The Heart We Build

All my nightmares escaped my head

Bar the door, please don't let them in

You were never supposed to leave

Now my head's splitting at the seams

And I don't know if I can

-Welcome Home, Radical Face

Chapter 1: Anniversary

On a late Thursday night, when the moon was high, Officer Michael Sheldon, of Seattle's 51st District, was thinking about Caroline Forbes.

He held his standard-issued, high-powered electric stun handgun in front of him and the LCD light, built into his uniform's shoulder, cleared away the shadows of the maintenance tunnel. Mike was a little out of breath, the three hour chase on foot putting enough strain on his bio-mechanical heart to make him tired. Usually, he would switch his eye lenses into night vision, a standard procedure for cops when entering dark conditions, but the heart had rerouted his remaining bioelectricity to strengthen his body for the run. He and his partner, Robert Frost, were coming to the end of a high-speed chase of a suspected murderer. This chase, however, was kept far from the public eye and perhaps, even farther from the ever-watchful eye of his superiors. He and Robert had agreed to keep the Captain out of the loop for just a bit longer, until they were completely sure this was their jurisdiction, but this no longer meant a legal jurisdiction. For these two partners, they used this term a little bit more liberally when it came to cases like these.

When he and Bob walked into a crime scene where the victim's neck was torn open and the body was drained of blood, they would give the Captain the bare amount of information to keep him off their tails. Because this was no longer their jurisdiction.

It was hers.

They figured this out two Novembers ago, on a dark night. It was a situation much like this: a murder suspect fleeing the scene of the crime, a long chase and an eventual run into the dark sewer. But that time, they had no idea what they were up against. The thing grabbed Bob and Mike fired four rounds of high-powered electricity into its chest. Usually, for a human, the shocks would stop its heart. But the thing was barely faltered. Instead it turned and leapt onto Mike, its mouth open wide and its teeth freakishly pointed. It seemed to go directly for his neck, like the other victim. That's when she showed up.

The thing was suddenly thrown away from him and it collided with a brick wall. Above him stood a blonde, her hair blowing in the wind and her face a mask of concentration. He was about to call out to her, tell her to run, when the thing attacked again. But with a swiftness that he had only heard about in the Prototype Tai Fighters of the NRDC, she flipped him to the ground and knocked him unconscious. She clapped iron cuffs, the kind his grandfather used to use in the academy, to his hands and carefully injected something into his neck. And then she stood up and smiled. It was the most beautiful, startling and shocking smile he had ever seen. Her skin was young, as if she were only seventeen, but her eyes spoke of a much older age. They had seen and done things that were far beyond the eyes of a teenager. Knocking her captive to the side, she stepped forward and extended a gentle hand.

"Hello, officers. My name is Caroline Forbes. And it would be totally fantastic if you could forget what you just saw."

After some prodding and even an arrest threat, Ms. Forbes flipped out her ID badge and revealed herself as "Private Investigator Caroline Forbes". This man was linked in a case of one of her clients and she was hoping to question him later on. But she knew of his violent past so she took extra precaution. Mike was just about to ask further about the case, when the subject woke up. Immediately he struggled against his cuffs, his teeth oddly elongated again. But they seemed to burn him, smoke rising from his flesh. He stumbled and Rob fell backwards in an effort to escape. His arm cut against a rock and blood poured out of the wound. The man's nostrils flared and he leapt forward, his teeth gnashing and his eyes wide and suddenly pitch black. He barreled down on a defenseless Bob— when Caroline sprung up behind him and stabbed him in the back . . . with a wooden stake. The man's skin grayed, his body freezing like rock, and then he crumpled over, dead as a headstone.

Caroline sighed and put the stake back into her jacket pocket. "I was really hoping I wasn't going to have to do that. I really wish you could forget that as well."

It soon became clear that neither officer was going to let her go without some explanations and so with a sigh, Caroline told them that the man she had just killed was a vampire. ("Yes, like from Dracula 2.0", she said shaking her head.) He was a new one though, unable to control his urges for blood and that's what led to the death of the stripper known as Jazzy Sauce. Caroline had come from Seattle to try and teach new vampires (she called them fledglings) how to control themselves and stay out of the radar of the human law. Obviously she hadn't gotten to this one in time. But she asked them to stay out of cases like these when they come up— or at least call her when they found a mutilated body.

Both Mike and Rob had agreed. And Mike hadn't stopped thinking about her since.

A frog-rat pounced along the grime of the steam-way maintenance tunnel. The vital signs on his visor told him it was startled but soon the signal was lost as it disappeared into the dark. The government thought it would be a brilliant idea to epitomize the useful benefits of both rats and frogs as economical wavers. Mike didn't really agree. He thought the slimy coats were nothing short of disgusting. But it was the future after all.

The dust from the movement of steam-way above him filtered down through his visor. He was entering the older part of the tunnels; the newer sections were frozen in metallic granite and never moved an inch. Suddenly, the lip of the walk way broke off and Mike found himself in a wide, open stone cavern. A Central-Communication-Hub stood in the center of the maintenance room, its holographic knobs constantly shifting in an out of sight as the signals changed. Metal tubes spiked out from the Hub like fingers, pulsating with information across the country and in between other steamy-way stations.

Mike's visor picked up a bloody handprint on a nearby wall, a bloody footprint a few steps away and a large smear across the room. He stepped over the line of tubes and followed the markings, the lights from the Hub electrifying the walls. A news reporter from channel five flickered on the wall as he put a boot on the other tunnel hole.

"That makes a second unsolved murder in a month for the Seattle Police department. No details on the culprit or suspects have been released. The only warning we are given is to stay inside doors at night and if you must travel, then do so in groups. More information later, at one."

Mike's heart tightened, a beep sharp in his ear informing him of what he already knew. He needed to catch this guy, to give something back to the Captain. He knew it wouldn't end well for the vampire, but at least no one else would be at risk. The other reason why his heart jumped lay in the thought that either way, at the end of the road, he'd get to look at her hair, that blonde hair, again. Maybe this time, he could subtly, coolly, discretely, give her his phone number. And then they could go out for dinner sometime, or something. Maybe he could touch that hair, maybe—

As he stepped into the cavernous space of another CCH room, something knocked him to the ground. It slashed at his visor, tearing away at the protective shoulder padding. It was insanely strong. If I live, I swear I will apologize to Bob for calling him a softy, Mike thought as he fired his handgun aimlessly and perhaps hopelessly. One of the vampire's nails scrapped against his cheek and broke the visor in half. Cheered on by its own success, the fangs grew bigger and he jerked at the armor. With a snap, the shoulder padding broke in two and it bent down, Mike's arms pinned to his sides, with its mouth wide. Well, let me die now, so she doesn't see it end like this!

Private Investigator Caroline Forbes heard the struggle three tunnels over. She rolled her eyes. How many times had she told those guys to go in pairs and they just didn't listen? Shaking her head, she bolted off into the darkness, the near-consuming blackness not a problem for her superhuman sight. She turned around corners, up through rooms and over wires. She found the struggle just before things took a turn for the worst. The fledgling had Mike pinned down, his fangs inches away from the cop's throbbing pulse.

Well, this is what you get . . .

"Hey, ugly!"

The fledgling's mouth snapped shut as though she had hit him over the head with a rock. It turned, hissing like a furious cat, its eyes slit into glowing pricks.

"What is it, Princess?" It growled.

"There's something on your face."

"Caroline—," Mike gulped from the ground. "Is this really the best time to be giving this guy facial tips?"

"There's always time for facial tips, duh." Caroline said simply. "But that's not what I'm talking about."

"Then, enlighten us, sweet cheeks." The vampire growled.

Caroline's nose wrinkled. "Stick with 'princess'. Makes you look less like an arrogant dick."

"Who the hell are you to tell me what to do? And come on, I'm right in the middle of dinner here, lady."

Caroline's demeanor softened. "I'd like to say I'm your friend. If you don't eat Mr. Nice Police Officer. I can help you controls those urges that are setting your head on fire right now. I know how you're feeling and what you want and I can help you be a good person. You don't have to be a killer. You can stop here."

The fledgling frowned. "I'm feeling there's a 'or else' on the end of that sentence."

Her eyes flashed. "You're not wrong."

The vampire grinned, its teeth sharper than ever. "You know what? I like your style, princess, so I'm going to take you on. You're obviously not human, so I'd like to see what you have to offer. I just need a snack to warm up."

He grabbed Mike by the shirt again, his teeth pricking the flesh—

Caroline pounced and with a swift kick, the fledgling went flying into the other wall.

"By the way, the thing on your face was my foot." Caroline shook her head as the fledgling tried to climb to its feet, without success. "And didn't your mother ever tell you not to fight on a full stomach?"

"My mother was a crack-whore who had me then ditched me on a orphanage door step two weeks later." The fledgling rubbed its head. "I wouldn't know."

Again, Caroline felt sympathy for this guy. It really wasn't his fault he was this way. Bad timing, bad situation . . .

"Look, you little baby vampire you, what's your name?" She crouched down a few feet away from him, trying to look him in the eye.

"Jim. Jim Buckle."

"Well, Jim, I'm Caroline Forbes. I'm just like you. I'm a vampire too. I know want you to drink that guy over there drier than the Sahara desert, but you can't."

"And why not?" Jim Buckle grumbled.

"Well for one, it's wrong. But secondly, it'll make you become something I know you don't want to be."

"And what's that?"

"You'll be dead. And I will kill you" Caroline couldn't loose his gaze now. "But I can help you, Jim. You don't have to be a monster."

His gaze traveled to Mike still on the floor. Caroline tensed, ready to spring if he wasn't listening. The vampire's nostrils twitched, and then his fangs retreated. He sat up and sighed, nodding.

"Fine. No eating Mr. Nice Police Officer."

"Great! Now let's get some nice warm, otter blood in you." Caroline pulled Jim up to his shaky feet. "It takes a little funny on the way down, but the aftertaste is actually pretty good." She dusted off his dirt-covered sweater, smiling happily. "There, looking better already! Mike, tell Jim he's looking better!"

Mike sat up, looking dazed. "Yeah, he looks super."

His green eyes were blurred and out of focus. There was peach fuzz on his chin. Caroline couldn't help but be reminded of a small little boy, dressed up as a cop, running around in his socks, screaming that he was going to save Gotham. She realized it was a little ironic that she, a vampire in the body of a seventeen year old girl, wanted to protect the cop from the world.

Caroline patted Jim on the shoulder then went over to Mike, grinning softly. "You okay there, Mr. Officer?"

"You look really pretty tonight." Mike muttered, his eyes still trying to find her face.

"It's just my bubbly personality shining through. Do you need some help up?"

"Probably, 'cus I'm feeling a little woozy." He put a hand to his neck and pulled away shiny blood on his hand. "Oh, that's not good."

Caroline heard a hiss behind her. Oh, crap.

She had seconds to grab Mike and shove herself on top of him before the fledgling attacked. It missed them and crumpled into the wall overhead but was up again in seconds. Caroline flipped from her hands onto her feet and drew the stake out from her jacket pocket without a pause of regretful hestitation. Jim whipped around, his eyes blazing black again and his fangs bright. There's no turning back now. She could see that. And for that, she was genuinely sorry.

He pounced, but he was a mess of aggression and blood lust now. He was raw power, blind rage. Controlled accuracy would win in this fight every single time. And she had been building her accuracy for the past one hundred years.

Jim lunged forward, his teeth bared. Caroline swept low to the ground, her leg outstretched. He blindly stumbled to the ground, his face smashing into the concrete. Caroline slid to her feet, the stake high over her shoulders.

"I'm sorry about this, Jimbo. I really am." She swung down in an arc into his back. The fledgling shuddered, his skin color fading and graying. He had barely enough time to jerk in pain before his skin, muscles and bones froze and Jim Buckle, the new vampire, died.

Caroline righted herself, her head shaking. "Poor chump." She turned back to Mike, who still hadn't regained full consciousness. He was trying to get up.

"Whoa, there, cowboy." Caroline caught him as he nearly tumbled back to the ground. "Where are you headed to in such a big hurry?"

"Bad guys to catch, and stuff . . . to report."

"Okay, Batman. But let's just get you to a hospital first."

Mike nodded weakly as Caroline dragged him forward, starting their arduous walk back up to the ground level. But then he suddenly stopped.

"Wait, you said something that was weird."

Caroline raised an eye at him. "Have you heard me?"

"No, about, um, vampires . . . you train vampires, don't you?"

"Not to be monsters, yes."

"But— you, you— and vampires— really?"

"Looks, like someone got hit on the head a little too hard, didn't they?"

Mike mumbled his agreement, his expression both pained and in awe.

They had run into Bob about halfway up through the tunnels. Caroline filled him in as he grabbed his partner.

"He couldn't take it." She said, as they continued walking. Bob pressed a small red button his visor that called an ambulance to their location. "There are some that just can't be stopped. Maybe, if he hadn't killed those two girls earlier, maybe he could have controlled it—,"

"Maybe, we could hurry, just a lil' bit. My head hurts loads." Mike grumbled.

They walked on through maintenance tunnels, back towards the opening to the main tunnel near the electric plant.

"You're such a baby." Caroline muttered.

"Been telling him that for years." Bob said astutely. "But you ganked him right? Er, staked him, is that what you call it?"

"Yep. I had to stake him. You could say he jumped in front of a steam train. I've heard those things go pretty fast."

"Unfortunately we might have to go with that. We got lucky with these other murders, with the victims being hookers and all." Considerably older than his partner, Bob was now panting slightly. "But now, with Cindy, they're going to want an explanation."

"You could always bring them the crackled body of one Jim Buckle."

"Very funny. But at least we have a name this time."

They reached the entrance and Bob paused, Mike slipping in and out of consciousness.

"Thank you, Ms. Forbes."

"Just doing my civic duty, sir." Caroline giggled and saluted. "I've always wanted to say that." Far away they heard the familiar screech of an ambulance drone. "And that's my cue to skedaddle."

She carefully pulled away from Mike, Bob steadying himself for the extra weight. The older cop watched her wearily as she straightened her weapons belt.

"Look, I know Ninny Boy here has made it painfully obvious but, we think you're pretty okay. You've obviously got a good head on your shoulders, not to mention you kick more ass than the two of us combined. And maybe, after this kid gets in a good hospital bed, you'd come over to my house for a nice meal. The wifey is making meatloaf and I swear to you, it's the best meatloaf this side of the Mississippi."

Caroline smiled, allowing her mind to drift to a homely setting if only for a moment.

"Thanks, Bob, but I can't. Tonight's the anniversary of something very important and I kind of need to be alone."

Bob nodded, his massive walrus mustache twitching. "It was just a shot. But Galinda would kill me if she let knew I let you walk away, looking the way you do. You're all skin and bones!"

"Gotta keep fit for the hunting . . . or saving, or rescuing, or whatever it happens to be on a Thursday night." Caroline grinned.

The drone was coming closer.

"But if you're ever near Fremont—,"

"I'll look you up. I promise." She kissed his leathery cheek. "Tell Batman here, good work when he wakes up."

Bob rolled his eyes and looked down at his unconscious partner. "Oh, I'll be sure to do that. He hangs on your every word, you know—,"

He looked up, grinning, but the expression faded as he realized he was alone in the mouth of the maintenance tunnel. The ambulance drone had touched down and men with boxes were running towards them. Mike suddenly jerked awake, looking bleary-eyed.

"Did we get 'em?"

"Yeah, we got 'em."

"Did I get knocked unconscious? Again?"

"Yeah, that too."

"Did she see me?" Even through the probable concussion, Mike looked embarrassed. "Did she have to save me again?"

"Oh, no, you saved her. You saved her in the nick of time, but fell over a loose piece of wiring."

"Did she see that?"

"No, Mikey, she didn't."

"So I still got a chance?"

The medical team took him from Bob's arms and loaded him onto a stretcher.

"Yeah, Mikey, you still got a chance." They wheeled him off, but he slipped into unconsciousness again, only this time with a smile on his face. Bob brushed his thumb against his visor and it collapsed into his ID card. He stored it in the pocket of his trench coat. He paused momentarily, looking into the electric sky at the end of the tunnel, before one of the airmen waved at him to get on the drone. Shaking his head, he followed Mikey into the sky. "With a girl like that, you got a chance in hell."

Caroline stood on the roof of an abandoned fishing warehouse. She could still smell the fish oil clinging to the bricks even though places like these had been shut down since non-automated factories had become irrelevant. She remembered when production lines across the country no longer require human workers. It was an odd transition, sometimes painful for loss of jobs, but somehow, they managed through it. She still never forgot the day she first took a flying taxi down to the railway station (they hadn't switch to steam yet because the steam engines weren't equipped to handle massive trains). She was one hundred and twenty years old and the world could still amaze her.

The drone faded into a sharp, bright star in the black night, blurred out by distance and the brightness of the city lights. Hover cars raced in between buildings and energy pulses shot between transistors like darts. Silent, non-motorized shipping boats zipped in and out of ports, their larger slower cargo counterparts puttering along and producing only steam. Larger aircrafts replaced airplanes as a faster, shinier and more relaxing ways to travel. Those ran on a basic schedule, changing almost as fast as the bus schedule used to run. If there was one thing Caroline could say about the future, it was certainly bright.

And yet . . .

She swung down from the fishing building, glided down a rickety metallic stairwell and landed on her feet with a light step. She considered saving a few coins and just using the rooftops to get home but the weight of the day was heavy in her mind. While it became increasingly easier to navigate the city in a series of back-flips and arching twists without concentrating, even so the anniversary was now filling her thoughts like an expanding balloon. So, she hailed a cab and they took off, back to apartment 321 on 6th avenue.

Carlson greeted her on the front stoop, his arms full of a freshly made casserole. His foggy glasses and flushed skin were an evident signs that he had been cooking all day. As she approached, he scooped out a large spoonful of the casserole and shoved it happily in her face.

"Ok, this one is definitely a winner! It's a pork and bean delicacy, fitted with a bacon glaze and on the side, apples and banana pudding!"

She rolled her eyes at her houseguest. She could barely make out his saucer blue eyes from behind the fog.

"You do realize that we don't actually need human food, right?"

He followed her up the staircase, his chipper mood cracked, if only for a moment. "Yes, Care, I know, but still! I've always wanted to be a gourmet chef and you said I don't have to give up my dreams even if I'm dead! And I thought, hey, if you've got an eternity on your hands, what better way to spend your time than making the perfect casserole! And besides, that bunny blood leaves a weird after-taste in my mouth."


Ms. Weimar shuffled out from her room on the second floor, suspiciously eyeing the pair as they quickly rounded up the next set of stairs. Her hair curlers shivered with every step she took, her walker thudding as she went. Caroline never knew if it was from old age or the fact that she highly mistrusted new comers, but Ms. Weimar's lip seemed to be in a constant scowl.

"Good evening, Ms. Weimar." Caroline said.

The old lady grumbled something unintelligible but from her shifting eyes, it probably wasn't something very nice.

"Casserole?" Carlson asked, holding the spoon out for her.

Ms. Weimar let out something between a scoff and a cough before turning away, shuffling off towards the ice machine.

"Guess someone got up on the wrong side of the coffin today," Carlson muttered as they continued their climb back to the apartment. Caroline gave him a look.

"Yeah, I know, I know, irony. But I feel like that's a bit prejudice to assume that all vampires sleep in a coffin, because we certainly don't." Caroline unlocked the door and flipped on a light. Simba, a two-year-old tabby they found on the street, appeared from no where and glided in between Caroline's legs, purring happily. The lights shown down on a modest setting: a faux-leather couch with stuffing leaking from near the feet, a TV still with antenna, a kitchen with enough room for one person to open the three-foot fridge and breathe, a bathroom that was the size of a coat-room, and a make-shift "two-room" bedroom that she and Carlson shared. A bookshelf stood idly by in the living room. Caroline had taken some of her favorite novels when she moved out but now it mostly consisted of Carlson's assorted cookbooks. Simba leaped up onto the kitchen counter and began to claw up this morning's newspaper.

"Besides real leather chaffs my skin," Carlson added as an after-thought. He pushed the casserole onto the counter and gave Simba a stern look, as if to say, "don't touch it." The cat seemed to agree but only because he didn't want the casserole in the first place. Carlson turned back to Caroline who was replacing her weapon stash behind the bookshelf.

"You really should eat something, Care. You look tired."

"Well, I am. This guy I took down today, he had already killed two people, drank their blood. He was a little bit stronger than I was. But he was weeks new, so it wasn't that bad and—,"

"I wasn't talking about the fight, Care." For a metro-sexual poindexter of a vampire, Carlson really did have his moments. "I know what day it is."

"Yeah, well, I'm not hungry. I just need to be alone."

"Ugh, come on, Care! Just one bite!" He raced around into the kitchen and pulled out a big spoon full of casserole. "It has a secret ingredient!"

Caroline knew this was his own way of helping, and she really couldn't be mad at him for that. But sometimes she just wanted to pop his head like a grape.

"Fine." She snatched up the spoon and hastily jerked it into her mouth. It was surprisingly better than she expected. "Oh, God, wow! Carlson, this is amazing!"

"Want to know the secret ingredient?" His eyes glittered mischievously.

"If you say anything that begins with 'Lake Titicaca'—,"

"No, it's blood sausage! With extra blood!"

Caroline smiled and helped herself to another bite. "Carlson, you have really outdone yourself this time."

He tried to play off his embarrassment with a snide joke, "Oh, stop it, you!", but it was obvious he really enjoyed the compliment.

"Just don't forget me when you open your massively successful restaurant, okay? Mention me in your chef's version of the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech."

"Of course, I will, Care. You saved my life— er, my unlife— and I can't ever thank you enough for that."

She put down the spoon, looking deep into his innocent eyes. Then she reached forward and gave him a kiss on the forehead. She messed up his perfectly styled hair as an after thought.

"You're welcome, little man, you're welcome."

"Okay, you've earned a few hours of moping around. Get back to your hole." Carlson said, flicking his hands as if to shoo her away. "Besides, the new Sex and the Suburbs is on and I so don't feel like explaining why Nancy and Drew are meant to be together, AGAIN! It should be totes obvious . . ."

Caroline rolled her eyes and headed back to their room. "I can tell when I'm not wanted . . . Good night, Carlson."

"Night, Care-bear."

She left him perched on the couch, a fresh bag of animal blood in his lap and straw in his mouth. She closed the door on both him and the TV, on her apartment and Seattle, her new city. She pulled back the dividing curtain between Carlson's mattress and her sorry excuse for a spring bed. There was much that she brought with her on the trip up to Seattle, but everything inside her bedside table reminded her of home. It held her old cheerleading photo, with her at the top of the pyramid as Captain. It held her high school graduation diploma and her acceptance letter into Ol' Miss. There was a thumbtack from when she learned to stitch and repair her own clothes. There was her old drivers license from when she was sixteen. It held a strip of her dress from Prom and the crown from when she was elected Prom Queen. There was the saying from a fortune cookie from the Chinese restaurant back home that said, "Nothing in this world that is worth having comes easy."

However, these were the items you could find in any ex-high school student's room. There were no pictures of who she was, no letters from any friends or family. When riffling through this junk, you couldn't identify a single unique quality about Caroline Forbes that separated her from the million of other popular high school students across the nation. It was only when you took out the rusted drawer out of its notch, did you come across anything interesting.

Caroline did that very thing on that late Thursday night. She wiggled and fought with the drawer until, after much scraping, she pulled it out of place and laid it on the bed beside her. She reached deep into the bedside table and carefully extracted a single envelope. It was worn, beaten on the edges and very fragile. She handled it with care, and for good reason, it was nearly one hundred years old.

Every year on this night, Caroline Forbes would sit down, take out the drawer and open this envelope. She would stare at its contents, letting guilt and sadness and anger and confusion wash over her entirely, like water lapping against the shore. This night, like any of the other nights, was no different. It was January 15th and she couldn't imagine this night being spent any other way.

Inside the envelope was an invitation. The corners were peeling and the gold script was fading but Caroline had the image of its original conception emblazoned in her mind. It read:

You are cordially invited to the wedding of Matthew H. Donovan and Elena S. Gilbert on a Friday afternoon, January the 15th, at five o'clock in White Chapel Church in Mystic Falls, Virginia. Reception will be held afterward.

January 15th was a date Caroline Forbes always held in regret simply because she did not go to her best friend's wedding.

At the time, she hadn't seen her friends in fifteen years— some memories burned too hot and bright even then— and this was the chance to be reunited, just like old times. And before she realized it, fifteen years turned into thirty, and then fifty years had passed. Then one day, perhaps through a misguided search on the internet— a subconscious pang of guilt— she found Matt Donovan as President of a highly successful shipping business out of Mystic Falls. The reason for the article of praise, however, was to commemorate the passing of a titan. Caroline found out, through an aimless report, that Matt Donovan was dead. And nobody thought to call her. But then again, how could they? She had thrown her phone into a river the minute she set foot in Seattle.

She knew searching for Bonnie would be no good. She collapsed in the house just like the others had, the magics suddenly too much to handle. But when it came time to clear the bodies away, hers was never found. Caroline often wondered if she simply disintegrated as punishment for the obscene control of nature she possessed that night. With a shudder, she remembered what happened to Tyler . . .

But Jeremy remained, and Alaric, and Elena. Or so she had thought. She continued her search.

Alaric died of a heart attack at age sixty-seven. His long-term girlfriend Madison Harrison died shortly there afterward.

Jeremy died in the arms of three grandchildren, four adult-children and a frail wife of fifty years. He was ninety-nine.

And for Elena, there was nothing. She might have fallen off the face of the Earth and Caroline would never have known.

The only sort of closure she knew about Elena Gilbert was that she was happy. Caroline learned this from her mother, Sheriff Liz Forbes, as she lay on her deathbed. She was eighty-three.

"I'm glad you got out, Caroline," her mother had wheezed, taking her daughter by the hand. "The city has done wonders for you. You don't look a day over twenty."

"It's the sun there, Mom, it's great." Caroline smiled through tears. "Keeps me looking young."

She laughed and it turned into a sob. She kissed her mother's frail hand.

"Caroline, I don't think I told you this enough, but I'm proud of you. If I was ever cruel or unfair, it was because I just didn't understand. All teens say their parents don't understand them, but you really are unique."

Caroline leaned forward, burying her face in the bedding as she sobbed.

"Your friends are doing fine. They say they miss you. They want you to know that they hope you are doing well and that you are happy, wherever you are."

"I haven't seen them in forty years and that's all they've got," Caroline laughed weakly, trying to clear her eyes. She looked back up at her mother, who took her hand and kissed her palm.

"Don't be too hard on them. They're only human after all."

"Did I make the wrong choice, Mom? Should I have stayed? But after everything, after Tyler, after Dad—,"

"The only bad choice you made was doubting yourself, honey." She cracked a toothless grin. "The Salvatore boys also send their regards. They say they've given up human blood, for good."

"Even Damon?" Caroline sniffed.

"Even Damon. It was their wedding present to Elena. She looked beautiful. They wished you could have been there, but understood why you couldn't."

"Was I wrong, Mom? Should I go back?"

Her grip around her daughter's wrist suddenly became weak. Her eyes fluttered to a close. Her voice was fraying.

"I love you, Caroline. You were always my little girl, no matter who you became. I'm proud to be your mother."

The monitor flat lined.

Caroline's heart suddenly clogged her throat. She couldn't breathe. Her eyes were swimming in tears.

"Mom? Mommy! MOM!"

Liz Forbes was dead.

Trembling, Caroline crossed her mother's wizened hands and drew the sheet up over her face. When she stumbled out of the room, she met eyes with a nurse. Caroline shook her head. Alarmed, the nurse went in to check what Caroline already knew. And then she collapsed into a waiting chair and sobbed until her voice was raw.

This is what she remembered every January 15th. She remembered that her mother was dead. That her father was dead. That Matt was dead. That Alaric and Jeremy and Tyler and Bonnie were dead. And Elena— well, Elena was probably dead too. And she hadn't even said goodbye.

If someone tried to identify her by the pile of junk stashed in her bedside table, they wouldn't get much. But if they knew the significance of January 15th, then well, maybe they could begin to piece together the immortal woman that was Caroline Forbes, private investigator to the supernatural, who lived at room 321, 6th Avenue of Seattle, Washington. She was one hundred and twenty years old, and this January 15th, she would be one hundred and twenty one.

A/N: Hey you guys! Well I'm back for another round of Daroline fics. Before you are all totally confused, this is an entirely DIFFERENT fic from If It Takes the End of the World. While I know many of you requested a sequel, I'm still not happy with much of the current writing to post it. I am much happier with this one, and much further along with it, so this'll have to do.

(Be patient with the sequel because I'm also thinking of turning it into a trilogy because I have some awesome ideas, so just calm yo' tities).

I'm not a huge sci-fi fan so writing in the futuristic aspects of this is sort of a pain. I'm doing it more or less to give a sense of change, that the people of the old Mystic Falls really are long gone. Besides, it fleshes out the chapters quite nicely.

Tell me what you think of Carlson. I'm dying to know! I kind of pictured him as a more adult version of Arnold from the magic school bus, but with blonde hair. Not in how he acts, but how he looks.

This is a super long chapter and they probably won't be this long, but I really had to set the stage for the coming clusterfuck (don't you just love those). Also, it might be about two weeks in between postings because I'm actually not that far along and school is starting soon. So yeah :P

But I really hope you guys like it! Please let me know in reviews or messages! Thanks guys! See you all next time!