A/N: Happy (belated) New Years! Super excited to post this chapter, it's one of my favorites :)

All the thanks to my beloved Trogdor19, the most enthusiastic and supportive beta, like, ever. And a master butt-dialer ;) AND a total kickass author and I am so excited for the chapter you are posting for In Time We Trust! Oh the shit you come up with! So jealous. So so jealous! Good thing I love you :)


Chapter 8: Checkmate

I sweep her rook with my knight, and she doesn't even scoff.

"Your move, Elena."

Nothing. She's still too busy biting her thumbnail and staring at my chest like she can see every grain of my skin through my shirt.

We're closing in on hour forty-eight of the Sex Embargo, and she's cracking. Hard. It's not like it's been a cakewalk for me either, but I'm trying not to let it show. Her? Not so much.

She grumbled and tossed and turned the entire first night, and by the time the sun rose we were both wide awake and ready to get the hell away from the bed that suddenly felt too small in its lack of movement. I dawdled in the kitchen under the pretense of cooking breakfast while she showered, alone, conveniently finishing my grand culinary masterpiece of over-cooked scrambled eggs and burnt biscuits just as she turned off the water.

I never ruin food, haven't in years, but I couldn't concentrate on anything that wasn't bare and slick and out of bounds. I was hoping she'd eat in the kitchen while I took my cold shower, at a nice safe distance from my lonely and empty hands, but when I finished my failed attempt at freezing my erection into submission I found her sitting cross-legged on the bathroom counter, nibbling on a slice of toast that I didn't make and greeting me with a snippy, "What?"

I threw my hands up in surrender because her attitude the whole morning had been short at best. At first the entire situation was hilarious watching her feel the pain of having to keep it in her pants, and I wasted no time or energy the night before in teasing her about wanting me. But right then, that "what" just screamed danger and I'm trying not to provoke her.

At least, not anymore.

And it probably wasn't the smartest decision I've ever made to basically let her hold a knife to my throat, especially when she's this high strung, but it actually worked like a charm in getting her to sashay into the nice version of Elena. You know, the one she is when she's getting laid.

I haven't shaved the whole time we've been here and she hasn't complained, but the scruff was beginning to bug me. Admittedly, I'm a little on edge and my OCD goes out of control when the occasional dry spell happens. So with Little Missy Huffy Britches still sitting on the counter, I got out my straight razor and went right to doing the same thing I've been doing for decades, without thinking about it because I never do anymore. That's like paying exhaustive attention to brushing your teeth. I have more important shit to think about, thank you.

Like mentally debating what color of underwear she had on under those tiny black shorts that were showing off her legs.

And yep, I cut myself. What a winner.

But it broke Elena out of whatever trance she was in, which I'm pretty sure had something to do with me only wearing a towel, and she immediately ripped the razor out of my hand. Fighting with your fragile human girlfriend over an object sharpened beyond anything that should be legal? That'll wake you up in the morning.

Double espresso? No thanks, I think I'll have a coronary instead.

The only way I got her to stop swinging it around as she scrabbled out of my reach was to agree to let her shave me.

Now, I trust Elena. Most of the time. I trust her not to drink my bourbon. I trust that she won't pour sugar in the gas tank of my car when she gets pissed off. I trust that she'll tell me when someone tries to murder her. I do not trust her with weapons. Of any degree. She is ten times more likely to hurt herself with scissors than to snip the paper, because she gets distracted by the thought that somewhere, a tree is crying.

So sure, why don't I just let her shave me? Sensitive skin, unsteady hands, major arteries all ripe for the gashing... Cleaning up copious amounts of blood sounds like a fun way to spend our morning.

But she just…she looked all cute and excited and I hadn't seen her smile in something like twelve hours and I was starved for it and yeah, I caved. Imagine my relief to find out that I may have underestimated whatever Ric's been teaching her about how to handle a blade. And I owe him for that. Big time. Because she only nicked me once, and she was having such a blast she didn't even get mad when I cursed and pretended that she sliced open my jaw. It's not like she didn't know I was going to fuck with her at some point, and it was nice to have her laughing again.

But mostly, she was very, very quiet and overly careful through the whole thing.

The few sounds she made were tiny little whispers of self-conscious questions about whether she was doing it right and needless apologies when she thought that she wasn't, despite me reassuring her. And she knows I'll heal, but she didn't treat me like I would and seeing her concentrate so hard, with that vein in her forehead going all crazy as she bit her lip and winced at the sound of steel scraping against my skin, was kind of endearing.

She usually treats me like I'm made out of Kevlar, and she makes me feel that way. Strong. Invincible. But she's also starting to do this thing where it's like she wants to take care of me, and I'm trying to get a handle on it.

The first time she did it I had to look closely to realize that it's not because she's deemed me weak. It's the opposite. She worries because I'm cynical and a dick and I bitch all the time about stupid stuff like the dirt on her shoes and her crap taste in movies, but she's not unaware that if I am really having a problem, I very rarely tell her about it. She's got enough stuff on her plate and she doesn't need mine too, and usually mine is about her. You don't ask for help in winning the heart of the woman you love from the woman you love. That would be like going for the gold in duplicitous manipulation.

Regardless, whether I tell her anything or not, she always seems to know when something is off with me. When I need her patience a little more than usual and not to complain when I dote on her. And yesterday I needed that because somewhere in between the razor leaving my hands and finding hers, I had some sort of personality fracture and was suddenly concerned that sex may be too much a part of our relationship, scared that's all she may want from me. And then I had a panic attack because I couldn't remember ever feeling like that was a bad thing before and I had no idea whose face was staring at me in the mirror with an 18 year-old girl holding a straight razor to his cheek.

So I told her we were getting out of the house for the day and she tilted her head at me, but after a minute of her searching my eyes she nodded and went right back to her task. And when she was done, she cupped my face in her hands and kissed me, telling me that she loved the relaxed look but that clean shaven would always be "her Damon." She hopped off the counter and left me staring after her, wondering what that meant and confused as to why it felt like I had a hot air balloon inside my chest.

It stayed there the rest of the day.

We drove to the center of town and parked, spending the entire afternoon walking and weaving in and out of whatever little gift shops and stores that caught her eye. Which was damn near all of them, but seriously? I couldn't have cared less. Because once we were far from any surface that could be conveniently used for carnal activities, she was glued to my side with an arm draped casually around my waist like it's always been there. Like we hadn't spent the last torturous hours trying not to touch each other because it was far too tempting.

And she'll always be mouthwateringly sexy, but it's a hell of a lot easier not to rip her clothes off when she's determined to put on every single pair of oversized, flamboyantly colored sunglasses she can find that make her resemble some weirdly cute bug, and begging me to try on a neon green strap that she swears is a bathing suit but looks like something she should be wearing in her hair.

Yeah, that was a no.

I responded by very politely telling her that I'd slip into that when she started buying crotchless panties. Segue into my first introduction that rubber shower shoes with a big floppy flower on them could be used as a bludgeon. Hell, Elena might be able to teach me a thing or two and I should remember that for my next torture event. Death by flip flop.

After we got thrown out of the store by some hag who was yelling about us ruining her family establishment while we laughed our asses off, Elena decided it was time to try her hand in the art of photography. God only knows what's really going to show up on the roll of pictures from the disposable camera: probably fuzzy motions of me trying to snatch the damn thing out of her hands or just 24 identical rectangles of a tan finger accidently covering the lens, but I know at least one on there is going to come out. I hate to admit it, but I may even be disappointed if it's not the reputation-ruining one she took while we were relaxing on a bench and watching the water.

I thought she was winding that little plastic dial to take a picture of the beach, but she snuggled further under the arm I had around her shoulder and kissed my cheek, and when I closed my eyes with a half-smile, I heard that definitive click. But fifty bucks says the only ones to actually develop are going to be the ten I took of her ass and none of the ones she took of us.

"Elena…" I try again, and she's still not hearing a word I'm saying. I wonder if I'm going to have to fucking strip to get her attention.

I scrub a hand over my face and through my hair, looking over the chessboard with a sigh. I should probably cut her a little slack. I don't even know how she's not hungover and currently reclaiming the tile in front of the toilet as her new abode.

Leave it to her to sniff out a reggae shack and declare our train was stopping there. Because of all the more expensive places we could have gone to last night, restaurants with a view and ambience and all that shit chicks like her are supposed to love, my girl wants jerked chicken and Bob Marley warbling on a juke box while people bump and grind under Christmas lights draped across the ceiling. Whatever, she can have whatever she wants and what she wanted was to have fun and dance and get drunk. Mission: Firmly Accomplished.

Elena can make friends with anyone. I know this because after the two minutes it took me to get our drinks and begin her love affair with the Long Island Iced Tea, I found her in a giggly dance off with fresh-off-the-meal-card Daddy Hates My Boyfriend Even More Than My Dreadlocks. At least said boyfriend, Rasta Ronald, only had eyes for his girl and he kept them firmly off of mine, despite getting a little miffed when shock! I was a hell of a lot better dancer than he was and wasn't shy about showing the girls a good time. Which we were all having until Elena's claws came out.

Girl was five sheets to Tahiti, and I've discovered her hearing somehow gets improved when she's drunk. There's no other way with me at the bar, her on the dance floor, and somehow over the roars of people proclaiming that they shot the sheriff, that she could have caught the super classy girl oh so subtly asking if I could show her where the restroom was. For the life of me I will never understand why they think that is not the grossest invitation for sex of all time, but I knew what she was asking and her hand on my bicep must have told Elena.

So in the red corner weighing in at a territorial 117 pounds we had Featherweight Gilbert, looking to maim and destroy and burn the whole place to the ground if it meant getting Busty and Bombed the hell away from my sleeve. And after a few choice words that would earn Elena a smack from her dead mother, and breaking up the bar fight she proudly commanded like a five star general from the military branch of Whup Ass, we blew our farewell kisses to her brand new besties and bailed before the cops showed.

She passed out in the car on the way back to the house after grumbling about fugly sluts and proclaiming the stitches the girl would need would probably be an improvement to her face, and by the time I closed the garage my cheeks hurt from grinning because my little Xena looks a lot closer to Snow White when she sleeps.

When she woke up this morning I asked if she remembered what happened, and she's got some blank spots but for the most part she recalls every fist swung and glass broken. And in typical Elena fashion the first words to follow were whether we should try to find that girl and apologize. I asserted that Elena is always gorgeous, but orange prison jumpsuits weren't all that attractive. She instantly teared up and I tried my hardest not to laugh as I held her, and under her sniffly insistence I promised that I would bail her out of jail if it ever came to that. As if I wouldn't eat anyone that tried to take her away.

Two aspirin and some coffee and she's still a little grouchy, but I don't think it has anything to do with a hangover. Because we've spent the day with me teaching her how to play chess after we silently agreed that my hands lathering her in coconut tanning lotion was probably not the best way to keep us dressed. She's a feisty little thing when frustrated, in every sense of the word, and with me kicking her ass in chess six times in a row instead of spending the morning grabbing it, that tongue of hers is getting sharp.

She's not the only one who is feeling the pain of abstinence, and for me it's literally a physical one. And I could do something about it, but I won't. It's not fair to her and it's not like I could do it without her noticing anyways.

Not having sex with her is not going to kill me. I don't think.

Although she might abbreviate my lifespan if I don't get her satisfied. And soon.

But first I have to get her attention, because the FBI could show up at our front door right now and she'd probably still be chewing on that thumbnail and mentally undressing me from the other side of the kitchen table.

"Elena!" I say and nudge her chair with my foot, and her eyes snap up like she just got busted. Because she did.


"I have you mated in two moves."

She should blush professionally. I'm convinced. She'd make a killing.

I gesture to the chess board and her gaze sweeps down, shoulders tensing. Her right leg is bouncing and her heart is hammering and this is getting ridiculous. She wants me and I want her and all the king's horses and all the king's men aren't making a dent in hiding it.

"Yeah, I'm done," she says quickly and topples her king, standing in a blur and fidgeting with her shorts like she's on speed and can't sit still for another minute. "I'm going for a run."

My head follows her in a swivel as she stalks off to the bedroom. "Okaaay," I drawl.

I offered earlier to help if she wanted to train and get some energy out, only to be met with an earful about "bringing the drama into her bubble." But she's quiet now, not uttering a word as she comes back out with running shoes on, finishing her crooked ponytail just before shutting the front door firmly behind her.

I blow out a breath. Run hard, Elena. Please, for my sake.

I stand and start clearing the board, a beautiful Triple Decker set with Ebony, Red Sandalwood and Boxwood chessmen for the player's choosing and I'm just starting on her side when the front door slams.

My head snaps up and I check to see what all the fuss is about, and Elena is glaring at me like I'm dead the minute she finds a stake. I'm still racking my brain for anything I could have done to deserve her looking at me like that when she starts stomping my direction, and I don't see a weapon and it's not like I couldn't take her if it came to a brawl, but still, I swallow.

She storms into the kitchen and I back up, bumping into the table behind me and sending rooks and pawns hurtling to the floor, but I care much less about replacing a thousand-dollar chess set than the brunette who's about two seconds from making a new one with my internal organs as the pieces.

"What?" I finally snap and I barely cross the t when she's jumping into my arms, her lips slamming into mine and her knees hitting the table and sending it further back and judging by the moans that are pouring out of her, she's totally oblivious to the pain and my awkward stumbling.

It takes me a second to shift from confused to fuck yes, but Elena's already redlining as she squeezes her legs around me and pulls at my hair so she can kiss me deeper. I chuckle and adjust my grip on her ass, taking a step to gain my balance but only getting the opposite when something small and sharp cuts into the arch of my foot and I wince, tripping again and where is that fucking table when you need it?

Something bumps against the back of my leg and that has to be it, and I need to get her on something solid so I can destroy her clothes. I turn and move to set her on the table and I'm so lost in the scratch of her nails and body writhing against me that I'm too late in noticing there is nothing there but air, and we're going down.

I suck in a breath when I feel her weight drop lower than I expected and she squeaks in fear, clinging to me harder and stealing the last semblance of equilibrium that I had. My knees hit the floor first with blinding agony and I hiss when my elbow catches the corner of a chair and dammit, she's going to crack her head on this tile. I barely manage to cushion her neck before we crash, but I think I just broke my arm to brace us.

"God, my ass!" she groans and I can't help but to laugh, because I know that had to hurt but it could have been a lot worse. I'm just about to ask her if she's okay when she narrows her eyes at me and shoves at my chest, pushing me roughly onto my back.

"Jesus Christ," I snicker when she clambers on top of me, straddling my hips and tugging my t-shirt up my body.

And apparently that still isn't fast enough for her because she pushes against my pecs as she yanks the cotton over my head and off my arms, the back of my head slamming into the tile.

"Ow," I whine and she rolls her eyes.

"You're fine," she growls and then her mouth is back against mine as she grinds into my cock. Which feels incredible, but also hurts like a bitch because I never, never learn.

Thankfully my suffering is short lived because the next thing I know her hands are on my zipper and then her mouth is around the head of my cock, and I must have busted my head open on the floor because there's no way this is real, it feels too damn good.

Every inch of me is crazy sensitive and Elena knows exactly what she's doing as she strokes me with her tongue and sucks at my tip; confident in precisely what reduces me from an intelligent being into a moaning, begging, nonsensical version of myself. She hums her desire around my shaft and swallows to take me deeper, and I blow out a breath and try to get myself under control before I have to resort to stopping her. She's one more twirl of that tongue from being really, really, pissed off, and—

I open my mouth to say her name, and she's gone. I open my eyes to see her standing over me and slipping out of her shorts and panties and God, she looks so good, but there's a ping at the back of my brain that's trying to put on the brakes and I'm having one hell of a difficult time trying to remember why.

The caution sign flashes into clarity when the soft skin of her thighs glides over my hips, and I groan at how wet she is when I brush against her.

"Wait, wait, wait," I rush out but she either doesn't hear me or she doesn't care, because she reaches between us to put me where she wants me and then she's sliding down my cock and stealing every single breath in my body.

Neither of us moves. I think we're in shock. Her nails are cutting into my chest and my grip is too strong on her hips and she's so tight.

"Elena…" I grit out and she slowly begins to roll her body. "Elena," I say louder because I will never forgive myself if I hurt her and I need her but we're not supposed to be doing this and she's not stopping. "Elena!"

"God! Shut up," she growls and then she's kissing the ever loving crap out of me. And Christ, I want her, but— "I'm fine," she whispers and I lose all sense of chivalry I ever fucking had in this life or any other.

I slam up into her and she gasps, but I want more. It's a blur of a movement to get her on her back and I can't fuck her hard enough, fast enough. I sit back on my heels to gain more power and the only words she knows anymore are my name and yes and she's shouting and shaking and I'm in a daze of primitive instincts and it's too strong, too intense, too everything.

She's two orgasms down in fewer minutes and I have no idea how I even know that because I'm drowning in her silk and I can't feel anything else; not my knees on the tile or her legs draped over my arms, her skin under my hands as I pull her into me so I can thrust deeper. God, I want to bite her thighs and suck on her clit and have her scream my name until she loses her fucking voice and I roar as I explode into her, hard and thick and fangs fully out and reveling in every single throb as she clenches around me again.

Fuck, I needed that.

"Um, ow," she says breathily a minute later and my body jerks in panic.

"Elena?" I ask worried as I pull out and she smiles at me, but winces as she reaches under her back. She takes out something that looks suspiciously like a queen and wiggles it at me.

"Think she wanted in on the action?" she jokes and I grin.

I exhaustedly flop down beside her on the tile and when she starts to giggle, it's infectious. Before I know it both of us can't seem to stop laughing, just lying on the kitchen floor in various states of undress and flooded with a high that I will never get enough of.

I finally catch my breath and work my arm under her neck so I can pull her closer to me, and she immediately snuggles against my chest with her head on my shoulder. "Feel better?" I tease.

"Don't act like you weren't two minutes from going insane too."

"No idea what you're talking about," I tell her innocently and she arches her eyebrow at me.

"Mm-hmm. And you haven't been taking cold showers the last two days or cleaned the house five times."

"Maybe that's because you use up all the hot water and never pick up after yourself."

"Sure. There's that, and then there's the real reason," she says sarcastically and I grin.

"You okay?" I ask her quietly and she nods, a timid smile lighting her up.

"I'm going to have one weird looking bruise on my back from that stupid chess piece, and I can't believe you dropped me, jerk! But yeah," she pauses with a blush, "I'm fine."

"Good," I tell her and kiss her gently. "By the way. You're crazy," I smile.

She shifts so she's fully on top of me, rocking her hips once and taunting me with the promise of round two. "You don't know the half of it."

God, I missed her skin.

I'm still enjoying my reunion with it, petting and kissing the soft planes of her stomach as we relax in bed, Elena's hands lazily combing through my hair. I don't know why it still feels like it's been forever since I've touched her, but I'm nowhere near fulfilled and I know she isn't either.

We finally left the kitchen in favor of the bed, and we're not leaving it anytime soon. But for now we're taking a breather to soak up the endorphins, basking in the precious moments of being as open and honest as we ever get with one another. Because as backwards as it is, I think this is where we trust each other the most.

Case in point is currently stretched out on the bed with her head resting comfortingly on the pillow, watching me adore her gloriously nude body as she cheerfully muses about us, her muscles and pulse just as relaxed as when she first wakes up in the morning.

"Do you know what the best part of this whole trip is?" she asks happily.

"Having me naked?" I mumble against her skin.

"Well, that too."

"You being naked with me?" I try and she laughs softly. I leave one last kiss on her stomach, right below her perfect little belly button before I lift my head to look at her.

"How happy you are," she beams at me.

"Hmm," I smile back and return to appreciating the subtle curve of her hip.

I love when she gets in these moods. She'll tell me a dozen sweet and adoring things without ever bothering to get embarrassed, and sometimes it makes it harder to forget the words we're not saying. But I feel them.



"I don't want it to end," she whispers and I sigh, propping my head up in my hand so I can watch her more closely.

She looks so worried, and I hate that. I need her to be sure of us, so I can be sure. She knows I love her, and she said she was going to fight for us, but she wasn't far off when she called this a bubble.

It is.

There are a lot of people waiting to elbow us apart and my voicemail is probably full of threats from next week's villain and we still have a herd of elephants in the room that we're ignoring and none of that has followed us here. And thank God because she was right and we needed this: some time to just be. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about what's going to happen when we get back to the Commonwealth of Judgment and Separate Beds.

"Who says it's going to?"

She shrugs. "You're not like this at home."

I try not scoff. Can she really blame me? Until the night before we left we were still playing See No Evil, Love No Evil. If she doesn't understand the reason for the change, I don't know what to tell her.

I finally settle on, "It's difficult to declare checkmate with a pawn."

"Don't change the subject," she frowns at me and I shake my head.

"I'm not," I promise. "Just humor me for a minute. What happens to the little soldier if a knight lands directly in front of it?"

"Then it's stuck," she tells me and I smile. Nice to know she was paying attention to something other than my chest this morning.

"Exactly. Can't go back, can't go forward. But say a bishop lands next to the knight, what happens then?"

She huffs like this is all stupid and I cock my eyebrow at her. "Pawn takes the bishop," she finally supplies.

"Good girl," I nod at her. "It's one step at a time, and any advancement usually ends up being indirect because the path is almost never clear in front."

"Okay, what does this have to do with you being happy at home? And why can't you just talk to me like a normal person?" she grumbles and I roll my eyes at her.

"When we got here, you asked why I showed up the first night with the scarf. And I just answered."

She tilts her head at me and I wait, until she softly says, "Indirect moves?" and I smile.

"This," I say and brush a fingertip down the length of her thigh, "was easier for you. And we had a lot of players on that board."

"So I'm the pawn, and you're the bishop?" she asks like she wants to be offended, but can't quite get there.

"No, sweetheart," I tell her gently. "I'm the pawn, and you're the king."

"Oh," she laughs haughtily. "Checkmate, huh?" she says and I wink at her. She smiles and shakes her head before her brow suddenly furrows. "Wait, if a pawn checks the king, he loses. The king will take him on the next move…"

"The pawn doesn't lose," I scoff and slowly prowl my way up her body until I can nuzzle her nose with mine. "We both win."

A/N: Thanks so much for reading! Hope you all had a happy New Year and I will hopefully see you next chapter :)

Thanks for reading!