Disclaimer: Not mine, etc. Title is from the band Explosions in the Sky. Also not mine.

A/N: First TVD fanfic (but not my first fanfic). Part 1 of several (yet to be determined). The finale just killed me, guys. We're talking ugly-sobbing.

Edit: 7/18fixed a few structural mistakes.


the earth is not a cold dead place

"I'm done," Bonnie says to her mirror, half-expecting her own reflection to start arguing with her. You can't—your sisters—Emily—

But Bonnie shakes her head, forcing the doubts down; burying them deep inside herself. She can't tell if the thoughts are even her own anymore; or if they belong to her sisters, twisting her puppet strings and moving her like a chess piece. Her eyes narrow.

"I'm done," she repeats, straightening her spine and squaring her shoulders, glaring at herself. Her reflection remains silent. She stares hard into her own eyes until they blur together and all she hears is the sound of blood roaring in her ears.

She thinks of all that she has lost (missing Grams is an ache that never fully disappears), of all that the people she loves have lost—Elena, Caroline, Jeremy, Alaric and she is too young for this. There is no one old enough for this, she thinks, hands fisting at her sides.

The losses stack up in her mind and something is burning in her temples, but all Bonnie can think is I'm done, I can't anymore, it hurts too much and you can't make me, I won't, I am not your pawn—

Her hands unclench and she exhales a breath she didn't know she had been holding.

"You were supposed to be the good guys," Bonnie says to the air—to the witches that are always listening—"but you're no better than them." She barely recognizes her own voice as it scratches at her throat, but then again, she barely recognizes a lot of things these days. Elena—Alaric—Caroline—

"You're no better than them, using people to get what you want," she says, and she picks up Emily's grimoire from its place on top of her dresser. Her fingers trace lightly over the cover and with a final glance at her face in the mirror, she whispers scratchily, "This ends now."

She thinks about the scene she just left—Tyler, but not Tyler. She had done it to save Caroline, to save Abby, but a deeper and more honest part of her relished acting on her own agency. No more tugging or whispering from the witches, from her sisters.

Bonnie closes her eyes and inhales a long, deep breath. She buries the witches' betrayal next to Abby's abandonment, Jeremy kissing ghosts, Elena's secret looks with Damon.

The candle on her bedside table burns.

… … … …

When she was nine years old, Elena Gilbert caught a particularly nasty strain of the flu. Her body had ached down to her bones, her head had felt weighted and stuffed with cotton, and her skin had burned with fever. The feeling of her own clothes brushing against her had nearly reduced her tears.

Her skin prickles and she gasps in pain, eyes flying open. For a few brief, glorious seconds, she grasps wildly onto the idea that she is still nine and riddled with fever because everything is so heightened on her skin that she can barely stand it—but the moments tick by and she has no heartbeat.

"Elena," Stefan says, taking both of her hands. "It's okay, Elena, it's okay."

She doesn't look at him; instead she takes big, desperate breaths, willing her lungs to need air.

But there's nothing.

Elena finally turns to Stefan and oh God his face. His tormented expression slams the door on her fleeing hope that maybe she missed something, that maybe there's another explanation—

"How did this happen?" she moans, and her voice is as broken as her heart. "I didn't—there's no way—"

Stefan's hands come up to cup her face and he looks right into her eyes. "Meredith Fell lied to us, Elena. You didn't have a concussion. You had a cerebral hemorrhage—your brain was bleeding." He hesitates, and she knows where this is going, but she starts shaking her head anyway. As if that will stave off what cannot possibly be the truth.

"No," she says, half-hysterical and gripping his wrists. "No, no, no, no—"

"She gave you vampire blood to heal you," someone interrupts. Elena turns but Stefan does not; Damon's eyes are closed and he's leaning against the wall of the—oh my God this is a morgue. "She gave you vamp blood and then you drowned."

Drowned. She had drowned.

She's turned back to Stefan, and even though she's looking straight at him, she doesn't see him. All she can see is her imagined future as it vanishes. Gray haired and eighty years down the road, with grandchildren playing at her feet—the images crinkle at the edges and then are gone.

"Drowned," she echoes quietly, and Stefan's hands drop away from her as he slowly nods. The lake. Wickery Bridge and here lies Elena Gilbert, yellow flowers dotting the water's smooth surface.

"M—Matt?" she asks, but before the dread can even take full form in her stomach, Stefan is nodding.

"He's okay. He's fine."

"Yes," Damon drawls from his spot on the wall. "Matt Donovan's fine, and we're here. In a damn morgue." Elena can almost taste the acidity in his tone.

"Not now," Stefan snaps, and the air shifts.

Before Damon can snap back, Elena pushes herself off the metal table and starts heading for the door. Before she can even take three steps, both Salvatores are in front of her, blocking her exit.

"Don't even think about it," Damon warns. She looks at Stefan for help and he folds his arms over his chest and shakes his head at her.

"You need to decide what you're going to do," he tells her gently. "If you're going to transition." Damon snorts but doesn't say anything.

She blinks at them. "I need to see Jeremy. I need to talk to him about this, about everything." Surely they would understand that of all things.

"We know," Stefan says. "The thing is…we're in a hospital, Elena."

She stares at him, uncomprehending, and Damon cuts in impatiently.

"People tend to bleed in hospitals. So if you decide to transition, first we get you fed. Then we get you out. Clear?"

Elena scowls at both of them. "I'm not making this decision without Jeremy, Damon. So either take me to him or bring him here, I don't care which."

... ... ... ...

Caroline runs.

She doesn't look around, doesn't stop to consider the consequences if someone sees; after all, the Council already knows who she is—what she is. She just watched Tyler die so she's more concerned about getting home to sob into Liz Forbes' arms than she is about almost anything else.

She can't worry about Elena, about Bonnie, about Matt, about Stefan. There's no room in her heart for it because Tyler is dead and she just wants her mother.

The few minutes it takes her to reach her neighborhood from the old Lockwood cellar crawl by like hours; and as soon as she reaches her front yard, she knows something is not right. There are too many lights on in her house (because two years ago Caroline had freaked out about global warming and the end of the world and had made Liz promise to never leave the light on in an unoccupied room).

But the entire house is lit up, even the bathrooms.

Caroline backs away into the shadows of the trees across the street, eyes and ears focused on her house.

"…waitcome back soon…" That was not her mother's voice. She needs no further prompting to flee, but she has no destination in mind as she takes off.

If evil Alaric told the Council about her and Tyler (her heart cracks) then how does she know the Salvatore boarding house is safe? Or Elena's, or Bonnie's, or even Matt's house?

Don't panic, she tells herself sternly. Think clearly, Caroline. What are your options?

It dawns on her as she slips into the forest. The witches' house.

She turns to head that way when she hears them.

"What did you do, Rebekah?"

Elijah.

… … … …

It's all my fault, Matt thinks miserably, one arm slung over his forehead as he lies in his bed. Elena's dead and it's my fault.

There are tears leaking out of the corners of his eyes, sliding down his temples and onto his pillowcase. He can't bring himself to wipe them away.

Elena. Tyler. Alaric. Gone.

And before that—Vicki. Even his parents, because there's little to no chance either of them will ever come back.

And those are just the people he loves. Matt can't even wrap his brain around the collateral damage that's piled up over the past few months.

He's drowned twice, but he's never felt this close to dead.

… … … …

Ric has long disappeared and Jeremy is sitting on the stairs, staring at the door, willing Elena to walk in. Bonnie found a way, a loophole, he tells himself. His sister isn't dead.

No one can be that unlucky.

But minutes are stretching into hours and Jeremy's still staring at the door.

I'll do anything, he finds himself thinking. Just don't—just give me my sister. Please…God… He's not sure if he believes in God anymore, but if things as dark as Klaus can exist, then maybe so can something as light as God.

So he bargains. I'll hunt them all down, I don't care, just give me Elena

His phone buzzes and adrenaline pulses through his nervous system.

It's Stefan.

Jeremy doesn't bother with a hello. "Where's Elena, Stefan?"

There's hesitation on the other end and, desperation seeping in, Jeremy repeats, "Where's Elena, Stefan?"

Stefan exhales and says, "You need to come to the hospital. Now."

His vision goes blurry and he stands up. "Not until you answer me, Stefan! Where is my sister?"

There's commotion on Stefan's end, and then—

"Jer?"

Elena. Relief sweeps through him and he sags, gripping the handle of the staircase so that he doesn't collapse.

"Thank God," he sighs, his forehead dropping to the railing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

"Jer, you need to come to the hospital, okay? It's important," Elena says, a note of urgency in her voice. "Something's happened. Get here fast."

"Okay," he agrees, too busy thanking God and loopholes to wonder how, if Alaric is gone, his sister remains.

… … … …

The Lockwood cellar is hardly an ideal location, but it's isolated and Klaus needs to weigh his options.

He paces, Tyler's footsteps heavier than his own, and scowls. He shouldn't have let the witch leave, should have made her take him to his body and finish this ridiculous—albeit well-timed—spell.

After "Tyler" had "died" (and Caroline had fled), Klaus began to concoct a plan. Finding Rebekah is paramount, he decides, possibly more important than shrugging Tyler off. Find Rebekah, Elijah, and Kol; then kill his mother's latest minion hell-bent on killing him—but what of after?

Leave.

It doesn't matter if the doppelganger is dead or alive, not after the Salvatores—Stefan's—betrayal. After the events of the last few days, Klaus finds that he cares very little about Elena Gilbert, Mystic Falls, and hybrids.

He'll leave, but not before returning to himself and letting Caroline's bratty boyfriend go

A parting gift, he thinks. Maybe one day she'll thank him.

… … … …

tbc.

A/N: Thoughts, comments, questions, criticisms-holla.