She could feel his eyes on her from across the room. She tried not to look into them, knowing the intensity in their blue depths would burn her. His eyes were liquid nitrogen. They looked so cold, but contained such warmth and heat that it frightened her. It was foolish of her to hide from him, from the way adrenaline shot through her at the sight of him. What had started as a game of cat and mouse had evolved into something staggeringly…real. There was more than lust in that scorching gaze, and there was more than desire behind the tightening in her chest.

Elena moved to the other side of the snack table, picking up a snowflake-shaped cookie and busying herself nibbling on it. They were at the overly- extravagant, politically correct holiday party that Caroline had thrown her soul into for weeks. In an attempt to make it less cliché, she had used a color scheme of silver, ivory, white, and ice blue…the exact color of the eyes Elena was trying so hard to avoid. Caroline had also insisted that guests not stray too far from her palate when selecting clothing. Elena had had to buy a new dress for the occasion, something she found rather irritating. She wore a pale gold, one-shouldered satin mini-dress that was completed by a narrow silver belt. It looked nice, but she hated wearing it. Somehow, Bonnie and Caroline's encouragement had made her forget that she would have to endure this look. She was starting to wish she had gone for something longer, something that clashed horribly with her skin tone, maybe. But here she was, in a tiny dress, with her hair back in a French braid, exposing her neck, which would naturally attract his attention. He was a vampire, after all. A nagging voice sounded in her mind. It sounded like more like Katherine's than her own. You wanted him to notice, Elena. She needed to keep herself distracted.

She was getting herself a glass of the mysterious, pale beverage from the punchbowl when she saw him start to walk toward her. Her hand shook, and she dropped one of the frozen blueberries (ice is apparently tacky to neurotic vampires) on the tablecloth. He snatched it up, putting it to his lips slowly, seductively. She wanted to hit him. Elena took a large sip of her drink, slightly disappointed that no one had spiked it yet. Damon smirked at her, obviously aware of the way her pulse had increased since his arrival. He had intentionally worn all black, accessorizing with a tie and handkerchief of palest blue. It was just enough to ensure Caroline wouldn't have a solid case, and more than enough to irritate her.

"You know, black wasn't on the list of acceptable colors. You're going to be in trouble." Elena was becoming a master in the art of diversion. Damon's smile widened.

"Black isn't a color. It's a shade. Loophole." Elena snickered under her breath and shook her head as Damon popped something covered with powdered sugar into his mouth. Some of the sugar lingered on the corner of his lips. She suspected that he had done it on purpose, tempting her to wipe it away. She didn't even mention it. Elena downed the last of her punch, unsure of what to do. Damon was still watching her. She couldn't help smirking back at him as she met his gaze. She was being silly. He was her best friend. They were…well she was mature enough to handle this.

"Dance with me." Elena said lightly. They were playing a fast song. It would be safe enough, and it would give them something to do other than stare. His smile was uncharacteristically genuine. It didn't hold any of the snarkiness she had come to expect. He looked almost innocent. Elena couldn't help but wonder if she was seeing a shadow of the person Damon had once been. Katherine had openly mocked his former gentleness and naiveté. Elena found herself intensely fond of this Damon. He was charming in a completely different way than sarcastic, jaded Damon. Although, Elena admitted, she was fiercely attracted to both. She just wasn't ready for him to know that.

Damon was a much better dancer than she was. He didn't exactly flaunt it, and it never bothered her. After all, he'd had a century and a half longer to practice. They laughed at her clumsiness, and it felt good to have fun with him. They spent so much time trying to survive, it was completely cathartic to let go and be carefree. Damon was great at that.

A slight knot appeared in Elena's stomach as the next song began. It was a slow waltz, and it reminded her of the only romantic dance she'd ever shared with him. Fast dances were much easier. Damon looked at her, his smile softer, and held his hand out to her. She took it, her breath hitching a little as he placed it on his shoulder and wrapped his arm around her waist. Their free hands clasped gently, and Elena worried stupidly that her palms would sweat. He looked down into her eyes, that genuine happiness still lingering. It was almost too much for her. Seeing Damon vulnerable had always had a profound effect on her. Even though she wouldn't say it out loud, it was what had caused her to fall in love with him in the first place. She had learned to love his flaws as expressions of the raw, powerful beauty that was Damon. It made her uncomfortable, knowing how fickle she could be. That was part of the reason that she fought this so hard. She fought him because this beautiful…thing between them was monumental, and carnal, and probably eternal. It was epic, and she'd used that word before about a guy, not understanding how much better it would suit someone else. She hated that she took after the other women in her family. But…maybe she didn't so much. Maybe, just maybe, she wasn't being flighty… just course-correcting. Maybe this was where she'd been meant to end up all along. Damon's eyes told her that he felt just as at home in this embrace as she did.

The feeling of Damon's hand brushing the small of her back made it difficult to fight the urge to move closer. Elena decided then to give in, just a little. Just for tonight, she would see where this went, dip her toes in. His fingers pressed lightly, just above her tailbone. She was used to his playful, guarded advances, but this was tender. This moment was more intimate than anyone watching could see. Elena inched in a bit closer to Damon's chest. His mouth twisted slightly in surprise, but he didn't speak. She waited a few turns before moving the hand on his shoulder to toy with the hair at the base of his scalp, hearing his sharp intake of breath. He made the next move, entwining his fingers in the hand that he held. It felt wonderful to be like this. Elena felt her cheeks grow pink at Alaric's knowing look from where he stood at the bar. She leaned in closer, closing her eyes and retreating back into the safety of the world they'd created. The song came to an end too quickly, and as the tempo picked up, Elena found that she couldn't bring herself to go back to the way things had been five minutes ago. She pulled back, but didn't relinquish her hold on Damon's hand. There was an expression of confusion, and happiness, and…hope across his features.

"Go for a walk with me, Damon?" It came out with much more calm assurance than she actually felt. She was nervous, more nervous than she'd ever been with anyone she'd ever had feelings for. That's because it's never been this real before. Elena hadn't expected the nagging voice in her head to speak up right now, as she accepted her feelings for him. He led her silently to the coatroom, finding hers' first and helping her into it. She kept her eyes on his back as he reached for his own. Once he was ready, Elena took his hand once again. She was glad that real vampires had heartbeats, because feeling his rapid pulse helped to calm her. He was nervous too.

They walked in silence, neither knowing exactly what to say to break the silence. Elena stopped and smiled as she noticed a small white flake fluttering past her face. It was followed by several more, their frequency increasing. It was the first snow they'd seen all year. She looked up at the man before her, her Damon. The scene was impossibly romantic, and she knew that fate had set this up for her. It was hard not to believe in fate after all she'd seen in the past year and a half. She wouldn't waste this moment. Damon was scanning her face, looking for a sign that she wanted him to act on the mounting emotion between them. She turned to face him fully. The streetlights were dim enough to cast shadows on his beautiful features. Damon took the hint, releasing the hand he still held and pulling her into his arms. Their noses were almost touching.

"I'm going to kiss you now, Elena." Damon's voice was rough. Elena found she couldn't speak. Her heart was pounding too hard. She threw caution aside and closed the distance between them herself. He tasted like bourbon and peppermint. It was heaven. He deepened the kiss, flicking her lips with his tongue. She matched him, her heart aching with the intensity of the emotion that rocked through her. Her fingers tangled in his hair, and he pulled her tighter to his body. She felt safer than she'd ever felt in her life. He broke contact with her lips to scatter kisses across her jaw line, to her ear. He nibbled lightly on her lobe, and she could feel him smile as a whimper escaped her. This position gave her easy access to his ear as well. She steeled herself to tell him the truth for the first time in six months, with no threat of imminent death to make him doubt her sincerity.

"You should know, Damon, that I love you too."

o.o.o.o.o.o.o.o

I don't usually do holiday fics. Actually, this is the first I've done. Hope you enjoyed it. Please review. I love faves and alerts too, but I live for feedback. Also, I'm open to requests if anyone wants to prompt a oneshot. Thanks for reading!