Disclaimer: The characters and other things from The Vampire Diaries don't belong to me. Credit goes to the rightful owners.
Epilogue: Full circle
"Going somewhere?" Damon called out to his brother who was busy filling up a suitcase on his bed, "And here I was looking forward to fighting you for Elena."
"I'm not going to fight you, Damon." Stefan said without turning around as he picked up a few more items around his room to put in his suitcase.
"Again, I say, why? I'd fight me." Damon said with a smirk, his fists up in front of him, jabbing at the air in front of him, "Seriously, Stefan, what is all this? Why are you leaving?"
"Isn't the appropriate question 'where are you going'?" Stefan responded refusing to look at his brother as he kept moving about.
"No. I already know the answer to that—you're going after Katherine. What I'm curious about is the reason behind it. Don't tell me after all your pronouncements that she is a backstabbing, lying and manipulative bitch you suddenly believe her quest for humanity is real. I'd rather hear that you're going after her to chop off her head." Damon said as he eyed his brother carefully, watching for signs that he hit the target on the nose.
Stefan finally paused and turned to face Damon, "Is it bad to want to be human again? To not be trapped in violence? Is it bad, Damon, to want another shot at what Katherine took away from me all those years ago?"
"You think it's going to help you win Elena back." Damon said in reply, skipping steps in the conversation and diving in straight to the point.
Stefan closed his eyes briefly and sighed before replying to his brother, "If it happens, I'll be in a position to give her a normal life—house, kids, backyard and a dog. I want it for myself Damon but yes, I do think I'll be able to give her a better choice if she wants one. But if in the end she still wants you, I won't stand in the way. Nothing has changed, Damon—I still love Elena."
Damon clenched his jaw as he stared straight at Stefan, "I won't stop you from leaving but I'm not about to throw a party after you leave. There's no point in celebrating the imminent death of this tragic love triangle we have going on if you're coming back anyway. But fair warning brother, Katherine will never let you get away with it if A-only one vampire from that night can become human or B-if she finds out you're doing it for Elena or C-all of the above. The bitch loves you but she won't be a martyr for that love. This is just one of her games and after everything I can't believe you can't see right through it."
Stefan nodded solemnly to Damon and resumed his packing, "But somewhere in her lies, as much as I hate to admit it, there's always a fragment of truth. I have to find it."
"Why aren't you curious about this more? I mean, I forced you into becoming a vampire…don't you want to become human again?" Stefan continued with pure curiosity in his voice.
Damon laughed bitterly, "I'm too far gone, Stefan. I stopped wishing for it a long time ago. I'll let you in on a little secret, Stef. As a human, you saw how I was always a disappointment, one that had to be constantly kept in the shadows lest I embarrass Father. But now that I'm actually part of the darkness, I've found that I can do some things right. I can protect the people I care about. I can be witty and strikingly handsome without even trying, fine I do but only minimal effort required at best. But you know what the real funny thing is? As a vampire, I found that I'm actually capable of love. I never had that before, Stefan, but now I do. I'm not giving it up for a pulse."
"What if that's what Elena wants?" Stefan countered softly.
"It's not what she needs. We both know that. I can't keep her safe any other way." Damon said quietly but with a determination in his voice that was sure and unmistakable, "Stefan, if you succeed, you'll be another part of Elena's life that's vulnerable. You'll be something they'll be able to use against her and I don't want to have to make the choice between the two of you if you both get into a dangerous situation and it comes down to that."
"I'd die first before you even get to that point. It's Elena, Damon. I still can't think of a better reason to die." Stefan said smiling faintly.
"What's going on?" Elena said from the doorway, frowning as she looked at the nearly full suitcase on the bed, "Stefan, what's all this?"
"He's going after the lunatic who looks like you but likes garish makeup." Damon said deadpan, "Wanna come with? I hear it's the adventure of a lifetime—see the sights, take picture and chase after the remote possibility of humanity."
"Damon, be quiet. Stefan, is this true?" Elena said slowly, "Although, given your brother's classic reaction of excessive sarcasm to painful news, I'm guessing it is. You're going after Katherine?"
Stefan gave her an apologetic smile before zipping up his luggage, "Yes to everything you just asked. I guess it just starts and ends with her after all, just how she wanted it."
"Yeah, yeah, how poetic, Stefan. It doesn't make it less crazy though." Damon said derisively before turning to Elena, "Don't just stand there all wide-eyed and teary, do something, say something, anything! He'll listen to you. Snap your fingers or something. Throw a tantrum. When I say try anything, I mean it."
Stefan raised his eyebrows as he looked at his brother, "I thought you weren't going to stop me?"
"Yeah well I had every intention of playing good cop but someone," Damon said, glaring pointedly at Elena, "is not up to the role of bad cop and can only pass as silent cop right now. Elena, a little help here?"
"No," Elena said finally, stepping closer to Stefan and kissing him on the cheek, "I'm not going to stop you, Stefan. You deserve this chance even if it's a long shot. And I know you want this for the right reasons."
"Uh, Elena, he's doing this so he can be the father of your children and proud owner of a mini van. I don't think that qualifies as a 'right reason.'" Damon pointed out, narrowing his eyes at Stefan who merely shook his head.
Elena shook her head and exchanged a smile with Stefan, ignoring Damon completely, "Does he really believe that?"
"Yes, he's been going on and on about it," Stefan said, talking about his brother as if he weren't in the room, making Damon fume a bit more, "but it is partly true, you know."
"I do know," Elena said casually, trying hard not to betray how the pain was searing through her insides knowing her words will make her choice more real, "and part of me will be sorry for the rest of my life for not wanting that future with you. I'm sorry, Stefan, for not loving you enough to want that. I thought I did and maybe if I had some sense left in me, I should want it. But I can't because there's this voice in my head that's telling me there's this guy who irritates me to the point of exhaustion, makes me feel fear like everything is always on the line and makes me feel like any second now my heart will burst from all the emotions. Damon makes me feel alive, Stefan, and I'm not giving him up."
"Sounds tiring," Stefan said with the ghost of a smile on his lips as his eyes betrayed the hurt that he lived through.
"Exhausting." Elena said as her eyes filled with unshed tears, wishing she didn't have to inflict such pain.
"We would have been easier. We made sense." Stefan said as he moved to leave, pausing to kiss the top of Elena's head gently, "But let's just leave it at that for now. Goodbye, Elena."
"Damon," Stefan said nodding to his brother, "Take care of her, please."
"That's like asking me to wear black at least once a week. It goes without saying, Stefan, you don't need to ask. It's done." Damon said rolling his eyes before approaching his brother, awkwardly standing in front of each other, "Kill the bitch if you can, Stefan. She's done enough damage to last a dozen lifetimes. And…be safe. Try to come back in one piece—dead or alive, preferably undead."
Stefan took deep breath and gave his brother a one-armed hug. Damon initially resisted before clapping Stefan tightly on his back, whispering to him something only the two of them could hear, "You have to come back…Elena needs you too."
Stefan pulled away and nodded once again to both of them before leaving without a backwards glance.
Elena and Damon stood apart, staring at each other in silence, each unsure of what to do.
"Pssst," Damon hissed after a few moments, talking in a stage whisper, "I know it's awkward and he just left but how long do we have to stand around like this, all gloom and doom? Can we continue the silence while sitting down, preferably with a drink in hand? And when do I get to say, you make me feel alive too and I also refuse to give you up without a fight…well with or without a fight actually, I have no intentions of giving you up now."
Elena threw up her hands in mock frustration, "Fine, you can say it now. I'll listen."
Damon gave her a mischievous smile, closing the distance between them, pulling her arms around his waist before letting his own encircle her, "No, I think I'd rather hear your guesses before you figured out what it was I compelled you to forget when I gave back your necklace."
He felt Elena's laughter against his chest right before she turned her face on it, letting her ear rest gently against where his heart was. "I thought you kissed me and you didn't want me to know. Then there was that fear that you confessed to something horrible that would hurt me and then you just took it back by making me forget. But mostly, it just felt like you were leaving me…as if you said goodbye and you didn't want me to figure it out until you were gone. It hurt like hell, that's all I remember from that night."
"All wrong, glad to know my tricks still work like they should," Damon said with mock arrogance, "Your first guess, the one you told me before Bonnie came and blasted us through the door, was actually much closer—me kissing you on the forehead and wishing you'd remember that night, minus the pink shirt part of course."
"I know," Elena murmured, "I just made up parts of it but I already figured it out when I made that guess. I just didn't tell you because I wasn't sure I even wanted the possibility for you to be my happily ever after."
Damon pulled back and looked at her, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear, "I'm still not, Elena. I'll never be fairy tale material."
"No, you're not." Elena said smiling at him, "You and me, we're epic—born centuries apart, hunted down by manipulative villains that put wicked stepmothers to shame and shrouded in mystery and a tangle of deceit."
"You think we're good enough to inspire a trilogy?" Damon said smirking as he pulled her back close to him.
"And prequels and spinoffs," Elena replied softly against his chest and wondered, against her better judgment, what it would be like to hear a heartbeat there.
"It's not too late to change your mind, Elena." Damon said quietly, "You can still pick Stefan. He's Prince Charming material."
Elena closed her eyes and listened to the silence that filled her ears. No pulse, no throb, no heartbeat—nothing. She smiled as a sense of calm descended on her as she replied to Damon, "No, thanks. I'm good."
Damon shook his head, unable to wipe the grin that was spreading ridiculously wide on his face, "Maybe we should write it down, Elena. So you don't forget."
Elena took a deep breath and pulled away from Damon, completely detaching herself as she spoke, her hands simultaneously unclasping the necklace around her neck, "Damon, I want you to undo it—give me back the memory. Make me remember. Please."
She pressed the necklace into his hands, her eyes locked on his as he nodded mutely, the images and voices flashing in her mind almost immediately.
I thought that was gone.
Elena saw herself approach Damon, eyes lit up in surprise.
She looked at him expectantly, reaching out for her necklace but he held it back. Elena watched the fear creep into her face.
Please give it back.
I just have to say it once. You just need to hear it.
Elena kept watching, taking in how she took a step back, away from Damon, her instincts on overdrive as it went back to a similar night.
I love you, Elena.
Elena knew this. She felt it, understood it and knew it even when the words were not in her mind but somehow it was as if she was hearing it for the first time.
And it's because I love you, that I can't be selfish with you. Why you can't know this… I don't deserve you. But my brother does.
Elena wanted to disagree and argue with him, but just like the version of herself that she watched, she could only stand mutely as even her tears were kept still by his confession.
God, I wish you didn't have to forget this…but you do.
Elena gasped, blinking rapidly, as the scene ended playing in her mind, the memory sharp and clear as they flooded back into her mind. The tears she held back when he spoke that night finally found release as Elena looked at Damon, who appeared worried and almost afraid of her now that she knew.
He took a step closer to her and gently placed the necklace on her again, Elena's hands reaching up to lock his in place when he finished.
"I love you too, Damon."
He smiled gently at her as he leaned in to kiss her, "I know. I figured. At least now you remember who said it first."
A/N: Thank you so much for all those who read this story through to the end (especially for all the kind reviews—loved reading them!) I hope you liked this and yes there will be a sequel soon...teaser follows
"What news do you bring me?" the regal voice demanded as if he didn't already know what he was about to be told.
"She has succeeded, my liege," the servant answered with a dramatic bow, "Elijah is dead, a Bennett witch and that Rose as well. The older Lockwood has also been killed and the pup has now the curse. He has turned but not yet by the full moon. The shaman, the brothers and the doppelganger have all survived with her. Katerina has set the prophecy in motion."
"And she doesn't even realize what she has done," Klaus said his face expressionless save for his eyes that now glinted with restrained pleasure and malice, "Perfect, Katerina. Just perfect."