Author's Note: Thank you to all of you who have been reading this from the very beginning. This has been a much longer journey than I ever anticipated! And to all of you who remember me from last year's History, I cannot tell you how much you mean to me… I was absolutely astonished when I started getting comments from you guys who remembered that story. It really just meant everything to me. So thank you! Thank you! Thank you for sticking with this from the start and coming back to read!
"Are you sure this is going to work?"
Caroline watched as Bonnie looked up at Damon, a grim expression on her face. "No," Bonnie told him, matter-of-factly. "I'm not. This could bring back the curse. This could bring over a doppelganger. This could do a lot of things." She hesitated, looking down at the heavy, ancient book in her hands. "But I think it will work."
"Well, we've got to try," Stefan pointed out. Caroline watched as he placed a hand on Damon's shoulder. "She doesn't belong there."
Bonnie nodded, exhaling deeply. Caroline watched as she wrapped long chains of herbs around the frame of the mirror, encircling it. Damon reached out, pulling a piece of paper taped backwards on the mirror off of the mirror as Bonnie stepped away. Caroline craned her neck to read it, making out the words, Tomorrow night before he crumpled it in his fist.
Bonnie went to the circle they had drawn in chalk on Damon's floor, kneeling down in front of the cauldron. She tossed a match inside and as the smoke flared in a rainbow of hues, she began to chant.
"I wonder what she's like now," Caroline murmured to Tyler. "She's been gone for, what? Almost two months?" She drew back as she met Damon's glaring eyes. "I'm not saying I don't want her back!" she protested quickly. "It's just, I mean, what if she's all evil now? Or, oh!" Her eyes widened as a new thought struck her. "What if she talks backwards? That makes sense, right? She is inside a mirror. What if everything she says sounds like a bunch of garble?"
Damon's eyes blazed. "You want to leave?" he threatened.
She fell back. "No."
"Then shut up." He turned back to the mirror, his eyes darting across the glass.
Caroline made a face at him, then looked over at Stefan, who had a peculiar look on his face. It wasn't quite dread, but it was something akin to… anxiety, maybe? She had thought it odd Damon was the one urging them to get Elena out of the mirror and not Stefan, but Stefan had been supportive and encouraging, and he agreed with Damon completely, so she had dismissed it as Damon just being overly aggressive as he always was.
But, a small part of her couldn't help wondering if the curse really had been toying with Stefan and Elena all along.
She sucked in a breath, her attention caught as the mirror began to fade, a dark reflection of Damon's room appearing in front of them, covered in cobwebs and dust. There was an uneasy shift around the room as everyone stared, transfixed.
"What happened to your house?" Caroline couldn't resist asking, frowning. Her next words died in her throat as Elena suddenly appeared in front of them, looking virtually unchanged, a hesitant, frightened look on her beautiful face.
Her eyes widened at the sight of all of them in Damon's room, and even though they couldn't hear her delighted laugh through the mirror, Caroline could almost hear it, having heard it so many times before.
She felt tears spring to her eyes as she stared at the girl behind the mirror. It really was Elena. It was their Elena, and she was trapped in that mirror… In that world she didn't belong in. Silently, she urged Bonnie to chant faster, for the spell to work quicker, for them to get Elena back where she belonged.
Damon started to step forward, and then he suddenly stopped, a small, sad smile gracing his striking features. Caroline watched as he gently pushed Stefan forward, toward the mirror, watching as Elena and Stefan faced each other for the first time in months.
For a moment, neither looked like they knew what to do. And then Elena smiled, a smile that jarred Caroline straight to her core. She recognized that smile. It was the same smile Elena had given Matt after they had broken up and seen each other for the first time in weeks. A friendly, caring, tender smile, but lacking in the fiery love that had once been there. And then Stefan returned it, nodding at her. Elena nodded, reaching a hand up to the mirror. He did the same, as if to touch her through the glass. Bonnie's chanting reached a crescendo, the final syllables falling from her lips.
Elena's eyes widened with disbelief. Caroline heard Stefan suck in a breath.
And then Stefan's hand disappeared inside the mirror. They all watched, stunned, breathless, as Elena hopped up onto the dresser, both of Stefan's arms disappearing into the mirror.
And then he yanked backwards, holding Elena firmly in his grasp.
For a moment there was only the sound of Elena panting for breath and Stefan gasping for air as they clung to one another, Stefan keeping her on her feet. And then Bonnie's voice quickly began chanting, closing the portal to the world behind the mirror. Caroline looked between Elena and the mirror, watching as the dark image faded away, leaving only their reflections staring back at them.
Elena looked up, clearly shaken, taking in all the faces surrounding her. Her lips turned up into a trembling smile.
"It's good to be home," she said.
Elena cautiously opened the door to the bedroom, her heart hammering painfully against her ribs. The room was completely dark, except a few rays of moonlight filtering in from behind the curtains. She waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, frowning at the empty bed in front of her. She looked around, her breath catching in her throat as she saw Damon sitting on the floor, leaning against the foot of the bed. His eyes were fastened on her but he remained silent, watching her.
She swallowed the lump in her throat, slowly approaching his side. She thought of all the things she had wanted to tell him when she had been in the other world, but somehow, she couldn't make herself speak. She knelt beside him, facing him, his eyes never leaving hers.
And then, with a racing heart, adrenaline rushing through her, she leaned forward and kissed him.
She felt him straighten, pulling her into his arms, clutching her to him as if afraid she would pull away. It was strangely natural to be in his embrace; to be with him like this. It was passionate and frightening and so full of love she was overwhelmed by it, wrapping her arms around his neck and threading her fingers through his hair.
It was Damon who pulled away, not her, holding her tightly in his arms.
"I love you," he said softly, his breath inches from her ear.
She smiled, a shrill of excitement rushing through her, followed by an overpowering sense of happiness and peace. She nodded, resting her cheek against his shoulder. "I love you," she said softly. "Thank you for bringing me back where I belong."
He leaned back, kissing her lightly on the forehead, and then hugged her close, as if determined to never let her go.
And if she had her way, he wouldn't.