ELENA'S POV

I stare at the black, spiraling hole that found itself a home in the wall of a library. It really does look like a portal, a door to another world - at least, as much as you can stretch your imagination while thinking about such a thing.

It won't close. When Stefan and me went into the time hole, it closed behind us. But I guess this is different. This was created by magic, not nature, so only magic can close it.

They're gone. Bonnie and Damon are gone. It all happened so fast. One second, I felt joyful because Bonnie had managed to push Qetsiyah in it. I watched her spiral down, a surprised look on her face, streaked by fear, and then she was gone. Just like that, like she was never here at all. Sucked into the darkness. I almost felt relief. But then, I've noticed Bonnie stumbling down as well. There was a confused expression on her face, like she can't figure out why this is happening, as if she has no control over her body whatsoever. Damon yells her name, shocking me, because I've never heard his voice sound quite so desperate. It was cracking by its edges as well as in its core. I started to move, I was just about to order my feet to run as fast as they can, so I can catch Bonnie before she meets the same fate as Qetsiyah. But Damon was quicker than me. He was behind her, reaching out for her, but all he grabbed was a fistful of thin air.

I watched his shoulders get tense, the other parts of his body following. He was too calm, unusually calm, and everything was quiet. Just like those few seconds before the bomb goes off, as everyone accept their fate. I remember thinking Damon is going to explode as well. I think we all thought the same. Because it's Damon, he always explodes under pressure. That's what he does, he makes things messier.

Then I heard Stefan's voice from the other side of the room. Damon, no. And for a moment, I was confused. He's just standing there, looking at the blackness which swallowed Bonnie.

Bonnie. My heart finds enough time to ache for her in this mess.

But then, I see it as well, Damon's one foot is in front of his body. Stefan screams his name, which is when he steps in. He disappears as well.

And in the moment he steps in, only one question comes to my mind - does he love her?

He must love her. Truly. To do something like this. Something so unlike him. Or, finally, something exactly like him.

Caroline is whimpering next to me and it takes me some time to realize I'm whimpering as well. Quiet, torturous sounds are leaving my body. I've lost my best friend. Again. Because she was trying to protect me, protect us, protect those I love, those she loves. Again.

Stefan gets to his feet, with the help of the wall behind him, a look of horror on his face. I want to run to him. I want to run into his arms for protection, advice, guidance, but I also want to console him. The thing is, I don't know how. I don't know how to make him feel better about the pain I feel myself.

He starts walking, first slowly, dragging his feet behind him, then his pace quickens. Somewhere in between, his expression changes from horror to determination.

"Stefan?" I ask for him when he walks by me, straight towards the hole in the wall.

But he doesn't react to the sound of my voice. He just keeps walking towards the portal, his back tense.

When I realize what he's about to do, I shout his name one more time. "Stefan!" I can see him waver for less than a second, but he keeps walking nevertheless, which is when I hurry towards him, moving faster than I ever thought possible, wondering where that speed was just minutes ago. I grab him by the wrist, trying to stop him from moving. "Stefan, no!" I shout desperately.

He yanks his wrist out of my hand violently, turning around. "He's my brother, Elena!" he yells at me. He never used this voice with me before.

I want to calm him down. I want to put my own pain aside to learn how to deal with his, but such a thing is impossible.

"I know," I say. I know, I want him to know that. I want him to know that I understand - I would do the same for my brother as well. I would walk into infinite uncertain situations for him if necessary. "I care for him too," I feel safe enough to say. Because I do. After everything we've been through, it's impossible not to. Damon is a constant in my life, in a different way than Stefan is, but still, he's always there, and he always will be. He's a part of my life in so many ways, but most importantly, he's my family. Stefan is my family and Damon is his brother which makes him my family as well. And it's impossible to not care for your family, despite the unpleasant past you share.

And I know Stefan knows this. I know he won't misinterpret my words.

"And Bonnie is our friend," I continue, my voice turning calm and nurturing on its own.

"Which is why we have to get them back!" he points towards the portal, still wide and black on the wall before us, his expression angry and helpless at the same time.

Somehow, I will myself to stay calm, to keep my voice even. "And we will," I say, reaching for his hand again. I take it in my own, feeling how tense he is. He becomes restless as I hold him - like I'm containing him somehow, luring him away from his true goal. I have to make him realize I'm not the enemy here. "You're not thinking straight, Stefan. You're not being rational. Haven't you heard? The two of them might not even be at the same place," I squeeze his hand, trying to make him realize, "Which means, if you go in, you might end up somewhere completely different as well. And what's the point in that?" I try to make him see things my way. I try to calm him down, even though I don't know where from I get the strength to do it. Because I'm falling apart from inside out.

He relaxes a bit, but his mind is still railing, confused, playing the same scene over and over again. "And what do you propose we do?" he asks, squeezing his lips shut afterwards.

"We find another way," I answer.

I know it sounds silly. To confirm it, he laughs. He laughs hysterically at how ridiculous it sounds. "There is no other way," he raises his voice again, compared to how it was just seconds ago.

I furrow my brows. "Of course there is," I say, "And we always find it."

The truth is, I'm selfish. I don't want him to go because I can't let him go. If he went, I would want to follow, and I can't do that. I can leave Jeremy alone. I can't leave Caroline alone. Not for the mere possibility of maybe ending up at the same place as them. We still wouldn't know how to come back.

And I would follow Stefan. I would follow him to the end of this world and every other world there is. But this mission would be futile.

I won't leave with him, because I can't, which means I can't let him go either. I'm selfish, but I guess that's a part of the human nature. We're often selfish, and often with best intentions.

I look him in the eyes and do my best to hold his look with mine. Somehow, I get to him, just like that. Maybe it was my pleading look, or my pleading words. Maybe a little bit of both.

He relaxes visibly, and when he does, he seems centuries older. His shoulders sag, his whole body does, and that expression on his face is a perfect caption of pure and utter sadness.

He puts his arms around me and envelops me into a long and tight hug. We stay in that position for what seems like hours.


STEFAN'S POV

It's been two months, six days and eleven hours since Damon and Bonnie went away.

I'm packing my clothes in a brown, leather bag. I was doing the same thing a year ago. Packing my stuff, ready to leave my home, because I couldn't stand the sight of my brother with the woman I love. Now I'm leaving because I can't stand that he's not here.

We found a way to close the portal. Wanda found someone to help us with it. Just a few words and it was gone. Any witch powerful enough can open and close the portal. That's a good thing to know.

"Hey," Elena's voice booms from behind me. Everything was so quiet that her voice makes everything around me shake. I turn around. She's leaning against the door frame, her arms crossed over her chest, a distant look in her eyes. "Are you ready?" she asks.

I turn around, steadying my eyes on my hands. "Almost," my tone is underwhelming. I hate goodbyes, even if they're for a short period of time.

She's moving towards me. I can hear her footsteps, quiet and feather like. "You know," she says a little bit more cheerfully this time, "I always thought that when we go to Italy it will be under more romantic circumstances."

This manages to put a light smile on my lips. "I told you that you don't have to go with me," I say lightly, feeling horrible for saying it one more time. Like I don't want her there. Quite the opposite, I need her there, desperately. I just don't want her to feel she's obliged to follow me wherever I go. She can lead her life any way she wants despite our romantic relationship. We will meet again, someday.

She stops behind me. "And I told you," her lips fall down on the back of my shoulder and she plants a butterfly kiss right on my shoulder blade, "That I want to. Jeremy will stay with Matt, and Caroline and her mom will keep an eye on them both. Plus, we won't be gone for that long, you said it yourself."

It's easy to find a way to track a person when they're on this world. Turns out it's very hard, bordering with impossible, to track a person when they're in a completely other realm. We've been researching relentlessly ever since they went away, and our research brought us here. What we're looking for might be in Italy.

"I know," I nod, zipping my bag shut, "I just don't want you to put your life on hold for me."

Caroline decided not to go with us. She has built a life for herself here. She made new friends and she's really enjoying her classes. I think she wants to be here in case Tyler decides to come back home, even though she haven't said anything. She says we need someone to stay here, to keep an eye on things. We will talk as much as we can. Saying goodbye to her will be the hardest thing for me to do.

"And I'm not," Elena says. I turn to her. "I want them back as much as you do, Stefan," she says honestly, her voice warm. Elena is this perfect mix of a child and an adult. Serious and tough and responsible when she needs to be, but also playful and laid back. "It's not like I ever took college seriously," she rolls her eyes because it's true. She went to college because it was the next natural step in her life and after adapting to being a vampire that was something she desperately needed. But she never truly got into it, not like Caroline did. "I think I want to travel now. Maybe go to college later," she continues, her eyes distant, like she's making a map inside of her brain. Her eyes sparkle when she looks back up at me, "Uh, maybe I could get a pixie cut and study History of modern art in France," her lips form into a smile.

I laugh as I wrap my arms around her. "Elena, you don't even like art," I say, "Especially modern art," she always says it looks like something a bunch of kindergartners made.

"Okay, okay," she rolls her eyes, "Maybe European literature."

I kiss the tip of her nose, "That's more like it."

She falls deeper into me, leaning her head against my chest.

Even though getting Damon and Bonnie back is the first priority on my list, I don't want my life to stop. I don't want our lives to stop. I want to remind Elena everyday how much I love her, even when there are other things on my mind. I want to take her places and show her things. I want to watch a smile form on on her face, like it always does, when she learns something new. I want to fall in love with that smile a little bit more everyday.

"We could get married in one of those small churches in Europe," she murmurs into my chest, "One with a story."

"Marry? You're just 18 years old," I kiss the top of hear head, "I'm pretty sure that's illegal," I say jokingly.

But she responds somberly, "Just 18, huh? I feel so much older. Like being 18 was a lifetime ago."

Sometimes I feel she's older than 18 as well. I feel like I've known her my entire life. Sometimes even in a life before this one.

"Also, us, marrying in a church? Ironic. Since we're damned," I say.

She stays quiet for a moment, but then answers, "So are a lot of humans, and they do it anyway."

Her words get to me in a way only things said by her can.

I take my bag from the bed, and start walking towards the door, my other arm wrapped around her shoulders. "Imagine being married to someone for an eternity, though. Some people can't even last a decade," I say.

"What?" she asks, "Vampires can't get divorce?"

"Touche," I retort.

We're at the door when calls my name, "Stefan?"

"Hmm?" I say. I pull my arm away from her shoulders, my fingers wrapping around the knob.

She smiles at me faintly, light pouring into the hallway through a half closed doors of my bedroom. Her face is half shadow, half light.

Her voice is warm, gentle, honest when she says, "I don't need a piece of paper to give you an eternity."


AN: Here we are, at the end of yet another story. I think this is my longest one yet and it was so much fun to write because it's the only story I've written that isn't AU. Thanks to everyone who stuck with it until the very end, and to everyone who started reading it at all. Thank you for all of your reviews. I'm ending this story because I feel like there's nothing more to say. I feel like Stefan made a full circle, and so did Elena, and so did their relationship, and I just feel that it's time for that circle to close now. I don't really watch the show anymore, and I won't say I regret ever watching it even though it turned out to be a complete and utter disappointment. I don't regret it because to this day Stefan and Elena are one of the most beautiful couples I've ever seen on television and the relationship they had I'm always going to cherish. It's something I learned so much from and, in a way, I grew with it. Because it came to me when my life was really sucky. And, even though I don't watch the show anymore, I guess this is the only way I can see Stefan and Elena getting back together that would satisfy me - Elena realizing that Damon is not good for her and for the person she is. Honestly, I hope that happens even if she doesn't get back with Stefan. Anyway, that's the reason I'm finishing this story, because I have nothing more to say from Stefan and Elena's POV. So yeah, you can imagine them living happily ever after, or you can imagine them breaking up hundreds of times in the next couple of centuries, and getting back together one time more than the time they break up.

Now, of course, there's the still open subject of where Damon and Bonnie went. I haven't forgotten about that. I started writing those two for a reason, and I sent them off for a reason. So, for everyone who are interested, I'm starting a new story, a Bamon one, called Dark Hours. It will continue on this one, just from Bonnie's POV. So, if you're interested in what happens to Bonnie and Damon, check it out, I will publish the first chapter today ;)

For everyone who want some more of Stefan and Elena, I'm currently writing an AU Stelena story called The List, so you can always check that out! :)