This was written for a friend of mine, who wanted the last line included in a Delena fic, and who also feels that Jeremy doesn't get enough credit for the all the crap he's been through. I have to agree, so I thought I'd give him a little nod too. ;) Please review! I LIVE for reviews.


Ghosts of Christmas

Christmastime was hard this year. Elena had basically run out of family at this point, and her small circle of friends had endured more heartache than most people ever knew. It was dismal for everyone. No family had been left unscathed, and Mystic Falls was a hollow shell of what it had once been. Stefan was gone, Tyler was sired to Klaus, Bonnie avoided her house like the plague because of Jeremy, and Caroline was going through some newborn-vampire crisis thing. Damon had told them all that it was normal. He had done the same thing, he said. It wasn't reassuring for Elena, since Damon still seemed to be dealing with the aftershocks a century and a half later. He was wonderful, of course…well, most of the time…to her. He was getting much better. He was the only person who stayed by her side despite his personal drama. That was impressive, because she sort of was his drama. It sucked that the one person she wanted to be around right now was the person she couldn't help but hurt. He loved her so much that somehow, he stuck around. The two of them were a little too similar that way. They were both "balls-to-the walls romantics with a double shot of stubbornness and a twist of denial." Those were Alaric's words, not hers'.

Sighing, Elena secured the last piece of garland to the banister and grabbed a cookie from the plate on the coffee table before plopping down on her couch. She had decorated the house in a last-ditch effort to lure Jeremy out of his room. He was taking all this harder than anyone. He had lost his family too, and two women he loved desperately. Elena tried to imagine how he must feel, how she would react to Stefan's death. It was hard to think about, even if she had put their relationship behind her. As much as Jeremy had cared for Vicki, and as much as he'd fought his feelings for Anna, he had ended up loving her more. She had been what Vicki wasn't. She hadn't been an addict, and she hadn't chosen her vices over him. The irony was almost funny. Here she was, pitying her brother for not having the opportunity to be with the person who understood him best, the girl who loved him enough for forever. She was mourning Jeremy's loss while she created her own. Deep down, Elena suspected that Damon might be her Anna, especially since Stefan was most definitely her Vicki-rehab stints and all. Damon was dangerous, and passionate, unstable, and incredibly loyal. He was beautiful. Elena knew that he was more than under her skin. She feared she was past the point of denying the things she felt for her best friend. She knew how she had felt when she thought she would lose him. She hadn't even loved him then…not like this. He had been important to her, and she hadn't been stupid enough to think there wasn't something growing between them. She had had feelings for him then, but now…now she loved him. Damon was her Anna. If she lost him, she would love a ghost for the rest of her life, because she could never not love him. A man she had thought was so selfish and evil had sacrificed his freedom, his nature, and his safety for her every day. He loved her enough to let her choose, and the thought of him being rejected again almost brought tears to her eyes.

Elena bit her untouched cookie. She grimaced. God, she was an awful cook. No wonder her brother had closed and locked his door the second she'd started the mixer. She should have enlisted help. It was almost ten o'clock on Christmas Eve. The Grill was closed today. Damon would be at home…drinking alone. She felt a pang of guilt for not having invited him over in the first place. Elena hesitated as she drew out her phone from her sweatshirt pocket. Now or never. He answered on the first ring.

"Naughty or nice tree trimming…" Elena snorted softly. She knew he had heard, and could practically feel his smirk from five miles away.

"Hey, Damon. We have a bit of an emergency." Elena heard his sharp exhale of frustration.

"Oh, for fuck's sake, what now?" He wasn't angry, but there was a hint of concern edging into his smooth voice.

"Is there some sort of gingerbread doppelganger curse? I can't seem to get them to survive their transition. I tried bleeding in the frosting, but it didn't seem to help. You should get over here. There's a lot of carnage." She was grinning widely, and Damon let out a loud bark of a laugh.

"Ah. Yeah. You probably forgot to sacrifice an elf and a reindeer on an altar of sugar plums. That's important. "Elena chuckled. "I'm in the car right now, but I'm only ten minutes out. Your place or mine?" It was an innocent question with no hidden meanings, no expectations. Her heart fluttered, because she had expectations. Tonight would change things forever. It was time to face everything she'd been too afraid to feel. She wouldn't repeat someone else's mistakes He had become the man she'd always seen in him, the man she'd hoped to find her whole life. It was sappy, and a little dramatic, but she would let Alaric be right this time. She was all in with this one. She got up, shoving her feet into her fuzzy winter boots, not caring that she was in her pajamas. She jotted a quick note for Jeremy, telling him she'd be back by morning.

"Your place. Don't hurry." She paused, biting her bottom lip as she prepared herself to tear down her carefully constructed wall. "And…Damon?" he seemed to sense the shift in her tone. He knew her so well that he probably knew everything that was going through her mind. But, still he waited for her to move them both into new territory.

"Yes, Elena?" He prompted her gently when she took a few seconds to finish her thought.

"Meet me under the mistletoe."