"Tell Caroline I heard her and I will love her forever, too."
One year after Stefan's death Caroline still finds herself writing in the journal she kept for Elena, but this time she writes to Stefan, she tells him about her day, the kids who she and a few of their friends have been helping. She writes and tells him how Elena and Damon are, Elena carrying on with Med school and Damon's adjusting to being human. She writes about her children and Alaric, their milestones, their magic and their family and she tells Stefan that the girls miss him – because she tells them about him every day.
She still struggles without him even with a smile plastered on her face as she listens to the newest accomplishments from one of her students, she struggles with the itching in the back of her mind that tells her she should be doing this with Stefan, and how well he would have taught their students, just like he taught her. She struggles but she fights, not just for herself but because she knows he wants her to.
Josie marries first, a young witch that she meets at the Salvatore Boarding School who she accidentally siphons and makes pass out. The ceremony is held at the Boarding School, a large event where the students and teachers gather, and the majority of the town. Alaric walks her down the aisle, holding onto her far too tightly and hesitating to give her away before Caroline is at his side pulling him over to their seats, beside them an empty chair is open for Stefan and Caroline feels him there the entire day.
Four years after Josie is married she gives birth to a boy and girl – twins – who she names Lorenzo, in honour of her aunt Bonnie's long lost love, and Dianne after her father's mother.
Lizzie marries a few years after her twin, a human she meets in a burger bar outside of town whilst shopping with Caroline. He is awkward, funny and incredibly shy and Caroline takes a liking to him immediately, Lizzie not so much. Their ceremony is quiet, in the garden of the Salvatore Boarding School and Caroline walks her down the aisle at Lizzie and Alaric's request.
Two months after she marries, Lizzie gives birth to one child, a little boy who she names Stefan.
Alaric leaves her first, comfortable and in his sleep, with his family beside him. He tells her he isn't afraid, he's died multiple times before but this time he knows he will find peace – and Jo. He tells her he will watch over them, that he couldn't be more proud of the person she became after everything, she tells him to be quiet because she's terrible with goodbyes. Alaric promises to find Stefan on the other side and Caroline squeezes his hand, swallowing down the lump in her throat as she listens to the faint sound of his heart before it stops.
She stays at the back during his funeral, her face covered as Alaric's peers and family pay their respects, she watches in quiet heartbreak as Damon presses the palm of his hand against the oak of Alaric's coffin and knocks on it gently before passing, Elena at his side – as always. They drink to Alaric later, when the school is quiet, tucked away in Damon's old bedroom with a glass of bourbon and Caroline tips her drink to them and wonders what else will come.
Fifty years pass since Stefan's death, thirty since Alaric's and Caroline continues to write. Sometimes she wonders if Stefan watches her, sitting beside her, watching the pen scribble at the pages when she's had a particularly difficult day, she wonders if he tries to comfort her when she cries into the pages and begs him to come home. Sometimes, when she writes, she speaks out loud, just to read to him if he is listening – just in case – and sometimes she says hello to Lexi, because she knows Lexi wouldn't let him do this alone.
She just wishes she had someone to do this with.
Every few years she receives a letter from Bonnie who keeps in touch as she travels the world. She keeps Caroline up to date in her life and Caroline envies Bonnie as she reads every word, but she knows Bonnie had to leave or she would end up exactly like Caroline. She envies Bonnie's ability to up and leave Mystic Falls, but she knows that Bonnie had no reason to stay.
Elena dies at the age of 73 of lung cancer. Damon follows shortly thereafter, finally finding peace together. Bonnie comes back to town for the funeral, she stays in the back with Caroline, their fingers clasped together, only Bonnie's feel slightly more callous and wrinkled than Caroline can remember and it makes her sob harder as she watches her life-long best friend fall into her resting place with Damon by her side.
People leave the wake at the Salvatore Boarding School, Caroline locking the door behind them. Students leave the school in respect of Caroline, leaving her to sink to the ground, her face in her hands as she sobs relentlessly, hiccuping, debating whether to turn it all off once more. She forces herself to stand, angrily wiping at her eyes before she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror on one of the walls. Forever young.
She steps deeper into the old Salvatore Boarding house and closes her eyes to the image of Stefan, standing in front of the fire, tumbler in his hand, Damon and Elena sat beside him on the couch, they all turn to her and smile and she squeezes her hands into fists, forcing the image to stay but it fades as her eyes burn with fresh tears.
She leaves two weeks later and hands the school over to Lizzie's son, Stefan. She holds his hands in hers and kisses the backs of them before she turns her back on the Salvatore Boarding School for the last time.
She re-visits Chicago at first, passing the house she and Ric lived in, the house she raised her two beautiful girls in. She stays outside in her car and watches as a figure passes one of the windows, a young girl, her father shortly follows, seemingly to chase after her and Caroline closes her eyes as she listens in to the high-pitched screeching of the girl laughing along with her father.
She spends the next ten years travelling from city to city before she finally makes a call, sitting in her car on the side of a road in New Orleans.
She lets out an unnecessary sigh of relief and clasps the phone tighter to her ear as Klaus gives her directions to his home, he asks if she would like a drink prepared for when she arrives and she wants to cry at his hospitality but instead mumbles a yes and hangs up.
She stays in New Orleans for two weeks. The first twenty four hours she spends curled up in a chair in Klaus' library, surrounded by books that remind her of the library Stefan had when he was alive, discussing what has happened since they last spoke. Caroline proceeds to tell him their story, she tells him she is married and she watches the faint frown appear on his face when he asks who. When she tells him she married Stefan, Klaus takes a moment to compose himself before smiling and asking where the old Ripper is. She tells him that Stefan is dead and his smile drops before offering her another drink.
She tells him about her children and her children's children and their children, and she watches the smile play at Klaus' lips as she tells him how much they mean to her. She tells him everything, Bonnie's travelling, Elena and Damon's life – their human life – and he listens to every word, lost in her voice.
She thanks him for his generous donation and tells him about the Salvatore Boarding School and he simply laughs and dismisses her thanks, he'd do anything for her after all and she nods before setting her drink down.
"Compel me," she demands, staring into the eyes of the hybrid who promises her the world every chance he can.
Klaus sets his own drink down and shakes his head at Caroline, a sad smile playing on his lips, he touches her face and she pushes herself to the edge of the seat, staring intently into his eyes as she feels her own begin to burn. She grabs at his wrists as he continues to watch her eyes and she squeezes, begging him to help her to forget.
He never compels her but they spend two weeks in each other's company and Caroline pretends for those days that Klaus never did the terrible things he did, because he is that little part of Stefan she can hold onto, even if the stories are mostly about his Ripper days she takes everything she can get, she laughs when Klaus tells her of Stefan's romance with his sister with obvious disgust in his face and she smiles when Klaus finishes his stories, holding her hand as she stands at his door, ready to leave.
She says nothing as he reaches over and presses a kiss to her cheek, she supposes the kiss is Klaus' way of accepting that she is lost to him and although she may be a widow, she made a promise to love Stefan forever, and Klaus knows that is all there is to it. Stefan is all she desires.
When her daughters pass, she leaves America altogether and travels the world, following in Bonnie's footsteps. She visits monuments she had always dreamed of seeing since she was a little girl, and she continues to write to Stefan, she takes photos for him, she makes new friends in every new city she visits and she lives a life she knows Stefan would have wanted.
It's been one hundred years and Caroline is standing outside the Salvatore Boarding School, still up and running, still giving help to the vampires, witches and werewolves who find them. She knocks on the door, unsure of the new owners but finds a young man who looks strikingly similar to Ric opening the door and smiling at her. He welcomes her by name and invites her inside, but before she can ask how he knows who she is, she sees a photo propped on one of the walls of her and Alaric, the founders of the school.
The man doesn't seem surprised by who she is and she supposes she shouldn't be shocked considering the nature of the school, instead, she places her bags down and follows the young man into the kitchen, sitting with him as he tells her about their newest study techniques. She stops him halfway through his speaking and asks him about vervain, to which he insists he takes it due to some of the students tendencies to overstep their boundaries and try to compel the teachers into letting them do what they want, Caroline wants to laugh, but she feels the disappointment flow through her.
He asks why and she answers him honestly. The young man doesn't seemed shocked by her answer but instead only nods his head and asks her if she is sure, she says yes and asks about the cellar where they so often used to trap Damon, the man leads her to the cellar and she smiles at him as they near the end of the cold corridor, toward a small cell, he stops her before she enters and holds her wrist, eyes boring into hers.
"Are you sure?" He asks again and Caroline nods, placing a hand over his. She removes his hand from her arm and takes her daylight ring from her finger, placing it into his open palm. He closes his fingers around the ring and pockets it for safe keeping as Caroline asks him to fetch her bag from upstairs and he should find what he needs in there.
He leaves her as she runs her fingers against the cold brick wall enclosed around her, a smile on her face, a feeling of freedom and release flowing through her. When the young man comes back with her bag in his hand he passes it over to Caroline who laughs when he tells her a gentleman must never snoop. She opens her bag in front of him and pulls out the item she has told him about, dropping her bag down beside her and pressing it into his hand.
"Quickly," she says, still smiling. "And when it's done, there is a letter in my bag, would you mind delivering it for me?"
The young man nods, clasping his fingers around a carefully carved wooden stake. "Caroline," he says, and she blinks at him. "It was nice to meet you."
She doesn't reply as he thrusts the stake into her heart, her eyes widen and the pain shoots through her like fire, she gasps for air, falling to her knees and feeling her body and muscles tighten as the veins make their way to the surface of her skin.
The last thing she sees is the panic on the man's face and she realises, even through the pain, that she never asked his name.
When her eyes open again she is in front of the Salvatore Boarding School, confused and frustrated, convinced that her plan did not work. She raises her hand to knock on the door, but it open before he knuckles can tap against it. She pushes the door gently, noticing the sparkle as her engagement and wedding rings catch the sun's light and peeks her head around as she steps inside.
"Hello?" She calls out, stepping into the old house.
The first thing she notices is the fire is lit and it looks nothing like the school she just entered, there are no students or teachers to be found, and the furniture is exactly how Stefan and Damon had it. She feels her fingers begin to shake as she takes another tentative step.
She notices a figure sat on one of the sofas, their back turned to her, their body a shadow against the fire. "Stefan?" She whispers and the figure on the sofa turns to her.
His lips curl up into a smile as he stands and she runs toward him, her hands finding the softness of his cheeks, the softness of his hair, gliding down his ears, his jaw and neck before they settle on his shoulders and she is kissing him. His hands find her hips and the curve of her lower back as he presses back into the kiss with as much desperation as Caroline. When he pulls away from the kiss he keeps her body close and stares at her, his eyes sad.
"What did you do?" Stefan asks, fingers stroking under her shirt, warm against her skin. "You were supposed to live forever, Caroline."
She shakes her head and presses her face against his neck, breathing in his smell. "Not without you," she tells him, fingers clasping at the material of his shirt. "I've missed you so much."
"Me too," he tells her, pressing a kiss into her curls. "I used to watch you write in your journal all the time, obsessing over every little thing that had happened in the day. I watched you teach those kids the same way I taught you. I watched you every minute, Caroline, Lexi never lets it go."
Caroline pulls away from her place in his neck and looks around before her eyes find Stefan's again. "Where is Lexi?" She wants to thank her, hug her, love her for keeping Stefan company for this long. Stefan just smiles and kisses her again.
"She's off somewhere, probably bothering Damon."
Caroline's eyes widen as Stefan presses another kiss to the corner of her lips. "Damon and Elena are here?" Stefan nods against her, another kiss finding her cheek. "What about my mom?" She whispers, pulling back from Stefan.
"You want to find her?" He asks and Caroline can feel her throat closing as she nods and Stefan steps back, holding his hand out to his wife. "Then lets go find her."
Caroline places her hand in his, fingers intertwining immediately and she finally lets out a small laugh, a sob escaping alongside it. Stefan squeezes her hand and smiles kindly at her, the same smile he always saved – just for her.
"I love you," she tells him and he pulls her close by her hand as they begin to leave the boarding house.
"I love you too," he says. "Forever."
It's been forever since I've written anything, be kind.