Promise me this is forever.
He had promised Elena forever, even if she didn't remember it. He would be damned if he would let a little, okay, a massive amount of compulsion get in his way.
He may have told her that he loved her enough to let her go. He had even walked away without a backwards glance. He told himself that it was best for her, but did he really mean it?
His willpower lasted right up until the moment he walked out of her dorm. By the time he reached the driver's door of his Camaro, he was fighting the urge to run back to her. He almost broke the key with his unyielding death grip as he turned the ignition switch. The shifter groaned in protest as he first shoved it into reverse and then slammed it into drive. As the blue and red lights flashed behind him, he wondered if he should pull over and compel the officer or if he should just lay into the gas pedal even more. He chose option B as he sped through the night, no destination in mind. He just needed to get away from her, his temptation, his redemption, his love, his life, his everything.
Somewhere outside of Atlanta, he pulled off the interstate. While his Camaro idled in the emergency lane, Damon let out a growl and beat his fists upon the steering wheel, needing a harmless outlet for his emotions. When he finished, the wheel barely surviving the brunt of his frustration, he had a moment of clarity. He had promised her forever. He was Damon Salvatore and he kept his promises. He would keep this promise.
With a determination he hadn't felt since trying to make his way back from the prison world, he pulled back onto the interstate. At the next crossover, he made a sharp U-turn and sped his way back to Elena.
As he drove, he replayed the previous evening at the Whitmore fundraiser. That's when he realized, he had hope. For the briefest of moments, as he and Elena danced, Damon Salvatore had hope. He swept her out onto the dance floor, where she fit perfectly in his arms and the feeling was so familiar, so right. He tried to dazzle her with his charm, telling her about the first time they had danced at the Miss Mystic Falls pageant. He saw the brief flicker of recognition cross her face and he had hope that she would remember. Recognition fled, soon to be followed by fear and deflection. She reminded him that she was on a date, he couldn't just show up unannounced. Unannounced? How could she say that? He launched into a passionate speech about moving through space and time to be with her. By the time he had finished, fear had returned and Elena had fled, taking Damon's hope with her.
Maybe he shouldn't have been so quick to abandon that hope. Maybe Elena was on the right track when she suggested they try to unwind the memories backwards. If he could find the right trigger, maybe, just maybe she would remember everything. He wasn't willing to do anything drastic, especially after her stunt at the border. Watching her begin to drown all over again was almost as bad as picking up her lifeless body after the sacrifice. He could not, would not go through that again. But, he could try to recreate memories for her to see if they could break the compulsion that way.
By the time he returned to Ric's apartment, he had a plan firmly in place. He started off small, running into her at the coffee cart on the Whitmore campus. He wasn't fooling her. He knew that. She didn't seem to mind that he popped up several times during the day. Every smile, every time she said 'hi' gave him the encouragement to keep trying.
After a few weeks of just letting her accept his presence, he moved on to the next phase of his plan – an actual date, just dinner and a movie, something completely normal. There were moments during that date where they effortlessly slid back into their old life, almost as if she remembered without being conscious of it. Those moments were short, however, because as soon as Elena realized what was happening, she would tense, trying to force herself to remember and the magic would be gone. But, underneath everything, the magic was still there. Damon just needed to find a way to tap into it.
He tried to recreate dates they had been on the summer before she went to college – picnics at the Falls, dancing at clubs, daytrips, dinners at the restaurants they both loved, anything they could do outside of Mystic Falls was fair game. Over the next several months, they had fun, even though they were both frustrated over the lack of returning memories. They hadn't found the thing, if it even existed, that would bring Elena's flooding back.
What they did find was each other. Without being aware of it, they had built a new relationship, one they both cherished and would fight for. As much as Damon wanted Elena to remember what they had been, he was more than willing to give up on the idea, if it meant keeping what they had built since being reunited. Little by little, he stopped trying to force the memories and focused on the future.
Months after his return from the prison world, months after they moved on together, it happened in a totally unremarkable way. They were walking through the forest, hand in hand, in complete silence, just enjoying being together. As often happens in the heat and humidity of summer, a shower popped up out of nowhere, drenching them. Stunned by the suddenness of the rain, Elena looked up at the sky as if trying to determine where the dark clouds had come from. In that moment, rain drops splattering her face, water dripping off her hair, Damon's hands caressing her face, trying to get her attention, it all came rushing back. Every smile, kiss and hug, every day spent lounging in bed, every dance in front of the massive fireplace, every I love you, Elena remembered it all.
Without a word, she grabbed Damon's sopping wet t-shirt and pulled him to her, pausing just before their lips touched.
"I remember. I remember everything."
The last thing she saw before his lips collided with hers was the light in his gorgeous blue eyes and the huge smile on his face.
A/N - I don't know about you, but I needed a happy ending after yesterday's announcement. This is a re-do of something I started weeks ago and completely stalled on. With some new motivation and a new approach, LMM kicked this little one-shot out this morning. I hope it makes you smile, if only for a minute, because we all know the TVD fandom needs something to smile about today. As always, thanks for reading and reviews are greatly appreciated. ~ craftyjhawk