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A Lesson In Regret

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He'd rushed into the morgue, unceremoniously dragging her out of Stefan's arms. He was all lips and hands and words as sacred as a holy prayer. She'd questioned it, for a second, whether or not she would turn. She thought of Jeremy and Bonnie, Caroline and Stefan. Damon was the deciding factor. If she died there was no doubt that he would follow. So she reassures him.

All lips and hands, reciting his name soft and gentle like a hymn from the good book.

She doesn't know how long they stay like that but it felt like a minute just short of forever. He puts just enough space between them to hand her a blood bag. Just enough space for her to realize there had never really been a choice. He stares into her eyes as if daring her to put up a fight. He dives into her soul making it impossible to deny him.

She wouldn't.

One hand holds the bag and the other cups his face. Her gaze unwavering. He was grateful, relieved. Their gazes locked until the bag was empty. She will always regret closing her eyes. He took the empty bag from her and for a second they were together; alive and perfect. Her arms around him, his lips against her skin, silent whispers of devotion. She'd closed her eyes trying to memorize the feeling.

Then her arms were empty, the love gone.

It wasn't hard to figure out what he's doing. She lives at the boarding house now. Away from Jeremy until she has a handle on the blood lust. Her things had been there to welcome her home, the first thing she did was move them out of Stefan's room. He doesn't question it. He'd seen the tides change.

Damon isn't there to notice though.

He lives at her house, claims to be protecting the littlest Gilbert. Really he's avoiding her. Has been avoiding her since he walked out of the hospital, only in her presence when absolutely necessary. He comes over with Jeremy; supervised visits to test her strength. He, Caroline and Stefan take her out. Well Stefan and Caroline take her out; Damon stands in the background and makes sure no one dies.

He won't look her in the eye.

That's the first thing she notices. The way he looks through her, or over her shoulder, or at the glass in his hand. It's the cause of insecurities. Had the transition down something to her appearance? Was she no longer attractive to him, too much like Katherine? She would ask him but there's this distance between them that she never thought possible. He's nice to her, well normal people nice. There's no teasing, gone are the subtle innuendos. It's an easy friendship, void of all the secrets they share.

There is no instant when skin comes into contact, ever.

She knows because she craves. Second to the blood lust, his skin is the focus of her desires. She just wants him to hold her hand. Really, she would settle for a simply brush of his finger tips. The way he used to stroke her wrist at night, her pulse lulling him to sleep after a hard day. Her borrowed blood beat the same, coursed through her veins in the same three/four time, would it have the same effect?

He doesn't say her name anymore.

She doesn't even know how it's possible but he manages it. It's not like he calls her something else, there's no Gilbert, or Katherine two, or anything. He just doesn't address her. He doesn't talk to her unless someone else already is, unless she talks to him first. It's gotten to the point that even when he wants to talk to her, even when she can see that he has something to say he'll wait, save it, until he can have her attention without saying her name, or touching her, or making eye contact.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

She corners him in the kitchen one night, away from concerned faces and judging eyes. She tries to tell him that she remembers. Remembers the night in her room, remembers how capable he was of not sabotaging them. She wants to tell him that she remembers meeting him what seems like a lifetime ago. She meant to remind him of the spark, the way he knew just how to tease her. She wants to thank him for the way he never questioned her, that the minute he really looked at her, he knew she wasn't Katherine, and that meant something. She wants him to recall the banter, and the chemistry, and the way they connected right from the start. What she says is "you compelled me".

He doesn't acknowledge it; all the things she wants him to know. And he doesn't he apologize for it. Damon just nods, accepts, "You chose Stefan. We all have our crosses to bear."