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more than a friend

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Nothing really registers in Damon's head after Elena tells him Enzo's dead. There isn't a right time to process it properly because he's trying to kill them from the other side, and he stole their personal twin witch, and the travellers are probably on their way to kill Elena and Stefan right now. That all takes priority.

At least he tells himself that. It's easier to not give himself the chance.

So, when Stefan forces him to try and let him explain, he doesn't want to let him. That would mean accepting that Enzo is really dead, even though the evidence is right there, haunting him. 

Deflection is always his friend, but even with his voice rising as he practically lectures Stefan for not killing Enzo sooner, he can feel it cracking inside of him and he refuses to acknowledge it. 

"He was your friend," Stefan cuts him off calmly, that guilt-ridden sadness in his eyes as he looks at him. The only explanation he needs for why he never told him right after it happened. A good one, too, Damon regretfully think.

Damon has to stop. Another crack, another piece falling away inside of him as he refuses to look him in the eyes. Enzo's here somewhere, he can feel it. It only makes it worse, knowing he can see and hear him.

"He was more than my friend, Stefan," Damon says quietly. He hates how strained his voice sounds, so close to breaking. "Which is why I, above anyone else, should have known that he was dead."

He lifts his eyes to meet Stefan's, knocking aside the flicker of surprise that shows. Stefan hadn't needed to know what exactly his relationship with Enzo was past cellmates and telling him never really crossed his mind. He can't imagine explaining everything that happened in those few weeks in between would have gone down so well.

But hearing Stefan refer to him as simply his friend — the word is almost emphasized as if he doesn't even really believe that they were that, that they're nothing more than two people who shared the same experience for a few years. It does something to him. It feels wrong after everything.

And deep down, he should have felt something because of that. It should have been there, somewhere in the back of his mind even, telling him that something isn't right.

Instead, he believed Stefan and Elena. He let himself think that Enzo had just up and left, gone off to Cape wherever. He should have known. Enzo doesn't abandon people. Even with his humanity flipped.

"Let's just find the witch," he says, tearing his eyes away as they burn. It's sunk in this time, no matter how much he tries not to let it, and if he thinks about it for a second longer, he might just do what Stefan and Elena were so afraid of.

Having that barn burn down around him as he's stuck against the wall only forces him to think about it though. No pushing it away, pretending there's a chance that Enzo's not really dead. It only makes his promise to find a way to bring him back all the more sincere.

He can hear Enzo's voice as he does, even if only in his head. 

"Don't let me down this time."

He makes a promise to himself that he won't. He can't.

As soon as they're left with only one problem to deal with, that one being the travellers, they're hurrying to get the hell out of Caroline's dad's cabin before they come face-to-face with them.

He moves without thinking about what he's doing, packing everything up from inside the cabin. He didn't exactly bring much himself, but Caroline has way too many bags for one person spending only a night or two in hiding. She wasn't around to stop him from packing them in the trunk himself, so he thought why not be helpful?

The words keep replaying in his head, over and over again on a loop.

Enzo's dead.

Not for much longer if he can help it, but still. It's all that he can think about; how it happened, how he should have been there, if he had gotten to him in time to talk him out of it, they could have been in Cape Horn right now and they—

Even as Elena tries to get him to listen to her and her explanation of why she and Stefan lied to him, he's thinking of how he could have prevented this in the first place. If he had gone back to Whitmore earlier, maybe he would have realized he was still alive, he could have gotten him out before all of this.

If he had somehow realized that she was his Maggie before, he would have never had a reason to turn his humanity off. And if he hasn't turned his humanity off, he would never have gone after Elena, and Stefan would never have had to kill him. Just the thought has him replaying the punch he landed on Stefan, part of him wanting to redo it.

"I'm sorry that I lied to you," Elena says, cutting through his thoughts. He believes her. She hates lying, he knows that. 

"I don't care that you lied, really," he says, the words barely registering in his mind because of course they're not entirely sincere. But she's trying to apologize, and he knows that she wouldn't have wanted to be a part of this. It doesn't change the fact that she was.

She doesn't seem to buy it anyway. He catches a glimpse of her eyebrows drawing together as he turns back to grab the bag lying at his feet. He picks it up, internally questioning what the hell Caroline brought with her to make it so heavy, and dumps it in the trunk of her car, having swiped her keys from the counter inside.

"Okay. I'm confused," she says, throwing her hands out at her side in defeat. "Why are you being like this?"

Damon clenches his jaw. His fingers momentarily tighten around the strap of the bag. Then that thing he's been barely holding together inside of him falls apart and he lets it go.

"Because you were right, Elena," he snaps, turning back around to face her. She blinks in surprise, and he almost expects her to recoil. "You wanted to protect me so I wouldn't spiral. You and Stefan both assumed I would if I found out about Enzo, and you were right. Because it is taking everything in me not to do exactly that despite every nerve in my body wanting to break something or hurt someone or do all the wrong things for all the right reasons. I'm holding it together the best I can because I have to figure out how to bring Enzo back, and I can't do that if I spiral."

Elena's eyebrows raise, still blinking slowly at him, her lips barely parted. He breathes in, holding her stare. He knows what she wanted to hear. That she wanted him to give her something she could fix, that even though she was the one insisting they shouldn't be together, she wanted him to say something about how he's holding it together to prove something to her. 

"Damon..." she says gently, shaking her head, her eyebrows furrowing. "I know he was your friend. But if you find a way to bring him back, what's to say he won't try and kill any of us again? He already tried, both while he was alive and dead—"

"Yes, because of me!" Damon's eyes narrow, the anger he's been pushing down swelling inside of him. "Because I killed the one thing keeping him going the entire time he was in that hell, and then I didn't even know he was dead. Or that my own brother killed him. If I were him, I would be haunting our asses too!"

"You can't blame yourself for his death, Damon," Elena tries to argue, her voice softening. "You didn't know. There was nothing you could have done. Enzo chose this for himself. And..." she glances away, "I know you think you owe him something, but you don't."

Damon stares at her in disbelief. He breathes out a quiet scoff. Doesn't owe him anything? 

"The only reason he was even here in the first place was because of me," Damon says slowly. "He could have left the minute he was free from Augustine, but he stayed. For me, Elena. Because he thought I needed him — which I did! And if I had never killed Maggie in the first place, he would have had no reason to flip his switch or try and hurt me like I had hurt him, getting himself killed in the process. So yeah, I feel like I owe him something. But it's not the only reason I want to bring him back."

Elena closes her eyes, a soft sigh passing her lips.

"I know," she says, shaking her head again. "I'm sorry. He was your best friend in those cells, of course you don't want him to be dead. But, Damon..." she looks at him, her eyes filled with sympathy but pleading with him, "if you bring him back, he could go after Stefan for revenge. Or you."

"I don't care if he wants to kill me!" Damon exclaims in disbelief. "I just want him to be alive! If that means that he spends an eternity trying to make my life a living hell, then so be it. I'll find a way to fix things and bring him back, because I told him I would never abandon him again. He didn't give up on me no matter how easy it would have been! I refuse to let him down again, because I love him, and I can't stand the thought of going forever knowing that he is only dead because of me. I'm sure you can understand that."

The words hang between them, met with a deafening silence. Elena stares at him in shock, and he can't bring himself to try and figure out which part's throwing her the most. There's this feeling surrounding him, like they're not quite alone. 

"You really are a drama queen, aren't you?" he can practically hear Enzo's voice say next to him, that amused lilt to it that he always thought so charming. He's right there, he knows it. "Can't believe I had to die for you to admit you're in love with me. You Salvatore's and your aversion to having any sort of feelings."

As he sucks in a breath and forces himself to turn back to the bags in the trunk, he makes another promise. To himself, and to Enzo, even if he can't hear it.

He may have an aversion to expressing his feelings, but if he actually manages to find a way to bring Enzo back to life, he'll be damned if he doesn't tell the idiot how much he loves him to his face. He can even rip his heart out while he does it if he still wants to, he doesn't care. 

Busying himself with rearranging the bags as if it really matters, he ignores Elena's eyes boring into the back of his head. 

"You loved him?" she repeats quietly. "Like... really loved him?"

Damon closes his eyes. He doesn't miss the hint of hurt to her voice, but it's overshadowed by the guilt and curiosity that sticks through. Somehow, he can't tell if that's worse. 

He stares down at the bags, his fingers still curled around one of the straps.

The question's waiting for an answer, showing no sign of leaving. Enzo's even there, in the corner of his imagination's eyes, watching him with raised eyebrows and a smirk. The bastard's still finding ways to watch him squirm even from the other side. 

"Yes," he breathes out without thinking. The one word doesn't feel right, too much and yet too little at the same time. Swallowing, he adds, "and now he's dead. Seems to happen a lot around here, doesn't it?"

He doesn't wait for her answer. He doesn't even really look at her face as he shoots off something about needing to go and make sure Caroline hasn't gotten lost in the rest of her stuff before walking past her and heading into the cabin.

All he would find is confusion, and shock, and a lot of things he just really isn't ready to deal with right now if he's still planning on not spiralling. It's beginning to look like a very appealing option.

Caroline's back in her room, facing away from him when he walks in. He eyes the three bags on the bed. 

"How do you still have more things to pack?" he questions, watching her pause mid-rummage through the closet to look over at him in surprise. He gestures lazily at the bags. "One person seriously can't have this much stuff. What, did you think we were planning on staying here for a month?"

Caroline rolls her eyes. "No. I just... like to be prepared."

"For what? Going on the run?"

"Technically we already are."

"No," he says, stepping into the room and over to the bed as he points an index finger at her, "Stefan and Elena are technically in hiding. We, however, are merely their... bodyguards, if you will."

Caroline lifts an eyebrow at him, letting her eyes move over him exaggeratedly as if making a point. Rolling his eyes at her, he simply shifts his attention to the bags, already grabbing one of them.

She turns fully away from the closet now, her arms crossing over her chest.

"You know, I can just leave my stuff here," she points out as he slips the bag up his arm. "This is technically my cabin now, so it—"

"It's easier to just take it back with us," he cuts her off without looking up, hauling the bag up onto his shoulder and grabbing a second. "The travellers might set up camp here, and if you have to come back for anything, they could take you instead for Stefan and Elena's location or as leverage. I don't want to have to be saving you from evil witch-wannabes, alright?"

Caroline blinks at him in surprise, her eyes a little too wide and lips parted. He makes the mistake of looking at her for a second too long.

Something softens in her eyes, her shoulders dropping and her arms following suit. Her head tilts to the side in that sympathetic way and he focuses himself on throwing the few things she had laid out on the bed into the open bag.

"I didn't know either," she says quietly, her voice soft and gentle in a way that he wants to hate. "But I'm... I'm sorry. You really cared about him, didn't you?"

There it is again, he thinks, and his jaw tightens instinctively. They're not to know, but it's that same implication that's making him remember the few weeks they had before Enzo found out about Maggie. 

"Doesn't matter," he says, his words clipped as he throws a hairbrush into the bag.

"Of course it matters," Caroline says shaking her head, her eyebrows drawing together. She throws a hand up, a dry laugh passing her lips. "I mean, Stefan and Elena literally thought you were going to snap and turn into old, murdery Damon just because he was dead. Usually, you just drink until you've moved on."

"Well, I haven't snapped and I'm not spiralling," Damon says, turning to face her. "So can we maybe not play therapist right now when Stefan and Elena could be about to be kidnapped? You're not very good at it, and I have more of a tendency to eat therapists than divulge my deepest, darkest feelings to them anyway."

Caroline stares at him, refusing to look away. She crosses her arms over her chest again and he has to resist the urge to groan, knowing her well enough to know exactly what he's just done.

"No, you know what? We're not doing this," she says firmly. "You care. You have feelings, and if I have to play therapist to get you to admit that you are refusing to let yourself grieve over the loss of one of your closest friends, then so be it."

"Well, have fun with that, Blondie," Damon practically scoffs, "because I'm out."

He goes to turn back around, but Caroline stops him with a hand flying to his shoulder, forcing him to face her once more.

"Damon! I am not Stefan, and I am not Elena. Alright?" She looks him in the eyes, making him hold her gaze. There's a genuine concern for him swimming around in them. "Enzo is dead. Your friend is dead. Even you, Damon Salvatore, are allowed to be sad."

"I am sad, Caroline," Damon shoots back before he can stop himself. She pulls back slightly in surprise. "I'm devastated. Because yes, Enzo is dead, and I miss him."

"Good," Caroline says, nodding encouragingly. "That's good."

"No, it's not," Damon says. "It's the complete opposite of good. It's horrible, and I hate it. I hate feeling like this — like I can't breathe, and the guilt is tearing me apart, and there is nothing I can do about it! Because Enzo is dead, and I don't know how to bring him back. He's the one person that I... I have never felt like this in my entire life and it is killing me. Alright? Is that what you want to hear? That I am this close to falling apart because Enzo is dead, and I don't know what to do about that without torturing myself in this guilt because I should have done something. I should have been there to help him."

Caroline's silent. She's just staring back at him, eyes wide and a little shinier than they had been before. Her lips part, but nothing comes out right away, obviously processing.

He just forces air down into his lungs, trying to force back down the feeling that's clawing its way up his throat.

Uncomfortable with so much of his defences down, Damon quickly goes to turn away from her and finish packing everything into the car. He's had to confess the same thing one too many times in the last hour and if he keeps talking about it, he might actually need a therapist.

"Damon," Caroline says gently, and it works. He stops.

He lifts his eyes back up to meet hers. It's not a surprise that he's met with sympathy and sadness. It's the lack of pity, but understanding and caring that throws him. 

Her lips part again to speak and he finds himself beating her to it.

"Don't say that there was nothing I could have done," he says, shaking his head tiredly as she pauses. "Or that... he wasn't worth it, or that I didn't owe him anything, or that bringing him back will only ensure that he will try to kill me and everyone else for revenge. Please, don't say it, Caroline."

Her eyebrows lift the tiniest bit. "I... was actually going to say that I think you're handling it really well. If I were you, and I had just lost my... well, someone as close to me as you were to Enzo, I don't think I'd be so put together."

Damon's head tilts, giving an involuntarily scoff of something resembling incredulous amusement. "Did Caroline Forbes just call me, Damon Salvatore, put together? Hell must really be freezing over; it's gonna be raining blood soon."

Caroline huffs out a light laugh at that, and the corners of his mouth twitch up. She tucks her hair behind her ear and shakes her head again, looking back up at him. Her smile lingers, but it slips.

"You really think you can find a way to bring him back?" she asks to his surprise. 

"Well, Jeremy's up and kicking, isn't he?" he says. "And Bonnie's not exactly still dead. Clearly it's not impossible."

Caroline nods, her expression thoughtful. 

"Alright. I'll help you."

Damon blinks. "You... you'll help me? Bring back Enzo?"

"Yes," she says, her voice firm as her arms wrap around her middle. "He was... well, a lot like you in the way that he drove me crazy to the point of homicidal thoughts, but—" Damon smiles a little at that, as much as he tries not to, "—he was also sort of my friend. And I actually enjoyed his company. And... he didn't deserve to die."

Damon's stomach twists at the last part, his smile fading with it.

Caroline glances away; he had noticed it earlier as well, when she had overheard Stefan and found out Enzo was dead. He might not be the only one holding back just how much it's getting to him. 

"Okay," he says, making her look back up at him. "We'll bring him back. Together. I can only imagine what thoughts he's having right now about that, and I promise, when we drag his ass back from the other side, I'm gonna make him regret even thinking of it."

Caroline laughs again, a little more sincere this time. "Yeah, I'm good with staying out of that part of your relationship."

Damon's surprise pushes his smile up a little further, his head tilting.

She catches on without a word needing to be said, raising her shoulder in a shrug as she rolls her eyes at him. 

"Come on, Damon," she says. "You really thought I wouldn't be able to tell that you are completely in love with him? Or that I could possibly spend more than one day with Enzo and not figure out that he's head over heels for you? Trust me, it's not hard to tell."

"Apparently it is," Damon says, but something eases inside of him at Caroline knowing.

"Yeah, if you're Stefan or Elena," she says pointedly with another roll of her eyes. "Stefan wouldn't be able to tell if someone was in love with him, and Elena... well, I don't think she was really looking for signs of you being in love with someone who isn't... her. But to everyone else? You might as well have it written across your forehead."

Damon snorts at that. It's at least good to know that he's not as subtle he thought was despite not trying in the slightest.

"Now," she says, and knocks gently into his shoulder with a smile, "let's bring back your boyfriend and my annoyingly murderous friend who never shuts up."

"Yeah, he does love the sound of his voice, doesn't he?" Damon says, and that presence warms the space on his right.  

Caroline raises her eyebrows, her head tilting. "To be fair, I'm not sure there are many people who don't."

Enzo is definitely smirking at that, he knows it. Probably saying something witty and flirtatious as always. Damon just smiles and doesn't disagree.

Instead, he lets Caroline help him with the rest of her bags as she pushes him out of the door, still talking the entire way. He's probably going to regret teaming up with her, he's sure, but for now, it's strangely nice. With her confidence, he's even more convinced they can bring Enzo back. 

He will, no matter what it takes, even if only to wipe the smug smirk off his face that he knows is going to be there when he sees him again. Because he will see him again.