Warnings: Smut, angst.

Written for the Author2Author exchange at tvdmixing, a LiveJournal community.

Original prompt by rosesforever94: It's New Year's eve, though everyone in Mystic Falls decided not to celebrate after the many people they lost during the past years. Elena sees Damon leaving the boarding house with a bottle of bourbon is his hand. Curiosity gets the best of her and she follows him, ending up hearing him talk to Ric at the cemetery. Her heart breaks at seeing him so vulnerable and she decides to make sure he gets a nice start of the new year. At 12 o'clock she goes to his room and hands him a present (up to you to decide what it is) that makes him break down entirely. He hates himself for showing Elena his true emotions, but instead of running away Elena comforts him in ways no other person possibly can.

New Year's Eve, and there really wasn't a lot to celebrate.

Elena tore open a blood bag, and sucked on the corner of it. She drank slowly, the way Damon taught her, and wished he was there right then, whispering soothing words into her ear, but he wasn't.

But she drank the way he taught her to. Swallowed the blood past the lump in her throat.

Stupid sire bond. And what did it even mean? She wasn't even a vampire when she fell in love with Damon… slowly, at first, but once he was there in her heart, he was undeniable. And yes, things had changed, once she'd turned. Stefan grieved her. She could be right there in his bed and still he grieved her like she was dead, like he couldn't touch her.

No. Like he didn't want to, anymore. Stefan loved Elena human. Damon just loved her, full stop. He touched her face, and swore she'd never looked more alive.

Stupid sire bond.

Damon could make her dance the can-can, but the sire bond didn't make her love him. She did that all by herself.

Elena sighed, and went to the kitchen, wiping down surfaces that were already entirely clean. She was still sleeping at the boarding house, but Damon wouldn't touch her, would barely look at her, and it was… breaking her heart, and that was just true, not melodrama, because Elena's heart hurt. A real physical pain that wouldn't go away.

She'd crept into the library the night after Christmas and he was just drinking. Just had a glass of bourbon in his hand. Slouched miserably on the couch.

"If you believe in this stupid sire bond so much then tell me to stop loving you," she had said. A little tipsy herself, truth be told.

"Don't. Elena. Stop." He hadn't looked up.

"Do it. If you won't touch me… make me free of you. Except it won't work, will it? You know that because you know I already loved you." Tears fell from her eyes. "I loved you in Denver when you kissed me and… I loved you before that…"

Damon had finished his drink. "I'm going out," he'd said, and swept past without looking at her.

The kitchen was definitely, definitely clean, and if she kept wiping the counter she'd soon wear it down to nothing at all.

Some fucking New Year's Eve this was turning out to be. Everyone miserable. Everyone lonely. Everything in every room seemed like a reminder of everything they'd lost that year and everything they still had to lose. All of them. And everything was terrifying, and all Elena wanted was Damon's arms around her and…

She slumped onto the floor, right there in the kitchen, and cried until she couldn't cry anymore.

Just after dark, Elena went for a long walk, and it was not long after she'd decided that it was time to go home and be miserable there for a while that she saw Damon. Walking. Walking sort of aimlessly, like he wasn't sure he wanted to go where he was going. Walking with a bottle of bourbon. Not his favorite. The faded yellow label, the funny shaped bottle. No, not his favorite. Alaric's favorite. Elena tucked her hands in her pockets, and began to follow.

They were only minutes from the cemetery when she realized that was where he was going, and her heart sank. And how was it possible, for Elena's heart to sink any further? It was somewhere in the vicinity of her stomach already. Still, it sank. She followed, a long distance behind, and took the long way around, and found a spot where she could watch.

She hoped Damon might talk.

Damon talked to Alaric, Elena knew that. They talked in the library in the boarding house. They talked in the living room in the Gilbert house. Fuck, they even talked on the phone, sometimes, and Elena wondered if Alaric knew that Damon didn't talk that much, usually. She sat on the stairs in her own house, once, and listened as they got angrier and angrier at each other over, of all the ridiculous things, slow zombies versus fast zombies. She'd covered her mouth with her hands to stop herself from laughing out loud.

They talked and talked and knew each other better than anyone else did, and Elena was glad for both of them. At least, she had been when Alaric was alive, and listening. Because now Damon wasn't talking much to anyone – certainly not to Elena.

"I know you're here," Damon said, and Elena was about to slink out with her head down and her tail between her legs. "But sometimes," Damon went on, "I think you're everywhere. Everywhere but here. I save your seat at the Grill and sometimes I think you're just gonna show up, and sit down, and call me a dick, and drink my bourbon. Sometimes I crack the spine on a book and I can hear you roll your eyes."

Damon sat down, and tugged the cork from the bottle.

He drank. A few mouthfuls, silently.

"It was a really lovely Christmas. Eggnog and presents and everybody making out under the mistletoe." He laughed mirthlessly. "Were you there? It was miserable. Miserable. Elena looks like…

"I can't fucking talk about Elena. I can't even think about her. So you know what, Ric? I'm just gonna keep lying to myself and lying to you, since you're not here to make that bitchface at me. You know, sometimes I think I hate you. Because here I am trying to not fuck things up any more than they're already fucked and I think if Ric was here, what would he say? What do you think about the fucking sire bond, Ric? Do you believe in it? I think it's proof that god hates me particularly and specifically because I love Elena. God, Ric. I love her. And I can't have her. Not like this, not… wondering every second if she's kissing me because she wants to or because I want her to. I can't do it." He drank deeply again. "So how are you, Ric? You and Jenna planning a litter of angels yet? I mean. Sex on a cloud, that's gotta be hot, right?"

And he shook his head again.

"I don't think I can do this by myself."

Putting down the bottle, Damon crouched in front of the headstone, brushing it off. Blowing dust from the crevices between the letters.

"Some days I don't think I even want to, anymore." He returned to the bench and sat. "I got the girl, but I never really got the girl."

Elena felt tears burn tracks down her face. Felt her chin quiver. She wanted to rush over and pull Damon close and swear it wasn't the sire bond that was making her feel these things. Plead with him. Make him see. She'd whisper 'Denver' in his ear until all he could do was remember how they had been together, that day, urgent, frantic. She'd remind him of his lips on her breasts. She'd remind him of that first morning they'd woken up together and how different he looked, how gentle, how young. The almost smug smile she'd kissed off his face.

Damon poured a good slug of bourbon into the soil.

"Miss you, man," he said, as he drank the last of it, stumbling slightly, and turned to walk away.

Elena waited a long time, and then she spent some time sitting where Damon had sat. If she closed her eyes she could convince herself that she could feel Alaric sitting alongside her. Offering the quiet support she craved so badly.

Because. How many parents could a person really lose?

Elena shook her head.

"He just won't get out of his own way. He doesn't get that I want him, that I've wanted him for so long… if you were here, you could make him see, couldn't you, Ric?" She shook her head, making her hair cascade prettily over her face. "You could always make him see, when no one else could."

She stood, and stayed like that for a few more moments.

"We miss you so much. Every day. Happy new year, Ric," she said in a rush, and walked away.

She never saw Alaric shake his head, and speak silently into the ice-cold night.

If she could, she would have heard him say "Don't give up on him. Everyone always does."

Maybe she heard it anyway, a little.

At 11.45, Elena gave up on Damon ever coming back down to the library. She slipped into her own bedroom, and, biting her lip, held the clumsily wrapped gift in her hand. Unsure even now if she could give it to him. She steeled herself and reminded herself that she was a vampire, and a Petrova woman, with Petrova fire, that she was Bulgarian, and Bulgarian women were might, and that above and beyond that she was Elena fucking Gilbert and she could do anything. Anything. And she walked down the hall until she got to Damon's door, and she rapped gently with her knuckles.

"Go away, Elena," Damon called. He sounded tired, a little drunk.

She opened the door, and closed it behind her with a click. "And if I say no?"

Damon shook his head. Lying on the bed. He wasn't reading. His ever-present glass of bourbon was on the nightstand beside him. He wasn't doing anything. Staring at the ceiling, that was all. The cracks up there. Maybe he was reading those, reading the history of this house.

Elena sat on the edge of the bed.

"When I said 'go away, Elena', which part did I stutter on? Some fucking sire bond. Can't even get a bit of peace and quiet."

"Just shut up," Elena said. "I have something for you." She passed him the gift. He took it, and put it on the bed beside him. She reached across Damon's body, making him pull away, sit up. "Don't be an ass," she said. "Open it." She shoved it back into his hands.

Damon rolled his eyes. Christ, he looked young when he did that, a boy not getting his own way. He tore the paper away. "This is your diary." He narrowed his eyes.

"Yes, my diary. And the little tabs…" there were dozens of them. "Each one marks where I said I was confused about you. Or early on, anyway. And then." She could feel herself blushing. "Later… they say… I wasn't confused, anymore. I wrote about Denver. I wrote about the first time we kissed, on my porch, and the time we nearly did, and I said we couldn't, and…"

Tears stung Elena's eyes. She was so sick of crying. Petrova fire, damn it, she told herself. "It's all there, Damon. If you don't believe me, believe it."

She stood and tried to smile, at his sad, confused expression, and checked the bedside clock, just in time for the hands to line up. "Midnight," she said. "Happy new year. At least we know it can't be worse than this one was, right?"

And then she crossed to the door.

Damon beat her there, blocking her path, and Elena's head swam. He pressed the diary into her hand. "I don't want your stupid diary," he said.

Elena took, looked at it. Dropped it near her feet.

"You'll read it, when you're ready."

"I'm trying to be the adult here," he said. Can't you see that? I'm trying to be the adult and it's not my fucking job." He set his jaw. "I keep asking myself, what would Ric say? What would Ric do? But he;s not fucking here and I can't fucking ask him. So you tell me, Elena. Would Ric tell me sure, go ahead, take advantage of the sire bond, bang Elena until she can't walk straight. Well? Would he?"

Elena opened her mouth, closed it again.

Elena had never seen Damon cry and he wasn't crying now but he wasn't exactly not doing that, either. His eyes were rimmed red and his cheeks pinked up. He gripped Elena's arms, shook her. "Well, Elena? Can you hear Ric saying that?"

"Ric would want you to be happy."

He rolled his eyes. "Do you know how trite that sounds? Blah, blah blah blah, that's all I hear right now. Happy? Ric always tired to do the right thing and he gave me hell if I did any less. So tell me. What would Ric say, in this particular situation?"

She thought. Tried to bring Alaric to mind, to see every curve of his face, the stubble he always wore by five in the evening. His sad eyes. What would he say?

Oh. That's what he'd say.

"He'd tell you to be sure."

Damon didn't move, a tear pouring down each cheek. "Be sure? Oh what?"

"That it wasn't the sire bond making me feel this way, Damon." Elena shrugged. "So compel me. Use the stupid sire bond and make it so I don't feel like this anymore. Tell me not to love you."

Damon shook her, again. Still she stood her ground. "Stop," he said.

"Stop what?"

"Stop… stop loving me. Let it go. Don't love me a minute longer. It stops now."

Elena gave a sad little half smile, and cocked her head. "Are you saying it right? Because I don't feel any different."

Rougher, then, Damon pinned her to the wall. The nearness of him was intoxicating; his strong body, his silver eyes, darkening now, with what – rage? Lust? Both. "You don't love me. Not any more."

"I love you," she said.

And Damon pushed her away. "I don't want you here," he said. "I don't want you to see me like this." He yanked the door roughly open, and tried to push her through. Elena felt her own tears build.

"I don't know what else I can say," she sobbed. "Please. Please don't make me go. I know you can…"

Damon stalked away, two paces, back again. It was there on the tip of his tongue. If he spoke again it would be in That Tone, the one that meant she couldn't say no. Well, she didn't care. She'd sit outside his room and cry until he couldn't bear to hear it any more.

He gripped her arms again. Eyes red and burning and so sad Elena thought her heart would crack in two. He pushed her against the wall. Rougher, this time. Pressed harder, the lines of his body meeting Elena's everywhere, and through gritted teeth, he issued the command once again: "Stop loving me. Stop."

Elena moaned, once, long and low, and twisted her hips. "I love you," she said. "And you can make me get in my car and drive away. You can make me emigrate to France or do cartwheels but you can't make stop me loving you. I don't believe for a second that the sire bond has a single thing to do with the way my heart beats when you walk into the room. Or the way I ache when I can't have you close. Or the way I sneak in here and lie on your bed sometimes, to breathe you in. I don't."

It might have been a week, or an hour, or ten minutes that they stood like that; Elena's face hopeful, if tearful, Damon's furious. Or it might have been a moment that let itself stretch beyond the boundaries of time, be that magic of love and new year's eve and two bodies that craved each other.

It was a while.

And Damon hadn't said another word, and though he still had his hands wrapped tight around Elena's arms, his face was beginning to soften. Still frowning intensely. But the set of his jaw changed.

So maybe one more time, for luck?

Some distant voice in Elena's head said don't give up on him. Everyone always does.

"I love you," she said. For luck.

It was like some switch had been flipped. Damon mashed his mouth to Elena's, hungry, starving. He buried one hand in her hair and wrapped the other around her waist, grinding his thigh between Elena's legs. Elena groaned, rubbing against him. He was back in her arms and she wouldn't let go.

They bumped teeth. Desire was so inelegant. Elena didn't care.

What was much more important than the bumping of teeth was the melding of flesh; there was too much clothing between them. Though it felt like they should be tentative, go slow, after building this fragile peace, Elena couldn't, and it seemed Damon couldn't, either. He yanked her shirt over her head. An earring caught and disappeared but whatever, it was an earring. Elena wriggled out of her jeans (stupid skinny jeans, ugh, made her ass look amazing but they weren't very practical) while Damon struggled out of his own clothes, kissing frantically when he could. He lifted Elena off the ground and she wrapped her legs tight around his body, taking him in as deep as he could go. Deeper. Deeper than biology usually allowed.

She thought, for a second, that she might faint.

Her eyes seemed to want to close, but Elena wanted to see Damon. Watch the emotions chase each other over his face, the way they did. Hope and fear and love, and maybe a bit of rage, too, because Damon was too used to getting the carpet pulled out from under him, and was always expecting the worst.

"Damon," she muttered. She wanted him to know, absolutely know, that she was there with him.

His eyelids seemed impossibly heavy, his lips impossibly full. Certainly his arms were impossibly strong, holding her there like that. "Fuck, Elena. Fuck," he said, thrusting hard. Elena laughed, a glorious, twinkling laugh, as Damon kissed her throat, and wrapped her arms even tighter around him.

And he slowed, suddenly.


He carried her to the bed, and lay them down. Took her more slowly, then, swooping to kiss a nipple erect. She bit her lip, drew blood, and Damon licked it away, smearing a little over his chin.

"I love you," she said again, and he smiled, rueful. Because he had to believe it, now. He had no choice. He pulled almost all of the way out of her, and in again, thumbing at her clit, making her arch her back up off the bed. "Don't send me away again. I don't care what…"

"Shh," he said, so she was quieter, only little moans and murmurs escaping her lips. "God, Elena. You feel so good."

She wanted to say, yes, I do feel good, I feel better than you can imagine, but she had lost the ability to speak, and only smiled, smiled very wide. Put a tiny hand across the back of Damon's neck and pulled him close enough to kiss again; wet and deep and messy. The best kiss of the year so far and really, as years went, this one had included some very fine kissing.

When his breath, and his rhythm, began to stutter, Elena wanted to weep. It should have gone on forever, but of course it couldn't. With a sharp jerk of her hips, Elena came right along with Damon, their faces matched in ecstasy.

"I love you," she said again.

"I'll never get tired of hearing that," Damon said, and lightly, kissing the corner of Elena's mouth, trying to stay inside her for as long as he could manage, said "I love you, too," and he said it like it hurt to say but he said it, and that was what counted.

And under the warm blankets, Elena lay draped over Damon, her face against his chest. Calm for the first time in days. They spoke in whispers and kissed and touched and didn't stop touching, as the snow began to fall in soft drifts in the dark blue light of the midwinter night.

"I miss him," Damon said. "So fucking much sometimes it's like a knife in the gut."

Elena nodded, and pulled Damon closer. "I never feel like he's far away," she admitted. "Like he's watching, maybe."

And she didn't see it, but out in the dark, Alaric smiled, too, and faded into nothing.