They say the first few months are the hardest, but Caroline is having trouble not thinking otherwise. If this was true, maybe she wouldn't be crying in her bedroom… their bedroom as often as she does. If it truly gets easier, maybe she wouldn't still be longing for some warmth on the other side of the bed which has not been occupied for the last fifty years. A lot of things have changed since that night. She goes by Caroline Salvatore now. The school is already fully established and booming as ever. Josie and Lizzie are now both married. Josie was the one who gave birth to the next set of twins in the family line. Alaric passed a little while after that. Bonnie finally went home when she already felt age catching up to her. But her sickness was already too far from curable by that time. The irony of how much the Bennett witch went through and she only succumbs to some earthly sickness. Upon her few final hours, Caroline could remember standing by her bedside with Elena, Damon and Matt around as well. She saw how Bonnie's face lit up as she explained rather with all the effort she had left, that Enzo was there and that she was ready. Caroline remembers thinking, maybe it does exist after all.
"Mom?" Lizzie taps gently on her door and then pokes her head in "You ready?" She wanted to answer No. After all, whoever gets ready to attend another funeral? But then again, fifty years of being Damon's sister-in-law, she knows he needs her now more than ever. And so instead of breaking down once more for another fallen friend, she replies "I'll be down in a bit."
She stood beside Damon through it all. After Elena has finally been laid to the ground and everyone else has left, he finally reaches for her wrist.
"Care, I'm leaving in a while." She wanted to play clueless, to ask him where we was headed, but she knew better.
"Nothing left for me here." He continued as the blonde vampire's eyes filled with tears. She stole a glimpse at Elena's newly motherless daughter still mourning beside her grave.
"Kiddo's gonna be okay. I already told her. Besides, I can't wait to see him again."
"I understand. Please hug him for me?" Caroline was now full-on crying whilst resting her head on Damon's shoulder.
"Stefan would want you to be happy Care, you should try doing that for yourself." Damon was gone the next morning with the extracted cure from his on his bedside table.
Caroline was determined to follow Damon's advice, partly because she also wanted to stay as far away from Mystic Falls as possible. With promises to call her daughters every day, she set off to travel the world. She had goals. She aimed to set foot on every possible spot in the world and experience living as if she belonged there. She wanted to belong somewhere. She only went back to Mystic Falls on important occasions and then finally on the most heartbreaking time yet, her daughter's funeral. First to go was Lizzie and soon followed Josie. After saying goodbye to the two last anchors she had in her home town, she left and never looked back. She continued to travel the world and soon enough, days turned to months and that too, turned to years. Finally, she decided to pay a certain original a visit. She purposely left New Orleans untouched until then. She and Klaus spent the days with the older hybrid showing her all that New Orleans can offer. She felt free but at the same time, she felt pointless. The feeling comes and passes one vampire told her once. One night, after drinking a couple too many than she should have, she risked asking Klaus the question bothering her for so long.
"Will this feeling ever go away? Can I be taught how to be happy again?" her voice was a small but she was sure he heard.
"You were one of the few I know whom loved being a vampire…" He countered swirling his glass before downing the whole of it. Somehow, Caroline imagined Stefan in front of the fireplace at the boarding house, smiling at her whilst drinking the classy stash of bourbon he and Damon owned.
"I do… I did. I don't know. I just didn't think it would be this-"
"Lonely?" He cut her off and she sighed in resignation. Klaus put down his glass and turned her to face him gently. He tipped her head to make her look him in the eye.
"I believe, love, that you know what you want. Follow yourself. You have no one else to tell you otherwise."
"I miss everyone." She admitted. She hated how she sounded, like she was human, vulnerable.
That night as she put down her drink and left to say goodbye, somehow Klaus knew it would be their last one yet. She got in her car, turned down the drive way and didn't look back.
Call her sentimental or whatever you'd like to call it, but somehow she knew it was where she wanted to go. She found herself sitting on the stone bench inside the Salvatore graveyard. She looked around, seeing things she had memorized in her heart. She waited for the sun to come up as she talked to herself and reminisced with the people she loves dearly. Finally, she removed her daylight ring but left her engagement and wedding ring on.
"I'm on my way home." With that she braced herself and stepped out into the sun until all she saw was nothing but flames.
Caroline opened her eyes to see she was on her bed. She must be dreaming. She must have fallen asleep waiting for the sun to come up and now she's dreaming. She looked around, trying to get hold of her surroundings. Rising from her bed, she checked herself. She was wearing the exact same clothes as she was last night. Maybe it did not work then…? She had never been this confused in so long. She stood up but before she even reached her door, he was already there. If you asked her, there was a split second she stood frozen, not wanting to believe he was actually there. She dreamt of this way too many times that she learned not to get carried away.
"Caroline," Stefan finally ran into her and held her between his arms.
"Is it really you?" She asked finally when she already mustered the voice to speak. He didn't respond but instead, kissed her passionately. A kiss she had not experienced for over seventy years.
"Oh Stefan" she just wept into his shirt until as he held her tightly waiting for her to calm down.
"I am more than happy you're here, but you know you could have lived longer, fuller" he started but she interrupted him as she kissed him again
"I'm home. Nothing else can top that" she smiled kissing his shoulder, his neck, drowning herself in her husband.
"Hello, blondie" Caroline whipped her head to see who was at the door, to see Damon resting his body on the door frame.
"Damon!" She ran and hugged him as well like not thirty years have passed.
"C'mon, they're all waiting for you." The older Salvatore gestured as he moved to the side. Caroline's face lit up at the mention of everyone. Stefan was beside her even before she can turn around.
"Don't worry, I got you. I'll never let you go" He put a hand on the small of her back and in that moment she knew, it was all worth it.