Okay, so I don't know about you guys, but I loved, loved, loved tonight's episode. I was wondering when I was gonna stop being mad at Elena, and the second Elena said there is a difference between what Damon wants and the right thing to do, I totally remembered why I love her.

That being said, after actually watching the episode and really watching Stefan act about the whole Damon/Elena thing, every one of you guys who said I was portraying Stefan as too nice and understanding was totally right. Granted my writing has a certain element of wish fulfillment in it, I want Stefan to be a better brother, so I write him that way, but oh my God. Stefan acted so jealous when Elena seemed to care so much about saving Damon. Little side note, he has been Stefan's brother for over 160 years, shouldn't Stefan have seemed more concerned. I loved it when she reminded him that Damon would have halted the plan if the roles were reversed, so true.

Anyway episode rant over. This will be the final chapter. I did have one person ask if I would write an ending for Stefan and Katherine. I don't personally feel the need to write their story, because it wasn't the focus of the piece, but if enough people want it written, I will write it as a separate companion piece one-shot. Just drop me a line in a review if you feel strongly about it. I hope you all enjoy!

P.S. to all my fabulous reviewers, I know I usually respond to your reviews, but there is something up with either or my email, because while I can see your reviews when I click on the Reviews button by my story, I am no longer getting emails with a reply link. If I can't fix it, I will just PM you guys, because I do enjoy your lovely words.

Elena's POV

I don't know how long I stood in front of the motel door summoning the courage to knock. Bonnie's spell gave me a general location, and I called every motel, hotel, and dive bar in the area until one finally gave me the answer I needed. The manager was reluctant to give out Damon's room number, but with a little bit of charm, I wore him down until he relented. That had been the easy part. Facing Damon and convincing him to come back with me would be much harder.

Luckily, Damon hears me nervously pacing outside his door. I don't know whether it is pity or frustration that leads him to open up, but I am eternally grateful. When I catch my first glimpse of him, I realize he looks different than I thought he would. Damon is clearly still angry and hurt and sad, but time and space have erased the look of hatred that I feared would stay with him forever. "Why are you here Elena," Damon asks warily?

"I'm here to bring you home," I answer honestly. Damon looks in no mood to have this discussion and his face shows as much. We instead engage in a game of 20 questions, or four questions as the case may be.

"Is someone dead?"

"No"

"Dying"

"No"

"Is there some imminent danger that only I can avert?"

"No"

"Then give me one good reason I shouldn't slam this door in your pretty little face," Damon asks sarcastically?

It doesn't take me but a moment to formulate my response, but it clearly isn't what Damon expected. "Because I'm in love with you," I respond sincerely. I infuse every word with as much warmth and love as I can muster. My strategy must have worked a little, because I can tell that I chipped off a little bit from Damon's wall of indifference. Shock, confusion, disbelief, and hope cloud his beautiful face. I can see Damon conduct a war within himself about whether he should believe me or not. Damon finally sets his jaw in a hard line, but he no longer looks unkind or unfeeling. If anything, he just looks scared.

His voice wavers, but it maintains its strength as he offers me a deal. "I'm gonna do you a favor right now, and I am gonna give you a chance to take that back. Walk away right now, and we can part without any more hurt feelings. But know this Elena. If you come inside, you are swearing to me that you love me, and that you're not just saying so to bring me home. If you do and I find out that you were lying, I will never forgive you. And if you don't believe me, ask my brother how long I can hold a grudge, because I assure you it will outlast any human lifespan," Damon promises with conviction. This is what Ric warned me about. Damon's doubts and insecurities are telling him that no one could ever love him. I understand him not feeling good enough, but I feel a painful tightness in my chest that Damon thinks I could lie to him about something so important.

"Do you really think that I could do that? Do you truly think so little of me," I question desperately? Hoping that the answer isn't yes.

Damon's head droops, and I spot what almost appears eerily similar to guilt. His tone only betrays how tired he is, either from a physical need to rest or an emotional need for a reprieve from the stress of fighting with me.

"I honestly don't know what to think anymore Elena. Some days I swear you are the embodiment of everything good and pure and decent in this world, the only thing left worth fighting for. Other days you say or do something that makes me question everything I thought I knew. So to quote you, I don't know anything. Either way, you've just earned yourself five minutes to convince me why I should believe that you mean what you say, and that this isn't some desperate ploy to bring me back," Damon challenges while stepping aside to let me in.

Ric assured me that I would find the words when the moment came. The moment is upon me, and I feel utterly without words. What sentiment could quell his fears and earn his trust? While the perfect words still escape me, Damon's assumption that I confessed my love as a bargaining chip to bring him home still bothers me. If we are going to clear any of this up, we need to start there. "You should believe that I love you, because this isn't about me," I assure Damon. This seems to catch Damon's attention, because with all the supernatural drama surrounding me, it is easy to forget that some things have nothing to do with me. I squat down in front of where Damon is seated on the bed, and I take his hand into my own as I speak. "When I say I love you, it isn't because I want to bring you back or because I want your forgiveness, no matter how desperately I might yearn for both. I say it because after all that you have suffered, you deserve to know, you need to know, that you are cherished in this world. I cherish you," I swear whole heartedly. Damon's face betrays him and he shows the tiniest smile before replacing it with his favorite defense mechanism, sarcasm.

"Let's say that I believe you, and I'm not saying that I do, but for the sake of argument, when did you come to this grand revelation?" Ah, progress at last, I think encouragingly to myself.

"About six hours ago," I reply. "Ric thought that I was nursing a broken heart, and he asked me what was wrong. I told him about the ball, about what I said. I don't think I have ever seen Ric so angry. It was actually kind of sweet. He was defending your honor or something. Ric asked if I was screwing with you for sport. Apparently you aren't the only one questioning my intentions as of late. Before I could stop myself, I was admitting that I loved you. After the words came out and I heard them, I realized to my complete surprise that they were true, and that it explained a whole, whole lot. I promise you, I never knew that I loved you, at least not on a conscious level until today. If I had, I would have told you," I reassure Damon emphatically. Damon just stares back puzzled.

I can't read his face, and this time not even his tone gives him away. He only sounds as if he is trying to figure something out. "So let me get this straight, I tell you that you feel something for me. Your friends tell you that you feel something for me. We kiss and you don't pull away. Yet you only realize that you are in love with me after you confess it to someone else. That's really what you're going with," Damon finishes summarizing.

"It's the truth," I plead, urging him to believe me.

When I see the first hint of a smile reappear, I sigh in relief. He finds this funny, thank God! He carries a tone of mockery in his voice as he speaks to me. "I have to admit as a vampire there aren't many novel experiences left. After a century or so, few stories sound interesting, nothing really surprises you, but your story is actually a first. I've never in all my years met anyone who took denial as far as you do," Damon claims jokingly. He is making fun of me again, and I love it! If it keeps him from yelling at me or throwing me out, I will even join in. There are plenty of stupid things that I do that we could talk about.

"Ric thought you might get a kick out of all of this," I admit gleefully.

"Trust me my dear, I will be enjoying the irony of this for decades, possibly centuries to come."

I am brimming with joy at how well this is going. I was half expecting Damon to have thrown me out before my five minutes were up. This is going better than I ever could have dreamed, so I find the courage to ask the question. "You're laughing. Should I take that as a good sign? Do you believe me?"

His face softens even further. Damon doesn't sound sarcastic and his voice is devoid of all mockery. "Despite myself, I think that I do. At times you've been confused, at times you've even been cruel, but I've never known you to be a liar, at least not when it mattered. So I believe you and I forgive you, but I can't come back with you." My stomach drops to the floor at my feet. I struggle to understand what Damon just said.

"What, why," I stutter?

Damon reaches up to caress my cheek, and I raise my own to hold it there, afraid that he will take it away. Sincerity rings true in every syllable, but Damon sounds so sad, it almost makes me weep. "Because I can't watch it happen again. I know now that you love me, and believe me when I say that means more than words can ever express, but I can't watch you go back to him, especially knowing that you love me too."

What, I scream to myself! That's what he's worried about. He thinks I came all this way to tell him that I love him, drag him back home and then run back to Stefan, while he stays in the background until I need him for something. And he thinks I'm the one in denial.

I try to rebut his misconception, but he doesn't even let me get two words out before he interrupts. "But Dam . . ." I start.

"No, it's okay I'm not mad. I could never blame you for loving me less than Stefan. Everybody does. Hell even I do, but you cannot ask me to go back and watch," Damon explains.

Now I'm frustrated and mad, maybe at Damon, maybe at myself, but definitely mad. "You're an idiot and you're stupid and you are right about one thing. You don't know anything."

Damon barely flinches at my verbal assault, but he's staring at me again like I am a science experiment gone horribly wrong. "Okay, not quite the response I was hoping for when I was trying to be all understanding and noble," Damon replies.

My sense returns to me, and I try to remove the frustration from my voice, but I am only moderately successful. "I didn't pick Stefan. I picked you. I'm here to be with you! Not even an hour ago, I told Stefan that we could never be together again. Hell, I even told him to go find Katherine and be with her, so you cannot tell me that I prefer him to you. You want proof that I love you more. What better proof could you need than me rejecting Stefan and sending him after another woman? What more can I do to get you to believe me" I plead desperately?

Damon stares silently for what I swear was three solid minutes. I checked my watch. When he does speak, I'm not sure whether I should laugh or cry. 'You're doing that thing again where you say things that don't make sense," Damon replies puzzled.

"Anything I can do to shed some light on your confusion," I offer sympathetically.

He is now the one begging, pleading. "Explain it to me Elena. Make me understand how you can say that you pick me when you seemed to replace me the second Stefan came home. That can't be a coincidence."

"It's not a coincidence, but Damon I was never trying to replace you. I just needed space," I explain sadly.

"Why? Why did you decide that you needed space then, because you have to admit that the timing is rather questionable," Damon asks unsure of himself?

His doubts are creeping back in, and I blurt again hoping that something useful comes out. "I pushed you away because I needed time to figure out how I could love you," I admit. Whatever the right words were, that wasn't it.

Damon misinterprets my words and cuts in again. "If that was your attempt at clearing things up or making me feel better, you failed miserably," Damon tells me worryingly close to sounding angry.

"Will you just let me finish," I snap. I take a breath and finally voice my inner turmoil over the past year, the things that I never even wrote in my journal.

"Before Stefan left, I might not have known that I loved you, but I knew that I felt for you more than I should, and it made me feel like a terrible person. Stefan had done nothing but love me and protect me. I couldn't justify leaving him, for his brother no less, when he had done nothing wrong, so I found a way to love you in the only way that I could, as a friend. I hugged you when you were sad. I joked with you, so you wouldn't feel alone. And I believed in you, when you had lost all faith. When Stefan and I were together, that was the only way that I knew how to love you. I kept you at arm's length, because I was so terrified that if I got too close then the possibility of you and me would be too tempting. I would want it so badly that I would sacrifice all my morals and my convictions to be with you." When I stop to take a breath, Damon gazes back at me so lovingly, so caring, like he has never felt so much or loved so fiercely. It was if we were reliving it somehow, the start of our love story. Every word brought another memory and earned another smile from Damon. I smile back at him and continue.

"But then Stefan left and everything changed. Without the constant reminder of what I was fighting for, I was able to rationalize a lot more. I needed you more. Your late night visits and the feel of your hands on my face were sometimes the only things that got me through from one day to the next. I never stopped you from touching me or sharing those private moments with me, because I never wanted you to stop. While Stefan was gone, I found a new way to love you, as my confidant, my protector, and as something that I dared not even speak aloud. But still I knew that it couldn't go further, because whatever terrible things Stefan did, we both know that he did them to protect you or to protect me, so I never let it go too far." When describing this chapter of our story, regret starts to fill my words. All I can think of is all the things I should have done differently. All the paths not taken that would have prevented so much pain. It is only when Damon nods his head in a type of understanding or acceptance that I feel better. We've both made mistakes, and his small gesture tells me that he can forgive all of it.

This gives me the confidence to talk about where it all went wrong. "The day in Abby's barn changed things, but not for the reasons that you think," I begin cautiously. Damon swallows harshly, because this is still a sore subject. I take his hand and squeeze it just a little in reassurance before I carry on with my tale. "When Stefan was lying on the ground, vulnerable and hurt, I realized how fragile he truly was, so close to reclaiming his humanity, but still too perilously close to the edge. I worried that I wouldn't know how to love you without hurting him, without the both of us losing him forever. So I pushed you away, because I needed to find a new way to love you. Because I knew how to love you before Stefan left, and I knew how to love you when he was gone, but I didn't know how to love you when he came back." Realization dawns on Damon's face. It only took a few weeks, several fights, and Damon leaving town for me to finally tell the truth. Damon finally understood that I didn't pull away from him because he wasn't enough. I pulled away, because I didn't know how to tell Stefan that the one person he sacrificed everything to save was the same person that I couldn't bear to live without.

Damon doesn't speak for another minute. Just when the silence becomes unbearable, he asks me the question that I dread most. "So what happened the night of the ball?"

Right now I'm not just scared, I'm terrified. He has forgiven everything else, but what if he can't forgive this. That night is the one event that I can't hope to explain. I don't have any pretty words to gloss over my actions. The hard truth is all that I have, and I must hope that it will be enough.

"Neither of us knew how to be together with Stefan back, so I became cold and distant," I state honestly. "Because of my coldness, you grew overprotective and controlling, because you felt me slipping away. The night of the ball all those emotions that we were denying just exploded in our faces. I'm afraid that I have no excuse for my actions of that night. I don't even have a reason except that I thought if our battle with Klaus could finally be over, I would have time to deal with you and me and how I felt. So I talked to Stefan, and in a desperate attempt to end this once and for all, I betrayed you. I felt so overwhelmed and guilty about what I did to you, and I lashed out at the nearest warm body, which ironically and unfortunately for us both, was you. For that and for so many other things, I am truly sorry." Damon doesn't look near as happy as he had a few minutes ago, but he still doesn't seem angry. He understands and he forgives, but he still doubts.

My goal in coming here was to erase every last doubt, every fear, every insecurity that he was holding onto. This was the moment that Ric was talking about, and I finally knew what to say. "I may not have known how to love you before, but I think I know how to love you now," I promise.

"And how is that," Damon questions hopefully?

"By being unapologetically selfish," I answer boldly. Damon has an appreciative smirk on his face, likely because he admires me finally taking what I want without regrets. He really is rubbing off on me. My hand gently traces the outline of his jaw, and I swear I feel him shiver at the touch. I gaze lovingly into his eyes and hold his face between my small palms so I know that I have his full attention, and I speak to him softly. "I spent a long time worrying about not hurting anybody, and in the process I wound up hurting everybody. I wound up hurting you. That will never happen again," I swear putting emphasis on every word. Damon nods and his lips crash against mine in a frenzy. I'm clawing at his shirt and he is relieving me of my jacket. How convenient that we both happen to be lying on a bed, what a time saver. As Damon has me pinned by his body weight, he stares at me, seemingly unsure and obviously with something on his mind.

"You know we can never go back," he whispers with a hint of a question in his tone. "If we take one step across this line, I'm never going to let you go," Damon promises, more vulnerable than I have ever seen him. I smile genuinely back at the man that I love and hope that my words can finally heal his damaged heart.

"Glad to hear it, because I wasn't planning on letting you go either. It's you and me, always and forever," I seal the promise with another life affirming kiss. He doesn't ask me what I mean by forever, and his lips against mine feel too good to stop to explain. Someday we will have a long discussion about our future. Because what I said to him, I meant every word. That of course is another story entirely.

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