This is the winner of my poll, and I so shouldn't be posting this yet, but I thought what the HECK?! I will post chapter 1 of my new Steroline fic because I'd like to know what you guys think! This chapter is much shorter than the rest will be, and I assure you this is not going to be a song-fic, it just fit for this chapter. Go to youtube and listen to Cups (You're Gonna Miss Me) the Anna Kendrick version, if you haven't already heard it. It will set the scene for this :)

I really hope you guys like this! Let me know what you think.

-MissCarolineForbes


You're Gonna Miss Me

1. Goodbye

.

Caroline isn't sure what she is thinking when she gets up on stage during the Coffee-House she organized, her last event before becoming a college graduate next week, and announces she's going to be making an unscheduled performance. The Coffee-House was an event that took place once a month, a place for students to show off their musical talents, read poetry or original works of writing, and various other performing arts' skills. Caroline was the event coordinator for every one of the Coffee-Houses this year, and tons of other events, but she had never once stolen the spotlight from someone. Not until tonight, that is.

Tonight is different. Today isn't the same as every other day, and this event isn't the same as all the rest. This is her last day here at this school with these people, despite the fact that Graduation isn't until next week. She'll be long gone by then. This is Caroline's 'Goodbye', and she just has to hope that the right person gets the message.

"I, uh, I don't have a cup," Caroline shrugs, adjusting the microphone stand to a better angle, "So I'm going to just...improvise." She breathes in steadily as she starts to clap out a rhythm on her hands and thighs. Then she starts to sing,

"I got my ticket for the long way 'round. Two bottle o' whiskey for the way. And I sure would like some sweet company, and I'm leaving tomorrow - What do you say?"

She makes the mistake of looking up at the crowd and making eye contact with the very person she was singing to. Her heart lurches in a painful manner, causing her to falter ever-so-slightly, and she quickly averts her gaze. Damn him for showing up tonight, and with her, too. What did she ever do to deserve such a horrible punishment?

"When I'm gone. When I'm gone. You're gonna miss me when I'm gone. You're gonna miss me by my hair. You're gonna miss me everywhere. Oh, you're gonna miss me when I'm gone."

Would Stefan miss her? She didn't even know anymore. Last week, she'd have said yes...but last week, she wasn't planning on going anywhere. Last week, she was blissfully happy, and completely unaware that her world was about to be shattered.

"When I'm gone. When I'm gone. You're gonna miss me when I'm gone. You're gonna miss me by my walk. You're gonna miss me by my talk. Oh, you're gonna miss me when I'm gone."

He would miss her. Even if he didn't know it yet, he would. Caroline was his best friend, before she stupidly agreed to be his girlfriend, before she stupidly fell in love with him, and before he stupidly told her their three-month relationship was an experiment for his Psychology class. An experiment. Stefan ruined, destroyed, completely obliterated, their friendship and her heart all in one fell swoop. How could he use her like that? How could he throw away their friendship for an A in Psych? Did she really mean so little to him and never know?

Still, they had been friends. Caroline was Stefan's favorite study partner, his most trusted confidante, and his occassional partner-in-crimes, so to speak. They share so many memories that even if Stefan never cared about her romantically, he'd still have to miss the fun times they had together when they were just friends.

When she's gone, and he figures out she's not coming back...he'll realize he's going to miss her.

"I got my ticket for the long way 'round. The one with the prettiest of views. It's got mountains, it's got rivers, it's got sights to give you shivers, but it sure would be prettier with you."

She isn't sure where she is going yet, but she packed up all her things from the on-campus apartment she shared with Bonnie and Elena, and loaded the boxes and bags into her car this afternoon. She plans on getting in her car and leaving town directly after this impromptu performance. After that, she's going to just drive until she feels like she's far enough away from Stefan to forget about him, and what he did to her. Maybe she'll drive to California, or Las Vegas, or somewhere in Texas. Hell, if she can afford to get a passport, she'll go to Mexico, or England...

"When I'm gone. When I'm gone. You're gonna miss me when I'm gone. You're gonna miss me by my walk. You're gonna miss me by my talk. Oh, you're gonna miss me when I'm gone."

Caroline meets Bonnie's eyes in the crowd, the latter standing off to the side of the stage, tears swimming in her eyes. She feels another surge of emotion since leaving Stefan means leaving Bonnie too, and they've been friends since longer than either knew Stefan. Bonnie understands Caroline's need to get away though, like a true best friend always does, and she's supportive of her decision. They said their goodbyes before the Coffee-House started, and Bonnie promised to keep quiet about Caroline leaving school early until after the weekend, when she'll be sure to be very far away. In turn, Caroline promised to keep in touch with Bonnie, and not to stay away forever.

"When I'm gone. When I'm gone. You're gonna miss me when I'm gone. You're gonna miss me by my hair. You're gonna miss me everywhere. Oh, you're sure gonna miss me when I'm gone."

She draws in a shakey breath when she realizes this is the end. She can feel her throat tighten with emotion, because she doesn't really want to leave, doesn't really want any of this to be happening, but she swallows her tears. Caroline finds the strength inside to finish strongly,

"When I'm gone. When I'm gone. You're gonna miss me when I'm gone. You're gonna miss me by my walk. You're gonna miss me by my talk. Oh, you're gonna miss me when I'm gone."

As she taps out the last few beats on her jean-clad thighs, she bravely meets Stefan's eyes, and she thinks he does know that she's talking to him. She thinks, for a brief moment, she sees some form of guilt or regret written on his face, but she tears her eyes away. She doesn't want to risk changing her mind, she can't stay here. She won't stay here. She tried for a week to see if things could go back to normal, but she is forever changed, and no amount of regret on Stefan's part will fix anything.

"Thanks," Caroline murmurs into the microphone once the applause has died down. She smiles half-heartedly to cover up the fact that she's on the verge of crying, and quickly adds, "I'm gonna miss this place, and all of you; class of 2012!"

The room erupts in another bout of cheers, and Caroline takes this moment to sneak off stage and start towards the exit. When she gets to the door, Bonnie is waiting there, also faking a smile to hide her despair. Caroline walks right into her open arms and they hug each other tight.

"I love you," Bonnie reminds Caroline amidst their embrace, her voice wobbly.

"I love you too," Caroline returns, squeezing her best friend of nearly two decades even tighter. "And I'm going to miss you so much, but I promise we'll talk all the time. And I'll see you soon."

Bonnie reluctantly lets her go, a tear or two escaping from her eyes as she does. "I hope so," Bonnie says, not really believing that she'll see Caroline anytime soon. She has a feeling it's going to be a long time before she sees her blonde friend again. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees someone stand up from their seat, and she warns, "I think Stef is coming over..."

Caroline's blue eyes widen and her heart flutters in panic. "I - I can't," Caroline shakes her head back and forth, "I can't talk to him. I'm sorry...Bye, Bonnie."

Bonnie purses her lips and nods shortly, understanding, but still not liking that she has to leave. "Bye, Caroline. Don't forget your promise."

Caroline resists the urge to look over her shoulder and instead pushes open the outward swinging door and steps out into the night air. It is chilly for mid-May but Caroline doesn't mind, the weather tonight matches her mood; cool and cloudy with a near-definite chance of rain. As she tugs her car keys from the pockets of her jeans, she finally checks behind her to make sure Stefan didn't follow her out. He didn't. Somehow, she is relieved and disappointed at the same time. Relieved because she didn't want to see him and feel her freshly broken heart ache at the sight of him, or have to give him a farewell that he just doesn't deserve. Disappointed because if he had come after her, it would have been proof that he still cared, despite what he said and did to her. But he didn't...he didn't come after her, and he doesn't care.

Caroline locates her car and unlocks the door with a push of a button on her keychain. She opens the door and falls into the driver seat before feeling her composure start to unravel. She takes a deep breath, gripping the steering wheel tightly with both hands, and hoping it will make her calm down. Instead, it has the opposite effect. Her breath catches midway and when she lets it go it comes out as a strangled sob. Tears fill her eyes and she closes them, leaning her head forward until it presses against the backs of her hands on the steering wheel. She allows herself a few moments to grieve over the unfairness of her life, but that is all she can spare. Soon she wipes the tears from her cheeks, starts up the engine of her car, and pulls out of the parking lot. On the road, she follows the signs to the highway, leaving her old life behind and hoping that whatever the future holds will be brighter.

.

Back on campus, Bonnie watches through the small window on the door as Caroline's car drives off down the street. She almost regrets not taking Caroline's offer of joining her, packing up and leaving for an unplanned adventure, because with Caroline out of sight she has the sinking sensation she won't ever see her again. Classes are over, all that's left is Graduation, but still Bonnie chose to stay. This is something Caroline has to do alone, or she'll never move on. At least, that's what Bonnie told herself when she explained her reasons for staying. She can't help feeling like a bad friend for letting her go alone.

"Where'd she go?"

Bonnie turns at the sound of his familiar voice, her expression guarded. Caroline told her not to tell Stefan she was gone, not to say anything to him at all if she could help it, but Bonnie is tempted to disobey her request. She wants to lash out at Stefan, tell him off for everything that he did to Caroline, and make him realize just what he lost. It's his fault she's gone. But she holds her composure.

"She had something to take care of," Bonnie replies, her voice hollow and emotionless.

"She never leaves during one of her events," Stefan comments, studying Bonnie's face closely. He finds pain and anger there, and when she looks out the window once more to the spot where Caroline's car disappeared, he finally gets a clue. "Bonnie, where is she going?"

"Why do you care?" Bonnie asks in exhasperation, "Aren't you here with Elena? Isn't that what you wanted? So why do you care?"

"What do you mean?" Stefan seems truly confused at Bonnie's accusation that he doesn't care about Caroline. It frustrates her all the more. "Why wouldn't I care? She's my friend, I - I just want to know if she's all right."

"No, she's not all right!" Bonnie blurts out, before shaking her head and stepping away from Stefan, trying to find an easy escape route.

Stefan follows though, unable to drop the subject until he knows for sure...He catches up to Bonnie and puts a hand on her shoulder to make her stop. "Wait. Wait Bonnie, please." She sighs loudly, but turns back to look at him, her eyes filled with hate. She's never looked at him like that before. Stefan swallows thickly before asking her to confirm what he already knows, "She's gone, isn't she? She's not coming back."

Bonnie promised she wouldn't tell, so she doesn't say anything. She keeps her mouth shut, but in not denying she gives Stefan exactly what he needed. Her silence speaks louder than words.

"Why?" Stefan asks, his shoulders sinking in defeat. He knew Caroline had been avoiding him, that she was acting differently, but he had no idea she was planning on taking off. She told him she just needed time, that everything would go back to normal, and they would be okay. He believed her, but he shouldn't have, because it was the biggest lie she ever told. "It's because of me, isn't it?"

Bonnie raises an eyebrow in a way that claims, 'who else's fault could it be?' She has no patience for this right now. What does Stefan want from her? A trophy? Because he figured out that Caroline left the moment it happened and not three days later, like Caroline hoped? Because he actually connected the dots and proved he's not a completely brainless male?

"You used her, Stefan." Bonnie's words are delivered in a harsh and concise manner, "You turned her life into a psych experiment. You humiliated her. How did you expect her to feel? What did you think would happen? Was she supposed to pretend the past three months didn't happen? She fell in love with you, Stefan, she loved you. And you basically told her she meant nothing to you. Of course she's gone." With one last disdainful look, Bonnie shrugs his hand off her shoulder and disappears into the crowd gathered in front of the stage for the next performance.

Stefan can't describe the feeling that comes over him when he realizes that Caroline is gone because of him. He feels as though he just woke up from a long sleep, and nothing is as it should be. He thought telling Caroline the truth about his Psychology assignment was the right thing to do, but now he sees how wrong it was, not just telling her about it but doing it in the first place. Why did he think Caroline was the right person to be his guinea pig? Just because she's always so bubbly and care-free and there for him doesn't mean he had the right to take advantage of her. He convinced himself that once the project was over, and he proved to Caroline her feelings were all invented in a survivalist instinct to keep their friendship intact, she would understand. But in trying to save a friendship and earn an A, he ruined the best friendship he ever had. He lost his best friend.

With the world still feeling like it is crashing all around him, Stefan runs outside and pulls his cell phone out, trying to contact Caroline. Her phone rings and rings but she doesn't pick up. He tries again, but still no answer. Once more, and her phone goes straight to voicemail. She is ignoring his calls.

Desperately, Stefan leaves a message expressing his deepest apologies and begging her to come back. He knows it won't work, she's too hurt, but he has to try. He can make all of this better if she gives him a second chance. He doesn't deserve one, but he wants one so bad, more bad than he's ever wanted anything in his entire life. His apology is sincere and heartfelt, and might even have made Caroline stop and question her decision to leave Virginia...

If she were to hear it. But she wouldn't hear it, not now, not ever. The moment Caroline sees Stefan's name flash across her caller ID, she panics. She pulls her car over to the side of the road and stares down debating whether or not to pick up. She decides not to, and then confirms that decision when he calls a second time, and she ignores that too. She finally turns the phone off, and, just for good measure...she tosses it out the window.

Caroline nods once at her decision to ditch her cell, accepting that she doesn't need it anyways and it'll only tempt her to contact Stefan somehow, and then signals her car back onto the road. She is almost to the highway now. She's heading West, still no destination in mind. She thought she'd be a little more nervous, she's never actually been on her own before, since even in college she roomed with two of her closest friends from Mystic Falls. She's anxious, but somewhat excited. Being on her own could be kind of fun. What choice does she have?