Epilogue

Elena sat on the beach, watching as the waves rolled into shore. The sun was just beginning to set and she was enjoying the view. She was also enjoying the quiet time. It wasn't very often anymore that she got uninterrupted moments to herself. No, those days were long gone. Her life was filled with more than she knew what to do with, but she wouldn't have it any other way. It was a great life, and it was all hers.

"Why are you being so anti-social?"

And then it was gone as quickly as it had come.

She twisted her head and smiled at her best friend coming toward her. "Just thought it was a nice time to sit on the beach."

"Boring," Caroline groaned, dropping down next to Elena in the sand. "You should be inside, that's where all the fun is. Stefan was threatening to punch Damon when I came to find you."

"I think I'll pass on that." Damon and Stefan were cooking dinner, and as always, they were fighting. She didn't know why they even tried cooking together anymore; it always turned into a war. Hence, why she was hiding safely outside.

"So I guess you and Damon are still fighting?" Caroline questioned.

"We're not fighting," she quickly corrected her friend. "We haven't had a fight in ages, you know that. We're just at a standstill on something."

Caroline was blowing things out of proportion, as usual. She and Damon weren't fighting, not even close. The days that they'd once wasted too much time yelling at each other and purposely hitting below the belt were long gone. They might bicker like crazy sometimes, but they didn't fight. And this disagreement was no different than any of the other ones. Damon was convinced of one thing, and she was convinced of something different. It was a disagreement that would have a solution, it would just take a little time. Well, according to Damon it would take her getting her head out of her ass, but she liked her usage of words much better. Age certainly hadn't changed his love of colorful language.

"What is it? I can't believe you're not telling me. Isn't that what best friends do, share everything?"

"Cause it's stupid. Damon is convinced he knows me better than I know myself." She tilted her head in Caroline's direction, a playful glint in her eyes. "What's new about that?"

Caroline blew out an agonizing sigh. "As much as it pains me to give him credit for anything, he kind of does sometimes. Can't deny it, your man is observant."

"Careful, Blondie, I might start to think you actually like me." Elena jumped at the sound of Damon's voice right behind her, and looked up to see him nearly standing over them. When did he get so stealthy?

"Shouldn't you be in the kitchen?" Caroline questioned. "Gosh, Elena, I thought you taught him where his place was ages ago."

"Speaking of knowing your place, your son is up from his nap. Go be maternal or something." He waved off Caroline with an affectionate eye roll and sat down on Elena's other side.

"Whatever, I'll take my cue to go inside and let you two do whatever it is you do on the beach." Caroline jumped up and traipsed away, filled with the energy she always seemed to have.

"She thinks we're fighting?" Damon asked once she was out of earshot.

Elena sighed and shrugged her shoulders. "I guess so."

"Are we?"

Elena rested her chin on her shoulder and gazed at Damon. "I know what our fights feel like, and this doesn't feel like a fight."

"Good, cause I hate fighting with you." Damon wrapped a loose arm around her shoulders and she easily leaned into his side, immediately relaxing against him. Even if they had been fighting, it wouldn't be anything a quiet moment with him couldn't fix.

It had been three years since they'd gone at that road trip as a last ditch effort to find out whether they really had what they thought they had. The times hadn't always been easy, but they'd been worth it. They were here now, and stronger than ever, thanks to a lot of will, determination, and sheer love. And it was the moments like these that made them really work. When they were allowed the time to simply be away from the world and everything it entailed, they thrived. Because at the bottom of it all they did love each other, and all it took were a few moments together to take a deep breath and remember that.

"How about we just drop everything for a few minutes and enjoy this sunset?" she suggested. They could bicker later tonight about who was right and who was wrong. Right now she just wanted a few short moments with her husband.

Elena watched, a wistful smile on her face, as Damon stood with his back to her, gazing out at the sun setting over the ocean. She could see his hands were shoved into the pockets of his suit and the way his shoulders gently raised and fell with his steady breathing.

With a final deep breath to try and calm her nerves she began to slowly walk toward him. They were in Tahiti, finally taking advantage of those tickets Caroline had given them three months ago, although the reason for this trip was far different than it had been originally. This wasn't a last ditch effort to get out of town and see if they could get past all of the pain and make the relationship work. No, they'd done that. It had been a long three months filled with a roller coaster of emotions.

After their breakthrough on the road trip, they'd spent another week traveling around the country and hashing things out. That hadn't been the end of their long conversations though. No, they'd spent many a nights over the past three months talking through things. A lot had happened in four years, and they couldn't work through it all overnight. There were tears and some yelling during the three months, but they'd come out of it on the other side. And now they were here to celebrate that.

Damon must have been lost in his own world, because he didn't turn around. So with a gentle touch, she ran her hands over his shoulder, giving them a soft squeeze. "Hey stranger."

He turned around, a smile on his face, and leaned forward to gently kiss her. His lips were light against hers before he pulled back, and took in her outfit. He ran his hands down her arms until they loosely caught her hands and he stepped away enough to get a good look at her. "You look amazing."

"Guess it pays to have a best friend in the fashion industry." She did a playful shimmy in her dress, enjoying the way it flowed around her. "You really like it?"

"It's perfect, absolutely perfect. I couldn't imagine you in anything else." He quickly pressed another kiss to her lips, and she tried not to let herself get caught up in it all. They had other things they needed to do. They couldn't spend an hour making out on this beach. "Exactly how mad is my favorite sister-in-law right now?"

Elena laughed softly, Caroline's angry face flashing through her mind. "She says I'm crazy and tempting fate, but whatever. She can get over it. It's my wedding day. I'm calling the shots." As had been happening all day, she got butterflies in her stomach at the mention of the word wedding.

Some might think they were rushing into marriage, but she knew that wasn't the case. They had four years of history, and granted, most of that history was time apart, but that time let them know this was what was right for them. They were meant to be together, and waiting one year or ten wouldn't change that. She loved him more than anything, and she was tired of waiting around and worrying about what was acceptable.

The decision to get married hadn't come about on a whim, but the idea of eloping had. They'd had more than enough talks over what the plan would be to get married, and she got tired of it. She didn't want a big, elaborate wedding. Hell, Damon had done it, and it obviously hadn't worked for him. She wanted him and the people she loved. That was good enough for her. So, they decided to go with it. They booked the tickets and told everyone the night before they left, saying they could all come if they wanted to, but she and Damon were getting married either way.

Caroline had thrown a bit of a tantrum at first, feeling she was being robbed of the chance to plan her best friend's wedding, but she'd shown up the next, a wedding gown in hand, and ready to go. Elena didn't know how she'd pulled it off, but her friend had apparently called in a favor or two to snag a gown in Elena's size. It wasn't a perfect fit, but the look of the dress worked best with it being a bit loose and flowing. It was a beach wedding after all.

"Well then," he stepped away from her and held his arm out for her to link hers through, which she happily did, "Let's go get hitched. There's no better time than sunset, right?"

As they walked to the small area that had been set up for them to get married, she couldn't help but smile at how backwards they'd done it all. They'd spent the morning together, not caring about the tradition of not seeing the other on the wedding day. Then she insisted on seeing him before the ceremony, again, not caring about tradition and him seeing her in her dress. There was no traditional ceremony planned, no one walking her down the aisle, no music. It was just going to be them and their friends.

"Look who decided to finally show up to their wedding," Bonnie called once she saw them slowly coming toward the small group.

"You should just be happy you got an invite, miss judgmental." Even though Damon's voice held no malice and he had a smile on his face, Elena still playfully smacked his arm. Though the tension had disappeared between Damon and Bonnie they still bickered constantly. She was beginning to wonder if those two would ever get along. "So, are we going to get this show on the road?"

Caroline and Stefan stepped to the side to make way for the minister the hotel had found for them to make his way forward. He kept the ceremony short and simple, just as they'd asked for, because she knew she her nerves wouldn't last through a long one. It just needed to be about them, and nothing else. The only downside was it was time to say her vows far too quickly, and she didn't know if her voice would hold up through the emotional words. She hadn't planned anything, just wanting to go with whatever she decided was right at the time, but now it was here, and she didn't know if she'd do it justice at all.

"Oh god," she whispered, squeezing Damon's hands softly. "I really should have written something down." He laughed quietly, but didn't say anything and she knew that she was just going to have to go for it. "I wish I could stand here and find a way to actually put into words everything I feel for you, but I don't think the words exist. I never knew I could feel it was possible to love anyone the way that I love you. And I know we've gone through our fair share of trials and tribulations, but they've all been worth it. Even the days when I thought we'd never find a way to be in the same room together, let alone find our way back to each other, they were worth it. Without those times, I don't think we'd be here right now, not like this, and not this strong. I love you more than I could ever explain, but I know I'll spend my life trying to show it to you. I'm not the scared girl anymore who doesn't know what I want. I know who I am now, and I know I want you – all of you, forever, through whatever the universe throws our way. I'm yours. I always have been, and I always will be."

Despite her best efforts, her face was damp with tears, and she was struggling to breathe enough to get her voice out at the end. It had been a long road to this point, one she thought didn't even exist at times. They'd lost so much and been through even more in the past four years, so to finally be standing in front of him, saying her vows, and holding his hands in hers all felt surreal. If she was dreaming, she just hoped no one would ever wake her up. Because as she saw the tears shining in his eyes, she knew nothing could top this.

"You did good," he said, his voice husky with emotion as he reached up to wipe the tears from her face. "Guess it's my turn now. Don't think I can top that, but I can try." She smiled as he rolled his eyes and tried to shake off the emotions he was feeling. Even during their wedding, he was still the same, uncomfortable with showing the deep river of emotions that ran beneath the surface. "When I was first getting to know you, I really thought we could make the whole casual thing work. I'd absolutely convinced myself that we could have fun and then move on, no problem. I'd go back to dating and then you'd go find the perfect corporate guy, and build that white picket fence life. Then, one day I woke up and that was all just shot to hell." He had the awareness to look slightly embarrassed at his use of poor language in his vows, but continued on nonetheless. "You came in and turned my life into everything I said I never wanted, and somehow it's become everything I want. I love you, and I want you. It's you and me, in this together, for life. No matter what happens, I'm going to be by your side. It's not going to always be easy, but I'm always going to be here. You will never have to spend another moment thinking I'll leave. The only places I'm going are with you."

"Still alive in there?" Damon asked after several long minutes of silence.

"Yeah," she whispered, "Just thinking."

"All good things, I hope."

"The best." She smiled and lifted her head from his shoulder so she could see him. "I was remembering our wedding."

"It was a pretty good one, wasn't it?"

"I think so, but I also think I'm a little biased." Their wedding was one of the best days of her life. As last minute as it had been, it had been absolutely perfect. To this day, she couldn't imagine ever having any other wedding than the one they'd had. The aftermath might have been a little rough, but it didn't tarnish their day. And every time she saw the sun setting over the ocean, she found herself remembering it with a smile.

"It was better than some stuffy wedding at the Four Seasons, but shh, don't tell Caroline I said that."

Elena laughed with Damon and softly hit him on the leg. "Don't knock it, mister. I realized I was falling in love with you at that wedding."

Damon looked at her, a surprised smile on his face. "You never told me that."

She tried to think back on any of their conversations about the early times in their relationship and she realized he was right. It hadn't exactly been a happy revelation at the time. She was scared of what might happen if he ever realized she'd really fallen for him and he still wanted things to be casual. Looking back now though it was easy to find a little humor in the situation. So many of their problems would have been solved so much sooner if they'd simply learned to communicate instead of being scared to voice their feelings.

It had been a rough lesson to learn when they first got back together. They were stubborn and still a little scared of things going wrong again. Only time and long talks rebuilt that trust, and with the trust came the ability to share things they otherwise might not have before. It was foreign and uncomfortable at first, but after three years back together and almost as much time married, it was as easy as breathing now. She couldn't imagine going back to what they'd had before. This was how they were meant to be.

"I was scared at first, and then I guess I just never really thought about it after that. It's one of those memories that's gotten lost in the masses." She nudged his shoulder with hers. "So, when did you realize you were falling in love with me?"

He took a moment to look out at the calm ocean, his cerulean eyes swimming with memories. "The night we found out you were pregnant. I was taking you back to your apartment after you got sick in the bar, and I realized that somehow this no-strings-attached idea I'd thrown out had come back to bite me in the ass."

Elena's mind quickly flashed back to that night in the taxi. She'd spent the entire ride back to her apartment scared of how she would actually tell him she was pregnant, and whether he'd walk out on her or not. To say she had been surprised by how he accepted the news would be an understatement. She'd never imagined that he would accept it all so willingly, but it had. That should have been the first real clue that there was far more to Damon Salvatore than she'd ever even realized.

She also couldn't help but remember seeing the positive pregnancy test for the first time, and the crippling fear she'd felt. For a long time, when she thought of that moment, her chest would painfully constrict and she'd feel an almost unbearable pain. It happened any time she remembered anything about that pregnancy. Sometimes she'd wondered if the pain would ever go away. With time it had faded, and now she could think back on those times and not feel the agony she once had. She'd never understand why things had to happen that way in her life, but she knew now that they'd happened that way for a reason.

She and Damon were supposed to go through everything they did to be able to come together stronger and better than ever. The couple they were back then never would have grown into this. They would have settled into those poor routines until they fell apart in some other way.

"Sometimes I find it hard to believe we're the same people from back then. I feel like that's a different person."

"The Elena and Damon then didn't know what we know now. I'm never going to forget the hopes and dreams I'd had when you were pregnant then, but I can't imagine our life being any different than how it is now."

"We had to lose it all to really appreciate what we have now."

"Exactly," he agreed with her. "I also feel I should point out about that night that it could have been worse. I could have been drunk. Who knows how that would have ended?"

"I don't know," she smiled, "It might have been interesting."

Elena was curled up under the safety of all the blankets on her bed, her arms hugging her lumpy pillow to her head. She was sleeping comfortably, enjoying a nice dream about the beach and dirty sex in the sand, when she suddenly found she wasn't dreaming anymore. It took her a moment to realize, but it soon became apparent that her real life Damon, not the dream version, had climbed into bed and was running his hands over her body through the mountain of covers.

She felt him press his mouth to her cheek and her nasal cavity was immediately overwhelmed with the stench of whiskey, cigars, and cheap perfume. "God, you reek," she groaned, bringing the back of her hand up to her nose to try and block some of the smell.

He moaned into her neck and she could feel his smile against her skin. "You smell good."

She was fully awake now and turned over to look up at him. His eyes were half closed and he wore a dopey grin on his face. "Are you drunk?" It's a sight she rarely saw anymore.

"Maybe a little," he murmured against her skin. His kisses were sloppier than normal and he wasn't quite as attentive as he typically was. Drunk sex was fun when she was drunk, but it wasn't quite as fun when she was completely sober, which she was quickly finding out as he continued to try and practically mount her.

Normally she'd be enjoying this, but all she could think about was how she was going to get this stench out of their comforter. "God, how many sluts wearing cheap perfume did you let crawl all over you tonight?" she couldn't help but ask. She wasn't going to yell at him. She was the cool wife, the fun wife. She would not get mad at her husband for having fun at Alaric's bachelor party. It was what guys did. They went to strip clubs, even though she suspected they really didn't even enjoy it very much. It was just a tradition she thought they figured they needed to uphold, and the added bonus of embarrassing the groom with a strip tease didn't hurt either.

"Just one." His words were a little slurred as he moved further down her body, pushing the covers down to her waist. He struggled more than normal, having trouble lifting his body and pushing the covers away at the same time was proving difficult. "The boys made me do it."

"Well, I hope you tipped her well enough so she can go out and buy some better smelling perfume tomorrow." She patted his head softly before gently pushing him off of her. He tried to protest, but she was more coordinated than him in this moment, and she squirmed her way from beneath his body. "You need to take off those clothes, I can't breathe with you on top of me smelling like that. I'm going to vomit."

He sent her a lecherous smile and began pulling at the hem of his shirt. "Whatever you say."

Due to his poor aim and coordination the shirt ended up covering her face when he tried to throw it to the floor. The moment she was fully assaulted with the array of smells her stomach turned and she knew she was going to lose it. "Oh god," she groaned, "I'm really going to vomit." She threw everything from her body and ran into the bathroom, praying she would make it to the toilet before she lost the contents of her stomach.

The moment her knees hit the tiled floor, she lost her battle and threw up in the toilet, heaving out every last bit in her stomach. This was not the way this night was supposed to go. Damon was not supposed to stay out until the wee hours of the morning. She was not supposed to be asleep when he came home. And he was not supposed to smell so horrid that she couldn't keep from throwing up. It wasn't fair.

"Baby?" Damon's voice was soft and worried as he pressed a gentle hand to her hair and pulled it away from her face. "What's wrong?"

"I'm sorry," she whimpered. "The smell was just really overwhelming."

"I'm sorry I made you throw up," he mumbled, and she couldn't help but chuckle as she fell away from the toilet after she flushed it. "I have literally repulsed you. That's depressing."

"It's not your fault." At least it wasn't his fault in the way that he thought.

"I thought I was supposed to be the one throwing up in this equation."

"Guess we're just that in sync with each other."

"Why don't you get cleaned up and go to bed? Then, I'll shower so I don't cause a repeat of this when I come to bed."

Elena slowly nodded and moved to her feet so she could quickly brush her teeth. As she swirled her brush around in her mouth she stared down at the counter and sighed. Her plans would simply have to wait for tomorrow.

"Don't flood our bathroom in your drunken stupor."

He looked over his shoulder and winked. "I make no promises."

"You're impossible," she grumbled good-naturedly.

She padded softly to the bed and threw herself into it, trying not to think of how she'd wanted tonight to go. She hadn't exactly set out on this day thinking things would unfold as they had, but they did. There were signs she simply couldn't ignore anymore, and she needed to know the truth. She just hadn't expected Damon would come home so drunk!

Tonight had been Alaric's bachelor party and she'd naively thought that they would honor his desire to have no strippers. Though the man loved to drink, he wasn't into the whole strip club scene. Apparently, Damon had been serious when he'd said he wasn't going to listen to his best friend, because Alaric hadn't listened to him when he married Katherine. Man, could her husband hold a grudge. His bachelor party had been ages ago. When she and Damon got married, they hadn't even had time for any of that.

In a shocking move to all of their friends, they'd taken that walk down the aisle a short three months after they returned from their road trip. They took the tickets Caroline had given them and run off to Tahiti, all but throwing plane tickets at their friends and telling them to come along. It was a small ceremony on the beach, but it was all they had needed. He'd done the big, elaborate wedding – one and a half times – and she simply didn't want it. So they eloped, and it had been a decision she hadn't regretted since.

Granted, they were still less than a year into their marriage, but given their track record, it was progress.

"What is this?"

Elena quickly rolled over to see Damon holding a small object in his hand, a dumbfounded expression on his face. "You saw it?" She was sure he'd be too drunk to even notice it.

"I'm drunk, not blind." With slow, focused steps, he walked toward her. "What is this? Is it real?" She nervously bit her lip and nodded her head. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah," she choked out, "I took four."

"You're pregnant?"

"It seems so." After nine months of being married, they'd decided to go for it and try to have a baby. The decision had come after many long talks, and they thought they might as well give it a shot. It was a scary move, but they knew they were ready. It had been a year now since they got back together, and they'd worked through all of their big issues, especially left over wounds from the miscarriage.

That had barely been two months ago. So when she realized she was late, she was certain that it couldn't mean what she thought. It was too soon. For over a week she'd told herself to calm down, she'd been late before and it could simply be the same this time. She did everything she could to convince herself she wasn't pregnant, but the signs were there, and she could only ignore them for so long.

So she bought a box of tests in the afternoon, planning to take them while Damon was out. If they came back negative she wouldn't have gotten his hopes up and she could try to get herself over it before he came home. But then one after the other, they came back positive and she realized that she was right. She was pregnant, just like they'd wanted. She'd thought it would be cute to leave a test on the counter in the bathroom for him to see when he was getting ready for bed, but then he came home drunk, and she thought her plans were out the window.

"Oh my god." A wide smile spread over his face. "Holy shit!" Elena couldn't help but laugh as she watched the news sink in, and somehow the fact that he was drunk made it even more hilarious. His thinking process was slower than normal and he was swaying on his feet as he pieced it all together in his head. "We're having a baby!"

"We're having a baby," she repeated giddily.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked, his words slurring slightly, only adding to the humor of the situation. They just couldn't find out they were having a baby like normal people, could they? The first time she blurted out that she was pregnant in the middle of the night, and then cried in the bathroom for ages after she took the test. This time, her husband was drunk out of his mind. Classy.

"You're wasted!"

"I celebrated early!" he declared, rushing toward the bed, his arms outstretched to her. He swept her up in his arms, letting out an ecstatic laugh as he did. "We did it! My boys can swim!"

"Damon," she squealed, holding tightly to him as he tried to swing her around. "You are so drunk!"

"I'm happy. We're having a baby!" He suddenly stumbled on his own feet and they went tumbling to the ground, laughing as they fell. "Oh shit," he gasped, once he realized what had happened, rolling on top of her to try and inspect her for any harm done. "Are you okay? Did I hurt the baby?"

"I don't think that's possible," she giggled, too amused by the childish look of fear on his face to be worried about anything. "I think you probably hurt yourself though." She gently ran her fingers over his forehead. "You're going to be in pain tomorrow."

"I'll survive," he whispered. His eyes flooded with amazement and love, and she felt her stomach flutter as she looked up at him. "You're really pregnant?"

"I think so."

He bent down and pressed a slow, yet still slightly sloppy kiss to her mouth before he murmured, "God, I love you."

Her fingers twisted in his hair and she stared up into his blue eyes, trying to imagine a little boy or girl with the same eyes. "We love you too."

"I still can't believe you let me find out you were pregnant when I was drunk." Damon's memories of that night weren't totally clear, but he could still vividly remember looking down at the counter and seeing a positive pregnancy test staring up at him. It had taken five minutes for him to really believe what he was seeing in front of him and to go ask Elena if it as true.

They'd barely even started trying before she wound up pregnant, and it had been the shock of the century. He'd never thought it would happen that quickly, but it had.

Elena giggled, probably still thinking of it all. "I can't believe you even remember that night. You could barely stand."

Sometimes he was surprised he even remembered that night. To this day, no one knew how much he'd had to drink that night. He'd been dragged to a strip club against his will and drank accordingly. At 20 years old the idea of a strip club was great, but by the time Alaric got married he had moved on from all of that. Why would he pay to go see some woman take off her clothes when his smoking hot wife would do it for free, and he actually got sex out of the deal?

"Daddy!" Damon and Elena both turned at the sound of a high-pitched squeal.

The sound was like music to his ears and Damon was on his feet in an instant. His brother was coming down to the beach, holding his little bundle of energy. "Is someone up from her nap?"

"Daddy!" She giggled and tried to squirm out of her uncle's arms, which he happily obliged once they were on the sand. She wobbled toward him, not quite used to running on the sand.

At two years old, she was certainly the best thing that had ever happened to him. With the innocent doe eyes of her mother's, and the spitfire personality of her father's, she was all them. Somehow he and Elena had created this perfect little storm of a human being that was so uniquely herself and identical to them all at the same time. It was amazing.

"Come here, munchkin." He swept her up into his arms and she squealed in delight. "Did you have a good nap?" he asked as he settled her on his hip. She pressed her tiny hands to his face, effectively making sure she had all of his attention, and began to babble away. He nodded along, pretending that he understood everything, a trick he'd learned long ago. He could make out a few words here and there, but at barely two years old she still had a tendency to fall into gibberish.

Elena was smiling warmly up at them as he approached her. Every time he was around her and their daughter at the same time he could feel the overwhelming love flowing from her. Where there was once a girl who tried to mask and bury all the pain she felt inside of her, there was now a woman who was filled with joy and life. Having their daughter had changed her in the most amazing way possible. He truly believed that the moment she heard their daughter cry for the first time had healed something in her, and it was a gorgeous thing to see.

"I see someone didn't take a very long nap," she teased, reaching out to tickle their daughter's stomach as he sat down. "Did Sawyer wake you up again?" It was always one of the downfalls of the cousins staying in the same house. Without fail, every time, one would wake up the other to play. He knew he'd have a very grumpy toddler on his hands later on. Bright side, she'd probably go to bed early. That was always a fun bonus.

"You want to play?" Damon asked her. "I think some of your toys are still out here from earlier." He looked around and spotted a pile of beach toys that they'd left on the beach earlier in the day, knowing they'd probably need them later. "Go burn energy." He set her on her feet and watched her rush off toward the toys.

"I can't believe she's already two," Elena mused, keeping a watchful eye on their daughter. "I feel like she doesn't need us at all anymore."

Damon wrapped his arm around Elena again, pulling her close. "She is quite an independent little girl."

"Speaking of," she noted before she called out, "Charlotte, you don't go into the water, okay?" Their daughter turned annoyed eyes on them and he tried to keep from laughing. For a toddler, she had quite an attitude.

"Momma," she sighed, "I pway." With a roll of her eyes she turned back around and bent down to the water to let it run over her hands when new waves rolled in, giggling when they came.

Despite his best efforts, he lost his ability to hold in his laughter and it came tumbling from his mouth. How did a toddler have the ability to speak in such a condescending voice? It was hilarious. If she was 10, sure, it would be a problem, but at 2, it was the best thing he'd ever seen.

"Damon," Elena hissed, "You're encouraging her."

"Did you see the side eye she just gave us?" he asked. "It was golden."

"Where did she even learn to roll her eyes?"

"I don't know, it's not like she ever sees her mom rolling her eyes at her father. She must have picked it up from Caroline."

"Smartass," she grumbled, but he caught the hint of a smile on her lips. "We are going to be in so much trouble when she's a teenager."

"When she's a teenager? Try next year when she's really found her words and we have another one. That's trouble."

"Oh, would you stop it?" she groaned. "I'm not pregnant."

They'd been having the same tiff for the past week. He was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was pregnant. His wife however, was not convinced. In her mind, even if she had missed her period, it had happened multiple times since she had Charlotte. It was a song and dance they'd done more than once in the past two years, and every time the test had been negative, but he knew this was different. Elena was a woman who had tells when she was pregnant, the same signs every time, and they were completely present now. He just had to get her to recognize them.

"Really?" Damon smirked, sensually sliding his and up her side until he felt the underside of her breast. The moment his hand moved an inch higher and he applied the slightest bit of pressure she tensed and pulled away. The smirk was still present on his face as he pointed at her breasts. "Pregnant."

"You've said that a dozen times in the past two years," she argued, just as stubborn as ever.

"What can I say? I wouldn't mind having another one." He glanced toward the water to see Charlotte running along the edge, splashing and kicking with glee. "Come on, how can you not want more of that?"

"We did make a pretty cute kid," she conceded. "Remember when we could just hold her for hours? Now we try to hold her for more than a minute and she's trying to break free."

"So you'll take a pregnancy test?"

Charlotte's fearful cry quickly pulled them from their talk of babies and pregnancy tests. She had fallen and it looked like she got sand in her face. Elena jumped to her feet and rushed forward to help her. "Come here, baby girl." She sat Charlotte up and tried to wipe at her face and calm her down. "Do your eyes hurt?"

"Mommy," she cried, holding her arms up to be held. Like every other little girl, she just wanted her mommy when she was hurt, and Damon could only watch on with a smile. Moments like that were why he wanted another one. He loved watching Elena with their child, seeing how totally in love with her she was.

"I know, sweetie," Elena cooed softly as she lifted Charlotte into her arms. "Sand isn't fun." She sat down next to Damon and cuddled their daughter to her chest. "It's okay."

"Think you'll live?" he asked her, reaching out to run a soothing hand down her back.

"No," she whimpered, burrowing her head further into Elena's chest.

"Yes, you will." Elena softly kissed the top of her head of dark brown hair.

Damon could only sit back and watch as Elena slowly rocked their daughter and tried to calm her down enough to play again. It was amazing watching her as a mother. From the moment Charlotte had been born it had all come so natural. Everything she did was for that child, and he felt blessed to be able to witness it. Though Charlotte was the epitome of a daddy's girl, she still adored her mother, especially at times like these, and Elena always excelled at them. She knew just the right things to do and say to stop the tears. And if Charlotte couldn't sleep, all it took was for Elena to curl up with her to knock her out.

He loved watching them sleep, and the older Charlotte grew, the more infrequent it became. She was an independent girl, who wanted to do everything on her own. He missed the times when he would come home and find them asleep on the couch, Charlotte resting on Elena's chest. Now it felt hard to believe she had ever been so small, and now that she was two and growing up so fast, it felt like the right time to have another. It wasn't exactly like they hadn't talked about it before.

"It's a girl!"

Damon watched as Elena collapsed back into the stiff hospital pillows, her hair stuck to her forehead with sweat, and her chest heaving as she struggled to catch her breath. He was tempted to tell her she'd done it, but then he heard the piercing wail come from the tiny baby the doctor held up, and everything ceased to exist. His eyes found the small child, her face red, and her mouth open wide as she emitted another loud cry. His world stopped.

He was captivated as the doctor gently placed the baby on Elena's chest and he felt like everything in his life suddenly came together. The little girl they'd wanted so much was finally here. He didn't try to blink away the tears that flooded his eyes, too focused on the tiny child his wife was holding to even care what kind of fool he must look like. She'd done it. Elena had done it. They had a baby.

"Oh my god, you did it," Damon cried, pressing gentle kisses against her damp face. "She's really here."

"She's perfect," Elena whispered, pressing a soft kiss to her small head. She turned tearful eyes on him. "Damon, we made her, and she's absolutely perfect."

"Of course she is." He ran a hand down their daughter's back, and he could feel it shaking as it went. She was real, totally and completely real. He could feel her small chest rising and falling with each breath she took, and her skin was warm to the touch. He kept touching her, wanting to feel every small part of her, making sure she was really here and that she wasn't going anywhere.

Everything they'd gone through, every agonizing moment didn't matter anymore. Because as he looked down at his child, he knew it all brought her to him. This was their daughter, and she was meant to be. He could feel it in his bones.

"Okay, Elena, we have to get her cleaned up and get all of her measurements and then we'll bring her back. Sound good?" A nurse gingerly took the newborn from her arms and Damon's head shot up, ready to tell her to back the hell away from his daughter, but when Elena's loving hand pressed into his arm, he reluctantly held it in.

"Don't drop her," he warned.

Elena laughed softly below him, her hand rubbing soothing circles on his arm. "I think they know what they're doing." She sighed and he could see the emotion overtake her again. "I can't believe she's really here," she whispered. "She's actually real, and she's ours."

He bent down and pressed a whisper of a kiss over her lips. "All ours." They'd really done it. They had everything they had ever wanted, and it all felt so surreal.

"Damon," a nurse called out to him, "Would you like to come cut the cord?"

He looked nervously at Elena, but she smiled encouragingly. "Go get our girl and bring her back to me, quickly please."

He walked over to the team of people surrounding his daughter and followed the instructions on where and how to cut the stupid cord Elena had insisted he should, but he was really ready to just hold his daughter. He'd spent so long waiting for her to be here, now he wanted to hold her and meet her.

When they finally placed her in his arms he was completely consumed by her. She was wrapped tightly in a light yellow blanket, and her eyes were beginning to fall shut, but for a few short moments, they fluttered open and locked right on his. They were a blue unlike he'd ever seen before and he found himself completely sucked into them. "Hi, baby girl," he whispered, brushing his free hand over the soft tufts of brown hair atop her head. "Your mom and I waited a long time for you." She gurgled softly and then he watched in awe as her tiny mouth opened to release a deep yawn.

She was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen in his life, and as he walked back to Elena he couldn't help but watch every little move she made in his arms. Her cries that she'd bellowed out so loudly just a few minutes earlier were now silent, and she squirmed as if she was getting comfortable in his arms, to rest there forever. She was perfect, and she was his. It was somehow impossible to believe and the most natural feeling in the word all at the same time.

He managed to tear his eyes away from his daughter once he got to Elena's bed, and he met her tear-filled gaze. "I love you," she choked out, holding her hand out to touch him. "Watching you with her is so much more amazing than anything I ever dreamed of."

"I love you so much." He kissed her lips for what felt like the hundredth time since their daughter was born, but he couldn't help it. Somehow he felt even more connected to her now than ever before. Seeing her in labor for fifteen long hours, and finally watching her bring their daughter into this world made him feel like they were stronger than ever. No matter what happened in this world from here on out, nothing would change the fact that they'd made tiny baby in his arms, and it was amazing.

"Don't go tell anyone yet that she's here. I just want to be with you and her for a bit, okay?" Elena asked.

"Eh, they can wait. This isn't about them." He knew everyone was out in the waiting room probably dying to hear that Elena had had the baby, but there would be time for that later. It had been more than twelve hours of labor, what would another hour be?

He tried to be patient as waited for all of the staff to leave and finally give him a few moments alone with his wife and child, ready to be able to curl up in the hospital bed with her and stare at their child for as long as they wanted, no interruptions. He'd paid for the most elaborate suite at the hospital, you'd think that would also involve the staff getting the heck out of the room.

"So, you think the name we picked out fits her?" Elena questioned after several long, silent minutes spent watching their daughter try to fall asleep.

"I think it's perfect, don't you?" It had been a battle of the wills to find a name they both liked for their daughter, not quite on the level of Stefan and Caroline, but a battle nonetheless. They'd only chosen one a few weeks ago, but both had been worried it wouldn't fit her once she was here, but as he looked at her now, it just felt right. That was her name. He'd made fun of Stefan and Caroline mercilessly when they claimed the same thing about Sawyer, saying a baby's name could be whatever, it didn't matter, but he knew how wrong he was now. Everything about her was perfect for that name.

"Yeah," she agreed with a smile, rubbing a finger over her daughter's chubby cheek, "Charlotte Elisabetta Salvatore, it's perfect." His eyes shot up to Elena's, surprise covering his face. "I know we didn't discuss a middle name, but I think it would be nice to give her your mom's name."

"What about your mom?" he asked. Both of their moms had passed, they couldn't just leave her out.

"Guess that just means we'll need to have another girl. Think you can handle that?" she teased.

He looked back down at his newborn daughter and tried to envision doing this all over again. "I think I could be talked into it."

"Don't think I've forgotten that you never answered my question earlier." Damon dropped down next to Elena on the couch after dinner, taking advantage of the rare moment where everyone was occupied and he might actually have a chance to get an answer out of her.

"What question?" she asked, not even looking up from her computer on her lap.

"Whether or not you'll take a pregnancy test." He pressed his hand on the back of her laptop, slowly closing it until he had her full attention.

Elena took her laptop and moved it to the coffee table so she could slide closer to him. "Why are you determined about this? You've never been this sure before."

"I don't know," he admitted, knowing there was no way he'd really be able to explain it that she wouldn't immediately write off and excuse away. "It's like I can feel it. This is different; I know it. Why are you so determined that you're not? This isn't something we've never talked about before. We've talked about it dozens of times."

"It's different when you talk about it than when it's possibly real. We were more than ready for Charlotte, but we did have a few meltdowns during my pregnancy."

"One, we didn't even know what we were going into. We'd never had a baby. Two, look how well it turned out. We have the best little girl on the planet."

"Of course we do," she readily agreed. "She's the best thing that's ever happened to me."

"Then what's the issue here?"

He wasn't stupid; he knew his wife. Like he'd told her, they'd discussed having another baby multiple times. Ever since they had Charlotte, they'd basically thrown out any attempt at trying to keep from having another one. They weren't trying to have one, but if she forgot a pill occasionally, it wasn't the end of the world. All of their conversations had always ended on the same note. They wanted another child, and whenever it happened, it happened. So what was going through her head that he wasn't catching onto yet?

"There isn't one, I swear."

"Hey," he reached out to grab her hand in his, and gave it a soft squeeze, "Talk to me."

Elena bit her lip and glanced away from his probing gaze. He could see the emotions filtering over her face. "I'm nervous," she finally admitted softly, sliding her gaze back to his. "I really want it to be positive." Her voice was quiet and hopeful as she revealed to him what had kept her so against his insistence that she was pregnant. "Charlotte's grown up so much in the past year and I kind of miss her being a baby. Some days I wish I could just freeze her like this forever. The look on her face when she learns something new, and the simple joy she finds out of everything is the most amazing thing to watch, but she's also getting so independent. She barely wants me to even hold her. Today was the first time in a week that she wanted me to hold her for more than five minutes. I miss that."

Damon knew all too well what his wife was talking about. Though their daughter was still a baby, she felt so much bigger than that too. It seemed like with every day that passed, the less she needed them, and that hurt sometimes. He could still remember being able to hold her for hours as she slept, and when she'd cry when he or Elena left. Now, it seemed as if she could care less most of the time. It sucked.

"Maybe we could stop giving her vegetables," he offered.

He was grateful at the laugh that poured from Elena. "I wish it were that simple."

He grabbed her arms and tugged her into his lap before letting his hands rise to her face. "Maybe it can be. If that test is positive, that means we get to have another baby, and more time to have some of those moments we miss. And if it's negative, then we get serious about this. We start trying for another one. Let's do this."

She sighed and began to slowly nod her head. "You're never going to let me live this down, especially if you're, but I do think you might be. It's like how I felt with Charlotte and the first pregnancy. It's not just my breasts. I might have thrown up yesterday while you were feeding Charlotte breakfast. So, yes, I'll take a test, and if we're not right about this, then we'll start trying."

"Really?" he questioned, looking anxious and excited. "You'll take one?"

"Yeah, we'll go into town tomorrow and get one so we can find out for sure."

"How about you take one tonight?"

"I don't have one to take, as I just pointed out."

"About that," he began slowly, "You haven't been as stealthy about this whole thing as you think. I've noticed you haven't been going for the coffee, and how I haven't been treated to your wonderful PMS personality for a while. I also might have known you threw up too. So, I bought some tests yesterday."

Her eyes widened at his words. "You're out of your mind, you know that?"

Yeah, he was well aware of that. He'd really known that for years, pretty much since he met her. Because that was what she did to him. She took the rationality out of his thoughts. When she was involved, he ran on feelings. It hadn't worked out well for them in the beginning, but with time and effort he learned how to properly harness that insanity into something healthier. Didn't mean he didn't still cross the line from time to time, but he tried. Hopefully she would see it that way for this instance. He had a good reason, after all.

"I love our daughter. Is it really so crazy that I want us to have another baby?"

"Ugh, again?" Elena, with her mouth open and poised with a retort on her tongue, looked over, as did he at the sound of Caroline's disdainful voice. "You two are like a pair of horny teenagers." Stefan came up behind her, chuckling at his wife's disgust.

"Hey, Salvatores of the blonde persuasion, pot meet kettle. You two are as horrible as you were when you first started dating."

"At least dad doesn't have to tell us to break it up," Stefan taunted.

"Rawr!" Damon was poised and ready to snap back at his brother when he heard his daughter growl loudly and her little feet running into the living room.

She ran circles around Stefan and then the coffee table for a few minutes before Damon reached down and caught her on one of her attempts to run past him. "And where do you think you're going?" He held her up so she and Elena could thoroughly inspect her chocolate covered face. "What did you get into?"

"Yummy," she told him with a wide smile.

"She said she was hungry." Giuseppe appeared behind Stefan, wiping his hands on a towel, Sawyer trailing behind him, still licking on his ice cream cone.

"Thanks for asking, dad," he said. "Not like we wouldn't have wanted her to have ice cream this late."

"Oh hush, I'm their grandfather. This is what I'm supposed to do."

"It's fine, Giuseppe," Elena insisted. "Your son is just being a pain. She'll run off the sugar in five minutes."

"Thanks for the support, wife."

She pressed a quick kiss to his lips. "Stop."

"So, Elena how is your book coming along?" Giuseppe asked warmly, coming to sit on the chair between the couches while Caroline and Stefan sat down together on the opposite couch.

While Damon might have once tensed up at his father asking anything about Elena, or even being in the same room with him, things had shifted in the past two years. The dynamic in the family had drastically changed since Charlotte was born, most notably where it involved his father. She was the first girl in the Salvatore family since his mother died, and she had completely changed the family dynamic in every way possible. Now, nights like this weren't all that uncommon. Somewhere along the way, it had become normal for his entire family to gather together to talk, and they actually enjoyed it.

It had taken time, of course. His father hadn't been pleased at all when Damon and Elena came back from their road trip engaged, and he'd been furious when they eloped just a few months later. The first year and a half of his marriage to Elena made for very tense family moments, but the instant his father saw Charlotte; he saw something change in him. There was something about her that had healed a part of his heart that had been broken ever since his wife died. It was hard for Damon to trust at first, still nervous that he'd wake up one day and his father would be against all of his life choices yet again, but he really came around.

Within weeks of Charlotte's birth he'd come over and apologized to both Damon and Elena for the way he'd behaved throughout the times they were together and even the times they weren't. And he'd never gone back on any of it. Since that day, his father had never spoken another negative word about Elena ever again. His daughter had healed their family in a way she would probably never realize.

"It's going well," Elena answered Giuseppe. "I'm a little nervous that it won't do as well as my first one, but fingers crossed! My publishers like what I've sent them so far."

A week before Charlotte had been born, Elena had been signed by a publishing company to release her novel, and it had been an overwhelming success. Though it was a novel aimed toward women, he had read every word of it, determined to support her in every way he could. There was also a slight curiosity factor behind it. The book was not about them, but he knew she'd written a majority of it during their time apart and that there were hints of them in the main couple of the story. It had been a part of her way of dealing with things at the time, and he wanted to see things from inside her head.

No one else would ever be able to pick up on what details were about them, but he knew her well enough to know when he was reading heartbreak straight from her and when it was from the character. It had been hard to read some parts, to really be faced with the thoughts that had gone through her head during those times, but he was grateful he had. It helped him understand her on a far deeper level, and appreciate how far they'd come even more. He was also a proud husband. She was a damn good writer, and he made sure she knew that.

"It will be great, another New York Times bestseller. Just you wait." She blushed, just as she did every time he complimented her on something, and he smiled at the site. God, she was beautiful. "I'm serious, she's not giving herself enough credit. After they read the first chapters she sent them, they gave her a bonus. It's amazing, dad. Maybe even better than her first novel."

"Damon's right," Caroline agreed. "I know you don't let anyone but him read your work before it's finished, but I've loved everything you've told me about it so far. It sounds great."

"Guys stop, you know I hate when you do this stuff."

"I'm a proud husband, sue me."

He knew she was modest and that she hated when he complimented her like this, but he couldn't help it. She was a good writer, and it had taken her a long time to get to the point where she felt confident about her writing to attempt to get anything published. She took a big leap of faith when she asked one of her former coworkers to read her manuscript. And even after it was picked up by her old company, she still had doubts it would be a massive failure. He didn't think he'd ever forget the day she came home and told him she'd made the New York Times Best Sellers list.

Damon had Charlotte propped up on his legs, staring into her bright blue eyes that were a reflection of his own. They'd been there for over an hour now, him trying over and over again to say her first word. She had been getting so close for weeks now, and he knew that it was only a matter of time, but he wanted his name to be her first word. Now he just had to make it happen.

"Dada," he cooed, an overly fake smile on his face as he tried to get her to smile and pay attention to him. "Come on, you can say it – Dada." She only gurgled some gibberish in response and he sighed. "I can't let you say Momma first, Elena will never let me forget it. You have to say my name first. Please? I'll buy you another toy. How about that really big, stuffed Dumbo at the mall? You love Dumbo!" She smiled and clapped her hands, making him laugh in response. "That's my girl. Now you just have to say it – Dada."

Just like every other time before, she continued to talk in gibberish, probably telling him in some baby language that he looked like a colossal idiot. If some of his coworkers could see him now. He'd never be able to walk into work ever again. He was Damon Salvatore, the cocky bastard that no one wanted to piss off. Yet, here he was, curled up on the couch with his daughter, resorting to baby talk and attempts at bribery to get her to say his name first. He'd officially come over to the dark side.

Was this what had become of his life? Hell yeah it had, and he loved every moment of it. So maybe he did look stupid. And maybe he did spend most of his nights watching Disney movies now instead of scoping out girls in his favorite bars. He was in love with the two best girls in the world now. He didn't need to look cool or hip. He just needed his daughter to say his damn name!

"Damon?" Elena called out as he heard the front door slam.

He looked over his shoulder so he could see her when she came around the corner. "Yeah, I'm in here." When she came into the room, he immediately noticed the dazed look on her face and the flush of her cheeks. "Something wrong?" he asked, moving to get up so he could get closer to her.

She had gone out with Bonnie for lunch to talk about Bonnie's upcoming wedding. After what felt like ten years, the girl was finally taking the plunge with her boyfriend, and Caroline and Elena were both trying to help her plan the wedding. Well, Caroline was trying to control it, but same thing really. Point was, nothing that out of the ordinary should have happened.

"I got a call from Stacey." His ears perked up at the mention of the editor of the novel she'd released a few months before. It wasn't out of the normal for Stacey to call her, they were friends, but if his wife looked like this, he knew it must be about the book.

"What did she say? Is it something bad?" He adjusted Charlotte in his arms so he could actually touch Elena and feel her skin beneath his, a move he knew comforted him and her both.

"Damon," she swallowed deeply, and he could tell she was trying to figure out how to say what she was trying to say, "I made the Times' Bestsellers."

"Like the New York Times?" he asked, his eyes wide. If she was saying what he thought she was saying, it was huge. He knew it had been one of her dreams since the moment she decided she wanted to write. So, for her to have actually accomplished that would mean the world to her, and he wanted that for her.

"Yeah," she choked out. "Like the New York Times."

"Oh my god!" he shouted, instantly tugging her against him. "You did it. You really did it!"

"I know," she cried, and he could already feel the wetness of her tears on his neck. "I can't believe it's real."

"Of course it is. You're amazing. It's only obvious that everyone else has found out what I already knew." He littered her face with kisses, leaving her laughing in his arms. "This is amazing."

"Momma!" a little voice came from between them, causing him and Elena to immediately freeze. Had he just heard what he thought he did? "Momma!"

"Charlotte!" Elena squealed, ripping her from his arms and holding her high in the air. "Say it again! Say it again!"

"Momma," Charlotte giggled, her feet kicking happily in the air.

"Damon, she did it! She said my name!"

Odds were he would probably look back not be proud of what he said, but it didn't stop him. "Oh, come on!" he screamed. "I've been begging you to say my name for an hour. She comes in the door and you just start blurting hers out? I offered you Dumbo!"

Elena lowered Charlotte to her hip, and pinned him with a stern gaze. "Did you try to bribe our child?"

"No!" he said indignantly. "I was merely trying to show her who the better parent was."

"Well, babe looks like you lost." She gleefully snuggled her face into Charlotte's neck. "Who's my baby girl? You are!"

He happily watched Elena snuggle up with their daughter, showering her with love and kisses that left her shrieking in joy. He may talk a big game, but at the end of the day, he didn't care that she'd said Momma first. It would have been nice to have the bragging rights, but he'd live. What he did care about was seeing the look of pure joy on his wife's face.

"I am so proud of you." She paused and looked up at him, her brown eyes shining with tears. "You deserve this, and I couldn't be happier."

"Really?" she whispered. "Even if she didn't say your name first?"

"Oh, who cares?" He gripped her waist, so he could tug her against him once again. "She was excited, just like I am."

"I can't believe this is happening."

"You better, because you earned it all. It's a great book, and I'm happy that so many people have realized it. I always knew you had it in you. All it took was you to find it."

She lovingly caressed his cheek with her hand. "I couldn't have done it without you."

"Yeah, you could've. Maybe I helped, but you didn't need me."

With a small sigh, she pressed her forehead against his, and he allowed his eyes to fall closed, reveling in the comfort of her touch. "I always need you."

Elena couldn't keep the smile from her face as she looked at her husband with their daughter curled up in his arms, happily asleep with her head on his chest. It amazed her that amidst all the talk and chaos that a room full of Salvatores could inspire, she still managed to be passed out cold, even though she had a bowl of ice cream an hour before. Maybe the short nap had done them some good after all. That, or her daughter was just as comforted by Damon's arms as she was.

It was sometimes hard to believe how she could have the worst day in the world, but the moment she found herself in his arms, every bad moment ceased to exist. He held the key to so many things in her life, and the ability to make her feel totally and completely safe and loved was merely one of them. Many thought he was a proud, self-centered man, but she knew different. No one was quicker to praise her than he was, no matter how hard she might try to get him to keep his mouth shut. Sometimes she even wondered if he was the reason she'd made the New York Times Bestsellers list. She wouldn't put it past him to buy thousands of copies. Yes, she knew it wasn't true, but he would do it if anyone ever gave him the idea. He was just that supportive of her, and she didn't know what she'd do without it. He gave her confidence when she couldn't find enough inside of her. Though he might not realize it, so much of what she'd accomplished had been because she'd had him.

Namely, their daughter.

Nothing could make her heart melt quicker than seeing them in moments like this, and none of it would be possible without him. He'd always been skeptical that he'd make a good father because of his rough childhood, but she'd always known otherwise. From the moment Charlotte drew her first breath, he'd been the best father that any child could ever have. That little girl was his world. Every fear he'd ever had had all been for nothing. He loved her and cared for her in every way any mother could ever want for her child. There was nothing he wouldn't do for that girl in his arms, and it was a beautiful love to be witness to.

It was a big reason why she wanted another one. She was nervous, and hadn't been responding to the possibility of it quite the way he had been, but that was how they worked. They seemed to approach everything differently, and this was no different. While she wasn't resistant to the idea, she was nervous, simply because she'd realized how much she did want it. One thing she'd come to know in her life was that wanting something so much could lead to a lot of pain.

Having Charlotte had quieted those doubts more than she'd ever know how to explain, but they still crept up from time to time. Right now was one of them. She'd get over it soon enough, she knew. It was simply the unknown that was scaring her and keeping her stuck in one place. That was why she needed Damon. Where she would want to dig her feet in and play pretend for awhile longer, he'd be next to her to pull her forward. He believed there was no point in being upset about something if you didn't even know if you had a reason to. And it was because of that belief, that she would finally take that test tonight. They just had to get their daughter to bed first.

"I know it's a little early," she started once there was a moment of silence in the group, "But I think we better get our little runt up to bed and turn in for the night."

"You two go to bed earlier than me," Giuseppe joked. "That feels backwards."

Elena smiled at her father-in-law warmly. All of the tension that had once been between them years ago was now gone. It took her a long time to trust him, but he'd made it easy in the end. All she had to do was see him love her daughter to know he was okay in her book.

"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up," Damon griped as he tried to stand up without disturbing Charlotte. If there was one thing she and he both knew it was that no one wanted to wake a sleeping Charlotte. It would get bad – Exorcist bad. Like the pro he was though, he managed to make the move into the upright position without stirring her in the slightest, and Elena sighed, knowing they were that much closer to the home stretch.

"Night guys," she said quietly, following Damon out of the living room. She nervously watched him ascend the stairs, keeping an eye on her daughter's head on his shoulder the entire time, watching for even the slightest indication that she might wake up. Luck was on their side tonight though, because he made it all into her room without a peep. "I'll roll the covers down," she told him, jumping ahead of him to get the bed ready. "I changed her diaper after dinner, so she should be good."

They got her safely tucked in and quietly left the room, giving each other a high five once the door was shut. "Ten points for being awesome parents."

She laughed as he followed her into their bedroom across the hall from Charlotte's. "We could be spies with our stealth moves."

"Ooh, like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, I like it."

She turned around and playfully slapped his chest. "I'd rather you not try to kill me."

"But it ended in really hot sex. I'm a fan of really hot sex." He pulled her into his body and nuzzled his face into her neck. "Want to have some?"

"Isn't that what got us into the situation you think we're in?" she questioned. Before she could even begin to relax into his arms, he was gone, leaving her cold and alone in the middle of the bedroom. "What the hell, Damon?"

"I almost forgot!" She watched him dig around in his suitcase until he finally pulled out a rectangular box and hold it up victoriously. "You said you'd take a test."

Her eyes narrowed in mock indignation as he came toward her, the box extended in her direction. "You are crazy." She held her hand out for the tests. "Give me."

He happily handed the box over and she disappeared into the bathroom to take the test. It all felt like a giant case of déjà vu. Several years ago, she'd confessed to Damon she thought she was pregnant, prompting him to go out and buy pregnancy tests for her to take. She'd locked herself in the bathroom for ages, scared to come out after she saw that positive test result.

She'd been petrified of what it all meant and what would come next. She hadn't been ready for motherhood at that point in her life, and she and Damon were nowhere close to being able to easily co-parent together. They were just learning how to navigate the muddy relationship they had found themselves in. She'd had no idea how to fit a child into that at the time. It took her weeks to even begin to get on board with the idea of having a baby. By the time she had, she lost it, and then she was lost in a whole other world of doubts and frustrations.

This time, things were nothing like that. Now they had a real, breathing embodiment of their love in their precious daughter. She and Damon were married, and had been for three years. They were solid and more in love than ever. In the end, all of the pain and anguish had been worth it, because they came through it and had everything they'd ever wanted. They had their family and a life that they loved. This time, even if the pregnancy would be unexpected, there were no outside forces they had to deal with. It wasn't something she felt she wasn't ready for. She had the proof that she could do it and that she would love doing it.

So when she came out of the bathroom, nervously twisting her hands in front of her and looked at her anxious husband sitting on the edge of the bed, she simply smiled. "Three minutes and we'll have our answer."

Damon looked up from the rug and asked, "Do you remember when we first brought Charlotte home from the hospital? She cried for days, and I honestly thought we'd signed ourselves up for so much more than we could handle." She silently nodded, remembering that time well. "Yet, here we are, ready to do it all again."

She laughed quietly and sat down next to him on the bed, resting her head on his shoulder. "I think she was trying to show us who was running the show before we got too comfortable." Because after that first week of hell, she'd flipped on a dime, sleeping for hours, suddenly the most adjusted newborn ever.

"She's a girl who knows what she wants and when she wants it."

"I have no idea where she could possibly get that from," Elena teased softly.

"It couldn't be me," he laughed. "I'm the most patient, laid back man you've ever met."

"And I have no issues with dealing with problems as they happen."

Damon's arms slid around her waist. "We made a pretty awesome little girl."

"Think lightning can strike twice?" she pondered.

"I think it gives us a second shot if we screw her up. We've got 50/50 odds of having one child transition successfully into adulthood."

"I guess you have a point," she joked lightly, but her laughter quickly died down along with Damon's. The moment grew serious and heavy with the information they could very well learn in just a few moments. "You really want this?"

"I do. I want another baby with you. I want to do the whole morning sickness, mood swings, late-night feedings, and vomiting all over me again."

"Ditto."

Damon looked at the clock on the bedside table. "It's time. Ready to go look?"

"Yeah, let's do this." She went into the bathroom to retrieve the test and carry it back into the bedroom. "Moment of truth." Her heart pounded loudly in her chest and her hands were shaky as she turned over the test to reveal the answer. This would tell them whether they would go on continuing their life as the parents to one, adorable little girl, or whether they now needed to prepare for another child.

"And?" Damon asked. "What does it say?"

Elena held up the test for him to see. "I'm pregnant."

"Really?" Damon lunged for, grabbing for the test so he could see for himself. "Holy shit! We're having a baby."

"Yeah," she happily nodded her head, tears springing to her eyes, "We're having a baby."

Damon took her in his arms, lifting her from the ground and spinning her around. "And I'm not drunk!"

Elena burst into laughter. "You're not drunk."

"Man, am I good at knocking you up."

"Damon," she squealed. "You can't say that."

He roughly set her down on her feet, leaving her off-balance and gripping to him as she waited for her world to go right side up again. "It's true. This is the third time I have gotten you pregnant with little to no effort. I rock!"

"I cannot believe you are turning this into a show of your manhood. Have you ever thought that maybe I just have really awesome eggs? I could be the amazing one in this equation."

"We'll half it, it's both of us," he conceded.

"Really?" she gasped. "It takes two to make a baby?"

"Oh, come here, smart ass." He grabbed her neck and brought his mouth to hers, leaving her breathless as his hands skimmed down her body and below her shirt, blazing a trail over her bare skin. Every inch of her was flush against him, but she ached for more. She always ached for more.

"I'll never be able to get enough of you," she murmured against his mouth.

"Good, cause I'm not ever letting you go. You consume every part of me."