A/N - So, this is it, the final chapter. Thanks for sticking with me to the end. I know this has been a sad story, but there is a little bit of sunshine at the end.

Just a word of warning, there is a short POV change ahead. It's marked, so it shouldn't trip you up. I think the switch back to Damon's POV is obvious, too.

So, that's it, Ric, the whole ugly, depressing story and only took all night and half a day to tell it. Although, I have a feeling that Elena has been sitting next to you this whole time, telling you her version. Hopefully, she filled in some gaps, like what the hell happened after they left Mystic Falls. I'm dying to hear that part of the story.

Anyway, after I buried Jeremy, I walked home. It gave me plenty of time to think, make some plans. Did you know that Stef and I have a great-niece? Well, a great-great-great-great-something-niece. She was Zach's daughter. A few years back, Stefan confessed that he had hidden her from me, for her own protection. I think he expected me to be angry about that. Had I found out earlier, I probably would have been. But, by the time he told me, Elena had changed me. I understood why he felt he needed to protect her. Well, Sarah, that's our niece, is about to become a very wealthy young woman. I've signed it all over to her, every asset to my name, it's all going to Sarah. I made sure she won't have to worry about the management aspect of her new found fortune. I just want her to enjoy what the family spent two centuries building. Someone should and it won't be me.

Ric, in what world is it right that I get to live and Elena Gilbert doesn't? I spent one hundred and forty-five years pining over a woman who never loved me. That's not living. That's being stuck in a holding pattern. It wasn't until I met Elena and gave up on Katherine that I really started living. She's gone now, buddy, and I can't go back to existing without her. That's what it would be, existing, not living. I can't do that again. I just can't.

Ric's POV

I watched with dread as my best friend pushed himself up off the ground. I had a pretty good idea what he was going to do. As much as I hated it, I understood. Anyone who had ever seen Damon and Elena together would understand. I just knew I couldn't let him do it alone.

So, I followed him as he wove through the cemetery, stopping along the way at some of the graves. His first stop was the Gilbert plot, pausing long enough to brush a nonexistent leaf from the top of Jenna's headstone and to pat the top of Jeremy's just like he used to do to Jeremy's shoulder. He had never come out and said it, but Jeremy was like a little brother to him. Losing Jeremy hurt Damon almost as much as losing Stefan had.

After a stop at Bonnie and Matt's graves, he found himself at Liz Forbes's grave. I stood behind him, my hand on his shoulder, as he apologized to his friend for not bringing Caroline home to her. He obviously regretted not finding Caroline's body, but he just didn't have it in him to search any longer. He kneeled down and pulled a few weeds from the ground as he talked, telling her that he had taken care of Klaus, that Caroline's death had been avenged. After a final goodbye to Liz, he pulled himself upright and turned away.

He walked, almost casually, toward the oldest section of the cemetery. I kept pace with him, walking to his left, mimicking our seats at the bar of the Grill. Somewhere along the way, Stefan joined us on Damon's right side. His jaw was clinched, obviously wishing his brother hadn't made this choice, offering the only support he could, his presence, even if unknown by Damon.

Coming out of a wooded area, we entered the clearing in front of the Salvatore crypt. The sun was beating down and Damon had a smile on his face as he looked up at it. Looking ahead, I saw what Damon couldn't, Elena sitting on the step of the crypt, a sad smile on her face. Jeremy sat with her, his arm around her shoulder, bracing her for what would come next.

Almost as if he expected Elena to be nearby, Damon spoke.

"I will always choose you, Elena."

Closing his eyes, Damon pulled his daylight ring off his finger and let it fall to the ground. Holding his arms out as if to say 'here I am', he let the sun take him.

The first thing I noticed was whispering, although I couldn't make out any words. I groaned inwardly. I was the one thing I didn't want to be. Alive. Someone must have found me just in time and shoved my ring back on my finger.

Then I felt it, the lightest of touches on my cheek. I pried my eyes open, only to be blinded by the sun, directly overhead. I could feel the hard, cool ground beneath me, but couldn't place exactly where I was. The last thing I remember was standing outside the Salvatore crypt.


My thoughts were so loud and the voice was so soft, I almost didn't hear it.


This time it was louder, stronger. The hand resting against my cheek moved, brushing some stray hair off my forehead.

I knew that touch, that voice.


I pushed up to a sitting position and found myself eye to eye with the love of my life. Her eyes were shiny with tears, but her smile was radiant. I could see sadness over the choice I had made along with joy at our reunion. Without giving her a chance to lecture me about giving up, I pulled her into my arms, silencing her when our lips crashed together in a breathtaking kiss.

It was only when I heard laughter around us that I pulled away from her. Looking around, I saw we were surrounded by our family – Stefan, Jeremy, Ric, Caroline and Bonnie. I scrambled to my feet, pulling Elena up with me. I don't think I had ever been so happy to see my brother as when I pulled him into a bear hug. As soon as I let go of Stefan, Caroline barreled into my arms, soon to be followed by Ric. Even Bonnie and Jeremy seemed happy to see me.

When I turned back to Elena, she wrapped herself around me like she would never let me go again.

"So," she said, "are you ready?"

"Ready for what? I just got here."

She didn't immediately answer, just pointed off in the distance. Up ahead, it looked like the sun had sunk to the horizon, still shining brightly. That, however, was impossible because it was still directly overhead.

"Are you ready to find peace? We've been waiting for you."

I just looked at her, incredulously. I wasn't sure how I had earned the right to find peace, but I wasn't going to let it slip through my hands, especially not if it involved spending eternity with Elena Gilbert.

I wrapped her left hand in my right one, pulling it up to my lips for a kiss. Her engagement ring, my mother's ring, caught my eye, glinting in the sunlight. I was ready for eternity, ready for happiness, ready for peace.

"Let's go."

A/N2 - That's it! Thanks for reading. I'd love to know what you thought about this little fic. Just leave a review in the box below. I'm hoping to have some inspiration for my next TVD fic soon. Thanks ~ craftyjhawk