It was surprising to Damon just how many little things he'd missed while getting to know Elena. Sure, he'd noticed she tucked her hair behind her ear when she was nervous and the way she always looked at her feet when she laughed. There were a million little mannerisms he'd memorized and dubbed Elena specific.
The day she looked at him differently he was sober as a nun on Easter and well on his way to withdrawal. Low on blood, low on booze, low on pussy. He was cranky.
He had spent the entire day trying to make good with his brooding brother. He hated the scowl plastered across Stefan's face and he hated that it was he who had put it there. He pieced it together fairly quickly at the Miss Mystic Falls Pageant. Elena looked at him glassy eyed, chest held in a tense full breath, lips swollen and parted. He had to look away.
She chased him down after the pageant, calling his name as he grasped the door handle to his car. She ended up in the passenger seat controlling the radio dial with unsteady fingers. She smelled like the vanilla of her shampoo heated by the sun and the sweet sweat that pinpricked across her body.
Her youth making an appearance, she blurted out, "We need to talk." Her voice was a little hoarse and by the sound of her swallow he could tell her throat was tight. She either needed to feed or she was very nervous. Probably a bit of both.
He honed in on her pulse behind the music. It was slower than it was when she was a human but he still detected the flutter in its pace.
"About?" he asked, keeping his eyes trained on the road.
She looked out of the window then, and sighed a little. He knew exactly what she wanted to talk about but he gave her time anyway. He almost relented when he saw her visibly struggling with the words. This was worse than Denver with her erratic breathing and sweaty palms. He'd been too tired then, and far too impatient to leave her be in that hallway. It was all pent up tension and a release and mourning of a man they both loved. It wasn't this.
Denver came and went along with the memory of the insides of her mouth and the taste of her tongue she had left on the roof of his. She regretted it moments after it happened and even more so as the guilt consumed her. He'd be lying if he said the guilt didn't give him a swift kick in the ass as they fought ruthlessly to bring Stefan back to them.
Now the guilt washed over him as his heart yearned for her to profess some undying love for him and only him even though he promised himself he'd turn her away for the sake of brotherhood. She was young, she was going through another phase. Stefan was good for her and Damon was dangerous. The good girl always veered away from what was perfect for her by a darker version of herself. Same old story. She'd have her taste of him and when he was finished filling that void in her heart she'd miss what he wouldn't give her but his brother could; epic fucking love. The little kisses on her nose and roses on Valentines day would be replaced by nipping at her neck til he drew blood and making her cry just so he could make her smile again. That's what she was signing up for.
They arrived at the boarding house just as Stefan was leaving. Elena all but hid behind him as Stefan brushed past them with a clenched jaw and sad eyes. Damon pretended not to notice the tension and called out to his brother, "Where you headed?"
Stefan just waved him off and slid off on his little crotch rocket. It was very James Dean and too dramatic for his empty stomach. He remedied that with a healthy glass of bourbon after he shuffled Elena into the house.
He felt her eyes on him as he downed the third glass and sank into a chair next to where she was perched on the love seat. He let out a long content sigh and let his arms fall loosely over the arms of the chair. He decided he'd finally take the bite when she didn't make a move for a full three minutes.
Damon slowly let his eyes shift to meet hers. They were still so glassy like she'd been holding in tears or had gotten into her stash of pain pills she thought nobody knew she hid in her pillowcase since sophomore year.
"What is it Elena?" he asked, his voice coming out far more gentle than he expected. He felt anything but gentle at the moment. His heart twisted between indulging in her teenage fantasy and running after his heartbroken little brother.
She relaxed a little then, her shoulders falling and chin dropping. The fire still crackled where Stefan had left it and he watched the strands of her hair catch the orange glow of the flames. Her long and thin fingers moved to tuck a few loose tendrils behind her ears. He knew her dress must be uncomfortably tight from the way her chest strained and spilled over the seams of the top. When he realized his eyes were tracing the curve of her breasts, he looked away.
Her voice was so small when she admitted with hopefulness, "I really wanted to dance with you today."
No. No, he wasn't going to take the bite after all. This wouldn't be another Denver where he crossed the lines that she drew up just to tempt herself to step over. He wouldn't let her press her mouth into his or press her up against a wall so he could take her quickly before she could have time to reflect and change her mind.
"I would have danced with you," Damon offered in faux cluelessness.
"I broke up with Stefan today," she went on, her voice becoming stronger and chin a little higher.
Damon sighed heavily and responded in like, "do you think my brother and I don't talk?"
She cringed a little but recovered quickly to stare unwaveringly into his relaxed gaze. The bourbon made him bite.
"I think that sometimes things don't get said that should," she retorted.
Damon leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees and move his face closer to hers. His heart probably betrayed him as it picked up its pace despite the calmness of his voice, "he told me what I needed to know."
"He told you why?" she asked, surprise with an almost mask of contempt set on her lips.
Damon had to hold back a chuckle. God she was so damn young. Too young to be meddling between two love stricken old men. He wanted to make it easier for her and pull her into a hug and whisper that he'd pick up where Stefan left off and everything would be romantic-comedy-perfect. Maybe if Denver had never happened he'd be foolish enough to do it.
"I think you need to think harder on this one Elena. I think you need to adjust longer to being a vampire and sort out the real from the want." Damon forced the words out with all the bourbon in his veins and almost squeezed his eyes shut as she stood quickly to look down at his hunched form.
"It's all I've thought about. I love him enough to be honest with him…and to you," she hissed, a tear dropping onto his clasped hands.
He let it soak there, pooling into the subtle young creases of his old hands. Without looking at her he reached out to touch her fingers. When his fingertips grazed hers he murmured, "That's your problem Gilbert, you love too damn much."
When she left the Salvatore boarding house she knew by the way he looked at her as she glanced back over her shoulder, he felt it too. He felt that pull that was there, the jolt when their eyes met. His words of letting her vampire side settle before she made any rash decisions rang true. Maybe if he had understood how close she teetered on this thick red line she drew between herself and her lover's brother, he'd believe her intentions.
The thing about Damon Salvatore was that he rarely believed in good intentions from anyone.
She tossed her purse on the couch before taking the stairs in twos to her room. She immediately shed her dress and hose to fall back onto her mattress. Her skin was creased with the imprints of her too tight dress and she traced with feather light fingers the twin creases that ran along her rib cage.
Her phone buzzed from her nightstand and she smiled when she saw Damon's name appear with a short text: you need to drive slower young lady.
Elena opened the text and glanced at the extremely old texts above the new one. It felt strange to see the short you ok?'s and Where are you?'s that she responded with I'm fine's and tell Stefan to call me at Bonnie's.
She clicked back your eyes deceive you; I always obey the laws of the road.
She waited a while, eyes glazing over as she waited for his reply that didn't come. She wasn't sure how long her fingers hovered above the text, refreshing the screen, but eventually she fell asleep.
Damon woke to the sound of his phone vibrating under his pillow. He slid his hand underneath his cheek without opening his eyes. Squinting into the sun that pierced through the parted curtains he read the text that lit the screen. Can I come over?
Since when do you ask? He sent the text as he stood with a loud yawn and stretched on his tip toes.
He heard the front door open and shut and the clatter of Elena's purse dropping on the entryway table. He shook his head and rolled his eyes a little at her complete lack of patience. He moved to his dresser, tugging slightly at his loose fitting boxers. Morning wood aside, he felt he had a decent handle on things.
That all went out the window of course when he turned to see her leaning against his door frame all cute and shit. Her hair was in a high pony tail and the only make up she had bothered with that morning was a smear of lip gloss. She was in a long maxi dress and flip flops that clanked noisily against her heels as she made her way to his side.
He folded his arms over his bare chest and tilted his head to the side in question as she turned to stand in front of him.
"I left some things here and needed to get them," she admitted, folding her arms to mirror his stance.
"Ok," he replied dully, raising his eyebrows in question.
Her eyes flicked between his for a few beats before she sighed and said softly, "Ok…" and turned on her heels towards Stefan's room.
He tugged on a shirt and dark jeans before heading down the stairs to pour himself a drink. He could hear her making a mess of things in Stefan's room and cringed a little when he heard glass break. Instead of calling out to her, he crept up the stairs bourbon in hand. He found her with tear stains on her cheeks and a broken picture frame on the floor. He took a gulp from his glass before setting it noisily on Stefan's bookshelf.
"Finally hitting you kiddo?" he murmured, stooping down to collect the shards of glass from the dusty wood floor.
She brushed the tears away and shrugged, grabbing the already packed box of her things that was placed neatly on Stefan's desk. Damon knew she needed to do the girly thing and cry with her girl pals over a bowl of ice cream and a bag of blood…but that didn't stop him from placing a hand on the top of her head. He'd seen Ric do it several times instead of pulling her into a hug. It was a fatherly gesture that beat the awkwardness of bodies pressing into each other.
Instead of calming her down it seemed to enflame some sort of fiery madness inside of her. Her eyes flashed in anger and she pushed his arm away, not even flinching when his fingers tangled and yanked her hair. He jerked his head back in surprise and lips parted in question.
"Kiddo? Young Lady? I'm not some little girl Damon. I get that you're in a tough spot between me and your brother. But I…" she raked a hand through her hair and bit her lip, looking away.
He bit back the very real retort bubbling in his throat. She was just a little girl. A little girl who just broke up with her first true love because of some fantasy that a dark man could be fixed and molded into her knight in shining armor. He wasn't buying it this time. He wasn't setting himself up for it. Ever.
"The only spot I'm in is wondering what the hell is going on here Elena. If there's something you're looking for here you're just going to have to ask for it."
He shouldn't have thrown that in because now he knew she'd ask things of him he wasn't sure he could give. He just kept picturing her face as she rushed into his lips in that hallway back in Denver. It was a look of defeat and he didn't want to be something she gave into. He didn't want to be the temptation that she'd regret later when she realized he couldn't be changed or molded. Not by her, not by anyone.
She held her head a little higher, eyes willing his to meet hers and she spoke with that Petrova fire that always flicked sharply at his chest, "I want you."
He groaned and let his head fall back to thump heavily against the wall. He spoke to the ceiling loudly in a tone of frustration, "for how long?"
She didn't answer but he knew he must have hurt her…or angered her further. She pushed past him without a word and he could hear her toss the box in the back of her car and speed away from the house in a cloud of dust.
Elena left the box on the kitchen table and immediately grabbed a bottle of wine from the wine rack. She didn't bother with a bottle opener, she just thrust her pinkie into the cork like stone through butter and pulled it out with a loud pop. She didn't care that the deep purple seeped out of the corners of her mouth or ran in staining streaks down her dress. She just kept drinking.
As a human an entire bottle of wine downed in minutes would have her passed out in her vomit but now she drained it with ease. Drunk and less likely to punch something, she set out to land on her bed and just sleep.
Her phone had other ideas. It buzzed against her cheek just as she'd fallen belly down onto the billowy floral comforter.
Damon's text blurred in front of her, Come back.
She snorted and texted back, What for.
Because I hate texting.
She sighed and rolled over onto her back to reply with slightly numb thumbs, got drunk.
It took him a while to reply, she had nearly drifted off when the phone jerked her alert. She had to smile a little at his reply. We're going to do this my way. Slow. And don't drink alone, it's unbecoming.
Didn't think slow was your style, she replied.
We'll talk more later. Sober up.
She didn't reply and she let herself drift away.
Elena knew she shouldn't expect Damon to greet her with open arms and lips pressed to hers. She knew she'd hurt him time and again when he had all but laid his heart out on a table for her. It always came down to Stefan and her love for him. Since turning, her love didn't go away for Stefan but it didn't strengthen either. Instead, she felt what she felt in that hotel room in Denver every time she looked at his brother. The feel of the bed dipping under his weight in time with her belly dipping with a shock of adrenaline; the musky smell of his skin and hair as she tucked her hands under her cheek to really look at his sharp profile; the coppery taste of his mouth as she threw all rational thought off the balcony and raced into his arms.
She understood the coldness of his words and the wariness behind his eyes when she came too close. He didn't believe her and she didn't blame him.
When he sat her down on the couch and talked to the spaces beyond her eyes, she nodded slightly to every request. She smiled inwardly at the thought that she was on some trial period with him.
"We can go from there after a month. I think everything will be clearer for you in a month's time," he went on to say, his voice becoming steadier and more sensible with each word.
She nodded again, feeling like a bobble head doll and replied," That seems reasonable to me."
There was a long silence then as they sat side by side on the couch, neither sure what to do next. She couldn't help but feel uncomfortable as the weight of what was and what would be hit her. This was Damon and all the memories of everything they'd ever been through played through her mind and were transformed by the fluttering in her chest and the jolts in her belly.
It was the little things that took Damon by surprise. He found that Elena loved to sing in the car when the mood suited her. He knew she could sing, he'd heard Katherine croon at the piano in one of her attempts to make the brother's swoon. It was just one of those things he'd never thought about her doing. Usually everything surrounding Elena was keeping her alive and keeping her out of trouble. Somewhere along the way he didn't get to really know her in all these little ways.
Somehow she convinced him to hop into her little SUV one humid night towards her family's lake house. She flipped through radio stations, grimacing at every song that pierced his skull until she pressed the cd button.
"Love her," she admitted as the husky tones of Lana Del Rey filled the air around them.
He had to look away as she sang with a small smile and hooded eyes, something touching him beyond his comfort zone. He didn't look over again until she had flipped it back over to the radio and settled on an upbeat song that she had apparently choreographed in between all of her near death experiences and fucking his brother.
She was hilarious and Goddammit she made him smile. All those times he watched her with her friends he had looked right through this. He was always so damn worried about if she'd live another day to smile again to notice that she was smiling now.
Someone pulled out in front of her and she had to hit her brakes but he barely noticed. He couldn't stop seeing her.
She whipped around the car and made a face at the driver before turning her attention back to the road.
"Who are you?!" he asked in between a scoff of laughter.
God the look on her face told it all. She was so so much more.
The lake house smelled mustier than Elena remembered, but then again everything smelled different as a vampire. She tugged at her shorts to keep them from riding up as she made her way around the room to crack open windows.
She wished she knew what he was thinking right now. He just stood there with his hands in his pockets and narrowed eyes that always made him look sadder. She wanted to make him laugh again, she'd never seen him laugh like that. Sadder even, she'd never tried to make him laugh like that before. Sometimes she had been so cold and shut him out so tightly all so she could lie to herself that she didn't feel something.
A breeze picked up and as her eyes were trained on his from across the room, his scent washed around her; passenger to the wind. His smell always conjured up images of black leather, old books and the roar of old muscle cars. It almost made her smile that this was what she attached as Damon specific. She knew there was so much more to learn of him.
Elena didn't mean to but she visibly reacted to his smell encompassing her. How was it possible to pretend she wasn't feeling something in these moments when he looked at her in that way. Her eyes became heavy and she shuddered slightly, causing him to clench his jaw and drop his head back to stare towards the ceiling in an attempt to keep his feet planted to the floor.
She took a few steps forward and held out her hand, softly saying, "c'mon," and pulled him up the stairs behind her.
She opened a door that led into a little room lined with movies and had a TV placed in front of a short plaid couch. She turned to face him with a smile and said, "pick one."
His lips raised in that half smile toothless grin that made his eyes narrow in the not sad way. He surprised her with a thumb to her cheekbone and a low voice, "you drove me all the way to the lake house to watch a movie?"
"I always come to the lake house on this date. We came every year on Dad's birthday," she admitted, hoping his eyes wouldn't become sad again.
His hand fell from her cheek and his wide grin settled into a softer setting of his lips. She realized she probably stared a few beats too long at his mouth but he moved past her to look at the movies as if he hadn't noticed.
They ended up on either end of the small couch with her chin rested on her knees and toes gripping the edge of her cushion. He was taking up more space than needed, his flask giving him away when he snuck a few sips. She knew he enjoyed drinking but she also knew that it was also a way for him to numb the creeping edge that being a vampire caused you. She held out her hand for the flask that he placed firmly in her palm. Without looking away from the tv, Elena took a large swig and felt herself relax.
He had picked The Dreamers because it was, after all, all about her getting to know him too. No sense in pretending he liked the overabundance of mind numbing car chases and explosions. He liked Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter but he'd let her figure that out for herself.
He enjoyed the way Elena became uncomfortable at the realization that he picked out a movie centered around two siblings tangling with a new friend over sex, drugs, and film. It was on purpose of course. He liked to see her uncomfortable but more so he wanted to see her find comfort around him. He was brash, crude, and downright untactful at times and that would be one of the many things that would wear Elena thin.
"Have you seen this before?" Elena asked warily as she stuck it into the DVD player.
"Have I seen a movie with a beautiful woman and two handsome men finding their place in her affections?" Damon asked in mock question.
She rolled her eyes and curled up into herself on one end of the couch as he plopped down on his side. He'd be lying if he said he didn't want to lay Elena out on the couch and thrust his fingers inside of her as she watched the lovely Eva Green move her hips in a nude dance to French words. That's where his flask comes in or he'd do it.
Elena left her lip gloss on his flask after she took her turn numbing her own demons and he let his tongue swirl over the chemically flavored gel that coated the metal opening before taking a searing gulp.
He felt that strangeness sweep over him again as his eyes were on the film, but his mind was on the girl at the end of the couch. She smelled of arousal that is so much sweeter and thick than that of a woman. He loved the confidence in a woman's lovemaking. He loved the eagerness of a girl's. God, she was still just a girl barely two decades up against his over a century of fucking and falling in and out of love.
She spoke then in that husky voice that didn't belong to such a young girl. "I used to try to dance like that after I saw this. God, I was probably thirteen. I shouldn't have watched it but I liked the title. Makes more sense to me now…"
He answered without much of a filter because his bourbon was filling his veins and she was painting a picture he couldn't ignore, "I'm sure you could dance like that now."
She shook her head slightly, sneaking a peak at him under lashes, "I know I could…"
He pursed his lips before asking softly, "Please don't look at me like that…"
A/N: The title is borrowed from the title by The Paper Kites and is quite a lovely song. I of course do not own any rights. Also, I'm currently tangled up in another fic titled Memory's Keeper that is taking a lot of space up in my head but I will work on this one based on the feedback. Thanks!