Hi y'all! This is my first Vampire Diaries fanfic, and while i'm not sure there'll be any more, I can't make any promises. I'm not a VD regular, and I've only watched bits and pieces of the series, so please forgive any mistakes or inconsistencies that you may find here. I've tried to keep it vague on any heavy plot details, so I hope I didn't screw anything up too badly. Please feel free to correct me if I've made any errors.

This is just a short little oneshot that I wrote after seeing the finale, which got me thinking about Stefan's choices throughout the ep, thus prompting me to do a little investigating of my own through writing. I hope you enjoy it and be sure to review, since this is my first time with this fandom. Happy reading!

There were a lot of things Stefan regretted in the course of his very long life. He'd lost count of the evils he'd done that should plague his dreams as the years went on, that should make him feel guilty and hate himself for his selfishness.

Saving Damon wasn't one of them.

How could he explain to Elena, to Bonnie, to Alaric, to Caroline and Jeremy and all of the others that Damon wasn't just anyone to him? Wasn't just another tragedy to be mourned along the way? They wouldn't understand. They knew what it meant to love and to lose a someone that you loved more than yourself, but not how it felt when that someone had been a constant in your life for over a hundred and sixty years. Or— in other words— your entire existence.

Humans— for all the respect he afforded them and for all that he dedicated himself to trying to protect those he cared about— were victims of time, the decades slowly peeling them back, layer by layer until nothing remained but the pieces they had left behind. They were fickle and finite, and every vampire who had experienced such losses had come to accept that time would continue to march on, without the immortals in its grasp.

But Damon wasn't human. He wasn't touched by the hands of time, not physically anyway, and he would never die of old age. Neither would Stefan, and so it was only by the cruel hands of Fate and Circumstance that they would finally succumb to their inevitable doom. Not a few hours ago, Damon seemed to have been ready to die, and it seemed that his time, however unfairly, had finally come. But of course, Stefan was having none of that.

Damon was his eternity.

Damon couldn't—wouldn't— die, and just leave him to suffer through the years in solitude and silence. Damon was his mantra, his prayer, however blackened with anger it had become through the decades, poured faithfully from his lips every day as the one entity he could count on. He was ceaseless and timeless—always ready to be the never-ending proverbial thorn in his little brother's side, just for the hell of it and then some.

Stefan chewed angrily on his lip as he rode next to Klaus in his sleek black vehicle, headed for who knows where, contemplating what he had just done. He'd given up everything, his freedom, his home, his sanity, his girlfriend, and even—to an extent—his big brother whose life he had just willingly bought with his own. Damon was free, and he was not. It was an even trade, no matter what else it felt like, and he hoped Damon wouldn't hate him this time around for not letting him die again.

He vowed to himself that he'd come back again when his years were up, if he was still rational enough to do anything but feed constantly, if that serial killer urge was no longer an insistent prodding at the back of his brain. He'd see Elena and all of their friends again, and they'd be different, would have moved on, made better lives for themselves, and it would be bittersweet but it was his price to pay for getting what he wanted.

And then, as with all things, they would all grow old—except for Caroline—and die, and then there would be nothing left for Stefan to remember them by but a row of headstones, no different than the ones he'd left behind in all of his years beforehand.

But Damon, his big brother, would still be there, still be living, unchanging and unbreakable, no different than Stefan had left him, and then and only then would Stefan know that it had all been worth it.

Because in the end, everyone moved on. All the people he had known would wither away and die, and would soon only be distant memories in his mind, no matter how much he had loved them. That was the way life worked for him, for his brother, for all immortals. That was why he knew he could live with his decision, with giving up everyone else that he loved. It was just speeding up the inevitable, for better or for worse, and there was nothing he could do about it.

In his mind, everyone else was for the moment, but Damon was forever.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read! If you think I should continue writing more VD stuff, drop me a message (or review) and i'll see what I can do! Toodles!