I can say it, but you won't believe me.
You say you do, but you don't deceive me.
It's hard to know they're out there
It's hard to know that you still care.
-Dead Hearts

4 AM

"Well," Stefan announced, sliding his cell phone back into his pocket and grabbing his jacket, "I'm off."

"You're what?" Tyler demanded, "You're leaving?"

Stefan paused at the threshold, turning back around to look at Tyler and Elena. "I've just received news that the coffins have been moved to a safe location, so I don't think I'll be sticking around to see Klaus' face when he finds out what much as I want to." With a final wave, he blurred out the door.

Elena sighed, resigned to the fact that she was going to be stuck here until someone came looking for her. Therefore, her mouth dropped open when Tyler hurried over to her and began carefully undoing the knots in the rope. "Are you okay?" he asked in concern, freeing her wrists and examining the faint bruises on them. "Man, can you believe Stefan actually went off the deep end?"

"You're helping me," Elena stated incredulously, watching as he freed the restraints around her ankles and then backed up so that she could get to her feet, "Why?"

"I wasn't going to leave you sitting here and tied to this chair," Tyler looked confused, "I'm not a heartless monster, Elena."

"I just thought…" she trailed off as Tyler went searching through the kitchen drawers for the cell phone that Stefan had confiscated. "I thought you'd want to go after Stefan before he got away. Isn't that what Klaus would want?"

"Those weren't my orders," Tyler frowned, "Of course, I'll have to tell Klaus that Stefan was here the whole time and everything…but my first priority is to bring you back to the bar." He walked towards her, and Elena nearly flinched when he wrapped his hands around her wrists. However, he only examined them for a second before gently guiding her to the sink. "We should get you cleaned up first," he ran a stream of warm water from the faucet, "Get the blood washed off."

Elena glanced at him out of the corner of her eye as he handed her a small washcloth to clean her wounds with. "But isn't Klaus going to be pissed that you didn't go find the coffins while they were still in Chicago? Now we don't know where they've been moved…"

"Well, I would have gone looking for them—if Stefan hadn't threatened to kill you if I left." Tyler shook his head, "I know he was probably bluffing, but I would never bet on your life like that."

"Because Klaus would kill you if I died?"

"No," Tyler held her gaze, "Because you're my friend."

Elena tilted her head, studying his expression. "I was wrong," she realized slowly, "There's a part of you that's still Tyler in there…a part of you who's still the friend that we all grew up with."

"Yes," he said vehemently, moving forward to grasp her hands. "That's what I've been trying to tell you!"

She gave him a small smile, and then reached over to hug him. "Thank you for helping me," she said quietly, "I'm sorry I didn't understand earlier."

He returned her hug gratefully, breathing a sigh of relief into her hair. As they pulled apart, he gave her a hopeful grin, "Think you can put in a good word with Caroline for me?"

Elena nodded, letting him lead her out the door. "I'll do my best." They exited the apartment and began walking down the dark, deserted street. In the heavy silence, the only sounds were their own footsteps against the pavement. She shivered slightly in the chill of the cold night air, and was once again surprised when Tyler immediately pulled off his leather jacket and slid it around her shoulders. "Won't you be cold?" she ventured instinctively, only to realize a second later what a stupid question that was.

"No," Tyler's eyes lit up by some faraway memory, "I always run hotter than normal."

She tugged the jacket tighter around her shoulders, "So, I guess we're heading back to the bar now?"

"Yeah," he glanced at her, "Thanks for coming along voluntarily. I know you don't want to."

Elena shrugged, heaving a sigh, "It's not like I have much of a choice."

"What do you mean?"

She hesitated, "Well, I guess there's no harm in telling you the truth now...Damon and I learned that both Stefan and the coffins were here in Chicago, so we drove up here to convince Stefan to hand them over to Klaus so that this whole thing would be over. I never..." Her breath hitched, "I guess I never considered that he would be unwilling to break his plans for revenge."

"Yeah, Stefan must have a really good reason for going through with this plan...I can't see why else he wouldn't give it up."

Elena frowned, "What do you mean? He already told us why he's doing it...He wants to get back at Klaus for making him lose everything he had—"

Tyler interrupted her, "Trust me, there must be another reason that he's not telling anyone about." He paused, "Who do you think his partner was?"

"Pretty sure it was Katherine," Elena didn't bother lying. What was the point? Their only hope now was that Katherine wasn't planning on betraying them...again.

"Katherine? Didn't Klaus kill her whole family?" Tyler looked thoughtful, "Did you ever think that maybe Stefan was doing all this for her?"

"To help her get revenge?"

"Well that...and maybe because he feels for her..." The phone in Tyler's pocket began ringing at that moment and he pulled it out to look at the caller ID. "Damn," he muttered, "There's like 20 missed calls."

"Who is it?"

Tyler held the phone up to his ear and glanced at Elena as he spoke, "Klaus. Yes, I have Elena with me now...yeah, we ran into some problems. I'll tell you about it when we get back to the, we're about an hour away, I think. We'll be there soon..." There was a long pause, and Elena looked up at him worriedly. "What?" Tyler stopped walking, "Why?" He ran a hand over his face, "No, I was just wondering...okay, I understand. Yes, we'll head over there now."

"What's wrong?" Elena asked as Tyler suddenly began leading them in another direction, "What did Klaus say?"

"He wants us to go to the woods," Tyler muttered under his breath, "I don't know why." He held out his cell phone for her to see, "These are the coordinates. I guess we're meeting him there or something..."

Elena could feel dread make its way through her veins, "Wait...What about Damon? Where is he? And what about Caroline?"

"I don't know."

5 AM

Elena could feel sweat on her brow as she shrugged off Tyler's jacket. Although the air was still cold, she was exhausted from trekking through the woods for nearly an hour—dodging fallen trees and trying to keep up with a hybrid.

"Sorry," he said when he looked back and saw her struggling, "Do you need help?"

"No," she snapped, ignoring the arm that he held out to her, "I'll be fine."

"We're almost there," Tyler's pace slowed as they came to a clearing, "In fact...I think the coordinates are right" He looked around bemusedly, "See anything?"

Elena took a couple steps forward, listening. Everything was quiet—almost too quiet. It only added to her nerves as she and Tyler were left staring at each other. "Are you sure this is the right place?"

Someone screamed in agony.

"Jeremy!" Elena took off through the woods without a second thought, ignoring Tyler as he shouted her name from behind her. She pushed back at the branches blocking her path, not caring as they ripped through her clothes and left angry red scratches on her bare arms and face. "JEREMY!" she stumbled to a halt five minutes later when she reached another clearing and saw her brother standing there.

Or more accurately, he was standing there with Klaus' fangs an inch away from his neck—and the Gilbert ring lay on the ground, completely useless.

Tyler crashed through the thicket and joined her seconds later, his eyes wide. "Jeremy? What's going on? What are you doing here?"

"Let him go," Elena held a hand out, trying to keep her voice rational, "My brother has nothing to do with this."

"I did warn you," Klaus said bluntly, "If you didn't hand over Stefan and my coffins, then I would see to it that all of your little friends would be killed...I think starting with your last remaining family member is fitting, is it not?"

"Wait, wait," Tyler stepped in front of Elena, trying to reason with Klaus. "You can let him go. We found Stefan...he was hiding out right here in Chicago, along with the coffins."

Klaus blinked, fury flashing across his expression. "Well?" he demanded, "Where is he?"

"Well, ah, the thing is..."

"Did you," Klaus hissed, "Let Stefan get away?"

"I had no choice! He threatened to kill Elena if I—"

"You IDIOT!" Klaus roared, "You actually believed that Stefan would hurt his precious Elena?"

"You didn't see him!" Tyler shouted back, "He was—he looked insane, alright? The things that he was saying—he's gotten obsessed with this idea of revenge...I think he's lost it!"

"The only thing that's lost," Klaus whispered in a deadly voice, "Is all of your lives. Say goodbye, Jeremy."

"No!" Elena screamed as Klaus tore into Jeremy's throat. He let out a strangled yell, his eyes finding Elena's for the split second before he was thrown onto the ground—where he lay, motionless. "Jeremy, oh my god!" Elena fell to her knees and frantically scrambled towards her brother's unmoving body. "Please be okay, Jeremy, please! I can't lose you, too!" Hot tears streamed down her face when he wouldn't wake up, and she stared in horror at the blood covering her hands.

"On your feet," Klaus roughly grabbed her hair and pulled her upwards, "The game isn't nearly done yet." He pushed her forward, "Keep walking in that direction. Make any sudden movements, and Tyler will be the next one to die."

Elena's tears blurred her vision as she stumbled blindly in the direction that Klaus indicated, her heart thudding painfully in her chest. After about ten minutes, she heard movement coming from up ahead. Elena hastily wiped her arm against her eyes to clear her tears as she quickened her pace, her imagination already conjuring terrible images of what Klaus had planted for her to find.


She stopped, staring in confusion at a girl she had never seen before.

"That's Maya, my witch," Klaus said from behind her, "She's been quite useful through all of this...Just look at how she's rendered your little witch friend powerless."

"Bonnie?" Elena whispered, turning her head to see her friend slumped against a tree, her legs and wrists bound by something golden and illuminated. "My god—what have you done to her?"

"Bound her Power," Maya answered in a neutral voice, "She's powerless to do anything now."

Elena hurried towards Bonnie desperately, "Can you hear me?"

No response.

"Stay here," Klaus commanded Maya, "I'm going to show Elena the other surprises we've cooked up for her."

"YOU'RE SICK!" Elena screamed at him, "Let them go! They didn't do anything to you! I'll find Stefan, I swear! I promise, I..." She broke down in sobs, letting Klaus grab her arm and haul her in another direction through the woods.

"What the hell?" Tyler suddenly shoved past Elena, taking off at a run. "Caroline!"

Elena could only stare at the two people standing before her, both unconscious. Alaric was bound to one tree with ropes, while Caroline was bound to another with metal chains. "What..." her mouth felt too dry to speak and she choked on her words, "Are they dead?"

"Vervained," Klaus pointed at Caroline, "And the teacher has simply been knocked out."

Elena sank to her knees, giving up completely. "How did you find them all?" she asked weakly, staring at a spot of blood on the ground. "How did you..."

"Oh please," Klaus scoffed, making no attempt to drag her anyplace else. Instead, he seemed content to sit back and bask in his glory. "Did you really think your whole Scooby gang would be able to strut around Chicago and I'd never find out about it?"

"What do you want from me?" Elena looked up at him, tears streaming down her cheeks. "What do you want me to do?" At her words, Tyler moved away from Caroline and came to stand next to Elena. The implication was clear; he was on Elena's side for this.

Klaus raised an eyebrow in amusement, but didn't comment. He took out his cell phone and placed it on the ground in front of Elena. "You're going to call Stefan," he ordered, "You're going to convince him to bring the coffins here within the next hour. If he doesn't, then all of you will die." He knelt next to her, lowering his voice dangerously. "Jeremy is back there bleeding to death. Bonnie, Caroline, and Alaric will be next. Is that what you really want?"

Elena fumbled for the phone, her hands shaking as she pressed in Stefan's number. 'Leave a message after the beep.' "Stefan, you have to listen to me," she pleaded, "Klaus is going to kill everyone—please! Just get over here with the coffins! I can't—I..." She let the phone fall out of her fingers, unable to keep talking any longer.

Tyler hurriedly picked it up and finished the message for her, telling Stefan the coordinates in the woods where he could find them. "Stefan, whatever your reasons for doing this's not worth it. Trust me."

6 AM

"Well," Klaus broke through the silence coldly, "It's nearly been an hour. There's still no sign of Stefan."

Elena's eyes were puffy and red, but at this point she didn't have any tears left. "I tried," she said numbly, "I did everything I could."

"I know you did," Klaus responded in an overly sweet voice, "And you shouldn't blame yourself for what's about to happen. In fact, the only person you should be blaming right now is Stefan."

"Don't kill them," Elena whispered, "Please, don't kill them."

Tyler helped Elena to her feet, and they both watched with trepidation as Klaus spoke to someone on his phone. "Yes, bring him here. I want her to watch."

"Someone's coming," Tyler said in an undertone to Elena, his head cocked to the right. "More than one least three or four..."

"Ah, here are my hybrids," Klaus announced as three people came traipsing into the clearing. They were dragging a body along behind them.

A scream tore through Elena's throat when she recognized who it was, and she lunged forward in desperation. Tyler caught her around the waist, though he also looked shocked. "DAMON!" She fought tooth and nail to get to him, not caring if she looked or sounded deranged. "No! NO! Let him go!" One of the hybrids kicked his body forward then and Elena struggled for breath when she saw how bloody and battered he was. "Don't kill him!" she begged Klaus, "Please, you can't kill him!"

Klaus sounded bored, "And why not?"

"Because he..." Elena started trembling violently, "Because I..." Then the words tumbled out of her mouth, "Because I love him."

"Unlucky for Damon, Stefan loves him, too." Klaus shrugged carelessly, "Perhaps the death of his only brother will change his mind."

Elena scrambled in front of Damon, trying to shield his body with her own. "You can't do this!" she screamed, "Please, don't do this!"

"Out of the way, silly girl," Klaus roughly pushed her to the side and pulled a stake out of his pocket. He paused and then sneered, "Say your final words to your lover, Elena."

"Damon!" Elena shook his shoulders desperately, "Wake up! Please, wake up!"

Shockingly, he stirred at the sound of her voice. "Elena?" he struggled to open his eyes, every bone in his body aching. "You're alright," he breathed softly, raising a hand to her cheek. "I was so worried about you."

"Okay, hold her back," Klaus ordered, and Elena let out another scream as arms circled around her waist to pull her away from Damon.

"I love you!" she gasped out as she lost her grip on him, "Whatever happens, remember that! I love you—"

Damon groaned as pain shot through his body, but he tried to lift his head anyway, "Elena? What are you..." He stopped when he saw Klaus enter his vision, holding a stake directly above his heart.

"You understand, don't you?" Klaus hissed, "Collateral damage, and all that. Goodbye Damon."

"Don't look," Tyler grabbed Elena and pulled her to his chest, cradling her in his arms. "Don't watch."

Elena felt hopelessness permeate through her heart, feeling as though something had been wrenched from her soul. "Oh god," she whispered against Tyler's chest, "It's all over, isn't it?"

Suddenly, there was a squeal of tires from behind them. Tyler pulled back from her, his mouth dropping open, "What the...?"

"What?" Elena turned around to see what everyone was looking at. "Stefan!" she could've cried in relief when she saw him hop out of a van, "You came!" She ran towards him, throwing herself into his arms. "I didn't think you would make it, I—"

"Shh," Stefan soothed, his touch gentle as he brushed the hair off her face. "I'm sorry it took me so long."

"Well, well," Klaus stepped towards them, "The prodigal brother returns at last. I was starting to think you weren't going to show up."

"It's a big night," Stefan deadpanned, "I wouldn't want to miss it."

Damon raised himself off the ground with his elbows and looked blearily at Stefan, "Late to the party as usual, baby bro."

"Old habits die hard," Stefan didn't move a muscle, "Are you okay?"

"My coffins," Klaus interrupted before Damon had a chance to respond, "Where are they?"

"In the van," Stefan gestured for the hybrids to go get them, "See for yourself."

Everyone watched silently as the three hybrid-minions opened up the back door of the van and began pulling out coffins. They dragged all of them back to the center of the clearing, and stacked them next to each other. Klaus' eyes darted back and forth, counting the coffins laid out in front of him. "Good," he said finally, "They're all here."

"Yes," Stefan said simply, "They are."

Klaus began to say something else, but suddenly the trees rustled around them. A whisper echoed through the woods, the faint sounds of a spell, "Volare."

"Out of the way!" Stefan shouted at Tyler, tackling him to the ground. Elena leapt backward as splinters flew by her vision, directly embedding themselves into the other three hybrids. Screams of pain filled the air as they all combusted instantly, falling to the ground in mere ashes.

"What—" Klaus sputtered, "What is the meaning of this? This is impossible! Not unless you—"

"Have the ashes of the white oak tree?" Bonnie and Maya stepped out of the trees, hand in hand. Wind began billowing around them as Maya narrowed her eyes, "You didn't honestly think I'd be on your side, Klaus, did you?"

Klaus looked enraged, and he whirled around to look at Tyler. "The ashes!" he spat wildly, "How did they find the ashes?"

"I..." Tyler looked bewildered, "I have no idea."

"You've betrayed me," Klaus was breathing heavily, his eyes wild. He turned around and his gaze fell on Caroline, who was still unconscious. With a roar of fury, he leapt at her.

"NO!" Tyler shouted, running forward to block the werewolf bite. However, it was Stefan who got there first. He let out a stream of curses as Klaus tore through his skin, and he fell to the ground next to Caroline as Klaus backed away.

"You saved her life," Klaus looked incredulous, "Why would you do that?"

Stefan looked up, his teeth gritted in pain, "Because she's my friend."

Klaus' tone grew cold at his words. "We would have been good friends, Stefan, but you chose to throw that all away. And now you will die a slow, painful death while you watch your other friends die around you." He cocked his head, "Starting with Caroline."


Klaus turned around to see Rebekah standing behind him, her hands on her hips. "You're done hurting these people, Nick. Get away from the girl."

"Don't be ridiculous," he smiled at her broadly, "You're just in time for all the fun."

"Fun?" Rebekah took a step forward, "This is all fun and games to you, isn't it?"

"What are you—"

She fixed him with a steely glare, "Did you have fun when you killed our mother?"

Klaus' smile faded.

"It's over, Klaus," Stefan called, and Klaus turned around to see Elena, Stefan, Bonnie, Maya, and Tyler all standing together. Damon was leaning heavily against the car next to them, but he was standing. On the other side of the clearing, both Caroline and Alaric were beginning to stir.

"I hope we're not too late," Katherine said loudly at that moment, appearing from behind the van with her arm supporting Jeremy. "I had to feed him my blood," she informed Elena, "But he'll be okay."

"Oh my god!" Elena threw her arms around Jeremy, fresh tears running down her cheeks. "Thank you," she let go of him briefly to give Katherine a one-armed hug, "Thank you so much."

Klaus took an involuntary step backwards, when a strong hand descended on his shoulder, "Going somewhere, brother?" Elijah smiled as Klaus' eyes widened, "You didn't think I'd miss the family gathering, did you?"

"But you're in the..." Klaus turned to look at the coffins, realization dawning on his features.

"Next time," Elijah offered pleasantly, "Perhaps you should look inside the Trojan horse, or did we learn nothing from that whole war?" He tilted his head, considering. "Of course, my advice is a moot point, since there's isn't going to be a next time."

"What do you—"

"Did you honestly think you could get away with lying about killing our mother?" Elijah shook his head, coldness descending on his features. "Father was always right about you," he looked Klaus dead in the eye, "You will never be anything more than a pathetic, friendless, insecure coward." Before Klaus had time to react, Elijah pulled the regenerated stake out of his pocket and swiftly slammed it into his heart, "Goodbye brother."

As Klaus burst into flames, the horizon finally lightened with the beginnings of a sunrise.


"Home sweet home," Elena went over to the passenger side of the car so that she could swing Damon's arm around her shoulders. Together, they slowly walked towards the boarding house, with him leaning on her for support. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I said back there," he staggered onto the sofa, "I'll live."

She nodded and immediately walked to the corner where he kept all his alcohol. After examining the bottles for a second, she chose a bottle of scotch and handed it to him with a smile. "You look like you could use this."

He raised an eyebrow as she perched on the edge of the coffee table in front of him, "A girl after my own heart."

Elena watched as he took a swig straight from the bottle, "So, everyone else arrived a few hours ago from the airport."

Something in the way she said the sentence made him pay attention, "Who, exactly?"

"Jeremy, Alaric, Bonnie," she counted on her fingers, "Caroline and Tyler." She avoided his gaze, "Maya stayed in Chicago to work at Ria's bar...Elijah and Rebekah said they're going to wake up the rest of their family members and go back home, try and rebuild a new life for themselves..."

Damon didn't miss the absence of two names in particular, "Stefan and Katherine didn't come back?"

"They weren't on the flight with everyone else, no."

"Well," he glanced up at her, trying to gauge her expression, "How do you feel about that?"

Elena moved so that she was sitting on the sofa next to him, and she reached over to cover his hand with hers. "I'm glad he's alright, and I'm glad that we could use Klaus' blood to heal the werewolf bite..." Then she took a deep breath, "But I let him go, Damon, remember? We both did...I told you before, I made the decision to move on with my life. He's a part of my past, there's no changing that. But he's not part of my present, and he's certainly not part of my future."

Damon's lips twitched, "Would it be presumptuous of me to ask if I was in either of those scenarios?"

She reached over to stroke his face, "You always were." She leaned forward to brush her lips across his cheek, "My past, my present, and my future."

He cleared his throat slightly, "During that fight with Klaus...well, I might've been delusional for some of it. I know vervain can have some strange side effects...hallucinations...dreams..." Elena grinned, shifting so that she was sitting in his lap. His arm snaked around her waist to hold her close. "I mean, I might've imagined that you said some things...but perhaps I didn't quite hear you..."

"You weren't hallucinating," Elena mumbled blissfully as his mouth closed over hers. Unlike their other kisses, this one was soft and sensual, without a trace of urgency. For the first time, she allowed herself to really feel the coolness of his hands against her skin, the heat of his lips moving against hers. When she pulled back, she gave him a soft smile. "I told you that I loved you, and I have never spoken truer words in my life." She let her hand rest on his chest, exactly above his heart. "But in case you need to hear it again...I love you, Damon Salvatore."

He brought his hand over hers to hold it in place against his chest. "You are my heart," he whispered to her, "I love you, too."


*yay the hiatus is finally over! first off, I would like to thank everyone who read and reviewed this fic! All your lovely comments have been so supportive and amazing. I hope you liked the ending ;) thanks again + be sure to review! xoxo