hey guys! i'm really sorry that i haven't updated for such a long time! but i've been abroad for a few weeks and life's been keeping me busy lately, so i didn't have much time to write. besides, season 4 is really not my thing and the damon/elena relationship is being completely ruined by that stupid sire bond/emotions off/cure storyline that's been the same for like 10 f*cking episodes (remember back in season 1 when we had a new plot every episode?). well i could ramble on about this for hours, but let's just leave it at this: i'm really not a huge fan of this season and it hasn't been very inspiring to continue the story, if you know what i mean. plus, i didn't know how to get to the 'end' (don't worry, it's not the end of the story, just the end of the chapter!) i'd planned and i sorta needed a few attempts to get this where i wanted... remember this is a romance/FRIENDSHIP fic! ;)
at 'S': oh, don't worry, i'm fine, i've just been busy! there really is no need to worry ;)

so here goes your new chapter, please review if you like! review too if you don't, suggestions for improvements are always welcome!
oh, and remember, this is elena's pov, even if it's third person narrative, so don't be confused about damon's reactions, you don't know what he's thinking! have fun, hana x

"I hate Matt, I hate Matt, I hate Matt, I hate…"

"Oh shut up, Caroline. It won't come true even if you repeat your mantra another fifty times," Bonnie said annoyed and stripped off her sweaty top, stepping into the shower.

"I don't need it to come true because it already is!" Caroline shouted from her shower cabin.

"Stop exaggerating the situation, Care. What he did wasn't that bad," Elena said, rolling her eyes.

"Oh yeah? Denying our date and that he said he liked me in front of all the others isn't that bad? He made me look like a fool!"

Elena could literally hear Caroline pouting through the shower walls. "At least he didn't call you a cheap little whore," she whispered too quietly for the others to hear. Louder, she added: "C'mon, give him a chance, haven't you seen the longing looks he's been throwing at you during training?"

"What was he doing there anyways?" Bonnie wondered aloud. "He's not even on the team."

"I don't know," Caroline said as she wrapped her towel around herself and stepped out of the shower. "He's been following me since the party. It's annoying."

"Oh, don't lie, Care," Elena smiled and peeked over the shower door into the locker rooms. "We know you love the fact that he's chasing after you."

"Maybe a little," her friend admitted and winked.

"Don't you think you've had him come running after you enough? I'm starting to feel sorry for him if you keep ignoring his attempts to talk to you," Bonnie said as she left her cabin. "He looked like a puppy that's been kicked in the face."

"Aw, it wasn't that bad," Caroline defended herself. "I just followed Elena's advice. And it totally worked out! The longer I ignored him, the more desperate he became! Just like in the movies when the girls play hard to get. He even came to cheerleader training and waited a full two hours just to talk to me."

"Who says he came because he wanted to talk to you?" Bonnie raised her eyebrow. "Haven't seen him make any attempts… All he did was sit there and stare at you… Or your ass."

"Bonnie!" Caroline exclaimed in mock-horror just as a knock sounded on the door.

"Girls," a voice sounded from the outside. "Are you all dressed? May I come in?"

"Speaking of the devil…" Elena purred from her shower as Bonnie giggled: "Did he just say 'may'?"

"Shut up," Caroline hissed at her friends and put her slipover over her head. "What do you want, Matt?", she asked in feigned annoyance.

"I just want to sort things out with you, Caroline," Matt shouted through the door. "Can you please come out so we can talk?"

Caroline hesitated and looked over at Elena's cabin where her friend whispered: "You've pretended to be 'hard to get' long enough now, Care."

The blonde girl looked shortly at her feet and then sighed. "Wait outside, Matt. We'll talk when I've finished dressing."

"Okay, I'll see you in a sec," Matt replied happily from the hall and left.

"Yay, yay, YAY!" Caroline shouted as soon as the sound of Matt's steps had faded away.

When she finished her little happy-dance, she suddenly stopped and regarded her friends in fear. "But wait… Is it even a good thing that he wants to talk? Doesn't that normally mean someone wants to break up with you?"

Bonnie looked at Elena and both of them started laughing. "Care, you should seriously stop watching Oprah. Now hurry up, Mr. Dreamy Eyes won't wait another two hours for you," said Bonnie and gave her friend a little push towards the door.

The blonde grinned happily and winked at the other two girls before walking out. "Don't wait for me," they heard her shouting in the hall.

"She's so cute sometimes," Elena smiled under the spray of the shower.

"I'd rather call it annoying," Bonnie sighed from the locker rooms.

"What's up with you today?" Elena asked knitting her eyebrows and turning off the shower.

"Nothing," Bonnie said and shrugged. "It's just that…"

"That what?"

"Nothing," Bonnie repeated. "I don't want to talk about it. I'd much prefer to talk about you and Damon instead."

"What about Damon and me?" Elena asked innocently as she wrapped a towel around her body.

Bonnie raised her eyebrows. "Hm, I don't know, how about you tell me why he and Mason had a fight because of you? Or why you've been ignoring him the whole week? Or why he's been writing messages to you during detention? Or why…"

"Okay, okay, okay," Elena retreated and stepped out of her shower cabin.

"Well?" her friend asked and cocked her head to the side.

Elena bit her lip. "It's… kind of embarrassing."

Bonnie's expression became sympathetic. "What did he do, Elena?" she asked as she sat down next to her friend on the benches.

Elena looked at her fingers. "Well… After Shane—you know—after that, Damon's changed, he always seemed like he paid extra-attention to what he said to me or how he acted around me. Like I would break any second if he made a suggestive comment or just touched my hand or something. So at the party, I suggested we played 'spin the bottle' and the bottle pointed to Alaric. So we kissed. But next time it was my turn, the bottle pointed to Damon. Or the other way round, doesn't matter. However, he looked at me like I was some sort of broken toy in his eyes and I couldn't bare his look. So I faked being sick and ran towards the bathroom—" At that Elena left out a little part of the story to prevent Anna's embarrassment "—but it was occupied, so Damon, who had followed me, and I went to another bathroom at the end of the hall." Elena licked her lips and quickly continued: "Um, he asked me if I was sick and when I said no, he asked me why I walked away from kissing him. So I told him why. And, I don't know, somehow we got into a fight because he said he didn't know how to act around me because of what happened and I told him that I asked him to act normal and then he said that if my 'normal' was sticking my tongue into strangers' mouths like a cheap little whore—" Bonnie gasped at that "—I shouldn't be surprised if the Shane thing repeats itself," Elena bubbled in a rush.

Eventually, she looked up at Bonnie, who sat there in silence, looking shocked. "That's when I slapped him across the face," Elena whispered now, her eyes switching back to her hands. "And outside in the hall, he wanted to talk to me, but obviously I didn't, and then there was Mason who thought Damon was harassing me and suddenly he and Damon were hitting each other and everything went out of control."

Elena avoided her friend's searching look and waited for Bonnie to say something. After a few moments of awkward silence, Bonnie asked: "So what did he write in that message from earlier today?"

Elena looked a little perplex at her friend. She had thought Bonnie would, like, curse or damn Damon or whatever, but not show no reaction at all to what she'd just told her. "I… Wait," Elena said and stood. She walked over to her locker and snatched a note out of it. She handed it to Bonnie. "Read for yourself."

As Bonnie read the message Damon had written to Elena, Elena stood in front of her, waiting for her friend's reaction. After what seemed like hours, Bonnie finally said: "So are you gonna let him explain everything?"

Elena stared at her friend. "I… I don't know," she finally answered. "Do you think I should?"

Bonnie bit her lip. "Uh, I don't know. I mean, calling you a cheap little whore was, like, the nastiest thing he could say to you in that situation, but I guess that's what you do when people you care about upset you."

"People you care about? You think Damon cares about me?" Elena asked and replied for herself a second later: "Of course he does. Otherwise he wouldn't have visited me on Saturday. And he wouldn't have organized a party just to get my mind off of things. He was a real friend, right?"

"Yes, he was," Bonnie said and looked up. "That's what's weird about the whole thing."

Elena knitted her eyebrows. "What do you mean?"

Bonnie licked her lips and searched the room with her eyes. "Look, the way he looks at you, the way he treats you, it's not the way Damon Salvatore usually treats girls. I've known him for almost two years now, and he usually behaves like women are some sort of hobby for him, you know, to have 'fun' with and stuff, but I've never seen him have any female friends or just hanging with girls when he's not about to seduce them."

"But, Bonnie, that doesn't have to mean anything. People change all the time. I mean, maybe he wants to have a female friend now. Why else would he have made such an effort to help me?"

Bonnie looked at her with big eyes. When she blinked, she said: "Maybe because he has feelings for you."

Elena sagged down on the bench next to Bonnie. "What?" she breathed out. "Why would you say that?"

"Because it's the only explanation for his change," Bonnie said. "I don't think he just decided that he wanted to have some female friends all of a sudden. There's got to be some reason for his change and that's the most probable there is in my opinion."

"So you're saying he fell in love with a cheap little whore?" Elena said and raised her eye brows. "I don't know, Bonnie, but I think all his actions speak more of a friendzone-relationship than anything else. I've never heard of a guy who called the girl he liked names like that."

"But, Elena, why would he say he was jealous of Ric if he didn't want you to kiss him instead of his best friend? I mean, I don't feel like kissing my friends and getting jealous if they make out with their boy/girlfriends."

"As you said," Elena said calmly, "Damon's never had any female friends. So I guess he just doesn't know how to behave or what to feel towards them. That's all."

"If you say so…" was all Bonnie said to that.

They finished getting dressed in silence. As Elena opened the door for Bonnie and herself to get out of the gym, she asked: "So… How are things going with your guy?"
"With Chris?" Bonnie said and smiled immediately. "Things are going great. He's asked me out for tonight. He's taking me to some fancy restaurant in the city." She looked down on her watch. "Dammit! It's already 7:30! He said he'd pick me up at 8! And I still have to dress up and apply some make up!"

"Calm down, Bon," Elena smiled. "I'm sure he doesn't mind if you're a little late. Though I don't understand why you need any more make up. You look beautiful with the natural one you're wearing right now, just mascara and a little lip gloss."

Bonnie blushed. "Thanks, Elena. But I feel a more confident with a little eyeliner applied. See you tomorrow, I guess?" she said as she threw her bag over her shoulder and hurried away. "It's probably getting late. Don't expect me to be home before curfew. Bye."

"Bye," Elena mumbled as she wrapped her scarlet scarf around her neck. It was still freezing cold outside.

"Hey," someone behind her said in a small voice.

Elena turned around and faced Damon, only a few feet away from her. "Hey," she said and smiled, but quickly forced it down. She didn't want him to think he'd be forgiven so easily. After a whole week of avoiding him and her conversation with Bonnie, though, she couldn't help but smile. Deep down, she knew she'd already forgiven him. But that didn't mean he'd have to know that already.

"Phew, I already thought you've somehow sneaked out when you weren't coming out. What took you two so long?"

"Um… Nothing, really," Elena said and looked at him, expecting him to make the first move with this.

After a moment in which they just stared at each other, he lowered his eyes to the ground and said: "I'm sorry Elena. I am so sorry. Believe me. I didn't mean what I said to you that night."

"Then tell me why you said it in the first place," Elena said. "Because I still don't get that part of the story. I would never call anyone anything that I didn't really think of them deep down at the bottom of my heart. Never."

"Oh really?" Damon challenged her. "You're saying you never ever called your parents you hated them in the middle of a fight?"

Elena cringed. Damon was right. And it had hit her where it hurt the most. But she couldn't show it. Cover up, Katie, come on, Elena thought and tried to regain control over her sudden feeling of unbearable loss and unwelcome memories. "Course I did," she said guiltily. "But I said because I loved them and they'd upset me pretty badly! It was just a heat of the moment thing to say, nothing serious…"

"That's what I'm saying!" Damon interrupted her. "Don't you get it? I said it because of nothing. Because you upset me."

"What did I do to upset you?" Elena exclaimed.

"You kissed my best friend and ran away from kissing me!" Damon shouted.

Elena paused for a sec. "But why were you upset about that?" she asked, fearing his answer a little.

"Oh gosh, Elena, what do you think?" he asked exasperated and sighed towards heaven. Then he lowered his head again and looked at her, his icy blue eyes trying to make contact with her warm brown ones. "I was upset about it because I like you," he said quietly and looked her deep in the eye. Elena's mouth opened as a mute gasp escaped her lips. She held her breath as he stepped a few steps forward, his eyes wandering to her mouth. WHen he stood only mere inches away from her, he looked up into her eyes again, eyeing her cautiously.

Elena couldn't do anything but stare at him in… Shock? Surprise? Anticipation?

There wasn't time for her to identify the emotion as Damon's hand already slid between her locks and he cupped her face, softly pressing his warm lips to hers. Against her better judgment, her tongue slid out and over his bottom lip, tasting a hint of peppermint that automatically had her leaning into him. His hand wrung around her waist and he pulled her towards him as a surprised gasp escaped Elena's lips, allowing Damon to slip his tongue into her mouth. When she felt it circling hers, she suddenly froze, realizing what they were doing. In a kneejerk reaction, she pushed him away and stumbled a few steps backwards.

Damon's right hand was still lifted up in the air, right where it had been sitting on her waist. He blinked at her in surprise, his cheeks slightly flushed, though she didn't know if it was from the cold or the kiss they'd just shared. His hand slowly fell down and the surprise in his eyes changed into hurt.

"I… I can't," Elena stuttered, "You… Can't."

"I can't what?" Damon asked hoarsely. He cleared his throat and continued in almost a whisper: "You told me to behave as if nothing's happened—that's what I would have done if nothing had happened," a desperate note in his voice.

"No, I mean…" Elena began and bit her tongue. She'd wanted to say 'you can't have feelings for me. Not after the short time we know each other. That's not possible.' But she realized that just because he kissed her, it didn't have to mean that he had feelings for her. According to Bonnie, Damon looked at girls as a matter of amusement for him. Maybe that's what she was for him… But no, that couldn't be. He'd just told her he liked her.

"Yeah?" Damon asked when she didn't finish her sentence.

"You can't like me like that," Elena blurted out, "You barely know me. You can't—"

"Don't tell me what I can and can't feel, Elena," Damon said, "I know it's weird, I've never thought that it happened so fast but… You know, I've never felt this way about anyone and—"

"But that also means that you don't know if it's that kind of feelings," Elena interrupted him, feeling like a caged animal trying to break out. "You're probably just feeling protective of me because of what Shane did and now you're mistaking it for feelings for me…"

"No, Elena, listen," Damon said, but Elena couldn't let go of her train of thought and babbled on:

"No, Damon, you listen," she said definitely, "You're wrong about those 'feelings' for me. You know, you don't seem like a guy who's got a lot of female friends that are just that, friends, no benefits, no 'drunk accidents', no nothing. So this is new ground for you. You don't know how to act around girlfriends let alone what to feel for them. And what you're feeling right now—that's not romantic feelings, it's friendship. And you're just a little confused because that's not something you ever connected with girls. That's all."

She took a deep breath and opened her eyes she hadn't noticed she'd closed. Damon stared at her, an indescribable emotion on his face. "Elena—"

"Please, Damon," she said, pleading, "Please. I don't need to have any more trouble or worries right now, it's enough as it is. What I need is a friend. Someone who understands me. Someone like you."

She looked at him with her doe eyes, desperation written all over her face, and his expression became gentler. "Maybe you're right," he finally said and took a step towards her. "Maybe I'm just mistaken. And I could use a real friend, too."

Elena raised her head a little, blinked and smiled relieved. "Thank you," she whispered.

He stepped forward and for a second, she thought he'd kiss her again, but all he did was wrap his arms around her and hug her to his chest. Smiling, she hugged him back and buried her face in his shoulder. This was all she needed. After all that happened to her, she wasn't ready to start a new relationship. She needed a friend she could trust and lean into, not someone who would leave her if things didn't work out. She needed something that remained in her life—for good.