It wasn't until Elena was halfway to Damon's house that she started to wish that she'd showered first, or at least changed out of her leggings and oversized hoodie. She thought of every romantic movie she'd ever seen, and couldn't remember a single one that featured a girl with tangled hair and flour under her nails making out with a guy who wore Armani jackets to potlucks. The nerves didn't take over completely. Damon had probably seen her in her pajamas more than Bonnie had (this thought made her heart flutter with pleasure), and he'd definitely witnessed her looking less put-together than she was now. Deep down, she doubted he'd notice what she was wearing, since he had an idea what was in store for him.

Elena swallowed thickly when she saw that Damon had beaten her there. She didn't bother to knock, opening the door with shaking hands and stepping inside. She found him in the sitting room. He was leaning against the arm of the couch, sipping at a rather large glass of bourbon with a slightly anxious look on his face. She smiled tentatively when he looked up at her. He returned it, but there were questions etched over his features, obscuring his feelings.

"We don't have any mistletoe, but I found some oregano…" Elena chuckled as he waved the jar over his head, only a fraction of his usual cheek passing through the vulnerability that seemed to surround him. She could tell that he wasn't quite sure whether she'd been joking or not. Elena loved this Damon. This was her Damon. She walked toward him, feeling her face heat up and her smile widen. His eyes locked with hers, and the warmth pierced her heart. This was a connection she'd never felt before. There was intense attraction, need, trust, and love so deep that Elena hadn't known it was there at first. It wasn't an effect he had on her, he wasn't an addiction. The love she had for Damon was so innate that Elena was sure it had always been a part of her, dormant until she truly saw the man he was. Even being a preordained supernatural creature, Elena had never felt more destined for anything in her life. Damon's eyes never left hers' as she approached, and she felt every ounce of nervousness leave her. He was the most perfect thing in her world, no matter how many mistakes he'd made. Damon had told her once, when he thought he'd never have another chance, that he didn't regret anything that had happened, because it had led him to her. Now that she allowed her emotions to flow unhindered, she knew she felt the same way. It was selfish of her to justify so much evil, the loss of so many lives, just to feel the overwhelming passion she felt right now. It didn't matter right then, though. This was bigger than anything she'd ever been a part of.

They were close now. Damon straightened up, taking a step toward her. Elena's breath hitched as his scent overpowered her. He smelled like alcohol, leather, and expensive cologne. Elena's heart broke with the tenderness of the moment. Moved with passion, she threw her arms around his neck and pulled his mouth down to her own, pouring her inexpressible longing into every second of their kiss. Damon wrapped her tightly in his embrace, caressing her hair as he responded almost desperately. He was so much softer than she had thought he would be. His touch was as gentle as it was fervent. It was more than loving, it was positively reverent. Elena would never be able to get enough of this. She couldn't believe she'd almost sacrificed feeling the things she was right now.

Elena couldn't believe the change she'd undergone in just a few minutes. Stefan was still, would always be important to her. She would never completely give up on him, but what she had felt for him, she would never feel for him again. She couldn't love him, ghost or not. What she felt now was too strong, and it was only intensified by the fact that she had chosen him. Damon was everything she wasn't, but in ways that made them both so much more than the sum of their parts. And, where it mattered, they were absolutely identical. This was what it felt like to be alive. She had been complete before knowing him, but would never feel whole without him again. He made her stronger, fiercer, and better. For the first time since the accident that had taken her parents, Elena felt like her life was being put back together. She almost laughed at the irony of the fact that the biggest mess she knew was the key to finding her sanity.

Damon broke the kiss abruptly. He kept her face between his large hands, tracing circles on her cheeks with his thumbs. His eyes were filled with happiness. Elena rested her hands on his hips, surprised at her own boldness.

"Why now, Elena?" Damon's voice was uncharacteristically sweet. She smiled softly as she brought one hand up to his sternum, tangling her fingertips in the cloth of his black t-shirt. She kissed him again, softly, before answering.

"Because every day that I know you, I love you even more than the last. Because I've seen every side of you, good and bad, and I still think this is more than worth it. You drive me crazy, and we'll probably never get along, but Damon…even when you're being an ass, you're my favorite person in the world. I never want to stop fighting with you."Damon laughed.

"Well, that's easy for you to say. You'd only have to put up with me for sixty or seventy years, max. " Damon gave her a bittersweet smile. Elena felt something strange bubble up in her, a desire for something she'd never dreamed she'd feel. She gave herself a minute to adjust again. This was too much to process, but she couldn't bring herself to panic while he was looking at her like this.

"Maybe longer." Elena half-hoped he wouldn't catch the implication. She saw by his reaction that he had, and that he was shocked and touched by it.

"Elena…you would do that? For me?" She had never wanted it before, but seeing him like this, happier than she had thought he was capable of being, she knew that she would do anything to keep him this way. She wouldn't tell him that yet, though.

"We can discuss it. Maybe not right now, but…I don't think I ever want to leave you like that." Damon had a bizarre expression on his face. Elena knew that she was telling him everything without saying much. She hadn't been willing to sacrifice her chance at a human life for Stefan, even with her imminent death looming in front of them. That had been a pretty public issue. By telling Damon that she was open to the idea of forever with him, she was saying she loved him more…and Elena was shocked to realize that it might be true. She thought about what Lexi had told her. When it's real, you can't walk away. Elena had let Stefan go, and he had walked away. She didn't think she could do that with Damon. She'd chase him down, vervain the crap out him, and not let him out of the basement until he promised to stay forever. Forever. She wouldn't love a ghost, and neither would he. She would sacrifice everything to make sure of that. And, strangely, an eternity of bickering and making up with Damon didn't seem so bad.

"I love you so much." Damon wasted no time in kissing her again. She grabbed at his messy black hair, holding him so tight that it hurt. It wasn't enough. She tugged at the hem of his shirt. He didn't fight, throwing it to the floor as he backed them to the stairs. She wrapped her legs around his waist as he hoisted her up, her ankles locking together and their arms entangled as Elena allowed herself to find the happiness she'd tried to find anywhere else, but found with the person she'd least expected. This was the first Christmas she'd been his, but in her heart, she knew it wouldn't be the last. She'd lost everyone, and gained Damon. The pain would never go away, but he made her strong enough to deal with it all, and Elena loved him enough for forever.


Merry Christma-yula-hannu-kwanz-aka! I was inspired to update, because Last Marauder of Five(Check it out. Awesome stuff.) made me feel like a slacker with crazy-mad updating today. So, here's a shout out.