AN: Have yourself an epilogue.
Epilogue. Losing Your Memory
"Call all your friends, tell them I'm never coming back. Cause this is the end, pretend that you want it don't react." ~Losing Your Memory, Ryan Star
Elena knelt in front of Jeremy's grave. How long had it been, since that moment she was last here? When Stefan found her to tell her about Caroline?
It felt like a lifetime.
Even without her humanity, she had been drawn here. To the final resting place of everyone she loved. Maybe Caroline had been right; maybe that switch was just imagination. A way to convince yourself that you didn't care, that losing people didn't matter. It did. It would always matter, and no number of flicking switches would ever change that.
"Bonnie said you guys will get to cross over now, to have freedom. I hope you're together, wherever it is that crossing over takes you. I know you'll be watching over me, too. You're too protective, you know, for a younger brother." Elena smiled, and felt tears well in her eyes. "You're not supposed to have to watch over me. That's my job… I was supposed to watch you, and I didn't. I was so selfish. All I could see was the cure, and you paid the price for it. I never wanted you to pay my price."
Elena sat there, letting herself feel it all. The guilt, the pain, the loss, and she let her tears fall. There was no one here to try to be strong for. No one here to try and kill her. Nothing to keep her from doing anything but mourning.
Arms wrapped around her, and Elena smelled the summertime scent of Caroline embrace her. She reached up and grabbed the arms, holding tight, just letting the tears run down her face. She felt warmth on her shoulder where Caroline's chin rested, and knew that her friend was crying too.
Elena didn't know why Caroline was there and she didn't ask. They had retreated to the Lockwood manor after destroying Silas, and when Elena had left, Tyler and Caroline had still been asleep, the emotion of, well, having emotions having caused the blonde to cry both herself and the hybrid into an exhaustion that not even her nightmares of Silas could reach. It had been three days – three days of grief and tears. It had taken that long for Elena to finally get up the nerve to come here. She hadn't treated Jeremy well when he had returned, and she would forever regret that she hadn't taken the chance to say good-bye. When she had left it was with the plan to be here alone. To let everything go. She had wanted to do it before Damon had hunted her down and refused to leave her side, as she suspected he would soon, and because of that she had assumed she had wanted to do it alone.
But she didn't. She didn't want to be alone. She wanted this; she wanted Caroline there with her, because Caroline understood. She understood that they had lost everything, everything but each other.
Then she felt heavy warmth on her other side, and another set of arms joined Caroline's, this time embracing them both. Tyler's musky scent hit her, and Elena knew this was right.
This was what they needed. The three of them here, letting go of the past. Letting go of the loss and the grief.
One last time to hold each other before they let go of that, too.
Caroline hadn't seen Klaus since she had left Silas' tomb with Elena and Tyler. It had been what she needed, the chance to get away from everyone else. She had needed Elena and Tyler in that time after Silas was gone, just as she had needed them that morning in the graveyard.
They were the last. The only ones of the original group left standing. Matt, Bonnie, Jeremy… they were all gone. It was just three left standing, and they had needed each other.
They had needed each other in those three days of grief and tears and finally feeling again, but now they needed to say good-bye. And that's what they had done in the graveyard. They had cried their final tears on each other's shoulders, and then Elena had returned to the boarding house and Damon. Tyler had given her one last kiss. It had been their best kiss ever, Caroline thought. There hadn't been any passion there, just good-bye, but it had been a good kiss. And Caroline had watched him walk away to return to California and his sweet-faced neighbour with no regrets.
Caroline had been the last one to leave, and her feet had brought her here, to this monolith house of Klaus'.
In one hand, she held a suitcase. In the other was a lantern, the same kind Stefan had handed out all those weeks ago, before everyone had died, and Elena had just been newly turned.
"So, you're here," Rebekah stated, opening the door. "Why?"
"You know why," Caroline replied. Once, she would have been a bitch and snarked at the other blonde, but those days were gone. That girl was gone. And Caroline would never forget that she owed Rebekah her life.
"I don't, actually. You left that tomb with your little boyfriend. I figured that was the end of it. That you'd made your choice," Rebekah snapped.
"I left that tomb with the only people who understood exactly what we'd lost, Rebekah. You weren't here before. Klaus wasn't here. The Salvatores, Elijah, Galen… none of you were here. You didn't know what an annoying twit I had been, or what a douche bag Tyler was once. You never saw Bonnie as a wide-eyed dreamer. You never knew Elena Gilbert and Matt Donovan, golden couple." Caroline pushed past Rebekah and set her bag down. "Tyler and Elena knew it all. They knew what we'd lost. I needed them to mourn. And this morning I said good-bye to both of them. And I wanted to bring this to you."
Caroline held out the white oak stake to Rebekah, who accepted it slowly, looking at Caroline with questioning eyes, wanting to know why she would give it to her, and not Klaus.
"You saved my life. Consider this my peace offering."
"Is that the only reason you came?" This time it was Klaus who spoke from the top of the steps, obviously having heard Caroline's explanation.
"You promised me Paris, Rome and Tokyo once," Caroline replied. "I'm here to cash in."
"You disappear for three days, and then show up here. To what? Start a relationship? We both know you don't want that, that you're not ready. Not yet. You chose who to accept comfort from. You left. With Tyler."
"Tyler was a huge part of my life, and not just my vampire life. What you, none of you, seem to realize is that our lives didn't begin when vampires entered them. I've known Tyler since we were born, Klaus. He was my friend before he was my boyfriend. Even when he was an asshole, I knew he was still there for me, when push really came to shove. Saying good-bye to him meant saying good-bye to the girl I was before all of this started. I had never really done that before. It was hard."
Klaus flashed down the steps and came to a halt in front of her.
"And what is this?" Klaus asked, touching the lantern with careful fingers.
"Come with me," Caroline replied, grabbing Klaus' hand and pulling him toward the back of the house, leaving Rebekah behind. She pulled him until they stood in the yard surrounded by garden.
"What are we doing, Caroline?" Klaus asked, his voice weary.
"We're saying good-bye to the girl I was," Caroline responded. She pulled out a lighter, and lit the candle inside the lantern. "She was neurotic and controlling. She was painfully insecure and thought everything in life was a contest with Elena Gilbert, but she was me. She loved recklessly, and she loved the wrong boys… she had the depth of a kiddie pool, but she was trying to change." Caroline met Klaus' eyes over the top of the lantern. "She loved Matt Donovan with everything she had. And then she changed, and she fell in love with Tyler Lockwood. She learned to kick ass and how to be a vampire. She became a good friend. Then she died. And that girl will never be back, and she deserves to be mourned."
Caroline released the lantern and it floated into the air. Klaus was a warm presence next to her as they watched the lantern disappear over the trees.
"She's not dead. The girl. She may be a little broken, but she's still alive," Klaus said once the lantern had disappeared. "You are still that same girl, Caroline."
"No, I'm not," Caroline replied, still looking at the spot the lantern had been. "I came out the other side alive, but I'm not that girl. And I'm okay with that, Klaus." She reached out and grabbed his hand, squeezing it tight. "I'm stronger and smarter. I'm not sure I'm someone that girl would have been proud of, but I think she would have understood. I owe a lot of that to you."
"I didn't do much. In the end, I wasn't even there to see Silas die."
"You kept me tethered. Through all of it, you reminded me of who I was, and who I wanted to be. You never let me lose that, even when we were miles apart and I was prepared to die. I never thanked you for that. It couldn't have been easy. I know faith isn't really your thing. But you had it… even when I showed up and was horrible to you, you had faith. Otherwise you would have been able to kill me. But you didn't. You knew I was still there, even when I didn't."
Klaus didn't say anything, but he returned the grip of her hand, and Caroline smiled, finally looking him in the eye.
"You're right. I'm not ready for that relationship yet. But is the offer still open? Paris, Rome, Tokyo?"
Klaus sighed and rolled his eyes to the sky.
"You know it is, Love."
"Good," Caroline replied. "And now, I want to try something. Just once. As a sort of promise."
And then she did something that she'd wanted to do for a long time. Something the girl she'd been would never have had the guts to do. But the girl she was now? She knew how fleeting life could be, knew how important the little moments were.
So, she kissed him.
Like the kiss with Tyler, it was a good kiss. But that one had been full of good-bye. This kiss was a hello, a promise for the future.
It would take time, and work. Because Caroline was haunted and hurt, and still a little broken. But in the end, Silas' final words would be proven false.
He hadn't won.
The lantern floated overheard, and Bonnie watched it go. She watched Caroline kiss Klaus, and she felt happy. Her friend would be okay.
"Are you ready?" Jeremy asked from her side.
"Indeed, little witch. We can final go on to our eternal reward. Can we accept it?" Kol asked irritated.
"You didn't have to stay. You could've moved on already," Jeremy snapped back, and Bonnie had to fight back a grin. The two were never going to get along, but at least it meant that death wouldn't be boring.
"I've seen all I've need to," she told Kol, grabbing Jeremy's hand with one of hers, and holding the other out to Kol. Kol eyed it for a moment while Jeremy huffed angrily next to her. Bonnie just wiggled her fingers, and Kol sighed and entwined his own with them. "Let's go home."
And knowing that her friends would be okay, Bonnie Bennet let go.
AN: And that's all she wrote. I will probably come back to this, and write some one shots that show how they deal with the aftermath, because there will be very hard times. Caroline suffered something very traumatic, and she is by no means okay… but she wants to be, which is much better than her death wish from before.
Still, I wanted to end this on a hopeful note. So here it is. Thank-you to everyone who read and reviewed. Now that this is done, I plan on starting a multi-chapter Once Upon a Time fic, but I will still be working on Conversations With Myself, and I'm throwing around some ideas for another full length TVD fic, so keep an eye out.
And once again, thank-you. I've enjoyed writing this and hope you enjoyed reading it.