Not Quite a Century, Love

Disclaimer:…I don't want to say. I really don't want to-Oh fine! I don't own Joseph! Or Candice! Or any of the TVD characters or plot lines. But I do very much wish to smack Julie over the head with her own scripts sometimes.

A/n: So guess what I decided to do when I was supposed to start studying? Yep, this story. My first multi-chapter Klaroline fic! I should really write the plot for this down….eh,maybe after exams and competitive cheerleading tryouts are over. I've seen a few fics like this up already, but there was always some little detail I wanted to tweak, so I decided I'd write my own. Because I love writing neurotic Caroline. She rocks my socks. Enjoy.

Caroline's POV

Not quite a century. That's the first thing he'd pointed out when he'd opened his door. But 17 years or a hundred-it doesn't matter so much now, now that I've realized what it means, what it feels like, to truly live a vampire existence. Time was just the structure we lived in; it wasn't constricting. Time could not age us, harm us, end us, or rebirth us ….it just was. We are. Being immortal can be as simple as that sometimes. We. Just. Are.

Don't get me wrong. I mean, I hate to admit he was right, but this world does have a whole lot of beauty, and wonder, and discovery. So don't think that I'm complaining or starting some dreary saga where all the people watching ever see is the heroine listing off the woes of her life. I love being a vampire a lot of the time. The freedom it gives you, the ease with which we can travel, or….persuade someone. You don't even need money. Not to say that I'm totally okay with compulsion or using humans for whatever I want. It's more like….I've grown up some. I know, absurd considering I don't actually…grow anymore. But I mean it like this; I understand more of what Stefan and Klaus and even Damon had meant back when I was a baby vamp. I understand now how they could be so callous about human lives. I still value human life like any other life, but I'm not so prudent about compelling someone if it doesn't hurt them in any way. I used to think it was wrong to take away someone's choice like that…and well, it sort of IS, but when you need to do it, when it's necessary, or just simply when…you're having a selfish moment and you need help, well then…it doesn't seem so bad to me.

There are days, of course, when I miss the old Mystic Falls gang, when I long to hear Bonnie laugh at my 'blondness' or to have Elena give me one of her famous hugs after I've had a hard day. Hell, I even miss Damon's teasing and knowing smirk sometimes. And Stefan, I miss him too. I miss the heart in him. No matter what anyone says, Stefan is a good man. I sometimes wonder if he stayed on the right path after I left…if he finally got a better hold on his…problem.

I know I could find them if I wanted to-Damon and Stefan that is. But…I like this freedom. For the first time in my life, no one is telling me what I should do, no one is judging me.

I used to feel guilty about how I just left them all, not even bothering to tell them goodbye. Well, I did say one goodbye-to Matt. Because, if anyone could understand wanting to just get out, to no longer be affected by the vampire melodrama that is that town, it would be Matt. I even remember the look in his all-American blue eyes-he was sadder than I'd ever seen him, and that's saying a lot, but what stuck with me was the acceptance in his face. He'd understood. The last words I ever heard spoken to me from anyone in that town was Matt telling me to, "Have a good life….and don't come back, Care," then he'd smiled at me and pushed my shoulder.

I left that day, a week after I'd figured out that Tyler was not Tyler anymore; I could hear it in the way he formed sentences, I could feel it in the way he held me, close and careful. That was Klaus. And after I'd realized that, I'd realized something else-I liked it. I had been enjoying those last few weeks with "Tyler" more than I had enjoyed the past parts of our relationship. And that scared the ever-living crap out of me. That's why I ran. So I left Bonnie there-which I felt the least guilty about because her mom had finally woman'd up, so to speak, and came back to get to know her daughter. And I left Elena to deal with her Salvatore boys drama. Actually, she'd told me the night before she'd left who she'd chosen-that news had made my heart hurt for Stefan. I hope he's found a nice girl. I'd left my mom there, which actually was a choice she was happy with-she wanted me to "get out of this damned town while I still could". She'd made me promise to send postcards from wherever I was at the time. For the most part, I've kept that promise. The person I feel the guiltiest about leaving is Tyler. I'd figured out about Klaus a few weeks after Ric had died and Elena had turned-which was good news for Damon I would've thought, but he was actually upset that she didn't get to chose it for herself. After I'd told him I knew, I'd screamed in his face and called him a "Grade-A creepy boyfriend-body snatcher!". I gave myself points for creativity, but had to retract some for stupidity after I'd realized I'd just probably pissed off an Original.

But he wasn't mad, if anything, he looked…gravely disappointed.

"….Klaus," my eyes widened, taking in every mannerism I hadn't noticed before, "You…oh my God, what happened to Tyler? I thought you had….you had died."

His face dropped, his eyes staring intensely at the ground beneath his feet, and the look was so very Klaus-esque that I mentally slapped myself for not noticing earlier, "Bonnie did a spell," the emotion in his voice confused me-I couldn't figure out if he was more disappointed or irritated.

"So…she just put you…into Tyler's body? Why?"

"Because she knew if I died then so would all of you…." he raised an eyebrow at me, implying that he had expected me to realize that.

"So what? You just thought you could just use my boyfriend's body to get close to me and that I wouldn't notice? Do you think I'm stupid? You can't just do that! Manipulation is NOT the key to winning someone over! It doesn't work like that!"

He laughed once, without humor, "Actually, I think I subconsciously knew you'd figure it out. Clever girl."

"Do you plan on answering my question as to why you thought it'd work, you Grade-A creepy-boyfriend-body-snatcher!"

"I didn't really get to CHOSE the body, Love," his eyes burned with ire, the disappointment fading.

"But you certainly didn't seem to mind that you got to-" I'd trailed off as I remembered the past few weeks and the fact that I didn't mind what had gone on then, at all. I…had liked being with him, whether I knew it was him or not. That's when I ran from the room. That's the last time I had spoken to him.

A few weeks after I'd left, I'd been sitting in some ceady bar in Chicago and overheard who must have been two of Klaus' hybrids talking. They expressed their gratitude and relief that their "master" was back in his own body. I shivered at the creepy, devoted way in which they spoke of him. I also felt a pang of guilt that Tyler probably had just woken up, with no idea what had happened or that he'd been "out of commission" for more than a month. He'd probably looked for me around town, wondered where I was. I used to have bouts of bad days, when I'd sit in my hotel room for days, overcome with guilt at how I'd just left him, all of them. Anytime I heard some song that Bonnie used to sing off tune in the car, or anytime I saw a football player with short black hair and a cocky grin, I'd feel the pangs in my heart, telling me I was a horrible person. But every month, it got easier, I just kept telling myself that I had the opputunity to start a new life if I wanted to. I realized that if I'd really loved Tyler-in the eternal-soulmate-kind of way- then I wouldn't have ever left. After I'd realized that, I'd somehow gotten over most of the guilt. It just started slowly dissipating one day. And ever since then, I've done what I always wanted to-I ran. I went everywhere I could think of. Paris was beautiful and bustling with scents of fresh-baked bread and new perfumes. Everywhere I looked there were people holding hands, or laughing, or just simply relaxing over really good food. Oh, and the shopping was amazing. Better than I had dared to dream. My wardrobe size had tripled after a month there. The atmosphere there was addictive. It was one of…'comment-dit-on?'….fantasy. It was a fantastical city. With the lights that lit up the streets along the Seine every night and the view from my hotel balcony at sunrise and the smell of happiness in the air everywhere I went. But one day, sometime during the second month, I'd gotten….well, sort of bored of it all. It doesn't fill your heart with joy to walk along a romantic street when there's no one there beside you.

So I'd left and opted for somewhere more adventurous this time. So I'd climbed the Alps. I stood on top of the highest peak in the snowy mountain range and looked out over the expansive white and the shimmering sapphire skies, I'd reached my hands up and almost felt the clouds. I was on top of the world and it was wonderful. I'd turned, out of some instinctive-teenage-girl habit, and started gushing to….no one, I'd realized. Seeing marvelous things and feeling these amazing, freeing, feelings, isn't really as awesome when the only person you can share it with is you. No one wants to ramble on to themselves. So I'd climbed down, well…I'd sledded down. No one was there to see and as ridiculously dangerous as it'd be for a human, it was simply thrilling for me.

After the Alps, I'd gone to Morocco. It was hot and loud and perfect for distracting myself. But all the bright colors of the shops and all the soaks in the sun didn't work as distractions for the simple reason that I had no idea what I was distracting myself from. Sure, I missed my friends sometimes. But I no longer felt like the memory was weighing me down, I no longer felt guilt, just a vague, sometimes, encompassing sadness that that life hadn't worked out the way I'd planned.

I went to many places after that. But I always found some reason to leave:

-London was a stupid choice in the first place. Every time I heard the damned accent…I left after two days. I just heard "Love" too often.

-Rome was too full of history. Every arch I saw, every painting and museum, I knew Jeremy would love it. He always loved ancient stuff.

-I thought about going to Spain, but I think a part of me was still reserving that for the after graduation trip Bonnie, Elena and I had planned. ("Spanish boys? I mean, seriously, how could we not?")

There were many other failed attempts, all beautiful and enticing at first, but then it wore off. Something started nagging at me. I never stayed in one city more than three months. I must of tried over 100 cities in the first 15 years.

At first, I thought maybe the reason I couldn't seem to find somewhere that satisfied me was because of how I had left Mystic Falls. Maybe because I'd had no closure, I couldn't move on. So I tried to go back one spring day in April, 2028.

I'd driven my car past the 'Welcome to Mystic Falls' sign and my heart immediately dropped to my stomach. What if something horrible had happened to them all? Some new vampire menace could've come and slaughtered the town. But not once did I consider the option that was actually fact.

I drove past town square and saw the Grill, still there. I took that as a good omen and smiled, parking my baby blue Honda- I did not steal it, technically- and walked into the Grill hesitantly.

I was met with the same familiar burst of sounds-the bartender spraying beer into patrons cups, some jocks shooting pool in the corner, high school girls laughing as they talked and sipped their iced teas. I looked around, scanning the room for any familiar face. When I came up empty, I frowned, my eyes landing on man at the counter. He was wearing casual jeans and and a light blue button down, but I could only see the side of his face. He had dirty blond hair with a traditional clean, short cut. From his face, he looked to be in his early 30's. I could just make out that he had blue eyes. Sky blue eyes, strangely innocent looking eyes for a man. Eyes you'd expect to find on a little boy….that's when I'd smacked myself in the head. I had been looking for the faces of my friends, how I remembered them. I'd forgotten that eleven years had passed and that some of them would age. But once I looked at his eyes, I knew. It was Matt.

I ran up to him on impulse, some strange impulse I didn't understand that drew me to the familiarity and safeness radiating off him.

"Matt," I spoke quietly, despite my enthusiasm.

He froze, his shoulders tensing, before he spun around with wide eyes, "Care?" he asked carefully, afraid his assumption was wrong.

I nodded; all I could do was grin. I pulled him in for a hug, "Hey, Mattie."

He pulled back and smiled, his eyes shining at me, exactly the way they used to years ago.

"Where is everyone?" I wondered, looking around me once again, "And why are you wearing a dress shirt?" I snickered, remembering how he used to hate formal wear.

His eyes took on a serious look very quickly, "I sometimes forget how long you've been gone, and that you wouldn't know…."

"Wouldn't know what? I started nervously, "No one died, did they? Please tell me no one died."

He laughed, "No, no, Caroline," he reassured me, then laughed again, "You're still exactly the same girl you know."

I wasn't- I was harder and more confused and more experienced; I'd seen world wonders and I'd seen horrible gory things. I remember one night during my stint in New York, I'd seen a woman get raped. I'd tried to stop it, assuming the jackass was a human, but I'd failed miserably because I'd assumed again-he was not a human, he was a very old vampire, who'd knocked me out cold and continued to abuse the poor girl. By the time I'd woken up, they were gone and so was a piece of my optimistic soul.

But I smiled anyway, for Matt's sake, "What happened, then, Matt?"

He smiled, pride showing through his eyes, "I got promoted years ago, to manager of this place. Then a year or two back, Ms. Lockwood called up the owners of the Grill, told them how well I was doing. I don't know why she did that, I think she felt guilty about how Tyler used to treat me, or maybe she just felt lonely after he left, but she did it. And I'll be grateful to her for a long time," he paused, grinning again, "I'm an executive, Care. I'm head of all the small-town branches of the Grill."

I just stood there, shocked. Happy, but shocked. Because I'd assumed wrong-nothing horrible had happened, my friends had been just fine without me.

"Wait….you said Tyler left?"

He nodded shortly, "Yes, after we'd told him what had happened with him and Klaus and how you had left….he kind of did the same as you. He didn't like the town anymore. He felt like there was nothing here for him," he smiled a bit sadly, probably wishing his friend had found the people he loved a little more valuable, "But he's doing fine. He calls me every few weeks. He found a college down in Florida that he loves, they even let him play quarterback for them. I mean they're not in the NFL or anything, but he's getting noticed by scouts."

The good news should've given me the closure I hoped for, it should've filled me with joy for my friends, and it did in a way, but mostly-I just grew more numb, "And what about everyone else?"

"Well, I think Elena told you, but, she chose Damon after all. They stayed here for two years, but people started to notice that Damon had been in this town for 6 years and he hadn't aged a day…so they packed up and left for Italy. Damon said something cheesy about wanting Elena to see where his ancestors lived. Really, I think he just got bored of pretending for all the townspeople he hated. Stefan left a week after Elena chose Damon. I felt bad for the guy, I really did. Everyone could see he was crushed. I mean…he had to lose her twice. But, I hear he's doing okay now. Elena made Bonnie do something witchy that I don't know the specifics of to check on him. She found out that he's living in Chicago, healing. Bonnie said he even met someone there. Some strong-willed red head from what Bonnie saw. And Bonnie, she's still here. Her and Jeremy got married three years ago….actually, she's pregnant. They're going to have a little girl," he beamed, "She still lives in the same house. You should go see her. I know she'd love that. I'm not in town that much and she doesn't get to see old faces very often."

I nodded blankly, trying to take it all in, "Yeah. Maybe I will. Thanks Matt." I turned after giving him a final hug then walked straight out the door.

So my friends had been fine without me. Great, actually. I knew it was selfish and immature to be hurt about it, but…I was. I was extremely happy for them all, of course. Stefan even found a girl, like I'd so hoped he would. I got the urge to go visit them so I could meet her, then find Elena to see how she liked vampire life. But mostly, I felt a deep sadness that I didn't understand. Like I was no longer part of that circle. Of course I hadn't been for a long time, but that was because I chose to not be, I wanted to start over and blocked them from my mind. But now that I opened that door again, I didn't exactly get closure. I got the discovery that the lives of the ones I loved went on just fine, without me in them. That's when I finally understood what he had meant when he said I wasn't ready; it was because I hadn't yet understood the timelessness of our lives, the never-ending moving on of it all, people, friends, like passing ships.

It was a sad epiphany, but a necessary one. I knew how to go on with my immortal existence.

But first, I wanted to say the goodbyes I never got to. I went to my old house.

"Caroline," my mom gasped when she opened the door. I was expecting tears, but I didn't anticipate the way she pulled me into a huge hug.

"Hi Mom," I squeaked from her shoulder.

She pulled back suddenly, "Wait…what is it? Are you okay? Why did you suddenly come back?"

She was the only person to ask that question today and it threw me a little.

"Honestly? I'm not sure. I've been so many places, but…I always found a reason to leave. I thought, maybe, that something here was keeping me from settling. I thought I could get…closure. It's stupid."

She burst out laughing.

What? Laughter is not an appropriate response. I frowned, offended, "It's not funny."

She regained composure and led me into the living room to sit down. I noticed she'd painted the walls a different color. It made me smile, that she was able to do that, without my memory hindering her.

"No, Honey, it's not funny. And it's not stupid. I just laughed because…well, I'd always secretly hoped you'd come back for closure, even though I told you to go. I think you're more like me than either of us admit. This will always be our home, and it's okay to come back, Caroline, but I want you to understand something. You don't owe anyone anything. You can do whatever you want, Care. Because the only thing life is really made of are choices. The way those choices change things can't be fixed or taken back. The world adjusts around it and it all becomes okay again. I see that look on your face, the guilty one for leaving, and the sad one for realizing that your friends moved on without you, but I want you to realize that they didn't forget you. They just did what they had to in order move on, like you did. You can always go back, Caroline, remember that. But mostly, remember that you'll never be satisfied when you're alone. I know you; that's who you are. You need people. Not to care for you, not to be dependent on, but because you're compassionate. You love people. You always have, Care."

You need people….

My mother's words rang in my head long after I'd given her a hug, promised to come back and see her before another decade passes, and got in my car.

I drove to Bonnie's house and parked. I sat outside the little picket fence house for what felt like an hour. Out of all of us, I think Bonnie was the one who deserved to get the normal human life. I smiled at the homey blue curtains on her windows and the SUV in her driveway.

I saw a man open the curtains and turn away, laughing at the dark haired women in front of him, hobbling to the couch. I smiled and their faces.

I didn't go in. Not because of guilt this time, or fear. But because I accepted the fact that she was happy and that I could always come back and visit her. But for now, she was perfectly fine without me coming to say hi. I didn't want to disturb her today.

But I left a note and my old baby blanket on her doorstep. 'For your beautiful daughter, because all three of you deserve normal. And because I want you to know I'm always here. It's been a long time, but I'm still me and I know you're still you. I love you, Bon. You're family will be radiant—Caroline. PS- My number hasn't changed. I compelled the Verizon guy into an unlimited contract ;)'

I left my old, strange little town, smiling, out to find another home, not a new home, but another one. I would come back to this one and I would find Elena and Damon, Stefan and his new girl. Because everything is forever, everything ends eventually, but my circle, my love, and my home, would always be there.

The conversation with my mother was still replaying in my head. I knew she was right. I suddenly just knew that the reason I couldn't feel comfortable anywhere I went was because I was alone. I thought about going to stay permanently with one of my immortal friends, but the idea just felt wrong. They had their own lives now. Yes, I could and would be a part of that life, but it wasn't my life, so I couldn't barge in on it. I picked my brain incessantly for anyone I knew that might need company.

I picked my brain and reflected on my life for another year. Until, their name and face finally hit me, and I couldn't decide if I wanted to facepalm or check myself into an asylum. But I blocked out the emotions, and thought about it logically. He had promised me that he would take me anywhere I wanted, although that promise didn't hold as much lure anymore, but seeing amazing cities WITH someone did. He'd acted like whenever I came, he would welcome me. He was the only person I could think of. And now that I was really thinking about it, I realized….another reason I'd felt antsy everywhere I went-especially London-was that I'd been repressing something for years-I had feelings for him that confused me. And if I'd learned one thing from all this damn soul-searching it was that I would never be satisfied until I checked it out. The only way to figure this out would be to…..I hate to say it, but to do exactly what he'd told me to-get to know him. 17 years ago, or hell even 2 years ago, I would've locked myself up immediately for even considering going to him after all he'd done. He was a murder and a manipulater and….the more I thought about what I had against him, the more I realized that I or someone I loved had done every single one of the things that I used to hate him for. Maybe it was just because that I'd been so used to seeing him as our enemy before, but now that I was away from that, past my old life, I could see it more subjectively now. Not that the way I felt about him was in any way subjective or logical…

Anyhoo, that's how I showed up at his doorstep that day. Don't ask me how I found out where he was-I had to do some weird things for witches. Those said weird things broke my nails a couple of times, actually. And once there, I realized that I'd forgotten to shower and get re-dressed after the whole ordeal with the withces, which I refuse to go into detail on. Not that I care at all what he thinks of how I look but…I'm a blond cheerleader at heart, okay? So I took a change of clothes out of one of my bags, left the bags on his doorstep, and ran around the house to find a hiding spot to change clothes. Once changed, I spotted a water house on my way back to the front door…and well, I had a moment. A very….eccentric, this is a terrible idea, moment. But I hadn't had time to shower in two days and besides how I looked, I honestly just felt gross and wanted to rinse the suffocating grime off me.

So yes, I took a hose bath. I started off rinsing my arms and legs, careful to avoid getting my clothes wet, but once I found a leaf embedded in my hair, I decided to wash that too…as best I could. I was so tired that I didn't even realize how ridiculous I would look if anyone saw me. And that's exactly what happened.

"Well, not quite a century, yet, Love. But I must say, it's good to see you. This is a nice look you've got going….."

My eyes widened to comical proportions as I spun around, probably getting water on him from accidentally flinging my soaked hair, "Uh….this is not how I meant this to go down. I um…needed a shower, and…I…can I just go inside hide in a corner, now?"

I didn't even wait for him to answer before I super-speeded through the door he'd left open (not safe!) and up to the closest shower I could find. I thanked god when I noticed that his siblings no longer lived with him. I turned beet red and berated myself for choosing to come here and choosing to take a bath by hose in front of his house when I heard his voice float up to me from the stairs, "Just so you know, there's an extra room and shower down the hall. The one you're in happens to be mine. Not that I wouldn't enjoy the um…bathroom run ins, but I'm assuming you might find it a bit awkward. And we need to have a word when you're done, Love. "

Frick on a stick, I'm stupid!

A/n: This may be one of the most rushed things I've written so I apologize for any mistakes or OOC-ness. I will fix it when I have time. But I've just realized I've spent two hours on this and I really need to study for my math exam now. Because math hates me. I've had nightmares about math tests.


-Pixie 3