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The Craving (Epilogue)

My time in New York clarified the perils of my existence; despite my good intentions, I am dangerous to humans, and my brother is dangerous to everyone.

And now? What does the future hold? My days seem to pass like minutes. I suppose this means I'm growing accustomed to the idea of eternity.

I have lost so much in the months since I became the creature I now am. But I have gained time. And with time, I gain opportunity. I will see Italy. And the rest of Europe. I will travel the whole world. But I will never make a home among humans again.

As for Damon… I believe our road together is long and our story is not over yet. Should one of us ever finally come to his doom, it will only be the other who causes it.

And in the background… heralded by the faint perfume of lemon and ginger… will always be Katherine, laughing at both of us.

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Elena Gilbert stepped onto a smooth expanse of grass, the spongy blades collapsing beneath her feet. Clusters of scarlet roses and violet delphiniums pushed up from the ground while a giant canopy hung above her, twinkling with glowing lanterns. On the terrace in front of her stood two curving white marble fountains that shot sprays of water high into the air. Everything was beautiful, and elegant, and somehow familiar.

This is Bloddeuwedd's palace, a voice in her head said. But when she had been here last, the field had been crowded with laughing, dancing partygoers. They were gone now, though signs of their presence remained: empty glasses littering the tables set around the edges of the lawn, a silken shawl tossed over a chair, a lone high-heeled shoe perched on the edge of a fountain.

Something else was odd, too. Before, the scene had been lit by the hellish red light that illuminated everything in the Dark Dimension, turning blues to purples, whites to pinks, and pinks to the velvety color of blood. Now a clear white light shone over everything, and a full white moon sailed calmly overhead.

A whisper of movement came from behind her, and Elena realized with a start that she wasn't alone after all. A dark figure was suddenly there, approaching her.

Damon.

Of course it was Damon, Elena thought with a smile. If anyone was going to appear unexpectedly before her, here, at what felt like the end of the world – or at least the hour after a good party had ended – it would be Damon. God, he was so beautiful. Black on black: soft black hair, eyes black as midnight, black jeans, and a smooth leather jacket.

As their eyes met, she was so glad to see him that she could hardly breathe. She threw herself into his embrace, clasping him around the neck. She felt the lithe, hard muscles in his arms and chest as he held her tight.

"Damon," she said, her voice trembling for some reason. Her body was trembling, too, and Damon stroked her arms and shoulders, calming her.

"What is it, princess? Don't tell me you're afraid." He smirked lazily at her, but his hands were strong and steady.

"I am afraid," she answered.

"But what are you afraid of?"

That left her puzzled for a moment. Then, slowly, putting her cheek against his, she said, "I'm afraid that this is just a dream."

"I'll tell you a secret," he said into her ear. "You and I are the only real things here. It's everything else that's the dream."

"Just you and I?" Elena echoed, an uneasy thought nagging at her, as though she was forgetting something – or someone. A fleck of ash landed on her dress, and she absently brushed it away.

"It's just the two of us, Elena," Damon said sharply. "You're mine. I'm yours. We've always loved each other, since the beginning of time."

Of course. That must be why she was trembling – it was joy. He was hers. She was his. They belonged together.

She whispered one word, "Yes."

Then he kissed her.

His lips were soft as silk, and when the kiss deepened, she tilted her head back, exposing her throat, anticipating the double wasp-sting he'd delivered so many times.

When it didn't come, she opened her eyes questioningly. The moon was bright as ever, and the scent of roses hung heavy in the air. But Damon's chiseled features were pale under his dark hair, and more ash had landed on the shoulders of his jacket. All at once, the little doubts that had been niggling at her came into clear focus.

Oh, no. Oh, no.

"Damon," she gasped, looking into his eyes despairingly as tears filled her own. "You can't be here, Damon. You're… dead."

"For more than five hundred years, princess." Damon flashed his blinding smile at her. "I don't know why it's such a shock to you."

More ash was falling around them, like a fine gray rain. Like the ash Damon's body was buried beneath, worlds and dimensions away.

"Damon, you're… dead now. Not undead, but… gone."

"No, Elena – "

"Yes. Yes! I held you as you died…." Elena was sobbing helplessly. She couldn't feel Damon's arms at all now. He was disappearing into shimmering light.

"Listen to me, Elena – " She was holding moonlight. Anguish caught at her heart.

"All you need to do is call for me," Damon's voice said. "All you need…"

His voice faded into the sound of wind rustling through the trees. Elena's eyes snapped open. The room was full of sunlight, and a huge crow was perched on the sill of her open window. A cloud must have gone over the sun; for a moment, the world was dim.

The crow tilted its head to one side and gave another croak, watching her with bright eyes.

A cold chill ran down her spine. "Damon?" she whispered.

But the crow just spread its wings and flew away.

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