"Stefan. The only person worse at being a vampire than me is you. Human blood is your downfall. You got the raw end of the vampire deal. The rest of us will be fine, we'll survive. I mean, you taught us. You deserve whatever you want out of deserve this."

"You know, Elena, I've never actually wanted to hurt anyone. But I have, many times. And what you're saying, me getting the raw end of the deal, it's true. And I suck at being a vampire because I end up doing the one thing I never meant to do. But the guilt from all the murders is going to follow me for the rest of my life, whether as a vampire or as a human. There is no cure for it. And there shouldn't be one. I need this guilt. It has become part of who I am and honestly I don't deserve to live without it. Just on the contrary, I deserve to live with it for as long as possible. So many people deserve this cure more than me. Damon deserves it because he never wanted to be a vampire in the first place. I made him turn. He had a good soul, he didn't want to become a monster but he did it exactly because of his good heart - he did it because he loved me. And no matter how many people Damon kills or how many times he hurts the people he loves, he still has that same good heart he had back then. You and I both know it, Elena. Damon deserves to live a human life so that he doesn't have to kill and pretend to be the bad guy. I want to give him a chance to stop being who he is not, and start living the life he is so fiercely trying to pretend he doesn't desire. But he does, Elena, he just hides it because he knows he can't have it and he thinks he doesn't deserve it because of all the evil he has created."

"Stefan, I know this but…"

"There are no 'but's, Elena. Look at Rebekah. She misses being human so much. She would do anything for this cure. Something that is wanted so bad surely proves it's deserved, doesn't it? Having said that, you know that for me there is still one person who needs this more than them, more than me. It's you, Elena, and you know exactly how I feel. Do you think I'll ever be able to forget that moment when we were up in the mountains and you poured your heart out about how you don't want to be a vampire and you want to grow old and have children? No matter what you say you want now, I know that hasn't changed. Because nothing as powerful and as pure as that desire of yours can vanish just like that. Do you think Alaric and your parents would want to see you live as a vampire? Do you think John would want that? People risked their lives for this, Elena. I don't want it to sound like I'm being reproachful, but they did. And they did it because they saw the same sparkle in your eyes that I saw, full of life and desire to keep living. You know well that I'll never force you to drink this, but it's yours. Look me in the eye and tell me that the girl I kissed before she died in that river wouldn't want this. Tell me that you like killing people. Tell me at least that you're okay with killing people. Tell me you'll be okay seeing Matt getting married one day and having kids that you'll never be able to have. Tell me that you don't miss being hungry for real food or feeling pain when you cut yourself while cooking. Because I know that you miss it all. I know that you miss even the boring little details that human beings never actually think about. Tell me and I'll give up"

Elena didn't know what to say. She looked completely and utterly shocked. Her eyes were filled up with tears and in that exact moment she knew Stefan was right. So he held the tiny bottle for one last second before he put it back in Elena's hand.

"I don't want you to become human so that we can be together again. Despite what I might have said, I don't think your love for Damon has anything to do with being a vampire. I think I have an idea why it happened now. It's not you being a vampire that caused you to open your heart for him, it's the fact that you're suffering of being on the evil side and killing people. Damon understands you better than anybody could and that made you let him in. I remember the day John died. When we were in the cemetery there was that one brief moment when you were crying next to John's stone and you suddenly looked at Damon. Your eyes revealed so much pain but when they met Damon's there was a silent and barely noticeable agreement between the two of you. As if he was the only person who could understand you. As if with that one look you made him know that you forgive him for all the bad things he had to do because you understood him and his motives just as well as he did yours. I tried not to think about it but I can't pretend anymore, Elena. Damon won your heart long before he won your mind with his seductive games. And you wouldn't have let him seduce you if you didn't trust him with your life, if he didn't understand what you need. Or who you need."

Right then a few tears slowly starting coming down Elena's cheeks. She didn't try to hold them. She couldn't stop looking at Stefan. The truth was that she didn't love Stefan the way she used to love him. So many things have changed and no matter how much she wanted to be in love with him, she just wasn't anymore. Not for now.

"I know now." She breathed heavily and told herself to stop the tears from falling. "I know now why I loved you all this time."

Stefan couldn't help himself but ask her to tell him why. "Tell me, Elena, tell me what made you believe in me and love me even when I couldn't stand myself."

"You're the most selfless person that I've ever met, Stefan. All this, here, right now… And not just today. That day, when you saved Matt… I know you keep saying you thought you'd have enough time to save us both but it's not true, is it? You knew… You knew I'd die. And it took all of your will, all of your love for me to listen to my last wish. To let me die and lose what we have. I chose you and you knew we had great moments in front of us but you let me go anyway. Because above all, for you, my desire has always been your first wish. You knew that if Matt died I'd hate myself for it and maybe, to some extent, I'd hate you too. You also knew that that feeling would pass, because time heals everything. But you valued me as a person so much that you were ready to sacrifice everything that you wanted for the one thing that I wanted. I know you did it because you loved me but I also understand that you did it because you knew it was the right decision, the right thing to do. All because you have a good heart. And you can tell me a million times that you don't deserve this cure, Stefan, but I'd rather die a hundred deaths than become human before you do. Because I may want a family and I may want kids and maybe I deserve them, yes. But you want these things and you deserve them all in that selfless way that nobody I've ever met before does."

Stefan knew that he had to leave then because the pain was too excruciating and he couldn't stand seeing the woman he loves tell him all these things and still be in love with someone else. He was just about to leave when Elena held his arm, looking at the floor.

"I love him. I love Damon. Because of all the things you said and because of many more. But I loved you, too, Stefan and the truth is we just didn't work anymore. You said it and you were right. Damon, he… He sees me the way I see myself, not more, not less. Yet, he's pushy and moody and impulsive and completely everything that I'm not. But I feel this force that's pulling me towards him and I don't know if it's because we're so different or because we're initially very much alike but whatever the reason is, I need to explore it. He is who he is and right now that's all I need. I don't need to be human, I don't need to feel remorse, I don't need the pain or the tears. I just need him."

Stefan turned around as not to face her, and he smiled, his eyes now also full of tears. "I know, Elena. I know and it's killing me. But I already let you go once at that bridge. And in those brief minutes when I thought you were gone, I felt more pain that I've ever felt in my entire life. It was suffocating me. Funny, right? Vampires don't have to breathe but in that moment I had to. And I took a breath. And then I took another one. And I realized that it may hurt like hell but you have to live with it. A small step after another. And you just learn to do, despite the pain."