"Are you okay?" Elena clutched the blanket around her shoulders, trying to protect herself from the cold autumn air. Her eyes searched his and Stefan was reminded of how alike she was to Katherine; but only in looks, he knew Katherine would not have reacted as Elena had to what had happened since they had met.
Stefan walked towards her, taking a deep breath to settle his emotions. He had never been this emotional, not since he was human at least, but Elena seemed to have bought out the human side in him and awakened old sensations in him, he was startled to feel a lump in his throat as he thought about his role in Vicki's death. He had only been trying to help her, all this time; she had been through so much, and yet even his good intentions turned out to be a curse. It always did.
Even the girl he loved was suffering because of him. Not only was she hurting but her only living relative, her brother, was too. And Stefan hated himself for putting her through that, putting her through this pain.
He sighed, looking down to compose himself. "I uh- I wanted to help her" he tried to explain, looking up at Elena's face and seeing the understanding there as she nodded slightly, her face sombre.
"But instead, uh..." He trailed off, the scene from earlier that night replaying in his head along with all the other mistakes he had made as he shook his head, trying to clear the images and stop the pressing feeling of grief hanging over him, all the other people he had hurt, including the girl stood in front of him. The girl he so desperately wanted to be good enough for but knew that because of what he was he never could be.
"As usual" he muttered half to himself, eyes seeing images of his past and not the white wood of Elena's house they were fixed on, his voice thick. He looked down as he felt his eyes start to glisten as the feelings of regret overwhelmed him; he had lost his human life, he had lost Katherine, he had lost his brother, everyone he ever tried to help came off worse because of him and now, standing in the cold October night outside the Gilbert's house he realised he might have lost Elena for good too.
He heard Elena let out a ragged breath and then she put her arms around his chest, needing his warmth and familiarity. He hesitated for a second before pulling his hands out of his jacket and wrapping his arms around her, hugging her tightly and resting his face against her hair. He closed his eyes and took a shaking breath in as Elena pressed closer to him, not knowing why but feeling reassured by his presence.
They just stood for a moment, each finding comfort in the others arms.
"Thank you" Elena finally whispered, her lips near his ear as he stroked her hair, knowing instinctively that she needed comfort. "For- for trying to help Vicki"
Stefan squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, feeling a solitary tear slide down his cheek. "It didn't do her any good" he whispered, trying to convey to someone the crushing despair he felt.
Elena pressed her head into his chest "It did. It did her more good than you know" She whispered and Stefan closed his eyes, revelling in the humanness of the moment, feeling more alive than he had any right to, amazed after all this time that he could still cry. He revelled in the moment, realising that he might not have the chance to hold Elena like this again, feeling his chest ache as he thought of the indefinite time ahead of him without her.
A few moments later he heard Elena take in another shaky breath and realized that she was still crying.
"Elena" Stefan whispered, pulling the top half of his body away and raising one hand from her waist to stroke her face, capturing the tear that was slowly making a track down her pale skin. "I'm sorry" he whispered.
"Don't, Stefan." She looked up at him, eyes sparkling with more unshed tears. "You did what you could, and that's all anyone could have asked for" she saw the tear still sparkling on his skin and reached out a hand to wipe it away as she spoke "but I- I could have". She took in another shaky breath and tried to let it out steadily. "I could have done something" she whispered, the tears overflowing again as she looked away, only to feel Stefan pulling her to his chest again.
Stefan soothed her, stroking her hair and trying to comfort her as much as possible "You did all you could." Elena didn't answer, she only clutched his jumper as the tears streaked her cheeks again and Stefan held her.
"Stefan I-" Elena started once she had got her breath back. "I'm scared" She said, lifting her face so that she was looking him in the eye. "With everything that's happened, I- I don't think I can do this on my own. And I'm scared to try." She ducked her head again, examining the wool of the jumper underneath his jacket. "I-I need you Stefan." She whispered feebly, suddenly terrified of his rejection- she had never been so honest and open with him. "I'm sorry, and I need you- because I can't do this anymore, I can't deal with everything on my own, I need you."
"I love you" Stefan whispered, pulling her face up so that he could see her eyes. "I'm always here, forever" he smiled softly at her as he stroked her face, pulling her lips gently towards his.