Author's Note: A little snippet from Pride & Prejudice, a Delena fic that I've been working on. Katherine turns Elena to get to Stefan and Damon. Things wind up turning out differently than anyone could have expected. Head to my profile to read the rest!
"Hello, Elena "
Damon glanced back over his shoulder from his seat next to the fire. He looked more serious than usual. There was none of his carefree humour behind the turn of his mouth.
Taking her cue, Elena stepped down into the living room and wrapped her arms around herself. Damon threw down the last of his drink and stood to get another. It was nothing more than a distraction, but one they both needed.
"Want one?" he asked, offering her the bottle. She shook her head and paced in front of the fire.
"I'm starting to remember things," she began, avoiding his gaze. "I don't know if they're real."
Damon kept his distance, lingering near the wet bar with his glass in hand. Finally she stopped pacing and looked up at him, determined to find her answer.
"Damon, did you compel me?"
He pulled in a deep breath through his nose and briefly lifted his eyes to the ceiling.
"I want to know the truth," she prodded, her expression hardening along with her resolve.
Faster than the human eye could follow, he moved to stand in front of her. She saw trouble in his gaze, and resignation too. His fingertips ghosted down the side of her cheek and fell away.
"Yes, I compelled you."
She gaped up at him and found only truth in his eyes. Today there were no deflections or double entendres and it unsettled her.
He stepped around her and flopped down onto the sofa.
"You already know the answer to that."
She turned slowly, shaking her head.
"I don't "
"What difference will it make?" he snapped.
He looked angry now, and hurt. Damon never did well with those kinds of emotions. She expected him to lash out but instead his voice went soft.
"Elena, me loving you doesn't make any difference and you knowing it won't change a thing. I think we both know that."
He threw back his glass of bourbon and grimaced as the alcohol burned his throat on the way down.
"Damon " Words failed her. She didn't know what to say to him.
Elena took a step towards him but he was fast to get to his feet. He manoeuvred around her and poured himself another drink at the bar. At this rate he'd be drunk in no time. Maybe that was what he wanted. Alcohol was a convenient way to dull blood cravings and pain.
"I think I'll have one ," she interjected, nodding at the bar. Damon lifted an eyebrow but poured her two fingers worth of bourbon just the same. He handed it to her cautiously and a small, teasing smile lifted the corner of his mouth.
"You're still underage, you know. Serving alcohol to a minor is highly illegal."
"Like that's ever made a difference," she retorted and snatched the glass from him.
She waited until he walked away before taking a careful sip. The alcohol exploded across her tongue and filled her nose with its strong aromas of cherry and oak. It burned its way down her throat, leaving her gasping and coughing in its wake.
"Did I mention that all our drinks are laced with vervain? Probably best if you start building up a tolerance."
He looked smug and she glowered at him as she set the drink aside.
"Damon, we should talk about this."
He sighed heavily, feigning indifference.
"Oh come on, Elena. Where's the fun in that? Talking about it will only make things weird and awkward. You know how I feel about that kind of stuff."
His face turned serious then. All joking aside he added, "Knowing will only make you avoid me more than you already do and I like spending time with you."
"I don't avoid you," she protested meekly.
He looked dubious and she averted her eyes, "It's not what you think "
"No? Then enlighten me, Elena. I'm all ears!" he smiled mockingly, having already predicted for himself the direction her words were headed.
She sighed heavily and raked her fingers through her hair before turning to face the fire. The flames were bright and warm, a small bit of light on an otherwise dark night. Like an Inquisitor's fire, they kept her honest.
"I don't trust myself around you."
She could practically feel Damon's confused expression behind her and the way his eyes now focused on her back.
"I don't trust myself not to do something that will hurt Stefan."
She turned to face him and added, "You understand, don't you?"
Damon was quick to hide his reaction, but not quick enough. She saw his surprise fall away, only to be quickly replaced with a mask of hardened indifference. He rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, I understand. We wouldn't want to hurt poor Stefan "
"Don't do that! Don't try to make a joke out of this!"
He moved abruptly to stand in front of her. Her eyes were still glued to the spot where he'd been sitting on the sofa when her vision was suddenly filled with the black of his shirt. She looked up to find his eyes boring into hers, filled with fire and pain. Everything was so close to the surface.
"I have to, Elena!" he protested, taking hold of her arm.
"If I don't joke about it, then the irony of the fact that both women I have loved in my life chose Stefan over me is really too much to stomach. If I don't pretend that hearing you choose him doesn't hurt, I'll end up doing something you'll regret."
She understood all too well the meaning behind his words. She'd felt his wrath before and knew what he was capable of. She'd hurt him once and he'd taken her brother's life, if only temporarily. She'd turned him away and he'd tried to force himself on her. She didn't want to be reunited with that Damon, not when he'd come so far.
At her silence his expression hardened. She watched his jaw clench and unclench as he struggled to control his emotions.
"This is what happens when you care, Elena."
He moved to pull away but she curled her fingers into his shirt to stop him. The old Elena would have looked away, but she couldn't now. He deserved her attention, at least this once. This was what she'd wanted. To know the truth. He'd given her that, along with his heart.
She swallowed hard and struggled to find the right words.
"Damon, I'm sorry "
He smiled sadly and toyed with the hair hanging over her shoulder, wrapping a little around his finger.
"I know. That's the best part, really. I can't hate you because you never asked for any of this."
Pulling in a deep breath, he let it out slowly and backed away. She felt the absence of him instantly. The space around her felt cold and unwelcoming, enough that not even the fire could warm her.
"If I loved you as much as I said, I would've done this a long time ago."
"Done what? Damon, what are you going to do?"
Elena could feel the fear bubbling up in her chest. Damon was unpredictable when he was hurt, like a wild animal fighting for its life. He turned his back on her and started to walk away. She panicked and ran after him.
She still wasn't used to her new speed and was more than a little surprised to find herself suddenly standing in front of him on the stairs. All she'd had to do was think it and she was there. Damon looked equally surprised and took a small step back.
"What are you going to do?" she asked again, struggling to keep the panic and fear out of her voice.
"I'm leaving, Elena," he answered, looking resigned. "You'll thank me for it later, I promise."
His eyes widened in surprise at her outburst.
"You can't leave," she pleaded, hoping her words would get through to him. "Don't you understand? I need you here."
She could tell she was only hurting him more by asking him to stay when they both knew he should go, but she couldn't stop herself. The thought of him leaving forever left her paralyzed. She couldn't imagine going through this without him, without either of them.
How many times had he saved her life? How many times had he been the one person she could talk to when no one else understood? She needed him more than her family, her friends or the blood. She needed him.
She heard the resignation in his tone and knew what it meant. He was going to go anyway because he thought it was right. He loved her that much, enough to separate himself from the equation so she could be happy with Stefan. He really had changed. Here he was, being the better man she'd always told him to be and she hated it.
"I can't let you go " she whispered, tentatively reaching out to grab hold of his shirt.
He swallowed and watched her, his eyes wary of her every move. He wanted to believe this was real, but couldn't trust it. He'd been hurt so many times before, by Katherine, by her What reason did he have to believe that she might ever love him back?
Her fingertips drifted boldly across his parted lips and she felt his warm, rapid breaths between them. He didn't move closer. He wouldn't do that again. If she wanted this, she'd have to make the decision for herself. And she did.
She leaned closer and heard the breath hitch in his throat. The expectation was everything. It filled her until it felt like every vein in her body flowed with it.
Her breath faltered and her lips brushed across his, tentatively at first and then more boldly. His hands lifted to gently cup her face while her mouth moved softly over his, coaxing him to return her touch.
When he told her he'd kissed her on her family's front porch she'd pretended to be disgusted for Stefan's sake, but a part of her had always wondered what it would have felt like. What kind of kiss could a man like him offer?
With Stefan it was the same from day one warm, open and unreserved. She'd imagined that a person like Damon, who enjoyed tormenting others for fun, would be just as aggressive and demanding with his kiss. The thought had comforted her then, making her certain of the fact that she never would have enjoyed it.
But she knew him now, the real Damon. He wasn't that selfish, destructive person anymore and hadn't been for a long time. His kiss told her everything. There was nothing demanding about it, nothing selfish or rough in his caress. Even when the pressure of her mouth on his became more insistent, she felt his restraint. There was a fear there, a fear of being hurt again, and it killed her to know that she'd planted the seed.
Eventually he pulled away and his eyes that were the colour of the sea were filled with trouble.
"I don't regret it," she said quickly, "I won't ever regret it."
He looked relieved and his face relaxed into a hesitant smile. She felt herself smile in response. Damon's expression soon clouded over as he brushed the hair back from her face with a soft touch.
"What about Stefan?"
She frowned, finding herself without any sort of answer. She hadn't planned this far ahead. She still loved Stefan but it was obvious now that she loved Damon too. She couldn't hide it and she didn't want to fight it. So where did that leave them?
"What about me?"
Damon's hand dropped away and she saw the wariness creep into his eyes. Holding her breath, she turned around and faced the exact person she'd been hoping to avoid.