This should be placed at the end of episode 4x04, The Five. It's another naughty one shot that attempts to continue the Stefan and Elena porch scene. However, this one is a little naughtier than my pervious four one shots. Hence…the mature rating. ;)

I don't own Stefan Salvatore, Elena Gilbert or the world of The Vampire Diaries. That good fortune belongs to Warner Brothers. I'm just barrowing them for a short while.

I also wanted to add my thanks to all those who have read this. This is the highest number of hits I've ever gotten for one of my one shots, and in the shortest amount of time, with several of you returning for a second look. Thank you very much for taking the time to read my story!

Holding On

by

C7

He bent down, her legs sweeping out from under her as he picked her up and pulled her close. Automatically, Elena slid her arms around Stefan's neck and rested her head on his shoulder. She hugged him tightly, relishing the contact, the feel of him, his strength. He placed a light kiss on the top of her head before opening the front door and walking across the threshold. The door banged shut behind them as he began to ascend the stairs to the second floor of the Gilbert home.

Elena's tears stopped as she snuggled closer to Stefan, a soothing peace beginning to dull the unbearable hopelessness that had overwhelmed her. A subtle current of awareness arced along her skin as she savored the security his embrace offered. There was no safer place in all the world. And once again she marveled at the steadying influence he had over her, a familiar calm settling her chaotic thoughts, Stefan's gentle support breaking through the fear, the sorrow.

She wanted to believe him when he told her that she would survive this horrific ordeal. She did believe him. Or...perhaps it was more a case of believing in him. Because there was no one she had more faith in than Stefan. His strength was her strength, his unyielding determination her foundation. His steadfast love. His unending compassion. His remarkable understanding. If she was to make it through the struggle that undoubtedly lay before her, it would be with Stefan by her side.

'You're the one who's getting me through this.'

She'd meant the words when she'd said them, but at this moment the stark reality of the statement rang more true than she ever could have imagined.

Stefan had the uncanny ability to keep her grounded, to help her hold on to her true self even as she felt it slipping through her fingers. With his unshakable encouragement and faith, she found it easier to maintain a grip on her humanity. Actually, with him, there was hardly any struggle at all. No, it was natural...nearly effortless the way his mere presence fortified the grasp she had on her human self. It really was quite extraordinary.

I love you so much.

Stefan reached the top of the stairs and made his way to Elena's bedroom. She lifted her head as he opened the door. Entering the room, he walked over to the side of the bed and lowered her feet to the floor. More than a little reluctant to relinquish their closeness, Elena kept her arms wrapped around Stefan's neck as she looked up into his precious face, the unconditional love reflected in his mossy eyes a soothing balm for her troubled soul.

The shadow of a smile tugged at the corners of his luscious mouth. "You need to get some rest. I'll see you tomorrow."

Placing a light kiss on her forehead, he started to back out of her embrace, but she kept her arms locked around his neck, refusing to let him go. The thought of him leaving was all at once appalling. The bleakness of her situation continued to hover at the edge of her mind, threatening to once again drag her under, and she couldn't bear the thought of losing Stefan's reassuring presence, his unwavering strength of will. She just couldn't bring herself to weather the debilitating sadness by herself. Not yet. She knew it was selfish, but she was helpless in her need for him.

"Will you stay for a while? Just until I fall asleep?" Elena cocked her head slightly to one side as she gazed up at him, expectation dictating her expression in a very bold attempt to sway Stefan's decision.

With a short, subtle laugh, he nodded. "Sure. I'll make you a mug of tea while you get ready for bed."

"Thank you." Pushing herself up on to her tip toes, she gave him a quick peck on the lips. "Always the gentlemen."

"I try. But you make it very hard sometimes." His voice held a wisp of longing as he reached up to touch her face, his fingers feathering down her cheek before running along her bottom lip. "So beautiful," the humbling compliment little more than a whisper while a tempting hunger flared in his soulful eyes.

Savoring the sweet caress, Elena closed her eyes as an ardent yearning flowed over her, saturating every muscle. She'd always relished Stefan's touch, the feel of his roughened skin against hers, the tiny sparks of desire it provoked. But since the turning, the slightest contact set her on fire, the sensation pulsing along each nerve, carrying with it the insatiable need to get closer, to feel more of him. On most occasions it drove her to distraction, the ability to control her reaction practically nonexistent, a vulnerability she found...uncomfortable.

And as the realization invaded her thoughts, a subdued warmth gathered somewhere in the vicinity of Elena's cheeks, dulling the pleasurable tremors running along her spine. She was doing it again, getting lost in the delicious contact, letting it take her over, craving more, wanting him with a nearly desperate intensity that shook her down to the bone.

When she looked back into Stefan's face, she expected to see a teasing grin lighting his expression because he'd caught her basking the delight of his touch. Instead, his handsome features were stern, serious, his mouth forming a hard line. A deliberate tension appeared to hold him fast as the vibrant need continued to burn in his emerald gaze, brighter now, enthralling, exquisite. It drew her to him, begged for her surrender, promised an absolute satisfaction only he could give her.

An exhilarating shudder rushed through Elena when she recognized the depth of the desire staring down on her, her only thought to answer that need, give him what he craved, take what she so desperately wanted. The freshly stoked hunger crawled through her insides, raw, encompassing, irresistible.

But before she had the chance to respond to him, Stefan pulled back, his fingers leaving her mouth, his hand dropping back to his side. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, clearly grappling with his resolve, fighting against the desire threatening to overpower him.

"Stefan?" The ruthless craving gnawed at Elena's composure, her arms exerting an increased pressure on the back of his neck so as to pull him closer, unwilling to relinquish the promise of fulfillment he silently offered.

But he stubbornly resisted the beguiling temptation, his head moving slowly from side to side, an unwelcome frown furrowing his brow. "If I kiss you now, Elena, I won't be able to stop."

The fervent confession sent a delighted tingle over Elena's skin while his subdued expression fostered an unhappy confusion. "And that's a bad thing?"

"Right now it is." Stefan's attention fell to the floor between them, his tongue darting across his lips as he appeared to be weighing his words. Looking back into her face, he continued, an unwavering purpose echoing in his voice. "Whether you want to admit it or not, you're exhausted. You need some sleep."

Elena bristled slightly at his persistence. She also resented being treated like a child. He was essentially telling her it was time for beddy-bye. That was Damon's...thing, wasn't it? She knew what she needed, what she wanted, and it wasn't sleep. "I need you."

"You have me. You'll always have me." A tender smile softened Stefan's somber features as strong, gentle fingers cupped the side of her neck, his thumb caressing her jaw line, slowly gliding back and forth across the sensitive skin, mesmerizing in its effect. "But tonight you have to get some rest."

A quiet sigh of resignation left Elena while she gazed up at Stefan's persuasively adoring expression, a hint of passion glowing dimly in his beautiful eyes, his tender touch once again playing havoc with her every nerve ending. She knew when she was licked. He could be so damn infuriating sometimes. He wanted her. And God knew, at the moment, it was all she could do to keep from ripping the clothes off of his perfect body. But in typical Stefan fashion, he would not act on that want if he thought she needed something else. He would set aside his desires to do what he felt was best for her. And he truly believed that after tonight's misadventure a respite was what the doctor ordered, and he would, without fail, see that she got it. Her petty irritation gave way to heartfelt wonder. What he did, he did for her...her comfort, her wellbeing.

Did she mention how much she loved him?

And as if on cue an unexpected yawn overwhelmed Elena, a blatant affirmation of Stefan's wise insistence. Pulling an arm from around his neck, she covered her mouth with her hand, a little perturbed by her body's betrayal. Did he always have to be right?

"You're beat, sweetheart." Stefan's gentle voice held a vague note of see-I-told-you-so as he removed his hand from her neck, a pointed concern whisking away the remaining passion in his eyes. "You have to get some rest. Get your PJ's on. I'll be back in a minute."

Although they both knew very well that she did not wear "PJ's", Elena nodded, grinning at the reference as she released her hold on Stefan, allowing him to make his way down to the kitchen.

By the time he returned with Elena's tea she had washed up and changed into an oversized T-shirt and a pair of sweat pants before crawling into bed. When he set eyes on her, he smiled, obviously satisfied with her location. Leaning over the opposite side of the bed, he handed her the mug.

"Thanks." She took a sip, relishing the warm mint flavor as it hit her tongue and ran down her throat. Her favorite.

"You're very welcome, ma lady." Stefan bowed and then made his way over to the window bench, taking a seat next to her prized koala bear.

"What are you doing?" A puzzled disappointment prompted Elena's question. He was too far away, much too far away.

"I'm letting you drink your tea and then making sure you get to sleep." Stefan's tone was very matter-of-fact, his strength of purpose reflected in his granite stare.

"Can't you do that over here?" Elena patted the bed beside her, indicating right where she wanted him, unaffected by his sudden sternness.

Stefan shrugged, lowering his head slightly as he pursed his lips, a subtle sheepishness guarding his features. "Yeah, but I think you'll rest easier if I keep my distance."

A shard of prickly indignation began to work its way into Elena's mind, his hesitation both maddening and hurtful, although she knew he'd intended neither reaction. Taking a deep breath, she started to count to ten.

The need she'd witnessed in him earlier had been powerful, to say the least. But he'd been successful in beating it back. Did he really fear his inability to maintain control that much? To keep from eventually giving in to the hunger if he allowed himself too near her tonight? If so, knowing Stefan as she did, he would perceive the surrender, under the circumstances, as unforgivably weak, shamefully wrong. A betrayal of sorts. None of it would be anywhere close to the truth, of course, but he could be incredibly pigheaded sometimes.

"No, Stefan, I'll rest easier if you're by my side," Elena insisted calmly, her newly gained awareness muting the absurdity of what he'd just said. "I always sleep more soundly when you're close to me."

She paused, her frustration all but gone as another, somewhat more wicked, truth reared its head. She slept even more soundly after he made love to her, but she thought better of voicing that little nugget of information considering how hell bent he seemed on keeping his hands off of her. But regardless, as self-centered as it may be, there was no way she was going to let him get away with this.

"Am I really that much of a temptation in this frumpy outfit?" She added, attempting to lighten the mood.

"Always." Stefan's hushed whisper was barely audible even with Elena's unnatural ability, almost as if he didn't want her to hear his revealing confession.

The look in his eyes caused Elena's stomach to summersault. He cherished her from afar, profound love heighten by an ardent longing. He hadn't touched her, but she felt him running through her veins.

Abruptly, Stefan broke the connection and took a deep breath, his head dropping slightly while his attention centered on the floor in front of him. Elena could see the wheels turning as he battled the urge to let her have her way. After a few ticks of the clock, he pursed his lips and bent over to untie the laces of his boots. Standing, he shoved them off his feet and placed them next to the bench. He then straightened and padded over to the opposite side of the bed, the tenderness now absent from his features, replaced by the ghost of a frown.

A liberating relief filtered into Elena's mind when Stefan finally relented. For the briefest of moments, she believed his sincere concern for her would prevent him from coming to her, from comforting her. And the idea of his refusal upset her more than she thought possible.

"I'm not as delicate as I used to be, you know."

"In some ways you're more delicate than you've ever been, Elena. I'll always do what I think is best for you."

"I know." She nodded, happily accepting his earnest devotion. However, a nagging little fear got the better of her as she continued. "But how can you possibly think that I would ever be better off without you close to me?"

A gentle sadness seeped into Stefan's eyes. For a few seconds, he considered the picture on the wall above her head, suddenly unwilling to meet her gaze. When he looked back at her, the sorrow had been usurped by an obstinate purpose. He indicated the mug in her hands with a nod. "Finish your tea."

He obviously wasn't going to answer her question, not right now at least. And she wouldn't pursue it, not right now at least.

"Wow...bossy tonight." She teased before bringing the cup to her lips.

As Elena drank the remainder of her tea, Stefan joined her on the bed, stretching out beside her, lying on top of the comforter, arms crossed beneath his head, cradling it over the pillow.

She put the empty mug on the bedside table and scrunched down under the covers before sliding next to Stefan. She laid her head on his chest while her arm moved around his waist. As she settled in, he brought an arm down to rest over her shoulder, his fingers lightly stroking her hair, the slow rhythm playing to her exhaustion, soothing, hypnotic.

Elena sighed. She never wanted to move again. No doubt in her mind...this was heaven.

"Are you okay? Do you want to talk about the trip some more?" Stefan interrupted the serene stillness, his sincere concern plain to hear.

Elena hesitated. Did she? Stefan had trusted her enough to accept that she needed to go on the ill fated journey, even though it wounded him deeply not to be the one to guide her through the process of feeding. Did she want to tell him now that she had acted like a drunken school girl? That she'd danced...undulated with Damon as the blood ran down her chin, the rush speeding through her veins? That she had been so lost in the high she felt nothing for the humans she'd preyed upon? Did she even want to admit it to herself? No. The truth hurt. It hurt like hell. Did she want to inflict a more excruciating pain on Stefan? Could she bear to witness his disappointment?

Elena shook her head, a violent shame knotting her stomach. It was wrong...and cowardly, but she just couldn't bring herself to tell him anymore than she already had. She couldn't face a confession of her sin and the sorrow that would result…not now. "Not tonight. I just want to be here with you."

She snuggled closer, concentrating on the solace he afforded her, the love, desperate in her need to bury the memory of her actions, the debilitating guilt.

They drifted into a contented silence. And before long, Elena's eyelids began to feel heavy, her last conscious thought how much she loved the man lying beside her.

She held the faceless man close, her fangs buried deep in his neck. Warm blood flowed into her mouth and down her throat. She drew harder on the delicate flesh, the need for more all consuming. But the flow began to slow, and in few more seconds stopped. Raising her head, air moving quickly over parted lips, she basked in the euphoric satisfaction singing along every nerve, her senses on overload with the incredibly invigorating blood as it rushed through her system. An intoxicating strength infused every muscle and she welcomed it.

She released the body and it hit the ground with a dull thud. The body...the body. Her gaze moved down to the human lying lifeless on the grass, and the amazing fulfillment that had seemed so permanent only seconds ago drained away, a horrific realization taking its place.

"Just like me."

Elena looked up to find Damon standing in front of her, a cocky grin lifting the corners of his blood-stained lips.

"No." She shook her head against the agonizing declaration. "No!"

Turning her back on him, she lifted unsteady fingers to her mouth. The sticky remnants of blood marred her lips and chin, and as she processed the fatal reality a wave of nausea rolled through her stomach.

"What have I done?" A staggering panic began to rise.

Stefan. Where was Stefan? Why wasn't he here? He would have helped her...stopped her.

And she started running. She had no idea where she was going as an eerie blackness all at once surrounded her. She only knew that she had to find Stefan.

"Stefan! Stefan!" Elena screamed his name as she bolted up in the bed, her heart in her throat, hysteria a hair's width away from taking possession of her.

His arms enfolded her instantly, and he pulled her to him, holding her tight, a soothing hand rubbing up and down her back as he comforted her. "Shhh...shhh...Elena honey, it's alright. I'm here."

She held on to him for dear life, her hands fisted in the front of his shirt as she huddled as near to him as she could possibly get, her head resting on his shoulder. For a few seconds she allowed his solid presence to steady her, her breathing slowing, some of the tension in her muscles dissipating. He was with her, strong, reassuring, kind, and it was all she needed to know. Lifting her head, Elena leaned back slightly and looked into Stefan's troubled eyes, the crushing fear that had held her captive washed away by the powerful love she saw there. "You didn't leave me."

"I couldn't. You were so restless I didn't want to leave you alone." He feathered tender fingers across her forehead, pushing back some of the hair that was plastered to her clammy skin. "What 's got you so upset? What were you dreaming about?"

Elena opened her mouth to answer, but wavered a moment as she considered her response. Reluctantly, she decided the basics were all she could stand to tell him. The rest would be too painful, for both of them. She just couldn't bring herself to do it, not at this moment in time. Taking a deep breath, she ventured forward, an acute sadness starting to take hold. "I dreamt that I killed someone, Stefan. And it was...it was horrifying."

"Honey, you can't do this to yourself." He pulled her to him once again, his strong arms comforting as they cradled her, his chin resting lightly on the top of her head, the profound pain he felt on her behalf evident in his quite tone. "Please. You're gonna get through this. You've just got to hold on. Don't torture yourself. Please."

Elena hugged Stefan tight, so thankful that he'd decided to stay and watch over her. She loved him beyond reason, her anchor, her home, her salvation. Her heart was in a superb place. She'd given it to him almost upon their first meeting, and he'd cherished it ever since. With a subtle sigh, she closed her eyes, content to stay right were she was for the rest of her days.

They remained wrapped in each others embrace for several long minutes, Elena enjoying the simple closeness, feeling the remaining remnants of the night's cruelty fade away. But when Stefan leaned forward, as if to get out of bed, a tremendous dread struck her, the idea that he might leave her simply unbearable.

"No, don't go." Without much thought, she grabbed the front of his T-shirt, the flimsy material giving way easily under her desperate strength. The shirt gaped open, the only thing keeping it together the thicker band of fabric forming the collar.

Wide eyed, Stefan look up from his tattered shirt into Elena's face, and she recognized the worried confusion knitting his brow. "It's okay, babe. I wasn't going far. I just thought you might like some water."

As she stared at the damage she'd done, an odd sort of panic started to bubble up inside Elena, her breathing rushed and unsteady while an unbearable nausea rumbled in her stomach. What was wrong with her? It was as if she'd lost all ability to maintain any kind of control, restraint a fading virtue, aggression an unwelcome substitute. And as she acknowledged the fatalistic truth, she felt another piece of her true self fall away.

"Oh...God, Stefan. I'm...I'm so sorry. I...I just..." Panic quickly turned to despair as tears plagued her, face in her hands, body shaking with a return of the terrifying hopelessness. She couldn't be this person...she just couldn't.

"Elena...please, honey, don't. It's alright." Stefan once again hugged her close. He sounded utterly heartbroken, and she hated that she was the cause, ashamed that her weakness was hurting him. He deserved better, much better. And as she contemplated Stefan's selfless distress, Elena worked to get herself back under control, his earnest sympathy fostering a determination to rein in her discouraging sobs.

It was all so infuriating...the debilitating sorrow, the uncontrollable tears.

She slipped her arms around Stefan's waist, resting her head on his powerful chest, the reality of his strong support aiding in her effort to break through the paralyzing sadness. The flow of tears slowed while a gentle contentment calmed her racing mind, the miracle of his presence having its usual effect.

"It's going to be okay, Elena sweetheart." Stefan rocked her back and forth. "You're going to be okay." His sympathetic encouragement furthering her effort to get a hold on her muddled emotions.

As she held on to Stefan, Elena concentrated on the luscious sensations stirred by the feel of his body next to hers, allowed them to consume her - hard muscle, smooth skin exposed by his torn shirt, the clean scent that was uniquely Stefan. It was a sinful distraction that she wanted...needed to indulge in. And as she drank in the splendor of his closeness, thought became an unwanted burden. The pain, the sorrow...they were cast aside as her desire for him began to take her over, as she all at once became desperate for him. He was the guardian of her humanity and her only thought was to get lost in him, his love, his touch, his possession, to escape into the satisfaction that only he could give her.

Elena allowed the growing hunger free rein as she pushed Stefan's tattered shirt aside, exposing the hard plains of his chest and stomach. Turning her head slightly, she placed her lips against his enticing skin. He flinched against the light contact as tiny sparks of raw need cascaded through her body. She ached for his touch, blind want driving her forward as she slid a possessive hand across the granite muscle at his waist.

Stefan drew in a quick breath with the bold caress, a sudden tension gripping the arms that held Elena against him, his voice echoing with the strain as he spoke. "You're making it...very difficult...for me to be that gentlemen."

"Does this feel like I want you to be a gentlemen?" Elena rubbed a fervent hand down Stefan's leg, and he loosened his hold on her, one arm falling to his side as he used it to pull himself back and up against the headboard of the bed, as if he was trying to escape the need she stoked in him. A satisfied grin formed along her lips before she passed a greedy tongue over his belly button. God...but he tasted wonderful.

A low, lusty groan rose from Stefan. But before Elena could continue her passionate exploration, he leaned forward and took both of her arms by the wrists, forcing her to sit up, her attention returning to his face. He was as aroused as she was, unabashed passion darkening his eyes, an unsound restraint holding him in place as he fought the craving to give in to her. The muscle on the left side of his jaw popped as he clenched his teeth before a heavy sigh passed his lips. He seemed determined to deny them both. "You're upset, Elena...vulnerable. You've had a rough night. Are...are you sure?"

As Elena's gaze traveled over Stefan's hesitant expression, the heated desperation fogging her mind dissipated some, his unwavering concern for her wellbeing once again giving her pause. He was so strong, so incredibly strong.

The sting of tears suddenly burned behind her eyes, and she swallowed against their threat. She envied him that strength, that fortitude. For her, he would deny himself anything and everything. But tonight there was no need. He was what she wanted...only Stefan. He was the only person who could keep her buoyant, prevent her from drowning in the blood, rescue her from the self-loathing sapping her determination.

A resolute smile turned Elena's mouth as she reached out and grabbed on to some of that strength Stefan quietly offered. "I'm holding on, Stefan...the only way I can. To you...I'm holding on to you. Of course, I'm sure. I love you."

Her heartfelt reply was all it took, the uncertainty leaving Stefan's features, the hunger burning brighter in his eyes. Without another word, he leaned in to take her mouth in an all-consuming kiss. Dropping her wrists, he gathered her to him as the kiss deepened, his insistent lips coaxing hers open, greedy for her surrender. She did so willingly, matching his need with her own, exploring, tasting, consuming. She wrapped her arms around his neck, her fingers slipping into his silky hair, her body straining against his, eager for the contact. But she couldn't get close enough to him. She needed more...so much more.

Relinquishing his mouth, she trailed light kisses down his neck before putting a restraining hand on his chest and pushing herself away from him. Air moved quickly over her lips as flames continued to lap at her senses. Looking up into Stefan's face, she read the question in his eyes, his arms tightening around her as he tried to draw her back to him. But when she refused to allow it, he released her, his confusion growing. A wicked grin played around her mouth as she crossed her arms in front of her, fingers finding the hem of her shirt before she pulled it over her head and tossed it on the floor beside the bed, leaving her bare.

A vibrant lust pushed the misgiving from Stefan's expression. Slowly, he raised a hand, placing his palm over her heart, just above the hollow between Elena's breasts. His touch sent a vibrant heat scorching through her. Her eyes slid shut as she savored the feel of his skin against hers, electricity radiating from the contact, cracking over every cell. In the next moment, his hand glided down, cupping a breast as his mouth captured the peak of the other, suckling hard, sending liquid desire pooling in her gut. A satisfied moan rose in her throat, her hands finding the back of his head, holding him close, fearful that he might stop.

The stunning pleasure was like none she'd ever known, every nerve pulsing with sensation, her new state of awareness making each intimacy a heavenly revelation, so pure, so concentrated that she wasn't sure if she would survive it.

Stefan's mouth left her breast to scatter feathery kisses along her chest and up her throat, replaced by his other hand, fingers massaging the peak, flesh pebbling under his caress, hot longing throbbing through her center. When his lips moved to take hers again, she latched on to him, brutal hunger searching for relief, unparalleled desire demanding satisfaction.

The need to get closer to him continued to hound her, her hands leaving his downy hair to slide over his wide shoulders and across his chest, coming to rest at the collar of his T-shirt. With a twitch of her fingers, the cotton threads gave way easily under her newly gained strength. She pushed the torn shirt, and the hoodie that lay atop it, off Stefan's shoulders and down his arms, discarding the unwanted clothing on the floor.

Pulling her lips from his, she shifted her ravenous attention to his naked chest, reining open-mouthed kisses over his smooth, tight flesh. When she took a nipple into her mouth and began to suckle, a contented groan broke from Stefan, his hands running through her hair as he cradled her head. His clean taste exploded on her tongue, a pleasurable shiver tripping down her back as she delighted in the texture of his skin, his distinctively sensuous flavor fueling her longing for him, leaving her starving for more.

Her fingers worked the smooth muscles along his back while she indulged in the perfection of his chest. They skirted around to the front of his waist and stopped to unbuckle his belt and unfasten his jeans. But before she could remove the restrictive clothing, Stefan pushed her back on the bed, her head landing on a pillow. He knelt between her legs, raw hunger staring down on her as his palms found her belly before sliding up her ribcage and capturing her breasts. Another arc of tremendous pleasure shot over her as he kneaded the pillows of flesh, rolling her nipples between his fingers, coaxing them to harder peaks, sending a fresh wave of want pulsing to her center. She endured the splendid torture for only a moment or two before he leaned forward and placed his lip on her stomach, his hands leaving her breasts to slip back down her body, gently caressing the sensitive skin as he went, stoking the fire raging within her.

The insatiable longing brought Elena's hips off the bed, her frustrated groan echoing through the room, shamelessly begging for a decidedly more intimate touch. She ached for him, the keen throb in her gut brutal in its intensity. She needed him inside her, and if he didn't take her soon, she would lose what little sense she still had remaining, the yearning for fulfillment threatening to unravel the delicate fabric of her sanity.

With a knowing grin, Stefan took the hint. He hooked his thumbs under the waistband of her sweat pants and underwear and leisurely pulled the garments over her hips, down her legs and off her feet. With his attention remaining squarely on Elena, he tossed the pants somewhere off to the side.

Stefan seemed oddly mesmerized at the sight of Elena lying naked before him, a tender admiration lighting his mossy eyes, love mixed with need as they traveled over her. With one glance, he bestowed a feeling of profound serenity, silently conveying to her how precious she was to him, how much he treasured her, how much he desired her. And Elena was suddenly struck by the way he loved her...longed for her - the power, the passion. She wasn't surprised by it, not really. She felt his love everyday. They only had to be in the same room - every gaze, every insignificant touch. His devotion was always there, reaching out to her, wrapping her in its comfortable security. But at moments like this the quiet declaration went much deeper, penetrated her soul, left her awe struck that he could love her so strongly. A quiver fluttered through her stomach, the subtle beat of butterfly wings as she thrilled to the unyielding commitment Stefan offered her without uttering a single word.

In the next instant, a mischievous glint entered his eyes, and he began to work his way up her body. Beginning at her ankles, he started to gently massage her legs, each, in its turn, getting the benefit of measured, gentle kisses. He paid excruciatingly close attention to her knees, licking the delicate hollow on the inside, shivers rippling along her legs, gathering at her center, her need for relief reaching a fever pitch.

Stefan's caresses continued up to Elena's thighs…leisurely kisses along the vulnerable flesh, gentle fingers rubbing, massaging. When he reached the juncture of her legs, he hesitated. Elena raised herself up on her elbows and looked down at him to find a devilish smirk pulling at a corner of his mouth. He was stretched out along the bed, his upper body supported by his forearms. He kept his sights trained on her face as he slid his hands under her bottom, lifting her a fraction or two off the mattress, hunger now a vibrant glow in his lovely eyes. He placed a light kiss at the top of her nest of tight curls before dipping his head.

The first touch of his mouth sent heat rocketing up her back while a warm tremor played across her skin, her hands finding the sheet on either side of her, fingers curling into the soft fabric. She caught her bottom lip between her teeth just as a needy groan erupted from deep in her gut.

With a maddening patience, Stefan slid his tongue along her slick folds, suckling…lightly nipping as he went. The vice at Elena's center twisted tighter with each leisurely stroke, the intense pleasure taking her higher even as it left her teetering on the edge. He delved deeply, but seemed intent on avoiding the one spot where his skilled consideration would be most especially welcome.

The next caress passed ever so softly over the tip of the bud of flesh aching for Stefan's touch. A dense shudder rippled over her Elena's body, her muscles contracting as the pleasure-pain vibrated along each nerve, Stefan creating a sensual chaos with his mouth. Her hands found the top of his head, fingers pushing through his hair, massaging his scalp with a rhythm that matched the greedy thrust of her hips. And still he avoided the contact she so desperately craved.

"Please...Stefan...I can't...please." Hands fisting in his hair, Elena pleaded for relief, her voice husky between labored breaths, sanity fading quickly, her body coiled so tight she thought she might split in two from the pressure.

And Stefan mercifully granted her appeal, pulling the engorged bud into his mouth, his tongue massaging the hypersensitive button.

Within a few seconds, the world exploded, a strangled moan passing Elena's lips with the impact, her hands falling to her sides, eyes sliding shut as she basked in the release sweeping her away. Pure, unrestrained pleasure spiraled from her core, muscles tensing with the onslaught, body splintering with the satisfaction pulsing along every fiber.

Her hips hovered above Stefan's supportive hands as she pushed herself up toward his captivating mouth, seeking to prolong the waves of incomparable bliss surging through her. Heated gratification licked at every nerve ending as he continued his attention, his tongue working her delicate flesh, another swell of glorious release ravaging her senses, her body once again shattering into a million pieces of heavenly satisfaction.

Elena tried to slow her rapid breathing as the fragmentation began to subside and she started to return to herself. Finally, she found the will to open her eyes, the air all at once pulled from her lungs by what she saw. Stefan knelt between her legs, completely naked now, his body eager for hers.

Magnificent.

He was beautiful...truly beautiful. Chiseled, lean, powerful. And even though she'd just experienced some of the most heart-stopping gratification she'd ever had, she started to ache…for him…his touch…his possession. God help her, she wanted him. How she wanted him.

Almost as if he'd read her mind, Stefan leaned forward, placing his palms on the bed at either side of Elena's shoulders. He hovered above her, strong, outrageously gorgeous, a sensuous heat shining in his eyes. He dropped his body lower, his chest a whisper away from her breasts, his lips a kiss away as his breath mingled with hers. "I love you."

And before Elena could respond, Stefan's mouth captured hers in a deep, toe-curling kiss that had her arms encircling his neck, drawing him toward her, hungry for more.

As he feasted on her mouth, Stefan's thick, heavy body pushed against Elena's core, causing an approving moan to rumble in her throat. She lifted her hips in invitation, her wet, throbbing center more than ready for him to take her. The enticement had the desired effect as he thrust forward, burying his body deep, filling her completely, perfectly. Their union triggered an aftershock, the acute pleasure drawing another passionate moan from Elena as she wrapped her legs around Stefan's waist, eager for him to be as close as she could get him.

A voracious growl broke from Stefan as he pulled away from the kiss, his head falling back to rest over his shoulders as he set up a steady rhythm, boldly relishing the feel of his body moving in and out of hers.

Elena smiled as she gazed up at Stefan, happy for the pleasure she was able to give him, somewhat astonished by the staggering bliss he bestowed upon her. He was an incredible lover. He always had been. But now with her senses in overdrive, his skill took her to astounding heights. She understood better now why making love to her always seemed to be such a thoroughly fulfilling experience for him.

The friction created by the measured thrusts of his body sent tiny currents of desire shooting through Elena, pressure once again beginning to build, pushing her toward the wonderful edge. Her hands moved around to rub down the smooth, tight muscles of his back, coming to rest on his sinfully firm bottom. She squeezed the solid flesh as it moved up and down, urging him to drive into her faster, harder, her need for release growing more vital by the second.

Her impetuous caress returned Stefan's attention to Elena, a wicked grin forming along his lips, his eyes dancing with a silent promise. Lowering his head, he spread gentle kisses over one of her breasts before taking the nipple into his mouth. As he explored the hardened peak, he increased his pace, plunging into her body with added force, going deeper.

And still she needed more. Elena brought her hands up to grasp Stefan's upper arms, fingers curving around the muscled flesh for support, raising her hips as he pulled out only to be driven back down onto the bed as he lunged forward, meeting him thrust for thrust, the force sending him further into her body.

With the glorious penetration came the beginnings of her release, spasms rippling through her core, muscles contracting around him, tremors of pleasure running up her spine. It only took a few more moments of Stefan's earth-shaking possession and Elena shattered, her eyes closing, body straining against his as the flood of delicious ecstasy washed her over the edge. She was drowning, submerged in a sea of sensation so exquisite she thought she might never surface. And she had no desire to, content to remain under its influence, tossed about in the tide of utter euphoria, complete fulfillment soaking her every cell.

Stefan continued to move above her, inside her, extending the wondrous shudders wracking her body, prolonging the breathtaking satisfaction. As she floated on the superb contentment, muted sparks ebbing along her over-stimulated nerves, Stefan found his release, his body going rigid as his essence flowed into her, sending small reverberations of pleasure trickling through her slowly relaxing muscles.

He collapsed on top of her, his face buried in the curve of her neck, labored breaths fanning the sensitive skin. She moved her arms around him, scattering tender kisses over his shoulder as she cherished the weight of him, relished the beautiful sensation of his body blanketing hers, joined with hers. How she loved him.

"I love you so much." Stefan whispered close to Elena's ear. "We're gonna to make it, Elena. It's going to be okay. We just have to hold on to each other."

She hugged Stefan tight, welcoming the soothing strength of his words into her heart. Rest would come easily now.

The End