past year; things Damon would never ever do. Damon let her cry and grieve as her heart had broken over Stefan. It had been the worst pain she had ever felt, up until the ball. She had healed from losing Stefan, but she knew it was impossible to get Damon out from under her skin. They were friends, things had been so good with them when Stefan was gone, and she had ruined it all. More than anything she wanted to fix it. She needed him, she didn't need Stefan. Damon was her rock, she counted on him, she trusted him, and after he had left the first time, she never wanted to feel that again. And she couldn't stand to see him with other women, it killed her when he saw her with Rebekah, but she couldn't bring herself to suck it up and admit it to him.
She heard a car door close and ran to the front door and nearly lost the contents of her stomach when she swung the door open. Damon's chest was still dripping blood as Stefan helped him out of the car and she ran down the walk way. All sense of logic flew out of her head as she threw her arms around Damon's neck, hugging him tightly. Her fingers threaded in the hair at the base of his skull as she inhaled his cologne, even though the smell of blood was almost over powering. Her shirt began to dampen as his blood soaked into the fabric, but she barely noticed.
For a moment, Damon just stood there, an arm around Stefan's shoulders before his free hand banded around her back. "I'm fine," he said, softly inhaling the scent of her hair.
"Liar," she mumbled, pulling back not caring she was covered in his blood, but not wanting to hurt him anymore. She moved to his other side and heading inside with the brothers. Her hand curled around his wrist on her shoulder as she stroked his hand lovingly. "I got it from here," she said to Stefan once they reached Damon's room. "We're going to need blood." With a soft groan she took most of Damon's weight and headed to his bathroom, leaving Stefan behind. "You just can't seem to stay out of trouble."
"Look who's talking," he said with a dry chuckle as he tilted his head to eye her carefully. He leaned against the counter with a wince, and her eyes could finally see the extent of the damage to his wrists. "You've been crying."
Elena sighed and turned the taps on in the tub. "Klaus knows where Jeremy is," she said softly. "That's how he tricked Bonnie into breaking the spell." Everything she had done to keep her brother safe, sending him away with no memory of their life here, had been for nothing. Klaus was always one step ahead of them and it didn't seem like they would ever win the battle. Even if they killed Klaus, it could cost Damon and Stefan theirs. She couldn't live with that.
Damon frowned. "Did he hurt him?" he asked.
She shook her head. "No," she whispered, blinking rapidly to try to stop her tears from falling. "Not yet." She knew Jeremy would be safe until Klaus needed leverage for something else. They were going to have to bring him home and sort this out, but she didn't know how. She couldn't keep turning her brother's life upside down over this, but he was in danger. She didn't know how to do anything anymore. Every plan they had kept blowing up in their face, and she really just wanted to give up. Crawl under the covers, hide from the world and pretend none of this was happening.
He slid his arm around her shoulders, kissing her hair. "We'll figure this out," he said.
All she could see was the massacre on his chest as she burst into tears, her hands resting on his hips. "I'm so sorry Damon," she whimpered, shaking her head. "You keep getting hurt because of me and I treat you so bad." He was the one bleeding like a faucet, and the one who had his heart broken every time she opened her mouth, but yet here he was, offering her whatever comfort he could, like he always did. He always put his own feelings aside to take care of her, even when she walked all over him. He didn't deserve this.
"Shhh," he murmured, rocking her a little. "It's in the past."
She sagged with relief as she felt like this huge weight had been lifted from her chest. She would have to spend a lot of time making it up to him, but if they could at least get back on the right track, she would really make an effort. They stood there for a few more minutes, soaking up each other's comfort before she pulled back with a sniffle. "Think you can stand to take a shower?" she asked, running her hand over her face leaving faint smears of blood across her skin.
"Aw you don't want to join me?" he asked with a pout, wiping her tear stained face, that look of concern he always had for her, the eye thing that made her weak in the knees. Her cheek practically burned where his fingers rested, but it was anything but painful.
Despite the situation, she couldn't help but giggle. "You must be feeling better," she said, smiling. "Just take your shower and I'll wait for you in your room." She squeezed his hand comfortingly before heading toward the door. As much as she was happy they were working things out, she wasn't sure how far she was ready to go with it. And showering with him right now made her nervous as hell so if he could do it on his own she preferred it to stay that way for now. Damon's sexual ploys were part of who he was, but the given situation she didn't think he was really serious.
"With clothes?" he called as she left the bathroom.
"For now," she called back coyly. She peeled off her blood soaked shirt with a grimace and nosed through Damon's closet for one of her shirts that she knew was hidden in here. "What the hell Damon?" she mumbled to herself when she could find none of her clothes and finally pulling one of his shirts off the hanger with a pout and changing into it. The summer Stefan had been gone she had been unable to go into his room so some of her stuff had migrated to Damon's closet. But none of those things were in there now. When she came out of his closet, she jumped seeing Stefan in the doorway. "You guys need bells." It simply wasn't fair that they could sneak up on her all the time.
"Is that Damon's shirt?" he asked in a pained voice.
"I don't have any of my own clothes here Stefan," she said, moving around him. She didn't want to do this now, in Damon's room, with Damon listening. It's not like he could help that he had super hearing. And she just didn't want to have a fight with Stefan over this. No matter what she did, she was going to hurt someone and that made her sick to her stomach, but it was unavoidable. Being separated from Damon the last few weeks made her realize how much she did need him and needed to work out her own feelings. "I thought I did."
"Elena we can all see the way that you look at him," he said angrily.
After everything she had gone through to get him back, and he had thrown her feelings in her face, and now all with the jealous boyfriend act. How dare he? She was only wearing Damon's shirt for crying out loud; it's not like they were in the shower together or in bed together or anything like that. "Well it's no one's business," she growled. "Not yours, not anyone else's. So back off." As far as she was concerned this discussion was over, but apparently Stefan wasn't going to let it go. He wanted to have a fight about it, and he obviously wanted to do it with Damon listening.
"You told me you guys were just friends," Stefan said in an accusatory voice.
"That was before Stefan," she said tiredly. And it was the truth. They really had kept their relationship on the friendship level, a few innocent touches, and the kiss, but other than that, nothing had gone on with them. Damon hadn't even tried to get her into bed, not seriously. He always made jokes, but it was part of them, he never meant anything by them. "Don't sit here and give me a lecture when you are the one that walked away. I did everything I could to get you to come home and what did you do? Tried to drive me off the bridge where my parents died and turn me into a vampire. At least Damon only did it to save my life."
"I said I was sorry," he said sadly.
"I know you did," Elena said. "But I wasn't going to sit around and wait for you forever Stefan. You refused to turn your feelings back on and mine changed. There was nothing I could do about that. Damon needed me and I needed him."
"I need you too," he said.
For a moment, she didn't say anything. "That's not fair. You don't have that right anymore," she whispered. "I was here Stefan. You didn't want me. I pushed Damon away, for a long time. I kept him at arm's length because of my feelings for you and you messed it up and you alone. So you don't get to sit here and tell me how much you love me and need me. Not anymore."
"So you fell into bed with my brother?" he flared.
Elena glanced at the bathroom door anxiously. "We didn't sleep together," she said folding her arms. She didn't feel the need to clarify that they had slept in the same bed together, but they hadn't had sex. The night Damon had spent with her after getting Michael she had rolled over in the middle of the night, finding him still next to her, sound asleep. That was probably the first time she started to see their relationship so much differently. "And you don't have the right to yell at me like this. I didn't do anything wrong. Not to you."
"You're just Katherine," he said shaking his head.
"I am not!" she said angrily. "She toyed with you both. She lied about her feelings for Damon, making him think she loved him, causing him to bend over backwards to try to save her. He wasted his whole existence for her, for nothing. I have never ever lied to either of you about how I felt. I was loyal to you Stefan the whole time we were together and for months after you were gone. And when you were gone, all Damon did was try to find you and bring you home to me. He didn't do anything to try to get me into bed or to seduce me or anything that you're thinking. So don't accuse us of something that hasn't happened yet."
"Yeah he must really love you, that's why he sleeps with everything with legs," Stefan grumbled.
"He can sleep with whoever he wants," she said in a tight voice. She didn't want Stefan to see how badly it hurt her that Damon slept with other people and she really didn't want to keep talking about this like Damon wasn't here. She didn't have to justify herself to anyone, not about Damon. It was nobody's business but theirs. "I haven't claimed him yet."
"You can't be serious," he said shaking his head. "You're really going to be with him after everything's that happened? You're just… going to forget about everything that we had and everything he's done? How could you just throw all that away for him?"
"Because I love him!" she yelled before slapping her hand over her mouth and glancing at the bathroom door. "Damon…"
Damon leaned against the door jamb, in clean clothes, his shirt unbuttoned, reminding her like a slap to the face how hurt he had been. The blood was no longer dripping from the cuts that had closed already, but they were still an angry red color. "You're both arguing like I can't hear you in the next room," he said.
Elena felt like she was going to be sick. She had not meant for her feelings to come out like that, in a fight with Stefan. She backed away from them, her eyes wide with fear. "Oh god," she said running from his bedroom and making her way down the stairs. She had intended to run from the house, but a pair of arms wrapped around her and she found Caroline in front of her. "I have to go."
"No," she said softly. "You need to stay. Me and Stefan will go. You can't run from this anymore Elena."
Elena gripped her friend's arms as she shook her head. Her vision blurred as she tried to move from Caroline's iron like grip. She wasn't ready for this. She couldn't face these feelings yet, she wasn't strong enough. "I can't do this Caroline," she moaned. "Please…"
Much more slowly, Damon came down the stairs wincing with almost every step. "Elena."
Tears cascaded out of her eyes once more, leaving wet trails on her olive skin as sobs wracked her frame and she found herself tucked against his chest. She buried her face against him, her hands fisting in his shirt. "I didn't… mean for you to find out like that," she whimpered. "He was yelling at me and accusing me of things that weren't true."
Damon stroked her hair as he pressed a kiss to her temple. "But you did mean it," he said carefully and she nodded against his chest as she sniffled. He gently pushed her back a little, his hands cupping her face, wiping the tears from her cheeks. "Sweetheart…"
Elena forced her swollen eyes open, her body trembling, from nerves or from shock, she didn't know. She tried to blink the tears out of her eyes so she could see, and calm her racing heart. "You need blood," she said lamely. So the world hadn't imploded at her admission of her feelings, which she hadn't even really admitted to herself. She certainly hadn't planned on telling Damon any time soon that she loved him, but now that she had said it, she really did mean it. She really did feel it.
"It can wait," he said, his hand sliding around the back of her neck to bring her lips to his.
Elena sighed against his lips, her body sagging against his as she slid her arms around his neck. She opened her mouth under his, his tongue sweeping against hers, causing her toes to curl. She had to pull back to breathe, but her hands tangled in the hair at the base of his neck, no ounce of space between them. "I'm so sorry it took me so long," she whispered. "There just… never seemed to be a right time for us to… get here."
"I would have waited forever for you Elena," he said, sliding his arm around her shoulders as they headed to the kitchen. "You know that."
"But I didn't," she said shaking her head. "We… I hurt you so bad with what I said, and it seemed like you turned off your feelings. You didn't… want to talk to me or be around me. And I didn't mean it Damon, not the way it came out."
"I know," he said clenching his jaw as he pulled some blood out of the fridge. "I knew that you cared about me, probably even loved me, but you just… couldn't admit it yourself. And you weren't going to if we kept going on like nothing was happening." He heated up two packets of blood before finally turning to face her. "I didn't do it intentionally to hurt you, I just… needed some space from the whole thing."
Elena pulled a first aid kit out from under the sink and gently began wrapping his hands. They would be better in the morning, but she wanted to do something for him. She felt much more at ease around him, no longer moving away from his touch, wanting to have that physical closeness to him. There were jagged cuts all around his wrists and hands, causing her to frown. "You should stop pissing people off," she mumbled. "You can't go a whole month without getting tortured."
Damon chuckled as he drank his blood. "Seems to be my specialty," he said putting his empty cup in the sink. "Klaus compelled me to tell him how many stakes we made. So he knows that Stefan didn't bring them all."
"Great," she said sadly. "We're just… beating our heads against a brick wall." She finished taping both his wrists with a sigh. "Your… friend Sage died. We killed Kol, and everyone from his blood line died shortly after. And Klaus turned Tyler. So we're… stuck." Every plan they came up with blew up in their face, and she really felt like they were back to square one. They couldn't kill him. He was always going to be after her, and she couldn't stand to have the rest to the town take the fall for her running away from him.
"I'm guessing killing wolfboy isn't an option," he mumbled rubbing his face. He would kill Klaus in a heartbeat, the hell with who he turned, if that meant keeping Elena safe. But now that she had admitted she loved him, he really didn't want to do anything to mess that up. "I'm too tired to think about this tonight."
She gently slid her hand into his and gently led him toward the stairs. He was moving much better now that he had eaten, so the trip back up to his room was much better and he collapsed on his bed in exhaustion. Elena unzipped her boots and peeled her shirt over her head, revealing her tank top as she climbed in beside him. "You know you can't kill Tyler," she said softly. "We'll just… have to find something else. Which seems impossible."
Damon turned his head toward her. "It might not be a good idea for you to stay here tonight," he said regretfully. "It's been a very long and very painful night."
She gently pushed a stray piece of hair away from his forehead. "I'm staying," she said. "Don't think you're going to get rid of me."
He smiled and pushed himself up on his elbow to kiss her softly. His arm gently curled around her waist, pulling her against his chest as his face buried itself into her neck. "I'm not going to let anything happen to you Elena," he murmured. "To you or to Jeremy. We'll figure this out. Together."
Her hand curled around his where it rested over her stomach and she brought it up to her chest. "I believe you," she said yawning. "I love you."
He smiled against the column of her neck. "I love you too sweetheart," he said kissing her skin softly.