Author's Note: There are literally no words to express how freaking happy I am that I finished this chapter. This has been weighing heavily on me for weeks now, and I've been dying to update but I haven't been able too. I'm so happy to finally get this out to you guys. I want to thank each and every one of you for your constant patience and support, it really means the world to me. We've made it to five chapters with almost fifty reviews and I'm pretty sure that's a record for me so thank you! Every review/alert/favorite puts a smile on my face and I so greatly appreciate it. I love you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you! *hugs*
Tonight we are young
So let's set the world on fire,
We can burn brighter than the sun
So if by the time the bar closes
and you feel like falling down
I'll carry you home tonight
The next few hours flew by in no time and before they knew it, game time was upon them. The atmosphere was thick with excitement and anticipation, heavily tainted with anxiety and apprehension. Almost the entire school and then some were seated amongst the rows of bleachers in hopes to show their support. Home-made banners and flags were being held up by dedicated family members and devoted friends. The roar of the crowd could be heard from all the way inside the building, the hype surrounding the game doing nothing but add to the team's nerves. The excitement was a nice contrast to the tension-filled locker room.
"Listen to me," Coach Tanner said as the team was brought in for a group huddle. In all the years they've played football with and for Coach Tanner, it felt like for once he was on their side proudly encouraging them rather than bruising their egos with discouragement. "You guys have worked hard, you deserve this! The Cornerstone Crows have nothing on you, Timberwolves! Before we go, is there anything you'd like to add, Captain?"
Damon took a deep breath and looked at each and every one of his teammates before his gaze locked with the most important teammate of all – Stefan; with an encouraging nod from him, Damon was able to smile and breathe long enough to say some words that he hoped would get the team through at least the first quarter. "Not really, Coach except that kicking ass at this game pretty much guarantees you'll get some ass later, so don't blow it alright?"
Damon and Mason haven't always been on the best of terms, but Mason must have found relevance in the captain's words of wisdom to agree. "Well Salvatore, you're no motivational speaker but I'm gonna have to agree with you on this one."
Tyler chuckled. "I don't know, that's the best motivational speech I've ever heard."
"Enough with the pillow talk," Stefan said curtly, shaking his head in both amusement and embarrassment. He's never been one for crass conversation, and all he really wanted to do was get this game over with, for both his sake and for Damon's. "We have a game to win. Timberwolves on three; one, two, three…"
Let the games begin.
Coach Tanner has been and probably always will be arguably one of the most hated teachers in the entire school, but somewhere within the first twenty minutes of the game, the entire team discovered a newfound respect and appreciation for him. He certainly wasn't the easiest guy to get along with or the greatest guy to be around, but he was damn good at his job.
Every grueling practice and all the burned out muscles and exhausting exercises was well worth it because at the end of it all, he really was helping the team in his own Tanner way. He was a single guy that's never been married and he didn't have any kids so in a lot of ways, the team was his family and at the end of the day, he would protect his family. Like a family, when the team played out on the field, he always hoped for the best but prepared them for the worst – and when the Cornerstone Crows brought their A game, the Timberwolves were ready.
Everyone has been waiting weeks for this game and the team has worked their asses off but from the minute the game officially started, Damon found himself counting down the minutes until it would be over. He prided himself on almost always being cool as a cucumber, calm in a crisis and he was the guy that didn't back down from a fight but tonight that's all he wanted to do.
Tonight, he wanted to back down from the fight of the game and surrender. For the first time since the beginning of the school year, he could feel the full weight of the game on his shoulders. All the hopeful glances from family and friends in the stands did nothing but feed the fire that would eventually burn him.
It soon became painfully obvious that the first quarter goes to the Crows and the referee was quick to call half-time while Tanner ripped him a new one – in front of everyone. "I'm sorry, but is this game boring you because from over here, it looks to me like you'd rather be doing anything else than being a captain to your team and winning this game! Hell, if I knew you were gonna suck this bad, I would've gotten Lockwood to spearhead the team. I would have picked Lockwood over you for captain. What the hell does that say about you and your piss-poor effort?"
"Actually coach if you chose Lockwood over anyone, I think that would say more about your bad judgment than it would about me."
"Watch it, Salvatore," he warned through gritted teeth.
"Is there a problem, Coach?" Stefan asked innocently, taking a stand beside Damon.
"Not at all," he smiled sweetly. "I was just telling Damon to pull his head out of his ass and win this game or so help me, my temper will make me look like the freaking tooth fairy in comparison to what will happen if you lose, are we clear?"
"Now get your act together – both of you."
"Damon, what's going on with you?" Stefan asked tentatively once they were alone.
Normally, Damon would have used this opportunity to insert some snarky comment or witty retort but he was too drained to do anything but tell the truth. He looked up at Stefan, his gaze becoming distant as he watched the cheerleaders prance around the sidelines. "Plain and simple, my heart's not in it. I know it should be and I know a lot is riding on this game but I'm tired, Stefan. I'm really, really tired."
Elena must have felt his gaze on her, distant as it was, because after he finished saying that, she turned around and their eyes locked. In that moment, like magic, Damon felt any and all anxiety dissipate from his body. She smiled at him from across the field, an honest to god 'you can do this' smile and for some reason he couldn't even begin to understand, he felt okay.
He remembered their conversation from earlier, and a smile of his own found itself on his face.
"Not that I think you need it – but good luck at the game tonight. For whatever it's worth, there's one cheerleader in your corner. I mean, I know you have Katherine and Andie and rumor had it once Caroline – "
"Yeah, I have a bit of a track record."
"What I mean is that – you have me. As a friend, you have me."
Damon and Elena didn't know each other from a hole in the wall, but somewhere along the way, he found a level of comfort from having her in his corner than he had from anyone else. He didn't know why, but she made him want to try harder and succeed – she made him want to be better.
And just like that, his heart was back where it belonged – in the game.
The heavy exhaustion and pressure that weighed on Damon like the world was on his shoulders evaporated immediately after he found his epiphany. Sometime during the second and final quarter of the game, everything turned on its head. The Crows were quickly advancing on him but he took the ball and ran like a bat out of hell down the field. He had to give them credit, the Crows were pretty fast but Damon was faster – and better. He made the last play and threw the ball into the night sky. The crowd came alive with pride and relief as they watched their hometown hero score the winning touchdown.
All the cheerleaders rightfully erupted into cheers of pride and passion, picking up their pom-poms and parading around the team, smiles and laughter falling from their lips and seeping into songs of celebration. The win had everyone in the stands jumping for joy and hugging one another as the Crows walked off the field in defeat.
In the midst of all the excitement, Damon found himself caught in an embrace with Katherine. "Well Damon, it seems as though you did what you do best – you scored. I have to admit it seemed pretty touch and go for a while but you did it. You won." Their eyes locked and he watched something shift behind her dark brown eyes and just like that, her demeanor changed from appropriate to sultry. She moved towards him, her cheek brushing against his as she whispered in his ear. "Now what do you think about getting out of here and maybe you can hit the jackpot."
He would be lying if he said he didn't think about taking Katherine up on her offer at least once – or twice – or three times but at the end of the day, she was still the manipulative bitch that walked out on him a year ago and left him to pick up the pieces of who she broke. "Sorry Katherine," he shrugged, taking a step back. "You just don't do it for me anymore."
There was nothing Katherine hated more than losing, and she felt like screaming at the mere thought of no longer being Damon's one and only love. "I call bull."
"Call it whatever you want but I'm done, Katherine. We're done."
"Ugh, Damon!" she called after him. "Don't do that, don't walk away – "
"Why?" Damon cut her off, spinning on his heels and glaring at her. Katherine left town without so much as a word goodbye, and he never got the answers he thought he deserved. It wasn't the time or the place, but etiquette has never been his strong suit, so he could really care less that they're standing in the middle of a football field. "Why can't I walk away? You did." And with that, he did what he intended to do the minute he ever saw her again. He walked away.
On the other side of the field, Elena had to look away from the train-wreck that unfolded in front of her eyes when Caroline started on another one of her tangents. "It's about time the bitch gets the cold shoulder," Caroline squealed as she threw on a sweater and stuffed everything else in her bag. "Anyways, we want to get to the party fashionably late so I say let's go to my house, we can shower and get dressed up because no offense but we smell like the gym on the first day of school and then like Stella, we can get our groove on."
Elena frowned in confusion, Katherine and Damon moving to the back of her mind. "Wait – what party? I never said I was going to a party."
"Oh yeah, I didn't bother asking because whether you like it or not, you're going. It's your first party in Mystic Falls and the biggest one of the month, you have to go!"
Bonnie shook her head before objecting. "It's not her first party. Remember there was that small party at Stefan's when we all had to practice for tonight's game?"
She thought for a moment before shaking her head. "Oh please," Caroline scoffed. "That wasn't a party; that was just some stupid get together to practice for tonight's game which by the way, we won and that means party. We party when we lose and we party harder when we win. You're one of us now, 'Lena. You can't be socially inept anymore."
Elena folded her arms and quipped, "I am not socially inept!"
"Whoa, back up for a minute," Bonnie said, looking at Caroline. "Socially inept?"
"Yeah," Caroline smiled brightly. "It's from my word of the day calendar."
"Oh my god," Bonnie whispered, touching her heart. "This must be how moms feel on their kids first day of kindergarten."
"Ha-ha," she deadpanned before turning towards Elena. "Let me put it this way, either you come to the party or I'll do my best impersonation of the Queen of Hearts. Off with your head, got it?"
With an encouraging smile from Bonnie, Elena finally relented much to Caroline's delight. "Fine, but I'll have to meet you there because I have to go home first. I'll see you in a few hours."
Elena was by no means a stranger to partying. When she had lived in Roanoke, she attended parties almost every other weekend. She was the captain of the cheerleading squad and student body president for the junior classes at her school so she was the definition of popular. If there was a party, she was the first to know and the first to be invited.
In spite of her popularity, Elena never once let it go to her head. All her life she's been down to earth and kind-hearted, something that all the popularity in the world wouldn't change so she kept herself grounded; she tutored students after school, volunteered at the soup kitchen and nursing homes every other weekend. Elena was good.
Like Mystic Falls, Roanoke was a small town and everybody knew everything about everybody. By the time she got to the Salvatore's, the party was in full swing. All around her people were celebrating the Timberwolves victory; people danced the night away, singing loudly and off-key to the loud music that emanated throughout the large house, and although the party started less than two hours ago, there were some freshman already passed out drunk on the front lawn.
When she finally made it past the drunk and sweaty throng of people that took up most of the living room, she found Bonnie and Caroline in the back yard. Caroline immediately threw her hands up in the air out of excitement before capturing Elena in a big bear hug. "Oh, look who's here! It's Elena, my new best friend!" she sing-songed. "You know what they say, best friends that party together stay together and I'm so happy you decided to come after all!"
"You threatened to off her, it's not like she had much of a choice," Bonnie said dryly before turning towards Elena. "Stefan's been manning the refreshment table and that means she needs a refill every time her cup gets to the half-way point. She was drunk within the first hour of getting here."
"I am not drunk, you're just sober!"
Bonnie rolled her eyes and bitterly said, "Yeah well one of us has to be under the influence of sobriety and since you blew all your money on new shoes for tonight, I'm the designated driver that's responsible for getting your drunken ass home."
Caroline rolled her eyes indignantly. "Whatever, if you're gonna be such a bitch about it then I'll just get Elena to take me home. She probably doesn't drive like an old lady!" Unfortunately, when Elena had voiced that she doesn't drive at all, that was the tip of the drunk-iceberg for Caroline, leading to the stomping of her feet like a petulant child. "Ugh, why does everything bad happen to me?"
"Well you know what they say," Damon said, smoothly inserting himself into the conversation. "Bad things happen to superficial people."
"Then I guess it's only a matter of time before you go and get hit by a bus," Bonnie growled.
He sighed heavily and gestured to the space between them, his eyes lighting up with mischief. "The sexual tension between us must be killing you."
"You know, I almost wish it would because then I wouldn't stand here talking to you."
"Ugh, you're so mean to me!" Damon whined playfully.
"Uh, have you met you?" Lexi asked, joining the group with Stefan in tow. Lexi met Stefan their first day of freshman year and they've been best friends ever since. She learned long ago that Stefan and Damon were somewhat of a package deal and you can't be in one's life without tolerating the other but that was the extent of her relationship with Damon. Toleration. "You're not a nice person."
Stefan chuckled before shaking his head at his brother. "Damon, I told you to stop pissing off all the cheerleaders. We need them."
"Not all of the cheerleaders hate me," Damon said proudly. "Just a select few. Others find me quite pleasant, isn't that right Elena?"
Elena rolled her eyes at his attempt to drag her into something that started long before she moved to town. "Oh no, no. I'm staying out of it."
"Well if it isn't my tutor, the coward," Damon sing-songed.
"And if it isn't my student, the ass," she easily retorted.
"I bet you love my ass - most women do."
Elena rolled her eyes. "Wow, cocky much?"
"Very much," Damon smirked. "Just ask Caroline."
"Ugh! I hate all of you!" Caroline whined before stomping off, Bonnie and Lexi in tow, Stefan being led out of the room by some of his friends only moments later.
Elena looked up at Damon, her eyes locking with his. "Damon."
He was unsure if she said his name as a question or simply a statement, so he recited her name in the same fashion. "Elena."
"You need to stop being such an ass to my friends."
He blinked in surprise, her words rooting him to the spot, plaguing him with an emotion he couldn't identify. The defiance in her subtle demand was shocking; he could sense a challenge beneath her words if he were to defy her and it was a sweet shock. Everyone that knew Damon either worshipped at his altar or hated him with every fiber of their being but Elena was different. Elena was exciting and refreshing and new.
She only moved to town less than three months ago and already she was defending Bonnie and Caroline and Lexi as if she's been friends with them her entire life. He found her loyalty incredibly admirable; no matter how fresh the relationship, he was discovering that her loyalty ran fierce and deep, a highly respected feat.
In the small amount of time that he's known her, Damon was coming to realize that Elena could be the sweet balance between love and hate that he didn't know he needed or maybe even craved from people. His lips pulled up into a smirk at the thought, his cobalt eyes flashing mischievously in the process. "Elena Gilbert, are you lecturing me?"
"Well that depends," she said, playfully putting her hand on her hip. "Do you need to be lectured?"
"Are you always this condescending?"
"Are you always this deflective?" she retorted with a small laugh.
"I like you," Damon announced suddenly. "You know how to laugh."
Elena couldn't help but smile again, her gaze becoming nostalgic as she remembered a time where all she did was laugh. "I think you would have liked the old me," she admits shyly. "She laughed a lot. I used to be more fun."
The air shifted between them and Damon swallowed thickly. "Yeah? What happened to her?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "The same thing that happens to everyone."
"So you've been so bent on someone just to have your heart ripped out by them?" he mused playfully. Damon said it all in the spirit of light-heartedness but she could feel the weight behind his words and her heart went out to him. Katherine really did a number on him, and even if he was a first rate jack-ass, no one deserved to feel that.
"I've never been in love. I've been loved and I've loved, but I've never been in love but I've lost and," she sighed, gently placing her hand on his arm. "I wouldn't - I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone."
Damon glanced down at her hand on his arm before she shrugged it off, nervously tucking her hair behind her ear and blushing; Damon smirked in amusement and cleared his throat before he finally found his voice. "Good, it's a waste of time. It's painful, pointless and overrated - and nothing like in the movies."
"I'm sorry," Elena said suddenly. Her chocolate brown eyes were wide with sincerity as she looked up at him, a soft smile on her face. "About Katherine, I'm sorry and for whatever it's worth, Damon - I don't think she knew you. I don't think she knew you because if she did know you, I don't think she would have walked away from you. I don't think she would have been able to."
Elena was smiling so softly at him and spoke with such sincerity, he didn't know what to do with himself or the level of kindness she showed him. Everything happened so quickly he didn't know who made the first move but suddenly, his lips claimed hers in a searing kiss that instantly had him wanting more but with two people, one is always thinking more than the other and unsurprisingly, Elena stopped the kiss because there's no way in hell he was going to.
"Damon," she whimpered against his lips, her voice barely above a whisper. Her breathing was labored as she looked up at him through hooded eyes, confusion evident in her gaze. "Damon. I - I don't - "
"I'm sorry," he whispered, lowering his forehead to hers. "I'm sorry."
She shook her head and smiled. "No don't - don't be sorry. It's okay. Listen uh, I should probably go find Caroline, she's bound to be throwing a hissy fit somewhere," she laughed, nervously running her fingers through her hair. "I'll uhm, I'll see you around. Goodnight, Damon."
He smiled tightly. "Goodnight, Elena."
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