Your hand fits in mine like it's meant just for me

But bear this in mind; it was meant to be

And I'm joining up the dots with the freckles on your cheeks

And it all makes sense to me

Elena was miserable. Damon knew she was miserable. Who wouldn't be? The people she cared about most in the world all thought there was something wrong with her. But there wasn't. Was he truly the only person who saw how much Elena had changed for the better by turning? She was stronger; braver; safer. There was nothing wrong with her, at all.

But she couldn't see that. To herself, she was a monster. Because only a monster could be secretly hated by her ex-boyfriend, disgusting to her friends, and a murder target to her little brother.

She needed a distraction. Something that would let her forget the world was falling apart around her. Something fun and easy. Something simple. Something that would make that light shine in her eyes that he hardly ever saw anymore…

"Cookies? Damon Salvatore wants to make cookies?"

"Not just any cookies," Damon said, walking around her in her kitchen in search of everything they needed, "Chocolate chip cookies, because you can never go wrong with a classic."

"Since when do you make cookies?"

Elena was obviously perplexed, her brow furrowed as she watched him drop the bag of flour onto the counter and bend down to grab a mixing bowl. "Cookies bring happiness," he stated, not looking at her as he spoke, too busy searching for the biggest bowl possible, "and happiness is something we've been a little short on around here. Sue me for wanting you to smile."

Her frown only deepened at that, and she crossed her arms over her chest. "I smile plenty, thank you," she said defensively as he stood and became eyelevel with her, placing the bowl on the counter.

"No, you don't," he said quietly, and Elena quickly looked away.

"Well, I don't want to make cookies. So you might as well just leave," she added, turning and walking across the kitchen, fidgeting with her daylight ring.

"I'm not leaving until you at least taste my chocolate chip cookies," Damon said stubbornly, cracking a few eggs into the bowl and starting to separate the wet and dry ingredients. He frowned when he noticed her fiddling with the ring on her finger, pausing in reaching for the flour. "Be careful with that thing. We don't need a repeat of the other night…"

"I don't plan on killing myself," she spat out almost bitterly, shuddering at the memory. If not for the man in front of her, she would be nothing but a pile of ash right now. She knew she should be more grateful, but she just… couldn't be. Maybe everyone would truly be better off if she had gone through with it…

Biting her lip, she decided to push her limits. If Damon was on suicide watch, she might as well give him a reason to be there. Taking a casual step into the beam of light by the window, she fidgeted with the ring again and let it slide from her finger and clink onto the tile floor, making it seem like an accident. Her skin began to sizzle almost instantaneously, and she bit down on her lip to repress the whimper bubbling in her throat. She wouldn't give into the pain. She wouldn't let it rule her. She wouldn't make a sound.

"What the hell?" Damon hissed as he grabbed her arm and yanked her out of the light in a flash, pinning her against the side of the counter, his eyes wide. "What are you doing?"

"It… it was an accident… the ring slipped…" she mumbled, wiggling in his grip. "Let me go, Damon…"

"Like hell it was an accident," he growled, not moving in the slightest. "You just said five seconds ago that you didn't plan on killing yourself!"

"It was an accident!" she cried, yanking her arm from his grip and grabbing the first thing her hand found purchase on behind her, shoving it in his face. She would have used his faltering hands as a way of escape, had the two of them not been entire submerged in a cloud of white powder.

Damon coughed and spluttered, his hands flying up to try and clear the powder from the air, shaking his head when it finally settled. Elena had just thrown a bag of flour at his face, with her enhanced strength, and it had exploded. Currently, she stood before him with wide eyes, white hair, a white face, and white splattered clothes. She looked like a ghost.

A ghost that, despite the fact that she had just tried to kill herself, was laughing hysterically. "I can't believe I just did that!"

Damon glanced down at his clothes, frowning and shaking his head when he saw the black fabric was entirely white. "Neither can I…" he grumbled, and Elena giggled again.

"You look ridiculous," she said, stepping forward and running a hand through his hair, shaking some of the white powder out of his black, messy locks.

"Well, so do you," he said simply, but a small grin tugged at his lips. She was smiling, and laughing. Elena seemed happy, for the first time in weeks…

Smirking, he brought his finger up to her cheek and began dragging it through the flour there, doodling patterns on her skin and drawing a happy face on her forehead. "Perfect," he said with a quiet chuckle, and she shook her head, glancing around at the now filthy kitchen.

"It looks like a hurricane blew through here," she said, her eyes catching on the ring on the floor. Damon followed her gaze and bent down, picking it up out of the sunlight and slipping it onto her finger again, not releasing her hand when he did so, squeezing it tightly. The gesture made her glance up at him, and she was a bit surprised by the intensity she saw in his eyes.

"Let's not make this a regular occurrence, alright?" he asked, brushing his thumb over her knuckles, grazing the ring. "Keep this thing on, Elena Gilbert."

She bit her lip before nodding, casting her eyes down. He thought she was nothing more than a suicidal mess. She knew, deep down, he felt the same way everyone else did… that she was wrong this way.

"What's the point?" she asked quietly, pulling her hand from his and walking across the kitchen again, leaving a faint shower of flour with each step she took, tears welling in her eyes. "No one likes me this way. They all think I'm messed up, or confused, or that I need to be fixed." She choked on a quiet sob and shook her head as the tears spilled over, keeping her back to him as her voice broke. "But I can't be fixed, Damon… This is who I am…"

Damon hesitated before taking a few steps forward, shaking his head. "You don't need to be fixed, Elena," he said softly, gently grabbing her arm and turning her to face him, frowning a bit when he saw the tear tracks in the flour on her face. "You're still you. If they can't see that, then that's their problem, not yours."

"But I can't get through this alone," she said with a whimper, shaking her head as more tears fell. "Stefan can't accept me this way, Caroline thinks I'm making all the wrong choices, and Jeremy wants to drive a stake through my heart because I'm not the same sister I used to be…"

"No, you're not," he agreed, taking her cheeks in his hands and wiping away her tears with his thumbs, leaving streaks of flour on her damp skin. "You're not the same sister Jeremy knew. You're better. You're stronger, and you won't let anyone walk all over you anymore. I can see how you've changed, Elena, and none of it has been bad. You know Jeremy feels the same way. It's this damn hunter's mark that's making him act this way…"

Elena squeezed her eyes shut and drew in a shaky breath, trembling a bit. She wanted to believe what Damon was saying. She wanted to believe it more than anything. But was he right? Or was he just saying things he thought would make her feel better?

"It doesn't matter," she said weakly, pulling away from him and walking out of the room. "I need to get this flour out of my hair," she stated as she walked up the stairs, and Damon frowned as he watched her go. How could he make her see how perfect she truly was…?

. … . … . … . … . … . … . … . …

"Elena, stop!"

She gasped when her back smashed against the hard brick wall of the side of the school, certain she heard bones snap throughout her body at the contact. Warm, fresh blood was coating her lips and dribbling down her chin, and her brain was buzzing. More, more, more… she wanted more… she needed more

She was only dimly aware of the voices and shouts surrounding her, a few tidbits floating into her ears that actually made sense.

"…April… blood, Stefan…! …him… stop him!"

"…don't want to hurt… can't kill her… your sister, Jeremy…!"

"…April! Attacked… drained… killed her!"

"…not my sister anymore! She's a monster!"

Elena finally began to process what had happened, and the veins surrounding her eyes faded slowly away. The scene before her was gruesome. Jeremy's eyes were wild, and he was struggling against Stefan's grip, trying to get at her. Caroline was a few feet away, hovering anxiously over something, or someone, and there was… there was…

…there was so much blood everywhere. It was coating the pavement and glowing eerily in the moonlight and some of it was splattered against the wall she was slumped beside. But most of it was on her. She was covered from head to toe, her clothes completely stained.

"Let me go! She needs to die!" Jeremy was yowling, fighting Stefan furiously. Stefan nearly faltered; Jeremy's newly found strength growing harder to fight off.

Elena started to shake. Her eyes had locked on the cold, still form by Caroline. It was April Young. And she was dead.

"No…" she choked out, shaking her head. "No!"

The next thing any of them knew, she had bolted. Bolted to only God knows where into the dark night, leaving them all behind.

"Let her go, Caroline," Stefan said, shaking his head when she got to her feet to follow her. "There's nothing more we can do for her. She's too much like him."

You can't go to bed without a cup of tea

And maybe that's the reason that you talk in your sleep

And all those conversations are the secrets that I keep

Though it makes no sense to me

"Help me, please…"

Damon's eyes widened when he opened the front door to the boarding house to find Elena, bloody and shaking, before him. He didn't even ask what happened. He didn't need to know.

"Come on," he said softly, grabbing her hand and pulling her inside, locking the door behind them. He didn't need Stefan with his judgemental eyes coming home and finding Elena this way. He would only make her feel worse. "Let's get you cleaned up, okay?"

She nodded a few times as she trembled, feeling Damon scoop her up into his arms and carry her upstairs, setting her on her feet in his bathroom. Not saying a word, he grabbed a red washcloth and wet it down before gently wiping the blood from her face. He knew using a white cloth would be bad; seeing all the red showing up on the fabric would only distress her more, and she was already falling apart.

"I killed her," she croaked after ten minutes of silence, and Damon met her eyes, nodding.

"It's okay, Elena; it happens."

"I killed April, Damon!"

He froze, his eyes widening a bit, more at her outburst than the girl's name being dropped. "April Young? Pastor Suicide's daughter?"

Elena sobbed almost hysterically and nodded, nearly falling to her knees before Damon caught her beneath her arms and she crashed against his chest, shaking almost violently. "I killed her…! I drained every drop of blood from her body and didn't even care…! I'm a monster, Damon…!"

"No, you're not," he almost growled, wrapping his arms tightly around her waist, partially to offer her comfort, but also to make sure she stayed upright. "You made a mistake, Elena. You were bound to kill someone important eventually; we all do. Stefan should know…"

Narrowing his eyes at that thought, Damon glared at the wall. Stefan wouldn't dare to confront Elena about this. Not after what he did to his own father. He had no right. Gently leading her from the bathroom, he pulled open his shirt drawer and gestured to them. "Here; take your pick. You need to get out of those clothes. There are a few pairs of lounge pants in the closet if you want them…"

Nodding, he left the room to let her change. He wasn't going to take advantage of this moment by watching her strip down. Instead, he walked down to the kitchen and went about doing something normal; making tea. When she had been human, he knew tea was one of the few things that could calm her down. In fact, the tea he was using at the moment was hers. She kept it here for when she spent the night…

Shaking his head, he ran a hand through his hair, frowning at the blood he saw there. It had finally happened. Elena had killed someone, and the guilt was crushing her. It hadn't truly mattered when she killed Connor; no one cared about him. But April… people loved April. Jeremy and Matt both had feelings for her… undoubtedly Jeremy would have a strong reaction when he found out what happened.

Shaking his head, he poured the boiled water over the teabag in the mug, searching around for the milk and sugar, adding just enough that it wouldn't keep her awake. Walking up the stairs, Damon paused and knocked on the door with his freehand, chewing his lip. "Can I come in?"

There was a pause before Elena's weak, shaky voice responded, "Yes…"

Damon walked into the room, closing the door behind him and making his way over to her. She was sitting on the bed, tears still dripping down her cheeks, her hair a mess. He couldn't help noticing that she had opted against the lounge pants, and was simply dressed in one of his button-downs, her long, bare legs folded beneath her. She looked beautiful, and she looked miserable as hell.

"I made you tea," he said as he sat beside her, realizing how corny that had sounded. Here she was, falling apart at the seams before his eyes, and all he had said was 'I brought you tea'?

She hesitated before taking the mug from his hands and staring down at the contents, keeping silent for a few moments before speaking. "I went to the school football game… I thought I would be okay. But April… she took me aside and asked me if I thought Jeremy liked her…" Elena squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. "I don't even remember what I told her. The next thing I remember is being tossed back into a wall, and people were yelling…"

"Who was yelling?" Damon asked quickly, his brow furrowing. "Who found you, Elena?"

"Stefan and Caroline…" she croaked, her hands trembling as they clutched the mug, "and… Jeremy…"

Damon frowned, shaking his head as he tucked her hair behind her ear, trying to smooth it out. "Don't think about them… don't think about any of it…" Gesturing to the mug, he ran his fingers through her hair and nodded. "Just drink your tea…"

She shakily brought the mug to her lips and took a few sips, part of her relishing in the warmth the liquid seemed to pulsate through her body when she swallowed. It was so familiar… so comforting.

"You knew tea would help…" she muttered, her brow furrowing a bit. "How?"

Smiling faintly, he shrugged. "I pay attention to your habits, I suppose. It's kind of hard to miss when you refuse to go to sleep at night without at least one cup of tea…"

Taking another sip, she let her eyes close, trying to breathe deeply. "You pay attention to a lot of things about me, don't you?"

He furrowed his brow, shifting a bit closer to her. "What do you mean?"

"You knew where I would be the night I tried to kill myself… You can tell how upset I am when no one else really tries…" she shook her head. "A year ago I would have expected you to be the last person to be helping me so much…"

"People change, Elena…" he said simply after a moment, and she cast her eyes down again.

"I've changed, haven't I…? You can't try to tell me it's for the better, because if it was, I wouldn't have killed April…"

"Elena, I want you to listen to me." Placing his hands on her shoulders, he gazed down at her, nodding when she met his eyes. "No vampire is perfect. Not me, not Stefan, not Caroline; none of us. Stefan killed our father. Caroline nearly killed Matt. I've killed countless people…" he sighed and shook his head, "This is only your first time in a long, painful line of kills waiting, Elena. It's going to happen, no matter whether or not anyone likes it. The sooner you accept it… the easier everything will be."

Gazing at him through damp, wide brown eyes, Elena slowly nodded. He was right. She knew he was right. But how could she accept such a gruesome detail? Finishing her tea, she passed him the mug, and pulled back the blankets on his bed, hesitating suddenly, glancing up at him. "Can I…?"

"Sure," he said quickly with no hesitation whatsoever, getting to his feet and placing her mug on the bedside table. "I'll just…"

He trailed off when she grabbed his hand, stopping him from leaving the room. "Stay with me… please?" she asked quietly, chewing her lip. "I don't want to be alone…"

Damon stood silently where he was for a few moments before nodding, sitting on the edge of the bed and pulling the blankets back to crawl in beside her. "Of course, Elena…"

Curling against his chest, her head pillowed there, Elena felt a sense of security wash over her. Like she could sleep soundly knowing no one would come after her as long as she was with Damon. Everyone was right; she had changed. She had changed a lot. But so had her feelings…

The question was… what did these feelings mean?

… . … . … . … . … . … . … . …

Damon stirred in the darkness a few hours later when he felt Elena's head moving against his chest, soft mumbling filling his ears.

"Can't… not right…"

His brow furrowed and he turned his head to look down at her, gently rubbing her arm. "Elena…?"

He paused when she giggled, his confusion heightening again. "No… stop… bad…"

Squinting at her in the darkness, he shook his head, his brow furrowing even more so. "What's bad…?"

Sighing quietly, she shifted, and mumbled, "You…"

"Oh, am I?" he asked, shaking his head. What was she rambling on about? Had she gone crazy?

It was a few moments before she muttered, "Yes…" and Damon frowned, turning on the dim bedside lamp.

"I think that's highly…" he started to say, but trailed off when his eyes locked on her. She was sound asleep, smiling softly, not even a sign of being awake. Elena Gilbert had been talking in her sleep. Smirking slightly, he ran a hand through her hair.

"Why am I bad?"

"Kisses…" she mumbled, shifting in his arms, "Kisses very bad…"

His smirk only widened at her words, and he lay down beside her again, tucking her hair behind her ear as he shut off the light. "But what if I think kisses are very good, Elena?"

"No…" she mumbled, but her voice was growing distant. "Bad… nice… but… bad…"

Shaking his head, he leaned over and pressed a kiss to her forehead, wrapping his arms tightly around her. Elena Gilbert talked in her sleep. He'd have to add that to the growing list of adorable and amazing qualities he loved about her.

I know you never loved

The sound of your voice on tape

You never want to know how much you weigh

You still have to squeeze into your jeans

But you're perfect to me

"I do not talk in my sleep," Elena huffed as she sat on the couch, still dressed in Damon's shirt, watching him clean the small bloodstains from the floor.

"You do," he muttered as he concentrated on the floor, scrubbing at the wood precisely, determined to regain the perfect shine it had possessed before.

"Well, what did I say?" she asked, shifting in her seat, pulling her legs beneath her.

"Something about kissing me," he said with a smirk. "I was probably naked. You loved it."

Scowling, Elena picked up a piece of her scrambled eggs from the breakfast Damon had made her and threw it at him, causing him to throw his hands into the air with frustration. "Are you kidding me? Now I have to clean that up, too!"

Sticking her tongue out at him, she grinned a bit, taking a bite of her food. "Boohoo. Poor Cinderdamon has to scrub the floors some more."

Damon opened his mouth to respond, getting cut off when the doorknob to the front door rattled down the hall. All traces of humor drained from Elena's face as she quickly stood up and backed away toward the corner of the room.

"They're coming for me," she croaked, fear evident in her voice. "They want me dead!"

Frowning, Damon shook his head. "Don't be ridiculous," he said quietly. "No one will touch you. Just go upstairs and get dressed. You don't want anyone…" his eyes grazed up and down her scantily clad form, muttering, "getting the wrong idea."

Elena hesitated for a moment before nodding, blurring up the stairs. Once he heard one of the bedroom doors click shut, he made his way to the front door and unlocked it, pulling it open.

"Hello, brother," he said, his eyes narrowing. Stefan scowled and pushed past him, his green eyes darting around.

"Who?" Damon asked, raising an eyebrow. "If you're looking for Taylor Swift, you just missed her."

"Don't be an idiot," Stefan grumbled, and Damon smirked.

"Who's being an idiot? I rocked her little cowgirl world. I even convinced her to write a song about me. He Let Me Pet His Crow…"

"Where is Elena?" Stefan growled, and Damon's good humor vanished.

"Why do you want to know, Stefan?"

"April Young died last night. Elena killed her, and there wasn't even any exposed blood to provoke her. She's a murderer, and needs to face what she's done."

"We all make mistakes, Stefan," Damon said, glaring and taking a step forward. "You can't punish her for her first kill."

"It's not her first," Stefan snapped, advancing as well. "She killed her, Damon. She killed her friend."

"You killed your father," Damon retorted, standing straighter and glaring daggers so furiously at Stefan that, had he been an Original, he'd be dead.

"There was blood. I couldn't help it. Elena knew perfectly well what she was doing, and she didn't stop. She felt no remorse, and fled when she had to confront it."

"I really don't think you know Elena at all, Stefan," Damon hissed, shaking his head.

"You can't keep her hidden forever, Damon," Stefan said, his eyes narrowing. "She's going to have to come out eventually. She'll have to face up to what she did, and it will crush her. The longer she waits, the worse it will be. You're prolonging the inevitable."

"I'm prolonging the inevitable?" Damon snapped, resisting the urge to punch his brother square in the jaw. "Who's the one who tried to get her to drink bunny blood instead of getting her first kill over with like she should have?"

Stefan's lip twitched, unable to argue any further. "Just don't do anything stupid," he snapped, whirling and stalking out of the house.

"Tell Blondie I say 'hello'!" Damon called coldly, slamming the door and turning toward the stairs.

Elena stood at the top, dressed in one of the white blouses and a pair of jeans she had kept in Stefan's room when they were together, and she looked agonized. "I'm a murderer…"

"Elena, don't listen to him. He doesn't understand what you're going through…"

"A murderer..."

"Elena, look at me."

Damon blurred to the top of the stairs and took her face in his hands, shaking his head. "He doesn't understand. He didn't see you last night… he doesn't know how upset you were."

Am I defending him? Damon thought with almost disgusted disbelief. Shaking his head, he brushed his thumbs down her cheekbones. "Come somewhere with me. We'll get away from the town for the day, just you and me. What do you say?"

Elena hesitated, and Damon offered her a small grin. "Five minutes… Step away from your life for five minutes, Elena…"

A tiny smile pulled at her lips, and she shook her head, wiping the tears from her eyes. "You aren't going to kidnap me and take me to Georgia again, are you?"

Chuckling, Damon shook his head, trailing his hands down to her shoulders, "Not exactly. Just trust me, okay?"

She paused for a few seconds before muttering, "I already do."

Smiling slightly, Damon laced his fingers through hers. "Then follow me…"

I won't let these little things slip out of my mouth

But if it's true

It's you

It's you they add up to.

I'm in love with you… and all these little things

"This place is beautiful," Elena said as she rolled onto her back in the wildflowers she was lying in, staring up at the sky. It had taken them a good part of the day to get here, with a few stops along the way, and the sun was starting to set.

Currently, they were sitting in a seemingly endless field of flowers of every kind, and luscious, untouched green grass. They'd raced each other through the forest, Damon letting Elena win, for the purpose of cheering her up, and now they were both lying on their backs, playing a game of She _ Not with a few daisies.

"Taylor Swift will write a song about me, Taylor Swift will write a song about me not. Taylor Swift will write a song about me, Taylor Swift will write a song about me not. Taylor Swift will write a song about me…"

Elena giggled quietly as she watched Damon pluck the petals off of his flower, letting them flutter away in the breeze. Most of the ones he had done so far had been absolutely ridiculous, and she knew it was only so she would laugh. She thought it was incredibly sweet. In fact, everything he'd done for her the past few days had been incredibly sweet…

"Taylor Swift will write a song about me. Ha! I told Stefan she would. The moron wouldn't believe me."

Elena grinned and shook her head, picking another daisy for herself and beginning to pluck off the petals. "I will marry Robert Downey, Jr. I will marry Robert Downey, Jr. not. I will marry Robert Downey, Jr. I will marry Robert Downey, Jr. not. I will marry Robert Downey, Jr…"

A few moments later, once all the petals had been picked off, Elena pouted. "I will marry Robert Downey, Jr. not."

Damon raised an eyebrow, shaking his head. "Iron Man? You want to marry Iron Man?"

Elena grinned as she tossed the stem away, rolling onto her side. "Don't be jealous, Damon. Just because he has more cars than you and a sexy metal suit…"

"Oh, give me a break," Damon scoffed, picking another flower and grinning deviously as he began to speak. "Elena Gilbert loves me. Elena Gilbert loves me not. Elena Gilbert looooves me. Elena Gilbert loves me not. Elena Gilbert loves me…"

Elena chewed her lip, shifting a bit nervously as he plucked off the petals. This had escalated to a much more personal place…

"Elena Gilbert… loves me." Damon let the final petal float through the air and land on the ground between them, his eyes locking with hers when they both looked up from the small, fragile thing.

Sensing her hesitation, Damon smirked and shook his head. "It's just a game, Elena…"

Elena still didn't say anything, and Damon's smirk vanished. Had he upset her? Honestly, just by doing something so trivial and silly? What was the-

He never finished his thought. At that very second, Elena leaned over and took his face in her hands, pulling his lips down to hers for a soft, slow, lingering kiss. She pulled back after a few moments, the shock evident on his face.

"What…?"

"Don't say anything," Elena said, sitting up and shaking her head, dusting the dirt from her shirt. "Not yet, anyway. It's too soon. But I just wanted you to know… well, thank you. For everything you've done, and that you're doing…" She laced her fingers through his, gazing down at him, "and that there's no one else I'd rather be with, than you…"

He didn't know what to say. So he did as she told him, and said nothing. Not yet. They had all the time in the world to mull things over, and figure out the perfect words to say…

But they were Damon and Elena. With a single look, he knew she was telling the truth.

They didn't need words.

You'll never love yourself half as much as I love you

And you'll never treat yourself right, darling, but I want you to

If I let you know I'm here for you

Maybe you'll love yourself like I love you

It was cold. It was freezing. Elena walked beside Damon through the icy parking lot of the Richmond airport parking lot, rubbing her arms.

"I still can't believe you took me to Los Angeles with no warning whatsoever…"

"You said you wanted to be somewhere warm, and all the tickets to Hawaii were sold out," Damon said with a grin, gazing down at her as snowflakes fluttered down and landed in her hair. One landed on the corner of her mouth, and he had a severely strong urge to kiss her, but he restrained himself. He hadn't kissed her since that day a few weeks ago in the meadow, and he didn't plan on doing so again until she was ready.

Not yet…

Well… soon?

"You're impossible," she said with a smile, but that smile slipped as she glanced out at the street, buzzing with life. Cars, people, jingling bells as people collected for Christmas charities. It was that time of year; the time you spent celebrating with your friends and family; the people you love.

Yet, she was dreading going home and finally having to face them all. April's funeral had been two weeks ago. That had been the day Damon had dragged her out of state, so no one could confront her.

Especially not Jeremy or Matt.

Especially not Caroline.

Especially not Stefan.

Damon knew what she was thinking, and he squeezed her hand reassuringly as he pulled open the car door for her. "No one will bother you. I won't let them."

"I can't hide forever, Damon," she whispered, echoing Stefan's words from weeks ago.

He couldn't hide her forever. As much as he would love to keep her out of sight an in their own little world, he couldn't. She had other people in her life; people she needed to either apologize or stand up to.

Closing her door, he squeezed his eyes shut. He would let Elena face the world soon. But not tonight. Tonight was too special, and she didn't even realize it.

… . … . … . … . … . … . … . … . …

"I just want to go upstairs and sleep," Elena said with a soft yawn as they walked up the stairs to the porch and toward the door, Damon fishing out his house keys.

"Of course," he said with a nod, offering her a small smile. "You must be tired after that plane ride…"

She nodded, laying her head on his shoulder, shaking the melting snow out of her hair as he unlocked the door. Keeping her eyes closed, she let him pull her into the house, furrowing her brow when it wasn't dark, like she had expected it to be.

"Damon… did we leave the lights on when you kidnapped me and took me on our spontaneous trip?"

She could practically hear the smirk in his voice when he responded with, "Not exactly…"

Frowning with confusion, she opened her eyes and froze. "Oh… oh, my God…"

Smirking, Damon leaned over and nudged her cheek with his nose, whispering. "Merry Christmas, Elena…"

How had she forgotten that it had been Christmas today? Clearly, Damon hadn't. The entire boarding house was glittering with twinkling lights and tinsel, and she could see the absolutely enormous Christmas tree, perfectly decorated, sitting in the parlor by the roaring fire. "How did you do this?" she whispered in awe, taking a few steps toward the parlor, her eyes not being torn away from the tree for even a second.

"I hired a professional decorator to come in and do it today," Damon said, grinning with satisfaction at her reaction, gazing down at her. "I thought you might like it…"

"Like it?" she asked, shaking her head. "Damon, I love it…"

He smiled slightly, fishing in his jacket pocket suddenly. "I got you something, too…"

Elena's eyes widened with horror. No. This was too much. He'd done all this for her, and now he had a gift for her, too? She hadn't even remembered it was Christmas…

"Damon, you shouldn't have done all of this… I didn't even get you anything…"

Shaking his head at her expression, he pulled the small, velvet box from his pocket and shook his head, pulling off his jacket and dropping it onto the couch. "Relax, Elena. I didn't expect anything in return when I planned all of this. Besides; this gift is more sentimental than anything."

Elena shook her head when she took the small box from him, pulling the white ribbon off and letting it flutter down to the floor, popping the box open. Her eyes widened when she did so, slowly shaking her head. "Damon, it's… gorgeous."

In the box was a small lapis lazuli silver ring, and the stone was surrounded with tiny diamonds. It glittered in the soft light surrounding them, and Elena smiled as she turned her eyes up to him. "Is it spelled?"

He nodded, tucking her hair behind her ear. "It is. I know a witch in L.A.; she hooked me up."

Elena grinned widely, and watched as Damon reached for the box. "May I?"

Smiling, she nodded and passed it to him, quickly tugging off the ring Stefan had given her and letting it drop to the ground, watching with excitement as Damon slid the new, shimmering ring onto her finger. It was beautiful, and new… and symbolic.

Slowly, her chocolate hues drifted from the ring on her finger, to the one on the floor, and then up to Damon's face, staring into his eyes.

She had just tossed away the ring Stefan, her "epic love", had given her, without a second thought. She hadn't cared in the slightest, or thought she would miss it for even a second.

Just like their relationship.

Then, she had been excited for Damon to put the new ring on her, because it was shiny and new and unexplored…

Like her feelings for him.

Before she knew what she was doing, she had wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him full on the mouth, making him stumble backward a bit, his arms wrapping around her waist. Damon expected her to stop, like the last time in the meadow.

Elena didn't plan on stopping. Not now. Not this time.

Months ago, he had said something to her about their relationship; it's right, it's just not right now.

He had been right. She hadn't been ready for him back then; she hadn't learned to fully appreciate everything he did yet. But now… now she knew who Damon Salvatore really was. Damon Salvatore was passionate. He was incredible, and protective, and the most loving, tender man on the planet. But he was dangerous, too. His overprotectiveness had led, more than once, to something bad happening to someone. She didn't like the idea of the fact that he would literally do anything for her… it scared her. It also enticed her. Damon was also, as she had seen from their oh-so-spontaneous trip the past few weeks, adventurous. But she'd known that much from the moment she met him.

Damon Salvatore consumed her. His love consumed her. She finally understood what he meant that night they had first met.

Now, all she wanted was for him to consume her mind, soul… and body.

Damon felt his back slam against the wall, and he began to respond, letting his emotions power his every move, kissing Elena with fervent desperation, adoration, and desire, his lips hungrily devouring hers. This kiss wasn't like the one in Denver, or on her porch, or in the meadow. This kiss was like he was, truly, kissing her for the first time. For the first time, he was kissing the girl he loved, and not even the fires of hell would stop him.

Pushing her forward, they fell to the floor in front of the fireplace, Damon not removing his lips from Elena's as he stripped her of her jacket and shoes, cupping her cheek and deepening the kiss as he unbuttoned her blouse, their lips being pulled apart when Elena flipped them over, straddling his waist and letting her shirt slip from her body as she ripped his own shirt open, flipping them again so she could push it off. She had dreamed of this moment for months. The moment that snuck into her mind every night and left her hot and bothered when she woke up squirming and longing for Damon.

Bending down, Damon united their lips again and kissed her with blazing, fiery passion as he unbuttoned her jeans and slid them down her legs, pushing them aside as he felt her fumbling with his belt buckle, moving his hands between their bodies to help her rid him of it, shimmying out of his own pants as well. This was really happening. This was genuinely, legitimately happening right now. Elena Gilbert wanted him. Their hands were everywhere, touching, caressing and squeezing the areas they had been forbidden to touch for so long.

Finally, when Damon rolled Elena just below the twinkling tree that smelled of fresh pine needles and snow, he found his way inside of her, and she gave a loud, delicious, high cry of pleasure. Their lips met again and they kissed each other inside out, with everything they had. All the love, lust, anger, resentment, confusion, passion and desire had been building up to this climactic moment, and they were both trembling. It didn't matter that both of them were experienced; it felt like the first time.

It was the first time they'd truly felt something like this.

"Damon," Elena groaned softly as he moved within her, his lips trailing over her sweet, delicious skin.

"Hmmm?" he mumbled, not truly hearing her as he moved his mouth back to hers, kissing her deeply. She let him claim her, her entire body humming with his. She ran her hands down his chest to his abdomen, nipping his lip gently and gasping quietly when he thrust deeper, shuddering with pleasure and tipping her head back to let him kiss her neck.

Pausing after a few moments, Elena opened her eyes, licking her lips as she eyed his neck. "Bloodsharing is personal…" she whispered, cutting herself off with a quiet moan when he thrust again, meeting her eyes at her words.

"You want blood…?" he asked breathlessly, and she nodded, her body pulsing with ecstasy.

"So much…"

They gazed at each other in the soft light of the Christmas tree for a few moments before bending their heads to each other's necks, slowly sinking their fangs past the skin. There was an equally stunned gasp from the pair of them at the spike in pleasure as the blood began to flow, and Damon clung more tightly to Elena, her blood slipping into his mouth. This would bind them together. Sharing blood equally and intimately like this was as good as marriage to vampires. She would become his mate, and they would spend eternity together…

Damon wanted nothing more.

And so did Elena.

She was seeing a side of Damon he never let anyone see; the blood was providing them with a mindlink, and she was practically seeing into his soul, venturing to places and memories no one else had ever dared to touch. And he did the same with her; her childhood, her family before it had been broken apart; he was seeing an all new Elena.

They were connected. But, they always had been. It was like the silver chord everyone always talked about; the one that bound you to your soulmate and it only became tighter the closer you got, until it was impossible to leave them.

Elena would never leave Damon.

He would never leave her again.

Damon Salvatore loved over a thousand things about the girl in his arms. He loved her eyes, and the way they twinkled when she laughed, and sparkled when she cried. He loved her mouth and the sassy remarks that came out of it, and the delicious things she did with it. He loved her hands, with their gentle caresses and comforting touches, yet firm, scolding slaps. He loved her feet and the way they danced, twirling her around and around whenever she was happy…

It was all the little things that added up to Elena Gilbert that Damon loved the most. Not the obvious things; the little things that you really had to look for; to pay attention to. Elena loved Damon for caring enough to search for them.

As she softly cried out his name when she came apart in his arms, Damon knew he would love this girl forever.

She was his… and he was hers.

~I'm in love with you… and all your little things…~