Disclaimer: The characters and other things from The Vampire Diaries don't belong to me. Credit goes to the rightful owners.
Elena's eyes fluttered to a close as her last breath left her, giving in to the fate she evaded once before. At last, death finally chased her down and claimed her as promised.
Yet there was none of the peace she expected, not from the pain that slashed through her heart like a thousand shards of glass all at once when unbidden memories she never even knew she came crashing relentlessly.
"I just have to say it once, you just have to hear it…I love you, Elena. And it's because I love you that I can't be selfish with you…why you can't know this. I don't deserve you. But my brother does. God, I wish you didn't have to forget this but you do."
"You want a love that consumes you. You want passion and adventure and even a little danger."
His voice filled her head, demanding her attention even as she slipped from the world, pulling her towards it even as the words burned her. It pushed out everything but the darkness that began to suffocate her and she all she wanted was for it to be over. Because that's what it should be. Over. It has to be. TShe refused to believe the images in her head, that they were stolen memories. If they were, then it wasn't a parting gift she would want to take with her. She wanted to die without them because there was no coming back from this. No way to undo the choices she made and the hearts that she broke.
She wanted to scream as his last words took over, the blackness hovering just at the edge letting madness play with her before taking her in completely. She wanted to demand silence that death should bring. Elena just wanted release from the pain, from the truth that at the last second she wanted Damon to save her.
Yet there was no tunnel, no light or even the other side in sight. Fear gripped her as she fought to free herself from invisible shackles that held her down. But in she remained still in the midst of her panic, her struggle invisible even to her as she fought to open her eyes or whatever it was that would get her past the dark. She just wanted to stop hearing Damon say goodbye.
In her panic, she didn't notice the second things began to change. It was her hearing that first came back to her. Crying. Someone was crying next to her. She could imagine a steady stream of tears, silent but raw emotions that told her a story of pain and anger steady beside her. Then she heard footsteps, quick and filled with purpose, growing louder as it came closer, each footfall speaking of hope mixed with trepidation. It was that sound that she clung to; mentally trying to claw her way out whatever she was in.
Elena struggled harder, desperation rising in her as she fought against facts and age-old beliefs that told her she was dead and she was attempting the impossible. She simply wanted to open her eyes. She could do it. She just needed enough time to set things right.
The door swung open but Elena did not hear it because her body decided it was time and her own gasp prevented her from hearing anything else. For a second her only focus was her dead lungs clawing for air it did not need.
The voice cut through the haze cleanly, disrupting her racing thoughts, allowing her to focus on what was in front of her. Elena stared at them, turning first to Stefan then to Damon, as a nagging feeling crept up on her when she realized the room was entirely too silent. Her hand found its way to her chest, feeling for something she already knew no longer existed. But she needed to know. She placed her palm flat against her heart and waited for what seemed like an endless minute until Stefan gently lifted her hand and took it in his. Elena watched as Damon shook his head and stepped closer to them.
"I'm…?" Elena whispered, unable to voice out the rest of the words, fearing the weight of reality it will bring.
"Yes," Damon said, his jaw clenched tight, "I need to know. Right now. Can you do this?"
"I…" Elena said trailing off, looking at Stefan for help, her anchor in life and in death.
"It's your call, Elena," Stefan said gently, "Whatever you decide, we will respect it."
Damon rolled his eyes and leaned forward, placing both hands on the edge of the table, staring straight at Elena, "Once upon a time, I watched a friend who decide to go gently into the night. It did not go well. For everyone involved. In fact, it led us to this point. I will not go through that again, not with you. Because if you choose that and I'm within a hundred miles of you, I will not let you go. So tell me now so I can walk out that door and I will pretend you drowned, died, the end."
"Why did you make me forget?" Elena said quietly, asking questions that plagued her in the dark.
Damon blinked and stepped back in surprise. "That was fast."
"Tell me, Damon." Elena said, her voice growing stronger, "I deserve to know."
Damon leaned lazily against the wall and stared her down, "Elena, you already know why I made you forget. I told you then and I'm not about to repeat them now because that is the definition of wasting time. Trust me, we don't have much of it. So I suggest that instead of dwelling on history, you focus on deciding if you want blood or some elaborate farewell gesture with candles and tears. Your choice."
"Damon," Stefan said sharply glaring at his brother, "You're not helping."
Turning to Elena, Stefan took both her hands and forced her to look at him, "This is huge, Elena, I know that. And I know you'd want time to decide but Damon is right, you will need to choose and it will have to be soon. If you choose this life, then I'll get you through it. But if…not…then we will find a way to make it as peaceful as possible."
Damon gave her a small smile and shrugged, "Guess this is the time you start thinking of always, instead of just right now. Because that's what the choice is. Forever or the few hours that stands between you and true death."
"Tell me why, Damon," Elena insisted, almost pleading, as if in his answer lay the one to her own dilemma, "Please. Why didn't you give them back to me before…before this?"
Damon straightened up and faced her squarely, "Because if you knew all that and still didn't choose me then I'd have lost even the wretched 'what if'."
"Stefan, champion of free will, I'll let you list out pros and cons with Elena and just give me a call when you're done," he said addressing his brother as he turned to leave.
"Why aren't you fighting, Damon?" Elena questioned him, causing him to pause, "You tried to do this to me once before, forced me to drink your blood and now you're acting like this isn't something you want."
"No, Elena," Damon said with a bittersweet smile, "I want this. You have no idea how grateful I am to Meredith Fell's twisted medical practice that made it possible for you to ask me all these repetitive questions. I would listen to all of them and answer them for all of forever if it meant you're still walking on this earth. But I've realized that our best chance of convincing you to stay will be leaving you with someone you want to be with, someone who can make you see it won't be so bad. And it's not me. It's Stefan. It's always going to be Stefan."
Elena closed her eyes, unwilling to watch Damon walk away, trying to forget the other brother who stood by her side, unmoved and ready to support her through anything.
"He was right," Elena said after a long while, breaking the silence, "I want what everyone wants. I want a love that consumes me, passion, adventure…I want a love that makes me want to live. But not like this."
"Stefan," she said turning to him, "I want to say…goodbye…to everyone. Please. Come with me and make sure I don't… hurt anyone."
Stefan nodded and helped her to her feet. Not trusting himself to talk, he simply held her hand until he could speak.
"Stefan," Elena said making him stop, "Tell Damon to go. Now"
"Elena, you owe him at least a goodbye," Stefan said, "Even if he runs away from this, it will eventually destroy him."
"You don't get it," Elena said in a hollow voice, "He was right. He has to go because if he stays, he will find a way to have me complete the transition…and part of me knows that I will want him to. So please, Stefan, before the last of my human will disappears, tell him to go because he's going to make me want to stay."
Klaus stared at the coffin that held his body, detesting that he inhabited one of a traitor, of his own creation no less. But he was a survivor and this was one of those little sacrifices that needed to be done. A slow smile crept on his face as he popped the lid up and found further proof in the indestructibility the doppelganger blood has provided him. The flames killed the vampire, the essence of the original within that body. That much was true. The other half of the hybrid is truly gone but there was another monster that lived in him and he has been asleep for far too long.
"Katerina and Elena cannot exist in the same form," Klaus whispered as he sealed the coffin closed once more, loading it on the back of a truck, "And if Elena chooses wrongly, I will wake up that which even I fear and there will be no mercy."
He closed his eyes briefly, remembering eyes that matched his, the feel of a kiss that was not meant for him, a love that he desired but was not his, of wanting to run away from all the madness. Klaus shook his head free of her and stared at Tyler's reflection as he whispered, "No mercy."