Author's Note: This is a sequel to my story "Inevitable." It departed from canon mid-season three, and the main differences are that Elena is human, she picked Damon, Stefan is going around to different meditation retreats and monasteries to try and learn how to live with his blood addiction, but is awkwardly friends with Elena and Damon, Klaus is dead, Ric is not dead. Oh, and Elena once stabbed Klaus through the eyeball with a hypodermic of vervain.

When I was writing "Inevitable," I just kept struggling with how Damon and Elena would actually solve some of the issues facing their relationship and I wasn't satisfied with the "love conquers all" platitude.


Chapter 1: Bree

ELENA POV

"I picked up a new charger for your phone, since we can't find your old one. I left it in my room, for now," I tell Damon.

"Gee thanks, Mrs. Cleaver," Damon mocks. He's cooking dinner. I'm sipping red wine and keeping him company, our usual arrangement.

I roll my eyes and throw an apple at him, and he catches it without even breaking rhythm with the vegetables he's chopping. "You're welcome."

He smirks. "Sometimes I'm just waiting for your dad's ghost to come try and skewer me with a fire poker for playing house with his cheerleading little honor student of a daughter." He waves his chef's knife at the décor. "Especially when I'm in this masterpiece of Pottery Barn suburbia."

"I quit cheerleading. On your advice, actually," I point out. "And my biological father already tried to kill you.

"John?" Damon sneers. "Yeah, meeting him put me down firmly in the 'nurture' column of the genetic debate."

I have to smile at that. He's right, though. Looking over our past, it's hard to believe we ever made it through to the relatively uneventful domestic bliss of the past year. There have been only a handful of hostile vampire and werewolf incidents, and nothing is ever that boring with Damon around, but still. It is weird to think about how different things used to be.

I'd never say this to him, but the last year softened a lot of Damon's sharper edges. He is still bitingly sarcastic, and does exactly as he pleases no matter what anybody else thinks. But the outbursts of chaotic unpredictability appear to be gone for good. It seems like a lifetime ago that I thought I couldn't trust him.

"You remember when you kidnapped me to Georgia?" I lean my elbows on the counter and smile up at Damon.

"I got you drunk and then you beat me at pool and speed shots." He shakes his head. "Humiliating."

" And that bartender, Bree, thought we were dating and told me you were good in the sack," I wiggle my eyebrows at him. "Boy, was she right."

"She also said I was a 'walk away Joe,'" he drawls, slicing bell pepper with smooth efficiency.

I frown. "She wasn't right about that part. You just weren't that serious with her. Once you care about somebody, you don't even know how to stop."

"Steal my leather jacket again and we'll be testing that theory," he warns.

"It smells like you," I say, pressing my lips together into just a hint of a pout.

"Looking cute is not going to work," he says without looking up.

"It works for you," I flirt, trying to distract him just to see if I can.

I can. He puts down the knife and comes around the kitchen island.

"That's because I'm shameless about how I use my looks," he informs me, demonstrating the point by dropping his eyelids to half-mast in the way that makes my brain head straight for the bedroom. Usually followed promptly by my body.

Damon lounges back against the counter, taking me by the hips and pulling me over to him. "Let's compromise."

He dips his head and kisses me with his usual lazy thoroughness until I'm short of breath and I can't remember what we were going to compromise about.

"I smell like me. Wear me instead."

"I love to compromise," I breathe against his mouth.

It takes a while before he gets back to making dinner.

Once he does, I take a sip of wine and look away from him, waiting for my pulse to calm down. I kind of want to jump him, but I'm hungry. If I stop watching him so closely, I might make it until after we eat. Maybe.

I try to remember what we were talking about so I won't think about his body.

Ah, our first roadtrip. My brain flashes a memory of me sitting next to Damon, watching him eat French fries in a way that was both playful and sexier than eating should ever be. I smile. "You were being so sweet to me that day in Georgia, and I didn't trust anything about you."

He scoffs. "You made me promise not to use compulsion on you. As if you would know if I did."

"You didn't."

"I didn't have to. Senor Cuervo took care of all your inhibitions for me."

"Was that the first time you saved my life?" I muse, then frown. "That's terrible of me. I should remember."

"It was the first time you saved mine." He gives me one of his mockingly arrogant smiles. "Even though you didn't like me yet."

"I remember. We should go back there sometime, visit Bree. I bet she'd buy me a beer for getting you to stick around this long," I tease.

His eyes slide sideways off of mine.

"What? I'm sure she's not still mad at you for ditching her. She seemed like she was pretty much over it the last time we saw her, anyway."

"Stefan mailed me a little Buddha statue. You'd think after 146 years, he'd know I don't have a fucking knick knack shelf," he complains, changing the subject.

"Damon, what's wrong? Did something happen to Bree?" As soon as I say it I know what happened to Bree.

He doesn't deny it. I'll give him credit. He never lies about anything he's done. Unfortunately that is frequently because he is not sorry for having done it.

"Damon, why?" I whisper. "With me out in the car?"

His mouth turns down slightly in a way that tells me he is sorry: sorry that I found out.

"She called that guy and told him I was there. He was going to burn me." Damon shrugs. "I don't blame him. I did stake his girl. That's fair. But Bree shouldn't have gotten involved. She deliberately stalled me there so that guy could get his gas can all filled up before he came over."

I pull a bar stool out and sit down. "I liked Bree."

I can't really process this new revelation. Damon is so different now, more cheerful, less dark. It's hard to remember how volatile he used to be. Well, I mean he's still volatile, but when he's upset he doesn't kill people.

"You didn't have to hurt her. I talked that guy into sparing you."

"I do a lot of things I don't have to do, Elena."

He drops bell peppers into a pan with just a drizzle of olive oil, as if we aren't talking about him murdering his ex-lover.

"Besides, I could have taken that guy. I was just stalling until my femur healed enough that I could stand. If you stay down and groan for a minute or two, people usually slip up and you get an easy shot at them. Remember that. You could play it off pretty well sometime with those big brown eyes."

He starts peeling an onion.

"Damon, you can't kill people whenever you want to, just because they made you angry."

"Actually, I can and I did, but I haven't done it lately, so can we drop it?" His face is moving through too many expressions in succession, each one sarcastic or mocking. He gets twitchy when he's challenged or when he knows I'm mad at him.

It's a fine line. I know if I push too hard, he'll do exactly the thing I don't want him to. It's really frustrating, and it was Bonnie who finally clued me in that it was his way of testing my love. Thank God it hasn't happened in a really big way since we started dating. Not in a murder way, anyway.

I know it's in the past, but my gut tells me that the past can easily become the present. Damon still doesn't see anything wrong with knocking off a person here or there if he feels like it. He just hasn't been in the mood lately, I guess.

There's a lump in my throat because I can remember Bree's face, how tall she was. How nice and attentive Damon was to me that day. I wonder how he killed her, and decide I really don't want to know.

My fingers are twisting together anxiously. Damon's still cooking as if this is a normal weeknight. What he did to Bree was wrong, but how can I be true to my beliefs without making this into a huge fight that I'm not sure I can win? How can I love him if he just…kills people?

"You don't think that's wrong?" I venture.

Damon sighs very heavily. "Could you just call the Monk and get him to lecture me for you? Please?"

"I'm not trying to lecture, Damon. I'm trying to understand," I say, ignoring his new nickname for Stefan, even though I'm not fond of it.

"I do things that I decide I want to do," he tells me brusquely. "Sometimes I choose a little too quickly, but overall, I do what I decide to do. If that's the same as how you decide what the 'right' thing to do is, then no, I don't think killing Bree was wrong. Yeah, we had a history. Yeah, she shot that dog when she chose to become an accessory to my murder."

He eyes the skillet and looks mildly disappointed. "You're not going to be hungry, now, are you?"

"Haven't you murdered other people, though?" My voice is smaller than I want it to be. "People that didn't try to kill you?"

Damon props his forearms on the counter and leans down to my eye level, looking at me for the first time since I brought this up.

"Elena, do you really want to do this? I've been alive a long, long time. For a lot of that time, I didn't let myself feel too much. I was in mourning for Katherine for way longer than that bitch deserved. I did a lot of things. Probably you don't want to know about most of them."

"I just-," my eyebrows draw down in consternation. "I love everything about you. I like learning new little corners of you because that is just more that I know about you, more I love about who you are. I have a hard time figuring out where that fits into the rest of you. How I can love that part."

I see the doubt flash through his eyes, chased by hurt, and then his eyes go cold. Shoot, that didn't come out right.

"Maybe it doesn't fit," Damon says roughly. "I'm not a puzzle, Elena, I'm a person. I just am, whether or not that makes sense to you. Some parts don't necessarily agree with other parts. If that was required, Stefan would…well, Stefan would just spontaneously combust because he couldn't exist with the laws of nature."

He gestures at me.

"You're no better. Well, you're better, but your parts are mismatched too. You're as gentle as a lamb, but I know for a fact you shotgunned-whipped a dude, you stabbed Ric in the chest, you daggered Rebekah. We won't even talk about what you did to Klaus." He nods once. "Although it was really cool."

"I get that. People aren't totally consistent," I concede.

I consider what I want to say next. This one's risky, but it might make my point. I feel a flutter in my throat before I say it, because if I'm wrong I am really going to regret asking. But no, I know Damon. I do. That's why the murder thing throws me off. I know he did it, he admits to doing it, but it doesn't fully make sense to me why even now he doesn't see that it is wrong.

"Have you ever raped anyone?" I ask.

His head jerks back as if I'd slapped him and his eyes flare with anger. "Jesus, Elena! What the fuck?"

I feel bad for saying it, but I'm relieved at his reaction. I do know him, know what lives at the core of him behind the callous façade, beneath the impulsiveness.

"Have you?" I say, standing my ground now that I know I can make my point.

"No," he spits it at me. He turns on his heel and walks out. "Fuck this. I don't need this."

He makes it halfway across the living room before he stops. "No. No!"

I stand up, waiting for him to come back.

He stalks right up to me and points his finger in my face. "You. How can you say that to me?"

I grab his hand and squeeze it before I let it go, to remind him that I'm on his side. "I didn't think you had, Damon. I said it to make a point."

"What point?" he asks, incredulous. "What point can you possibly be making by asking me that?"

"Because you hate rape, Damon. It's one of the only things that you consistently think is just plain wrong. You say you have no morality, that that stuff doesn't interest you, but you have to admit it. You must have something, or you'd just rape whoever you want. Psychologists say it's about power and domination, after all. You like those things. I've heard you say that the power is what you like about killing. You like the rush of making the choice of whether to take a person out of the equation, out of the world."

"Rape isn't about power, it's about being a total dick! Hurting a woman, screwing her head up like that about sex, just because you want some and can't get it?" He shakes his head violently. "Not the same, Elena. Don't try to analyze things you have no understanding of."

"You hurt women when you bite them," I say staunchly. "You hurt them when you kill them. Rape is wrong because you do it to them against their will, but you do all those other things to them against their will. You compel them to let you bite them because you want blood and you can't get it any other way. If they remembered it happened, it would probably mess with their heads, too."

"Gah!" Damon makes an inarticulate sound of frustration, rubbing both of his hands hard in his hair. He points at me again. "You better remember when this is over, that I truly, deeply, did not want to explain this shit to you?"

I nod, working really hard to stay calm for him.

He closes his eyes and stretches his neck tightly to one side, then brings it back center. His lips are pressed together in a hard line.

"First, do I hurt you when I bite you?"

I blush. I still found it pretty embarrassing that I liked it when he fed on me.

If he didn't use his blood to close the wounds, I would be mortified about the bite marks I loved for him to leave on me. I didn't want anyone to see them, but I wanted them to be there. If we were staying in for the day alone I would talk him into letting me keep the bites unhealed. It was pretty un-feminist of me, but I liked the claiming of it, the possession.

I clear my throat and try to remember that I'm having an adult discussion about our relationship, because thinking about the bites makes me think about sex, and that's not what we need to be doing right now.

"No. You know you don't hurt me," I re-assure him.

His eyes soften marginally at my reaction.

"It doesn't have to be painful, Elena. It's mostly the adrenaline that makes it scary, but you can be as rough or as gentle about it as you want. I think there's something else, some kind of alchemical reaction to whether or not they want to do it. It seems like the more willing they are to give their blood, the more pleasure they take from it. Maybe that's just self-fulfilling on their part, I don't really know. I know it is better when you have feelings for someone," he says and shrugs, looking away.

"My point is that usually people, women especially, like it when I feed on them. If I am short of time and need to compel them, I do it to take their fear away because then it doesn't hurt. You're right, though. It probably does mess with their heads." He holds out his hands palms up and gives me one of his artificial, surface-only smiles. "Before I moved back here, I seduced women into wanting to share their blood with me, no compulsion necessary. But that takes a lot of time. And I doubt you really want to hear that."

"I'd rather you did that than compel them. Or worse," I say, swallowing hard.

He looks annoyed, but he doesn't leave. Instead he goes and sits down in the living room. I follow him, perching on the arm of the couch. "Any chance you'll let this go?" he asks hopefully.

I shake my head firmly. This has been bothering me for a long time. Since I met him, if I wanted to be honest about it. Even when he first got here, I never really believed he was that guy, no matter how much he played the part.

Damon pulls at a loose thread on his jeans, frowning. He should frown. Those probably cost more than the couch I'm sitting on. His next words wipe this thought clean out of my mind.

"I killed a fourteen-year-old boy once," he says.

His tone is more thoughtful than usual, so I bite my tongue. Hard. And let him continue.

His long-lashed eyes flicker back up to mine. "In the War Between the States. You were supposed to be sixteen to enlist, but he was way younger than that. People lied about their ages all the time. No driver's licenses. I stabbed him through the chest with my bayonet. I didn't really get a taste for killing as a human," he says without inflection. Like he's telling me I spilled something on my shoe.

"My attitude toward killing didn't really change until I had transitioned and seen a couple generations of humans come and go." He flares his eyes at me sarcastically. "It's not all cocky-vampire-playing-God like you think it is."

I don't answer.

He rolls his eyes and his voice is cruelly mocking, which is how I know this hurts him. "I'm not all 'sociopath' like you think I am either. It's just time. You don't get it. You're nineteen."

"I'm pretty sure I understood murder was wrong before I got into junior high, Damon," I say impatiently.

"No, you've got it backwards. It's time passing, Elena. Time, and people, passing. You know, mice are probably cute, when you see the first one. All fuzzy, with floppy widdle ears," he taunts. "But fill the street with them and they're not cute anymore. Have them swarming everywhere and they are just a numerical, faceless nuisance. You don't want to hear this, but humans are the same way. I've known a LOT of humans. A lot. The ones that are interesting or special are pretty few and far between." He looks at me with slightly narrowed eyes.

It's rare that I feel our age difference. Usually, I feel like I'm the older one, but Damon's face looks his age right now. Without the wrinkles, anyway.

"You just think they're each unique and special little individuals because you haven't known that many. Wait a while. You'll meet somebody who reminds you of Bonnie. Then another. And another. After a while everybody you meet will seem like lesser versions of people you used to know."

He smirks half-heartedly. "Imagine Caroline Lite. Yikes. Of course, then the imitations of the people you used to know die, and their imitations die and it gets pretty hard to give a enough of a shit to try to learn their names anymore."

I shiver. This is the first time I've felt a pang of maybe wanting to be a vampire. I didn't want to fade into namelessness like all those people. Fade out of Damon's memory, especially. I don't like the idea of him going on unchanged after my death.

He gets up and pours himself a drink, having re-created his tray of decanters at my house. I bought him one with a fancy scrollworked "D" on it, and that's the one he keeps his favorite bourbon in. That's the one he goes for now, along with one of the clean glasses he keeps on the tray next to the decanters. He comes back to sit next to me on the couch.

"People are mostly unjustifiably in love with themselves and a few other traits in various combinations. That's part of why I was so depressed when the whole Katherine thing didn't pan out." He tips his glass at me. "I'd seen enough to know that the odds were good, but the goods were odd. And say what you will about Katherine, she isn't boring."

I sincerely hate how much what he's saying makes sense.

"But you still don't have the right to kill people, even if you think they aren't unique or interesting," I say, trying to salvage my argument.

"They die so I can live," Damon says wearily. "World without end, that is nature, Elena. Like it or hate it, watch the Discovery Channel. That's the way it is."

"That's not right. Not necessary."

"Oh yeah?" he asks, raising an eyebrow. "You eat meat. If you got to know each and every cow, made friends with them, you'd probably like them enough you wouldn't want them to die. But you don't get to know the cow. You just keep going to the grocery store." He takes a drink of bourbon and holds it on his tongue.

"You know what sucks, Damon?"

"This conversation?"

"Yeah, actually. Because you have a point. I really get your argument. And I'm not convinced. I still think it's wrong."

He slams down his glass and jolts to his feet. I try not to flinch away, but it's hard.

When he lets his bottomless intensity out through his eyes it feels like they can burn through you like a blowtorch through thin paper. Whether it is love or anger, he's got more of it than he can hold.

"Why don't you just say it, Elena? Why don't you say what you really mean?" His face is right in mine and I am giving way before him, leaning back from the onslaught.

"What?"

"I'm wrong. I am what you think is immoral, fucked up. That's what you've always thought."

He straightens and sneers down at me with a distance in his face that I haven't seen in a long time. "I thought when you chose to be with me instead of Stefan that you'd started to change your mind a little bit, but you didn't, did you? You were just slumming it."

His eyes flare dangerously and he sweeps a hand down, roughly indicating his body. "I hope you enjoyed being naughty and playing with the bad boy, Elena." He takes a step back. "Cause you've gotten everything you're going to get from me. I'm done with this shit."

Two strides.

Two strides is the difference between him being in my life and being out of it, the door slamming so hard that I'm surprised it doesn't crack the frame of the house apart.


Author's Note: Please leave me a note and let me know what you thought of the chapter- sorry it ended so dark, but I didn't feel right about rushing the resolution. They need to find a way to work through this if they're going to be together, but I will spoiler a little bit and promise a happy ending!