There's a change she can't totally explain—certainly doesn't want to acknowledge: their bodies brushing more often as they pass one another, her hand strangely complacent in his whenever he leads her somewhere. Damon's never been shy, never afraid of being caught in a stare, but one night she meets his gaze and realizes with a start that it's not some ghost of another woman he's looking at—it's her. Tilts her head back against the couch cushion, arches her neck and closes her eyes in a mime of resting, can feel his eyes burning through her skin.
In hindsight, that's probably where it began.
She starts favoring skirts over her vast array of jeans. It's a small thing. The heat is at its peak in late July. Plus Stefan loves her legs, why shouldn't she show them off just a bit? Her mother had told her again and again when she was alive that it wasn't a crime to want to feel pretty or smart or cherished. That's how a girl should feel; that's how a girl should be treated. She'd felt so dead, so dull, didn't want anyone to really see her for so long ... she'd almost forgotten.
Damon flicks her bare calf as he sits beside her at the bar of the Grill; the sting sets off an uneasy thrill in the pit of her stomach.
"You're blushing," he murmurs so only she can hear.
"I'm embarrassed for you," she frowns, her shoulders shifting back to straighten her posture. "Can't you pursue a new storyline?"
He doesn't answer; rolls his eyes and orders a round of shots. Doesn't believe her.
She has sex with Stefan that night. It's just as intimate, just as pleasurable as always, but she has to keep forcing herself not to think about the fact that Damon can probably hear every sigh, every slide and thrust of her body—can probably even hear her heart hammering in her chest at the mere image of him on the other side of the wall—oh, god—
She feels dirty as Damon watches her leave from across the den. Her skin itches.
"How long have you been in the house?" She knew he was there before them—Stefan had warned her on the drive over.
He frowns, "Self-denial suits you, Elena. It practically makes your skin glow."
The next time she and Stefan make love in the Salvatore home after that, she strives to be particularly loud. Damon snaps, crowds her up against her car outside the house after.
"Stop trying to make me want you," he growls in her ear, hands rough on her hips. It's crossing a line—she doesn't actually want— "Or I might just have to make you follow through sometime."
She doesn't sleep a wink that night.
Alive. She feels alive.