Meet Me In The Middle
"Inhale through the nose—take in a big sigh. Focus on the contraction. And then you exhale; allow all of the air to escape your mouth, while relaxing your body."
Caroline breathed out slowly—her eyes closed for just a moment, while she lay on her back against the mat and head on the pillow beneath her, allowing only the sound of the instructor's voice to infiltrate her ears as she remained in tune with her senses. She only allowed her eyelashes to flutter open when she felt a soft pair of hands slowly massaging her belly in tune with the expels from her lips.
She bit her lip, forcing back a smile, when she noticed Stefan was breathing with her—voluntarily it seemed—as he continued to calmly massage her under the Lamaze class instructor's direction, while she stared up directly at him. When he finally realized Caroline was paying attention to him instead of concentrating, he cleared his voice softly and whispered just loudly enough for her to hear.
"You should probably start paying attention, Forbes-Salvatore. Some of this information could come in handy one day."
Caroline scoffed and Stefan smiled, continuing to draw circles on her stomach as she exhaled and found his eyes once more.
"You come to your first Lamaze class and suddenly you're the expert… Are you gonna mansplain the benefits of breastfeeding to me as well?"
"Isn't that why I'm here? To throw in my unsolicited two cents that nobody asked for?"
Caroline smirked at that; her hands forming comfortably over his, when the instructor called for all of the pregnant women to rise, and their partners to help guide them to their feet.
When Caroline was on her toes, she felt a quick kiss land on her cheek, grinning as they were briefed on what to expect next time before they were told they could go. Stefan helped Caroline into her coat as he stood behind her, allowing her to slip her arms into the sleeves before she grabbed her hair and tied it into a messy top-knot.
"That wasn't so bad, was it?" he asked, shrugging on his own pea coat, as they began to walk out. "It was nice, relaxing…"
"Yeah, perfect," she chirped a bit too brightly, tugging at her lip, and eyes focused ahead.
This had been her second Lamaze class—the first was just a welcoming orientation—and although she was excited to be learning new techniques when it came to coping methods for the pain during labor, she had to admit that she was still very nervous. She was going to give birth in just a few short months and the time was flying as she thought through all they needed to do and still had to learn about having their first baby.
She was sure they'd be able to do this—after all, they'd managed to raise Aiden like he was their own—but in a sense, they got to essentially skip the hard part which were the sleepless nights, teething, crying, and everything else that she was sure would make her lose a little bit of hair, her mind, and gain a few crow's feet at the eyes to couple with the extra pounds she'd put on.
But it all began with labor, which Caroline was admittedly terrified of.
Having Stefan here helped; he made her laugh and eased a bit of the anxiety. But there was even so much that he could do when it came to actually giving birth, because that was going to be all her. Her baby's life was going to be almost entirely up to her ability to get through this.
Caroline was hit with a wave of cold air when the two stepped outside and he carried her bag to the car before opening the passenger side door.
She immediately rubbed her frigid hands together the second he got in behind the wheel; her normally pale cheeks a slight shade of red beneath the blistering and unforgiving New York City winter. December was here, and it had not arrived quietly or nicely. Today had even hit a record low of 19 degrees. She definitely expected to see some snow before the week was over.
Stefan allowed his Audi to warm up for a moment and Caroline shuddered, pulling her phone out of her pocket to check her work emails. Being a mommy-to-be didn't mean she had yet to relinquish all of her responsibilities she had in the fashion world. In a sense she liked it—having something she felt like she could be in control over. But as Enzo had warned her, speaking from his experience with Rebekah, she couldn't work forever like this—and he was more or less going to demand she go out on a maternity leave when her time came. It wasn't that he doubted her as a director—if anything, he was going to drown without her—but he understood how important having your first child was; and the time Caroline would surely need to not only foster her bond with her newborn baby, but also for the time she would need for herself to recoup from it all.
Motherhood would be draining, especially on a tired body. And her health was his number one concern.
She only wished she could put her pride aside for two seconds to come to terms with that.
They sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes before he pulled the car off and finally opened his mouth.
"Did you have fun? At the class, I mean. Do you find it helpful?"
Caroline looked up from her phone at that and pursed her lips before nodding her head and offering a verbal response.
"Yeah, I mean, I've only been twice but it's informative and… I think it'll prepare me for a lot of what's to come… It'll prepare us."
Stefan tugged at his lip at that, eyes still on the road ahead, until he final came to a stoplight and glanced at her briefly—his warm hand meeting her cheek and thumb stroking beneath her chin.
"Don't be scared, Caroline," he said, almost reading her mind, as she inhaled shakily, but didn't offer a response. "I know this is all kind of frightening the closer everything gets but I promise, I'll be here with you, every single step of the way. You know that, right?"
Caroline sighed before nodding; her hand grasping over his as it remained against her chin, and kissing his palm softly when she looked over into his glistening green eyes.
They were honest as they'd always been—she knew she could trust him. But a part of her just felt like she couldn't trust herself. And she wasn't quite sure how to reconcile with that. She'd stopped seeing Jo ages ago, as it seemed she'd finally reached the end result in her treatment, and her life was finally on track. She'd half considered talking to Rebekah about it, but she was just always so busy with her new baby, understandably. Bonnie and Damon were wedding planning, Elena was in Virginia. The only person she really had right now was Stefan, and she already felt bad burdening him with taking on so much more responsibility at home with Aiden, her burgeoning mood swings, and now asking him to use his work time to come to her Lamaze classes. She just felt like he was already doing so much, being her very own Superman. Did she really need to burden him with being her therapist as well?
"What can I do to help?" he asked clearly. "I know that there are some things you'll need to work through, on your own but… what I can do today, or tomorrow, or whenever to help you?"
Caroline thought about it for a moment because really, what more could Stefan do that he wasn't already? He'd been supportive, responsive, and as understanding of all of her needs and desires as any man could be to his pregnant and hormonal wife. He'd actively taken a role in all the preparation for the baby as well, even taking today off to attend her class although he'd been swamped at work lately. He was also going to be Damon's best man, and trying to do the best he could to be there for his brother with the wedding and planning a last minute bachelor party despite how little time he had to get anything done. He was doing his best to keep things under control at home too, despite having virtually no time for himself anymore between his job, Damon, Aiden, her and the baby. Stefan had been handling all of this as perfectly as she knew he would, without any complaints, and in a sense that made her feel a little bit less than, even though it shouldn't have.
She'd been told by her doctors—by everyone—that it was normal to feel out of control during a pregnancy, but what about the feeling of uselessness? Why did she feel all of a sudden like the worst and most unproductive version of herself even though she was doing the best she could?
"You're doing great," she reassured him after a few moments—offering a tentative smile to drive the point home. "You're… perfect, as always, Stefan. I mean that."
"You're pregnant, Caroline," he responded easily, taking her hand into his as it rested against the gear. "I have to be—I don't want you to feel like you're overwhelmed, because I'm here. Always."
"I know, it's just…It's a lot—"
"Do you think maybe we should hire someone? Like, a nanny?" he suggested and Caroline scoffed at the idea before he continued. "I'm serious, Caroline. Maybe just a few days a week to start? Someone to help us with Aiden, and to help you with the baby…"
"I don't need anyone's help Stefan. We're busy, but we'll manage."
"Damon's taking off for an entire month after his wedding so he and Bonnie can go on a honey moon tour through Europe, meaning, everything will be on me. And I can't imagine how sick it would make me if something happened to you or Aiden while I was at work," he replied, worry marring his features. "Can we at least try it, just to give me some peace of mind?"
Caroline breathed in and finally nodded at that, meeting his olive eyes as he remained silent and listened on.
"I… guess it would take some of the stress off us to at least have someone around who can manage Aiden," she answered reluctantly. "We don' have to have one forever—maybe just a few months to help us out… to help us breathe."
Stefan nodded in agreement; his hand wrapping over hers as it rested on the emergency brake.
"We'll post an ad when we get home," he planned. "We'll pick a few and start some interviews."
The rest of the drive, they contemplated the chances for snow that week.
Thank you, again, so much for interviewing," Caroline forged a smile as she stood to her feet and extended a hand, "I'll be in touch."
The girl before her shook her hand with a smirk before twirling on her heel and out of the café—once a safe distance away, Caroline rolled her eyes and plopped down into her chair with a sigh, fingers rubbing her temples.
She had her eyes closed for about twenty-two seconds—she actually counted—before she heard her phone vibrating on the table, to which she swiped it up with even looking at the screen and tiredly pressing it to her ear.
It had just been one of those days.
"A warm and welcome hello to you too," she heard her mother scoff on the line, as she sat up and glided her fingers over the mousepad of her MacBook. "Sorry I couldn't make it today to help, how's the nanny search going? Any luck?"
Caroline snorted before reaching forward for her banana nut muffin, and picking away at the top, as she had been for the past two hours.
"If by luck, you mean even worse than the last round of interviews, then yes—I was very lucky," Caroline replied sarcastically, before stuffing a piece of the pastry in her mouth. "I'm panicking—what am I going to do? They were all horrible Mom, and just… no one is right—"
"That can't be true, honey—you didn't like even just one person?"
"What about the one going to Pace University? Anna, was it? She seemed nice."
Caroline recalled the quirky brunette with the long brown curls who seemed nice enough at face value—but almost too nice—which prompted Caroline to check out her social media accounts. The girl had amazing grades but was a good liar, because she didn't want to be a teacher at all, like she had claimed in her interview. In fact, she hated children, even go so far as to start a mock petition to Make Adulthood Great Again on Facebookand "get rid" of them, once and for all.
"Not only might she be a murderer, but she doesn't even like kids and she's also a Trump supporter, which is just not gonna work for me."
"And Liv? Did you meet with her today, or…?"
"Liv was a total hipster asshole with a chip on her shoulder. She lectured me for twenty minutes about the fact that this café we met at didn't have enough gluten free options. She didn't even have a gluten allergy! Weirdo."
"Oh, I know—what about the blue-eyed one? Really nice? A little nervous? You said her father is a pastor and you and Stefan liked her on the phone interview, right?"
"April Young? Oh, yeah, no. Vetted her as well. Turns out she's got like a real-life obsession with my husband. She follows a couple Stefan Salvatore fan pages on Tumblr. One, I can overlook. But six, Mom?" Caroline screeched as she shook her head with widened eyed. "I wouldn't follow six Stefan fan pages and I married him." Liz chuckled at that and Caroline grabbed her ball point pen into her hand and mindlessly began to doodle on the resume laying before her before biting her lip. "He was flattered, obviously, but not too keen on living with Nanny Carrie 2.0… So I've just come to accept the fact that either everyone is beyond strange or my standards are just too high… Am I being unreasonable? I said I was going into this open-minded but it just… feels like I'm getting nowhere because I'm actively searching for the worst in everyone. I should've just let Stefan do these interviews, like he offered. But no, I let him talk me into this, I needed to be in charge," Caroline sighed almost regrettably into the receiver.
Caroline found herself wanting to have things her way so that she could hire a nanny to her specific liking. Her ideal and perfect candidate would've been Miss Davina Claire, especially because she already worked as Stefan's assistant in the past, but the girl was away on the West Coast, living her best life, finishing up her undergrad at UC Santa Barbara with her boyfriend, Kaleb. As selfish as Caroline wanted to be, she just would have to lick her wounds and make due. But she still refused to settle—and she was going to make this work, even if she had to build a robot nanny herself. And it was now looking like that would be her next best option.
"This is your family, Care—you're not crazy for wanting to make sure the person you're allowing into it will have all of your best interests in mind," Liz eased, breaking her out of her thoughts. "And I know you said you didn't want me to do it but, I can leave the record store and move into the city if you really need me to help—"
"Absolutely not, Mom—your store is your dream and you're just getting started," Caroline refused—recalling the smile on her mother's face when she announced to her over dinner just six months ago that she had finally saved up enough to invest in a small property to open up a vintage record store back at Caroline's old—and brief—stomping grounds in Oyster Bay. It'd always been a dream of hers to do something like this, and her business was just beginning to take off, even being featured in a few Op Ed articles that drew in new customers for the woman, young and old. "You'll have plenty of time to be a grandmother when Riley gets here," Caroline rubbed her stomach. "For now, focus on what you want."
"Fine—but don't say I never offered," Liz replied and Caroline smiled. "Give Aiden a kiss for me, won't you? And tell him I've got a few more records for him when I'm back in the city."
"Wow, spoiling him, again? I don't remember that growing up."
"Just making up for lost time."
"You're doing perfect. I love you, Mom."
"And I love you too, baby. Good luck, okay? It'll work out for the best."
Caroline nodded at that before saying her farewells and disconnecting the line; a long exhale emitting from her lips before she closed her laptop, and stuffed it into the case. She was throwing in the towel for today. Caroline pulled on her coat and began to dial Stefan's phone number for a very lengthy vent about her day. He'd texted her a few hours ago to see how everything was going, but she'd still been stupidly optimistic by interview two that she said things were fine, because she thought they would be.
Was it too late to petition her husband into being a stay-at-dad?
Caroline toyed with a few talking points in her head when she stopped dead in her tracks at the feeling of someone staring at her.
She licked her teeth as she was met with a familiar set of cat-like hazel eyes, and perfectly placed beauty mark above her soft-pink pursed lips. Her light brown hair was tied into a neat bun, and her long limbs clothed in a cute pair of beige pants, a striped turtle neck and a wool coat. She looked fashionable, as always.But a nice pair of leather boots wasn't enough to erase the imagery from Caroline's mind over a year ago, when she watched the girl snort a line of cocaine off a compact mirror in a bathroom stall like it was second nature, before offering her a bump that she still regretted taking.
Caroline felt her bones go rigid as Hayley neared her slowly, and the blonde curled her fingers at her side, not blinking once, when her eyes darted to the folder in her hands before she outstretched it towards her.
Caroline didn't immediately reach in for it.
"Are you suing me or something?" she asked half-jokingly and Hayley swallowed hard as she watched the girl throw her bag over her shoulder. "You can mail whatever that is to my lawyer, I don't have time for this," she began to walk past her.
"No, Caroline, it's not a lawsuit. It's… my resume," Hayley replied meekly, and Caroline stopped in her tracks as she heard Hayley clear her throat from behind her, this time speaking a bit more confidently. "I… heard about your job posting, for a nanny, and I wanted to apply. I… have some experience in child care and when I saw your ad, I thought 'why not?'"
Silence, save for the occupants of the café who were sipping their coffees and having mundane afternoon conversations much easier than the one that was going to transpire between the two right now.
"Why not? You saw my ad for a nanny and thought 'why not?' Is this a fucking joke?" Caroline spun around, fire seemingly in her ice blue eyes as Hayley pressed her lips shut and the blonde offered a humorless laugh. "Honestly, are absolutely out of your mind? You can't be serious to think that I would trust you with anything, ever again. Let alone with my children—"
"I am, Caroline, I… I'm serious," Hayley replied firmly and the blonde snorted before she continued. "I've made mistakes in the past, I know, but so have you. And just like you, I've changed. And I want another chance to show you that—to prove that I'm not this awful person that you think I am. I'm qualified, I promise—run any background check that you need to. Just… read it, okay? I promise I'm not wasting your time."
Caroline rolled her eyes but took the folder out of her hand and turned back towards her previously occupied seat. When she looked up, Hayley was still standing in place.
"Are we doing this or what? I don't have all day," Caroline said hastily, which seemed to snap Hayley into motion, as the girl quickly slid into the seat across from her.
Caroline opened it to reveal Hayley's tidy resume, that she conveniently left all of her modeling work off of, but instead listed her references, citing the amount of child care she'd been employed in with different people and agencies over the years. She remained silent as she read it—feeling the heat of Hayley's cat-like eyes boring down on her before she finally looked up and cleared her throat.
She was right—she was qualified. But she was still an opportunist, at best.
"You're not modeling anymore?"
"No, not since Enzo fired me," Hayley replied, "I haven't booked anything since. I figure it's because my reputation precedes me—"
"That's an understatement," Caroline chimed in and Hayley pressed her lips shut, while blue eyes studied every inch of her face. "Why child care, all of a sudden? I mean, you're pretty and tall… and thin," Caroline said almost bitingly as she remembered the 15 pounds she put on in just 3 weeks. "Why not be a hostess? Or waitress? Bartender? They're not as glamorous as a catwalk in Milan, but I can attest that they pay the bills."
"I've… done my share of waitressing and bartending, and it was hell," Hayley replied, folding her hands and chewing the bottom of her lip. "People tip you so they think they can touch you and I… don't want to be touched, "she added as Caroline remained silent. "And… I'm looking for more stability in my life; something that won't make me feel so repulsed with myself by the end of the night."
Caroline tapped her fingers at that before tucking a strand of hair behind her ear and sitting up straighter.
"Would any of that repugnance have to do with the night you nearly ruined my life?" Caroline asked clearly—angrily—as Hayley sat quietly in place."You almost destroyed my marriage with Stefan—encouraging me to end things with him when I opened up about it to you. I had to go to rehab, and see a therapist. You stopped talking to me the second I told you I was getting help—as if that was putting a damper on your party. And to top it all off? You told Klaus about every single thing I told you in confidence—when I actually thought you were my friend… How do the hell do you justify that, Hayley? You betrayed me."
Hayley was quiet for a long moment—her hazel eyes looking down at the ground as she tried to muster the courage to defend herself—and Caroline's stare continued to permeate through her like the sun to the ozone layer. She had to hand it to Hayley—it was pretty brave of her to confront her after all this time, but she wasn't going to reward her for that.
"I was afraid of him," Hayley finally said as Caroline followed her eyes. "I was afraid of Klaus—just like you were so I let him talk me into whatever it was that he wanted because I was scared and mad. I was mad at you for just deciding that we couldn't be friends anymore," Hayley stated.
Caroline remembered the quick text message she sent her, about a month after she and Stefan broke up, at the urging of her therapist, telling her to cut all ties. She knew it was a little cold to break-up a friendship that way, but she had been thinking about herself and her future, which sadly, Hayley could no longer be a part of if she wasn't going to be clean.
"I know I fucked up—I regret it, every single day," Hayley continued. "And if I could do it all over again, I wouldn't have done any of it. I'm sorry. I didn't react appropriately because I felt tossed aside—"
"Did you sleep with him?" Caroline interrupted and Hayley took in a deep breath before swallowing hard. "With Klaus, did you two…"
"Yes," she admitted and Caroline felt her stomach wrench at that, Hayley's tone remaining even and somber. "What I did, with Klaus… it was my own fault. I… saw a charming guy, who told me I was pretty and he could help me with my career, so like an idiot, I got drunk and told him everything he wanted to know—about Stefan, about you… and after I had sex with him, he was gone, again. Just as quickly as he'd showed up. And he's exactly who you said that he was, Caroline; a manipulative asshole who doesn't care about anyone but himself."
"How did you meet him?" Caroline asked rigidly—her index involuntarily spinning her wedding band.
It was all that she could do not to explode.
"At a bar—Jack Rabbit on the Lower East Side. He saw my portfolio with my headshots online. He… emailed me, saying he worked for a marketing company. He said he could get me a few modeling gigs, and because I was unemployed and desperate, I agreed to meet with him," Hayley revealed. "One drink led to… several more—he pretty much plied me with alcohol until I let my defenses down and then… he started to ask me about you."
"What did he want to know?"
"Normal things at first like, how you were doing and what you'd been up to—he saw the pictures from the night we met online, and knew we were friends. But then… he wanted to know more like, stuff about you and Stefan. He was so adamant on learning everything you'd told me about Stefan. And because I was however many drinks deep… I told him."
"And then you fucked him?" Caroline asked brashly, and Hayley nodded regrettably, pursing her lips.
"Yeah, we… went back to his hotel room after the bar. We had sex, and he promised to get my portfolio out to a few of his friends in the industry, and I left… But I never heard from him again."
Caroline remained silent though her blood was boiling as she stared into her hazel eyes, tapping her foot persistently beneath the table before shaking her head.
"He always gets what he wants," Caroline responded softly as Hayley watched her quietly. "If he can't get to me, he gets to the people around me," she added in a frustrated tone before licking her teeth. "And there's nothing I seem to be able to do to stop him—"
"We can stop him, Caroline," Hayley grabbed her hands and steadied them—the blonde taking in a deep breath and looking into her eyes, though she felt a wave of anxiety and nausea bubbling within her stomach. "I'm sorry that I helped him—I'm even more sorry that I hurt you. But if you want my help, I've got your back—"
"And how do I know I can trust you?" Caroline snatched her hands away and Hayley's eyes softened. "He dangled a modeling career in front of your face and you took the bait. How do I know you're telling the truth?"
Hayley sighed and looked away—shame marring her features while she watched her, trying to formulate the right words to say. Tears filled her eyes as she quickly wiped them away.
"You hate me—and you have every reason to—but I just wanted to be honest about why I did what I did. I know it doesn't matter at this point—whether I had good intentions or not but…I cared about you too, Caroline... I still do, and I feel horrible," Hayley hiccupped, through a steady of flow of tears. "Because I knew how happy Stefan made you—how happy you still makes you, and I-I can't even forgive myself for ruining that—for tearing you apart. The two sat in silence for a few minutes—just the sounds of Hayley's sniffling and coughing filling the air—until she finally dabbed her red-rimmed eyes once more with a tissue and met Caroline's stare. "I shouldn't have had the coke—I know that now. It was irresponsible, and reckless and Enzo was right to fire me for being such a fuck-up… But I'm trying to be better," Hayley forced a smile, wiping her tear-stained cheeks with the back of her hand. "Because if I don't figure out a way to get my shit together, I might never see my own daughter again."
Caroline's eyes widened at that and Hayley bit her bottom lip hard before reaching for her cell phone in her pocket and pulling up a picture of a young girl with blonde hair and a bright smile that she held towards her; Caroline's eyes studying the child on the screen before she looked back up at her and Hayley forced a smile.
"I didn't know you had a daughter," Caroline answered in a voice just above a whisper and Hayley shrugged.
"I don't tell most people, mainly because they don't believe me… She's almost 4," Hayley revealed, looking at the screen of the phone once more, and tucking it in her bag. "Her name is Hope, she lives with her Dad—my ex-boyfriend, Jackson—in Florida… I haven't seen her in two years… he refuses to let me even speak to her, most of the time. He has full custody." Caroline only bit her lip at that and Hayley swallowed hard. "Maybe it's for the best, you know? Never knowing her ex-junkie, narcissist of a mom might be good for her."
Caroline thought immediately to her relationship with Liz and how she'd wished—even with all of her mother's faults—that she could've been more in her life. Just because she wasn't the best mom didn't mean that she hated her. And she certainly didn't want to be without her.
Caroline remained silent and put her hand back over Hayley's and stroked her skin in comfort—the brunette blinking in confusion with wide eyes before finally holding onto her hand just the same.
"Thank you for telling me the truth," Caroline finally said and Hayley nodded, letting out a short sigh of relief. "I'm… still really mad at you for what you did but—" she chewed the inside of her mouth to prepare herself for what she was going to say next, as the words sat on the tip of her tongue. "If… you want the job, Hayley…I can talk it over with Stefan. And maybe see how he feels about it."
Hayley's eyes widened with optimism and she nodded quickly, wiping away one more tear from her cheek.
"You would do that for me?"
"For you and Hope," Caroline added, licking her teeth. "I mean, think about it—this could help your case, right? If the judge sees that you have an actual job as a nanny? I'm sure it could sway things in your favor—"
Before Caroline could finish her words, Hayley was into her arms and wrapping her into a tight hug from across the table.
"Thank you," she said softly before pulling back and meeting her eyes with a hopeful smile. "It means a lot to have you believe in me and if you can convince Stefan this is a good idea, I won't let you down, Caroline… I promise."
Caroline nodded at that, stuffing Hayley's resume into her bag and finally standing up from her seat, tucking her curls behind her ears.
"I'll… let you know how it goes. I can't promise anything but… I know what it's like to be a mom, now, and I understand. And I'll try to help."
"Thank you," Hayley repeated and Caroline exhaled deeply before leaving it at that.
"Damon, you busy?" Stefan knocked, before poking his head into his brother's office at work and the man immediately waving him in, though he had his cell phone to his ear while his fingers clicked a mile a minute against the keyboard of his laptop.
"I don't care if the flowers she wants are out of season—you'll hitchhike to Argentina if I need you to," he barked into the receiver and Stefan furrowed his brows as he listened on, grabbing the mini football on Damon's desk and twirling it with his fingers. "Yeah—uh huh, you bet you your ass. Thank you for all that you do, Julian," Damon added before hanging up and nearly flinging his iPhone on the desk, eyes still focused on his screen. "Why can't anyone take simple direction?"
"They can't take direction or you want the impossible?"
"There's no such thing as impossible."
"Spoken like a true Groomzilla," Stefan joked, as his brother flashed him the finger without even looking up. "I'm sorry to poke the beast, but I just wanted to come in and go over the Jackson-Heller deal really quickly if you were free and talk Bachelor Party things. But I can come back—"
"No need. Finalized, and pending a 9:30 A.M. tomorrow morning. I'm five steps ahead of you, baby bro. Party talk? I'm all ears."
Stefan's eyes wandered to said contract sitting on the corner of Damon's desk, and he grabbed it— flipping through it quickly as his brother continued to work on whatever the hell was so pressing, before he looked up again and nodded with approval.
"Looks like you've got it covered," Stefan replied before putting the stack back down and twirling the ball again, eyeing the crease in his forehead. "So, the party—any idea where you wanna go? I was thinking Spain—"
"I think we should stay in the U.S."
"Okay… Austin? L.A? Miami—"
"We could literally stay in New York and I might not hate that," Damon suggested and Stefan's brows furrowed with surprise at that before his brother continued. "It's just… I'm getting married next month, and if I'm off gallivanting for a weekend, how's anything gonna get done?" he said rhetorically, before finally looking up and finding Stefan's eyes. "Contracts, agreements, everything—I don't want to leave this all on Bon so soon before the wedding."
"That's… probably the most considerate thing you've ever said… I didn't realize you would actually be pretty damn good at juggling it all," Stefan answered genuinely, and Damon snorted as his brother offered a cheeky smile. "I'm serious, Damon. Who knows—maybe you missed your calling."
"And maybe you should shut your mouth," he laughed, gently reminiscing over the smile on Bonnie's face just that morning when he confirmed he'd not only been able to book the exact venue she wanted, but he haggled them down in price as well.
He'd done anything and everything to make this wedding the day of her dreams, and he was so close to succeeding, without having really broken a sweat at all. Sure, he was still hiding the biggest secret of his life from she and Stefan, but he would be honest, in all due time—just not yet.
Not to mention, he still had a few more doctor's appointments over the next few weeks so it would definitely been in his best interest to stay put.
"I'm… happy for you, Damon," he heard suddenly, and he looked up to see Stefan's olive green eyes twinkling with pure honesty as he stared his way before redirecting his gaze to his hands. "I knew you'd always find someone, one day, that made you as happy as Caroline makes me but I just—"
"Never expected me to put on my big boy pants and be honest about it?" Damon filled in and Stefan bit his lip guiltily at that as his brother scratched his raven hair. "Trust me, Steffy—I even surprise myself sometimes. But Bonnie is… amazing. And too damn good for me, in my honest opinion."
"Oh, she always will be," Stefan smirked fondly, thinking of his future-sister-in-law, and just how close they'd gotten these past few months.
Bonnie was still very much Caroline's best friend, but they'd slowly but surely reached the part in their relationship where he felt comfortable telling her things, and him the same. Bonnie was a frequent offender on the short-list to babysit Aiden on date nights, and long after he and Caroline returned from whatever endeavor and the boy was fast asleep, the two spent a lot of time talking; sometimes hours, and that warmed a part of him, if he were honest. She talked to him about her parents, her Grams, what it was like growing up with Caroline, about Damon—and it only served to propel her even higher on the metaphorical pedestal he'd already put her on inside of his head. She loved his brother, with every inch of her being, just as much as he knew Damon loved her. And he loved that he got to see that grow; he loved that he'd been witness to their love literally blossoming right before his eyes.
"For what it's worth, I'm proud of you," Stefan added, and Damon shut his lips tight as his brother took in a deep breath. "I'm proud of us, I guess. You and I both somehow scored women way out of our leagues… Shocking, for sure, considering Giuseppe didn't exactly lead by shining example how to treat a woman and fall in love in a healthy relationship…"
"But you did," Damon answered earnestly, and Stefan gulped—watching his formally stern-faced brother softening at the eyes as he sat up a bit straighter and finally stopped typing. "You… showed me all I ever needed to know about love, and being selfless," Damon admitted as his brother's eyes softened like warm butter.
"I sucked at this, Damon, I mean just look what happened to Katherine and I—"
"I'm looking and I see someone who grew from that. Who realized that wasn't love and it never would be… You are the reason why, Stefan, I wanted to change and I wanted to fall in love… I… saw what you had with Caroline, and I—I wanted that. I needed that. You inspired me, you're… the first person who taught me what it all meant—what love was. I… love you, baby bro."
Stefan's lip trembled at that and he offered a smile as Damon finally stood up from his seat and made his way over to embrace him in a hug, as his arms wrapped tightly around the shoulders of Stefan's Calvin Klein suit. He held him for a long moment before pulling back and looking into his eyes; taking in the joy and emotions behind his orbs, reminding himself again he just couldn't come clean about his condition and take that away from Stefan, yet.
He needed the happiness to stay with him, just a little longer.
"I love you too, Damon… so it's why I should be honest," Stefan said suddenly and Damon swallowed hard as his brother met his eyes. "I knew you were done with the deal, I just wanted to check in on you—make sure everything was okay."
"Why wouldn't I be okay?"
"I don't know," Stefan admitted, feeling a bit silly when he said it aloud. "You're getting everything that you want in about a month—marrying the woman of your dreams. Richard and Mom are doing well, things are solid here, and—"
"I'm fine," Damon forced an easy laugh—his hand landing on Stefan's shoulder and gripping it tightly as he watched his gaze. "It's like you said; the wedding planning is making me into a Groomzilla, but I promise—all is well in my world. Don't worry about me, okay?"
"Okay. I guess that's all I needed to hear."
And he was saved by the bell when they heard Damon's intercom go off, and Stefan watched as his brother walked over quickly to answer the page, pressing his index to the speaker.
"What do you got for me, Donovan?"
"Not for you, actually—it's Stefan, he's got a delivery," Matt responded.
"Got it, he's on his way," Damon nodded in his brother's direction before hanging up.
"That must be something Caroline ordered. She's paranoid about having people deliver things to the house, she thinks the paps from Page Six are gonna start posing as UPS delivery drivers. I'm up to my neck in BabyBjorn's."
"Better you than I."
Stefan shot him once last smiling before tossing him the football and making his way out of the office.
Damon's smile faded the moment the door locked; his hands going rigid and icy blue eyes melting into a single stream of tears, as he quickly wiped them away with his sleeve and took his place back at his seat to continue with what he was doing.
But not before cracking open the half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels that sat in his bottom drawer, placing the liquor straight to his lips, focusing on the title already written on his laptop screen.
"Last Will and Testament of Damon Francesco Salvatore."
He took another drink and placed his fingers at the keyboard to continue.
It was better late than never, right?
"Stefan, you are just in time to help Aiden with his Common Core homework—I have no idea what the hell is going on," Caroline said, when the man walked into their kitchen that evening, setting his keys on the counter and the box delivered to his job on the ground, while the blonde continued to flip through a stack of papers at the table.
She had hours to mull over the nanny stuff until Stefan got here, so instead she relinquished herself to the stuff that she knew—A.K.A designs and decorations for Riley's nursery. Most of the ideas she had pretty gender neutral—she kind of liked the idea of not forcing anything on her unborn baby—but a lack of pinks and blues didn't mean it was any less complicated, because she was Caroline Forbes-Salvatore, after all. She'd already ordered and returned more furniture than she could count on one hand, bouncing between wanting to go rustic or modern for the theme of the bedroom. Stefan was fine with everything, which proved to be more of a curse than a gift, because this was probably the one time when she desperately needed someone to tell her she couldn't have it all.
"Where is he?" Stefan asked of Aiden, before Caroline sipped her caffeine-free tea and licked her lips.
"In his room, playing that FIFA videogame Matt got him—I told him he could until you got here to help with the homework... You know, we should really consider enrolling him in soccer. If he's half as good in real life as he is at that game, we might just have the next Cristiano Ronaldo on our hands," she grinned and he smiled at that.
"I'll see how he feels about that," Stefan noted before grabbing the box off the floor and bringing it over to Caroline with outstretched arms. "In the meantime… were you waiting for my opinion on this?" he asked as Caroline smiled innocently when he lifted the lid of the package, revealing a lavender lingerie set she'd ordered—a classic boudoir bra and lace underwear, complete with garters and all. It was enough to pique his interest—even more so when he imagined it on her—and it was clear those were just her intentions, as he watched the devilish grin on her lips curl at the ends, when she took it into her lap, and trailed a finger delicately over the fabric.
"It's just a pre-emptive measure, for our post-baby celebration," she explained. "There's absolutely no way I could fit into this now if that's what you were thinking—"
"I was just thinking that I love you just the way you are," he corrected her and she sighed as he leaned into her even closer and pressed a soft kiss to the nape of her neck. "You don't need to lose any weight after Riley's here, Caroline—especially not for me."
Caroline didn't respond to that. Instead she allowed Stefan's lips continued to form against hers for a few moments—allowing his hand to draw her in even closer, as one pressed to the small of her back, and the other against the table, while he towered over her as she remained seated. Caroline giggled at that against his mouth; instantly feeling the warmth of his tongue overlapping with hers, and the heat of his fingertips grabbing her skin, before she stopped his hands in their tracks.
Caroline let a soft moan to escape her lips when she felt his mouth travel to her collarbone and along her neck, finally up to her ear where he whispered to her softly.
"Are you absolutely sure we can't just go down to the wine cellar really quickly and get this over with?" he asked, making every single bone in her body shiver. "Because I want you so badly right now." Caroline moaned at that in response, allowing his hands to travel lower and lower again, before she took hold of both and he offered a disappointed sigh.
"You're not up to it?" he asked gently and Caroline confirmed his suspicions with the shake of her head, tucking her blonde hair behind her hairs.
"I just feel… kind of self-conscious," she admitted as he listened on. "I know the doctor said it's okay if we wanted to—it's even encouraged to help ease some of the symptoms, but I just…" she trailed off and Stefan captured her cheeks with her hands and met her crisp blue eyes.
"You what? Don't think that I'm still attracted to you? Because you know that's ridiculous, right?"
"I know that you are," she confirmed biting her lip. "I guess I just don't understand how. I mean… I feel like a giant, hormonal, hideous mess. And you're still so… perfect. Not a hint of a Dad Bod in sight."
"I'm not the one with a human growing inside of my stomach, Caroline. Give yourself some credit—I have it easy."
"You don't; not when you have to deal with me, and Aiden, and work, and Damon—"
"Caroline, you don't have to perfect for me to love you," he interjected as she swallowed hard and observed the sincerity within his eyes. "I never needed perfect because you're real, and you're honest. And you're one of the most courageous people I know—especially right now, opening up to me about your insecurities… And I love that about you. I love everything about you… from the way you talk, to the way you think, to the way you look," he added, taking firm hold of her hips again and offering a smile. "And I'm not saying it just to get me laid, although that would be a fantastic way to end this conversation," he smiled and Caroline laughed as he continued to stare at her adoringly. "…But this is the most beautiful that I've ever seen you. So… alive, but vulnerable… and candid. I love that you're open with me. After everything that we've been through—all of the ups and the downs—we're comfortably at the place where we tell each other everything and that's all I've ever wanted; I just want you to trust me."
Caroline took in a deep breath at his speechless, though if she were honest, he'd left her completely breathless, again, as he always did. Stefan was never typically a man of many words, so when he did go on and verbalize all of the thoughts that were in his head, she was always left feeling a little dizzy. Th poetic lines and soothing verses that somehow managed to escape his lips never left her disappointed, and it was one of the many reasons why she loved him.
She would always love him.
Caroline exhaled the breath she'd been holding in as she watched Stefan take her hand into his—his fingers slowly intertwining with hers as he looked into her eyes with such deep respect and sincerity, it was hard not for her to dissolve into a puddle right then and there, before he even brought her knuckles to his lips.
Chills ran up and down her spine the moment he did.
"Sei tutto cio' di cui ho bisogno," he said gently and Caroline physically felt herself melting into his hand as he carefully and tantalizingly grazed his fingers along her neck, in slow methodic circles.
"What does that mean?" she asked in a small voice, already feeling herself giving in for the first time in a while to this feeling that only he was capable of giving her, just with the pretty words and encouragement that flowed from his mouth.
She closed her eyes when she felt his lips against her ear and she inhaled the sweet smell of his familiar cologne that made her tingle from her fingers right down to her toes.
"You're everything I need," he answered and a smile softened against her lips when his mouth vacated her ear and their foreheads touched. "Per sempre."
"That means forever," she said proudly, at the one word she'd picked up from listening to Stefan and his grandmother talk and he smiled as well with a nod.
"Very good, luce mia…" his index trailed along her collar bone and Caroline had to hold back everything inside of her that screamed she should kiss him, because she knew where that would lead.
But really, would it be the worst thing in the world at this point? Thanks to Stefan's words, she was feeling a lot more desirable.
She decided she would touch the flame.
Caroline's hands pulled him in at the belt loop of his pants, and Stefan smirked with a mixture of surprise and contentment, which quickly turned to pleasure when she boldly undid the top button and crawled her fingers into the top of his waist; the smile on his face transitioning to a heavy bite of his bottom lip when she felt him inside of his boxers and drew him in even closer towards her.
Stefan shut his eyes and it was Caroline's turn to whisper into his ear as she slowly worked him within her steady grip, and she felt him hardening in seconds against her fingertips.
"What do you want?" she asked innocently and Stefan laughed at that before reaching in and kissing her so deeply, she was sure that she saw stars the moment her eyelids shut.
"This, you… Right now," he demanded and she smiled before she playfully bit his lip and he smoothed his hands down her hips. "Voglio fare l'amore con te," Stefan added. "Again, and again, and again…"
"Okay," she smirked and he did as well, immediately taking her hands into his once more and shouting to Aiden that Mommy and Daddy would be right back, they just needed to have a talk between grown-ups downstairs.
They were in the clear when the boy barely replied with a "k" from down the hall and continued yelling at his videogame.
From there, it was nearly a race to Stefan's photo dark room.
Because the second the door shut behind them, Caroline's nails gripped the back of his mahogany hair—thighs clenched around his waist and back slammed against the wall—as breathy moans escaped her wine-red lips, staining his collarbone with each lunge he took forward.
Her entire body was in his hands, as he lifted her up with ease off the ground and into his arms—her blonde curls tumbling over his olive skin, while she gripped at his cheekbones. Her sighs were momentarily silenced when he swallowed her tongue whole, before making it's way down her chin, neck, and shoulders, tearing her bra open with ease and tossing the fabric onto the floor, while he caught the voluptuous breasts that escaped them—sucking them between his lips and flicking them softly with the tip of his tongue.
Her pencil skirt remained hiked up around her waist and her underwear pushed to the side while he continued to pound into her with as much want and urgency that she needed right now.
Ten minutes later, sweat sticking against her skin, and his muscled arms wrapped around her body, as he dug into her harder—faster—against, they didn't even flinch when a few of Stefan's photos went flying into the air and onto the ground; it was all stuff that he could recreate.
But every moment with Caroline was irreplaceable.
From the touch of her skin, to the moans that emitted from her cherry red lips—everything about this right now was all that they had needed to release some of the pent-up feelings between them and unspoken tension. Hearing Caroline say his name—scream for him—was just about all that he did this for—because there was no other more erotic or more fulfilling experience than he had ever known, than satisfying his wife.
It was all for her; it had always been her, since that one night beneath the stars in Washington, D.C.
When he finished and he pulled out of her, she watched him almost immediately get down onto his knees, hike up the now flimsy fabric of her skirt and deliver a clean sweep of his tongue straight to the folds between her legs.
"Oh my God," she said gently and he smiled against her skin as he continued.
Caroline tried to keep it together as her mind went blank and legs numb, feeling the heat of his lips puckered beneath her and his slender index exploring deep within her, almost simultaneously, beckoning her to scream and shout.
Her fingers held his scalp in a death-grip as she completely melted against the wall, and before she knew it, into his mouth, as a warm flow coated her inner thighs, his hands, and the five o'clock shadow on his face.
Caroline wobbled on her feet, catching her footing as she placed both palms to his shoulders, before standing completely to her feet; her curl's a mess, faint traces of red lipstick on her mouth, and the wind knocked out of her as she took a deep breath in and bit her lip—Stefan instantly peppering her neck with affectionate kisses while she smiled.
They both gathered the clothes and their composure long enough to head back upstairs and sneak past Aiden's game room, where he was now playing his friends on XBOX Live and trading tame insults like "noodle brain" as they trash talked each other's skill and both Stefan and Caroline had to laugh as they both headed upstairs to wash up and get changed.
Caroline thoroughly enjoyed the attention and the carefulness Stefan exhibited as he ran her soapy loofa along her back in the shower, before kissing each spot he cleansed with the water running from the head. He laughed when she used his shampoo to make his hair into a sudsy mohawk, and he thanked whoever was up there when her playful teasing snowballed into another make-out session, and the steamiest blowjob he'd ever received to date, as Caroline took it upon herself to service him like he had done for her just moments before.
He was convinced his wife was the hottest woman on the planet when he opened his eyes just for a second to watch her doing it, and she was staring right back at him with a mischievous smile before licking her lips.
He was a goner, thereafter.
When they finally exited the steam filled fortress, Stefan collapsed in his favorite pj pants in the center of the King Sized bed while he watched Caroline brushing her hair in the mirror. He was still in awe of her, without an ounce of makeup on her face, hair still wet, and an adorable maternity onesie on that Lexi had gotten her.
He still saw the most breathtaking woman in the world.
And she knew it, as she grinned bashfully at him from the mirror, before refocusing on her own reflection.
"How were the nanny interviews?" he finally asked and Caroline immediately spun around at that, realizing she had completely forgotten to debrief Stefan on everything that had gone down.
In her defense, he had her utterly distracted for the past hour.
"I wanted to talk to you about that... But I figured it was best to have this conversation in person, not via text."
Stefan lifted a brow at that as Caroline finally neared the bed, and he sat up while she sat down besides him.
"That doesn't sound too good… What's going on?"
Caroline tapped a manicured nail against the table before looking up again and letting out a sharp exhale.
"The interviews for the nanny were horrible, again, so I spoke to my mom afterwards and I think maybe I'm just being too harsh on people, you know? It's almost like I wanted it all to fail, just so I could convince myself that we can handle this on our own, together," she said taking his hand into her own and he remained silent, still listening. "But then, Hayley walked in, and she told me she wanted to apply for the position… she even brought her resume and everything."
Stefan's brows scrunched at that as he sat up straighter.
"Whoa, whoa, Hayley, as in… Klaus' mole—"
"She's not—it wasn't like that," Caroline interrupted and Stefan sighed but allowed her to continue. "She told me everything that happened. He found out we were friends from those pictures that circulated from the Fashion Week after party. When Enzo let her go, Klaus reached out to her because of her headshots and offered to get her into contact with the media people he knows. Instead of actually doing what he promised, he just got her drunk… and slept with her. And then never contacted her ever again," Caroline explained and Stefan pinched the bridge of his nose. "Look, I know you don't trust her, after New Orleans—"
"To hell with me not trusting her Caroline—she never owed me anything. I'm used to people talking about me and types of crazy stories ending up in the news," he replied sharply as he tilted his head. "But she owed that to you—you guys were friends and she used you—"
"He used her too," Caroline added as he pressed his lips shut. "To get to me. Hayley told me, he just wanted to know everything I ever told her about you."
"And how do we know we can trust her?" Stefan asked as Caroline blinked. "Your gut feeling aside, how do we really know she's not still working with Klaus? And this isn't some twisted little game to get inside our heads and our home, Caroline?"
"I don't," she admitted honestly and Stefan stared at her quietly as Caroline shrugged. "I don't know anything anymore, Stefan. I don't know who I can trust, what I should think, what this all means…" she trailed off and his palm reached up to rest softly against her cheek; his thumb slowly running over her skin. "But… I know what it's like to be a mom, now… And… so does she. Hayley has a daughter, Stefan. And she's doing this all for her. She just… wants to prove she can do it. She just needs somebody to believe in her, for once."
Stefan's brows furrowed at that and Caroline breathed evenly as they stared into each other's eyes for a few passing moments, taking in the weight of the air.
"She has a kid?"
"Her name is Hope—she lives in Florida with Hayley's ex, Jackson… she's hoping to get custody one day, but she can't do that without a steady income, and a real job… A job that'll show that she's capable of taking care of children."
Stefan's eyes immediately widened at that and he shook his head and let out a sigh.
"Caroline, I don't know that that's the best idea. Not after everything that's happened…"
"We can have a background check done—make sure this story is for real. And you can talk to her again, if you don't think she was honest with me."
"And then what, Caroline? I can't have her strapped up to a lie detector, I'm not Maury Povich."
"No, but you are my husband, Stefan; you're the man that I love, and will love for the rest of my life," she said, meeting his eyes. "And I want to make this decision together, because it's you and me Stefan; it always has been." Stefan felt Caroline's hands resting gently at his neck and she stared at him hopefully. "Look, I know it's a lot to ask to put New Orleans behind you, considering how many fucked up things Klaus knew about you because of her. And I know you think I'm insane for even considering this—"
"Absolutely. I think you're off your rocker," he admitted and she sighed.
"Maybe I am; maybe this whole motherhood thing is turning me into some sap that I never thought I would be," she replied. "But after what Klaus did to me—and what he's done to her— I can't just keep letting him have his way. He breaks people; he nearly destroyed me… and I don't want him to be able to do that to anybody else. Not even Hayley... And who knows what'll happen to her if we don't help her. What if she goes back to him, just like I used to because I had no one, and he…" she trailed off and Stefan didn't say a word as she let out a painful sigh, with emotion quickly filling her eyes. "I guess I just don't want anyone to end up like me if I can help it… and if that makes me crazy, so be it. I'm perfectly fine with that."
Caroline was thoroughly surprised when she suddenly had Stefan's lips pressed against hers; his hands cupping her cheeks as he gave her a warm lip-lock that lingered for a moment, before he pulled away and pressed his forehead.
"I'm sorry," he started and she sighed because she knew what he was going to say next.
He was sorry, but they just couldn't help Hayley.
He was sorry, but there was no way they were doing this.
He was sorry, but she was on her own, just like Caroline had been.
But that wasn't what he said at all—not even close.
"People have… underestimated you and hurt you—could've ruined you—but here you are, still as strong as ever… as forgiving as ever." Stefan started and Caroline's brows scrunched with surprise as she quietly listened on. You give everyone a chance to right their wrongs—to be better—despite everything that's happened to you, and I just," he stopped as his hand continued to run along her hair and he looked into her eyes, with absolute admiration. "You… inspire me, Caroline. You inspire me to be better than I am, every single day—"
"You're better because that's who you are, Stefan," Caroline answered as she shook her head. "Not the guy you were when you were with Katherine, or the person that Giuseppe wanted you to be… you've come so far. We both have… and it's because we had someone to believe in us. It's because we have each other."
Stefan smiled at that and Caroline rubbed the pad of her thumb slowly over his shoulder while he continued to stare into her eyes—enamored all over again, as if this were the first time she had proven to him that she was more than capable of having a heart this big, made of sold gold.
"I… trust you, Caroline," Stefan said softly, as her gaze twinkled. "Everything that I said earlier to you is still how I feel—your vulnerability and your honesty—they move me. And… if this is what you want, I'm going to support that. I'm going to support you."
Caroline mouth curled into smile before biting her bottom lip and shaking her head.
"I… want to start over. I want to believe that people can change and grow… after all, we did. Right?"
"We did. And after everything we've been through, I wouldn't take any of it back… I'd do it all over again, the same way, every single time. Vegas wedding and all."
Caroline smirked as she threw her arms over his shoulder and kissed him again—a bit more deeply this time—as he held onto her just as tightly, before she finally pulled away and reached for her cell phone in her back pocket, flashing it in the air.
"I should call Hayley—to see if she even still wants the job."
"Or—" he slowly took her phone out of her hand, placed it on the bed, and turned back towards her. "It can wait until tomorrow. And we could go help Aiden with his homework, order some takeout, and then stop by that new ice cream shop a few blocks away because you've been talking about it in your sleep. You can even wear your onesie."
Caroline grinned at that before nodding in agreement; her entire face illuminated the longer he stared at her—and seemingly straight through her, because it was becoming increasingly obvious that Stefan knew her better than anyone else did at this point. And that was including herself.
She sighed as she melted into his arms for a hug—drowning within his embrace for a few moments, soaking in just how ridiculous it made her feel when she was without him for just a few hours while he was away at work. She couldn't quite understand how they'd even gone months apart.
Because being right here—feeling as close to him as she did now—wasn't just emotional or mental, but physical too.
It felt like he was a part of her.
And not seeing him even though she knew he was coming right back to her made her feel like she was missing some piece of her own soul. Being without Stefan—no matter how little the amount of time was—disrupted her balance and clarity. Maybe it was because she had already lost him once and she vowed to herself that she would never let that happen again. Maybe it was because every single time she looked into his eyes, she knew that he felt the exact same way.
A/N: Guess who's back, back again? Hey y'all! I know it's literally been FOREVER since my last update but with the ending of TO last night and KC officially NOT being endgame (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA WHO ELSE IS LAUGHING I AM) I decided to finally get myself into gear and work on this chapter that I've been slacking on for MONTHS, so I hope that I have not disappointed! I tried to make this SUPER FLUFFY (and sexy with that basement sex scene wee woo) as possible despite the fact that there is trouble looming with Damon's sickness, whatever Hayley's true intentions are, and of course, Stefan and Klaus' showdown part 2 because we all know that's coming and it will be PLENTYYYY more terrifying than it was the first time around. But thoughts? Comments? Hugs? Cheers? Boos? I've deff missed you all and I have already started the next chapter which will feature Damon's bachelor party, Hayley entering the Forbes-Salvatore household, and a giant blow up that sets things in motion to bring us towards the ending of the fic… But for now! Comment with your thoughts as they feed me inspiration to keep going and until next time? Xoxox (ALSO SIX MORNINGS AFTER AKA MY FAVE FIC WAS JUST UPDATED AND GABI IS SUPER TALENTED SO GO READ THAT IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY!)