After the season finale ended, I couldn't stop thinking about the final Stelena scene; how I wish it were longer, how more things should've been admitted and how maybe Elena could've at least regretted a bit of her actions towards Stefan. But oh well, you can't have it all. That's why this exists! This takes place while the whole MF crew is giving their goodbyes to Elena. Hope you enjoy and flashbacks are in italics.

Today was the day.
The day of the end.
Today, was the day he would say goodbye to Elena Gilbert.
Well, not technically goodbye. This wouldn't be his last glance at her, it would just be the last glance for a long time.
A very long time.
Bonnie's entire lifetime to be exact. After finding out that Kai had tied Bonnie and Elena's lives together, they had all braced themselves to not see Elena for a long time.
Or for Bonnie and humans like Matt, Jeremy and Alaric, most likely never again.
They didn't deserve this. None of them did. Matt and Alaric didn't deserve to lose yet another person to the supernatural world. Jeremy didn't deserve to lose his last family member. And Bonnie sure as hell didn't deserve to live her life wallowing in the guilt that her friend was to never see light until she herself was dead. If it were Stefan in her shoes, who knew what he would do. He would live in guilt and in tears until he finally took his own life just to let her live. He would never be able to live with himself if he knew that every passing breath was another second she was trapped in a box for as long as he lived.
Bonnie didn't deserve that burden. If anyone had to bear it, it should've been him.
Caroline announced that it was time to begin, breaking Stefan out of his reverie.
Caroline. That was a complication as well. He thought he could move on from Elena with her but...
He still loved Elena too much.
It felt wrong being with Caroline. Not just because she was Elena's best friend, but because they were better off as friends. Maybe one day.
Bonnie and Caroline both entered the room where Elena lay. They were there for some time and had gone in strong. However, when the reemerged, they were in tears. Caroline had her face in her hands while Bonnie let her tears flow freely; her head held high as always.
He wished he could be more like Bonnie in that sense. He had never dealt well with his emotions. He always felt too much.

"Because even in death, your heart is pure, Stefan," Emily explained. "That will be your curse."
What did that mean? Stefan asked himself. In death his heart would be pure?
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"You'll see."

He hadn't thought much of it at the time, mainly because he hadn't understood what she meant by that.
He knew now.
It meant guilt, remorse, pain for whenever he did something wrong. He felt things more harshly, the things he had done haunted him and when he felt heartbreak...
It was like a thousand knives puncturing his soul.
Following the two was Matt. When he was finished he too was in tears.
Matt had been the start of the crazy spiral that was Elena Gilbert the Vampire. He had accidentally driven his truck off of the bridge when Rebekah had appeared from nowhere. It was he that felt nearly as much guilt over Elena turning as Stefan did. In fact, Stefan was completely uncertain whether he would actually take Matt first.
But Elena had made her choice.
No matter what, whether she loved him or not, he would always let her make her own choices without intervening. Even if they were the exact opposite of what he would've done, he would always let her keep her free will. He of all people knew what it was like to lose it.
Alaric, already an emotional mess after the death of his (nearly) wife, followed. Unlike the others though, when he came out of the room, he looked a little bit better. Perhaps Elena had given him some advice on dealing with his loss. She was the most qualified of them all to give him consolation on the death of a loved one.
Poor Alaric. He had lost too much. First Isobel, then Jenna and now Jo. Stefan only hoped that Elena's advice would be enough to sustain him.
Jeremy soon appeared in the house, apologizing for being late for the wedding. After a reassuring and quick explanation from Alaric, Jeremy went to say goodbye to his sister.
He came out more sad than the others, which Stefan completely understood. After all, Elena was all Jeremy had left of his family. With a dead mother, father and aunt, Elena was all he had.
Now she was gone as well.
Jeremy had lost too much over the years due to the supernatural. Vicki had become a vampire and then was staked, Anna had been killed in the Founders Day fire, Jenna was used as a sacrifice in Klaus's blood ritual, Alaric had gone dark, Bonnie had died time and time again and now Elena once again.
That kid deserved a happy life.
Tyler went in after. Out of them all, he had the shortest goodbye, but even then it wasn't that short. It made sense though. Elena was never as close to Tyler as she was to her other friends. It appeared that he had received advice of some sort from Elena like Alaric did since right after, he announced that he was leaving town to try and live a better life.
If only it were that easy for Stefan...
Damon looked to Stefan when Tyler was finished.
Stefan extended a hand towards the door, allowing Damon to go first.
Damon gave a quick nod of his head before heading inside.
What a wild ride he, Damon and Elena had been on. Stefan was happily with Elena and she with him, but Damon was never far away...
When Stefan found out that his brother and true love became closer during his departure, he couldn't blame them. He was upset, but he understood. He thought that that was the end for him and Elena.
But then she chose him. Her final decision was Stefan.

"Do you know why I was on that bridge In the first place? I was coming back for you. I had to choose and I picked you. Because I love you. No matter what happens, it's the best choice I ever made."
Stefan felt tears go down his face. She too was the best choice he ever made.

Both times-her choice and when she confessed what she had one to him-she had chosen him were during near death experiences. Particularly the second. She believed that she wouldn't be able to transition and she used her dying breaths to tell him she loved him.
But then the sire bond happened...
He had given up so much for her. He remained selfless for her. He sacrificed his possible human life for her to get hers. Yet she always went back to Damon. She always chose Damon. Stefan didn't understand at first, but later on, he did. She made Damon a better person. She was exactly what he needed. Whether or not he was what she needed, Stefan never knew.
Then Elena had become human once again. It was a perfect beginning to her real life.
Or it was supposed to.
She was supposed to live a happy human life and get married and have children. She was supposed to live her dream of a happy ending.

"I was supposed to grow up. Decide if I want to have kids and start a family. I was supposed to have a lifetime of those choices, but now? It's all gone," she explained while she sobbed.
He took her into his arms.


"
If it meant we got to be together, have children together, grow old together, be buried together, then yes. I'd take the Cure."
Rebekah gave Stefan a knowing look as if she had already known what his answer was. Maybe she had. He had never been secretive about his love for Elena Gilbert.
"I wish I had that. What you want with Elena."

"It was just a spell showing us what we wanted to see."
"We weren't vampires, my parents were still alive. It was a fantasy. Like a movie. It was the life we never could've had." Her voice fell.
"But it still felt-"
"Amazing."

They both had the same dream: getting married, having children and growing old together. No matter what, he always wanted her to have that.
Even if was never with him.
Damon reappeared from the room, tears in his eyes. He made a head motion towards the door, calling for his brother.
All heads turned to Stefan. Slowly, he moved from his spot and went into he room, letting the door shut behind him.
She lay right by the window where the sun hit her perfectly. Her olive skin shone and her brown hair glowed.
He had to keep reminding himself that she wasn't dead; just sleeping.
But seeing her asleep brought back memories for him. Memories of watching her while she slept, her face peaceful no matter how hard the day's events were. Her flared out lashes, her warm hand on his chest, her body rising up and down with each passing breath...
Snap out of it, Stefan.
He began reaching for her hand, where her daylight ring still sat. He remembered the rooftop and the sunrise; the talks of forever and how they'd be together for that long.
Finally, he took her hand in his.
Shutting his eyes, he felt himself transport into her mind.
It was the beginning of the end.

"I was a bit worried that you wouldn't come," a voice said behind him.
Turning around, he found Elena with a sad smile on her lips. Looking at his surroundings, he concluded that they were by the waterfall where she admitted that she never wanted to be a vampire.
The irony was painful.
"Why wouldn't I?" he asked.
"Because you were angry at me for...everything. For falling in love with your brother and breaking your heart and treating you like..."
Her words trailed off and she put her head in her hands.
He rushed towards her and took her into his arms. God, he hadn't done that in a lifetime. The feeling was so familiar, yet so forgotten all at the same time. This was a sensation that his body hadn't experienced in far too long: her body around his arms, his head perched on top of hers.
She moved her face to his shoulder and silently wept.
He hugged her tighter.
"Elena," he began, making her look at him. "Do not apologize for falling in love. It's not your fault. It never is anyone's fault for falling in love. What you did to me hurt, but I understand."
"You're too good for me. You always were. You still are. Look, I know it doesn't matter now, but I never fell out of love with you. It just got put on pause and I...my choice doesn't change, Stefan. And I'm not talking about my vampire one. I mean my human choice. I chose you and I still stand by that choice."
He was speechless. "Why the change of heart?"
"Becoming human again, falling into this coma, it all made me realize how stupid my decision was. You don't ever have to forgive me, but I wanted you to know that."
He couldn't help himself.
He kissed her.
The kiss had everything he felt in the moments since she made her choice. It had longing and sadness, sorrow and tears.
But it also held forgiveness.
The kiss was so deep that he felt as if the acceptance of her apology that he never spoke had seeped from his mouth and into hers. He tasted salt on his lips but wasn't sure if the tears were his or hers. She clung to him as if she were afraid that if she let go, she would never see him again. Her slender arms were around his neck and he held her tightly at the waist.
When they finally pulled away, they let their foreheads touch.
"I forgive you," he whispered.
She sniffed and parted from him until only the I hands touched.
"I can't do this, Stefan."
Find the words to say goodbye? Neither can I. I've never been able to do that. Since the moment I've met you, Elena, I've never been able to walk away. You've always pulled me right back.
But he couldn't say that.
Her words triggered something else in his memory. A memory of when Katherine was their biggest problem.
"Fine, Elena. Whatever," he replied with a knowing smile.
She rose her head when she realized what he had said and gave him another smile. "Seems like forever ago."
"Because it was. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't hold the same meaning as it had the first time."
"Thank you. For bumping into me in the hallway that day. I never thought I would be happy again, but then I met you. You changed everything. You quite literally saved my life. I love you so much."
Stefan finally felt tears well up in his own eyes and it took all of his supernatural strength to prevent them from falling.
I love you so much. He hadn't heard those words in far too long. And hearing them from her lips made up for all of that time.
"I love you too."
She looked grateful. "That's why I can't wait to see where you'll be in sixty or seventy years when I see you again."
"Not high school." I did that for you. Just you. I never have nor will I ever do that for anyone else.
She laughed. And it was a genuine, real laugh. "Be happy. Move on from Mystic Falls and find your happiness, no matter where or it is or who it's with. Forget about me and live your life."
"My happiness lies with you. It always has."
"And I, you. But try, okay?"
He nodded. "But I'll never forget you, Elena. I'll never forget the girl that wrote in a cemetery. I'll never forget the girl that loved to dance and wanted to just be a normal teenager surrounded by the supernatural, a girl that wanted to share a kiss on top of a Ferris wheel, thought gazing was a romantic version of staring and the girl that accepted and loved a monster. I can't forget you."
She took deep and shaky breaths.
"I'll see you soon," she said.
Stefan felt a part of him die a little, fully aware what those words meant. He had gone into her mind expecting a goodbye.
But this was not that. This was not goodbye. This was a promise of tomorrow; a promise of someday. Someday, they'd see each other. Someday, they'd be together once again.
Someday.
"I'll see you, Elena," he responded, more to reassure himself than her.
Slowly, she began backing away from him and to where the light shone.
She backed away until their hands barely touched. Letting go of a hand, she gave him a final smile before waving.
"Someday, Elena. I promise."
I love you, she mouthed.
I love you, he mouthed in return before she took one more step and let go.
Stefan felt himself return to reality.
He brushed his thumb over Elena's knuckles and let go just like she had: slowly and hesitantly.
He smiled before turning around.
Before exiting the room, he took one last look at the love of his life. His soulmate, his true love...there were so many labels.
Yet when he looked at her a final time, he saw something that wasn't there earlier.
A small, peaceful smile shining on her face.
Later, he and Damon moved Elena's coffin into the Salvatore crypt.
Damon spoke a few words before leaving the room
When it was just Stefan left with the coffin, he set a small bouquet of flowers on top of it.
"Thank you, Elena. For believing in me and showing me that there was still light left, that there was still a reason to be good. I don't even know if I'd still be alive if I weren't for you. So, thank you. I love you."
Finally, he left.
He stepped out of the crypt, shut the door, locked it and walked away.
He let go.
If you love something, let it go. If it returns to you, it belongs with you. If it doesn't, then it was never yours in the first place. That was the old expression.
Nothing in Stefan doubted that she would return to him. Not today, not tomorrow, not next year, not even in the next decade.
But someday she would. He held hope for that.
Someday.

There we have it! I hope that none of you minded the fact that there was barely any dialogue. The thing I wanted to do was to only have actual dialogue between Stefan and Elena or in Stefan's flashbacks. Don't ask me why, it just felt better that way. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed and don't worry, this sure as hell isn't my last Stelena fic. I have MUCH MORE planned for this couple, even if canonically speaking, there is no more. This is also a bit of my own tribute to Nina Dobrev, as I'm eternally grateful for all of the characters that she's played and for being half of my OTP.
Thank you for reading!
-stelena-forever-and-always