A/N: So I might've told a slight fib. Stefan and Elena are definitely madly in love in this piece but the happiness portion of it is severely lacking. I might have to make up for it in another fic, haha, let me know.
Damon is also nowhere to be found in this one so feel free to proceed with extreme relief.
They get married in the middle of a humid Virginian summer. By a river he had saved her life from; the ceremony is by night as it was graciously more forgiving than the day and fairy lights sprinkle the forest trees and decorate their gathering. Few are invited and it's private and simple. They speak vows and try not to cry; their first kiss as husband and wife, a flushed contact of his body to hers, married lovers as they now were.
Much later, as she's staring up at the ceiling, bare and no longer wearing her mother's wedding dress he had peeled from her body as though it were as delicate as the wind, it suddenly clicks.
A smile blooms on her face and then she's giggling, she can't stop and he nudges her cheek with his nose, thinking that the places where he touched her seemed to grow in their warmth against his skin.
"What?" He asks with a smile and then he's laughing too because it was impossible to resist.
Elena catches her breath; there's a stitch starting to throb in her side. "I'm Mrs Salvatore."
Stefan, stopping too, wrinkles his face and for some reason, this makes him look far younger than older. Almost childlike, "I've only heard that title as reference to my mother…and you," He kisses her between his words and the likeness of child disappears faster than it had arose; he can feel her reaching between their chests for him, "Are certainly not my mother."
An eyebrow bends upwards and he knows this face well; Elena sighs out her impatience and he's already crippled from the way she's got those fingers of hers wrapped around him underneath the thin sheets, his groan rough in return.
And this title, one that is most profound, turns him on more than anything else.
"You've lived for a long time." She muses.
Stefan hums his agreement, lazy with his smile against her hair and he begins to trace his fingers across her stomach. The lights of Paris dance and twinkle across from them and he's glad they had decided to escape onto the balcony for the night after staying inside for the day. In the tender silence, he lets himself revel in this dream of his, dreams really, coming true. He had wanted to bring her to Paris for as long as he could remember.
It seemed pretty fitting as the backdrop to their honeymoon.
The circles he makes around her belly button are quietly slipping her into a doze and for a while, she wobbles between dreams and reality, hearing his voice in both. He's telling her stories, of memories without her and memories with her. All the stories that make up all the long time he has roamed this earth. His voice is an anchor to her bliss and she could stay in this place, she thinks, this place of dreams and reality, for a long, long time herself.
Paris becomes their cove; they explore and discover and all the stories he had once told her come to life all around her.
They set up house in a small apartment and she forgets momentarily about her dreams of being a writer, falling steadfast in love with painting; the walls are soon covered, with sketches and her drawings and watercolors. He finishes a degree he started 10 years ago in Architecture and cracks half-hearted jokes about one day building them a house, thinking privately, that he someday really would. They spend some nights in doors and others outside, travelling up the coast of Europe and sleeping on beaches, hunting at night, swimming in the sea in the middle of the day. Making love in the middle of the afternoon and sometimes, never getting out of bed at all. It's glorious and beautiful. And effortlessly and quickly it becomes two years, two very rich years.
But, as they always expected, quietly, not willing to ever admit it, for fear of it coming true, the two years draw to an end. It's just nearing winter when she receives a call from her brother; Bonnie had given birth.
Like a lifeless mask, reality smothers them.
A reality they had, unknowingly, been running from for far longer than two years.
The night before they leave, they lie in bed, side by side, clutching to one another's hands as a snowstorm brews and flutters against the walls surrounding them. He squeezes her thumb, trying to think of answers. Of solutions.
Explanations for something that could not be explained.
She rolls over and he encases her against his side; she's shaking even before she speaks.
"I'm scared," She tells him, "I'm scared to go back."
What was once only a half sided impossibility between them had become, since her death as a human and birth as a vampire, an equal defeat. As she lies there, shaking against him and he holds her, trying to hold some part of himself to keep from shaking too, he tries to recall all the times they had spoken of having children.
He comes up with nothing.
"We'll be fine." He whispers in the dark and perhaps that's why he thinks he's got a chance of believing it isn't a lie.
They had never spoken of it because there was nothing to ever talk about.
"We'll be fine."
Stefan watches from the hallway as Elena stands in a hospital room holding her niece. He tries to fight off his insides, insides that were vehemently demanding to be unrest, to be sick, to be rid of the feelings he's feeling: how perfect, how content, how in line, in step, she looked holding a child.
She turns at that moment looking for what he knows is his face and he turns and pretends he doesn't see her.
He walks the floors of the hospital, his head down and his shoulders forward, not knowing where to go or how to get there but needing to keep moving regardless and when he eventually does stop, he finds himself in the middle of the maternity ward; a very cruel irony.
For a few seconds, he's afraid. For a few seconds it's completely dark and he cannot see. For a few seconds, the ripping at his chest begins and he cannot move. For a few seconds he is so completely encapsulated by this floor and this truth and this life.
A hand is suddenly against the small of his back; had he been swaying before she got there or ready to fall because he was assured she would catch him?
A mother holding twins in a wheelchair passes them by and the hand from his back is gone.
"Elena." He's saying under his breath and it's an apology but a refugee.
For a brief moment, he can't understand how she had found him and wonders if maybe it had been the way he would often find her; by her breathing or her scent but she takes a deep breath, a stunted gulp of air that is mixed with her grief, his grief and a grief of their togetherness and knows that it had been exactly what she had done.
"I wish…I wish sometimes it hadn't of been you. I hate sometimes, that it is."
The words she drinks one by one and one by one, they line her throat, how they hurt and sting and make it impossible for her to breathe in no other way but shallow.
"I know." She allows herself even though she really doesn't.
He finally looks at her, "I'm so sorry." He whispers and instinctively reaches to hold her even though his arms felt as weak as a broken web.
She wants to tell him all the things she had thought while holding Amelia; that she was nothing short of perfect. That she had toes that were small enough to kiss all together but were strong enough to plant firmly against her hand. That when you breathed against her cheek, the feeling was immeasurable. That she was tiny and little but beautiful.
Both most of all, she wants to tell him how the feeling gnaws at her. How the truth presents itself like an illicit drug to an addict; that she wanted that life. To make a life with no one else but him. And wouldn't, couldn't, even before, even now, think or imagine making a life without anyone but.
"I'm sorry too."
That night they lie in her old bed and cling to one another as if tomorrow held their separation.
She starts to cry; he can feel the tears from her cheeks against his neck and doesn't know what to do because he's crying too.
"Is it so bad?" She asks, flush against him still, their bodies interlocked to endure this hell together. Yes, he wants to say. Yes, he wants to scream loud enough to crack his ribs and break his lungs. Yes, because you shouldn't be here and you shouldn't be like this and you should've been able to do it all. Grow old and have children and forget me and live.
It isn't until she's got him against her chest, her arms strengthening a hold around him, that he realizes he's sobbing it all out anyway.
That night, they cling to one another and don't ever release.
"It'll be a couple hours tops. I promise."
She leans against her brother's doorway, her arms folded. This picture could've been taken 8 years ago; she was 16 again and he was her smelly younger brother. Except rather than placating her to drive him to a friends place for the night, he was placating her to babysit his 2 week old.
Elena studies her brother, looking not for signs of drug use as she would have 8 years ago but for signs of his insomnia. His hair was dirty and probably hadn't been washed in as much as two weeks and the rings beneath his eyes were carved and deep. His own head needed to be supported by both his hands; his back slumped as he sat against his bed.
His exhaustion was paramount.
She feels herself nodding, her yes dry on her lips.
"Of course Jer, of course I'll watch her. And you know it can be for more than a night, I love Amelia."
Through the increasing desire to close his eyes, Jeremy holds his sisters face and reads her voice; he knew her too well, even when drained.
"Elena. It's okay, you know. You don't have to pretend to be so okay with it."
She had held her once. And once had been enough. Not enough. Too much.
Elena realizes, as she pushes herself off from the doorway, walking forward and kissing the crown of Jeremy's head, how exhausted she was herself.
"I am okay with it, Jer. I promise."
She fixes his bed and helps him sit back knowing he would be passed out almost as soon as she had closed the door.
She walks straight through the bathroom and into her own room, looking for her cell phone. It was unusual for them to be apart these days and she feels the loss of him upon her now as if he had been severed from her body.
"You need to cut your hunt short, we're on duty."
As much as she tries, her attempt at calmness in her voice is weak. They weren't keeping anything from each other lately and she has no idea why she was making a half-assed attempt to start now.
Stefan pushes himself off from the ground, brushing off the feed of a male mountain lion; the hitch in her voice is obvious and clear and though he doesn't need to ask, he asks anyway.
"On duty for what?"
Her forced yet determined smile against the phone is invisible to him but he closes his eyes and imagines it anyway, "Babysitting. We're watching Amelia tonight."
He takes a shower that eases his bones but does very little to ease his mind and when the hot runs out, he lets the cold come down across his shoulder blades and cover his face long enough to be too numb to think anyway.
Elena knocks at the door.
"Just making sure you haven't drowned."
His mouth is cold and his body is cold but he knows if he doesn't speak, she'll come in to check to see if he really hadn't.
"I'm coming, I'll be out soon."
He startles, just so, when he feels her fingers at the notches of his back; she had stripped naked and was standing under the spray to be with him.
"It's freezing." She comments and she reaches between them for the faucet, switching the hot to a degree he had not realized it could be flicked to.
He has no idea how he had failed to hear her come into the bathroom but doesn't care; she was there and he had wanted her far more than he had thought. He kisses her shoulder and starts to graze at the small of her back with his knuckles.
"I hadn't noticed."
She gives him a look but knows better than to push. In less than an hour they would be alone in her old house and responsible for the care and the wellbeing of an infant. Pushing anything was unnecessary.
"Did you get enough to eat?" She asks, changing the subject and he takes a moment before he answers to appreciate her unfathomable ability to understand his needs sometimes better than he could estimate them.
"More than enough," He kisses now, the curved valley between her shoulder and her neck, lingering his lips over her skin.
Without meaning to, their mouths meet in thick kisses, and he's soon got one of her legs curled over his thigh, her back against the far wall of the shower, the stream of water no longer reaching them. The cool air is exposing, her nipples taut and he licks them, slow and meticulous, making his teeth catch and drag over them. She arcs her back, her stomach against her naval, her groans just barely smothered by the noises of the shower.
"What is this?" She hears herself asking just as he's got a hand gripped on her ass, holding her up so that they were at a better angle. He's practically drinking water with his tongue along her collarbone when he lifts his head, "It's us having sex baby." And the words she might've said or planned to say get lost when he pushes unapologetically against her and she cries out, not expecting it, feeling him push against her to be deeper, to be closer and this isn't sex, but a release, he's coming undone. He grunts and grips to her ass and to her hand above her head and holds himself against her.
He's lost, between desperate thrusts and rough heaves until she kisses breathlessly his chin and her feet almost hit the ground as she slips from the wall and he holds her body flush against his.
"Stefan…" She starts, her chest moving so rapidly, she could feel each time she breathed against out him and each time she breathed in, "It's okay."
"Say it again," He whispers cupping her face in his hands, his darting between hers, "Please, tell me it'll be okay again."
She only holds him and he thinks hearing it through her body is what he needs far more anyway.
They need to practically chase her brother and Bonnie out of the house; both of them stalling, forgetting things, needing to leave another reminder about the correct way Amelia liked to be held but eventually Elena and Stefan shut the front door and wave them off to enjoy a date night they've deserved and were in dire need of.
For the most part, it's smooth and uneventful. Amelia stays asleep and they take it in shifts to check on her, keeping the baby monitor with them whenever they weren't up in the nursery.
Bonnie and Jeremy call them 6 times within the first hour; they take answering the calls in turn as well and after the sixth call, Stefan comes walking back into the living room, looking ruffled though amused. Elena resumes play on the movie they had been watching as he fits himself back onto the touch, bringing her legs onto his lap.
"Fine. I managed to calm Bonnie down enough to even consider ordering dessert."
Elena laughs, looking away from him and to the screen; the movie wasn't the greatest and she thought the lead was a poor choice but it was doing the job of passing the time.
She doesn't remember falling asleep and startles awake, from a nightmare that had her chasing a ghost through endless vines of a courtyard. The television screen is black and the movie has long finished, the lights of the room all off, a few candles lit on the kitchen table. The blanket he had thrown over her falls to the ground as she comes up to stand and tries to reorientate herself, bothered by her carelessness. The baby monitor is nowhere to be found and neither is he and for a small moment, she is blind sided by the sudden fear that something terrible had happened.
She starts to search, knowing the intricate pathways within this house even without her vamp eyesight; the distance of the staircase from the living room, knowing where she had to move in order to take the stairs two at a time, swing round and be at the front of her parents bedroom; this had been her house almost since her birth and she could draw you the map of it in her sleep.
But the map brings her not to the room belonging to her parents, as it should and has done in the past. But to a room that now belonged to her niece.
He's standing by the crib, swaying, just so, as he held the baby against his chest. His hands are spread and she's so tiny, her body is completely covered and encased by them.
There's a dagger at her back and a gun to her throat; her eyes prickle with hot tears she will no longer pretend aren't there and they slip down her cheeks and to her feet.
He slowly brings Amelia back down into her crib and she watches as he hesitates, double checking the way she was swaddled, double checking he had put her down right, lightly grazing the top of her head with his thumb before pulling back and turning around.
Their eyes meet in the darkness; she wishes she could turn around and run out of this house. She wishes she were still asleep. She wishes he could know that she wanted to fix herself for him like she knew he wished he could fix himself for her.
"Is this what our lives will always come down to? Grieving and wishing for things we can never have."
Stefan walks for her and takes her hands and she thinks for a moment, that he was going to lead her out of the room but instead; he brings them to his cheeks.
"Give me two choices and it's always you. Give me two lives, two chances and I take the life and the chance that brings me to you. Waiting for you was my grief."
And Elena thinks waiting for him was hers too.
It isn't until midnight, after Bonnie and Jeremy have returned, that they are alone; they step outside and as if the house had been stifled, the wind and the breeze of the night permit them both to exhale air like they had been blocked for hours from it.
"Let's go up to our spot." She says and he reaches for her hand in agreement.
Beginning at a run, they move together and reach the top of the hill in seconds.
Stefan fixes himself on the ground and she makes a spot for herself against his chest, laying out her legs against the grass.
"Will we ever go back to Paris?" She asks, feeling as though that time was more than a decade old.
"Maybe. It'll always be there, waiting for us to come back to it when we're ready."
Elena fiddles with her wedding band; she's thinking of the barely started painting still clipped to her easel, all her paints. His books and his own drawings. All there and ready for their return. She smiles, curling her arm around his neck.
"I'm glad it was me." She says quietly.
Nearby, a fawn and her mother were sleeping; Elena could hear the breaths they took in unison, as though they were chasing one another in their dreams.
"There was no one else." He says, barely above a whisper and kisses against her ear.
Until death do us part, she thinks and brings his arms to wrap around her.
Until death do us part.