And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now
Elena Gilbert stood outside of the penthouse suite in the Four Seasons, wringing her hands together in front of her stomach. Her heart was beating furiously in her chest as she waited for the door to open. The rest of her life would be determined based on what happened on the other side of that door. This would be it. This would be the moment that the past 8 years of her life had been building toward.
If things went her way, she would be causing another woman more pain than she had ever wanted to. If things turned out right, she would be ruining someone's wedding day. But if things went wrong, if he crushed her, he would be slipping a wedding band onto another woman's finger today. She would be forced to accept a harsh reality that she'd been avoiding.
To say that this was not how she expected to find herself at 26 years old would be the understatement of the century. Elena had pictured a lot of things for her life, but begging another man to pick her and walk away from a wonderful woman on his wedding day was never part of the plan.
At 22, she pictured book tours and seeing her name on the New York Times Bestsellers list. At 23, she pictured him and babies. At 24, she pictured a day where she wouldn't be consumed with so much pain that she wanted to end it all. At 25, she pictured getting her life back together, and the dreams of being an author floated back into her mind. Now, at 26, she pictured it all. She pictured a life that meant something, novels, and him.
At the end of it all, she pictured him.
She froze as she heard footsteps on the other side of the large door, and suddenly, she was face to face with him. It was obvious, from his wide eyes and parted mouth that she was the last person he expected to find on the other side of the door. "Elena," he breathed out, clearly at a loss for words.
"Hi," she practically choked on her own words and her hands were practically rubbed raw from the furious wringing of her fingers. "You look nice," were the only words her brain could form, as she stared at him in his custom maid Ralph Lauren suit. He hadn't put the coat on yet, always preferring to leave it off until the last possible moment. His shirt wasn't buttoned up all the way, and his tie was hanging loosely around his neck. He looked breathtaking.
"Why are you here?" he finally asked her after a few moments of tension filled silence.
A million different explanations and apologies ran through her head at lighting speed, but none of them felt right or sounded right, especially standing in the hallway of the hotel. She tried to glance behind him to see if he was alone or not, but when she couldn't tell for sure, she settled on a single question. "Can I come in?"
She felt a small piece of hope die inside at the sound of his distant voice, void of the love and devotion it held for her long ago. "I know that I don't have a right to be here, but please just give me five minutes. After that, you can tell me whatever you want, I'm just asking for five minutes."
She could see a silent war raging behind his eyes, but his body remained impassive, his face frozen. When she was beginning to think that he might close the door in her face and turn her away without the chance to say anything, he stepped aside for her to enter the suite. With her heart lodged in her throat, she slid past him and entered the grand penthouse that appeared empty.
"Alaric is out getting the rings and my brother is feeding Sawyer," he explained after she looked around the empty suite. She could feel his eyes on her as she made her way over to the wall of windows that overlooked Central Park. "You said you wanted five minutes," he told her when she continued to stare out at the city.
She didn't turn around to face him as she began speaking. "Do you remember when we first met? I could barely speak because I was so captivated by you. You were angry and rude, and I should have been so offended by you, but there was still just something about you, just under the surface, that drew me in. For four years, you've drawn me in."
"What are you getting at, Elena?" Like always, he dove straight toward the point. He didn't want pretty words or explanations, just the solid truth.
"You can't do this," she blurted out, turning on her heel to face him head-on. "Don't marry her."
He was silent for a moment, watching her with a combination of utter shock and a slight sign of anger. "That's what you want to talk about? You wait until 3 hours before I'm supposed to get married to come and tell me not to do it? That's why you're here?"
"No," she instantly replied, but then shook her head. "Yes. I know this is the absolute worst time for me to do this, but I couldn't let you get married today without at least telling you how I feel and trying to fix this."
Suddenly he blew out a laugh that held anything but amusement, instead it was tight and angry, and when he looked at her, he rolled his eyes, like he couldn't believe this was really happening. "God, this is exactly like you," he groaned. "After everything you've pulled in the last four years, I think this takes the cake. This is my wedding day, Elena. My wedding day."
It was a reaction she was expecting, had told herself she was fully prepared for, but the pure anger in his voice still hurt. "I know this isn't the right time –"
"Right time?" he cut her off before she could continue any further. "That's a complete understatement. You've had three years to fix this."
"I tried to fix this. I've tried to fix this for a year."
"There wouldn't have been anything to fix if you hadn't left."
"And I've apologized for that!" She immediately snapped her eyes shut and released a strangled breath before lowering her voice. "I don't want to fight. I didn't come here to fight."
"Then why did you come? I've been engaged for six months." She opened her eyes to see him shaking his head, looking tired and resigned to the situation at hand. "Why now?"
"I know," she acknowledged quietly, guilt evident in her voice. "But I just thought you proposed to hurt me. I thought you'd end it all. I guess I just expected that you'd show up one day and tell me that you'd broken it off."
"There was nothing to break off." His words weren't angry or harsh, just matter of fact, and somehow that hurt more. "I proposed because I love her."
She did her best to inhale deeply, trying to prepare herself for what she was about to say. With timid movements, she stepped toward him, a pleading look in her eyes. "I never should have walked out that night. I should have stayed and fought harder, but I gave up, and I have regretted that every day since. I've spent three years filled with regret over walking out that door."
"But you did walk out, no amount of regret can take that back."
"I know," she admitted softly, tears stinging the back of her eyes. "And that's why I'm here, because I can't live the rest of my life regretting it anymore. I messed up and I was too scared to admit it, and then when I came back, I didn't want to push too hard. I didn't want to push you further away, but how can I live with myself if I let you marry her without ever just being completely honest with you about how I feel."
"What do you want to say?"
Seeing the question as the only genuine opening she was going to get, she took another step forward, letting some momentum build up inside of her. After three years, she finally had her chance to make it right. This was her last chance and if she messed it up, it was all over, forever. He would walk out that door in a few hours and marry another woman, leaving her alone and heartbroken, much like she'd done to him all those years ago.
"I love you." Her eyes locked onto his as she took another step toward him, feeling more confident than she had since she stepped in the room. "I've loved you for four years, and I've wasted so much of that time, and the thought of losing you forever makes me feel broken. So, I'm here, and I'm asking you not to marry her if there's still a chance for us. I've spent three years with a hole inside of me since I walked out that night, but six months ago, you made me whole again. You make me whole."
"Elena," he shook his head, his eyes filled with pain and apprehension, but she pressed on.
She reached out for his hand and clasped it against her chest. "You let met walk out that door three years ago, in search of the space I thought I needed. You let me break your heart and go to Chicago. That's what real love is. It's breaking your own heart for the chance that the person you love might find happiness. You loved me enough to let me go. And if you really love her – if I've really lost you forever, then I will let you go. If she makes you happy, and she's who you want to spend the rest of your life with, then I will walk away today and bury it all, but I'm standing here begging you to not marry her, if you still love me."
"I just – I don't," he stumbled on his words, something that she rarely saw him do. The strong, confident man he normally was, now seemed confused and almost lost. She knew it was wrong of her to do this to him on his wedding day, he deserved better than that. She should have said this all sooner. She should have said it three years ago, but she hadn't, and now she didn't have a choice.
"Tell me that she consumes you the way that I did. Tell me that she makes you feel just half of what I made you feel and I'll leave right now, because I love you that much." The tears were freely flowing down her face now, but she didn't wipe them away. "I love you, Damon Salvatore, more than anything in this world. Do you love me?"
He opened his mouth to speak, and her heart stopped beating, scared for the answer that she was about to receive. How he responded to that question would change everything. It would change her.
The front door slammed, jerking Elena and Damon from each other and the answer he was about to give her. Stefan stood just inside the suite, a chilly look on his face as he glanced between his brother and the woman that had broken his heart. He was silent as he took in the site, and she knew that he was not happy to find her here.
The easy friendship that she'd once had with Stefan was gone. He'd never been rude to her after she returned from Chicago, but he was no longer warm and welcoming. When sides were chosen in the demise of the relationship, he had unwaveringly chosen his brother's side, as he should have. And when she'd returned, he'd made it clear that he would not let her hurt Damon again, and that she'd have to go through him to do it.
Finally, he stepped forward and his eyes were locked on Damon's. A silent conversation passed between the brothers that she would never be able to decipher. One look conveyed more than she would ever understand, but they understood what was being said, and soon, Stefan's gaze was pinned on her. "Elena, I think it would be best if you left."
She looked to Damon, anxious to see his reaction to his brother's words, but he didn't have much of one, not until he turned to her. He looked to her, his eyes filled with more emotion than she thought possible. "I'm sorry," he told her quietly as he removed his hand from her grasp.
Her heart plummeted into her stomach, and a lump grew in her throat, as she felt her last piece of hope completely dashed. This was it, after four years, this was how it all ended, in a hotel suite hours away from a wedding that was never really supposed to happen. All of her choices had led her to this moment, one she had hoped would be the beginning of a new chapter of their story, but instead turned out to be the Epilogue.
It was over.
With a choked voice and tears clouding her vision, she shook her head, trying to appear as strong as possible, but her movements were jerky and she was barely held together. She gave her best effort of offering him what she hoped was a gentle smile.
"Be happy, Damon." She leaned forward, her hand coming to rest gently against his neck, and for the final time, she pressed her lips against his cheek. Her salty tears mixed with the kiss, and she kept it simple, pulling back far sooner than she wanted to. His eyes stayed locked on hers as she opened her mouth and spoke her last words. "That's all I've ever wanted for you. Congratulations."
She rushed past Stefan, who was still standing in the same spot, his body rigid. Neither brother said anything as she opened the door and fled into the hallway. Her legs were shaky as she tried to push herself to the elevator. It took every amount of strength she had to make it there, and once the doors opened, she flung herself inside and collapsed against the wall.
A heaving sob fell from her lips and she clutched at her stomach as she doubled over in the small space. It was all over. She'd given it one last shot to try and make it all better, to make him see that she really loved him, but it hadn't worked. He didn't choose her. He wasn't going to marry her. In a few hours he would be someone else's husband, and lost to her forever.
And the worst part of it all was that she couldn't blame him for any of it. She was the one that had left when he begged her not to. She was the one that didn't come home, even when she'd realized that she'd made a mistake. She was the one that let her pain consume her to the point that it nearly broke him. She did this. She was the only one that she could be mad at.
It was a harsh reality to face, but as the doors opened on the ground floor, and patrons looked over at the brunette woman crying in the elevator, she knew it was one she had to face. It wasn't a reality she could face in New York City though. She'd come back and she'd tried, making a complete fool of herself in the process, but she couldn't do that anymore. He'd made his choice, and she had to accept that.
So, she tried to pull herself together and exit the hotel as gracefully as possible, ignoring the curious stares she was receiving as she walked through the lobby. Every few steps she took, her legs wanted to give out on her, but she pressed on, determined to make it back to her apartment without breaking down again. There would be time for more tears later, time for her to mourn everything. For now, she had to get home and pack a few items.
Everyone had accused her of running away before, and she realized they would probably accuse her of that again, but it was time to leave New York behind. It was what she was telling herself anyway. The lectures that she could practically hear Caroline and Bonnie giving her were locked from her head as she climbed into the first available cab after packing as many clothes as she could.
"Where to, Miss?" the cab driver asked her as he merged into traffic.
She was silent for a moment, watching her building disappear from behind her. "JFK Airport," she finally said.
"Where are you headed to?"
Another lump formed in her throat as she listened to his question. Thirty minutes ago, she would have had an answer: home. Now, there was no answer at all, no real place to go. She had once again made a mess of her life, and was left trying to figure out how to fit the pieces back together. This time, she didn't know how. She didn't even know where to begin.
As she looked up at the cab driver, who was still waiting for an answer from her, she sighed and glanced out the window before saying, "Anywhere but here."
AN: There it is, the Prologue. I know that I'm kind of throwing you all into the deep end with no idea what is going on, but we're going to work our way through just exactly how Damon and Elena got to this point right here. I hope you enjoyed it, or are at least intrigued to read more. Share your thoughts and drop me a review, I love them!