Elena felt Stefan's lips meet hers.
And… it was as simple as that. All questions answered, all fears put to rest, all doubts removed. What she felt was not merely passion, but a bruising tenderness and a love so strong it made her shake inside. It would have been frightening in its intensity, except that while she was with him, she could not be afraid of anything.
She had come home.
This was where she belonged, and she had found it at last. With Stefan, she was home.
"Oh, Elena," he whispered against her lips. We can't—
"We already have," she whispered, and drew him back down again.
It was almost as if she could hear his thoughts, could feel his feelings. Pleasure and desire raced between them, connecting them, drawing them closer. And Elena sensed, too, a wellspring of deeper emotions within him. He wanted to hold her forever, to protect her from all harm. He wanted to defend her from any evil that threatened her. He wanted to join his life with hers.
She felt the tender pressure of his lips on hers, and she could hardly bear the sweetness of it. Yes, she thought. Sensation rippled through her like waves on a still, clear pond. She was drowning in it, both the joy she sensed in Stefan and the delicious answering surge in herself. Stefan's love bathed her, shone through her, lighting every dark place in her soul like the sun. She trembled with pleasure, with love, and with longing.
He drew back slowly, as if he could not bear to part from her, and they looked into each other's eyes with wondering joy.
They did not speak. There was no need for words. He stroked her hair, with a touch so light that she could scarcely feel it, as if he was afraid she might break in his hands. She knew, then, that it had not been hatred that had made him avoid her for so long. No, it had not been hatred at all
Elena… For a moment he felt a rush of pure joy and awe, forgetting everything else. Elena, warm as sunlight, soft as morning, but with a core of steel that could not be broken. She was like fire burning in ice, like the keen edge of a silver dagger.
But did he have the right to love her? His very feeling for her put her in danger. What if the next time the need took him Elena was the nearest living human, the nearest vessel filled with warm, renewing blood?
I will die before touching her, he thought, making a vow of it. Before I broach her veins, I will die of thirst. And I swear she will never know ray secret. She will never have to give up the sunlight because of me
"No," she said, hardly aware that she spoke aloud. "I won't let you." And she pulled his mouth down to hers.
For a moment there was no response, and then he shuddered, and the kiss became searing. His fingers tangled in her hair, and the universe shrank around Elena. Nothing else existed but Stefan, and the feel of his arms around her, and the fire of his lips on hers.
In the dim light, the coffer appeared at first to be empty, and Elena gave a nervous laugh. What had she expected? Love letters from Caroline? A bloody dagger?
Then she saw the thin strip of silk, folded over and over on itself neatly in one corner. She drew it out and ran it between her fingers. It was the apricot ribbon she'd lost the second day of school.
Oh, Stefan. Tears stung her eyes, and in her chest love welled up helplessly, overflowing.
That long ago? You cared about me that long ago? Oh, Stefan, I love you…
She felt the change, the transformation in his mouth as he yielded, responding helplessly to her, meeting her soft kisses with equal softness. She felt the shudder go through Stefan's body as the hard grip on her shoulders softened, too, becoming an embrace. And she knew she'd won.
"You will never hurt me," she whispered.
It was as if they were kissing away all the fear and desolation and loneliness inside them. Elena felt passion surge through her like summer lightning, and she could sense the answering passion in Stefan. But infusing everything else was a gentleness almost frightening in its intensity. There was no need for haste or roughness, Elena thought as Stefan gently guided her to sit down.
Gradually, the kisses grew more urgent, and Elena felt the summer lightning flicker all through her body, charging it, making her heart pound and her breath catch. It made her feel strangely soft and dizzy, made her shut her eyes and let her head fall back in abandon.
It's time, Stefan, she thought. And, very gently, she drew his mouth down again, this time to her throat. She felt his lips graze her skin, felt his breath warm and cool at once. Then she felt the sharp sting.
But the pain faded almost instantly. It was replaced by a feeling of pleasure that made her tremble. A great rushing sweetness filled her, flowing through her to Stefan.
At last she found herself gazing into his face, into a face that at last had no barriers against her, no walls. And the look she saw there made her feel weak
"I wish you could stay here," he whispered. "I wish you could stay forever. But you can't."
"I know," she said, equally quiet. Their eyes met again in silent communion. There was so much to say, so many reasons to be together
"Tomorrow," she said. Then, leaning against his shoulder, she whispered, "Whatever happens, Stefan, I'll be with you. Tell me you believe that."
His voice was hushed, muffled in her hair. "Oh, Elena, I believe it. Whatever happens, we'll be together."
Make her forget… Stefan.
That was what he wanted to drive out of her mind. The memory of Stefan, of his green eyes and his smile that always had sadness lurking behind it. But nothing could force Stefan out of her thoughts now, not after what they had shared. She pulled away from Damon, knocking those cool fingertips aside. She looked straight at him.
"I've already found what I want," she said brutally. "And who I want to be with forever."
." She waited until his eyes blinked and slowly opened before sitting back. Then she fumbled one-handed with the high neck of her sweater, folding it out of the way.
Those green eyes were dazed and heavy, but as stubborn as she had ever seen them. "No," Stefan said, his voice a cracked whisper.
"You have to, Stefan. The others are coming back and bringing a nurse with them. I had to agree to that. And if you're not well enough to convince her you don't need a hospital…" She left the sentence unfinished. She herself didn't know what a doctor or lab technician would find examining Stefan. But she knew he knew, and that it made him afraid.
But Stefan only looked more obstinate, turning his face away from her. "Can't," he whispered. "It's too dangerous. Already took… too much… last night."
Could it have been only last night? It seemed a year ago. "Will it kill me?" she asked. "Stefan, answer me! Will it kill me?"
"No…" His voice was sullen. "But—"
"Then we have to do it. Don't argue with me!" Bending over him, holding his hand in hers, Elena could feel his overpowering need. She was amazed that he was even trying to resist. It was like a starving man standing before a banquet, unable to take his eyes from the steaming dishes, but refusing to eat.
"No," Stefan said again, and Elena felt frustration surge through her. He was the only person she'd ever met who was as stubborn as she was.
"Yes. And if you won't cooperate I'll cut something else, like my wrist." She had been pressing her finger into the sheet to staunch the blood; now she held it up to him.
His pupils dilated, his lips parted. "Too much… already," he murmured, but his gaze remained on her finger, on the bright drop of blood at the tip. "And I can't… control…"
"It's all right," she whispered. She drew the finger across his lips again, feeling them open to take it in; then, she leaned over him and shut her eyes.
His mouth was cool and dry as it touched her throat. His hand cupped the back of her neck as his lips sought the two little punctures already there. Elena willed herself not to recoil at the brief sting of pain. Then she smiled.
"I missed you," she said softly. Relief throbbed within her suddenly, an ache that was almost as bad as the fear and tension had been. Stefan was alive; he was talking to her. Everything was going to be all right after all.
"Elena…" Their eyes met and she was held by green fire. Unconsciously, she moved toward him, and then stopped as he laughed aloud.
"I've never seen you look like this before," he said, and she looked down at herself. Her shoes and jeans were caked with red mud, which was also liberally smeared over the rest of her. Her jacket was torn and leaking its down stuffing. She had no doubt that her face was smudged and dirty, and she knew her hair was tangled and straggly. Elena Gilbert, immaculate fashion plate of Robert E. Lee, was a mess.
"I like it," Stefan said, and this time she laughed with him.
"It might be better…" Stefan took a deep breath and continued, carefully. "It might be better if we didn't see each other for a while. If they think we're not together, they'll leave you alone."
She stared at him. "And you think you could do that? Not see me or talk to me for however long?"
"If it's necessary—yes. We could pretend we've broken up." His jaw was set.
Elena stared another moment. Then she circled him and moved in closer, so close that they were almost touching. He had to look down at her, his eyes only a few inches from her own "There is," she said, "only one way I'm going to announce to the rest of the school that we've broken up. And that's if you tell me that you don't love me and you don't want to see me. Tell me that, Stefan, right now. Tell me that you don't want to be with me any more."
He'd stopped breathing. He stared down at her, those green eyes striated like a cat's in shades of emerald and malachite and holly green.
"Say it," she told him. "Tell me how you can get along without me, Stefan. Tell me—"
She never got to finish the sentence. It was cut off as his mouth descended on hers
Elena. Even when he wasn't looking at her, he was aware of her more than of anything else in the room. Her living presence beat against his skin like sunlight against closed eyelids. When he actually let himself turn to face her, it was a sweet shock to all his senses.
He loved her so much. He never saw her as Katherine any more; he had almost forgotten how much she looked like the dead girl. In any case, there were so many differences. Elena had the same pale gold hair and creamy skin, the same delicate features as Katherine, but there the resemblance ended. Her eyes, looking violet in the firelight just now but normally a blue as dark as lapis lazuli, were neither timid nor childlike as Katherine's had been. On the contrary, they were windows to her soul, which shone like an eager flame behind them. Elena was Elena, and her image had replaced Katherine's gentle ghost in his heart
Slowly, he reached up to the rearview mirror and tilted it downward, adjusting it so that Elena could look into it. In the silvered glass, she saw his eyes, lost, haunted, and infinitely sad.
There was nothing to do but hold on to him, and Elena did. "I love you," she whispered. It was the only comfort she could give him. It was all they had His arms tightened around her; his face was buried in her hair. "You're the mirror," he whispered back.
It was good to feel him relax, tension flowing out of his body as warmth and comfort flowed in. She was comforted, too, a sense of peace infusing her, surrounding her. It was so good that she forgot to ask him what he meant until they were at her front door, saying good-bye.
"I'm the mirror?" she said then, looking up at him.
"You've stolen my soul," he said. "Lock the door behind you, and don't open it again tonight." Then he was gone
Thoughts of Stefan were pleasant, even with all the terrible things that had happened recently. Elena smiled in the darkness, letting her mind wander. Someday all this harassment would be over, and she and Stefan could plan a life together. Of course, he hadn't actually said anything about that, but Elena herself was sure. She was going to marry Stefan, or no one. And Stefan was going to marry no one but her
It felt so good to be there, so right. She hadn't even realized how wrong things had been between them until now, when the wrongness had disappeared. This was what she remembered, what she had felt that first glorious night when Stefan had held her. All the sweetness and tender ness in the world surging between them. She was home, where she belonged. Where she would always belong.
Everything else was forgotten.
As she had in the beginning, Elena felt as if she could almost read Stefan's thoughts. They were connected, a part of each other. Their hearts beat to the same rhythm.
Only one thing was needed to make it complete. Elena knew that, and she tossed her hair back, reaching from behind to pull it away from the side of her neck. And this time Stefan did not protest or thwart her. Instead of refusal he was radiating a deep acceptance —and a deep need.
Feelings of love, of delight, of appreciation overwhelmed her and with incredulous joy she realized the feelings were his. For a moment, she sensed herself through his eyes, and sensed how much he cared for her. It might have been frightening if she had not had the same depth of feeling to give back to him.
When Elena's knees grew weak, he sat her on the bed. And then they just held each other, unaware of time or anything else. Elena felt that only she and Stefan existed.
"I love you," he said softly.
At first Elena, in her pleasant haze, simply accepted the words. Then, with a chill of sweetness, she realized what he'd said.
He loved her. She'd known it all along, but he had never said it before.
"I love you, Stefan," she whispered back. She was surprised when he shifted and pulled away slightly, until she saw what he was doing.
Stefan was beginning to feel again.
It hurt. He'd thought he was through with hurting, through with feeling anything. When he'd pulled Elena's lifeless body out of the dark water, he'd thought that nothing could ever hurt again because nothing could match that moment.
He'd been wrong
But she wasn't truly dead. Didn't that count for some
thing? He'd thought he would never hear her voice again, never feel her touch…
And now, when she touched him, she wanted to kill him.
He stopped again, doubling over, afraid he was going to be sick.
Seeing her like this was worse torture than seeing her lying cold and dead. Maybe that was why Damon had let him live. Maybe this was Damon's revenge.
And maybe Stefan should just do what he'd planned to do after killing Damon. Wait until dawn and take off the silver ring that protected him from sunlight. Stand bathing in the fiery embrace of those rays until they burned the flesh from his bones and stopped the pain once and for all.
But he knew he wouldn't. As long as Elena walked the earth, he would never leave her. Even if she hated him, even if she hunted him. He would do anything he could to keep her safe.
She had to find Stefan. If there was any help for her, he would know of it. And if there wasn't… well, she needed him all the more. There was nowhere else she wanted to be except with him.
Oh, Stefan. Stefan…"
She felt his body go still with shock. He was holding her mechanically, lightly, as if she were a stranger who'd mistaken him for someone else.
"Stefan," she said desperately, burrowing her face into his shoulder, trying to get some response. She couldn't bear it if he rejected her; if he hated her now she would die…
With a moan, she tried to get even closer to him, wanting to merge with him completely, to disappear inside him. Oh, please, she thought, oh, please, oh, please…
"Elena. Elena, it's all right; I've got you." He went on talking to her, repeating silly nonsense meant to soothe, stroking her hair. And she could feel the change as his arms tightened around her. He knew who he was holding now. For the first time since she'd awakened that day, she felt safe. Still, it was a long while before she could relax her grip on him even slightly. She wasn't crying; she was gasping in panic.
Elena felt as if she had taken some final step over an invisible line and that there was no returning. When she could speak again, she said, "I'm sorry for the way I acted toward you in the woods. I don't know why I did those things. I remember doing them, but I can't remember why."
"You're sorry?" His voice shook. "Elena, after all I've done to you, all that's happened to you because of me…" He couldn't finish, and they clung to each other.
Stefan was looking at her, and his expression had changed from belligerence to bitter anger and fear. Part of her wanted to reassure him completely, to throw her arms around him and tell him that she was his and always would be and that nothing else mattered. Not the town, not Damon, not anything
"She's already made her choice. You saw it yourself when you 'interrupted' us. You've already chosen, haven't you, Elena?" Stefan said it not smugly, or as a demand, but with a kind of desperate bravado.
"I…" Elena looked up. "Stefan, I love you. But don't you understand, if I have a choice right now I have to choose for all of us to stay together. Just for now
But it was sweet just to be held like this, even if she and Stefan had to sit in the snow to do it. Stefan's breath was warm as he kissed the back of her neck, and she sensed no further withdrawal in Stefan's body.
No hunger, either, or at least not the kind she was used to sensing when they were close like this. Now that she was a hunter like he, the need was different, a need for togetherness rather than for sustenance. It didn't matter. They had lost something, but they had gained something, too. She understood Stefan in a way she never had before. And her understanding brought them closer, until their minds were touching, almost meshing with each other's. It wasn't the noisy chatter of mental voices; it was a deep and wordless communion. As if their spirits were united "I love you," Stefan said against her neck, and she held on tighter. She understood now why he'd been afraid to say it for so long. When the thought of tomorrow scared you sick, it was hard to make a commitment. Because you didn't want to drag someone else down with you.
Particularly someone you loved. "I love you, too," she made herself say and sat back, her peaceful mood broken.
It seemed to her that it had been a long while since she'd really looked at him. Since she'd taken time to appreciate how beautiful he was, with his dark hair and his eyes as green as oak leaves. But she saw it now, and she saw his soul shining through those eyes. It was worth it, she thought. I didn't want to die; I don't want to now. But I'd do it all over again if I had to.
"I love you," she whispered.
"I love you," he said, squeezing their joined hands
The strange, languorous lightness cradled her gently. She could scarcely feel Stefan holding her.
She would have thought she'd be terrified. But she wasn't, not as long as Stefan was there.
Stefan Salvatore and Elena Gilbert were already a sort of legend in the town, like Romeo and Juliet.
It was the one thing she'd insisted on, the one thing she'd always promised. "Whatever happens, Stefan, I'll be with you. Tell me you believe that." And he had answered, helpless in her spell, "Oh, Elena, I believe it. Whatever happens, we'll be together."
But she had left him. Not by choice maybe, but what did that matter in the end? She had left him and gone away
There were times when all he wanted was to follow her.
The first time he'd kissed her. The shock of dizzy sweetness when his mouth met hers. And after that, shock after shock, but at some deeper level. As if she were reaching down to the core of himself, a core he'd almost forgotten
Frightened, he'd felt his defenses tear away. All his secrets, all his resistance, all the tricks he used to keep other people at arm's length. Elena had ripped through them all, exposing his vulnerability
Exposing his soul
And in the end, he found that it was what he wanted. He wanted Elena to see him without defenses, without walls. He wanted her to know him for what he was.
Terrifying? Yes. When she'd discovered his secret at last, when she'd found him feeding on that bird, he had cringed in shame. He was sure that she'd turn away from the blood on his mouth in horror. In disgust.
But when he looked into her eyes that night, he saw understanding. Forgiveness. Love
Her love had healed him.
And that was when he knew they could never be apart.
Other memories surged up and Stefan held on to them, even though the pain tore into him like claws. Sensations. The feel of Elena against him, supple in his arms. The brush of her hair on his cheek, light as a moth's wing. The curve of her lips, the taste of them. The impossible midnight blue of her eyes.
All lost. All beyond his reach forever.
"Because," he said softly, "I made a promise. Maybe not in so many words, but—a promise just the same. I won't take human blood as food, because that means using a person, like livestock. And I won't exchange it with anyone, because that means love, and—" This time he was the one who couldn't finish. But Bonnie understood.
"There won't ever be anyone else, will there?" she said
"No. Not for me." Stefan was so tired that his control was slipping and Bonnie could see behind the mask. And again she saw that pain and need, so great that she had to look away from him
Stefan, she realized, the chill deepening, was different. No matter how much time passed, no matter what he did, he would never truly heal. Without Elena he would always be half himself, only half alive
She had to think of something, do something, to push this awful feeling of dread away. Stefan needed Elena; he couldn't be whole without her. Tonight he'd started to crack up, swinging between dangerously tight control and violent rage
He moved toward her quietly, his own hand coming up to reach for hers. He saw the protesting shake of her head, saw that her lips were parted with her quickening breath. Up close, her skin had an inner glow, like a flame shining through translucent candle wax. Droplets of wetness were caught on her eyelashes like diamonds.
Slowly, so slowly, he closed his hand around hers, intertwining their fingers, the way they were meant to be. His other hand lifted to her face
All the frustrated tenderness of the last six months, all the emotion he'd kept locked in his heart that long, came cascading out, submerging him. Drowning both of them. It took such a little movement and then he was holding her.
An angel in his arms, cool and thrilling with life and beauty. A being of flame and air. She shivered in his embrace; then, eyes still shut, put up her lips
There was nothing cool about the kiss. It struck sparks from Stefan's nerves, melting and dissolving everything around it. He felt his control unraveling, the control he'd worked so hard to preserve since he'd lost her. Everything inside him was being jarred loose, all knots untied, all floodgates opened. He could feel his own tears as he held her to him, trying to fuse them into one flesh, one body. So that nothing could ever separate them again
They were both crying without breaking the kiss. Elena's slender arms were around his neck now, every inch of her fitting to him as if she had never belonged anywhere else. He could taste the salt of her tears on his lips and it drenched him with sweetness
"Ask me anything else and I'll do it," Stefan said. The killer would have to shred him nerve from nerve, muscle from muscle, cell from cell to make him leave her.
"Stefan, it's only a dream," Elena said desperately, new tears falling. "We can't really touch, we can't be together. It's not allowed."
Stefan didn't care. It didn't seem like a dream. It felt real. And even in a dream he was not going to give up Elena, not for anyone. No force in heaven or hell could make him…
"Salvatore, I presume," he said, scraping a bow. "And of course the beautiful Elena. The beautiful dead Elena. Come to join her, Stefan? You two were just meant to be together."
He held out his hand, and Elena took it and stepped to him. When they touched, he felt a jolt, and then felt her Powers flowing into him, sustaining him. They stood together, side by side, facing the blond man. Stefan had never felt as fiercely victorious in his life, or as strong
But Elena's eyes didn't look as if she were at peace. They clung to Stefan, and she reached out her hand toward his, hopelessly. They didn't touch. Wherever Elena was being pulled was too far away.
"Elena—please!" It was the voice Stefan had called her with in his room. As if his heart was breaking
"Stefan," she cried, both hands held out to him now. But she was diminishing, vanishing. Bonnie felt a sob swell in her own chest, close her own throat. It wasn't fair. All they had ever wanted was to be together. And now Elena's reward for helping the town and finishing her task was to be separated from Stefan irrevocably. It just wasn't fair
Then Elena whispered, "Stefan."
She turned. He was standing there, with Damon and Matt, a little apart from the girls. He was just watching her. As if not only his breath, but his life was held, waiting.
Elena got up and took a tottery step to him, and then another and another. Slim and newly fragile inside her borrowed dress, she wavered as she moved toward him. Like the little mermaid learning how to use her legs, Bonnie thought
He let her get almost all the way there, just staring before he stumbled toward her. They ended in a rush and then fell to the ground together, arms locked around each other, each holding on as tightly as possible. Neither of them said a word
At last Elena pulled back to look at Stefan, and he cupped her face between his hands, just gazing back at her. Elena laughed aloud for sheer joy, opening and closing her own fingers and looking at them in delight before burying them in Stefan's hair. Then they kissed
Stefan and Elena wordlessly joined hands again, and Elena's golden head dropped to Stefan's shoulder. Over her hair Stefan's green eyes were turned toward the patch of night where his brother had disappeared.
The Return : Nightfall
Elena looked back at him solemnly. He was so handsome that he broke her heart, with his pale, chiseled features and his dark hair falling carelessly across his forehead. She wanted to put into words all the feelings that were piled behind her clumsy tongue and stubborn mind.
And then she had been very sure that Stefan loved her and no one else, and she could tell Stefan some of the things she wanted to. But she had to tell them in little exclamations—not of pain—with stars and comets and streaks of light falling around her. And Stefan had been the one who had not been able to think a single word to her. Stefan was the one struck mute.
Elena shut her eyes and shook her head slowly. Then, as if deciding not to go any further down that path, she patted the bed beside her.
Come, she ordered confidently, looking up. The gold in her eyes seemed especially lustrous. Let me…unhurt…the pain.
When Stefan didn’t come immediately, she held out her arms. Stefan knew he shouldn’t go to them, but he was hurt—especially in his pride.
He went to her and bent down to kiss her hair.
As soon as the sounds of their visitors’ car were decently out of hearing, she did what she always did in this mood. She floated to him and tipped her face up, eyes closed, lips just slightly pursed. Then she waited
This time the purrup was one of exasperation. Elena had had enough. All at once, she gave her weight to him, forcing him to suddenly support a warm, substantial bundle of femininity in his arms, and at the same time, her Please? chiming clear as a finger swirling on a crystal glass.
It was one of the first words she had learned to think to him when she’d woken up mute and weightless. And, angel or no, she knew exactly what it did to him—inside.
“Oh, little love,” he groaned. “Little lovely love…”
He kissed her
There was a long time of silence, while he felt his heart beat faster and faster. Elena, his Elena, who had once given her very life for him, was warm and drowsily heavy in his arms. She was his alone, and they belonged just like this, and he never wanted anything to change from this moment. Even the quickly growing ache in his upper jaw was something to be enjoyed. The pain of it changed to pleasure with Elena’s warm mouth under his, her lips forming little butterfly kisses, teasing him
He sometimes thought she was most awake when she seemed half-asleep like this. She was always the instigator, but he followed helplessly wherever she wanted him to go. The one time he had refused, had stopped in mid-kiss, she had broken off speaking to him with her mind and floated to a corner, where she then sat among the dust and spiderwebs…and wept. Nothing he could do would console her, although he knelt on the hard wooden floorboards and begged and coaxed and almost wept himself—until he took her back into his arms
He had promised himself never to make that mistake again. But still, his guilt nagged at him, although it was growing more and more distant—and more confused as Elena changed the pressure of her lips suddenly and the world rocked and he had to back up until they were sitting on his bed. His thoughts fragmented. He could only think that Elena was back with him, sitting on his lap, so excited, so vibrant, until there was a sort of silken explosion inside him and he didn’t need to be forced anymore
And then Elena did something she never had done before. Delicately, carefully, she took one of Stefan’s fangs and captured it between her upper and lower lips. And then, delicately, deliberately, she just held on.
But he loved her, and they were one—and besides, he couldn’t move an inch. He was frozen in pleasure
And she could see how strange he thought it was, that he wanted kisses more than he wanted her to take his blood. Laughing, Elena pushed him flat and hovered over him and went for the general area of the wound again, knowing that he thought she was going to tease him. But instead she fastened herself on the wound like a limpet and sucked hard, hard, until she had made him say please with his mind. But she wasn’t satisfied until she made him say please out loud as well.
Right now what she wanted fit in with his own desires so completely that he felt…a bit guilty over the prospect. But he allowed himself to be persuaded.
She tilted her face up, its classic lines pure and pale in the moonlight.
Her cheeks were rose pink with blushing, and her lips were slightly pursed.
Oh…hell, Stefan thought wildly.
“After all you’ve been through,” he began, and made his first mistake. He took hold of her arms. There, some sort of synergy between his Power and hers started to bring them, in a very slow spiral, upward.
And he could feel the warmth of her. The sweet softness of her body. She still was waiting, eyes closed, for her kiss.
We can start all over again, she suggested hopefully.
And that was true enough. He wanted to give back to her the feelings she had given to him in his room. He wanted to hold her hard; he wanted to kiss her until she trembled. He wanted to make her melt and swoon with it.
He could do it, too. Not just because you learned a thing or two about women when you were a vampire, but because he knew Elena. They were really one at heart, one soul
Do you want… She said it with sobriety in the mouth but mischief in her eyes….to see how many times you can make me say please?
God, no. But that sounded so grown-up that Stefan helplessly took her into his arms. He kissed the top of her silky head. He kissed downward from there, only avoiding the little rosebud mouth that was still puckered in lonely supplication. I love you. I love you. He found that he was almost crushing her ribs and tried to let go, but Elena held on as tightly as she could, holding his arms to her
Do you want—the chime was the same, innocent and ingenuous—to see how many times I can make you say please?
Stefan stared at her for a moment. Then, with a sort of wildness in his heart, he fell on the little rosebud mouth and kissed it breathless, kissed it until he himself was so dizzy that he had to let her go, just an inch or two
“I want to kiss you,” he whispered, right at the portal of her right ear, nipping it.
Yes. She was definite about that.
“Until you faint in my arms.”
He felt the shiver go through her body. He saw the violet eyes go misty, half closing. But to his surprise he got back an immediate, if slightly breathless, “Yes,” from Elena out loud.
And so he did
And Elena, who once had been only human, and would have been horrified by the idea of drinking another person’s blood, clasped herself to him with a small choked sound of joy. And then he could feel her mouth warm, warm against the flesh of his neck, and he felt her shudder hard, and he felt the heady sensation of having his blood drawn out by the one he loved. He wanted to pour his entire being out in front of Elena, to give her everything that he was, or ever would be. And he knew that this was the way she had felt, letting him drink her blood. That was the sacred bond they shared.
It made him feel that they had been lovers since the beginning of the universe, since the very first dawning of the very first star out of the darkness. It was something very primitive, and very deeply ingrained in him. When he first felt the flow of blood into her mouth, he had to stifle a cry against her hair. And then he was whispering to her, fierce, involuntary things about how he loved her and how they could never be parted, and endearments and absurdities wrenched from him in a dozen different languages. And then there were no more words, only feelings
It was a very solemn, very private ceremony of their own, and they were far too lost in joy to look out for any danger. But Stefan had already checked for that, and he knew that Elena had, too. There was no danger; there was only the two of them, drifting and bobbing with the moon shining down like a benediction.
Elena, I have all I want in this room. He patted the bed. Sit by me and I can say “all I want is on this bed.”
Instead she got up and threw herself at him, arms around his neck, legs tangled with his. “I’m still very young,” she whispered, holding him tightly. “And if you count it in days, we haven’t had many days together like this, but—”
“I’m still far too old for you. But to be able to look at you and see you looking back at me—”
“Tell me you’ll love me forever.”
“I’ll love you forever.”
“No matter what happens.”
“Elena, Elena—I’ve loved you as mortal, as vampire, as pure spirit, as spiritual child—and now as human again.”
“Promise we’ll be together.”
“We’ll be together.”
“No. Stefan, this is me.” She pointed to her head as if to emphasize that behind her gold-flecked blue eyes there was a bright active mind spinning in overdrive. “I know you. Even if I can’t read your mind I can read your face. All the old fears—they’re back, aren’t they?”
He looked away. “I will never leave you.”
“Not for a day? Not for an hour?”
He hesitated and then looked up at her. If that’s what you really want. I won’t leave you, even for an hour. Now he was projecting, she knew, for she could hear him
Even without telepathy, she could tell what he was thinking to the tiniest shade of a nuance: Humor her. After all, she’d just woken up. She was probably a little confused. And she wasn’t interested in becoming less confused, or in making him less confused. That must be why she was nipping his chin gently. And kissing him. Certainly, Elena thought, one of the two of them was confused
“You really don’t care,” Meredith said quietly, watching her, “whether you stay human or become a vampire.”
“You’re right—I don’t care! I don’t care about anything, as long as I can be with him. When I was still half a spirit, I knew that nothing could Change me. Now I’m human and as susceptible as any other human to the Change—but it doesn’t matter.”
“A long time ago, I swore I’d have him, even if it killed us both,” she said quietly. “If he thinks he can just walk away from me, for my own good or for any other reason…he’s wrong. I’ll go to Damon first, since Stefan seems to want it so much. And then I’m going after him. Someone will give me a direction to start in. He left me twenty thousand dollars. I’ll use that to follow him. And if the car breaks down, I’ll walk; and when I can’t walk anymore, I’ll crawl. But I will find him.”
then she concentrated all her thoughts, all her mind’s reach on memories of Stefan. On the feeling of being held by Stefan, on Stefan’s sudden leaping smile, on Stefan’s touch.
Green eyes, leaf green, a color like a leaf held up to sunlight…
The decency he had somehow managed to retain, untainted…
Stefan…I love you….
I’ll always love you….
I’ve loved you….
Elena ignored all this. “If he’s alive, I can find him.”
“If he remembers you. But what if every memory he had of you were taken away?”
“What?” Elena wanted to explode. “If every memory of Stefan were taken away from me,” she said icily, “I would still fall in love with him the very moment I saw him. And if every memory of me were taken away from Stefan, he would wander all over the world looking for something without knowing what he was looking for.”
“You first saw me just outside the principal’s office the day you brought your papers into school and influenced the secretary. You didn’t need to look at me to know what I looked like. Once I told you that I felt like a murderer because I said, ‘Daddy, look’ and pointed to—something outside—just before the car accident that killed my parents. I’ve never been able to remember what the something was. The first word I learned when I came back from the afterlife was Stefan. Once, you looked at me in the rearview mirror of the car and said that I was your soul….”
Then she tilted up her face, clutching bars in either hand, and shut her eyes.
I will touch him. I will, I will. I’m real, he’s real—I’ll touch him!
Stefan leaned down—to humor her, she thought—and then warm lips touched hers.
She put her arms through the bars because they were both weak at the knees: Stefan in astonishment that she could touch him, and Elena in relief and sobbing joy
She just looked at him steadily. “I love you, Stefan.”
“I love you, Elena. Forever.”
The first time she had seen Stefan…she had been a different person then. Ice-cold outside, manic inside—or was it the other way around? Still numb from the death of her parents so long ago. Jaded by the world and by anything to do with boys…A princess in an icy tower…with a lust only for conquest, for power…until she’d seen him.
That was when Elena really needed some belief. So far she had really just been gliding, not flying. But now she needed uplift; she needed the wings to work…and once again, although there was no time, she was with Stefan, and feeling…
…the first time she had kissed him. Other girls might have waited until it was the other way around, letting the boy take the lead, but not Elena. Besides, at first Stefan had thought that all kissing meant was seducing prey….
…the first time he had kissed her, understanding that it wasn’t a predatory relationship…
I miss Stefan. I miss him so badly that I’m crying while I’m writing about clothes. It looks as if that’s what I’m crying about, which makes me seem insanely shallow. Oh, sometimes I just want to scream