Title: Love's Fool

Summary: Elena made her choice and Damon kept up his end of the deal. He left Mystic Falls more than a year ago and he hasn't looked back since. Now the Original stake has gone missing and suddenly they need him again. But Damon has no intention of playing their whipping boy anymore and this time he has a powerful ally on his side.

Spoilers: Everything through the S3 finale.

Pairings: Delena.

Disclaimer: If I owned Vampire Diaries there would be a lot less of Damon getting left to die heartbroken and alone. As it is, I can only hope to vent my frustration by punishing those characters responsible.

Note: Sorry for the massively long wait on this one guys. I am still getting my brains beat out at work and I just don't have time to write. I haven't given up on the story at all. I can't tell you how long it is going to end up being and I'm positive it will not be finished by the time the show premieres for the new season (which I still haven't decided if I'm watching yet), but I have every intention of finishing it. I hope you can be patient with me. I really appreciate all your support.

Thank you for all your kind reviews. I will reply to them.

Chapter Seventeen

A hiss and a wail brought Elena to instant awareness. She lifted her head from Damon's shoulder and reached out with her senses. "The shades…" she couldn't sense them anymore. She noted absently that the sun had gone down and lowered the lighting in the room. The movie was repeating the menu screen. They'd fallen asleep sometime before the movie was over and several hours must have passed.

"About damn time," Damon's voice was husky with sleep and perhaps still affected by the alcohol they'd consumed. He ran one hand down Elena's back and used the other to push himself into a more upright position.

The affectionate touch made Elena grin. She smothered it when she felt those devastating blue eyes land on her. Although she was hopeful after their earlier kisses, she had no idea how Damon would react now that the moment had passed. Elena tried to brace herself for another possible rejection, but she knew it would hurt if it came. She felt him study her face and fought to keep her expression neutral as she carefully averted her eyes.

Finally Damon cleared his throat. His hand climbed up her back to curl into her hair and tug gently. "Sounds like Judgey got her groove back."

Elena let her grin loose as relief surged through her at his teasing tone. She propped her chin on his shoulder and fought back the impulse to kiss him again in gratitude. She didn't want to push him too far too soon. Damon was letting her back in a little, but she knew that he still didn't trust her yet and she couldn't blame him. She knew she still had her work cut out for her, but this was progress and she couldn't contain her happiness.

Elena attempted to mimic one of his typical expressions and lift one brow. She didn't know how well it worked but he smiled at the attempt. She mock-admonished him. "You know Bonnie always comes through for us, Damon."

Damon made a face. "Oh god, here we go." He mocked her voice. "Let's all get along."

Her grin just widened but before she could reply she felt and heard the arrival of someone in the doorway. "You decided to get drunk?"

Elena winced and pulled guiltily away from Damon. She scooted to the other side of the couch and busied herself straightening her hair and clothes. She didn't even want to think about the picture they presented. Two deadly supernatural manifestations outside in the front yard and they were cuddled up on the couch with a bunch of empty liquor bottles. Yea, they were the essence of mature responsibility.

"Oh, bite me, Steffy," Damon drawled as he pushed himself off the couch and faced his brother. "The house is still standing, we haven't killed each other, and we're both fully clothed. Take your victories where you can get them."

Stefan frowned and looked down. "The shades are gone. Bonnie's potion works."

Caroline appeared beside him beaming a smile. "I just killed Coach Tanner. It was totally awesome!"

Damon smirked at her. "Tell me about it."

Elena groaned and avoided Stefan's gaze as he tried to hit her with the guilt face. She did not have anything to feel guilty about. They had been trapped in this house for hours. Both she and Damon were about to snap. The alcohol helped.

Caroline made a face as his meaning sank in, but then she looked Damon up and down and smiled again. "Oh, yay, and you're still dressed. Thank god!"

Damon nodded at Stefan. "See? She gets it."

Stefan rolled his eyes and looked at Caroline. "They're drunk."

"DAMON!" Caroline growled as she took in the empty bottles on the table. "I bought that tequila!"

"Whatever," Damon said. "If I had any respect for you, Blondie, it died with your dvd collection. Nicholas Sparks? SERIOUSLY?"

Caroline looked offended. "What's wrong with my dvd collection?"

Oh crap. Elena moved back out of Damon's line of sight and shook her head frantically at Caroline.

The blonde shot her a look that said there would be explaining later, but quickly turned back to Damon. "You are replacing the liquor."

Damon pointed a finger at her. "The tequila was Elena's!"

"And we're not drunk," Elena said as she stepped up next to Damon.

"Anymore," Damon added helpfully.

Caroline crossed her arms over her chest. "You two get trashed and I get carpal tunnel. I should have come with you." She frowned at Stefan like it was his fault. "I use to be the party girl, you know? I use to be fun."

Stefan sighed. "You're still fun."

Damon snorted. "That's a lie."

"DAMON!" Elena hissed at him. Now was not the time to antagonize Caroline and Elena could see the irritation mounting in her best friend's eyes.

Damon smirked at her unconcerned. "See? Here we go." But his blue eyes twinkled in a way she hadn't seen in a very very long time. His clothes were rumpled, his hair tousled and messy from sleep, and she could still taste that smirking mouth. Elena giggled with happiness before she could stop herself. The air just felt lighter, her heart felt lighter. Damon winked at her and disappeared out of the room.

Once he was gone, the silence became tense and heavy. Elena could feel Stefan's gaze weighing on her. She winced and forced herself to meet it. Stefan looked sad and disappointed. For a moment she almost let herself get pulled back into the shame and guilt she'd always felt when Stefan caught her enjoying spending time with Damon. Then Elena shook herself. She hadn't done anything wrong. They were broken up and they'd been over for way longer than that. "He's not really drunk," she told Stefan and Caroline instead, "He's putting on. We slept the alcohol off."

Caroline rolled her eyes, but Stefan forced a pained smile. "He's Damon. I guess I should expect this behavior from him."

Caroline bit her lip to hide her smile, but Elena saw red. "Stop it, Stefan! Damon's your brother. Stop trying to make him the bad guy. He's a sarcastic ass, he always has been, but he's your brother and he loves you." Elena sped forward and poked her finger into Stefan's chest. "We spent hours wading through our emotional crap, Stefan. We didn't get drunk and have a party. We were stuck here and there was nothing we could do about it."

Stefan's face twisted and he looked down and away from her. Elena backed off and gave Stefan his space because now his pain appeared more genuine. She wasn't that much of a bitch. She softened her tone. "Damon's riding a high because we're finally getting out of here and he's taking it out on you and Caroline with his own particular brand of humor."

Stefan seemed to pull himself together. He stiffened his spine and pushed himself away from the wall. "I can't control what goes on between you and my brother, Elena," his voice dripped bitterness from every word "obviously I never could. But don't expect me to be happy about it." He turned and left the room before she could respond.

"URGH!" Elena growled in frustration. She didn't know if she was angrier at Stefan for playing the victim card or herself for creating the situation to begin with. Actually, on second thought, she was much angrier with herself. Stefan, like Damon, was just being Stefan. He was who he was. When he was hurt or angry he could guilt you like no one else.

Elena had a flashback to Stefan's reaction when she'd completely walked away from the bunny diet. He'd actually given her a lecture on America's blood shortage. He had a paper detailing a blood drive the Red Cross was holding the next week. He'd gone on and on until finally Elena's now permanently short fuse had run out and she'd threatened to hit the blood drive and compel the workers to hand over all their proceeds. Barring that she'd suggested visiting the local frat houses if that would make him feel better. It worked for Damon. He hadn't spoken to her for two days and then he'd shown up on her front porch with sad green eyes and a forgiving smile. It was the newborn rage.

Caroline grinned at Elena's obvious agitation. "Have I mentioned lately I'm REALLY glad I'm not dating either one of them? Give me Tyler, his deadly teeth, and his bat-shit crazy mother any day of the week."

Elena groaned and stuck her tongue out at Caroline.

The blonde giggled. Then with a determined expression she tossed her curls over her shoulder as she moved forward into the center of the room. She took a hesitant experimental sniff of the air and carefully took in the scene.

Elena crossed her arms over her chest and tilted her head to the side. "NO, we didn't have sex in your house."

Caroline shrugged satisfied. "I dated Damon," she said as explanation, "I know how he deals with boredom." Her eyes landed on the television and she couldn't hold back an incredulous laugh. "Why did you make Damon Salvatore watch 'The Notebook'? I'm surprised he didn't feed himself to the shades."

Elena sped over to stand close to Caroline. She reached out with her senses and caught the sound of Damon's and Stefan's voices arguing in the next room. She hoped he was sufficiently distracted, but she kept her voice at a whisper anyway. "I like 'The Notebook', okay? And I needed something to work with or he was never going to let me in."

Caroline's eyebrows shot up, but she lowered her voice to match. "And what was that crack about my dvd collection? I buy every new movie I find in the five dollar bins, Elena. I own like everything."

Elena knew if she was still human her face would be beet red. She bit her lip and shrugged. "I like 'The Notebook'."

The pieces finally slid together in Caroline's mind and she burst into loud uncontrollable laughter. She pointed at the television and laughed some more. Elena listened guiltily to make sure Damon and Stefan were still bickering away. Caroline stared at her best friend in awe. "You are my hero. I can't believe you conned Damon into watching 'The Notebook' with you to make your move."

"Shhh!" Elena put her finger to her lips and glared at her friend.

Caroline couldn't seem to stop laughing. She did lower her volume though. "Did it work?" she finally managed to gasp out.

Elena couldn't stop the grin that spread across her face and that just set Caroline off all over again. After a moment, Elena shrugged and joined in. It was about time someone beat Damon at the seduction game. The blue-eyed vampire was freaking lethal. A girl had to use whatever tools were at her disposal.

When Elena and Caroline finally made their way into the kitchen some minutes later, Damon and Stefan were still glaring at each other. Damon threw Elena a glance, then continued glaring at his brother. "Jeremy's safe. Katherine and Bonnie are headed to the Lockwoods to check for shades and escort the three stooges back to the boarding house."

"Thank you," Elena said. She looked between them. "Why are you two still fighting?"

Damon made a face. "Because IQ over here fed all the information we have on Liz's suspect to Barbie Klaus."

"What?" Elena gasped in surprise and horror. "Stefan, she'll kill her!"

Stefan frowned at her reaction. "Rebekah's helping us."

"No, Rebekah's covering her own ass," Damon corrected. "She could care less about any of us. She wants that stake, Steffy. That's all she cares about."

"And suddenly you're concerned about the loss of human life?" Stefan bit out. He curled his hands into fists and took a step toward Damon.

Never one to back down, Damon took his own step forward until they were standing nose to nose. "I'm concerned that we need information out of the girl before the Original Bitch kills her in a fit of pique. She's not working alone, Stefan. This is not one witch on a revenge kick. Too much has gone down."

"We have to get to the girl before Rebekah does," Elena said desperately. She didn't want the girl to die. She knew that was crazy if she really was involved in all this, but maybe the situation was somehow still salvageable. The girl had lost her cousin. She hadn't killed anyone yet. There had to be something they could do to fix this.

"Because beating the Originals has worked out so well for us in the past," Damon drawled.

"Damon," Elena pleaded.

He met her eyes briefly, then groaned and reached up to rub his eyes. "Blondie, call your mom and make sure she hasn't released the girl from custody yet. Tell her we're on our way."

Caroline reached into her purse and pulled out her cell phone and several vials Elena assumed were filled with the potion. "Here," she passed the vials to Damon and Elena, "have some zombie-be-gone."

Stefan looked confused at the turn of events. "What do you want us to do?"

Damon shrugged and turned toward the door. "Find Twisted Sister? Make sure Baby Gilbert and his sidekicks make it back to the boarding house in one piece? Think up another way to be a massive pain in my ass? Pick one."

Elena threw Stefan one more disappointed look at his lapse in judgment, then followed after Damon. They had a most-likely hostile, possibly quite dangerous, girl to save.

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