Disclaimer: I do not own The Vampire Diaries. I also did not write any lines of dialogue taken verbatim from 3x22 'The Departed'.
Author's Note: In this fic, Damon and Stefan swap places for the finale. Stefan goes with Klaus' body and fights Evil Ric, and Damon returns to Mystic Falls (although he arrives later than Stefan did). Everything else goes as it did in the episode.
Damon had only just made it back to town when Elena rang him to break his heart yet again. She was on her way back after being kidnapped by the busboy. Not to see him, of course, but to see her friends. If he was going to die, he supposed he should be glad she would be there, even if in her heart she was wishing she was with Stefan.
His phone rang and when Rebekah's name came up on the screen, he groaned. Could this night get any worse?
"You're alive. Congratulations," she said sarcastically. "Elijah spoke to Elena. Her and Matt should be arriving back in town any minute."
"Aren't you two supposed to be long gone by now?" Damon snapped in irritation.
"That's the problem. Elijah says that we have to run, that the hunter will keep coming after us, but I don't want to run anymore, Damon."
"Oh no. No you goddamn don't," Damon said, realising what the little blonde bitch was saying.
"I spent my whole life running," she said, tears in her voice.
"We had a deal!"
"I'm sorry. But Klaus is dead. If my brothers and I are to survive we need to get rid of Alaric. And the only way to do that is..." she didn't need to finish the sentence. The phone call terminated, and Damon rushed like holy hell down to the only road that led into Mystic Falls.
Just in time to see Matt's jeep fly off Wickery Bridge and sink into the cold, dark waters below.
Drowning. She was drowning. Again. Elena began to panic as memories of last time she was in this situation began to overwhelm her.
"Dad? Dad!" she cried as the water rose steadily around them.
"We're going to be okay, I promise," he told her.
It had been a lie. He had died, and she would have too if it hadn't been for Stefan. But Stefan was so far away now. She would never get to say goodbye to him, never be able to tell him that he was her choice and that she loved him.
Suddenly Damon loomed large in her field of vision, swimming right outside the truck. It was getting hard to breathe now and Elena was ecstatic to see him. But Matt was unconscious, and horror filled her as she realised there was no way Damon would take him first. He was already swimming around to her side of the truck.
She tried desperately to gesture to Matt, but Damon ignored her, ripping the door off the truck, and tearing her seatbelt off, just like the last time he had saved her from a car accident.
She tried to struggle but he just grabbed her and firmly hauled her with him towards the surface. There were little spots dancing in front of her eyes now and she knew she was about to pass out. But then they broke the surface and air rushed into her lungs again. She gasped and choked, and Damon hit her gently on the back, helping her expel the water from her lungs.
She glared at him, and tried to struggle again, but he restrained her and fixed her with his most sociopathic look.
"Don't even think about it. You are going to swim to shore and not look back for a second or I swear to God I will leave him down there. Do you understand?"
She huffed, and nodded, and he let her go. She started swimming towards the shore, heartened by the sound of the splash behind her that meant Damon was going after Matt. She would never forgive herself if he was too late.
Damon dove down into the icy depths again, looking for the boy in the truck. It was a fool's errand, as he was probably already dead, but he would do it for Elena.
The boy was dead weight as Damon dragged him up to the surface, and when they broke it, he hit the quarterback as hard as he could, not bothering with the gentleness he'd shown Elena.
There was no response, and Damon sighed. She was going to hate him now. Not that that was anything new.
He hit the boy again, and felt for a pulse, but didn't find anything. He looked around for Elena, trying to see if she had made it to shore yet. He couldn't see her, and he dragged the boy's corpse with him as he headed for shore.
Halfway there, he still couldn't see Elena, but Matt was making choking noises behind him. He slowed up and thumped him on the back again.
"Elena," he managed to get out.
"I told her to swim for shore, but I can't see her," Damon told him, seriously pissed off that she might have disobeyed his instructions and gotten herself into trouble.
"Elena!" the boy cried insistently, and Damon spun around in the water and saw her. Floating. Motionless.
He dropped the boy in an instant and rushed for her, praying he wasn't too late.
"Elena!" he yelled, grabbing her. She was so cold, and he couldn't hear a heartbeat. No. Oh God, no.
"Elena!" he called, dragging her to shore, shaking her, trying to revive her. He dragged her up onto the bank, dimly aware of the quarterback coming up behind him.
"Get out of the way," Matt ordered. "I was a lifeguard, I know CPR."
Damon was not happy at being ordered away from his love, but if the boy could save her he wouldn't argue. It was the longest wait of his undead life as he watched him perform the rhythmic compressions on her.
"Come on, Elena," Matt muttered, pressing furiously.
Damon bit his wrist and held it over her mouth, willing her to live.
"Elena!" Damon urged her. "Elena, please. Come back to me," he pleaded. He held her limp wrist in his hands, willing her skin to throb with the pulse that would mean she would live.
Matt worked furiously, and Damon was beginning to lose all hope when he felt it. Faint, but there.
"She's alive!" he called to Matt, who renewed his efforts. A moment later she started coughing and spluttering, and Matt rolled her into the recovery position.
Damon and Matt both breathed a collective sigh of relief. Elena shivered, and Damon vampire sped over to the spot where he had left his leather jacket, and zoomed back to wrap her in it.
He bundled her up and shoved her into Matt's arms. He hated it, but the boy had body heat and could warm her in a way that he couldn't.
Damon went to get his car to take her home. One crisis down, hopefully. Now he had to call Stefan to see if his brother had survived Evil Ric's rampage.
Stefan was waiting when they got Elena back to the house.
"Where is she?" demanded Stefan, racing up to the car.
"She's fine," Damon snapped wearily, and he opened the passenger door for Elena, ready to support her if she needed it. She glared at him and got out under her own steam, rushing into Stefan's arms.
"But you died," Stefan said, pulling back and holding her face, scanning it for any sign of trouble.
"Yeah, she did. For a moment," Damon said. "Fortunately the busboy knows CPR."
Stefan hugged Elena and she hugged him back happily, feeling better than she had in a long time now that she was in his arms again.
"What happened to you?" Damon asked his brother, after they had Elena safely inside.
"I thought I was a goner. He was going to kill me," Stefan told him. "Then he stopped and started choking. He collapsed and went grey in my arms. And then I knew Elena had died," he said, a troubled expression coming over his face again.
"Mmm. All's well that ends well, brother," Damon told him, suddenly dying for some bourbon. He'd have a toast to Ric, who was finally free of the evil asshole who had taken over his body. Damon hoped his old friend was at peace now.
"She chose you, by the way," Damon told Stefan's back as his brother was leaving the room. Stefan whipped around and frowned.
"When she thought you and I were both dead men we had an interesting little conversation. I asked her to choose, and she chose you, brother."
Stefan nodded slowly. "I'm sorry," he told his older brother genuinely.
Damon raised an eyebrow in acknowledgment and took a sip of Ric's bourbon stash.
"Fair's fair. I'll hit the road first thing in the morning," he said, and Stefan nodded. He turned again and left the room, heading upstairs to see Elena.
Damon just sat in the low light of the kitchen and drank, counting on the slow burn of the bourbon to dull the ache in his chest.
It was worth it, he decided. She was alive, and she would be happy with his brother. He would leave with a broken heart but no regrets.
Somewhere in the deep of night, little things change, unnoticed, until the morning light reveals them.
Caroline was the first person who woke that morning, chirpy as always. Once the girls were all awake she went in to wake the boys.
And realised that she couldn't hear Matt's heartbeat anymore.