Chapter 9: Sunday Sundown part 2

….

She stares at the spot where Klaus's body had been, her heart beating erratically, slowing to the point of stopping when her eyes fell onto Damon's. Their hands drop from each other's, a motion which seems to occur in slow motion. Despite the fact they've been wishing, hoping, praying this moment's arrival, now that it's actually here, there isn't much they can really say.

It's because of Klaus her aunt rests below the earth, instead of in between the arms of Alaric.

It's because of Klaus Stefan became such a stranger to her, turning their beautiful memories into bittersweet photographs on a page she can only look at, never relive.

It's because of Klaus she sleeps fitfully at night, her dreams always turning into nightmares at the bitter end.

And still, she can't summon up a single word to say to embody all those emotions fighting for dominance. Her hand rises to her hair, tucking away a stray hair, and she allows the silence to breathe, not out of respect for Klaus but out of respect for each and every single person's life he made a misery – and, yes, she includes Katherine in that, although she's sure her doppelganger doesn't particularly deserve that respect.

In the end, Damon is the first to break the silence.

"So…" he begins, his tongue running along his lower lip, testing the water before proceeding. "The dragon has been slayed at last. How does one really react to that?"

She shakes her head, unable to answer. In fact, she turns away, realizing it's almost a bitter pill to swallow that Klaus is dead. She's glad of it, don't get her wrong, but every emotion she'd put on hold on dealing with until Klaus had been killed suddenly crawls into life, making sure she suffers one last time.

She falls gracelessly to her knees, her head sinking into her hands, allowing the last of her despair to ebb away, like the last tide of the night before the dawn arrives, bringing with it the sun and all other symbolic forms of hope. In her mind, she relives the sacrifice, remembering as Jenna's non-accusatory eyes rolled briefly onto hers – for the last time, as it turned out – before the stake had plunged into her body, causing her face to turn a smoky grey in colour before hardening forever. She recalls every detail of that night, from the heat of the flames surrounding her – blocking her from trying to halt the procedure in anyway – to the feeling of having every drop of blood in her body being drained out of her. She remembers the screams of Jules, the werewolf being sacrificed, draining out the crackling of the flames, remembers the moon's taunting presence in the sky, remembers ever little detail that shouldn't matter now but does all the same.

They matter because as much retribution it brings her to see the end of Klaus's reign of terror, those moments can never be erased. They exist, and will continue to exist for as long as her memory endures.

A bizarre thought occurs her, but she brushes it away impatiently. It would be so easy, so tempting, to get Damon to ask her to compel her to forget all those dark memories she'd rather not dwell on, but she needs to remember it all. As Jeremy proved, compulsion only takes away the memories, not the feelings those particular memories brought. Forgetting that night won't make her forget how lost she still is.

"Well, you possess more strength than I thought possible," Mikael comments, his voice breaking into her thoughts. "That stake, though not designed to be particularly harmful to humans, was conceptually created for a vampire to be the one to wield it." He shrugs, as though the thought doesn't particular bother him. "I'd been waiting a long time to put an end to him."

"I'm sorry that moment was robbed," Elena speaks, her voice cool and detached, and she avoids his eyes. "But I saw an opportunity and I took it. I regret nothing."

She glances over at Damon, and sees an unmistakeable glimmer of pride within his eyes, and manages the smallest of smiles.

"It's done now," Mikael sighs, and she averts her eyes, just to see his expression, which is a mixture of regret and disappointment, but not for the life lost.

"What are you going to do now?" she asks, her voice quiet, sombre.

He doesn't answer for a moment, his eyes flicking to hers, something close to curiosity dawning before he instantly dispels it. In that moment, she sees Klaus again, and realizes they got rid of one Klaus only to be left with another. She doesn't really know how to process that information so, like always, she shoves it to the back of her mind, hoping against hope no other future problems will stem from that action.

"I'm going to mourn my family in peace," Mikael eventually says quietly, though nothing in his tone suggests he's sincere about that. "That despicable piece of vermin I once called my son is dead, and he took the lives of my family along with him. Knowing Niklaus, they're probably somewhere nearby – I heard down the grapevine he had an affinity for carting around his siblings in coffins, don't get me started on the irony of that – but I no longer possess the energy to try and reclaim what is lost."

She considers the words carefully, her head tilting to one side, allowing her hair to cascade across her face, shadowing part of her face.

"You didn't always hate Klaus," she realizes quietly.

"Once he was my son. When I realized he wasn't, I tried, for a time, to try and still see him as just that. But the problem is, once you realize something is tainted, it's hard to see it the way you once did." Mikael doesn't show any emotion, which hardly surprises her. "He's dead, and still I can't feel a damn thing but relief." He briefly inclines his head. "I thank you for the parts you played in ridding the world of one more monster, but I hope you take no offence when I say I sincerely hope our paths never cross again."

"None taken," Damon immediately interrupts, his expression grim. "The feeling is mutual, rest assured."

Something close to amusement flitters briefly across Mikael's face – as fleeting and as insightful as the blink of a star – but he turns away, electing not to blur away as they'd hoped, but to walk slowly into the distance. Damon's first instinct is to take the stake, the stake he'd left behind, funnily enough, and drive it through him, as a last hefty measure of precaution, but he shakes his head, answering Elena's inquisitive look with a rather morbid statement.

"Enough blood has been spilt in this town. Even if that arrogant, heartless, cruel dick does deserve to be spit roasted, I don't really have the energy to try and take him down."

He gives her a slow smile, waiting for her to return it. She doesn't. Her eyes are heavy, like she's on the edge of crying but unwilling to break. It doesn't surprise him – she reminds him of Stefan like that, the way they both could be insufferable martyrs when it came to their emotions. He takes a hesitant step forward, like he's prepared to catch her, but she shakes her head, silently telling him she'll be okay, and that's when something beautiful happens.

A shard of light, caught in the pink throes of dusk, falls directly onto Elena, highlighting and, in some cases, accentuating her features. Everything is magnified, from the gentle blush caressing her cheeks, to the curves along her body, a perfect hourglass shape most girls would kill for, to the slight twist in her smile, which seems to show her sadness more than her happiness. He can't for the life of him figure out what is exactly sad about this occasion. Klaus is dead – dead, dead – and he is waiting patiently for the gloomy veil of denial to disappear so she can relish that fact.

Maybe that's asking for a miracle though, because he knows better than anyone Elena has this weird process of dealing with situations whereby she prolongs feeling anything for the longest time possible, until such a time when all her emotions come screaming back at her. It's a bizarre thing to do, until he realizes with almost a hint of guilt he does exactly the same thing, remembering how he reacted to Rose's death.

"He's really gone," Elena eventually breathes, her tones dulcet, quiet.

"Yep." He can only manage monosyllabic sentences, fearing anything more than that will force some repressed emotions to the surface. "Seems so."

They lock eyes, somehow managing to say more with that one look than they could've done if they'd opened their mouths.

Then, a more pressing question crosses Elena's lips as she surveys Rebekah's body.

"How did you do that?" she demands. "Stabbing Rebekah should've killed you."

He glances at the knife lodged in Rebekah's heart, his eyes flicking onto his own body, a look of distinct surprise emerging, as if he'd not considered that.

"I have no idea," he says, bracing himself for death, if death indeed is supposed to come and claim him.

"Come to think of it, who even made up that rule? The one that said vampires couldn't wield that sort of weapon against Originals without dying themselves?"

He shrugs, unconcerned.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing had been concocted as a way of making sure vampires didn't get close enough to try it," he says, keeping his voice mild, secretly prodding himself as a way of checking he is actually still alive.

"We read about it in Jonathan Gilbert's journal, so it isn't exactly public knowledge," Elena muses. "And I'm assuming he got his knowledge from somewhere else…"

He allows her to mumble theories to herself, deciding to keep one last secret from her. He'd been fully prepared to take that last bullet for her, to keep Rebekah down at the expense of his own life so that Klaus, distracted by grief – well, he wouldn't go that far, as grief suggest Klaus had even the slightest traces of humanity – would be too preoccupied to notice Mikael surging towards him, white dagger in hand. In truth, the fact he's alive staggers him. Driving the blade into Rebekah's heart had certainly sent some none too pleasant convulsions up and down his arms, the surges reaching his heart, presumably on course to stop it, but something had prevented them from doing so.

His theory is witchcraft. Anything that cannot be explained, he turns to witchcraft as his answer. Why he would be spared such a deserving fate as death, he doesn't quite understand, but he could've sworn, moments before he'd been kicked back into action, he'd seen Emily Bennett's face.

He has a number of theories about that, but none he particularly wants to dwell on. Ultimately, it would mean having this unmistakeable tie to all Bennett witches, and that thought makes him want to die with humiliation, and also, to an extent, to Katherine. It'd been his love for Katherine, and Emily's loyalty to Katherine, which had started this chain of events he could never have predicted.

In part, he realizes his survival really can be explained in a twofold way. His love for and connection to Katherine has kept him protected – his desire to see her again kept him pushing through the darkness, kept him from shedding his ring and walking into the sunlight (something he'd considered numerous times decades before meeting Elena), and her name, though cursed by the many hearts she's toyed with, has, unwittingly, protected him without him even realizing it.

"It's okay to love them both…. I did."

He can never be sure if she really meant that perplexing statement to Elena, but he has one more reason to hate Katherine now. Just when he finds some sort of way to put whatever feelings he had for her to rest, she then has to go pull some sort of stunt, or, in this case, reawaken an old tie, in order to save his life, meaning his mind is once again thrown into turmoil.

It's not that he loves her anymore, no, that ship sailed long ago. It's just he wishes he knew what to think, how to feel about her.

In that department then, he concludes, he can definitely see similarities between Katherine and Elena.

Just when he thinks he knows everything there is to know about them, they throw a curveball at him, which completely stumps him.

But there, and only there, lies the only similarity.

Elena is pure of heart, her intentions always selfless, always giving, and Katherine's heart is black as coal, her intentions always questionable at best. It would be amusing, if not completely bewildering, how they've managed to both frustrate and startle him in equal measures, often provoking emotions veering towards the violent end of the spectrum, and yet somehow his heart remains with the human Petrova, something any former version of Damon – human or vampire – would've found difficult to comprehend.

But even now, he doesn't doubt it's the right choice.

….

Sharing the load of Rebekah in their arms, Elena and Damon gently carry Rebekah into the basement, lowering her gently to the ground before standing up, their faces reflecting a sense of contemplation, mostly in regards to her situation.

"What do we do with her?" Elena enquires, a wave of guilt crossing her face. "Do we remove the dagger or - ?"

"We don't have to decide right now," Damon tells her, as if sensing her unease. "She's not going anywhere." He gives a lopsided smile. "That's the beauty of her being dead – she's not going to screw us over."

"I know," Elena remarks quietly. "But, in a weird way, I don't feel like she deserves being dead. I mean, she doesn't know the real story, that Klaus killed her mother not Mikael. I mean, shouldn't she at least know the story?"

"She won't listen. I find nine times out of ten, angry, vengeful Originals don't tend to listen to reason. They just attack."

"Yeah, but…" Elena pauses, before letting her shoulders slump. "I suppose you're right."

"Of course I am," Damon replies cheerfully, clapping his hands together. "We still have the stake, so we can easily kill her if we – " He pauses, suddenly feeling his pockets, presumably searching for the stake. "Damn it," he mutters, sounding irritated. "It's gone."

"Mikael took it?"

"Of course. He knew there was a chance we could've turned on him, so he's taken it with him," Damon spits, sounding sour. "If we ever come across another Original, it'll be too soon." He shakes his head, disgusted. "They're all the same. Underhanded, sneaky, deceptive…"

"Easy, Damon," she soothes, putting her hand on his shoulder. "It's over."

He gives her a dark look.

"As long as there are Originals in this world, it'll never be over," he tells her bleakly. "But I suppose we should celebrate this victory. God knows I could use a drink. How 'bout you?"

She nods.

"I could do with some liquor," she agrees, and the two of them exit the basement, shutting the door, and heading towards the living room.

In between the basement and the living room, she suddenly realizes why she feels so pissed off, rather than victorious. As soon as they cross into the living room, she spins Damon around, looking immediately angry.

"You lied to me," she says, matter-of-factly.

"Yep." He doesn't even try to deny it. "So?"

"So?" she hisses. "I thought we were done with all this secret agenda business? I thought I could trust you."

"Considering my secret agenda resulted in Klaus's death, I'll chalk your behaviour down to post-traumatic stress disorder," Damon replies coolly.

She sighs, running a hand through her hair.

"Damon, I didn't want you to intervene. The whole point of this week was to forget, to let fate decide what happened. Wasn't that the agreement?"

"You agreed. I simply remained impassive."

She glares daggers at him, suddenly furious.

"This whole week was a lie wasn't it?"

"In part," Damon says, brutally honest. "But I can assure you everything I said, everything I did, was real. I might be an excellent actor, but even I can't feign putting up with you for a week." His eyes glint with dark humour. "Look, I had to keep you preoccupied. I knew sooner or later you'd break down, confess to the fact you weren't ready to give up, it was just a matter of when. I made sure Tyler was out of the way, I made sure Bonnie and Caroline bombarded you with their problems, to keep you from thinking about yours. I even made sure Alaric and Jeremy were clued in, so that they could play their parts."

"So everyone knew but me?" Elena interjected angrily.

"Yes, because we knew you'd try and play the role of martyr, and we also knew this time you wouldn't listen to reason," Damon explained patiently. "So I clued everyone in, made sure Katherine dropped in to give you her ominous warning about Klaus, just to get your brain ticking." He smiles humourlessly. "I hadn't realized quite how effective Katherine's little speech would be."

"Perfect," Elena snarls, throwing her hands up in the air. "Everyone knew but me, even Katherine." She calms herself down, breathing slowly so that her next question can emerge without being clouded by her anger. "So Mikael didn't flee I suppose?"

"No," Damon replies, suspicious of her calm demeanour. "The moment he heard Klaus was in town, he was eager to help any way he could. Eager being the understatement of the century. He was practically frothing at the mouth at the chance of laying his hands on Klaus. Persuading him to help, therefore, was no problem but we had to be sneaky."

"We?" Elena asks, her ears picking up the key word.

"Me and Katherine," Damon admits, literally hating himself for allowing that horrible sentence to escape his lips. "It was important – nay, crucial – you knew as little as possible. You and Stefan. If Klaus had even the merest hint of Mikael's return, he would've grabbed you and the Lockwood kid and would've fled town, and our plans would've been for nothing. And it was equally as important to keep you out of the loop because there was a high risk you would've tried to stop us. And Katherine would have killed you if you had. Something about her wanting Klaus dead, or whatever…"

She contemplates all this, various emotions – most of them conflicting – crossing her face. She appreciates the lengths Damon has gone to in order to protect her, but can he not understand that had a single part of his plan gone wrong she wouldn't have been paying the consequences? The town would've rained blood – the blood of her friends to be precise.

"Where's Tyler now?" she asks, deciding to get as much detail as she can before she reacts. "You said you'd taken him away…"

"Chained in the Lockwood cellar," Damon grins. "Naturally, he kicked up a hell of a fuss even I had to appreciate, but some vervain was enough to put that doggy down, at least for a while."

"So he's okay?"

Damon's eyes soften.

"He'll be just fine, Elena. I don't know what killing Klaus will do for him, if it'll help him at all, but the tie will no longer be there."

She nods, sinking down on to the couch, before addressing a question she's wanted to ask for a while, a question she's not entirely sure Damon is innocent of not knowing the answer to.

"How did you survive stabbing Rebekah?" she asks softly. "The truth, this time, Damon."

He searches for an answer which will placate them both, because, truthfully, he wants an answer for himself, a definitive one. Instead, he decides to tell her his theory, and pass it off as an actual answer.

"When I told Bonnie what was going to go down," he says, his voice hesitant, his words carefully selected, "she knew as well as I there was a chance I might kill myself trying to save you. She mentioned about an idea she had which could lessen the impact of stabbing Rebekah. Sure, there was still a chance I could die, but at least it extended my time so I could see the bastard die once and for all. It was a…compromise." He sees tears of shock emerge in her eyes, but continues on, "I didn't even think when the time came. I drove the dagger into her heart, and I waited until Klaus was dead, and then it didn't strike me until afterwards that I should've been dead."

He doesn't realize until she's only inches away that she's saddled closer to him, staring at him with undisguised reverence, like he's some sort of angel. He steps back a little, uncomfortable with her stare. He doesn't want to be treated like a hero, like he's some sort of miracle in its own right. He knows what he really is, and, like Stefan, he battles his nature in more ways than one. In fact, her heart's erratic beating pattern floods his mind, serving as a dark reminder there'll always be a part of him he'll have to close off from her.

"You think Bonnie had something to do with protecting you," Elena guesses softly, her face creasing with silent affection for her friend.

"Maybe. I wouldn't probe her about it though," Damon says, shuddering. "If she knows I know, she'll lord that fact over me from now until the next crisis hits this humble little town."

She frowns, concerned by that remark.

"You really think there'll be another crisis?"

"Sure. We'd be foolish not to consider the fact other creatures might one day be drawn to this place," he says, looking away for the briefest of moments. "But I don't want to think about that."

She looks up at him, tracing his inanely beautiful features with her eyes. His sculpted chin, the odd curl in his hair, the layers of pain buried deep in the corners of his eyes all make for a fascinating observation. She knows she should be angrier than this, but why hold on to anger when she can just be thankful she's alive and here? She knows Damon is waiting for her next onslaught, which is why she takes it upon herself to surprise him.

Tangling her fingers with his, she tenderly presses her lips against his, allowing them to remain there for a second or so, waiting for his response. It takes him a moment, but he warms to the occasion. He takes her hands carefully in his, loops them around his neck, before assaulting her lips time and time again. In that moment, he realizes he finally has her. There's no Stefan to interrupt this moment, no one else left to judge them for this precious thing they've created together. In reality, he should've let her skip to her friends, let them celebrate the demise of a mutual enemy, but, hell, he's not been selfish in a long time – too long.

His hand tilts her head up as he breaks off the kiss, enjoying the look of disappointment in her eyes – disappointment, he knows too well, stems from desire, a desire he would normally be quick to respond to but he knows there's more to tell her, more he needs to say before this moment shatters like glass.

"Stefan's gone, Elena," he tells her, and the name snaps her into the present.

"What?" she asks quietly, her eyebrows skyrocketing into the depths of her hair. "He's gone… gone where?"

"Somewhere safe. That's all I can tell you for the moment," he explains, gazing at her quietly. "I gave him an ultimatum – either he stayed and made your life hell, or he went to try and get some help. Vampire therapy, of sorts." He smiles wryly at the invented term. "He chose the latter."

"But why would he?" Elena persists, looking confused. "Unless he – "

"He had his humanity the moment he heard you say you loved me, Elena," Damon tells her quietly, keeping his hands on her face, as if his fingers can massage some comfort into her pained features. "He's just better at putting on a show face than I ever gave him credit for."

He expects her to fold, expects her to break, but she once again surprises him. She closes her eyes briefly, and he almost sees her mentally close the book on Stefan, and then she gives a twisted smile.

"I knew it," she murmurs quietly. "I'd been flogging myself for being the one who made him turn off his humanity again, but a part of me just knew, you know. You don't celebrate the return of something by getting rid of it."

"You're not mad at me for keeping that from you?" he asks, sounding incredulous.

"No," she says, shaking her head. "I can't tame you, Damon. I can't make you into someone who has to do everything I ask because it's me. It's not fair." She hesitates for the briefest of moments. "Will he be okay, do you think?"

"Hard to say," he admits. "A part of me wants to say yes, but it's Stefan, so I can't be sure. He's stubborn, irrational, and prone to severe levels of broodiness, but I guess he'll be okay." He smiles, and it's a bitter smile. "He has something to fight for after all."

She scrutinise his bitter smile, before realizing exactly what it is Damon is implying. He believes because Stefan is on the path to becoming the person he'd been before, she'll automatically flock to him, because the remnants of her love for him still reside within her heart. It's a pretty convincing argument, and she can certainly see why he'd think that.

But it's not true. Not anymore.

"Damon," she begins, hesitating like he'd done before. "Stefan may be on the path to getting better, but this doesn't change the way I feel about you. I love you. It frightens me, sometimes, the lengths you'll go to save my life, but maybe that's what our love has to be – extreme. It's never been a black and white world we live in, with everything dividing evenly into the categories of good and bad. But you're a grey area, at least to me. There have been times I've hated you, hated you because your impulsive actions have hurt me time and time again. But over time I realized why you did everything. Katherine broke you, she broke your heart, and all you'd ever done was try and fill the void her absence had left. I didn't want you feeling that way about me because her story had ended in such tragedy, such violence, and I couldn't let myself let that part of history repeat itself. Plus I was so convinced me and Stefan were meant to be that it was easy to put aside whatever it was I felt for you – "

She's cut short as Damon presses his lips against hers.

"I wasn't done talking," she says indignantly, when he'd released her.

"I know," he smirks. "But you were rambling, and I'd gotten the point about a few sentences back."

She grumbles incoherently, but smiles good-naturedly, rising on her tiptoes to meet his lips again.

"Oh, and for the record," he says casually, after their battle for dominance – and breath – reaches its conclusion. "I love you too."

Her smile widens to an almost ridiculous length.

It's the happiest he's seen her in a long time.

….

It takes them a while, but soon things start to get on track.

It's an achingly slow process, in fact. The remnants of Tyler's loyalty to Klaus drives them all mad, what with his frequent outbursts, sometimes directed at people who don't even deserve to be on the end of his temper. But, eventually, Caroline manages to soothe him into reaching this place of serenity, where he becomes similar to the person he'd been before Klaus had turned him into a hybrid. His dreams are frequented by Klaus, and that may be a side effect, according to Bonnie, which will never be erased, because, let's face it, being sired by Klaus was bound to have had a permanent effect of some kind, but Caroline assures everyone it's just a glitch they can straighten out, although she can never quite hide her worry whenever she says this.

Katherine drops in for a last time, her intentions as obvious as they are tiring to hear. She enquires after Stefan, but Damon refuses to give up the address, somehow managing to compliment and insult his former lover in one breath by telling her his brother no longer needs manipulative little sluts poisoning his new life as a free man, although admittedly the aforementioned manipulative little sluts did have their uses.

After scowling, and throwing in a few more digs at Elena's expense, she turns on her heels without another word, unable to throw one last longing look in Damon's direction before disappearing out of the door. She doesn't say where she plans to go next, but odds are she's going after Stefan. A part of Elena wants to protest –almost does – but she lets Katherine go, deciding it's not really her decision as to whether or not Katherine seeks out her former boyfriend anymore.

At some point, Elena and Damon come to the decision to remove the dagger out of Rebekah's body. Elena is the one to do it, her hands trembling as she removes the weapon from her chest. The wait is agonisingly slow but, eventually, Rebekah gasps into life, immediately clinging to the proffered bag of blood Damon has before draining it dry. Her first instinct is to attack, but Elena persuades her to hold off on her attack until the entire story is told.

Predictably, Rebekah doesn't respond well to the news her brother is dead, or to the news he'd been the one to kill their mother. But after a few moments of frantic hissing, and sharp screams that threaten to tear their heads in two, she succumbs to tears, fleeing out of sight and out of town. They don't hear from her again, and it disturbs them slightly, their entire beings braced for a retaliation of some sort because nothing is ever that easy for them.

Bonnie and Jeremy's relationship also seems to steer itself out of rocky waters, after a frank and open discussion which involves a flood of tears on both sides as both recall people they cared for deeply. Elena isn't present, naturally, but from what she gathers, it does a world of good for Jeremy, who suddenly stops drawing Anna, and focuses on other things, telling her he's decided to pursue his passion of art, and that a local college he's been thinking of applying to when the time comes has asked to see a portfolio of his work. She inwardly wants to throw her arms around him, tell him she's so proud of him, but she doesn't want to baby him. Instead, she tells him with an earnest expression their parents would be so proud, and that she'll help him any way she can. He throws his arms around her, taking her by surprise, apologizing for the way he reacted to her making Damon take away his memories of Vicki, stating as a response to her confused look that being on the other side for a change sucked, and that he hated lying even though it'd been necessary.

Everything else seems to come together after that.

The one thing, however, which seems to bud and blossom on its own, seems to be hers and Damon's relationship. What delights her is that nothing really seems to change for them – not on a dramatic scale anyway. Damon still greets her with a snide comment, which she promptly shoots down before they lock lips, each grinning as though they've cooked up this little secret together.

His personality doesn't change. In fact, if anything he seems determined to hold on to parts of his former self, something which prompts the occasional argument. But as she rages, and he yells, about halfway through they realize with a small smile that this is exactly what love is. It's about one part passion, one part dedication, and one part trust. After that, the argument becomes void, and they fall together, exhausted by trying to fight what they know they cannot.

A few months after Klaus's departure – roughly five or six judging by her calendar – she walks into the Boarding House, grinning broadly after having spent the day shopping with Caroline and Bonnie, her eyes instinctively searching for Damon. They roll around the room like marbles, searching for that familiarity before she has to conclude he's not here.

She walks into the kitchen, surprised to see two slips of paper on the counter, a note residing beside them. Curious, she casts aside her bags, reaching for the note, suddenly feeling apprehensive, her eyes taking in the beautiful handwriting before her eyes digest the words.

Dearest Elena,

I acquired these a few months back, sensing if my plan didn't work, and I still, somehow, survived, a quick getaway would be in order. However, since the tickets are still valid – my persuasive techniques managed to acquire tickets with no expiration date, how clever is that? – I think it would be a splendid idea if we were to, I don't know, take a pause on reality. You mentioned never going abroad, which, in my book, is a sin, so take a look at the tickets, and see what you think.

Love, Damon

A spark of excitement flares inside her heart, and her fingers tremble as she picks up the tickets, her eyes scanning them carefully before her heart gives a jolt of familiarity, even though she's never been there before.

Italy.

And within a few moments, she feels his breath tickling her ear, his hands hovering lightly on her waist, and a broad smile breaks out across her face.

"What do you think?" he murmurs lightly. "Too soon?"

For once, words fail her, and she turns so she's gazing into his beautiful electric blue eyes.

"I think it's a brilliant plan," she says, beaming. "But who would this second ticket be for?" Her smile becomes teasing. "Jeremy wouldn't want to go – he hates Italian food – so maybe Bonnie…?"

He growls, before attacking her lips, his grip on her tightening, a silent way of making his claim on her.

"Alright," she gasps, trying desperately to reclaim some air. "I'll take you! I'll take you!"

"How generous," he smirks. "How on earth did you afford two tickets to Italy, tickets with no expiration date and first class at that rate?"

"First class?" She gawps at the tickets. "Wow…"

"So, are we going or what?" he asks, tugging at a strand of her hair. "There's a flight at five, if we wanted to go tonight."

She bites her lip, unsure whether going on holiday with Damon is a step she is ready to take. But as she looks into his shining eyes, the tickets pressed into her palms so she doesn't lose them, she knows her answer.

"Okay," she says, releasing the breath she'd been holding, laughing nervously. "Okay – let's do this."

He doesn't respond at first, although his growing smile seems to say it all. She takes this to mean he'd been expecting her to refuse. It seems even now Damon still has the ability to surprise her, and she loves that about him. She sees the humanity in him more than he sees it in himself, and there are moments where she yells herself hoarse trying to reign in his brutish temper, but it gets to the point where she knows Damon will always be unpredictable.

Maybe that's what her life had always needed, that element of unpredictability.

She can certainly say her life isn't boring, and with Damon around for the long haul it seems it never will be.

T/H/E/E/N/D

A/n: thank you all so much for all the kind reviews and praise. I deliberately left the mystery of how Damon survived stabbing Rebekah as a mystery for a reason, but assume it's witchcraft, as that's how most problems seem to be fixed on the show lol. I will be sad to conclude this fic because this is my best fic yet in terms of writing but now I can concentrate on my other unfinished fics lol. Thanks again and I hope this was wrapped up nicely for you all.