Damon dropped them off at their house, and when he didn't stay, Elena knew how badly she had messed things up, again. He usually always came in, made sure everything was okay, and then he left. The fact that he didn't want to even be near her now after the trip, broke her heart. She could still feel his lips against hers; still feel the flames of passion that had been consuming her as his lips had left scorching trails down her chest. She had never felt anything like it, and she wanted to feel it always, but as usual her mouth had gotten in the way.

"So we're not going to talk about what happened?" Jeremy asked in annoyance.

Elena sighed as she faced her brother. "What should we talk about?" she asked.

Jeremy raised an eyebrow. "Elena, I just want you to be happy. You've been through a lot, and you've come out stronger then most people. Most people would have crumbled under what you've been put through," he said. "You can make your own choices. Look, I know Damon loves you. The whole freaking knows he loves you and I saw… I know what I saw. I've never seen you kiss Stefan like that. You obviously have feelings for him."

Tears stung her eyes. Her brother was right. She had always held back from Stefan, never wanting to push him too far, never wanting him to feel uncomfortable, and Stefan had never been rough with her, always afraid he was going to hurt her. But Damon… matched her; he would allow her that rough and tumble she so desperately needed. "And if I do, what does that make me Jeremy?" she whispered. "That makes me exactly like Katherine. Falling in love with both brothers, just like she did."

"Katherine didn't love Damon," Jeremy said. "And you are nothing like her, and you should know that. Stefan left. He left Elena. You deserve to have someone who will always choose you. I've never seen Stefan put you before his own selfish needs. How many times did he do something for you for your own good, which led to more secrets and lies and him walking away from you?"

Her tears finally slid out of her eyes down her cheeks. "Damon's done a lot of bad things too Jeremy," she said. Damon had done horrific things to the people around her, but for some reason, she was unable to let him go. She always allowed him back into her life. She had forgiven Stefan too for what he had done, but it wasn't the same. She knew all the parts of Damon because he had always been honest with her. She had survived without Stefan, but she had never been able to remove Damon from her life.

"Then why are you kissing him?" Jeremy asked softly. "If you didn't feel anything for him Elena, you wouldn't have done that. You don't… use people. You wouldn't kiss someone for no reason." He picked up his bag and headed towards the stairs. "You shouldn't think about what everyone else wants. Not Damon, not Stefan, not me."

"Thanks Jeremy," she said, wiping her cheeks. "I'm glad your home."

He smiled a little bit. "Me too."

TVD***TVD***TVD

Elena's stomach tied itself in knots over and over the closer she got the boarding house. Jeremy was right. She had never kissed Stefan the way she had kissed Damon, and she didn't kiss someone for no reason. She wasn't with Stefan anymore, hadn't been for some time. Her feelings had changed, she didn't know what they were, but she knew how to figure it out. If things kept going on the way they were, she was going to lose them both, and she definitely didn't want that. She sighed as she let herself into the boarding house, glancing around nervously.

"Elena," Stefan greeted, coming out of the kitchen. "Didn't know you were home."

"Damon just dropped us off," she said softly. She wanted to see Damon first, he deserved to hear it from her about what was going through her mind, but she had to be honest with Stefan too. Even though he claimed to not feel anything for her, she could see the hurt in Stefan's eyes, knowing that Damon had stepped up to be everything he couldn't. Damon protected her, at all costs, even from Stefan. She felt some guilt for allowing herself to get so close to Damon, but he could make her happy, if she allowed him.

"He's not home yet," Stefan said. "Must have been some trip."

Elena swallowed but took a step toward him. "It was intense," she admitted. "I'm so sorry Stefan. I really, really didn't mean for this to happen. I waited for you, for months. Nothing ever happened to me and Damon other then the kiss. Things just… changed."

"I know," Stefan said sadly. "But at least now you know too Elena."

She cleared her throat. "How's Ric?" she asked.

"Don't ask," Stefan said, heading upstairs, leaving her standing the foyer.

Elena let out a deep breath and prepared to leave. She would have to talk to Damon at another time, but at least she was able to put the hardest part behind her. When she opened the door, her heart skipped a beat seeing Damon coming up the path. "Hi," she said softly.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, tiredly coming up the porch, wincing with each step. Like always he had been put through hell with her, emotionally and physically. "Shouldn't you be… bonding with your brother?"

"I'm… here to see you," she said honestly, tucking her hair behind her ear, revealing the still healing cut on her temple that Damon couldn't help but touch. This time she closed her eyes and leaned into his hand, sighing a little at the much needed closeness. How could she have denied him for so long? "It doesn't hurt that much."

"It's still bleeding," he said with a frown. "You should let me clean it." He guided her inside and she headed upstairs with him, her heart hammering in her rib cage.

She hopped on the counter in his bathroom, as Damon pulled out a bandage and some stuff she knew was going to sting. She bit her lip as he gently swabbed the wound before placing the band aid over it. "Damon," she whispered. Everything about him suffocated her, in a good way. He had this amazing ability to bring this sense of peace over her, calming some of the butterflies in her stomach.

"Hm?" he asked, putting the supplies back in the medicine cabinet.

Hesitantly, she reached out to grasp his hand, lacing their fingers together. "I know that every time I open my mouth, I seem to say something really stupid and hurtful and I'm sorry. I'm not waiting for you to mess anything up, I seem to do that all on my own," she said softly. "But this isn't exactly easy for me." She knew pretty much everything there was to know about Damon Salvatore, well she thought she did, but she knew how badly she was hurting him with not being able to sort out her feelings.

"I know," he said, squeezing her fingers.

"I don't want to be Katherine," she said shaking her head.

His brows creased. "I don't know why you have this ridiculous notion in your head that you are anything like her," he said shaking his head. "She's manipulative, cruel, and hateful. The exact opposite of everything that you are."

"It doesn't feel like that," she said, sliding off the counter to move around him. "How is this okay?" How was it okay that last year she had been so in love with Stefan, so firm that Damon was only a friend? And now, her every waking moment was filled with Damon. Not that sleeping brought any relief, filled with steamy dreams, romantic dreams, and horrifying dreams. Dreams of him being killed, or leaving, or passion filled dreams that left her breathless and craving every inch of him.

Damon followed her back to his room, a thoroughly confused look on his face. "There is nothing wrong with having feelings for someone Elena," he said. "I know you don't want to hurt Stefan."

"I don't want to hurt you either," she whispered rubbing her face. "But that's all I seem to be able to do. And yet you still put up with me."

"I can't turn my feelings off Elena," he said shrugging, like she wasn't ripping him to pieces every day she kept him at arms length. "Not for you. Believe me, I've tried."

"How could this possibly work?" she asked, turning to face him with glistening eyes. "The first time we have a fight, the first bump in the road, then what? We fight all the time Damon, we always manage to hurt each other."

Damon closed the distance between them, his thumb gently rubbing wiping her cheek. "How are you going to know if you don't try?" he asked. "Obviously you want to try, or you wouldn't be standing here. I don't intentionally hurt you Elena, I really don't. We just do it so we don't have to face the reality of the situation. A situation that doesn't include Stefan."

She stared up at him for a long moment, her breathing labored. "I know you're not going to want to hear this," she said sadly. "But… I care about Stefan and I don't… want to make this harder for him than it already is. He knows I have feelings for you I just… don't know what to do."

"I'll refrain from mauling you in front of him," he said carefully. "And…I will probably not tease him."

"Promise?" she asked. "I don't want anymore fighting or... male stuff over me." It would always be a little awkward; she wouldn't want to have a steamy evening with Damon at the boarding house if Stefan was going to be around. But she absolutely did not want them to fight over her anymore. She wanted to be happy and they needed to work together, keep each other safe.

"You know I would do just about anything for you," he said raising an eyebrow as he closed the last bit of distance between them.

"I know that," she said, snuggling into his arms. She inhaled the collar of his shirt deeply allowing her body some much needed relaxing. "You're a good kisser." She could never get enough of touching him, holding him, kissing him. He made her feel so alive, so feminine. He worshiped everything about her and she had no doubt that their first night together would be insane.

Damon chuckled as his arms banded around her waist as he kissed the side of her neck that was exposed from her hoody. "At the risk of putting my foot in my mouth, what changed your mind?" he asked.

"Jeremy," she answered honestly. "I wouldn't have…kissed you if I didn't feel something for you. I wouldn't have… allowed us to get as close as we did the past year if I didn't want it. My brain just says something else." She slid her arms around his neck as she lifted her head. "I'm sorry it took me so long."

"I would have waited forever." He smiled down at her as his lips captured hers a searing kiss. This time there was no one to interrupt them as he lifted her up. Her legs locked around his waist, her hands tangled in his hair as he carried her to his bed. "You're so amazing, you have no idea," he said, supporting his weight on his arms.

Elena's thumb stroked his cheek bone as her lips curved into a smile. She felt so much freer, happier, and lighter. "I wasn't… using you or anything at the hotel Damon," she said softly. "I just want you to know that. I wanted to kiss you and be close to you, I just…I always want that. All the time. I just didn't know how to deal with it and I definitely did not want to have Jeremy see me like that. But I can't deal with it by myself."

"I'm right here Elena and I love with you with everything in me," he said leaning his forehead against hers. "You're all I want. You don't have to label it; you don't have to declare your undying love for me. Just let me be with you and take care of you the way you should be taken care of. The way you deserve to be taken care of."

Tears stung her eyes, but her hands traveled down his chest, gently undoing each one of his buttons. "You deserve that too," she whispered, running her hands over his skin. "You deserved to be loved Damon and one day I'll get there."

"I'll have to do some persuading," he said with a smirk his lips crashing against hers.