"You did what?" Damon seethed as he stared at Meredith in horror. His sweet innocent Elena, beautiful, pure Elena… He shook the fog from his head and tried to focus. As soon as Ric had turned ashen in his arms, he had broken every speed limit back to Mystic Falls, surprised he didn't blow up his car, surprised he hadn't hit anything. He only managed to get in touch with his brother; the only information was that she was in the hospital. His heart had felt like it was being ripped out of his chest slowly, unable to stop his tears from falling during the whole trip home. "I don't care what you did; I want to see her now." His whole body was trembling, his heart breaking, and he felt like he was going to burst into tears once again. "Where is she?"

Meredith sighed but led him downstairs to the morgue where Stefan was sitting next to an exam table, Elena's prone body sprawled on the cold surface. Her beautiful olive skin was turning a bluish color and her lack of heart beat in his head killed him. Damon swallowed hard and pushed the double doors open to join his brother beside the woman they both loved. He stared at her in horror, his brain unable to process what he was seeing. Stefan got to his feet and approached his brother. "Damon…"

"Don't talk to me right now Stefan," Damon said glaring at him. It was Stefan's fault they were in this mess. Stefan always caved to Elena; always let her do whatever she wanted, when more often than not, she was dead wrong. Stefan had instincts and ignored them and every time, it blew up in their face. And now Elena was dead. Elena was dead because of Stefan. Stefan had chosen not to keep her safe, not to save her and Damon wasn't sure he could ever get over that.

"You were right," Stefan said softly. "We should have kept her safe."

Damon slowly approached the table, resting his hands on the side. "I can't do this Stefan," he said shaking his head. For the first time in his entire existence, Damon felt utterly confused. He honestly had no idea what he was supposed to do now. He had promised his brother he would leave if Elena chose him, but… she was dead. She was going to be dead, or she was going to turn. How could he walk away from that? How could he abandon her when… he wasn't even sure that she'd need him? She loved Stefan. He couldn't sit back and watch them be together, but he wasn't strong enough to leave.

"She was on her way to you," Stefan said. "Rebecca made Matt drive off the bridge."

"No," Damon whispered, his eyes trained on her pale face. "She called me to tell me she loves you. And she was sorry. She wasn't coming to me Stefan." He should have known all this time that he wouldn't be enough for her. He should have never gotten his hopes up that he could win her. But he had spent the last several months doing everything he possibly could to prove that he was enough.

For a moment, Stefan didn't say anything. "Circumstances are different now Damon," he said. "She's either going to die or be a vampire. You should be here." Noble Stefan, of course wanting to include him in this crucial part of her life. But Stefan wasn't the one having everything ripped apart; Stefan's heart hadn't been put through the wringer always wondering what Elena was feeling. Her feelings for Stefan never went away, and while Damon longed for her to love him, he craved it, it would never be so. He would once again come second best to his brother.

Damon glared at his brother. "And watch the two of you ride off into the sunset together?" he spat, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "I'd rather die." In the back of his mind he had always known that she had loved Stefan more than him, but his heart refused to believe it. All the tender moments that they had together, clenched around his heart giving him this false hope that was now killing him from the inside out. Nothing had ever felt this bad, all the bad shit he had been through, didn't even come close to this. Losing Elena had never been an option, until just now.

"Damon," Elena whimpered from the table, her eyes snapping open as she sat up with a gasp. "Damon…"

"Elena," Damon whispered, his hands framing her face, their eyes connecting. Her eyes were darting around in confusion, her hands curling around his wrist in a vice like grip. "I'm here." He clenched his jaw as Stefan stood across from him and he reluctantly dropped his hands. She asked for him, his name fell from her lips as soon as she was conscious. He didn't know what that meant, didn't want to get his hopes up. But just to see her awake, that was enough for him. For now.

Elena stared up at him with a strange look. He knew every look Elena Gilbert had, but this one was new. And it confused him, trying to read her. "You…" she swallowed and glanced at Stefan. "What happened?"

Stefan frowned. "When Jeremy brought you the hospital Meredith gave you vampire blood. You had a serious brain injury that no one told us about. You were dying so she helped you," he explained sadly. "And… I couldn't get you out of the water in time. You wouldn't let me save you."

"I'm… a vampire?" she whispered.

"Not yet," Damon said taking a step away from her so he could try to focus his thoughts. He hurt everywhere, his head hurt, his heart was breaking into a million pieces, and all he wanted to do was die. When it had become clear to him that Elena absolutely did not want to be a vampire, he had given up on that dream. He had never ever imagined that they would be here. She would be sitting across from him, her skin an awful bluish color, the worst painful look in her eyes, full of confusion. And he wanted to hold her, comfort her, and tell her everything was going to be okay. But he couldn't give into those temptations.

Elena met Stefan's face. "Can… I need a few minutes with Damon," she said. "Privately." Her body sagged in relief as Stefan left without a word, leaving the two brunettes alone. She couldn't stand to have any fighting; she just needed some peace, some space to focus.

Elena pushed herself off the table, wobbling slightly. "You are in so much trouble," she said rubbing her head with her brows creased. "You should have let me make that choice for myself Damon. You knew all along that I didn't meet Stefan first. You should have told me… you should have… done something Damon. Why do I have to find out like this? And then to ask me that on the phone if I had met you first… how is that fair?"

"What should I say Elena?" he asked helplessly. "I can't take it back. I never… I didn't think all of this would happen. You weren't ever supposed to be in this situation."

She glanced at the clock and her eyes widened. "You're still alive," she whispered, taking a step toward him but he backed away from her. "What…"

"I told Stefan I would leave town if you chose him," Damon said tears stinging his eyes. "I just… had to see you before I left. Wasn't expecting this though. Now I have to… either watch you waste away to nothing, or… turn into something you hate and be with my brother." If they were going to bring up the subject of being fair, he could write numerous books on how unfair she was. But he still loved her so he just filed all the hurt away and went on with his life. But how was he supposed to do that now?

"You what?" she asked, shaking her head. "You promised me…"

"That was before when Stefan was being a jackass," he said shaking his head. Before when he thought she was getting over Stefan, when he thought they had something. Something real. "Don't make this harder Elena. It's already killing me. How can you expect me to just… sit back on the sidelines after everything we've been through? Knowing how badly I feel for you? How is that fair? Especially now, when you are everything that I have ever wanted, and I'm just supposed to… hang around like nothing is wrong?"

Tears rolled down her cheeks as her body trembled. "I don't want to be a vampire Damon," she whispered.

"I know," he said sadly. "I would have saved you Elena. I would have kept you alive. Even if you hated me. Nothing else matters to me other than you being alive. Nothing. And I can't be in this world without you." She should have chosen him, should have chosen him months ago. He could have given her everything she ever wanted and more.

"Have you been compelled before Damon?" she whispered. "When you were human? So that those memories assaulted you when you woke up? Do you know what that's like? Do you know what it's like to think that you're so madly in love with someone you thought was the best thing that ever happened to you, and instantly everything changes? Do you understand how much more intense my feelings are for you?"

"Not two hours ago Elena, you were calling me to tell me how much you loved Stefan," he said in a pained voice. "And for a brief time, I was okay with dying. There was nothing else in this world to fight for if I couldn't be with you. Do you know what that's like? To lose every reason for existing in this world? Do you think that you're Stefan's reason for existing?"

"Tell me what to do Damon," she pleaded taking a step toward him.

Damon sighed, once again giving into her, giving her what she so desperately needed to get through this. "Talk to Stefan," he said softly. "Really talk to him Elena. And let me know what you're decision is, both of them." And he left the morgue. He slipped into the hallway, leaning heavily against the wall as he allowed his tears to flow. If she chose to die, he would take his own life as well. If she chose to live out her vampire life with Stefan, he wasn't sure what he would do. Could he be so selfish to leave this world just because she was in love with his brother? What if she needed him in the future? He wanted to always be here for her, but his heart couldn't take it.

"Damon?" someone whispered.

"She's in there Caroline," he said pointing down the hall. "She could probably use a friend." Then Caroline did something that shocked him to his core. She wrapped her arms around him. Regardless of how annoying she could be, he had this bond with Caroline that neither of them spoke of. His head dropped her shoulder as his body trembled with the effort not to have a break down. "I love her so much." That much wasn't a secret to anyone.

"I know you do," Caroline whispered. "I'll talk to her. But you have to respect her choice Damon."

"I just want her to be happy," he said shaking his head. He would never force her into this life. He wanted her to want to be with him, forever. He wanted it to be real. "I wouldn't have cared if she married Matt and had a million kids. I want her to be happy Caroline. But… I don't think I can sit by and take it if Stefan is her choice. I'm not strong enough."

Caroline gave him a final squeeze before releasing him. "You're a good man Damon," she said before going to find her friend.

TVD***TVD***TVD

Elena smiled a little at Stefan as he entered her house. He had taken her home from the hospital, and she had begged him to leave her alone for a little bit. She had to have some space from both of the brothers to think about things. "Thanks for coming," she said softly. "I appreciate… you letting me think about everything." She didn't have long to think about what she was going to do, but she needed to spend time with Jeremy. He was her family, the one opinion that mattered the most to her. Jeremy helped her sort through a lot of things that were running amuck through her brain, and she was finally okay with her decision.

"I know how hard this is for you Elena," he said softly. "And you've done more for me and Damon than you could ever imagine. We're brothers again and we'll get through this, no matter what happens. I don't want to lose you, I love you, but I'll survive on my own. I don't think Damon will. And if I had to lose you, there isn't anyone better."

Tears stung her eyes. "Thank you Stefan," she whispered. It killed her at how easily both brothers could so easily step aside for the other. At the same time, it warmed her heart to see how close they had become, finally able to really be brothers, despite the horrible situation. It was all up to her to decide which heart she was going to shatter and every minute she wished her mom was here to help her. But she knew what she had to do. Damon had taken away the two most important memories she had of him, to spare her the pain, and those two memories had rocked her to the core. "There is… one more thing. I decided to go through the transition. So maybe one day… you won't have to stay away."

"Take care of him," Stefan said kissing her forehead.

"I will," she said, squeezing his hand before slipping out her front door. She sighed in relief and got in her car to make her way to the boarding house. She felt like she was going to be sick but when she got to the front door, she could feel Damon's grief, his heart ache, everything about him. She had always been very well in tuned to Damon, but since she had woken up it had been so much more intense. She let herself inside, not finding him in the living room so she went upstairs. She hadn't completed her transformation yet, so he knew she was here. Her hand felt the vial of blood in her pocket, her brother's blood. She wanted to do this with Damon, needed to. She had talked with Jeremy thoroughly about everything that she was thinking and even talked to Caroline briefly. Caroline often joked with her about having a brother on each arm, but this was quite different. It had been one of the hardest things she had ever done in her life, but she had made her choice. She had too many people that needed her, who she loved. And if she sounded selfish, she didn't care, but she was the glue to the group. Without her, everyone would be devastated. She couldn't leave. And she couldn't let Damon walk out of her life. Quietly she let herself into his room, and he emerged from the bathroom, his shirt unbuttoned, his jeans dangerously low, and she knew what was under those jeans. But he looked like hell. His eyes were bloodshot and glassy, and she would imagine he had drunk quite a large amount of alcohol by now.

"Elena," he said softly.

She stared at his face for fraction of a second before she was moving across the room, before she could talk herself out of it. Her arms snaked around his neck, her lips smashing against his in a consuming kiss, rocking her hips against his. "I love you," she whispered, her hands running through his hair. There was no point to fluff this up anymore, to beat around the bush, to try to explain anything she had done. She just had to jump in with both feet and pray that he would catch her because she was falling faster with each moment. "And I need you Damon."

His arms were banded around her waist, in a painful vice grip, almost crushing her ribs. "I love you so much Elena," he said into her neck. "You're everything to me." His body trembled with such powerful emotions, feelings he had through had been long since buried from his human days.

She reached over his arm to pull the vial of blood from her pocket to show him. "How bad is this going to hurt?" she whispered. Vicky had gone through hell, but Elena knew she was strong enough to do this.

"I'll take care of you," he said leaning his forehead against hers. "You sure this is what you want Elena? I can't… it's enough that you love me. I can accept your choice not to be a vampire."

"I want you," she said. "Forever and for always." She downed the contents of the vial to prove her point, grimacing at the taste. "And I wish you hadn't compelled me. We could have been together so much sooner."

"I wasn't in a good place when we met Elena. I was head over heels in love with Katherine, and all it did was anger me that you looked like her and I couldn't have her. So I kind of needed all the crap we had to go through together," he said, cradling her cheek. "God you're really mine Elena."

"I'm really yours. I just… didn't know how to get here. I didn't think I was strong enough to walk away from everything that I know," she said wincing. "And… right now I'm feeling some discomfort."

Damon slid his hand into hers and closed the blinds to his room. "You should just rest until the transformation is over," he said softly guiding her to his bed. "I won't let you hurt anyone Elena. I promise." He felt like there was so much more for them to talk about but really he just wanted them to start this new life fresh, leave all the other shit behind and go forward.

Elena happily snuggled into his sheets, her tired body needing some much needed rest as she rubbed her jaw. Her chest tightened as he slid next to her, molding her body against his. "No easy way to go through is there?" she mumbled.

He nibbled on her neck, pressing soothing kisses to where her pulse used to be. "Well it's just in the house," he said in a soft voice. "And you can't go outside yet. Anything you'd need will be here. Plenty of blood, since… you will be hungry. And I'll be here to help you through the pain as your fangs come in and your body shifts." There were various things he could do to ease her pain, but he couldn't take it away. "But you will never be alone Elena. You hear me? You will always have me to lean on, to trust, to protect you. You will never have to hide anything from me."

Her eyes drifted closed, the small amount of light starting to bother her head. "Were you always this amazing?" she whispered, sliding an arm over his waist. She kissed the underside of his jaw sleepily. "I love you."

His arms tightened around her. "I love you too sweetheart," he said. "Forever."