and so the hero falls
He falls in love three times.
Once, he'd thought he'd fallen in love with Isobel. How wrong he'd been, how hopelessly lost he'd been when she vanished. It comforts him to know he'd only loved the idea of her. He's not really disappointed when he finds out it had all been a lie.
Twice, he'd loved Jenna. Beautiful, hectic, childish (wonderful perfect everything he's ever wanted) Jenna. He'd loved—loves—her so much, it eats away at his heart and soul and mind until he's mangled and he lays in her bed at night, clutching the pillow her perfume has faded from like a lifeline.
(In his apartment, in a drawer, in the very back, lays a box with a diamond ring in it. He'd never gotten the chance to ask her. Perhaps she would have said yes.)
Thrice, he falls in love with Elena and Jeremy. His family. He loves them and wants to protect them and be everything their parents never had a chance to be. He wants to make Jenna proud and he wants to make himself proud.
He's doing a shitty job because Jeremy dies constantly and Elena's already dead inside.
He thinks he might be destined to lose everyone he loves. It must be written in the stars, set in stone, something.
He fights the blackness in his soul until it consumes him. He fights until he takes his last breath and he fights until he can't fight any longer.
It's not fair; that he has to lose so much only to lose himself in the end as well.
He's fought so long and hard. He doesn't want to be a monster.
He wants to be good.
He wants to be the hero.
He wants to make Elena and Jeremy dinner. He wants to get stupidly drunk at the Grille with Damon. He wants to see Stefan find himself. He wants to watch Caroline receive the first of her many diplomas. He wants Tyler to go off to play college football and tame his beast. He wants Matt to get out of Mystic Falls. He wants Bonnie to be happy in her own skin. He wants Jenna to look down on them from her perch in the clouds and smile. He wants Elena's parents to be glad they left their children in his charge.
He fails all of them.
He's a murderer.
The thought hits him like a ton of bricks and he collapses.
Damon catches him, sinks to the ground with him, whispers it's okay, Ric, we'll figure it out. We always do.
It's okay, Stefan says, we all have our demons. Some of us, he looks down in shame, more than others.
It's okay, Elena says, we know it wasn't really you. We know you didn't mean it. We know you.
It's okay, Jeremy says, I promise it'll be okay. I promise.
It's okay, Bonnie says, I'm trying to fix it. I'm trying.
It's okay, Caroline says, I forgive you.
It's okay, Jenna whispers in his dreams, you're coming home to me soon.
He loses the fight, and the darkness inside of him takes over. He's there through it all, and it's a stake to the heart whenever he hurts someone. Someone he loves.
When he stabs the pencils through Caroline's hands, he screams on the inside.
On the outside, he laughs.
He welcomes death, finally, and thanks God and whoever else is listening for answering his silent prayers.
He knows his darkness is still terrorizing Mystic Falls, but he also knows that his family will take care of it like they always do.
Someday, when his body isn't overrun by anger and hate and death, he'll be buried beside Jenna. They'll mourn for him again.
He wants to go home. Jenna's there, whispering in his ear, it's okay. it's okay. it's okay.
It is okay, he realizes, his chapter is over. He can't stay past his time. It's time to go now.
His body feels lighter somehow, and he knows he's not in his own body but he has arms and legs and maybe he's a ghost. Is that possible? He thinks it might be. Anything is possible in Mystic Falls.
"Just let me say goodbye." he chokes out, and her voice is gone.
Death. It's a funny thing.
Always waiting. Hoping you'll fall into its trap.
He'd tripped into the trap head-first.
He will be okay—
And so will Elena and Jeremy and Damon and Stefan and Matt and Tyler and Bonnie and Caroline.
They'll be okay.
He closes his eyes, accepts Jenna's whispered words.
He opens his eyes.
Maybe it's cliché, maybe it's not real, but he's standing before a door. Dark brown, familiar, the door to Elena's house. He reaches out, hand shaking, knocks, waits.
The knob turns slowly.
The door opens.
Jenna takes his hand and leads him into the light.
"the hero falls, but he lives on, and we never forget."