She doesn't love me.
Now that the idea had planted itself in my mind, it was impossible to get rid of. Hearing her say the words, watching as they came tumbling out of her sweet, soft lips was like the worst torture imaginable. How could she not love me? I saw it in her eyes when she looked at me, every time we talked, every time we touched – she had to love me. There was no way I would just accept the fact that she didn't. Obviously she was lying, lying to protect the feelings of precious Stefan, so delicate that he would shatter any second. He wasn't as strong or brave as he liked to pretend he was. No, Stefan Salvatore was weak, and she saw that. That was why she continued to run off to him, fear. Not love. It couldn't be that she loved Stefan more than myself.
At least, that was what I kept telling myself.
By the time I reached the boarding house, I didn't know who I was even thinking about any more – Katherine or Elena. Katherine was the woman who for so long I had considered the love of my life, the reason that I lived. I had spent 145 years searching for her, fuelled by a passion so powerful it rivalled that of Romeo and Juliet. But she hadn't been looking for me. She had been out of the tomb, knowing how much I missed her, how much I loved her, but she didn't give a damn. I knew she loved me, I knew it, but her words and her actions proved otherwise. She continued to hurt me, to shatter my soul, and leaving someone else to pick up the pieces.
There never had been anyone else, though, not until Elena came along. So much like Katherine in looks, but when it came to personality, there had never been two people who were any less alike. Where the vampire was selfish and egotistical, her human doppelganger was warm and kind, a ray of sunshine on a cold winter's day. When I had first returned to Mystic Falls, I hated Elena for looking like her. The only thing stopping me from killing her was the fact that Stefan loved her, and that if I could steal her away from me brother like he had stole my love away from me all those years ago, then we would finally be even. But she would give in. I flirted, I charmed, I smiled, and yet she remained completely indifferent to my attempts. Gradually she became less of a challenge and more of a...of a friend, the only one that I had in the world. She would laugh at my jokes, hold me when I cried, and most importantly, caught me every time that I fell. She was so good, so sweet, everything that I needed and everything that I could never have.
All because of Stefan.
Ah, Stefan. My brother, my former best friend, the one person who has taken everything from me. All those years ago he stole Katherine, and now he's dug his claws into the only thing in this world I care about without even giving me a chance. He knows how much I love her, and he knows I would never hurt her. Fear of me harming Elena isn't the problem between us. He's afraid that she's going to end up loving me more than she loves him, and while normally I would gloat in the thought, after her words tonight he had no need to worry. Because she doesn't love me. It's always going to be Stefan for her, always going to be Stefan for both of them.
For the first time in over a century, I allowed myself to cry.
That was what I was, wasn't I? Nothing but a pitiful, horrible liar who didn't even have the courage to accept that I loved him. Because of course I did. I loved him with all my heart, and I couldn't even admit it to myself. I was afraid, afraid of hurting Stefan, which leaving him for his brother would surely do, and afraid of Bonnie hating me, which she certainly would if she knew how I felt for the dark haired vampire. The one who had snapped my brother's neck, threatened to kill me multiple times, and yet looked at me as if I was the most precious thing to him in the entire world.
So I lied to him. I lied to him to save everyone else, when really the only people who I should have been concerned about then was us. Damon and I. Stefan was wonderful, Stefan was pure, Stefan was good. The fact of the matter was that Stefan only had one fault, one thing that he could never change, no matter how hard he tried. He wasn't his brother. Where the elder Salvatore was lively and fun, his younger brother was brooding and filled with gloom. Damon had died filled with anger, yet even though that anger was inside of him all the time, he still found a way to not allow it to control his life. Stefan had died filled with guilt, and that guilt was slowly eating him alive, all the way down to his core. It was transforming him from a mysterious, charming vampire to a soulless, emotionless creature whose smiles and laughter were always filled with a false sound, as if he was lying to the world around him with every breath he took. I loved him, but it wasn't enough. Not any more.
I approached the door of the boarding house, not quite sure how I had arrived. Stefan was at home with Jeremy, and they were both safe – that was all I knew. I would return to them later, give them false smiles and assurances, but for now there was something that I needed to take care of, a truth that needed to be shown the light of day before it was too late, and I lost him forever.
I didn't bother knocking before I entered the boarding house. I was certain that Damon had sensed my presence by then already. The house was eerily quiet, the only noise being my footsteps creaking on the old floorboards as I walked into the parlour, where I knew he would be sitting with a glass of scotch and blood in his hand, as always. My mind was screaming at me, telling me to run, but my feet refused to listen, carrying me further and further away from the outside world, and closer towards the one person who could make me forget completely about it. How could he have that kind of effect on me? When I was with Stefan, I was constantly worrying, but with Damon, there wasn't anything on my mind but him.
"Why are you here, Elena?" I heard him before I saw him, the voice coming from a figure hunched over a glass in the back corner of the room. He looked so broken, and it killed me to know that I had caused this kind of pain. "St. Stefan ask you to come check up on me? I don't need your protection, I'm a big boy."
"Damon," I whispered, not daring to raise my voice any more. "You were right." He raised his head to look at me then, a curious and bitter expression on his face. I could tell he didn't want to believe me, wouldn't take the risk to listen to my words, which just meant that I would have to try harder. "Every time I'm with you, I'm lying to everyone. To Stefan, to you, and to myself." I continued to step closer towards his seat at the table, stopping when she was just a foot away. He laughed, a harsh, humourless sound, before giving her a calculated glare.
"You said it yourself, Elena. It will always be Stefan." His gaze was cold and impassive, and there were no emotions on his face. I bent down so we were eye to eye, and rested my hand against his face. He was so cold, like marble, and just as flawless. I allowed myself a moment to marvel at his perfection before speaking, forcing myself to look him dead in the eyes.
"I'm scared," I told him honestly, my voice wavering a bit. "I'm scared because I do love Stefan, and I don't want to lose him. He'll always be an important part of my life." Damon's mask finally slipped and I could see a flicker of hurt in his eyes, but I forced myself to ignore it and continue speaking. "I don't want to lose him, but I don't want to lose you, either. Because if I lost him, I'd be devastated, but if I lost you..." trailing off, I attempted to collect myself before continuing. "If I lost you, I'd be shattered. I would die." He was staring at me still, except now the wall had slipped completely. All that was on his face was bewilderment, disbelief, and above all other things, hope. It was the look of a man who's soul had been broken into a million pieces finally finding a reason to live again, and it filled me with such joy that I couldn't keep the bright smile off of my face. "I'm done with lies, Damon."
And with that, I kissed him.
As soon as I heard those words leave her mouth, I found myself feeling something I hadn't felt for over a century – hope. No matter how hard I had tried to convince myself that Katherine was the one for me, Elena was always there in the back of my mind. Her smile, her laugh, he sweet, innocent disposition that reeled me in from the moment I met her. She wasn't Katherine, she was so much more than her. Elena Gilbert had become my light, my angel, and, most important of all, my humanity. She was the one thing keeping my tied to this earth, the reason that I continued to wake up in the morning.
When she pressed her lips to mine, I didn't feel sparks, or see fireworks. No, it was like an explosion was going off in my head, like my lips were on fire and my brain was celebrating the Fourth of July. There was no Stefan, no Katherine, no Bonnie, no Caroline, no Matt. There was me and Elena, together, locked in an embrace that was far more passionate than any she had shared with my brother, I was sure. This was real, right, and beyond any of that, this was the truth. We were the truth, together. I didn't know what the future held, whether she would go running back to my broody brother or stay here with me, but for the moment she was in my arms, and that was all that mattered.
And when she pulled back far too soon, and whispered those words in my ear, I knew what her decision would be.
"It will always be you, Damon."