Here it is. So sorry about the long wait, updates will be quicker from now on. Big thank you to LaylaReyne for betaing.

The Choice

Chapter 6

"Where the hell have you been?"

She remembered nights like these when she'd tried to sneak upstairs until suddenly a small lamp in the living room would light up, revealing Damon sitting in the chair like some creep out of a horror movie, chuckling as she jumped up, startled. After sending him a death glare, she'd walk towards him, carrying her high heels in her arms, her feet aching from wearing them all night. He'd shuffle in his seat so she could plop down into his lap, curling her legs against her chest, resting her ear against his heartbeat. They'd sit there in silence, listening to the wooden floors crackle, watching the sunrise through the window as dawn settled in the early morning. His fingers would run through her curls, his lips pressing occasionally against her forehead, as the songbirds outside announced another peaceful morning.

But nothing about this morning was peaceful. Blue eyes blazing, spread wide open with anger. Lips tightly pressed together, forming a hard line. Muscles flexed, jaw clenched. Fists holding her biceps, leaving red marks on her skin. She'd have told him he was hurting her if she hadn't been nailed to the ground by his rage, rendering her speechless.

"Where were you?" His eyes bored into hers, teeth clenched. "I've been out looking for you all night."

He spat the words at her like they held venom and she felt them seeping into her body through every vein and vessel, sinking to the bottom of her heart, filling the space with guilt. But her heart wasn't the only thing guiding her; in her mind she could still see him walking out the door, his back turned to her, leaving her behind to drown in her own pool of misery. She had talked herself into being strong, the brave girl he taught her to be, someone that was independent; the woman he brought her up to be, the one that could co-exist next to him, that could tear herself away from him to find consolation in another man's arms. That girl, woman, sister and lover was doing the walk of shame for the first time in her life.


"I was out fucking!"

She pulled her arms free as his grip faltered; his eyes widened before they narrowed again, his mouth parting slightly, the hard features in his face fading away. She could see the turmoil in his eyes, the emotions rushing through that ocean of blue like waves; disbelief, shock, disappointment, worry, suspicion, contempt, anger; until he finally settled on one, disgust. Another man, other hands, had touched his girl, wandering down her body, exploring her curves. He was no longer the single soul that had touched the intimate parts of her; they were now covered with another man's sweat.

"I need a shower."

"Yes!" He threw his arms in the air, following her to the bathroom. "Try to wash your sins away."

"There's not enough soap in the world to wash yours away!" She rounded on him, stopping him in his tracks, fists clenched next to her sides. "So don't you dare judge me."

She turned around as he seemed to swallow his next words. A low growl escaped her chest as she heard him stomp behind her on the platform, catching the door of the bathroom mid-swing as she tried to slam it in his face. Instead of arguing with him, she pulled her shirt over her head and ignored the burn of his eyes gliding up and down her skin while she undressed herself, like he was checking if his goods were still intact.

He didn't move out of the room as she got into the shower, instead closing the lid of the toilet and sitting down on it. Elena let the beads of water fall down on her, rinsing away the dirty feeling. It was all she could feel; Tristan's lips on hers, her nipples pressing into his chest, his palms gliding over her bare hips, his hands squeezing her buttocks, his cock inside of her. It had felt so different from all the times with Damon, no emotions involved, no existing friendship or feelings. She was gone in the morning before he woke up. She didn't even feel guilty about it; it hadn't meant anything and that was exactly why her body now felt dishonored.

"Please tell me you used a condom."

"I'm not as much of an idiot as you think I am." She turned her head to him, watching him through the shower glass. "We used a condom, Damon."

"It's we now, is it?" He pushed the shower door open, standing in it. "What's your other half's name?"

"Why do you care?"

"So I know who to sue for alimony when you turn out to be knocked up."

"We used a condom!" She angrily grabbed the bottle of shampoo and squeezed some into her hand. "Besides, I'm on birth control."

"Yes, I know how good you are with birth control." He laughed a hard chuckle, shaking his head. "You'd forget it half of the time if I didn't shove it in your face every morning."

"It was not my idea to get on it," she washed her hair, her fingers digging into her skull. "Remember when I was seventeen and you took me to a gynecologist because you thought I should have a check-up even though I'd never had sex? And then you said I should get on the pill in case it happened with Matt?"

"I read on the internet that every girl should visit a gynecologist when she's about sixteen year's old, just to make sure she's healthy." His eyes went wide, his fist gripping the handle of the door. "I did that for your own good. And by the way, Betty agreed with me."

"You talked with Betty about my vagina?"

"No, I shared that information with you from my own experience with the gynecologist when I talked to him and asked him questions about my period!" He rolled his eyes at her, frustration audible in his voice. "I don't have a vagina. I don't know what to do with it!"

"Save it, Damon. It was just an excuse to get me on birth control," She rubbed her hair between her palms. "So you knew you'd be safe when you fucked me a few months later."

"Hold on for a minute, pissy missy." He pointed his finger at her, cocking his head to the side. "You called me that morning because you wanted me to come back for you and fuck you. Will it hurt Damon? What if he doesn't know what he's doing? What if he doesn't fit inside of me?"

The way he mimicked her tone from that night made her boil on the inside. She squeezed the shampoo bottle in her hand to stop herself from directing her anger at him, keeping her eyes turned away from his so he couldn't see the pain that flashed through them. He was mocking a night she had treasured with heart and soul, one of the most important nights of her life, because she had finally become his; his mark left inside of her, their love concealed, and she wasn't just his sister anymore. And the fact that he was right made her all the more angry. She had called him that morning, knowing exactly how many hours it would take him to get back to her. That didn't mean that she'd ever dared to hope he'd come back to take her to a nice hotel and make them one; that scenario had only existed in her dreams until he'd shown up behind her.

"Why did you even bother to show up?" Elena shook her head at herself, her back to him. "If you regret it so much now then why did you even bother to show up?"

"I never said I regretted it." He lowered the tone of his voice, less angry than seconds ago. "It was bound to happen. I'm just glad you were of age or Miranda would have sued my ass."

"What do you mean?" She spun around, locking her eyes onto his. "It was bound to happen?"


Caroline strode through the door of the bathroom, standing still next to Damon, her eyes red from exhaustion, her usually styled hair pulled up in a messy bun, the make-up from last night smeared over her face. And suddenly she felt guilty because she should have known she wasn't just punishing Damon by staying out all night; she should have known he'd call up everyone he knew to look for her. Now two of the most important people in her life were standing there, exhausted, ready to fall asleep any second, black circles under their eyes, pale faces. Only one of them was supposed to hurt, because he had hurt her; but the other should be in bed now, after a night of comforting her other best friend that had lost the person she was supposed to spend the rest of her life with.

"Where have you been?" Caroline let her arms drop next to her sides. "We've been out looking for you all night. You don't know how worried we were."

"I'm sorry Caroline, I was..."

"She was out, fucking her brains out." Damon turned to glare at her, his arms crossed over his chest. "While we thought she might be upset about Jeremy dying and getting herself into trouble, she was actually having a great time. Jeremy wasn't even on her mind."

Even if she hadn't been standing naked in front of them, she felt completely cut open, her soul served on a platter, squashed like a bowl of mashed potatoes. It was the one thing she had tried to forget about, the action that had gotten her here under this shower, smeared with disgust for herself. It was the only reason why she had gone upstairs with someone she had only met once before, letting him guide her through his living room to the bed to take her clothes off and stand uncovered in front of him. But even in that moment she hadn't felt as naked as she felt now; the pain hadn't been there to remind her of her raw emotions, the sadness, grief and anger that were here now, bared to the people in front of her.



"I'm sorry!"

She pulled a towel from the rack and wound it tightly around her body, watching Stefan sprint back out of the bathroom, covering his eyes so he wouldn't see anything more than he had already seen when he walked in. The only positive thing about the intrusion was that it managed to bring a small smile to Caroline's tired face. Damon, on the other hand, looked back at Stefan and rolled his eyes. Then suddenly, he grabbed the towel and snatched it away from her body, throwing it into the corner of the bathroom.

"Take a peek, Stef." He yelled back to the bedroom, walking towards it. "It's the least she can do for you after you've been out all night looking for her."

While she tried to cover as much of her body as she could with her hands, Caroline walked to the corner and picked the towel up, the lack of speed in her pace another indication of how tired she really was. The normally bubbly and alive girl wasn't bouncing in front of her, she was sauntering, just like Stefan had when he had walked into the bathroom with his eyes on the ground.

"I'm really sorry, Care."

"It's okay." Caroline tried a tight smile, failing miserably. "Just don't do it again, okay?"

"Okay." She nodded dutifully, as Caroline wrapped the towel around her body again. "He really isn't happy with me."

"You freaked him out, Elena." Caroline whispered, tucking the corner of the towel under her arm. "You should have heard him on the phone. He thought you had done something to yourself because of Jeremy."

"I thought alcohol and sex would dull the pain." She stepped out of the shower, shaking her head. "But it seems like it's only made it worse."

"We'll talk about it in the morning." Caroline squeezed her shoulder, managing a smile. "You should get some rest before the funeral."

"What time is it?"

"It's six in the morning."

"What time's the funeral?"


Caroline gave her one last nod and gathered her bag from the floor, closing the door behind her as she stepped out of the bathroom. Elena toweled herself dry and went over to the mirror, leaning her weight against the cabinet, her fists gripping the sides, her eyes boring into her reflection. The emotions were written clearly on her face; grief because the girl in the mirror had just lost her brother, anger because she had caused her friend pain without meaning to, loss because her best friend was pissed off at her for allowing herself to be touched by another man. She had once promised herself that she'd love only one man in her life, she'd love him heart and soul, in body and mind. Now her body had been loved by someone else, her mind had been lost in someone else's thoughts, while only her heart and soul had been true to their owner.

"What are you doing?"

She pushed herself away from the mirror, leaving her own question unanswered. The door squeaked as she tried to open it slowly, a faint light coming in from the kitchen. Her eyes scanned the room, finding Caroline curled up on one couch with a blanket pulled up to her chin, Stefan on the other couch, his feet dangling over the edge, snoring loudly as Caroline mumbled something in her sleep. Then her eyes moved to the bed, seeing Damon stretched out on his side, his back to her, the muscles of his arms flexing as she padded across the wooden floor, indicating he was still awake. She lifted the covers up and slid in, throwing the towel next to the bed, welcoming the warmth that radiated from Damon's body. Her eyes traveled from the top of this raven black hair to his back where the rest of his frame disappeared in the sheets.

"Why are they sleeping on the couch?"

"Because they're too exhausted to go home," He stared off in the distance, not turning around to meet her gaze. "After they were up all night looking for you."

"I know that by now, okay?" She looked from his back to the ceiling. "I know they've been up all night because of me. There's no reason to remind me of it every five minutes."

"Why did you do it Elena?" He shook his head into the pillow. "If you wanted sex, you could have just called me."

"I'm sorry that I made you jealous."

"You really don't get it do you?"

Suddenly his blue eyes were burning into her brown ones, melting her chocolate gaze. The anger glowed in his eyes, his face hard, jaw clenched, just like this morning when she had walked through the door. Never before had she been the focus point of his anger, and it terrified and thrilled her at the same time. She had wanted to make him furious, she had wanted to cause him pain, but now that pain was threatening to come between them, between the bond they had formed since childhood. They'd bickered as kids, argued as teenagers and discussed as twenty-somethings and somehow all of those things were still woven into their relationship. But never before had they fought a silent war where she barely got a word out of him. They fought, they threw things at each other's head and five minutes later one of them would fling themselves in the other's arms, guiding them to bed to reconcile their relationship.

"I thought it would numb the pain." She looked up into his eyes, tears forming in hers. "But it didn't."

"It never does." He turned around on his side again, pulling his eyes away from hers. "It dulls the pain for twenty minutes, an hour if you're lucky, and then it comes back."

"But isn't that why you do it?" She turned on her side, eyes focused on his spine. "To dull the pain?"


"But if it's only for twenty..."

"Feeling nothing for twenty minutes is better than feeling everything all the time."

Broken, fractured, scarred, that's what he was, seeming so strong and confident on the outside but actually fragile at the core. It had been the exact opposite once; he used to have a stronger will than anyone she knew, his strength used to keep her from falling, his confidence had the power to support her. But somewhere between then and now, he got hurt, and the only thing keeping him together was the strength she had for the both of them. She felt his weight on her shoulders while she kept him up, she felt him lean onto her to stay standing, and some days she thought that if she'd pull her soul from his, he'd crumble into a million pieces.

"When will you forgive me?"

"When you figure out why I'm really mad at you."

"So are you going to tell me what's going on between you and Damon?"

"Why would there be something going on?"

"When Damon rides with Stefan instead of us, something is wrong. When you are not practically crawling into Damon's lap when you're crying, something is wrong. When Damon..."

"Yeah, yeah, something is wrong."

The landscape flashed by as she turned her head back to the window, feeling her grandmother's eyes linger on the side of her face. Fifteen minutes ago she had watched a coffin with her brother's body being lowered into the ground, her family and friends around her mourning his passing, and her own tears streaming over her face, no matter how hard she tried to hold them back. She felt like at any moment her limbs would be blown apart, flying away between the green grass, because she didn't have strong arms wrapped around her like Caroline's arms were wrapped around Bonnie or like her father's arms were holding her mother. Her safety net had been standing behind her, his blue eyes burning into the back of her head but that didn't mean he was there to hold her; he was there to say goodbye to his younger brother, just like she was.

"Want to tell me what's wrong?" Betty broke the silence. "You and Damon never fight longer than ten minutes."

"He's just jealous." She whispered, staring out the window of the moving car. "It's okay for him to sleep with every girl in town but when I do it once, all hell breaks loose."

"You slept with someone else?"

"Don't judge me." She turned back to Betty, shaking her head. "Damon and I are not in a relationship. I'm a single woman; I'm allowed to hook-up with someone when I want to."

The judgment drove her mad. This morning Caroline had practically given her the same speech. They didn't believe she'd slept with another man, because they'd figured out long ago that her heart was sold, that it had already found its place with a man. They had watched her suffer through the path of destruction that man was on, standing by her every minute, because they knew she'd never leave him even if he took her down with him on that path.

"I'm not judging you." Betty squeezed her leg, smiling softly. "I'm just...surprised."

"How did you deal with it when you lost Grandpa?" She pressed her lips together, fighting the tears. "I feel like I'm empty and it will never go away."

It was a gaping hole inside of her, leaving her heart a shell of what it used to be. Betty had been through it once and now she was going through it again. She'd never be able to understand the strength her grandmother had within her, it was something unseen, something every woman dreamed of having. Even if her father had once told her that he'd been afraid when his father died that he'd lose his mother too, the concept of it seemed foreign to her. Her grandmother never gave up; she didn't give up when her husband died, she didn't give up when four teenagers were having a food fight in her kitchen and she didn't give up when her grandson was killed in a car accident.

"I thought I was going to die when Frank did. I wanted to." Betty pointed her gaze to the back of her chauffeur's head. "But then I saw how you and Jeremy needed me, and I forced myself to keep on breathing."

"Did you love him so much that you wanted to die when he did?"

"Wouldn't you if it were Damon?"

"It's different between me and Damon."

"Is it?" Betty arched her eyebrow, smiling slightly. "You'd follow him anywhere. That's what you do when you love a man more than yourself, you follow him everywhere he goes."

"You make us sound pathetic." Elena shook her head, turning back to the window. "We're not pathetic."

"You're looking at it the wrong way." Betty squeezed Elena's thigh to pull her attention back. "We let them lead us, but when you look at the course of their lives, you see we were the ones that guided them."

"Damon never listens to a word I say."

"Is that honestly what you think?" Betty leaned forward, trying to lock their gazes. "Damon was destined to go off the rails until you came into his life. He was a lost boy when I met him, and I thought it wouldn't be long until he'd start with the drugs, parties, girls; but then he found you and somehow you kept him on the right track."

"That was you." She swallowed the lump in her throat. "You were the one that raised him."

"I never raised Damon." Betty rolled her eyes, sighing softly. "Nor did I raise you."

"You raised us all, Grandma."

"I had my hands full with Jeremy and Stefan." She shrugged the feelings off her. "We both know I wasn't the one that raised you."

It was crystal clear in her head. Betty breaking her and Jeremy up after they had gotten into yet another fight, pointing the both of them to a corner. Her grandmother serving dinner to the four teenagers around the table, asking them about their day while she had chastised Jeremy for picking his nose. The white covers warming her tiny body as Betty had tucked her in after asking if she'd brushed her teeth, then turning off the night lamp next to her head. A sigh filling the room as she'd wiped out the answer on her math homework for another time, Betty laughing quietly and telling a story about how she used to hate math too.

Those memories were imprinted on Elena's mind, as if they were yesterday. But as Betty's eyes lingered on her, trying to bear the knowledge she had gained over onto her, the surrounding details came into sharper focus. Damon leaning against the wall after Betty had pointed her to her corner, his blue eyes serious, asking her if she knew what she'd done wrong and she'd answered him with a tiny voice, her eyes slipping to Jeremy in the other corner of the room. Betty yelling at Jeremy to go wash his hands after he took his finger out of his snotty nose, while Damon had asked her questions about her subjects at school, knowing all of her teachers by name, remembering all of her tests, asking her if she needed a book from the library or help with studying. Damon glaring at her as she'd put the night lamp back on after Betty left the room, telling her that she was a big girl, she didn't need the light during the night, then his face softening as tears had formed in her eyes; he'd said she could leave the light on if she promised to sleep without her lamp the next night. Damon pulling her attention back to the math home work in front of her as she'd only seemed to concentrate on Jeremy and Stefan who were playing in the yard while Betty set the table; Betty chuckling and starting to tell her a story about how she used to hate math while she'd wiped away her wrong answer next to Damon's finger; him waiting until her grandmother had finished the story to explain the exercise to her again until she'd gotten it right.

"So now we sorted that out..." Betty chuckled darkly, seeing the understanding dawn on her. "Want to tell me about last night?"

"There's nothing to tell." Her mouth pressed into a hard line. "Damon got mad because someone else touched his toy and that's it."

"I don't believe that." Betty sat straighter in her seat, her eyes narrowing. "Walk me through it."

"Damon and I got into a fight, he walked out, I cried myself to sleep, and when I woke up he still wasn't back." She averted her gaze from Betty to the head of the chauffeur. "If I had stayed in that apartment five minutes longer, I'd have killed myself, so to put myself out of my own misery I walked out, got into a bar, ran into Tristan, started talking to him, and things progressed from there."

"So you started talking to Tristan who I guess invited you to his apartment." Betty waggled her eyebrows suggestively. "Then you called Damon and told him whatever you guys tell one another when one is out having fun?"

"I didn't call Damon."

"But you sent him a letter with your cellphone." Betty threw her hands up in the air, searching her mind. "Whatever you kids call it."

"It's called texting." She fumbled with the phone in her hands. "And no, I didn't text him."

"Then how did you tell him where you were?"

"I didn't tell him." She lifted her shoulders, biting her nails. "Why would I tell him when he was the one who walked out on me? Besides, he was doing exactly the same thing."

"Damon was at my place last night." Betty's eyes bored into hers, watching her intensely. "He helped with the funeral arrangements and then went straight home."

Shivers ran down her spine, her breathing quickening, the sole reason why she had ended up in that bar now outweighed. She thought he left her in that emotional state to go out and bury himself in another woman, running away from her, running away from the mess she was because he couldn't deal with it. It was how she had ended up in Tristan's arms, with the thought that if Damon could hide his pain in someone else, she could do the same; she had to do the same to prove she could be as strong as him. But with this new knowledge, she felt as if something tore apart inside her, the rage from last night now gone, regret and shame replacing it.

"Do you know why I never had to worry about you?" Betty took her hand another time, rubbing her knuckles. "Because Damon always knew where you were. I would come home, see Damon and ask him where you were and not once didn't he know the answer."

"What does that have to do with it?"

"Honey, he wasn't mad at you because you slept with someone else..." Betty took a deep breath. "He was mad at you because, for the first time in his life, he didn't know where you were, and it terrified him."

The second Betty's words seeped into her mind, the memories came rushing back to her. Damon pushing her phone into her hands so she could contact him when needed. Her eyes glancing to the school bus and then falling on the light blue Camaro parked along side it as she exited the school building, and then Damon had snuck up behind her and told her he'd drive her home. Damon leaning against the car in front of one her classmates' house, giving her an amused look as he pulled the door open for her and she'd slumped back into the leather seat. Rolling her eyes as she saw her phone light up for the umpteenth time that day, Damon's name flashing on the screen, and his question still the same as when he had called her the first time. Caroline's eyes growing wide on an afternoon when they had ditched class, her head snapping around to meet Damon's gaze in the middle of the mall, and when she had asked him how he knew where she was, he told her he always knew where she was.

"Ready to face the devil and her minions?" Betty pointed her finger through the car window. "I'm sure she's giving everyone a good show in there."

"It's been five years since I've set foot in that house."

"It was your home, Elena."

"No, it wasn't." She turned her head back to her grandmother, gently smiling. "Your house was my home."

Betty gave her hand one last squeeze before the driver opened her door. Elena stepped out and took in the villa in front of her. It was surreal; the last time she walked out of it, she didn't even look back. The warm feeling that washes over most other people when they look back on their childhood home didn't come to her because these walls only held cold memories for her; balls she didn't want to attend, fundraisers where she was forced to play her mother's daughter, dinners she had to smile through, and one particular dinner that separated her from the rest of her family for good. These rooms held her pain and they held Damon's tears from the last night they spent together here, the one and only night here she wanted to remember, filled with love, passion, and joy but still overshadowed by the anger she felt for the people that called it their home.

"Elena." Her mother's scent hit her nostrils before her voice reached her ears. "I have no idea how you can be standing up straight with all the pain you must be feeling."

"You taught me how to act at a very young age."

"I see you're hiding your pain behind a strong facade." Miranda nodded almost sadly. "But you don't have to hide your feelings from me. I'm your mother."

"Please don't offend millions of women on earth by calling yourself a mother."

"Let her go, Miranda."

Betty grabbed her mother's arm as Elena slipped passed her, walking into the foyer of the large villa. People were gathered in the ballroom where pictures of Jeremy were spread everywhere, even some pictures of them together. Her heart clenched painfully as she saw the memories displayed in front of her. Her little brother wasn't here anymore, yet she still expected him to walk up behind her, tap her shoulder and run to the other side of the room, a game he'd been playing since he was a toddler. It was foreign and unreal, it was a concept she couldn't grasp; a big sister should never have to bury her little brother.


"Tristan?" Her voice pitched, her eyes searching the face that had hovered above her the night before. "What are you doing here?"

"I came here to say goodbye to Jeremy." He wet his lips, pointing his gaze to the ground. "And I thought you could use the support."

"That's very thoughtful of you." She whispered, swallowing the lump in her throat. "I appreciate it...thank you."

"Elena, I know this is not the time but I want to talk to you about la..."

"Elena, sweetie." Betty's arm draped around her waist, softly squeezing it. "I wasn't aware that you're familiar with Tristan Miller."

"They tried to set us up once." She smiled tightly, pointing her hand to her grandmother. "Tristan, this is my grandmother, Betty Gilbert."

"It's a pleasure, Miss Gilbert."

"I don't know any of these people." Stefan came up behind her, making her head snap around at the irritation in his voice. "And I'm sure if I don't know them, Jeremy didn't know them either."

She looked around in the haystack made of people, trying to find a familiar face and finding none. New tears welled up in her eyes as she realized this was her mother's stage, her brother's death was the play. It made her want to run out the doors and never turn back, just like she did the last time, with her fingers locked through Damon's, their heads already in the future; wondering what it might bring for them, with just the two of them by each other's side. That prospect had been drifting in and out of their minds for years and then it had finally happened; it was just the two of them, banished from their families but with the only thing they needed right by their side.

"Stefan," she smiled tightly, whispering his name. "Where is he?"

"He's upstairs."

Betty watched her granddaughter excuse herself, tears swimming in her chocolate eyes. The fact that Damon was not by her side made it seem like Elena was only half the person she normally was; one did not operate without the other, their names were never mentioned separately because they had entwined themselves the second they met. Elena was hoping for things that Damon might never be able to give her, while this young man in front of her, Tristan Miller, would give her granddaughter everything she wanted. She knew it. She could see in his eyes, as he watched Elena go up the stairs, that he'd lost his heart, just like her granddaughter had lost her heart years ago. But he didn't love like her granddaughter did; he didn't love like her sixty-nine-year-old-self had once loved.

"You're wasting your time here boy." She watched Stefan quietly excuse himself from the conversation. "You're hoping for things that will never be."

"What do you mean, Miss Gilbert?"

"I mean you're after my granddaughter's heart, and she gave it away a long time ago."

"I don't see a ring around her finger, Miss Gilbert." Tristan straightened his back. "As long as there isn't a ring, her heart is for the taking."

"It's a ring around the heart that matters." Betty looked up into his eyes. "And let me tell you that her heart was stronger than the ring around Damon's fiancee's finger."

"What happened?"

"Miranda tried to separate them. She talked the Salvatores into setting up a marriage between Katherine and Damon." Betty's eyes focused on Miranda, who was still standing by the door. "She just didn't count on Elena."

"I think Elena feels a lot more strongly about Damon than Damon does about her." Tristan lifted his shoulder, his look filled with sorrow. "She's pining after a man that she can't have."

"First, don't you dare think that you know Damon or that Damon doesn't love her as much as she loves him." Betty pointed her finger in his face. "Second, I'm sick of people saying that she's some kind of pathetic love-sick girl. She knows what she wants, and she doesn't settle for another man because she knows it won't be enough for her. I think that makes her a strong woman instead of the weak girl you all take her for."

"Why live with a girl, sleep with her and spend all your time with her if you're not going to marry her?" Tristan sighed in defeat, shrugging. "He's giving her false hope. He's giving her just enough to keep her satisfied but she deserves more."

"Ever since they were kids, Damon is what she needs him to be. When she needed a friend, he was a friend; when she needed a brother, he was her brother; when she needed a father, he was her father. This is what she needs now and he knows it. Yes he gives her just enough to keep her with him because he needs her," Betty took a deep breath, placing a hand over her heart. "But for some reason what he gives her makes her happier than what you or I or anyone else for that matter could ever give her. So I suggest you get that white picket fence out of your head, because those before you that have tried to separate them failed, and you'll fail too. Miranda has been trying for the past five years and she almost succeeded. She thought if she gave Elena enough attention for a few months that she'd have her on her side, but when the time came to choose, Elena remembered all the times she was not there and the times Damon was there. Because let's face it, three months of expensive gifts and spa treatments don't outweigh ten years of absolute loyalty."

"I get that it must have been hard for Elena to choose between her family and a friend."

"No, it was never a choice for her. She knew where her place was; she's known it all along." Betty cleared her throat, fixing her gaze again with Tristan's. "She fell in love with him when she was eight years old, and she fought those feelings for a very long time. When she almost lost him to someone else, she finally stopped hiding them, and once she started showing how much she loved him, it became clear to everyone that no one else could ever love him more than she does."

"She's a good girl. I'm not going to give up on her that easily."

"Let's experiment with this." Betty got a mischievous grin on her face. "Go upstairs in ten minutes and I'll make sure you have Damon alone. You think he doesn't love her, but I'll prove you wrong."

"What do you hope to gain by this?" Tristan pouted his lips together, frowning. "Throwing me in a cage with Damon?"

"He'll tell you to stay the hell away from his girl."

"The last time I woke up in this room you were next to me."

That moment still lived vividly in her mind; one of his arms draped tightly over her waist, the other tucked under his head, having functioned as her pillow that night. Her breasts pressed into his firm chest, her thigh draped over his hip, his length prodding into her flesh every time she moved; it had been since the moment she'd woken up. Legs entangled, bodies flush against one another, hard abs pressing into soft curves; just like they had been all night. Desperate to touch every pore on the other's body, determined to set every nerve on fire, sweat drops mingling between their moving figures, absorbed by the other one's skin, seeping into their flesh; like their hearts had wanted to melt into one another. Fingers curled together, mouths connected, noses rubbing, his hands gripping hers like he'd die if he let her go. There had been no boundaries between them; he was a free man on a mission to give her everything of himself, making her realize how much he'd been holding back their first night, how much he could really give her. And she had been eager to receive it. It was as if the green-eyed monster inside of her was set loose that night, wrapping its arms around him, possessing him as he possessed her; she had claimed him, making a silent promise that he'd never be anyone's else's again but hers.

And five years later, with him sitting there on her bed, his elbows on his knees, his head buried in his hands, his blue eyes directed at the floor, he was still hers. She shared him with other women but that didn't mean if she left, he wouldn't follow, because at some point their lives had become so entwined that living separate ones would be torture. She'd known it as a little girl. The day she met him she knew her last thought before she left this earth would be of him, that he'd bring such a change in her life that there would be no going back from him, that she'd spend her life next to him because not having him there seemed more painful than anything else she could imagine. So she wrapped him up in every form she needed, friend, brother, father, guide, mentor, lover. He was the constant in her life, as much caught up in hers as she was in his, so caught up that one afternoon when they'd been playing hide and seek and she had searched every corner, she'd crumbled to the ground and started crying because she thought she'd never find him again.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you where I was."

"Don't you dare think you'll get off that easily." He lifted his head, blue eyes shimmering, smirk present. "First, you're going to tell me all about last night. Then, I'm going to spank you, and if you scream loud enough, I might consider forgiving you."

"Can't I just give you a blow job like usual?"

"Sure," He smirked devilishly, holding his hand out for her to take. "After I spank you."

She rolled her eyes and took his hand, letting him pull her between his legs and bury his head against her stomach, his arms wrapping around her waist while her fingers ran through his raven hair, enjoying the thick texture. She moved her hands to his shoulders and let them travel over his arms, finding his wrists behind her back to untangle herself. She crawled on top of him, her knees squeezing his waist, guiding his hands to her hips, wrapping her own arms around his neck to pull him tight against her. His body slacked against hers, the weight he'd been carrying falling off his shoulders now that he had her in his arms again. The tension left his body as she gently placed her lips against the crook of his neck, nibbling softly and feeling his head cock to the side to grant her better access. Slowly pecking her way up, she felt his hold on her hips become stronger, his breathing heavier, as she lingered on the spot on his neck that she knew drove him crazy, her tongue making slow sensual circles on his skin. He surrendered with a growl and smashed his lips into hers, pulling her down with him on the bed, her hands landing next to his head against the mattress to hold herself up over his body. His hand clasped around her neck and pulled her down, deepening the kiss, feverishly, hungrily, like he'd never have enough. He reclaimed her, making her mouth his own again after it had been kissed by another man, reinstating his ownership over her body after it had been loved by someone else. When she tried to pull away for air, he resisted and held her mouth against his for two seconds longer, as if telling her it was his and that he'd decide when, where and how long it would be kissed.

"How was he?"

"He was okay." She panted against his open mouth. "It wasn't anything like it is with you and me."

"Of course it wasn't." He rolled his eyes like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Did you have an orgasm?"


"Did you?"


"I thought so." He pecked her mouth, softly biting her bottom lip. "He doesn't know your body like I do."

A shiver ran down her spine as his teeth scraped the inside of her lip, knowing the right place to make her moan out loud, just like he seemed to have found every single spot on her body that made her go crazy, like he knew he'd been made for her, born to complete her. And it was a thought that scared her; he was perfection for her, setting the standard for other men, making every man that tried to get close to her seem less than him. Until last night he'd been the only man to love her, the only one to bare his body to her, share it with her like it belonged as much to her as to him. His body was her heaven, paradise on earth for her; she'd loved it too many times and was loved by it too many times to think that it could have been different; that someone else's body couldn't make her skin tingle like his could, that it didn't fit into her curves like his did, that it didn't move with hers at the same pace, that it didn't feel like one missed day would lead to spontaneous combustion. But then there was a second man and his body didn't fit hers; it seemed like it had been made on another planet, one where bodies didn't melt into one another, where they didn't make each other scream in pleasure, it had been something that in her mind had seemed impossible. Because she had found the other half of her body, she'd touched it, loved it; it had been the only male body she'd ever seen, setting the standard for any other body that followed.

"I want to tell you something," She pushed herself up and rolled off him, staring at the ceiling. "Just don't tell anyone, okay?"

"This is bound to be interesting..." He rolled on his side and pushed himself up on his elbow, noticing her glare. "Okay, I won't tell anyone."

"His penis was like..." She pulled her nose up, frowning. "...ugly."

"I'm circumcised," He fought a smile, staring down at her cute face. "He's probably not and that's why his little John looked different."

"Little Tristan." She locked her eyes with his, blue on brown. "I slept with Tristan Miller."

"Your mom would be so proud, Elena." He chuckled, running his fingers through her hair. "Isn't he here?"

"Yeah, I don't even know why." She shrugged, shaking her head. "It's not like he knew Jeremy."

"I wonder how many people down there really knew Jeremy."

"It feels like he's still here." She whispered, fixing her eyes with his. "It's like if I go downstairs I'll find him talking to Stefan about baseball."

The wishful picture she imagined came to life in Damon's head, a memory that seemed to be on replay; Jeremy and Stefan angrily whispering at each other, their hands flying through the air, their eyes wide as they talked passionately about their teams at one of the fundraisers. He used to think of it as a comical scene, and then at some point it had started to annoy him, the same talk over and over again, just with different scores. Now he wished he could witness that scene again; Stefan's face reddening, Jeremy's eyes threatening to pop out, and Elena watching them with narrowed eyes. He'd snuggle up behind Elena and hug her, knowing it would lighten up her face while Jeremy's would darken, because he thought he didn't count as her brother anymore, that someone had taken his place in her life. Later on, when Jeremy had started to understand the bond between him and Elena, he'd stopped feeling threatened and that was the moment they'd started getting along. Jeremy would come to him for advice, he'd sit down in front of him just to talk or he'd ask to come with him and Stefan to a baseball game. He'd gained a little brother, and by gaining that little brother, he'd gained another life to protect, to care about and to support. It had been his mission in life to be there for his siblings, but now one of them was dead, buried in the ground, and he felt like he had failed. He hadn't been there to keep him out of trouble, he hadn't been there to stop him from getting in that car, and now he had a hole in his life and a stone in the ground with his brother's name carved in it.

"There's no wrong way to mourn someone, Elena." He draped his arm over her waist, pulling her closer. "Take as long as you need, do it the way you want to and don't let anyone tell you that you didn't love him enough or that you're not crying enough because he's gone."

"You were a better big brother to him than I ever was."

"I probably was the better big brother." He kissed her temple, brushing his nose against her ear. "But I'm pretty sure you were the better big sister."

"You're trying to cheer me up." She blinked back her tears, smiling softly. "Stop it."

"Then stop beating yourself up about it."

She took a deep breath and turned on her side, staring at the wall as she felt Damon shuffle behind her, his arm closing around her waist, his chin finding its spot in the crook of her neck. She slipped her fingers between his and let the tears roll over her cheeks while she thought about Jeremy. Her little brother shoveling sand on her new dress as he built a sand castle; his cries waking her up in the middle of the night and the nanny pattering through the corridor to him. Betty holding their hands as they'd walked through the zoo, Jeremy spilling the ice cream they were sharing, she throwing a fit and sitting down on the ground until her grandmother had gotten her a new one. So many childhood memories with one person because they'd only had each other until the Salvatore brothers came along and found a place in their lives. Then those moments of being together were less frequent, the memories more vague, because they were clouded with Damon's presence. Her brother had become the one that filled her time when Damon wasn't there, the one she took to the movies when Damon was out with his friends, the person that had told her he'd kick Matt's ass if he tried to get into her pants at prom.

"You were right this morning," She squeezed his fingers with hers. "When you said I called you because I wanted you to come back, you were right. I wanted it to be you."

"It's okay, I wanted it to be me too." He whispered against her ear, making shivers run down her spine. "The first time you asked me I said no because I thought it was wrong; but then when it was actually going to happen, I didn't want it to be anyone else."

"Why did you think it was wrong?"

"Because you saw me as your brother and as some sort of father-figure."

"If I only saw you as my brother or father, I'd have never asked you."

"That's what I figured out later," He stroked a strand of hair away from her face. "I thought to myself: one day you might not be the only man in her life. Maybe she'll go to someone else for advice, maybe she'll trust someone else; what if she trusts the wrong person?"

"There's never going to be anyone else but you."

"You don't know that," He placed a kiss on her cheek, tracing a pattern with his nose. "There was Katherine..."

"Katherine was just a bump in the road."

"Yeah, it took me a while to figure out it was a plastic one." His eyebrows knitted together, his lips forming a pout. "I'm just saying that I was only a few weeks away from walking down the aisle. Maybe one day you'll actually make it to the altar."

"Even if you had made it to the altar, you wouldn't have married her," She turned around in his embrace, locking their gazes. "Because I had a damn good speech prepared and you would have never gotten to the vows if I had given it to you."

"What did it say?"

"If that idiotic head of yours ever thinks to fall in love again and puts itself in front of an altar with a person that's not me," She gave him a firm look. "Then I'll give it to you."

An amused smile crossed his lips before he opened them to speak but was interrupted by the buzzing in his pants. She rolled her eyes as he took the phone out of his pocket and showed her the caller ID. Her lips found his earlobe as he started talking to Elijah, her tongue tracing the shell of his ear. He softly ran his fingers through her hair as he tucked the phone between his ear and shoulder, his blue eyes sparkling as she softly pecked his lips while he listened to his boss.

"It's Jeremy's wake." Damon shook his head, biting his lip. "I can't go."

"Give me the phone." She took hold of the device and brought it to her ear. "Elijah, I thought we discussed that you can have him on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; today is my day."

"I'll give him a project in New York over the holidays. How does New Year's Eve in NYC sound?" Elijah sighed into the phone. "I need him Elena, we have an emergency. I promise you those two tickets."

"Fine, you can have him." She rolled her eyes, finding Damon's curious gaze. "This isn't even a wake anyway. It's one my mother's performances where she shows us her excellent acting skills."

"I'm sorry about your brother, Elena."

"Thank you." She swallowed the lump in her throat, forcing a smile. "If there are any donuts left after the meeting, give them to Damon, will you?"

"Anything for you my dear."

Once she disconnected the call, she put the phone back in Damon's pocket and leaned over him, finding his eyes boring into hers. With a sigh, she let her lips fall down onto his, pushing softly against his mouth, enjoying his touch. A moan escaped her lips right before the bedroom door opened. She snapped her head around as Damon pushed himself up on his elbows and found Tristan looking at them like they had committed a crime. And for some reason she felt like she had committed a crime, guilt and shame rushed through her veins and she wanted to sink through the floor. Her legs felt wobbly as she stood up, and Damon draped an arm around her waist as he followed her movements. Tristan approached them, clearing his throat.

"Tristan Miller." He extended his hand in Damon's direction, green meeting blue. "I don't believe we've ever been formally introduced."

"Yes, of course, the one with the ugly penis." Damon grabbed his hand, shaking it. "Damon Salvatore, I've heard... things about you."

"Tristan, I'm so..."

"Elena." Betty stood in the door, eyeing them suspiciously. "People are starting to wonder where you are, and I'd rather not explain to them that you're up here having sex with Damon or having a threesome or whatever you kids are doing up here."

"I have to go, I'm sorry." She smiled tightly, glancing at Damon. "I'll walk you to the door?"

"Betty needs you." He gave her a push, smirking. "Just go."


"I won't kill him." He rolled his eyes, cocking his head toward Tristan. "I'm just going to give him the big brother speech."

"Be nice, Stud."

Betty took Elena's arm and dragged her out the door, closing it behind them. Damon's eyes roamed over the boy before him, imagining his hands on Elena's skin, her body writhing beneath him, her fingers running through his red curly hair. Tristan stared back at him, no doubt taking the same inventory of him, with the same images in his head, the same thoughts running through his mind.

"Elena's a nice girl so she won't give it to you straight," Damon broke the lingering silence. "But she's not interested."

"How would you know?"

"Because she hasn't been interested in anyone..." He pretended to look for the word, rolling his eyes. "Ever."

"Anyone besides you." Tristan put his hands in his pockets, staring straight into Damon's eyes. "And you're just playing with her feelings."

"The situation between me and Elena is complicated." He crossed his arms over his chest. "We live together, but we date other people, so don't read something into last night that isn't there. She's not interested in any further encounters with you."

"That's your worst fear, isn't it?" Tristan's eyes narrowed. "That she might be interested in someone besides you."

"Elena is free to do as she pleases." He lifted his shoulders. "I'm not her boyfriend. I'm just here to keep her safe and satisfied."

"Let me tell you something, Damon." Tristan took a step forward, his face only inches away. "You're not giving me the big brother speech. You're giving me the jealous boyfriend speech because you feel threatened."

"Stay away from my girl."

"She deserves better than you."

"I tell her that every day," He started walking to the door, grabbing the handle. "But she refuses to listen."

Tristan's next words died behind the door as Damon slammed it shut and walked into the corridor and down the stairs, finding Elena next to Betty, shaking hands with people that probably didn't even consider her a part of the community anymore. He let his eyes travel over her form, starting at the dull brown eyes, the fake smile, the lazy curls in her silk brown hair, her tight black dress hugging her curves and ending just above her knees. Miranda stood on her other side, placing a hand on Elena's shoulder as she talked to one of the founding members, looking worn and for the first time showing the signs of her age, red eyes plastered on her face. Elena shuddered as she felt her mother's touch, and he wanted to rip that hand away from her like a lion would tear its prey into pieces, the anger rushing through him. Betty saw the tight look on her granddaughter's face and switched places with her, standing tall next to Miranda, shaking the hand of yet another unknown person. Elena's eyes snapped up to his and they seemed to lighten instantly, like the world was a better place if he was just standing in the same room as her. She smiled as she started walking towards him, finding his arms open for her, her tiny frame pressing into his.

"Are you going to be okay?"

"I'll be fine," She snuggled deeper into his embrace, inhaling him. "I have Grandma by my side."

"Okay." He placed a kiss on top of her head, rocking her in his embrace. "Take a taxi or let Betty's driver take you home, don't walk, okay?"

"I know the drill, Daddy." She pecked his lips, rolling her eyes. "Don't worry about me."

"Are you guys heading home?" Stefan walked around the corner. "Care to share a cab?"

"I'm heading to work." Damon let go of her, taking his jacket from the hanger. "But Elena would love to share a cab with you."

"I thought you drove here?" Elena arched her eyebrow at Stefan. "Didn't Damon ride with you?"

"Yeah, but we took his car."

"You let him drive your car?" She pointed her gaze at Damon. "Are you feeling okay?"

"He was depressed all morning because he was fighting with you." Stefan smiled smugly. "His normal jackass behavior kinda slacked."

"Thank you CNN." Damon smacked his brother on the head. "I'm out of here, drop her off on the doorstep."

"Yes captain."

"Ready to go?" Elena watched Damon close the door behind him. "When does the cab arrive?"

"In five minutes," Stefan shrugged, pointing his chin to the kitchen door. "I just have to get my keys and then we can go."

"I'll wait outside for you."


She opened the door and was greeted by a soft breeze that ruffled her hair and sunlight that warmed her skin. Black cars were parked on the driveway, forming some strange serenity outside of all the buzzing that was going on in the villa behind her. One black van was parked in the middle of them, seeming strangely out of place but just idling there as if it had been there forever. The birds sang their songs in the trees, squirrels ran through the bushes, nature greeting her in its own way with its own rhythm. Until suddenly that rhythm was broken. The black van was suddenly close, its metal doors opening, a hand muffling her screams, a bag covering her head and separating her from the landscape she was in.


Thank you for reading, please leave your thoughts in a review!