washed up sand dollars




The cliff's edge is crumbling, falling apart. Caroline envisions taking a brisk walk over the edge, and smiles. Her toes slip over the edge of the cliff, curling in the open air.

She stretches her arms out, reaching, trying to catch oblivion, and falls. Air rushes past her, tangling her hair, whistling in her ear, and she forces her eyes open, watching the clear sky above her fly farther away. She turns then, splaying her arms and legs out.

Caroline slaps the water face-first, and sinks. Her bones crack, the skin peels from her face.

She sinks the the bottom of the ocean, sits among the fish and the coral. The saltwater burns her peeled off skin, but still, she sits. A shark swims past her, giving her a curious look before darting after a yellow fish. Her hair swirls around her, and for a moment, she feels like nature. Like earth. Human. She snaps her eyes open, reaches over and pops her left arm back into its socket, smooths her hands over her face and feels her skin meld back together.

She's not human.

She pushes herself off of the coral, swimming to the surface. She kicks herself to the beach, rises from the water, and climbs to the top of the cliff again.

"Caroline," her name comes from his mouth like a curse, or a caress, she can never tell with him, "you've seen better days."

She doesn't even know how he found her. She doesn't have a cellphone, a computer, a fucking pager, she doesn't have anything traceable. She doesn't even have credit cards and her condo isn't in her name.

It's an insult and she should be offended, but she's not. She doesn't bristle like she would have before, doesn't bite out a sharp 'hey!', doesn't even blink. "Damon," she greets, "you're still an asshole." she sets her bottle of bourbon down, turns to look at him, and lets him appraise her. She's wearing her oldest pair of jeans and a t-shirt, her hair's up in a bun and she hasn't even brushed it today, and her face is makeup free.

Damon's smirk slowly vanishes, and a pitying expression flashes across his face, "You don't look so good, Blondie." he whispers, taking her bottle and downing it. He grimaces as his throat burns, and he tosses the bottle into the fire in front of her.

They sit together on the sand, a foot apart, staring at the roaring fire she'd built out of driftwood and a lighter. "What do I look like?" she asks, not really curious, just hoping for conversation, fire dancing across her face.

Damon kicks sand into the fire, "Like death."

Caroline snorts. She feels like death.

"Stefan!" she giggles, fighting against his hands. He tickles her skin with one hand, thrashes at her with a throw pillow with the other. He laughs at her giggle, and Elena smiles into her soda as she sits on the couch, watching them.

Stefan and Caroline wrestle for awhile, little human Elena watching, until Caroline's arm has been broken twice and Stefan's ankle has been sprained and Damon's TV has a hole in it. They flop onto the couch on either side of Elena. Stefan's arm slides around the brunette's shoulder and Caroline falls into her lap.

Her hands smooth through Caroline's hair, and Stefan smiles down at her.

"I'm so glad we're together." Elena says, happy tears filling her brown eyes.

"We'll have forever together." Caroline assures her, beaming. She's never been this close to anybody, and she feels Stefan's hand join Elena's in her hair. They feel like family.

"We love you, Caroline." they whisper together.

Stefan smiles. Elena smiles.

The picture fades, everything goes black, and Caroline wakes up screaming.

"Stop following me." she snaps, ducking into her condo. Damon catches the door as she slams it and stands outside.

"I can't, Barbie. You're the only—" Damon swallows, leaning against her doorframe. "You're all I've got left. I lost them, too."

Caroline stops, but keeps her back to him. It's silent for a few minutes, and—his voice cracks—he breathes, "Please."

"You can come in." she says quietly, voice stiff. She vanishes into her room and locks the door before he's two feet into the condo.

Caroline opens her eyes to the sun, but doesn't find the same beauty in it as she would have before. She lays in bed for a few minutes longer, curled in her blankets. She hears Damon snoring in the living room, passed out on the couch, and it's weird, she thinks, having him here after being alone, truly alone, for so long.

She wonders how he found her, but decides it doesn't matter. She climbs out of bed and slips into yesterday's jeans before jumping out of her bedroom window.

She walks down the beach towards the docks, and looks for an early jogger. She finds one in a handsome shirtless man, running with his dog, headphones in. She steps into his path, smiling. "Hello." she says kindly when he pulls his headphones out. "Would you like to help me?"

"Uh, sure?" he agrees.

Caroline smiles wider, "Good." she says, it's much easier when she knows they complied before she compelled them. She beckons him forward, and his dog whimpers before taking off down the beach. "Give me your arm," she compels, and he does so. She tears one of his veins open with her nail, and drinks from his arm.

She has her fill, and then pulls a rag out of her pocket and folds it over the wound, "Go to the hospital and tell them you've cut yourself on a sharp rock. Remember to keep the pressure on the cut, okay?" he nods, dazed, and walks away. "Oh, and your dog is that way!" she calls after him, pointing.

She swipes a hand across her mouth, and turns to go back to her condo. Her mouth drops open when she sees Damon, staring at her with an unreadable expression. He shakes his head at her before whispering, "They would hate you for this."

He vanishes, and Caroline's left with the harsh reality of his words.

She finishes painting Elena's nails and rolls over, kicking her feet in the air. Elena blows on her nails and lounges back on her pillows. "Hey, Care," she says lazily, "think we'll always be like this?"

Caroline tilts her head back, looking behind her at Elena. She smiles, kicks her legs again, and says, "Duh, 'Lena, I'm gonna need girl time even when you're fifty years old."

Elena snorts, "You'll still be seventeen."

Caroline rolls onto her stomach, spreading her hands along Elena's comforter, "Yeah, my body will be, but up here," she taps her forehead, "I'll be just as old as you."

Elena smiles, "I'm going to be jealous of your wrinkle-less forehead."

Caroline laughs and smacks her with a pillow.

Caroline blinks, coming back to reality, and downs the bottle of vodka in her hands. She sits on the floor of her room, staring blankly at nothing. She is nothing.

Oh, God, she's nothing.

Nothing without them. She's not the same. She's not—

Caroline chokes out a sob, wishing she could feel Elena's arms and hear Stefan's soothing voice. She crumples in a heap on the floor, curling into herself. "I can't do this alone." she sobs, "I—" she hiccups, "I can't. You said you'd never leave." she growls, to Stefan, "You said I'd never have to be alone."

In a rage filled, drunk frenzy, her room is trashed. She searches frantically for the photo, and finds it under her bed. Stefan and Elena smile out at her, arms around each other. Her hands shake, her body vibrates, her fangs slip from her gums, "You lied." she hisses, "You lied to me." she crumples up the photo, ripping at the edges, and tosses it into the trash can in the corner.

She curls into a ball on the floor, tears streaming down her cheeks. She'll regret that in the morning. She knows she will. But right now she's drunk and angry and alone—

She stills. She's not alone, she realizes. Damon is down the hall, laying out on the couch. He hadn't said anything to her after watching her feed, had just left her alone. She doesn't know what to make of that, or him, but right now she just needs to sit beside someone. She just—

She needs him.

She flashes from her room to the living room, and stares down at him. He's asleep, snoring away. Without thinking, she pushes his over and lays along the length of his body, curling against him. In his sleep, his arm wraps around her waist, securing her to him. Her tears slow, and she presses her face into the couch.

He stirs, "Caroline?" he questions tiredly.

"Go back to sleep." she whispers, and her voice cracks. He can smell the tears and the booze. He doesn't say anything, just curls his arm tighter around her waist, and goes back to snoring.

"I feel like I'm drowning." she chokes in Stefan's chest, "I feel like—like—"

Stefan smooths a hand over her hair, murmurs, "Shhh, I'm here."

"I hate you." she tells him. "I hate you for making me think they would hate me."

Damon regards her cooly, "You don't." he says, going back to his drink.

Caroline's lips tremble, her hands curl into fists at her sides, "They don't hate me." she spits.

Damon's stare is blank.

"They don't hate me." she says louder.

He blinks.

Hot tears pool in the corners of her eyes, "They don't," she sucks in a shaky breath, "hate me."

"But you hate you." he says, pointing at her before taking his glass and disappearing outside. He hears Caroline's knees hit the tile floor, and then the shuddering sobs that follow as he pours his drink out on the sand.

This is how she remembers it:

There's a stake and an Original, she doesn't know which, and Caroline's reaching for newly vamped-out Elena. She doesn't make it, and Elena's body lights up, falling into ashes. Her screams ring through the air and Caroline falls backwards, tearing at her hair in horror before she remembers the white stake in her belt.

She snaps the stake into pieces and kills Rebekah, Kol, and Elijah.

She stares down at the black mark etched across the wooden floor in the boarding house and tries not to listen to Stefan's crazed, manic screaming. She pretends not to hear him begging Damon to stake. I can't live without her, I can't, please. Damon, do it.

When Damon says no, Stefan does it himself.

This is how Damon remembers it:

His brother didn't love him enough to stay.

This is the last thing Caroline remembers before she flings herself from the cliff for the first time:

Stefan and Elena are buried next to each other, and as hard she tries, the flowers she plants around their headstones never grow.

"They would never hate you." Damon tells her, "They would never. Me, maybe. But not you, Barbie. You're too good."

"I don't feel good." she says.

He doesn't say anything, just lets the sound of the waves crashing outside fill the silence. He loves over on the couch and she curls up beside him. She closes her eyes and pretends she had reached for Elena in time.

Less time is spent on the bottom of the ocean and more time is spent in the kitchen.

Damon cooks her food from all over the world, towel over his shoulder, whistling a tune.

She sips at the drink he pours her and pretends she doesn't see the coppery color of Stefan's hair and the stark brown of Elena's from the corner of her eyes.

She sleeps without nightmares that night, and when she wakes up, she discovers Damon's arms tightly wrapped around her waist.

"It was my fault." Caroline muses in the darkness.

Damon's fingers trace 'no' over her skin.

They take a trip to Mystic Falls, visit Bonnie and Jeremy, and stand over a patch of daisies in the cemetery.

"I thought they'd never grow." she breathes, reaching out, fingers closing around a sprig of flowers.

Damon's hand reaches for hers, and she lets him slide his fingers through hers. "I'm sorry." she hears him mutter, to the headstones, and she squeezes his hand, because what's done is done and it hurts, yes, but as far as she knows time travel doesn't exist, and there's no way to bring back their most precious and cherished loved ones.

No matter how much they wish they could.

And she's the last person that should be saying this, because she's grieved for years, but she says, "Don't be." and means it.

Caroline stretches her arms out, falling towards oblivion, and just when she thinks she's about to hit the water, Damon springs from the water, catches her, cradles her to his chest. She squeals, splashing him with water, wiggling out of his arms, pushing his head under.

Their lips meet in a kiss when he comes back up, and drowning isn't so scary anymore.