The look on his face was easy to ignore on the drive home, where she could avert her eyes to the window and lose herself in the passing trees and houses. But now as he sat in front of her with that same look…she couldn't ignore it.
"Just say it." she prompted.
Matt shook his head. "I just don't get it. Your..thing..with them."
"I know it doesn't make sense." Elena assured him. "But at the beginning..after my parents died..there was just something about being with Stefan that just felt…safe.."
"Safe?" Matt sputtered in disbelief. "Elena, he's a vampire."
"I know. Believe me, just saying it out loud sounds crazy, but…it's like I knew he would never stop loving me. Like he would never…" Her voice trailed off, mind caught in the distant past that was her and Stefan's love.
"Die." she said at last. Her chocolate orbs found his and she held them there together, her mouth forming the word again. "Like he would never die."
Realization flooded over Matt like a warm blanket. It seemed all those years lifting weights at the gym could never prepare him for this; the mental strength of understanding what it was that made Elena Gilbert let go of him. Now, he knew. He knew it was not because she didn't love him. He knew it was not because he wasn't good enough. "Like your parents did." he breathed. She had been afraid to lose him and therefore, to prevent herself from more loss, she let go of him. Though his feelings for Elena had dulled since then, he wished that she knew he would always had been there for her. When her parents died, Matt was prepared to take care of her. To be her everything and more, her faithful companion that would take her hand and whisper, "You'll get through this."
But she dumped him instead and sought the immortal soul that was Stefan. He could never fall like Matt could fall. If anything, Elena knew she would die long before Stefan would. She wanted that. Oh, it was clear now! She wanted somebody that was positively outlive her.
Matt grinned, happy that the truth was revealed. He was happy to know that this is what drew them apart. It was not their differences, but simply the fact Stefan would never leave. But then, he remembered, there was somebody else. Someone that, too, would never die - though that would hardly prove as a valid excuse for falling for him.
Elena's eyes turned dark, her heart fluttering nervously. He watched as her eyes flickered around the room. "Damon just…sort of snuck on me," she laughed bleakly. "He got under my skin and no matter what I do….I can't shake him."
Let it be known that Matt knew very well Elena Gilbert was in love with Damon Salvatore. In fact, everybody knew. Everyone but Elena, that is. So he shook his head, deciding for once to be the person to step up to the plate and let Elena come to her senses. "Once you fall in love with someone, I don't know if you can ever shake them." He sighed, knowing this was his way of planting the seed inside of Elena's brain. It seemed to work, too, for the moment he said 'love' her expression turned blank and she seemed to be frozen. Her eyes fell down to the table between them, her lips pressed in a tight line. Matt watched her carefully, wondering what she was thinking about.
She bit her lip to prevent the tears from spilling over her eyes. All the emotion she felt for him overflowed her, now. The things she felt for Damon were not able to be explained or even compared to the things she felt for Stefan. Damon was his own unity; his own solid state that she gripped onto fiercely. Losing him would have meant losing a part of herself. The connection between them burned brighter than the sun and the intensity of could move mountains. There was no excuse for falling in love with him other than the fact he was purely Damon. Purely the charming and arrogant bastard she had fallen into without any regret for doing so in the first place. From the moment they met she knew she could fall in love with him, if only he gave her something to fall in love with. Now that he had, she had fallen harder than ever.
"What I think.." Matt continued, eyes locked to hers, "I think that if it were me, I'd want to know if somebody felt as crazy for me as I felt for them."
Elena stayed silent for a very long time. Minutes before, she had held back her tears but it seemed inevitable that she could do the same now. "Why? What would it change?"
With great certainty he whispered, "Everything. It would change everything."
Yes…it would change everything. Whether or not that everything was for the better, loving Damon meant loving somebody she was supposed to love. Somebody she was meant to love. But it would be the same. "It wouldn't change a thing, Matt." Elena whispered. "It'd just be full circle; he'd turn around and do something to make me hate him."
"That's kind of how you know it's real, Elena. He could burn down this entire town and you'd still find your way back to him. Back to forgiveness. That's how you know you're in love."
"It's too hard." she shook her head.
"Love isn't easy," Matt reached out to stroke the back of her hand with his fingertips lightly before gripping her hand completely. "Damon isn't a nice guy. In fact, he's not one of my most favorite people but he…it's clear that he loves you. Why can't that be enough?"
"If I let myself love him back even more than I already do…I'm afraid I'll never be able to let go. It will never be anyone else but him." There was strength in her words, and promise. She promised that nobody else could ever be loved by Damon more than she could love him. Likewise, nobody could love her more than him. And if they had loved each other as equals the world would never be the same.
"You don't want to hurt Stefan." Matt accused.
Her voice began to shake, throat erupting in sobs. "He would never forgive me."
Matt squeezed her hand tighter. "Just because you don't love somebody the way they want to be loved doesn't mean you don't love them at all, Elena. You can't let others get in the way of your happiness. I think…if Damon makes you happiest..why would you let Stefan stop you from that?"
Before she could respond, the front door opened. Elena wiped the wetness from her lashes and turned her eyes toward the intruder..
Alaric had been released from jail.