Author's Note: This chapter is a play off the cozy scene at the end of 03x08, when Damon shows up in Elena's bedroom and instead of tossing him out, she ends up just falling asleep next to him. This fic series starts out with a couple of sweet extra scenes to episodes 03x08 Ordinary People and 3x09 Homecoming, takes a detour into steamy-hot Damon fighting back for what he wants, and then goes fully into an original plotline after 03x12 The Ties that Bind.

Disclaimer: I don't own the Vampire Diaries or any of its characters, dialogue or plot. Warnings for adult language.


I am exactly where I want to be: Elena Gilbert's bed.

"Damon, seriously?"

She comes out of the bathroom and makes a good show of being indignant, but I don't miss the fact that she doesn't even twitch with surprise to see that I've snuck into her room again, even though that used to startle a full scream out of her.

I have good news to share, but mostly I just wanted to see her for a few minutes at the end of a long day. I hadn't been crazy about letting her wrangle with Rebekah without backup. Rebekah practically wears a sign that says "I need a friend!" but she's still an Original. Still a risk.

I wanted to see with my own eyes that Elena made it through that little negotiation unscathed. So after meeting Mikael (who was predictably a jerk) and then cheering myself up by kicking my kid brother's ass, I stopped by the boarding house, shotgunned a few blood bags, and headed straight for the Gilbert house.

I don't normally need so much blood to recover from a night of drinking, but then Mikael is different from most people in that his version of a handshake involves rearranging my internal organs.

Even so, I'm feeling smug, so I give it to her without a drumroll. "We got Mikael."

"What? How?"

"No idea. I guess Katherine came through. The plan's in motion. See, I told you I had it."

I can't resist rubbing it in a little. Even Elena has to admit it's impressive that I got the world's best vampire hunter on our side. Especially considering I am a card-carrying member of the species he has vowed to destroy.

"Go ahead, kick, yell, scream, I know you've been planning your rant all day." She wouldn't yell at me half so often if she knew how cute it was.

She gives me a sharp look, but says, "I'm not going to yell at you."

"Why not? I went behind your back, freed Stefan. And you know what, it backfired. He's an even bigger dick than ever, it's just that now, he's a dick that's on our side."

"I'm not mad, I'm tired. I'm just-, I want to go to bed."

I should go, but I feel like after all the work I put in today, I deserve a little more Elena-time. Especially since she's wearing one of those lacy little tank tops. I deserve a lot of Elena time with her dressed like that.

So I just keep talking and don't budge. "You know, I think Mikael's weapon is a stake because he said something about it."

She's jerking on the covers with half-hearted irritation, but she still bites the lure I'm dangling.

"Then it must have been carved from the white oak tree before they burned it down."

"Then I was right. After all that, the wall led us to Mikael," I say, because obviously no one is going to appreciate my brilliance if I don't lay it all out in bulleted points for them.

Elena gives up on dislodging me and crawls into bed next to me.

She turns to face me, her voice losing its frustrated edge. "It led us to more than that. I think it got Rebekah on our side."

I like the sound of that. "Really? What did you learn from her?"

Elena's got that look of troubled sympathy that tells me she's managed to find something to like about even shallow, vicious Rebekah. Don't get me wrong, Elena's a great ambassador. The problem is that she comes back from every treaty feeling like she's made a new friend. I've been waiting for the 'Klaus really isn't that bad' speech for a while now.

Sure enough, she doesn't disappoint.

"I learned that she's just a girl and she lost her mom too young, and she loves recklessly and blindly even if it consumes her."

I watch her, wondering if she's talking about herself or Rebekah. Other than the girl part, she could just as easily be talking about me or Stef, too. Love will probably destroy Rebekah in the end, since she's chosen to focus it on her psycho brother. I decide not to follow that train of thought to its logical end.

"And when all's said and done, nothing is more important than the bond of family," Elena says softly.

"You should tell my brother that."

Stefan was an ass tonight, pretending he didn't care about Mikael threatening me, even though that act was as transparently fake as Caroline's smile.

Elena smiles a bit at my comment, and then it fades.

I realize too late that I shouldn't have brought up Stefan again. I figure Elena's probably pissed at me for wasting all of her and Ghost Lexie's detox efforts, even if she is too tired to lecture me for it. Not to mention there is more than a fair chance that she'd figure I let Stefan loose so he'd go off on another ripper binge and eliminate himself as my romantic competition.

"I'm not mad at you for letting him out, Damon."

Apparently I hadn't given her enough credit. She seems more weary than annoyed. I like her tone, though. More and more lately, she relies on me. It is fun to scheme and plot, to have something more to play with than my latest snack. It doesn't hurt that my sidekick is so easy on the eyes. I wonder if there is any way I can justify getting her into a little catsuit. Maybe if I tell her it will be easier to fight in than her tight jeans and lacy camisoles.

She reaches over and switches off the lamp. What is this? This should have been the time for her to boot me through the door, not turn off the light and snuggle in closer. I am suddenly grateful for her weak human ears that can't pick up the response of my pulse. I turn toward her, fine with getting the most mileage I can out of this little slumber party.

She doesn't seem to have anything fun in mind though. Her voice is all resignation as she tells me, "I think you're going to be the one to save him from himself. It won't be because he loves me. It'll be because he loves you."

My eyes flicker. Oh really?

"Can I tell you the rest tomorrow?" she asked.

Not 'Get the hell out of my bed?' No tears that Stefan doesn't love her enough to curb his decapitation habit? Maybe the best part is the easy assumption that I'll be around tomorrow and we'll work it out together.

Something in my stomach loosens and relaxes. "Sure," I tell her, my voice soft as a bedtime story.

Her long eyelashes sweep down and I settle my head deeper into her feather pillow. I feel a crazy, masculine surge of pride that I am, if not exactly invited, then at least welcome to stay in her fluffy white bed with its delicate, cherry-print sheets. Her breathing deepens and that fast, she's asleep.

My eyes dilate. I'm strangely turned on by the trust implicit in that act. Silly Elena, falling asleep next to a predator with all her rich blood and soft skin unguarded. Ric's training isn't going to get her anywhere unless she grows a little cynicism. Maybe tomorrow I'll try to instill some.

I am perfectly content to watch her sleep and have a little fantasy that involves the two of us and her being exhausted for a very different reason, but somehow my thoughts drift to Stefan instead.

I frown at the memory of Elena's proclamation. It reeks of giving up, if not on Stefan than at least on her belief in her effect on him. Maybe Stefan sucked some of the Pollyanna out of her when Klaus compelled him to have a taste. Granted, being chased down a dark school hallway is bound to make you feel like prey. And prey probably doesn't sound all that good with 'soulmate.' I feel a squeeze of regret at the image. I shouldn't have let Katherine lure me off, even if I was rightfully pissed at the time.

It is funny in a way, because Katherine is still definitely my type: that delicious doppleganger body piloted with the kind of sexual confidence that always catches my eye. Not to mention that she can find the fun in any situation. Usually at someone else's expense, but still, that girl kept herself entertained through the centuries. She never let being on the run turn her all angsty.

Still, the attraction isn't just faded or twisted into equally passionate hate. It is just flatly gone, like when you look at a corpse of a loved one and you know all the important parts, the parts that held the two of you together, are missing from that body.

Is Elena tired of trying to stay in love with a version of Stefan that has ducked out the back door, or is she just nursing a hurt ego that she can't play savior? Is she giving up on saving him or loving him?

I watch her, wishing I could pluck answers from her head as easily as I could invade her dreams, if I was so inclined. I could, I realize. Compel her to tell me, and then compel her to forget. If she even knows the answers herself.

It doesn't matter, though. She might be tired of him now but if he comes crawling back, weak with squirrel blood and self-hatred, she will Mother Theresa right up.

I roll my eyes in the darkness. What did I do to deserve all the fucking martyrs in my life?

Elena huffs a little sigh and wiggles in her sleep, nestling closer into my side and taking a deep breath. My eyebrows shoot up. If she was a vampire, that little move would be her enjoying my scent. Do humans do that? I can't remember anymore.

I know she wants me here, takes comfort in having me close. Given her failure to toss me out before turning off the light, I'd say she might even admit it soon. If I wake her up with a kiss, I figure it for nearly even odds whether she'd slap me or kiss me back. It might be diverting to roll those dice.

Instead of gambling, I look back at the ceiling. The issue is that I know something that Klaus doesn't know. Stefan and his humanity aren't exactly separate things. Like any good Puritan he spends all his time chasing a standard of morality that has no respect whatsoever for his most innate desires and urges. But his addiction to taking life and his abhorrence of the same act are both essential ingredients to the ink that writes the Saga of Stefan.

Besides, he is still making passionate, misguided love to his bottle of hair gel every morning, so there has to be some hint of original personality left even though the morality switch has been firmly turned to 'Off.'

The other thing about Stefan that is bothering me is about blood.

Drinking blood has a lot of similarities to sex, which is why they go so nicely together. One of those similarities is that it is a completely different act with someone you care about. Love intensifies and makes poignant the gift, sacrifice, or theft of blood. The scent of Elena's un-spilled blood from my current position is intoxicating enough to make my head spin if I pay attention to it. That kind of Vampire Harlequin stuff is just the sort of altar St. Stefan lives to martyr himself upon.

Therefore, it doesn't make sense that after Klaus erased his humanity Ripper Stefan didn't try to have even a nibble of Elena. Sure, he fed when Klaus ordered it but once Klaus left town, Stefan's fangs stayed safely in his mouth. He is still himself, however outwardly changed. Only now his noble impulses are expressed more like…well, more like mine, actually.

He told me in the bar that he wanted to kill Klaus so that he could leave town. If Stefan only wants to leave town, that means he's leaving her for me. Because he knows I'll take care of her whether or not she wants me to. Still, he hasn't mentioned that killing Klaus will also save her, and even I'm not sure if that is still a consideration for him or not.

Of course he also hasn't said he wants to off Klaus so he can kill Elena himself, or even just keep her for a special-occasion blood slave, like a bottle of Dom Perignon you can keep sipping on for years.

The heightened scent of Elena's blood and the fangs pricking my lower lip forcibly remind me that I have an opinion about that scenario, hypothetical though it might be. I reach down and lay a feather-light hand on her hair, the physical reassurance of her safety enough to allow my vampire aspect to recede.

I can respect Stefan's wishes, let him go off to pillage and plunder at will, and possibly I can even get the girl as a bonus if I'm very good. Or I can try to save him and attempt to balance out his bipolar personality again, the way Elena and I briefly managed to last year. Lexie did it a couple of times.

I feel a pang of regret that I killed her. Actually, I liked Lexie even though she'd never gotten fond of me. It's unfortunate that I was in a contrary mood when she was visiting and I'd happened to need a vampire to sacrifice.

This time, if I 12-step Stefan back into his life, I think the guilt might destroy him. He won't just make a religion out of atonement as he has before. This time, I can't imagine him triumphing over the shouting of his guilty little conscience.

The problem is Elena. She is such a perfect fit to Stefan's particular set of neurosis. She makes him want to be a better man, she tempts the hell out of the Ripper, and she makes everyone on earth feel like they're probably not good enough for her.

That means that Stefan will either want to keep living because his death will hurt Elena, or her doe eyes will be a mirror that he can't stand to see himself in and he will finally turn the corner from martyr to fully suicidal.

The ripper isn't something he can dismiss as not his true self because even at his bunny-sipping best, he feels the urge to kill and tear and butcher. I know he does, because I know the siren song of listening to a heart as you drain it to a weaker and weaker beat. The feeling of complete power if you decide to take that last sip and claim the life, the person, as your predator's due. I love it. Stefan, who felt everything too much even before he was a vampire, lives for it.

Either way, even if I could stomach drying him out for long enough to make a difference, I can't yet engineer a result that will convince him to live out the rest of his dull, diary-clutching existence. I leave it for now. Plenty of time for me to think up something clever later.

I should get going. I have a notion to get a pair of racy panties before I leave and drape them on Elena's teddy bear like an outrageous scarf before tucking the bear in next to her. My cock twitches at the thought of choosing a pair. Elena owns a whole drawer full of Victoria's laciest, raciest Secrets. The bear stunt will ensure that she'll get all huffy and indignant when she wakes up in the morning instead of brooding over whatever Vampire History Channel Special Rebekah had revealed last night.

Elena makes a kind of moaning-sigh in her sleep and lays her little hand on my chest. My eyes flare as I look down at it. She does have a way of making a man feel ten feet tall and like he should rescue puppies and open homeless shelters. Definitely wasted on the likes of me. Still, better not to move and wake her up.

I settle deeper into her pillowy comforter and cover her hand with mine. The quiet of the Gilbert house is unexpectedly peaceful. My eyes drift closed and my body relaxes into Elena's bed.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I feel her get up and shuffle sleepily into the bathroom. I left the toilet seat up earlier, not because I'd used it but just to yank her chain. Instead of a shriek I just hear the click as she lowers it. Huh. She must be too asleep to notice or remember that I'm here, and she just blamed Jeremy for leaving it up. Better take off before she comes back and I scare the hell out of her.

I slip reluctantly out of her bed and through her window, jumping silently to the tree branch that is my highway into her private space. Through the open window I hear her come back into the room and pause.

"Damon?" she says. Guess she knew I was there after all.

"Damon?" she asks again, and I don't know if it is my ears or my ego hearing the hint of disappointment in her tone. I drop noiselessly to the ground and disappear into the woods, a smile touching my lips.

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