A/N This is it, the final chapter. Thank you so so much for reading and for all the reviews, I loved reading every single one. I'm sorry to see this story end, but excited about getting into my new one, so make sure you check in for new chapters of 'Prowl' soon.
Epilogue - Three years later -
Bonnie and Caroline were laughing at the movie on screen. Bonnie had come to stay with Caroline until it was time to swoop in and pick Nik up out of the jungle he was currently trekking through. He had insisted Caroline have Bonnie with her for most of his time away, he didn't want her to be alone.
It was a good thing the two girls got along so well. Nik had always said they would, but it wasn't until they met face to face a few years ago that they really bonded. Now it was like they had know each other forever.
Caroline climbed off the couch to poke around in the kitchen. "So we have leftover birthday cake and tequila." She offered.
"Sounds good." Bonnie replied.
Caroline brought everything out on the coffee table in front of them and they dug in.
"So, any new stories?" Caroline asked.
"Boy troubles, again." Bonnie sighed.
"Don't tell me Jeremy's calling again. You were right to cut him off after that thing about his ex."
"No, that's not it. Jamie and I ended up breaking up."
"What? That bastard." Caroline said.
Bonnie laughed. "I love how you take my side without even asking if it was my fault."
"Like I need to? You're my friend. And you keep Nik safe. I'm always going to be in your corner. Now spill the details."
"Ugh." Bonnie said. "I dumped him. He was great, just... too safe, you know? Like, I want the adventure and excitement and all the craziness, not some guy with a regular 9 to 5 who keeps asking me about settling down. I don't want to settle down. I want to have fun. Why is it that I can't find a guy who wants a relationship, but doesn't want to move to the suburbs and start having babies? I want someone who I can have adventures with."
"I understand completely." Caroline said.
"You've got the perfect mix. A serious relationship, but you still have so much fun. With Jamie, it was just the serious parts."
"Sounds like you need someone more wild." Caroline said.
"Yeah, but they have to look good in a suit too." Bonnie smiled. "And not be a total wimp. With my job, I feel like I'm always tougher than the guys I end up dating. For once I want to be with someone who makes me feel protected."
"I might have someone in mind." Caroline said. Nik would kill her, but it was so painfully obvious that a certain someone would be perfect for Bonnie.
"Don't tempt me." Bonnie said. "At this point, I might actually allow myself to be set up on a blind date."
Bonnie's phone went off.
"Shit. Time to go." She said, showing Caroline the message. Nik was done with the job.
"I'll see you tomorrow?" Caroline asked.
"Oh no, after last time, I know better than to be around the two of you when you're reunited. Every time he gets back from a week long job you jump his bones like he's been at war for a year."
"Guilty." Caroline smiled.
"Don't I know it." Bonnie said. "Look, I'll have him back by this time tomorrow, you two have fun next week."
"Huh?" Caroline said.
"Christmas? He said you two were going to his brother's house?"
"Right." Caroline said. "I forgot that was next week already. What are you doing for the holidays?"
"Nothing special." Bonnie shrugged.
"Then you should come with us! There's a lot of people we do Christmas and New Year's with. It's a really fun group. We always start out at Elijah's house and end up on Alaric's boat. You'd love it. And my friends Elena and Katherine have been Dying to meet you."
"That really nice, but I couldn't. I don't think Nik wants to mix work and his person life. I've never even met any of his siblings, and we've worked together for like ten years." Bonnie said.
"Well you might be his work associate, but you're my friend. I'm inviting you."
"I guess I could meet you there after I get some things straightened up at home." Bonnie said.
Caroline jumped up and down and clapped her hands, excited.
"What should I bring?" Bonnie asked.
"Knowing this group, just bring some booze and they'll all warm up to you real fast." Caroline smiled.
Bonnie left to go pick up Nik. Caroline waited until the door closed then scurried for the phone. It was one of her rare chances to have one of the secret conversations she'd been sneaking off to have over the past few months.
"You alone?" She asked.
"Hold on a moment." said the voice on the other line. She heard him excuse himself to take the call, and step outside on his balcony.
"Alone." He said.
"Any news?" she asked.
"They said yes." He said warily.
"That's a good thing." She insisted.
"I'm worried about this. It's been so long. I don't know how Nik will react."
"I just hope he has a good reason for making the choice he did." She said.
"We discussed it. He did, in my opinion. I just hope Nik will understand."
"I hope so too." She said.
The next day he showed up at the doorstep, a little dirty and tired, but thankfully not a scratch on him.
Caroline heard the key enter the lock and she pounced on him before he even got a chance to put one foot in the doorway.
"I missed you so much." She managed to say between kisses. She was pulling him through the house, eager to plop him on the first soft surface she could find so she could start ripping his clothes off.
"I missed you more." he challenged.
"Not even possible." She said, pulling off his jacket. "No injuries, right?"
"Not a scratch." He smiled.
"And the job?"
"Went off without a hitch. Robbie says hi."
"Tell me Jimmy isn't letting him tag along for the drop offs. You promised to make Jimmy wait another two years."
"Nonsense. He was just on the plane that took me from the city out into the jungle. He's getting big. Starting to talk about girls like they don't have the plague anymore."
"We don't?" She joked.
"Bonnie said you invited her to Christmas."
"Don't be mad. You're the reason we're friends. And she doesn't have other plans."
"I'm not mad, I'm just concerned about Kol pestering her the whole time. It's mostly couples, and now the two of them. He's going to try to use it to his advantage and end up driving her crazy."
"Maybe she'll like him."
"No one likes Kol, he's a nut." He huffed.
"That might be just what she's looking for." Caroline smiled, pulling Nik's shirt over his head.
"Please don't tell me my favorite transporter has a thing for lunatic boys like my brother."
"And reveal confidential girl-talk information? Never. I'm just saying, that you might not need to be so worried about Kol bothering her." Caroline said.
"Anything to keep Kol's eyes off you. I swear one of these days I'll do more than break his hand."
"He means well." She hummed, trying to focus on undoing his zipper.
"Sweetheart, what he means to do is exactly why I broke his hand in the first place."
"Hey. I'm trying to get you naked here and you keep interrupting me by talking about your brother."
"Shutting up." He smiled, and reached for her dress.
Caroline would have never thought she would see the day. She had just walked into the kitchen to greet Elijah and saw Elena's wild girl sister wearing a very domestic looking apron, streaks of flour across her face. Katherine was standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by about a million dishes and pots. There were side dishes sitting on all the counters, and she had just pulled the turkey out of the oven, and was prodding it in a feeble attempt to figure out if it was done.
Elena and Damon were on the other side of the kitchen, arguing about some old family recipe she wanted to stick to and he wanted to change.
"Don't let her trick you into thinking she did any of the work." Elijah said, motioning to Katherine. "Kat's been pretending not to know how to do anything, just so I'll do it all myself."
"Hey I'm trying!" Katherine protested. "Eli, is this supposed to be pink?" she said, pointing at the turkey.
"And back in it goes." Elijah said, plopping it back in the oven.
"I'm useless." Katherine pouted.
"I disagree." Elijah said. He kissed her and smiled as he wiped the streak of flour off her face. "But I'm still in charge of cooking."
He pulled Caroline to the side.
"Does he have any clue?"
"None." Caroline smiled. "How much time?"
"In about a half hour. We wanted to get it over with before dinner. I just hope it doesn't end in a fight."
"Me too." Caroline said. "This is supposed to be a good thing."
Nik and Stefan were running around the back yard with Alaric and his two little boys. Stefan had brought nerf guns this year now that the kids were old enough to hold them. Alaric was on the ground, pretending one of his sons had shot him, laughing as he pretended to die.
"Who's team am I on?" Kol asked as he walked out into the backyard.
The kids scrambled to fight over 'Uncle Kol' and tackle him to the ground.
"It seems punctuality is still not your expertise." Nik said.
"Easy there, brother, I had to stop for refreshments." Kol said, gesturing towards the bottles he had set on the porch.
"Caroline's bringing a friend this year. Behave yourself." Nik warned.
"A lady friend? For me? It really is Christmas." Kol smiled.
"Let's not have a repeat of last year, shall we?" Nik warned.
"No mean no." Kol recited dutifully. "Now why is Elijah acting so strange?"
"Beats me." Nik shrugged. "Becca mentioned it too. Said he keeps calling Stefan and won't tell her what it's about."
"He's not exactly fond of Stefan." Kol said. "Why would they be talking?"
"I don't know. Caroline's been weird with him recently too."
"Oh? Are we in high school again? Do you think it'll be a repeat of Ta-"
"Not like that, Kol."
Caroline walked out into the yard.
"Oh, good, You're here." She smiled at Kol. "Nik, Elijah has a surprise for you two and Becca. He wants all three of you to meet him in the study."
"Do you know what it is?" Nik asked.
"Are you going to tell me?"
"Alright, lets go." He sighed.
"I'm staying out here." Caroline said.
"It's a family thing." She said.
He looked confused.
"Nik, I love you, ok? What Elijah's doing is something he worked really hard on. Don't shut this out."
"Sweetheart, just tell me."
"Just go." She said.
Nik and Kol found Becca waiting impatiently for them in the doorway. The three of them walked down the hall to the set of closed doors Elijah stood in front of.
"I have something very important to show you." Elijah said to them.
He opened the doors and they looked inside.
The first thing that caught their attention was the red haired woman on the floor, chasing after a toddler who was attempting to crawl under a sofa. Two children with auburn hair were sitting there staring out at them, and behind them, a teenager who looked just like the red haired woman and a dark haired man. It had been almost two decades since any of them had seen him, but it was him.
"Finn." Nik whispered.
"Oh my god." Becca exclaimed.
Finn looked out at his siblings, all shocked except Elijah, who had been talking to him for months.
"I know you're all wondering why I'm here, after so many years of silence. I promise if you give me a chance, I can explain."
Nik looked warily at Becca and Kol, who were glaring at Elijah for keeping such a huge secret. They hesitantly stepped into the room.
Becca was blinking back tears.
"I was four when you left. You just left. Mother hid all your pictures. I couldn't even remember what you looked like."
Finn looked at her. He hardly recognized the woman in front of him as the same girl he never got to see grow up.
"I'm sorry. I never wanted to hurt you. Not any of you. I just didn't know any other way."
"Why did you leave?" Nik asked.
"My senior year, Sage and I fell in love. I went to great lengths to hide it from Mikael. Knowing him, I didn't want to risk it."
The woman with the red hair hesitantly walked over to Finn and moved her hand across his back.
"Mikael found out. He always found out." Finn said. "He told me to get rid of her. I couldn't. We continued, and I thought it could be safe, that I could fool Mikael. Then Sage found out she was pregnant. Somehow, he found out. A week later Sage's brother borrowed her car. It exploded when he turned it on. The bomb was meant for her."
Nik looked at the teenager, to the younger kids. He had nieces and was almost grown. He had never known them.
"I couldn't let Mikael get to her. Not her, and not the baby." Finn continued. "So we ran, and we hid. We made a life halfway across the world and it's been a really good life. But I've always missed my siblings."
"Why are you here now?" Nik asked.
"Elijah found me. I told him I could never risk bringing Sage and the children around you. If Mikael was watching, he could kill them. It was too much of a risk. I told him to leave me alone. To never call again."
Elijah looked down, remembering the sting he had felt several years ago. He had finally tracked Finn down, only to be shut out.
"It turns out Elijah's girlfriend, Kat, is it? She can be a bit nosy. She was going through his office, found the correspondence, and took it upon herself to change my mind. She told me Mikael wasn't a problem anymore. Do I have you to thank for that, Niklaus?"
"You do." Nik said curtly.
"I came to Elijah after I was sure she was telling the truth. I apologized and begged him to meet with me. He told me he would only do it if I agreed to meet with all of you. So here I am. Here's my family, my wife my children. I'm asking you to give us a chance."
"Welcome back." Kol said, and pulled Finn into a hug. Kol walked over to Sage and hugged her as well, kissing her on the cheek.
Becca and Nik just looked at Kol like he was crazy.
"What?" Kol said. "You invited a pair of drug dealers to Christmas. Becca's dating one of them, You kill people. Can we hold the judgement and just be happy to have our brother back?"
Nik and Becca glanced at each other, surprised by the reason in Kol's word.
"I'm an aunt?" Becca asked, smiling.
Finn let out a sigh of relief.
"Niklaus?" He asked, his voice a bit hesitant. "Can you forgive me?"
Nik hesitated, looking over Finn, his whole family with him.
He sighed. "Welcome back, brother."
Elijah excused himself to check on the food while the rest of his siblings got reacquainted with their eldest brother. It had been hesitant and cagey at first but they were gradually warming to Finn and getting to know Sage and the children as well.
Caroline and Katherine were peaking through the oven at the turkey, debating what they were supposed to do with it. They were discussing how to get it out without dropping it on their feet when they heard him come in.
"How did it go?" Caroline asked.
"Better than I could have hoped." Elijah responded.
Caroline smiled and hugged him.
"Aren't you glad I snooped?" Katherine smiled.
"More than you know. You're fantastic when you're scheming." Elijah said, putting an arm around her. "Although, you're absolutely terrible when it comes to cooking."
"Good thing you're good at that." Katherine smiled.
Caroline's phone buzzed. A text from Elena.
Your friend just showed up. Damon and I are feeding her shots. Sorry we're not sorry.
She went out to the bar and found Bonnie laughing with Damon and Elena. The two of them had been married for over a year now, but that didn't change them at all. They were still wild and goofy together and could never get enough of each other.
"You guys, it's not even dinner time yet." Caroline said, raising her eyebrows as Damon poured himself another drink.
"How else are we supposed to bond with your friend? She brought bourbon." Damon motioned towards the bottle.
"I told them to wait until later." Bonnie apologized.
"You can never tell Damon to wait for anything." Caroline said. "Now that you met them, let me take you around and introduce you, Nik's brother Elijah and Elena's sister Katherine are in the kitchen."
Kol popped out of nowhere.
He caught sight of Bonnie and stomped right over to her, a look of determination on his face.
"You're far too beautiful to be drinking with this lot." Kol said to Bonnie, motioning to the rest of them.
"And you're too smart to expect a line like that to work." She replied.
"You're talking to me, aren't you?"
"I think I'm going to find Nik. I haven't said hi to him yet." Bonnie said.
"And why do you have to speak with my brother?"
"Just being friendly. Caroline invited me, but I know him from work. Wait, you're his brother too? How many of you are there?"
"Five now. Used to be four. Long story. The most important part is that I'm the one you want to get to know. It's Kol by the way."
"Bonnie. But I really should go say hello to Nik."
"I'll take you to him" Kol offered.
"Why do I feel like you're going to take me in the opposite direction just to get me alone?"
"Because that's exactly what I'm going to do. You'll love it. I'll be so charming that you'll completely forget about wanting to speak to boring old Niklaus."
Bonnie looked at Caroline for guidance, who shrugged and mouthed 'have fun'.
Kol waited while Bonnie eyed him up and down before deciding to let him take her for a walk.
Caroline walked down the halls to find Nik sitting alone in one of the spare bedrooms. He was sitting at the foot of the bed, looking down at his hands.
"Hey." She smiled at him, leaning in the doorway.
He looked like he was deep in thought.
She walked in and curled herself next to him.
"How did it go?" She asked hesitantly.
"Elijah told me you were in contact with him, he told you when he wasn't ready to tell us yet, he asked you about how you thought I would handle it."
"I hated keeping a secret from you. But Elijah promised he would tell you today, so I agreed not to ruin his surprise."
"He trusts you."
"I trust him too."
"He says I'm different with you. He told me he would have been afraid to introduce me to Finn a few years ago, before you. That I would have lashed out at both of them."
"Would you have?"
"Yes. But today... I was angry for a moment, and then I decided to be happy to have another chance at getting to know him, a chance to meet his family and patch up our past. I think that's because of you."
"It isn't me, it's you." She protested.
"No. It's me because of you. I wake up happier. I look at life differently. It's you."
"Remember Elena and Damon's wedding?" He asked.
"How can I forget? I think Stefan and Becca broke up and got back together three times that night. And Kol walked in on them making up and ran across the dance floor screaming about burning his eyes out, There was the whole charade where Elijah and Kat were pretending not to be together, but everyone could see right through it."
"I meant the ceremony."
"I hate weddings, especially the ceremony part. It's so tedious and boring. But that was the first one we went to together, and I was so... content, just sitting there next to you. I had forgotten how much I hate those things, because you were there and it was good because of that."
"What are you getting at?"
"I'm just saying that even things I don't like aren't so bad anymore. Meeting Finn wasn't easy. He left us, he could have helped. I'm still angry. But I let him in, and I'm willing to make something of having him back in our lives. It's because of you."
"I think you're giving me too much credit. But just so you know, you've done a lot to make my life better as well."
"I wake up happier too." She smiled, getting off the bed to walk over to the door.
"Where are you going?"
She locked it.
"We have a little time before we have to meet for dinner, how do you think we can make the time pass?" She said, slowly walking back over to him.
"I have a few ideas."
New Year's Eve
They were in the middle of a vast expanse of ocean, Alaric's boat speeding through the waters. It was a little more crowded than usual now that Finn and his family were aboard as well.
There were a few awkward moments, standoffs, collisions of egos. Becca and Sage were still a bit cold towards each other, Finn's older children didn't quite know what to make of the group of new relatives and their close friends. They were moving slowly towards becoming a family again, but the road was a little bumpy.
Caroline watched Nik and Elijah from across the room. They were drinking and chatting quietly about something. Nik seemed antsy, which was very out of character for him. He loved their New Year's Eve tradition of taking the boat out with everyone.
"Well now that Finn's here, I don't know if the timing is right..." Nik said.
"Stop making excuses. Just do it already." Elijah whispered.
"And what are you waiting for?"
"I'll do it before midnight."
She caught his eye across the room and smiled.
He looked away, then gave her a hesitant smile back, before turning to whisper something to Elijah. She furrowed her brow. He was acting really strange.
Katherine and Elena were in the little bar room chatting with Bonnie, so she decided to join them.
"We were just grilling your friend for details." Kat said to Caroline.
"They're unrelenting." Bonnie agreed.
"I need to know!" Katherine exclaimed. "Every little detail! Spill."
"There's nothing to spill about." Bonnie said.
"Right, because you two keep sneaking off to do nothing." Elena said.
"Wait, what?" Caroline asked.
"They think I'm hooking up with Kol." Bonnie said.
"No! Well, that depends on your definition of.. no! just stop asking!"
"You're so busted. I want details!" Katherine said.
Bonnie looked to Caroline for help.
"Hey do you guys think Nik is being weird tonight?" Caroline asked.
"No..." Katherine said, obviously holding something back.
"He did seem a little nervous at dinner." Elena offered. "Does he have a job coming up?"
"No, he's not going on another job for at least six months." Caroline said.
"Maybe an art thing?" Elena asked.
"I don't think so... It's just weird, like he hasn't looked me in the eye all night." Caroline said.
Katherine was suddenly very busy with her phone, keeping her face turned away from Caroline.
"Katherine, do you know something? Did he say anything?"
"Nope, nothing, I'm sure it's all fine, oh wow look at the time, I have to go find Eli." She said, hurrying out of the room.
"Oh my god. What's going on?" Caroline said. "Do you think he wants to break up? If he told Elijah and Elijah told Katherine..."
Elena shook her head. "There's no way. He wouldn't."
"But Lena, he's been so weird all night. And Katherine knows something."
"It can't be that, Care, it just can't."
"Oh god. Oh shit." Caroline muttered. "I can't believe it. But what else could it be? Oh, I feel sick."
"Care, I'm sure it's not that, just calm down."
"I'm going to go get some air."
Caroline walked out to the decks and leaned against the railing, inhaling the salt tinged breeze as they whipped through the water. Her heart was racing. She could't stand the idea, but he had been avoiding her all night, acting dodgy, not looking at her, whispering to Elijah.
"Hey." He said softly.
She jumped a bit as he appeared next to her.
"Oh, hey." She said nervously.
"Do you want to go up to the top deck? I wanted to talk to you. Alone." He said.
She looked him over. He was nervous about something, he kept wiping his hands on his pant legs and looking away from her as he spoke.
She wanted to run away. To avoid the conversation, to just have a little more time before he dropped the bomb on her. But she couldn't stand any more waiting.
"Ok." She said.
"Great." He said and took her hand, half leading, half pulling her up to the top deck.
It was a tiny little deck, just a square of space where they could look out and see all around them, the oceans on all sides, the rest of the boat below them.
She looked out at the view, then back at him. He was anxious, nervous, almost afraid. It was a look she had never seen on him.
"Nik, what's going on?" she asked.
"I just need to say something." He said.
Oh god, here it comes, she thought. He's going to dump me.
"Meeting you has changed everything in my life. I never imagined I could have what we have. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me."
Well at least he's letting me down easy.
"I love you so much, and I want to be the person who deserves you, although I know I may never be that person and yet you accept me as I am."
"Caroline, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I can't promise that it will be easy or safe, but I can promise that I'll always put you first, and I'l do whatever it takes to make you happy."
"Nik?" She whispered.
He pulled a tiny box out of his pocket and opened it. It was a ring.
She inhaled sharply.
He hesitantly got down on one knee and held out the box.
She looked at him, his nervous expression, shaking hands, the box, the ring.
"Caroline, will you marry me?"
"Yes!" She shouted.
A smile moved across his face and all the nerves disappeared.
She tackled him to the ground, knocking him on his back as she straddled him, ignoring the ring and instead going for him. She kissed him over and over. He pulled her tight against him and kissed her back urgently.
When she finally had to take a break to catch some air, she looked at the box he was still holding.
"Do you like it?" He asked.
"I love it."
He pulled the ring out of the box and slid it on her finger. She looked at her hand, and the sight of it made everything all the more real.
She curled against him, watching the oceans around them, letting the moment linger a little longer, just the two of them.
Fireworks started to blast across the sky.
"Midnight?" She asked him.
He looked down at his watch and nodded. It was a new year.
She kissed him again.
"Happy New Year." He said, reaching out to hold her hand. He traced along where the ring now sat on her finger.
"Happy New Year." She replied.
There was movement on the deck below them.
"Niklaus? What are you doing up there?" Kol shouted.
"I'm trying to have a moment, if you don't mind!" Nik shouted back.
"Well when you're done, get down here. We have champagne! You're supposed to drink to the new year!"
"We'll be down in a moment, Kol."
"Hey, I kissed the Bennett girl at midnight! Thanks for bringing her along."
"Leave him alone, Kol." Elijah said. "He's busy."
"Busy with what?" Kol asked.
Caroline looked down at Kol and Elijah, who were slowly being joined by the rest of the group on the decks.
"Well?" Elijah shouted up at Nik.
"She said yes!" Nik shouted down.
"Yes to what?" Kol asked.
"What do you think?" Becca asked him. "He finally worked up the nerve to ask her to marry him. It's about time."
"Shut up, Kol."
Caroline looked down at the group. Everyone was there. She waved to them and they all cheered and clinked glasses.
"Ready to join the party?" Nik offered.
"Just one more minute." She said.
He leaned down and kissed her again.
"Are you sure you want to spend the rest of your life with me?" He asked.
"I've never been more sure of anything."
They climbed down the stairs and were rushed with people eager to congratulate them. Caroline was smashed in the middle of a hug between Elena and Becca who were both eager to see the ring and ask about how it happened.
She saw the scene unfold as if she was an onlooker watching everything happen. Her old life, her new life, him. All melding together. She could hold on to it all and he was right there beside her. And it was only the beginning.