a/n: Honestly, I bawled when I thought Alaric was going to die. I couldn't help it. And the scene with Damon and Alaric was just so sad. I had to include an interpretation of that scene in this one-shot, because it's not optional. It's just too beautiful to pass up. And, as usual, I have to add something Delena related because I'm frustrated at how much the writers of the show are jerking us around. I get it. I do. But after awhile, it becomes tiring and doesn't make me want to watch the show anymore. But anyways, let me cut my rant short, lol. This is probably corny, but eh. Whatever. Reviews are ever appreciated (:

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{you own me,

with whispers like poetry-

your mouth is a melody I memorize.

oh, dear,

never saw you coming-

oh my,

look what you've done-

you're my favorite song,

always on the tip of my tongue.}

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aphasia

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"But someone kept telling me that it was okay to feel, no matter how much it hurt, that our emotions are what make us human, whether good or bad, and to never lose hope."

Elena looks into his eyes, those beautiful eyes that turn so cold and harsh whenever someone threatens them, and feels herself tear up just a little more. Every time Stefan brings up those days in which he wandered about killing innocent people, she finds herself a little short of breath. Though she knows that her Stefan is back now, sometimes she wonders just how much of the ripper is left within him. He won't bring it up when she's around, almost as if he's scared that he'll chase her away.

"Who gave you that horrible advice?" Elena asks, voice wobbling. She almost folds into him, remembering just in time that she's not allowed to anymore. But she wants to, that's the hard part. She still loves him far too much for her own good.

"Just this girl I used to date," Stefan says with a soft smile.

Elena looks down at their tangled fingers and swallows, caught between happiness and the despair she can't bear to face right now. Just thinking about Alaric lying in the cave with Damon taking his last breaths, when she could have prevented it, should have watched over him more carefully-

"I don't have anyone anymore." Elena tries to keep herself steady, but fails. She feels so incredibly weak as she begins to cry right in front of Stefan, but he only watches her with patient understanding. His fingers cup her cheek tenderly and Elena's breath catches.

"You have me."

Elena clamps her hand tighter around his and allows herself to crumple into him, sobs shaking her body. I'm so sorry, Rick, she thinks, imagining his corpse lying in a tomb, having to press flowers into the earth by his tombstone. Maybe they can bury him beside Jenna. It's where he would have wanted his body to rest. She doesn't know how she and Jeremy are going to get through this, but she'll have to put a brave face on for her brother. It's no use compounding his pain by revealing hers.

Finally, when the tears are beginning to dry on her face, Elena pulls back just far enough to see Stefan's face. He looks intense, the same way he looked so long ago when they made love for the first time. She tries to remember the mechanics behind breathing as his fingers stroke flames across her face and his face descends towards her own.

"Elena," Stefan breathes.

She looks into his golden eyes and suddenly she sees Damon's hands grabbing at any part of her he can reach while crushing his mouth to hers. Something cracks within her. "Stefan," she says guiltily. "No."

"What's wrong?" Stefan asks immediately, worried that he's done something. It's touching, really, and it only makes her feel worse.

Elena wonders how on earth she can break the news to him that she made out with Damon, let alone that she might have actually liked it and hadn't wanted to stop. If Jeremy hadn't barged in on them, how far would things have gone? Two pink spots dot her cheeks.

"I kissed Damon," Elena says, eyes widening immediately after blurting it out.

Stefan's face dims a little. "Denver?"

She nods, waiting for him to blow up. I deserve it, she thinks, for hurting him like this.

Instead, Stefan only sighs and says, "Look, I asked you to explore your feelings for Damon, and that's what you did. That doesn't matter. What matters is that you're here with me." He cups her face and starts to lean in again. She wants to kiss him, so badly. But some subconscious part of her pushes him away again with a groan.

"Stefan," Elena says again. "I can't."

"Why not?" Stefan's fingers explore the paths of her face as though he's trying to soak in every part of her. "I told you that I don't care about you kissing Damon. I'm not mad."

"I can't," Elena repeats feebly, feeling more and more confused by the minute.

"Do you not want to kiss me?" Stefan asks, sounding even more hurt. "Is that it, Elena?"

"No," she answers in exasperation. "I want to kiss you, okay?"

"Then why don't you?" Stefan doesn't try to move this time and for that she is thankful. Releasing his hand, Elena takes a step away.

"I don't know," Elena answers, fingers digging into the sides of her sequined dress. "I just- I-"

"You're the only one standing in your way."

That's the thing. She has absolutely no idea why. When she looks at Stefan, he's everything she's ever wanted and Elena desires nothing more than to pick things back up with him. They'd promised each other forever from the very beginning. Surely one little kiss in Denver isn't enough to keep her from going back to Stefan. It can't be.

"I have to go," Elena hears herself say. She doesn't say where, but it is obvious from the expression on Stefan's face that he knows precisely where she's heading. Flashing him an apologetic glance, Elena adds, "Don't follow me, okay? He'll keep me safe."

She can't bring herself to meet his face again as she walks out of the auditorium.


Damon takes another sip of his drink and watches Alaric struggle to inhale. The man's lips shudder and pain lights his face for a moment, but he finally manages a breath. Watching his friend suffer like this, Damon is very tempted to either force-feed the man blood or at least induce a dream in which Alaric can spend his last moments peacefully, but he knows that isn't really what Alaric wants. Besides, the elder Salvatore brother doesn't think that he has it in him to help another one of his friends dream their way into death. It tends to have a toll on people, not excepting the living dead.

Slurping the last remains from the bottle, Damon sets it down on the floor and looks over at Alaric again. A tear rolls slowly down the face of the older man, streaking towards the edge of his jaw. It sets an ache going and Damon doesn't like the feeling one bit. It only gets worse, watching what one could consider his closest friend slip into unconsciousness with grunts of pain.

He's not used to this. Damon feels disgusted at how hard it is to watch Alaric slowly dying. He's killed so many innocent people and watched the life bleed out of them. That never bothered him. But watching someone that he cares about - disturbingly so - go through something like this just seems like some kind of punishment for all of his past misdeeds.

He really wants to force-feed his drinking partner blood. The urge is so tangible he can nearly touch it.

"I'm sorry," Damon whispers, patting Alaric's shoulder gently. Then he gets up and starts to walk away. Thanks to sleep-walking Witchie with her migraine-inducing powers, he nearly spears himself with a fallen tree branch. But he probably would have deserved it.


Elena is just raising her hand to knock on the front door when footsteps sound from behind her. She whirls, frightened.

"Elena?"

Damon stumbles into view, his normally clean face lined with what looks like dried tear tracks. His clothes are coated in dust and he looks so very sad that it makes her upset just looking at him.

"What's wrong?" Elena asks, reaching out for him. He lurches away from her, frowning as he realizes where he is and takes in her sparkling dress and smeared makeup.

"If you're looking for Stefan, I think he's still back at school," Damon mumbles, heading for the front door. Her tiny hand curling around his shoulder makes Damon stop and he looks back at Elena suspiciously.

"I already saw Stefan."

Ouch. He tries to wipe the annoyance from his face, but she sees it anyways.

"Damon." The sound of his name on Elena's lips sends chills down his spine. "I'm here to see you." She hesitates, wondering how she plans on telling him that the only reason she can't seem to move on with Stefan is because of him. "How is Alaric?"

"Dying," Damon says shortly.

Elena flinches and he regrets snapping at her, but he doesn't really understand why she's here to speak with him. He's already told her that he's tired of playing these pathetic games. "It's not your fault that Ric is dying," Damon adds before she can go blaming herself again. The last thing he needs to do is deal with a hysterical human right now, especially when all he feels like doing himself is breaking apart.

"I don't want him to die," Elena murmers, her eyes shining a little more brightly than usual. His fingers twitch with the impulse to brush the few strands of her hair hanging loose back. He ignores it.

"Me either, but I'm not going to force him to transition."

"I thought you would have," Elena says.

Damon's eyes narrow, "No. You know me better than that."

"Do I?" She sounds so clueless about it, and it irritates him so very much.

"I don't know if you've realized, Elena," Damon sneers, "but I'm kind of lacking in the friend department. One of my closest friends is dying in a cave and the other one is standing in front of me, probably about to tell me about all the illicit things she and my little brother are planning to do tonight. So don't give me that ignorant act. If we didn't care about each other so damn much, you wouldn't be here talking to me right now."

Elena's face goes slack with shock. "You care about me," she echoes slowly.

Damon heads for the front door, leaning against the adjacent wall. He can't look at her as he asks, "Is this how you felt when I killed Jeremy?"

"What do you mean?" Elena asks, moving towards him. She feels bad for him, but Damon wants none of it. He doesn't want her pity, doesn't deserve it.

"I feel so helpless," he says without meaning to, cursing the insatiable ache within him. "I feel like I failed him, Elena. He's one of the only people in the world who saw me at my worst and actually stuck around and now I've cursed him to this." He wipes at his eyes, though they're already dry. "I should have just left him alone. I involved him. This is my fault."

"You're a hypocrite," Elena answers, surprising him. He cocks a weary eyebrow and she smiles sadly at him. "You can't go telling me not to blame myself for Alaric when you're over here taking the weight of the world on your shoulders. Alaric cared about you, Damon. You couldn't have made him stay away. Do you blame yourself for not managing to repel him? Because that's kind of sad." Her smile wavers a little, and he manages to return it, thankful that she actually knows the right things to say. Everyone else just assumes that he's a brute, a monster with no sense of compassion.

He suddenly feels very tired. "Can you just go?" Damon asks, pointing back down the driveway. "I'm not really in the mood for company."

Elena doesn't budge, save for the hand that loops around his and squeezes his fingers comfortingly. He brushes off the way that his skin tingles when it comes in contact with hers. "I need to talk to you," she states confidently.

"Is it that important that it can't wait for, oh, I don't know, never?" Damon wonders a bit irritably. Elena smiles at his owlish humor and takes a step towards him.

"I needed to be sure of something," Elena says, lingering over every word. The way that she looks at him this time sends a delicious burning feeling traveling from his toes to the curve of his hairline. The pad of her thumb swishes over his hand and he knows that she's probably just playing with him but he's too tired to stop and analyze why.

"What's that?" Damon asks, leaning infinitesimally towards her. Elena doesn't back away like she normally does, and he notices the way that her hand begins to tremble within his.

"What would have happened?" Elena wonders quietly. Her cheeks darken and he finds it breathtaking. "That night when - when we kissed in the hallway." She tries to look to the side but he captures her chin with his free hand and makes her look at him. For a minute her eyes skate about but finally she meets his gaze, trembling ever more fiercely as they stare at each other. "Would we have stopped?"

He says nothing, just continues to stare at her and blocks out the rest of the world. It's amazing just how fast she manages to put up a wall hiding her feelings from the rest of the world. She'd been a wreck earlier and Stefan had probably comforted her, but now she's mastered the fake smile, like she actually thinks it will work against him. But what Elena knows and refuses to acknowledge is that Damon knows her so incredibly well. He can see right past the mask and the wall as if they aren't even there, can peer right into her soul. He can see her compassion and her fear, filter through her feelings and thoughts and construct this terribly complex young woman in front of him. She's so, so strong, and Elena doesn't even realize it. It's one reason why he loves her.

"Damon?" Elena calls out his name, breaking him from his thoughts. Her wide eyes, framed by those dark lashes, flash with a memory of that night and her chest heaves. Her hand quivers in his. "Would we have stopped?"

His only answer is to lower his head and press his lips cautiously to hers. It's the gentlest kiss they've ever shared and probably the most ground-breaking. She practically falls apart in his arms and flings her arms around his neck as their kisses deepen, burn with a consuming fire. Damon's own hands are roaming up and down her back, pressing against the sensitive places on her hips and lower stomach. She groans as their tongues touch and Damon leads them back towards the door, his fingers fumbling at the latch. What are they doing? He doesn't know. She's beyond terrified, but she can't seem to stop herself. This is what she wants, what she needs, and it scares her so damn much.

"What are you guys- are you serious?"

Elena jumps and peels herself away from Damon, turning around to look at her brother. For a second she tries to catch her breath.

"I thought you guys were done with this stuff," Jeremy says, shaking his head with disgust. "God, Elena."

"Jer, stop!"

Damon turns away, expecting her to say that she's made a mistake again. It's what she always done and how it's always going to be. He should know that by now.

"Save it, Elena," Jeremy snaps.

"Jeremy," Elena yells, and the lanky young man stops. "You've got to stop this, okay? You don't have a problem with me dating Stefan. So why is this such a big deal?" She gestures between herself and Damon.

Jeremy's face tightens, "Stefan is safer for you."

"I don't know if you've realized, Jer, but they're both vampires." Elena cuts off, reaching out for Damon's hand. She looks horrendously conflicted, but the words spilling from her mouth seem to be the truth. "This doesn't have anything to do with the fact that Stefan and I dated. This is about what I want now. Nobody ever asks me what I want. You all have these expectations for me and I'm sick and tired of trying to fulfill them just to make you all happy!" She swallows, voice softening. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap. I'm just - I -" she takes a deep breath and looks at Damon for a long moment, unable to keep a tiny smile from appearing on her face. "I love him, Jer. Okay? I love him. Can you please just accept that?"

Jeremy doesn't say anything for a long minute. "Just give me some time, okay?" he says finally. Elena rushes over to him and captures him in a tight hug. They embrace for a long moment. When they pull apart, Jeremy says, "Look, I don't mean to interrupt...again." Elena flushes and smacks him across the shoulder. "There's been a problem."

"What?" Elena asks. Damon walks slowly over to them, still stunned by Elena's confession and hoping that it wasn't just a fluke. If she changes her mind after tonight, he's done. He won't be able to hang around Mystic Falls watching the love of his life love his own brother.

Jeremy's face scrunches up again. "Bonnie fed Alaric her blood," he says, watching Elena and Damon stiffen with horror. "He's gone."

Elena reaches for Damon's hand again, almost without thinking about it. It feels right and it makes every particle of her being spark like the beginning of a wildfire. "What are we going to do?" she asks in a subdued tone.

Damon looks at both of them. "It's time to hunt down Ric's psycho alter-ego," he remarks dryly, glancing once more at Elena. "You wouldn't happen to have any stakes lying around, would you Buffy?"