Epilogue

I can't promise you
that I won't let you down
And I can't promise you
that I will be the only one around
when your hope falls down

Mumford and Sons "Hold On To What You Believe"

Ten Years After

Portland, Oregon

"Portland? Really? You know I hate Portland."

Stefan smiled into his whiskey without looking up.

"Hello, Klaus," he said.

"Stefan." Klaus slid onto the stool next to him and ordered a bourbon from the bartender. "Do you know it's raining? But of course you do, that's why you're here. Can't have Stefan being, I don't know, cheerful, can we now?"

"What do you want, Klaus?"

"What, can't I visit an old friend without being accused of having an ulterior motive?"

Stefan shook his head and looked over at Klaus finally. Despite his jovial tone and smile, Klaus had a look of desperation about him.

"No."

Klaus widened his eyes in mock innocence and pressed his hand to his heart. "I'm wounded at your lack of faith," he said. At that moment, his drink arrived and he took a sip. "We missed you at the wedding."

Stefan raised a brow. "I kind of doubted that Kol really wanted me there after what happened in Atlantic City."

Klaus held up a finger. "Not true," he said. "He even turned Jeremy the night before the wedding in anticipation of your arrival. 'Just in case,' he said. 'We wouldn't want a guest to eat one of the grooms during the ceremony,' he said."

Stefan snorted in amusement. "I haven't done that kind of thing in a long time."

"And more's the pity," Klaus said with a wink. "I sort of miss old, fun Stefan. Though I suppose there's something to be said for gloomy, rainy-day Stefan as well." He furrowed his brow as he looked down at his drink. "Is it because they were there?"

"Who?"

Klaus rolled his eyes. "You know. Snow White and Dopey."

"You know, I'm pretty sure Damon would be able to come up with much cooler nicknames for him and Elena," Stefan said.

Klaus looked slightly dejected. "I wasn't aiming for cool," he said with a pout.

"Well, you succeeded." As Klaus's pout deepened into a scowl, Stefan held up his hand in a placating gesture. Despite Klaus's attempt to hide his concerns behind a flippant attitude, Stefan had a feeling he knew what Klaus wanted to hear from him, and Stefan was in a generous mood tonight. "And the answer is no. It had nothing to do with them. I'm happy for Damon and Elena, and I'm over it. Have been for a while. I just had stuff to do that weekend."

"Fair enough," Klaus said, giving Stefan a considering look. "Do you know what today is?"

Stefan frowned slightly and shook his head.

"Enlighten me," he said, knocking back the rest of his drink and motioning to the bartender for another.

"Ten years," Klaus said softly. "Your ten years of service to me are up today."

"I haven't actually 'served' you for the last nine years and eight months of that service."

"Whatever," Klaus said. He waited as the bartender handed Stefan his new glass and then raised his own. "I hereby release you from your promise. For what it was worth."

Stefan chuckled. "All right," he said. "Thanks, I guess." He took a deep sip and then held out his glass again. "And to old friends."

Klaus paused and then his faced turned wistful. "Just friends?"

Stefan smirked. "We'll see."

o-O-o-O-o

That, of course, was just the beginning of the story.