A/N: First of all, thank you for taking the time to stop by and give this story a chance despite the blandest summary ever lol Secondly… I've been suffering from the severe lack of time for a long time now, but (un)fortunately the plot bunny (hope Stefan doesn't eat these…) proved stronger, so here is a multi-chapter DE story that takes off when the S3 finale landed. It will probably have 22 chapters (hehe) and I'm planning on updating it twice a week. The goal is to finish this story before the show returns :)

Fair warning: this IS a Damon/Elena story (lol) that is very much a wish-fulfillment/post-S3 finale therapy/ship-driven fic that doesn't aspire to be unbiased ;)

Disclaimer: TVD belongs to LJ Smith & CW, and of course "perchance to dream" comes from Hamlet & belongs to William Shakespeare :)

Summary: Post 3x22. As Elena struggles with the decision whether to complete the transition, she finds herself questioning the choices she has already made.

"To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil (…)"

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Chapter 1

Damon nearly lost control of the car taking yet another sharp turn. Each thought hurt and the pain only increased every time he tried to put together the chain of events and make sense of what had happened.

"She needed my help." Meredith's words echoed dully is his head. "I helped her."

He drove along the dusky roads and across the dimly lit intersections without paying attention to the traffic lights. Green, white, red – they were all only colorless shades looming in the darkness, flickering meaninglessly like bleak reminders of the world that had ceased to exist.

They had already left the hospital when he had gotten there, so without asking any further questions, in a daze, he had returned to his car and headed straight to the boarding house.

He could not think about what Meredith's words meant other than that they seemed to repeatedly cut through him - and heal all the wounds at the same time.

Minutes ago he had thought they had said their ultimate good-byes. Hope was dead and he was going to die. Or was it the other way around? She had made her choice and dead or undead he should have chosen to leave the scene. He had been set free.

Set free to die – and that was probably the only acceptable context. But he had not died.

She had.

He clutched the steering wheel tighter, tiers screeching.

Perhaps he should return the favor and set her free. Let her finally be free of him. Forever.

"I will never... leave you... again."

The boarding house was dark save for the light in the parlor, and Damon walked in with difficulty, fearing what he was about to see.

The fire was dying down, crackling quietly, yet the sound was perfectly audible in the room full of people who were all silent.

Stefan was sitting on the edge of the couch, leaning forward with his eyes wide-open and fixed on the indefinite point outside the tall windows. Jeremy, with his head in his hands was clenching his fists so hard his knuckles were white, almost as white as Caroline's face. Matt was the only one who immediately looked up with his tired, red-rimmed eyes.

"Where is she." Damon's voice was rough and toneless and surprisingly steady.

He suddenly realized he was angry. Maybe at what had happened, maybe at them, maybe at the sudden, guilt-ridden realization that despite the sinking feeling of despair he could also not get rid of the feeling of rekindled hope. Just when he had lost the final game someone tossed all the cards into the air and here he was, grasping at another chance that was all thorns and misery but nonetheless it was.

Or maybe he was quite simply worried. Maybe he was just pathetically worried despite being a superfluous addition to the people who were all here for a reason - unlike him. No one wanted him here. No one needed for him to be here.

He should choose to leave. Perhaps now more than ever.

"She's upstairs." Stefan's voice was hollow, it trembled and broke like a string, but it was not until he laboriously shifted his gaze to Damon that the sense of something ominous filled the air.

Damon looked between all of them with his brows furrowed. He did not know – he refused to know – what it was but there was something written on their faces that made him inwardly fall apart.

He held his breath and turned toward the stairs.


He shuddered involuntarily at the words that immediately reminded him of those rare, foolish moments when he thought that if he risked his heart, his mind, his sanity, if he surrendered everything, something wonderful would happen because that is how it ought to be. So many books bore witness to that.

He turned around, irritated. He should leave, he knew he should leave but his own awareness was one thing, and being told to do so by somebody else was quite another.

"She wants to be alone," Stefan said in that odd, ominously resigned voice again.

Damon tilted his head to the side and blinked in confusion, but soon the confusion was swept away by the incomprehensible realization that rushed across his mind like a hurricane and then stopped dead in its tracks transformed into the feeling of all-knowing compassion, deep, pure, silent, and calm, and for a moment he was in complete agreement with it, for a moment it was an instant communion.

But the moment passed, and the feeling started to hiss and boil, and he started feeling so cold that it burned him inside out, head to toe, this feeling that was only fear, only horror, only pain, and he did not care.

"She's chosen not to complete the transition." Stefan said what Damon had already guessed.

Jeremy squeezed his eyes shut at Stefan's words that were whispered with finality, with enviable confidence that made Damon feel as if he was being pushed toward the door with thousands of invisible needles. His presence was unnecessary. All the choices had been made. He should leave.

Luckily, he never did what he should.

He did not know where the strength came from but it came, like a wave of light and heat, the strength to, once again, do the wrong thing, because all the right paths were already taken, and because none of them led where he was headed anyway.

With a dull sense of amazement that his eyes did not give away the truth, that no one in the room was able to see that he could change everything about him - except his inability to give up, and he could allow her to make every choice - except this one, he mumbled some nonsense about a goodbye and climbed up the stairs.

Without knocking, he pushed the door open. The lock made a grinding noise when it broke, startling Elena who turned around, eyes wild from crying.

The room was filled with faint lights and shadows. She was standing near the window caught between the darkness and the moonlight. He knew she was smarter than them. She knew he would put up a fight, and so he expected her to start listing her ridiculous reasons and arguing, but she did not.

"I should choose not to complete the transition," she said at last in a voice that sounded like tears that were now streaming down her face, the tears of self-loathing, regret and shame that she was letting everyone down, that she was disappointing everyone, including herself. Everyone - but him.

It always came to this, no matter how many times she would endeavor to stab him with care. In the end it was always down to how much he loved her and how much she needed to be loved like that to survive.

"No, Elena." Damon grabbed her, almost losing his breath at the sensation of her being real under his touch. He looked her straight in the eye. "What you should do is to do what you want to do, and what you want to do is complete the transition and not die."

She shook her head. "Don't you see? I did this. I did all of this! This is all my fault!" Her feverish voice oscillated between a whisper and a cry. "Nothing bad would've ever happened if it was not for me!" Elena's face contorted, her vision blurred by tears. "If it wasn't for me Klaus would've never come to Mystic Falls. Jenna would still be alive, and Alaric!... Bonnie's mom wouldn't be a vampire. Stefan wouldn't have killed Andie and all those people he killed when Klaus forced him to leave town with him," she spoke very quickly, choking on the words, especially those that at some abstract level still seemed false to her. "None of it would've happened. None of it!" She shouted in a sobbing, nearly hysterical voice.

"Elena." Damon tried to make her look at him but she seemed delirious and he noticed that she was getting weaker and agitation could only make her lose her strength faster.

Time was running out.

She freed herself from his embrace and took a few steps back.

"My parents wouldn't have died if I hadn't called them to pick me up," she continued brokenly, staring at some point beyond as if all of her thoughts and memories were rushing to her and she was now, finally, able to see everything clearly. "This is all my fault. If I caused so much damage as a human I can only cause more damage as a vampire." Elena's eyes darted to Damon and he realized she actually meant and was conscious of every single word she was saying.

"Elena." He muttered her name with all the force of a threat. "None of that was your fault and you know it. You've been caught in the middle of this just like everyone else."

There was a glimpse in her eyes – only a glimpse, but it registered and stuck in his mind like a solitary road sign – a glimpse of desire to believe in his words, a glimpse of desire to be saved.

"Stop trying to save everyone, Elena. For once think about yourself. Bad things had been happening long before you were born and bad things will keep happening regardless of whether you live or not. But if you die-" His voice cracked and he grimaced, searching for something better to say than what he was about to say but to no avail. "Besides," he started a new train of thought, resorting to the simplest argument. "You knew I wouldn't let you do that," he said in a voice stylized to make it sound like he was calling her a bluff. "You know I won't let you die." He said, squinting. "I will never let you die."

For a moment she just looked at him without a smile, but with light, with what looked like hope in her eyes that seemed to defy all the dark wildness that had initially been there.

But then the light faded and her lips twitched into a sad, bitter grimace. "After what I said to you?"

He drew a breath and swallowed, but then regained his composure at light-speed, and putting on his best, crooked smile he said with as much nonchalance as he could muster. "Well, the signal was weak. I didn't actually hear much of what you said."

The remnants of tears sprung from her eyes when she chuckled, shaking her head at him with a broken smile.

"So..." He risked taking a step toward her, his eyes boring into hers. "Do you want to go downstairs and spend the next four hours chit-chatting and group-hugging or do you want to go out and have it over with?"

"What is he doing there for so long?" Caroline asked, shooting a glare toward the stairs, unable to stay quiet any longer. The silence was making it too easy for her to get lost in her thoughts, to think about Elena, to think about Tyler, to think about everyone she had already lost, everyone she was yet going to lose.

"Trying to change her mind," Matt replied glancing at her and then at Stefan whose face was unreadable.

"I hope he will," Jeremy blurted out, angrily blinking back the tears.

Stefan shifted his eyes to him. "Do you think I didn't try to change her mind?" He asked barely above a whisper.

Jeremy looked at him and then looked away saying nothing.

"But I can't force her to do it," Stefan continued with grim intensity, his eyes ablaze with grief. "She never wanted to be a vampire. If there is anything I can understand really well, it's this."

"I can understand that too," Caroline said quietly, biting her lip, and trying not to burst into tears. "Even if I would give everything for her to choose differently."

Stefan looked at her and nodded imperceptibly. "I can't take that choice away from her," he continued, moving his gaze back to Jeremy. "The least we can do for her is to respect-"

The sound of breaking glass made everyone jump in their seats. They looked at one another and after a second of silent dismay they scurried to their feet and ran up the stairs to the room where Elena was.

When they rushed inside there was only the dark curtain billowing in the broken window frame.

The room was empty.