A/N: Yes, this is an update. I am so sorry that this has taken me...nine months to write. I had to reread my own chapters several times and I still don't know if I've gotten the tone right. You may need to reread too? Again, I am so sorry. I will finish this story because after this chapter...You'll see. I know you waited a long time, both in months, and in terms of chapters, to finally hear why Elena left Damon five years ago (and I hope you still care? A little?). You get it all here. Finally. Also this is the worst the angst will be. It will subside. You'll see. Did I mention I'm sorry? So sorry. I've been doing a rewatch but remember this is AU, started just after Elena goes to college, or really after the fireplace speech–The I'm Not Sorry Either Speech–and I'm not going to lie I stopped watching early this past season. Just not into it. Maybe you're not into the story anymore? I'm sorry (again).

Chapter Nine

"I don't remember that part of Roman Holiday either," Damon smirks against the skin of her shoulder. After they'd finished against the wall, they could barely stand. So they stumbled like human drunks towards the bed, Elena in the lead, gracefully running into his nightstand before falling face down on the bed. In turn, he fell face down on Elena.

Hearing her mumble something against the duvet, he pushes the her pony tail out of the way and kisses the back of her neck, still salty from her sweat. At least they could still do that well. That was always something they'd been stupendous at, against the wall or anywhere. "What was that you said?"

She lifts her head slowly, like it is something hard to do. He gets it. Even rolling slightly off her– so she wasn't crushed–felt like a huge effort just moments ago. "I said," she begins, her voice low and rough, like boots on gravel. "That of course this wasn't in Roman Holiday. And then I was going to say: Because that movie was all about Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, and the yearning between them. The ache of it. That's what made that movie so good. And also the fact that it was Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck doing the yearning."

He grins and she can see it this time because she lays her head against the bed, her eyes trained on him this time, that golden brown he cannot get away from. "If that's the case, then if this–" he gestures back and forth to the two of them. "...would be the best movie ever."

"That makes no sense," Elena replies, her eyes closing in exhaustion. "I just said it was the ache and yearning and you and I just had sex. Ben Bradley and Princess Ann never even kiss."

"Need I remind you, lest you've forgotten, how much yearning took place on my end before we ever got together? And that's not even counting you. You always wanted me..." She lifts her hand to try and pinch him but he doesn't move or stop talking. "And let's not even get into the yearning during that whole sire bond thing. Do you know what it's like to say no to a girl you've pined ridiculously over for years when she is finally saying yes? And then there was you choosing me or Stefan. And even when we were together. The long distance thing. And then when it was over..."

She lifts her head, holding it up with her hand, all her weight on her elbow. Her other hand touches his chest. "I'm sorry," she repeats. "I don't know how I can make you see how serious I am when I say that. But believe me, there was quite a bit of yearning on my end these last five years. A lot of yearning and aching and just...missing you."

He turns so he is on his back and her hand slides of his chest. "Yeah, but as usual, Elena, you decided. It was your choice."

She swallows. "You're right. I want to tell you why."

"Maybe I don't want to hear it," he responds stiffly. Seriously? His heart feels like it is on a yo-yo string and he is sick of this. Twenty four hours with her and he knows he can't live without her any longer and he also knows exactly how pouty and angsty he is being. He knows what angst looks like; Stefan is his brother after all. Should he go buy a freaking journal now?

"I've given you every chance. You didn't have to pick me up at the airport. I just sent you the info and told you to only come if you wanted to–"

"Yeah, that's like telling a mutt who hasn't eaten in a week that a steak is at the airport." He rolls his eyes and then closes them, folding his arms against his stomach. She is willing to give him the last piece of the puzzle and he feels...

"Then I don't know how many times I've asked if I could tell you since we got to this apartment. Or tried to leave because you didn't want to hear it. And you keep..." She sputters and when she gestures, her chin falls from her hand and she face plants onto the bed. She growls in frustration, muffled from the duvet. "I loved you," she whispers finally.

He realizes what he feels. It's hard to admit but it's filling him up, bit by bit. Hurt. Pain. Every nerve is exposed.

"I loved you," she continues in a whisper and though he can't hear tears in her voice, he can sense them lurking in her throat. "I didn't want to be apart from you. I never had any plans to–"

"Dramatically cry out for freedom and break up with me?" He raises an eyebrow.

She ignores him and he can tell what he said barely registers. There is something she has to get out.

But it hurts. And beyond his own pain, he feels hers as well. It's too much. He starts to sit up.

"I wanted to be with you forever." She turns away from him but now from his new vantage point he sees her squeeze her eyes shut. "And then Jeremy and Mia had Ric. I held him and I loved him. I watched you hold him and–" She pauses and he forgets he planned to leave the room, that only a second ago, he did not want to hear her or be near her. "It hit me that I would never be a mom, that I'd never see you holding our baby. It was like this huge wave pulling me under and it just got worse. I was so confused because even if I was still human and you were human, it's not like I wanted a baby right then. But just the idea that I could never have that? That night I got drunk? I was spiraling. And I couldn't talk to you about it. I didn't have the words because it wasn't like I wanted to have a baby then or anything...Being young forever sounds great when you've just graduated college and you're in love–"

"Yeah, I mean, just ask Rod Stewart." He makes a joke out of habit because suddenly he can feels the ache inside of her, open and gaping, a wound. It's not even that good of a joke. His heart isn't in it. And he hates that she felt all that and never spoke about it. "Why didn't you tell me any of this?"

"I didn't know if it would matter to you," she cried out.

"I loved you, Elena. You were going through something. I would have cared." His words are stiff, though it suddenly hits him, as he sounds so serious and intense that they are both still naked. Nothing to hide. Not anymore. "So? Keep going. Get it out, damn it." He shakes her shoulder and yeah, he remembers what being in a relationship was like, not always knowing what to do, wondering after that night at Vito's if he was supposed to forgive her and let it go or push her for an explanation. But suddenly he is certain, as he has been certain about few things in his long existence, that this wound must be lanced completely–whether it means they will be in each other's lives or not.

She turns toward him and his hand slips off her shoulder but she she catches it in both her own. She stares down at his fingers, his palm, cradled in both of her hands. "I knew you'd care. I just didn't think you could relate. What's it like to be a little girl and have dreams about your life and you want it all. And one of those dreams is to fall in love someday and have a family. Be a mom. I had an incredible mom. And meanwhile, it's like...you're so good at being a vampire. You've embraced it. A baby? Damon, I can't imagine that was something you ever wanted. And besides, it isn't a problem we can fix."

"Jesus, Elena." He runs his free hand through his hair and messes up the back of it in frustration. "You should have talked to me."

"Yes," she clears her throat. He watches her try to swallow back tears. "You're right."

"I love being right. It's in my top ten favorite things." His voice is dry. He can't even make jokes. Something is wrong with him. It's pathetic. Where is his journal to cry into? "First of all, you shouldn't have made assumptions. I mean, did I dream of babies and cherubs and shit like that? No. But I've also never felt as human as I did when I was with you. I mean, even now...I couldn't have fixed how you felt but I would have listened. I would have fucking been there."

"I don't know what else to say." Finally, he hears the tears rise up into her words.

"And you should have talked to me because eternity isn't easy, being a vampire isn't easy. Most vampires freak out over stuff like this, over eternity, one year in, maybe two. And you didn't. And then even again at the ten year mark. Yeah, you're watching people you love getting married, having kids, and Jesus–aging. It's hard. And normal. Nothing you've said isn't normal." He removes his hand. "Except that you felt that you couldn't talk to me about it. Especially because I would have understood. I would have listened. And I could have told you these things then."

Elena nods her head and still without meeting his eyes, it seems she reaches some kind of resolution as she wipes away tears with her now free hands. She stands, walking shakily to the entryway, glancing at her ruined dress, which clearly won't do, and then at her suitcase, which she kneels in front of and start to open

"What are you doing?" he snaps.

"I have to get out of here." She murmurs, unzipping her suitcase. Naked.

"No," he insists. He leans forward, elbows on his knees, head in his hands. "No."

"Damon, I told you...all of it. And I–" she pauses and he lifts his head to see that she's pressed her hands to chest, between her breasts as if she in pain. She is crying silently, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I've been miserable without you. But this feels horrible too."

"Elena," he whispers. He wants to touch her, to hold her, to soothe her. He wants to tell her the truth: now that he knows what happened, he understands. It isn't okay. There is regret: things didn't have to happen this way. And he feels miserable too. There is a pain in his chest too. But maybe the answer is different this time. Maybe it's about walking through this pain together instead of parting. "C'mere."

She closes her eyes, opens her mouth to speak, then shuts it, shaking her head, shaking her head no as her shoulders start to shiver with the weight of preparing for this trip, preparing to see him, actually seeing him, and all the shit that has gone on since. And of course, telling him why, bringing it up again.

A part of him–his ego–thinks she must come to him, that it has to be her. But then he remembers standing in front of the fireplace.

I'm not sorry either.

She came to him then.

I'm not sorry that I love you, Damon.

And she had come to him now, humbly with a postcard and a question, flown halfway across the world, without knowing if he would even see her, without an ego.

And then there's the fact that loving Elena has often meant putting aside ego and pride. It was never comfortable but it always ended up with her in his arms and yeah, he has to grudgingly admit, he'd grown as a person and shit.

So this time he stands and walks to her. He knows the distance is not quite as far as San Francisco to Rome but that's not the point. That's never been the point. It's the getting up, his still young joints feeling creaky. It's every step he takes towards her. It's his arms around her, forgetting again that they are naked because for once that isn't even something worth noting, the both of them free of ego and pride together.

She is limp at first, crying silently. He doesn't tell her it's going to be all right. He just strokes her hair until she finally presses her wet face into his neck, until her hands creep up his back, slow as ivy climbing a house as seasons pass.

He doesn't shush her. He rocks her, gently, lovingly. Finally, she lets out a sound, still crying. And he's glad that she isn't crying silently anymore. Like a child holding her breath, when she finally lets go he is relieved. The wetness on his cheeks surprises him and somehow, at some point, they are comforting each other, holding one another, rocking together.

A/N: Elena still has one confession left (it's kind of a good one...) so we aren't quite at happily ever after yet. But they are on their way. It just will be a bit bumpy to start because...It's Damon and Elena. Do you still care about this? It's really up to you if you want to read the rest.