A/N: And here is the final chapter. It was tougher than the others, but I'm pretty proud of the whole thing. Thank you very much for those who took a chance on this, admittedly abstract, piece of work. Happy reading!

Song from Christina Perri. Characters from LJ Smith and The CW.

(Set after As I Lay Dying (2X22)

Dear, it took so long just to feel alright; To remember how to put back the light in my eyes.

I was dying. I knew it and I had accepted it. What I hadn't known or accepted was that the first casualty would be the mask. As I grew weaker and weaker, from the toxins circulating through my system en lieu of blood, the mask slipped and slipped until it fell, forgotten and abandoned, only to shatter into a million irretrievable pieces.

And all of the sudden, I remembered. I remembered what it was like to be whole and untarnished. I could see the world, bleary and blurred as it was becoming by my rapidly-weakening eyes, as it was meant to be seen: bright and beautiful, terrifying and terrible, but completely and entirely right.

And it was clear to me who I needed to share this discovery with; the only person who could fully and completely understand how precious this realization was; Elena.

I wish I had missed the first time that we kissed. 'Cause you broke all your promises!

I spent twenty four hours remembering how Katherine weaved her net around me. And rather than make me bitter, I was angry. I was overcome with a rage so intense, I wondered, in my addled state, whether I had ever truly felt before.

She had taken me, as young and impressionable as I was (and I know that I was impressionable in those days, just waiting for the right influence, be they good or bad, to scoop me up and manipulate me), and moulded me into the monster that I had become. She had whispered sweet words and gentle promises to me throughout the night when we were alone. But she had whispered them to Stefan too. She had promised me an eternity together, but she had only ever meant it for Stefan. She had left us both behind, our limbs and organs cut off by her actions. We were left to rebuild ourselves into the worst that we could possibly be.

And we had.

And now, for the first time, I truly regretted ever meeting her.

And the deformed flesh began to dissipate.

And now you're backā€¦ Well you don't get to get me back!

But no; I cannot regret the entirety of my experience with her. Because if I had never known her, I would never have known Elena; and Elena had suddenly made all of cuts and burns well again. They wouldn't scar over, as they once had for Katherine. They would disappear by her mindful healing, and I would be made whole again. I would never again be the monster that I was.

I understood that I had earned this death. I took responsibility, as I made my escape from the cell and wandered through the town, for every person that I had killed or maimed. I took responsibility for the ripple effects. I understood, finally, that to be a vampire did not mean that I was a monster. I had done that all on my own.

And so, I would kill that beast.

Who do you think you are? Running 'round, leaving scars; Collecting your jar of hearts; And tearing love apart.

As my mind fell apart, I saw the man that I once was, in front of me, within my reach. I could slay him; I could do away with him as I had endeavoured to do my entire after-life. Every destructive and evil action that I had taken had cut this man to the bone; had injured him to the point of death. And then, instead of recuperation, he was imprisoned.

That was my mistake. I had spent years trying to rid myself of the disease of this human creature living deep inside of me; so far below the surface of my damaged self and the mask that protected that no one but me knew that he existed. I had assumed that it was separate from me. But it isn't.

Katherine had brutalised me, almost beyond repair. But I was the one who kept the cuts from closing. I was the one who had torn myself to pieces over her.

Elena had laboured to put me back together; to make me whole. But I was the only one who could heal the man behind the mask.

You're gonna catch a cold from the ice inside your soul. So don't come back for me; Don't come back at all!

In the dimness setting in, something was suddenly very clear: I was at once the monster and the man. And now was the moment to see who would survive. I knew that my life was ending, but I could go out one of two ways.

Elena was there, as she always was. She had ropes binding my head and my heart, and now she was here, with her arms around me, taking me somewhere safe; taking me home. And I had seen what the monster could do; I had seen how Rose had tormented Elena, if only for a short while; I had seen myself torment her. And now, the chained man inside was fighting to protect the fragile girl whose only goal was to be my salvation.

As I fell deeper and deeper into insanity, the battle inside of my mind played out in front of my eyes. I was dimly aware of a warm body pressed against my own; comforting words whispered in my ear. But what I was seeing was anything but comforting; I saw the man, growing stronger and stronger as time wore on, facing off against the monster. I saw in the monster the demon that I had become; I saw myself as others saw me; perverted and warped; horrifying and disgusting. I couldn't blame Elena for not loving me; there was nothing there to love. I was a black hole; absorbing others' feelings but never able to reflect them back.

I watched the monster growing frantic as my body was coated in sheets of sweat. But in his desperation to continue his hold on my soul, he grew stronger. I felt the man dwindling away again. And then, something magical happened.

A part of my mind was aware that I was speaking.

I know you love Stefan. And it will always be Stefan. But I love you. You should know that.

I do.

I was expressing all of the thoughts that I had had throughout the day. I knew I was fading fast, and it was desperately important that someone know that I was saved, or that I could be saved.

You should have met me in 1864. You would have liked me.

I like you now. Just the way you are.

And the moment those words spilled past her lips, the tide turned. I was reinvigorated; I wanted to earn that pronouncement.

And then she kissed me. Her lips pressed against mine chastely, and when she had pulled away, I thanked her. She doesn't know why I thanked her. It wasn't for the symbol; it wasn't for her affection. At the demonstration of her trust and faith in me, I won. I killed the monster. And I thanked her for that; for releasing me from the bonds that I myself had created.

Who do you think you are?

I survived, regenerated and whole.

I am not the monster.

I am Damon.