"I'll take the wheel." Damon rushed to the drivers side, waited for Elena to get in her silver Toyota Camry Hybrid rental and sped down the road.
She was ruffled by what happened in there, her face pale. He could feel her heat through his jacket, like she had a fever.
"Give me the low down," Damon said.
A guy wasn't supposed to feel all this emotion, especially a prime vampire like himself. But he felt her anxious, brown eyes watching him and he saw them glistening with tears. For a moment, like hypnosis, he couldn't turn away. Would she ever cry for him like that?
"Don't worry, he's gonna be okay." His voice deepened.
"You don't know that." Her full lips pouted, stubbornness seemed to be her trait.
"Stefan wouldn't do that, even with human blood screaming in him to take a bite. A baby? I wouldn't even do that. Uh-hmmmm, I heard you and Bonnie. You don't have to do a recap with me. I just want to know how you're feeling."
"I'm scared, Damon. Like you said, the human blood thirst is controlling him. He hasn't had enough time to adjust. That isn't our Stefan out there. It's the poisoned version of him and I did that! I'm causing others to die because of me." Her speech was fast and her heart rate increased, doing quadruple time. Calm her.
Damon watched her from the side of his vision. She wrung her hands, slid them down her warm thighs where Stefan once touched. Keep your eyes on the road. Your brother is in trouble.
"No one's dead yet and we'll be there in a second. Don't be a worry wart."
"Stupid! Stupid me! Oh God, don't let him kill the baby!"
Damon grabbed her wet hand she'd just wiped her eyes with. "The baby will be okay. Bonnie's visions aren't always accurate. All right? Be strong for my bro, okay?"
He wanted to kiss her pearl fingertips when she wiped away her tears. When she exhaled to calm herself, he wanted to catch her breath, breathe her in, entangle his tongue with hers.
"You look a bit stiff yourself, Damon. Scared too?"
He smiled. "Not much." He pressed his foot down on the throttle.
It was the same clearing darkened by the indigo night. The last strip of magenta faded away, giving into the first hint of stars. Why would he care about how beautiful a night could be with her running next to him. The first thing is to find Stefan...
There it was! Past the clearing to the other patch of trees. That heady smell of blood...Damon stopped so abruptly until he felt Elena bump into him. He put out his arm to stop her from going any further.
"Don't walk another step! You stay here." Her eyes widened. He hated that. She's not going to do what he tells her. "Elena, just stay here and do what I say for once. Let me check this out and I'll call for you. Okay?"
"Like you said, 'Time's a-waisting.' I'm coming after you if I don't hear from you."
"Stay here, behind this tree." Damon took off running through the cushioned grass. That smell wasn't a good sign.
Damon split from the line of trees at vampire speed into the clearing, through some of the outlining trees toward the two blood-filled scents. One was human, the other a vampire's.
The sight stopped him cold. His heart fell, paralyzed from shock, Damon watched the baby crying, probably bloodied by falling. Damon's eyes followed up toward the right hand side of the tree where the vampire sanguine scent burned his nostrils and his heart shattered.
Stefan had gorged himself into the limb, using it like a spear...a wooden stake.
He rushed to his brother's side, gently stroked the back of Stefan's head. "You take things too seriously." Damon spoke to himself. Lay his head on Stefan's cold shoulder. "We could have helped you."
Damon touched the side of Stefan's face nearly grayed, his brother's veins beneath the eyes still moving. Stefan was alive, but not for long.
Damon carefully pulled Stefan from the bough and lay him gently on the grass. "Why'd you do a prank like this? You know Elena's not going to approve."
Stefan coughed, spit up blood. His eyes, wide and green looked up at Damon.
"You love her, like me," Stefan said, at a whisper.
"What are you talking about? Hey, you don't even need to talk. We gotta get you back." Damon put his hand to the side of his brother's face.
"Protect her, watch over Elena. She can love you too because I always..." Stefan coughed and cried out in pain.
"Don't you go out on me, bro. The only one that kills you is me. By my own hands. You hear me? You're not going anywhere."
In the dark, Damon heard her running towards them. That's all he needed! He watched her fall to her knees.
"Stefan! Stefan! Wake up! You're not leaving me. Not now. Not after I've found you. Don't!" She cradled his graying face in her hands. "I'm here for you."
That was it! Damon took Elena by her shoulders. "Hold the baby. I'll be right back for you." He gently lifted Stefan. His brother's muscular arms swayed as Damon sped to the car. He quickly placed Stefan in the back seat and sped back in the matter of minutes.
Elena stood with the child in her arms. "Elena I'm going to carry you and the baby. Ready?"
She nodded. He lifted her and the child, their weight light as a blowing dandelion. Damon flashed to the car and set her in the front seat.
"Let's split this joint." They were off to the boardinghouse.