Neither one of them counted the first time their lips practically touched as their first kiss.
That time, he had forced himself on her. She had rejected him and he had killed her brother.
They both tried their best to forget that night.
Their second first kiss was completely different.
He was dying in her arms. He had nothing left to lose, so he finally told her how he felt about her.
And her heart broke.
As her head was resting on his chest, it took everything to try to keep her composure and not break down completely and start yelling at him for not being careful enough, for not caring about his own life, for making her lose him.
But she needed to be strong for him. It was not about her, it was about him. So she just assured him she knew he loved her. Oh, how well she did, no matter how hard she tried to ignore that knowledge.
She could feel him smile. And then he said he wish she could've met him in 1864, she would've liked him.
She told him she liked him the way he was, and with that, she gave him more than he had ever hoped for – her acceptance. He really was ready to die peacefully.
And then she kissed him.
He was too weak to respond, but the second he felt her soft lips, he knew why he had been born, why he had fallen in love with Katherine, why he had turned and why he had ended up back in Mystic Falls again. Just for this brief moment. Even if it was a pity kiss. Even if it was just her attempt to give a dying man his last wish. He was grateful. Because it was his one moment of perfection.
Then Katherine came with the cure and the news of Stefan's sacrifice and perfection turned into hell.
They never talk about that kiss, even though they both go back to the memory too often.
The next time they kissed she was drunk.
They had been searching for Stefan for almost two months now. Two months of spending every moment together, either on the road, following the bloody trail, or in some crappy motel.
They fought a lot, laughed not so much, but most of the time, they avoided talking except if it was related to their rescue mission.
That night though, they fought. Really fought. He yelled at her that she needed to listen to him in order for both of them to stay alive and find Stefan, and she screamed that he had no right to tell her what to do. He called her immature, she called him selfish. He said he regretted bringing her with him and then she said the worst thing that had ever left her mouth. Something she had never thought for even a second. But she said it because she wanted to hurt him. She told him that if it hadn't been for him, there would've been no reason for them to search for Stefan, cause he would've been home. He tensed and said nothing more. He just took off.
As she watched him leave, she broke down. Because she had hurt him. Intentionally. And by that, she had hurt herself.
She cursed herself over and over again.
She waited for him for over 2 hours without being able to stop crying.
Eventually, her eyes dried out. She stood up from the floor and spotted his half-filled bottle of scotch on the small coffee table. She went straight for it, drinking the burning liquid straight from the bottle. She got tipsy immediately, drunk in less than 20 minutes, and hammered in half an hour, in which she had managed to drink all of the scotch.
He came back not long after she had finished off the bottle. He found her attempting to call him, not quite managing to hit the right buttons on the phone. He was still beyond angry and hurt, that was an understatement. But that was her and he would take care of her. As always.
He helped her get into bed, which she wasn't helping much. She was mumbling things he couldn't quite make out even with his vampire hearing. When he finally laid her down on her bed, he sat next to her for a brief moment, studying her face.
He knew she hadn't meant what she had said. She was too damn kind and caring to really mean it. One of the many reasons why he loved her so freaking much.
He was about to stand up and go to his bed when he felt her hands trying to hold him there. He looked in her now open brown eyes and saw something he couldn't quite name. Then she pulled him down to her and kissed him.
He knew he should've cut her off. She was wasted, that much was obvious. He was taking advantage, and he never wanted that with her. But there was so much he could bear. And right there, he didn't have the strength to pull away. So he kissed her back.
It was magical.
When they pulled away, out of breath, he searched her eyes for the inevitably coming regret, but he found none. Instead, he saw warmth and appreciation. She smiled lightly and caressed his cheek with the back of her hand.
"Stay with me" she whispered. "Right here, next to me. Hold me."
He said nothing. He just laid down next to her and she put her head on his chest and he enfolded her in his arms.
They slept like that every night after that.
The next time they kissed they were dancing.
It had been another three months after their previous kiss. They had just hit another dead end – Klaus had managed to fool them again.
They were once again in a hotel room. She came out of the bathroom after her shower and found him sitting in front of the window, gazing into the night. By now she had observed him long enough to notice small things that showed how tense he was. Like how he played with his ring, or how he had lowered his head a bit, or how his body was as still as a statue.
He was barely standing straight.
She went to him and placed her hand on his shoulder, squeezing it lightly.
"Dance with me."
He turned around and looked at her. He was not surprised. Not really. By now, he knew her better than he knew himself.
He took her hand in his and led her to the center of the room. There, he wrapped his arms around her as she put hers around his neck and rested her head against his chest. They swayed slowly, without music. They didn't need it.
For a few minutes, they just danced like that. Then he stopped moving and she lifted her face to look in his eyes. Only she didn't have the chance to. Before she knew it, his lips were on hers; kissing her like she had never been kissed. Despair, longing, heartbreak, anger, passion, fear, love. She could feel it all in that kiss, and she responded to him with everything she had in her, with everything she felt. And it was burning.
They kissed. And kissed. And kissed.
It was a millennium.
It was a second.
It was so much, yet not enough.
But that was all they could have.
The next time they kiss, it's the most perfect and most heartbreaking moment in both their lives.
After 11 months of searching for Stefan, they had found him, freed him and killed Klaus.
They came back to Mystic Falls and Stefan insisted that he should be locked in the cellar until he got the bloodlust under control. And after what they had witnessed while following him, neither of them protested.
They got to the boarding house, installed Stefan in the basement. She promised the younger Salvatore over and over that it would be ok, promising for them both to be there to help him. Stefan turned to him and looked him straight in the eyes.
"Thank you, brother."
He just nodded and went upstairs, leaving her and Stefan alone. She followed him with her eyes, let out a heavy sigh and turned back to Stefan.
"I love you. Many things changed while I was gone, but this hasn't. And it never will."
She smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes.
"I know. I've never doubted that. It will be ok soon enough."
He nodded and told her to get some rest. She promised him she'd be back in the morning and left.
She found Damon outside the house, watching the sky. She went over to him, linked her arm to his and rested her head on his shoulder, turning her eyes to the sky as well.
It was a cloudless starry night. Was it a coincidence? Neither of them knew, nor cared.
"He's gonna be ok. I promise you."
"I know. But he will need you, and he will need me, and he will need for me and him to be the couple we used to be again."
"He will. And he will have it."
She entwined their fingers together and brought them to her lips. She kissed gently each of his fingers, holding his hand tightly. He turned his head and kissed the top of her head. They stayed like that for a while, neither of them knowing or caring how long. Then he pulled away from her.
"I will drive you home."
The ride was silent. He parked the car in front of her house and they just sat there, neither of them saying a word nor moving. Then she turned around and looked at him, her eyes sparkling with tears.
"I love you, Damon."
He closed his eyes for a second and then turned around to face her.
"I know. And you know I love you. But we love him more than…"
He paused and fell silent. She knew what he was going to say though.
"More than we love each other? That was what you were about to say, but you and I both know it's not like that, it's not that simple."
"Maybe, but we both sure as hell love him more than we love ourselves."
With that, she couldn't argue.
"I don't know how to let you go when I've never really had you."
"You'll always have me – I am yours."
"I know, and it breaks me. Knowing that you are mine and that I am yours, but I can't have you, and you can't have me. Knowing that we never got to see how it could be as cliché and cheesy as it sounds. "
He cupped her face then.
"Hey, look at me. Elena, look at me."
And she lifted her warm brown eyes and looked into his icy blue eyes that pierced her soul.
"We would fight a lot – it's kind of our thing, right? Then we'd have the hottest make up sex ever. We'd go do all kind of wild things that came to our minds. I'd get jealous of every guy that looked at you and cause scenes. You'd scoop through my room attempting to find more things about me and my life before. I'd get your brother drunk at a bar and you'd yell at me. I'd corrupt you into having sex during those endless Founder's events. You'd almost poison me with an attempt to cook dinner and I'd mock you and show off with my amazing pasta. We'd get so angry at each other that one of us would leave the house and get drunk just to let out the frustration. We'd spend long, sleepless nights in bed and then sleep till noon. Judgey and Barbie would pout about me taking too much of your time, and I'd suggest we spent some time the four of us, preferably naked, and you'd throw a pillow at me. We'd make fun off each other. We'd kiss at all the inappropriate places and times. We'd be amazing. We'd be us. Damon&Elena."
She felt like crying. Because she could see it, feel it. But instead, she smiled.
"Don't forget dancing and arguing about music, movies, and books."
"I'd probably burn down that Stephanie Meyer crap and get you some real literature."
They both laughed. Then he leaned in and kissed her. It was slow, sweet and tender kiss. Like taken out of a cheesy romantic teenage movie.
They eventually pulled away and she rested her head in the crook of his neck.
"I should go."
"I don't want to."
"I know. Neither do I."
Just then, the door of her house opened and they saw Jeremy rushing over to the car. She pulled away from him and they looked at each other again. They smiled and she got out of the car and her brother pulled her in a tight hug. Damon sighed and drove down the street.
Elena followed the car with her eyes and held back the tears.
Tomorrow was another day.