Next Time

By Tenshinrtaiga

Disclaimer: I don't own the Vampire Diaries

Summary: For Wigbee71583 at the Vampire Diaries Free-For-All Comment Ficathon: Part 3 (p.16). Elena's heart breaks many times over the years, but she never quite learns to protect it.



Most things break, including hearts. The lessons of life amount not to wisdom, but to scar tissue and callus.

Elena watched with tears streaming down her face as Stefan packed a bag and left the boarding house, never once looking back. He couldn't stand being in the same town with the constant reminders of what he had done while he was a Ripper. He hadn't asked her to come with him, but she didn't offer either. He had been right. Even when Stefan had returned to Mystic Falls, things could no longer go back to the way they were.

Watching his car as it drove away, Elena vowed to herself to try and protect her heart more closely next time.

Barely four months later, Elena watched as Damon stormed out of her house in a rage. He had had enough. He was tired of competing for her affection with someone who wasn't even there anymore. Even with Stefan out of the picture, Damon was still never first. Logically, she knew she couldn't blame him for leaving, but it didn't stop the pangs in her heart. So Elena sat at her window and vowed that next time, she'd try and protect her heart more closely.

Elena was twenty four when Caroline came up to her in tears. Caroline had been seventeen for the last seven years and people were beginning to notice. She had already been by Bonnie's and her mother's. Elena was the last one Caroline came to say goodbye to. Watching from the front step of the Grill as Caroline boarded a bus, Elena vowed to try and protect her heart more closely next time.

On Elena's twenty-eighth birthday, she received a phone call from her little brother. Jeremy had met a vampire and had been going out with her for almost two years. He had made the decision to turn. Her brother had died and came back as a vampire. He turned for the woman he loved. He was living the life Elena almost had. Listening to her brother tell her about his new life with the woman he loved more than life itself, Elena let a tear slip down her cheek. Next time, Elena vowed, she would try and protect her heart more closely.

Six years later, Elena returned to Mystic Falls to be the Maid of Honor in her best friend Bonnie's wedding. It was here that she met Jeremy's vampire wife and found out that Caroline had met up with Damon in Europe and the two were now traveling with Stefan across South America. Watching as Bonnie said 'I Do' to the man she wanted to spend her life with; wanted to settle down and have children with, Elena vowed to try and protect her heart more closely next time.

Elena was forty-four when she realized that everything she ever wanted, she couldn't have. She had refused to turn because she had wanted to live life and grow old. Though she was getting older, she had hardly lived her life. She refused to be with Damon because she still loved his brother, but she had lost Stefan a long time ago. She had lost touch with Caroline because Elena was too damn scared to leave her hometown even at twenty-four. And she no longer spoke to Bonnie because watching her best friend start a family with her husband made Elena realize that she had neither of those things in her life.

She decided then that most things break, including hearts. The lessons of life amount not to wisdom, but to scar tissue and calluses. Closing her eyes and trying to ignore the tears that threatened to slip through, Elena tucked her head into her arm and vowed to try and protect her heart more closely next time.

She was seventy-two and in the hospital when she woke up to find all of her friends crowding around her. Bonnie sat next to her, her aged hand holding onto Elena's equally aged one. Jeremy sat at Elena's feet, eyes wet with tears. Caroline stood at the foot of her hospital bed, worrying her lip so harshly that even her vampire healing couldn't work fast enough to heal it. The two Salvatores – the only men she ever loved – stood side by side at her bedside, both of them equally grim.

Elena died with a smile on her face, happy that despite the many vows she made to protect her heart, she was never able to. She died with her heart uncalloused and unscarred knowing that though her heart may have been broken, at least she had allowed them in to stitch it back up.