My longest chapter yet! I hope you guys like it! Thanks for all the reviews/follows last chapter. This chapter is for my awesome reviewers:)

Some of you asked to see what Stefan is up to now that Caroline is gone, so the first part of this chapter features Stefan:) Hope you all enjoy!

*I OWN NOTHING*


You're Gonna Miss Me

6. If You Love Her, Let Her Go

Tuesday morning, Stefan rises with the sun, despite the fact that he didn't go to sleep until nearly three in the morning. He hasn't been sleeping well lately, not since the night Caroline left; actually, not since the night he confessed the truth about their relationship and the psych experiment. He still can't believe Caroline is gone, that she's not coming back. He just can't wrap his head around the idea of her not being in his life because she's been such a big part of it for so long. He keeps feeling like his life the past week and half has all been nothing but a dream and soon he'll wake up with Caroline tangled up in the sheets with him...only it's not a dream and Caroline isn't here.

Instead, Stefan gently removes the olive-toned arms wrapped around his bare torso and slides out of his bed carefully, so as not to wake the sleeping brunette. Seeing Elena lying in the space where Caroline used to be only adds to the knot of guilt stuck in Stefan's throat. She shouldn't be here. He knows that, but for some reason he can't stop making the wrong choices. He started by making the stupidest decision of his life, and he hasn't stopped choosing incorrectly since. He's so far off track now that he doesn't even know what his intent was in the first place. All he wanted was to pass Psychology, to impress his professor, and to be recommeded for a great internship in the fall. He achieved all three of those goals...so then why does he feel so unfulfilled?

Stefan tiptoes to his dresser and slides open the top drawer, pulling out a clean t-shirt. He does the same with the next drawer and grabs a pair of jeans, socks, and boxers. He looks back to the bed to ensure Elena hasn't stirred, but she's out like a light. Must be from all the alcohol she drank last night; she'll probably sleep until well after lunch-time. Then, he goes into the bathroom to change his clothes. Once dressed, Stefan brushes his teeth, runs his fingers through his hair and decides he looks presentable enough. He doesn't want to waste time with his looks when today is the last day on campus, and he's not sure whether the man he needs to speak with is even here still or if he's gone home already.

Stefan jogs most of the way to the apartment he's visited quite a few times this semester and knocks on the door while he catches his breath. It looks like he didn't miss him yet, and he'll be able to talk with his professor one last time before they both leave the university for good. Stefan because he is a graduate now, and Silas because he got a job at a different university, one in California. At least, that's what Silas told him and the rest of their class. Stefan has another theory though; he thinks Silas was fired for teaching so far off the curriculum. Either way, Stefan has a few questions for the professor that encouraged him to use his best friend and the girl that he loves as an experiment for class. He doesn't fully blame Silas, but he does believe Silas wrongly advised him. Maybe he shouldn't have taken love advice from a psych professor in the first place, but what is done is done.

A full minute after knocking, the door is finally opened by a very bedraggled looking Professor Silas. "Stefan," the older man says with a smile, "I wasn't expecting you this morning. I was just finishing up my packing..."

"You were?" Stefan teases, "Are you sure you weren't catching up on some sleep?" Stefan has become so comfortable with Silas that the joking is normal between the two of them, and even though Stefan is sort of resentful towards Silas now, he still feels a deep connection to the man. He feels like he's found a father-figure in him, and now that he's betrayed him he is even more like his real father. Stefan should hate him, but he doesn't. He can't.

"You caught me," Silas admits, rubbing a hand through his scruffy brown beard. "So, what brings you to my humble abode at the crack of dawn this morning? I'd have thought you'd be in bed still, or at least suffering from a hangover."

"No," Stefan shakes his head, "I, uh, I couldn't sleep, and I didn't really drink too much last night."

"Well, why not?" Silas wonders. "There's plenty to celebrate: graduation, the internship, the actual beginning of your adult life."

"I know," Stefan replies, understanding his professor's confusion, "But none of it matters without her here." Stefan had told Silas about Caroline breaking it off with him right when it happened. He told Silas that Caroline was upset, more upset than he ever imagined, but she assured him if he gave her time they'd be alright. Silas warned him that Caroline might have been lying, but Stefan thought he knew Caroline better than that. Silas was right, obviously, since Caroline took off not even a week later. Stefan came to Silas then, too, and the older gentleman finally saw just how much Caroline means to the younger man. He wanted to give him some good, clean advice, but there was really nothing he could have said then to make Stefan feel better; Silas doesn't actually know a thing about love.

Silas does know that Stefan came to him for help though, so he's going to try and help him now. "Why did you go to Elena then, after Caroline left? Before, even. Why did you choose Elena if Caroline is who you want?"

"I don't know," Stefan admits, slumping down in one of Silas' two recliner chairs and pressing his hands to his face, "I was stupid. I was confused, and I thought that was what I wanted." After a pause, in which Silas does not interrupt because he can see that Stefan is thinking, Stefan confesses, "I convinced myself that what I was feeling for Caroline was fabricated, that I had somehow forced myself to be in love with her, and that it was all fake. I felt like I was being unfair to her because I knew how much she cared about me, and when Elena confronted me about it I knew I had to make a choice, so I did. It was either tell her the truth myself, or wait for Elena to tell her, and that would have hurt her more. I didn't want Caroline to get hurt. I really did think I was protecting her. I was wrong. Again."

"Once you saw how hurt Caroline was," Silas queries, "Why did you still pursue one of her best friends? Why didn't you try and fix things before she left?"

"She asked me to stay away from her," Stefan replies in annoyance, "She told me she needed time. I wanted to respect her wishes. She's the one who told me to take Elena out. She said it's what I really want and what Elena really wants, and so I should just do it. I took her advice, but apparently I was wrong to do so."

"Of course you were," Silas can't help but chuckle, "That, my dear Stefan, is what women call 'testing you'. You, unfortunately, failed the test."

"Obviously," Stefan mutters, feeling stupider by the minute. Even Silas, who has never been married and never talks about women, knows more about women's thoughts and feelings than he does. Stefan never thought of himself as one of those clueless idiots who knows nothing about women...but he's starting to wonder if maybe he does fall into that category.

"Have you told her that you made a mistake?" Silas asks thoughtfully, "Does she know that you realized the error of your ways and you want to fix things?"

"She won't talk to me," Stefan sighs, "She threw her phone out the window when she left campus. She's in Las Vegas now. From what I hear, she's having a good time trying to forget all about me. She even slept with a strange guy she doesn't even know." Stefan clenches his jaw upon this reveal, still feeling angry beyond words at the thought of some other guy's hands all over his Caroline. He knows he wasn't meant to know about Caroline's racy one-night-stand in Vegas, but Care told Bonnie who told Elena who told him, so he knows. Elena actually looked like she was kind of enjoying the reaction she was getting out of Stefan during her re-telling of the story. It is the only reason why Stefan slept with Elena last night, and still he feels tremendously guilty. "I'm sure she knows, though. I tried to talk to her. I'm sure she's talked to Bonnie about it, and I can only hope Bonnie told her how much I miss her and want her to come home."

Silas nods as he soaks in the information his former student has shared with him. Finally, he advises, "All you can do now is wait, Stefan."

"Wait for what?" Stefan asks, both confused and a little angry at this suggestion.

"Wait for her to come back to you," Silas answers informingly. Then he quotes, "'If you love somebody, let them go. If they come back to you, they were always yours. If they don't, they never were.' And that's advice I live by. It has worked in the past, and it will work for you. You have to let Caroline go, Stefan. If she loves you and it was meant to be, she'll come back to you."

"And if she doesn't?" Stefan asks, feeling sick to his stomach at the thought.

"Then it was never meant to be," Silas shrugs. "Then you move on and you live your life and you find somebody new."

Stefan nods, still not liking this advice but begrudgingly accepting it. He nods once more before rising to his feet, "Thanks, Silas."

"Any time, Stefan," Silas smiles warmly, "And I mean that. I expect to hear from you. I gave you my e-mail for a reason. You better tell me all about your internship, and let me know if you're ever out in California. We'll catch up."

"I'd like that," Stefan replies as he walks to the door to let himself out. He pauses at the doorway and turns back, asking, "Hey, you said that is the only advice that you live by?" Silas nods slowly. "What...what happened when you let her go?"

Silas closes his eyes for a moment and when he opens them, the glint of humor that was there before is now gone. "She met someone else," Silas admits somberly, "She fell in love. They got married. She was so happy with him that I knew I made the right choice in letting her go. She wasn't mine to have. But maybe...Caroline is yours."

.

It is just after twelve noon when Caroline is awoken by a loud knock on the hotel room door, followed by a young woman's voice announcing, "House keeping!"

"Oh no," Caroline groans when she realizes she must have forgot to put up the 'Do Not Disturb' sign last night. She clambers out of bed and stumbles over to the door on half-asleep limbs. She cracks the door open just wide enough to mumble out to the maid, "No thank you. Sorry. Still sleeping." Then, she shuts the door and stumbles back to the bed, falling face-first into the plush mattress.

Now that she has been awoken though, Caroline can't fall back asleep. She rolls over onto her back and glances at the digital clock on the nightstand. She supposes that 12:20 in the afternoon isn't too early to wake up, even if she did go to sleep at 3AM last night. She stretches across the length of the bed and wonders what she should do today. It's her second full day in Vegas and she already slept half of it away. She decides that instead of room service, she'll get up, take a shower, and go downstairs to the hotel's restaurant for lunch. After that, she'll stop by the pool for a bit, and then she'll come back to her room to get all dolled up for a night at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. After all, Damon did leave his calling card behind for her, and she's not passing up the chance to be with Damon De Luca for one more night...

At nine, on the dot, Caroline steps inside the doors of the Mandalay Bay Casino, and if she had to guess she'd say most of the heads that have turned are in her direction. That's right, I said it; I'm looking fine tonight. Caroline smirks. She's wearing a sleeveless, gold beaded gown, that has a deep v-neck exposing her creamy cleavage, and falls down to an inch or so above her knees, to show off her toned legs. The dress is a beautiful, limited edition cocktail dress that Caroline found inside Cache at the mall last night. She coincidentally bought a pair of gorgeous gold-colored stillettos while she was in BCBGMAXAZRIA which match the dress wonderfully, and a long gold-chained necklace that she's had for years brings the whole look together. She also spent nearly an hour on her hair; re-washing, blow drying, hair spraying, and styling her blonde locks into voluptuous waves that cascade around her face and shoulders. Her make-up is mostly natural-toned colors, with a splash of gold glitter on her eyelids, and a pop of color from the red lipstick on her lips. As the song that is on right now says, 'I'm sexy and I know it', and tonight Caroline is definitely sexy and she definitely knows it.

Caroline realizes once she's inside that she has no idea what she's doing here. Is she supposed to walk up to the front desk in the hotel lobby and ask which room Damon De Luca is staying in? Should she have called before coming? Is it too desperate to come looking for him again after only one night away from him? Caroline has no clue because she's never done something like this before. She decides to put $100 on a casino card and play some games. She does just that, and is pleased to discover that the casino really does give out free alcohol to those playing their casino games. Caroline orders a cocktail while she tries to figure out the Game of Life that four little old ladies are playing at the screens beside her. It looks fun, but she doesn't really understand how to play. It is most definitely not like the board game she played as a kid. Eventually, Caroline catches on and puts some money in the machine to play. She loses, of course, but she had fun while doing so.

An hour later, Caroline is down to thirty bucks on her casino card, and decides that's enough Life for her. "Thanks for the game ladies," Caroline calls to her new 'friends', "Have a great night."

"You too, Caroline," The closest older woman waves over her shoulder, and the one beside her calls out cheerfully, "Bye-bye, Dear."

Caroline smiles and hums along to the song playing overhead as she wanders through the casino looking for something else to do. She finds herself at one of the bars and decides to order her fourth drink of the night. This one she has to pay for, but if she only had to pay for one out of every four drinks for the rest of her time here in Las Vegas she'd be saving a lot of money. Her stomach conveniently growls when her drink is placed in front of her, so she sits at a vacant barstool and orders some chicken quesadillas. While she waits, she sips her drink and taps her nails along the top of the bar.

"Nice dress," She hears the woman beside her comment, and she glances over to see whom she's speaking to. Caroline smiles and thanks her once she sees that the young woman was directing her comment towards her. She must be one of the most gorgeous girls Caroline has ever seen in her life; so gorgeous that Caroline wonders how she must look beside her. Surely she would be the 'ugly friend' that guys pretend to be nice to so that the 'hot friend' will go home with them at the end of the night. Oh god, I'm not that girl, am I? Caroline stops worrying when the girl continues, "I've got the same one at home. It looks better on you though. Blondes always look better in gold."

"You think?" Caroline asks, tipping her head to the side as she considers this statement. "I always thought dark hair and gold look good together. But...I guess gold looks good all the time, doesn't it?"

The brunette laughs, a husky and sexy sounding chuckle that Caroline is instantly envious of, before holding out her hand and announcing, "I'm Katherine. What's your name?"

"Caroline," She replies, shaking her hand politely.

"What brings you to Vegas, Caroline?" Katherine asks as she downs the last of her drink, an amber-colored liqour. She signals the bartender to get her another without taking her eyes off Caroline. The blonde, on the other hand, is in awe over this girl who can't be much older than her but is so cool and confident and everything Caroline wishes she was. Katherine is wearing a racy, black cut-out dress, that makes it look like she has next to nothing on. Her body is so tight and fit, she must have a strict work-out routine that she actually sticks to, unlike Caroline who always promises herself she's going to start going to the gym but never does. Katherine's long dark brown hair is naturally curly and looks flawless with probably half the effort and bathroom time that it took for Caroline to get her hair the way it is now. Her eyes are big, brown, and cat-like, with long lashes and dark smoky make-up. Her facial features are sharp and defined; high cheekbones, plump lips, perfectly defined eyebrows, and a straight and narrow nose. She sits tall in her seat and looks absolutely sure of herself.

Why can't I look like that? Caroline wonders, Why can't I be like that?

"I..." Caroline says distractedly, "I...had to get away. So I packed up my stuff, got in my car, and started driving. Two days later I wound up in Vegas, and here I am." She smiles sheepishly whilst shrugging her shoulders.

"Hm..." Katherine rests her chin in her hand and her elbow on the top of the bar so she can look right at her new companion, "Sounds like you have an interesting story to tell. Care to share?"

Caroline doesn't know why, but suddenly she wants to tell Katherine the real reason she came to Las Vegas. She actually wants to talk about what happened between her and Stefan that caused her to leave Virginia, skip graduation, and come all the way out here to Nevada, because this girl looks like she might have some kick-ass advice. Sometimes a stranger's opinion is exactly what a person needs...But right at that moment, Caroline spots the very man she came to see tonight; Damon De Luca.

Kat notices Caroline staring over her right shoulder, so she turns to see what's captured her attention. Who, rather, Katherine smirks when she spots Damon sauntering through the casino with that holier-than-thou aura of his. Either the blonde is Damon's most recent victim or she's cruising to take a ride on the De Luca Love Train; either way, Katherine feels like she should warn the other female. She wouldn't normally go out of her way to help another girl out, but this one seems like she needs a little guidance.

"Looking for trouble?" Katherine asks as she nudges the younger blonde with her elbow.

Caroline blushes when she realizes she's been caught staring, but then she really considers the other's question. She decides, "Maybe. Trouble might just be the very thing I need in my life right now."

In that case...Katherine thinks to herself, a plan forming in her mind. She straightens up and throws her hand up in the air as she calls across the bar-top, "Damon! Over here," She waves when he catches her eye and smirks devilishly as he changes direction.

.

January 2012

.

"Caroline, what are you wearing? I told you to dress warm."

That's the first thing Stefan says when Caroline opens the door to her, Bonnie, and Elena's apartment at exactly seven-thirty the night of their first date. Caroline would have accepted this in replace of a greeting on any other normal, day-to-day hang-out with Stefan, but this is a first date, so she's a little offended. Besides, Caroline looks down at her outfit and notes to herself, my outfit is cute, and it took me forever to pick out, so what's he talking about?

"Well, hello to you, too, Stefan," Caroline rolls her eyes as she turns on her heel and heads back in the direction of her bedroom. She walks in, shuts the door behind her, and twists the lock. She pouts as she tries to figure out what she's going to wear now that Stefan shot down her outfit. She heard him say to 'dress warm', but he wouldn't tell her where he's taking her so she had to guess. She's not very good with surprises, unless she's the one planning the surprise, that is, so this is hard for her.

"Caroline..." Stefan follows after the blonde, hearing the door slam and lock turn in place, and he has to smile when he guesses, "You're mad? What did I do?" She doesn't respond, and he hears a giggle from a little further down the hall. He turns and waves to the approaching brunette, "Hey Bonnie."

"Hey," She returns, smiling at him widely before mocking, "'What are you wearing?' Really, Stefan? And you don't know why Caroline is mad?"

Stefan's green eyes widen slightly and he has to admit that it was a little stupid of him to indirectly speak negatively of her choice in outfit. Of course he didn't mean it the way she took it, and she probably knows that too, but given the circumstances he should have been a little more sensitive. Almost like she read his mind, Caroline asks through the door, "Is that how you greet all your dates, or am I just special?"

Caroline knows she's being overdramatic at this point, but she thinks Stefan might be forgetting that they're going on this date tonight as a direct result of what happened last night, and if it doesn't go well it might just ruin their friendship. Obviously, her outfit selection isn't going to be the thing that does it in, neither is his reaction, but what follows very well could. I hate not knowing where we're going!

"I didn't mean it like that, Care," Stefan says sincerely, "You looked great; you always do. You look good in anything, it's just that you won't be warm enough in what you're wearing. Trust me, okay? You'll want something warm on."

Bonnie whispers, "Where are you taking her?" She's being nosy, but this is her best friend and Stefan and they're about to go on a date, so it's kind of a big deal. Caroline has been freaking out all day and Bonnie has been reassuring her that things will work out for the best, so that better be the case.

Stefan shakes his head and smirks slightly as he replies, "No. I know better than that, Bonnie. You'll tell her. Or you'll tell Elena, and she'll tell her."

Caroline, overhearing Stefan's words, whines through the door, "Why can't you just tell me where we're going?"

"Because," Stefan insists, "Then it wouldn't be a surprise, Caroline. Please, hurry. We have to go or we're going to be late."

"Now you're rushing me?!" Caroline asks in disbelief, although by this point she's messing with him because she's already picked out another outfit. She just wants him to sweat a little, since he's made her suffer all afternoon and evening trying to figure out where he might be taking her. She's given up; actually, she thinks it's cute he's trying so hard to surprise her. It can't hurt to make him feel a bit anxious though.

Bonnie laughs at Stefan, who rolls his eyes and announces, "I'll be waiting for you in the living room." Bonnie follows him down the hall to tease him some more.

"Hey, I'm home!" Both of them hear Elena shout into the apartment as she opens the front door, "And I have pizza!" She kicks the door shut behind her and turns around with a box of pizza in her hands and a big smile on her face. "Bonnie, can you take this? Hey, Stefan. I didn't know you were here. Want some pizza?"

"Thanks, Elena. I'm not actually staying, though."

"Aw, why not?" Elena seems disappointed, "I just got here. You should stay and hang out. Where's Caroline?"

"She's here," Bonnie says, swiftly changing the subject, "They're going out though. Where have you been? You were out all night last night and you didn't answer my texts all day." Bonnie takes the pizza from Elena and places it on the large wooden coffee table in front of the couch.

"I will tell you all about it," Elena answers mysteriously, "I just have to get out of these clothes first."

Caroline changes into a pair of thick, warm white leggings that have little pink hearts all over them, a white, long-sleeved sweater dress, and her brown fuzzy boots with the buttons down the side. She also puts on her maroon colored peacoat and a matching scarf that Bonnie knitted her for Christmas. She checks herself out in the mirror, smiles widely and winks at her reflection before exiting her bedroom, flicking off the light as she leaves. Elena is just emerging from her room, which is directly across from Caroline's, and she smiles happily at her good friend and roommate.

"Hey," Elena greets, "There you are. How did things go after you left the party last night? Did you talk to Stefan like you wanted?"

"Uh..." Caroline feels awkward talking to Elena about what happened with Stefan, and even though she doesn't know why, she wants to avoid the topic for now, "Yeah. We talked. It's cool." She waves away the issue like it was no big deal, and hopes Elena doesn't press her on it.

"Caroline," Stefan calls out from down the hall, "Really not trying to rush you, but we have to go..." He trails off when he sees her walk in the room, a fake glare on her face aimed in his direction. He smiles at her anyways, commenting, "You look very pretty. And warm." His smile widens.

Caroline tries to maintain her stink eye, but she fails when she feels herself smiling. "You're lucky I like you, Stefan," She teases, "Otherwise, I might not want to see what your surprise is."

Elena plops herself down on the couch next to Bonnie, who has placed napkins and two plates from the kitchen on the coffee table, and reaches for a slice of pizza. She looks at Bonnie, who seems pretty damn smug and is watching Caroline and Stefan's interactions eagerly. Elena feels like she's missing something. "Okay," She straightens up as she asks, "What's going on? What's the surprise?"

"Why do none of you understand what a surprise is?" Stefan observes in confusion.

"Because it's so hard to pick an outfit when you don't know where you're going!" Caroline explains dramatically, "And then there's the fact that some people's idea of a surprise sucks, and you're trying to figure out what it could be the whole time and your expectations get so high and then whatever it is ends up being a total let-down."

"Will you just trust me?" Stefan can't believe it's turning out to be this difficult to get Caroline to go along with his plans for tonight. He knows she's going to be happy he kept it a surprise once the night is over, though. "You're going to like it, okay? I know what you like, Care. We've been friends since high school. Don't you think I know you by now?"

Elena's confusion grows, and she continues, "Wait, why does Caroline get a surprise?"

"He's taking her out, Lena," Bonnie says pointedly, nudging Elena's knee with her own, "On a date." Bonnie smiles as if excited, but Elena starts laughing like it's the funniest thing she's heard in years. Bonnie nudges her again, harder this time, and Elena nearly chokes as the laughter dies in her throat.

She looks to Caroline and Stefan and smiles sheepishly, "Seriously? I'm sorry...I just thought she was kidding. Wow. I wasn't expecting that." She covers her mouth and mumbles, "I'm just going to shut up now."

Caroline isn't too surprised by Elena's reaction, which is exactly why she was trying to avoid it in the first place. She recalls Elena laughing last night too, at the Phi Beta Kappa house, when Caroline first mentioned that Joey thought Caroline was Stefan's girlfriend. Caroline thought the idea was crazy herself up until this morning, when she and Stefan talked it out and she realized that it was worth taking a risk to keep Stefan as hers forever. She never really thought about what would happen after they all graduated and were officially adults, getting jobs and their own houses, and what about their friendship? Would they all live in the same city or town? Would they see each other often if they didn't? Would they even remain friends? If she and Stefan were a couple it would mean they would make plans for the future together...if it worked out, that is. She wanted him in her future, couldn't picture it without him in it, really, so didn't it make sense for them to eventually end up together? It kind of bothered her that Elena found the idea of her and Stefan to be so ridiculous, though. Bonnie didn't laugh in their faces.

"Rude, Elena," Bonnie chastises playfully. She adds thoughtfully, "And it is so not unexpected. I've been waiting for this to happen for years."

"Really?" Caroline perks up upon hearing her best friend has her back with this scary dating-Stefan thing.

Stefan politely interrupts, "Sorry girls, but Caroline and I really have to go now. She can tell you all about it later, which I'm sure she'd do without my permission anyways." Caroline smiles impishly and nods her head in agreement.

"Well, have fun," Elena forces a smile and hopes to appear cheerful. She's still shocked Stefan and Caroline are actually, really, and truly going on a date.

"Oh, they will," Bonnie winks at Caroline, causing her to blush because she already spilled all the details to her about hooking up with Stefan last night. She really hopes that Bonnie won't dish on that to Elena while she's gone.

Caroline doesn't usually mind the three of them sharing secrets with one another, but this one is closer to her heart and she doesn't want Elena anywhere near it right now. Somehow Elena always seems to attract the attention of the very boy Caroline has her eyes on, and without even trying too, so Caroline has a deep-rooted jealousy that she's really tried to let go of. She is mostly over it, but sometimes the jealousy creeps back in, and the terrifying feeling that she's never going to be good enough. Maybe that has something to do with her dad abandoning her mom after fourteen happy years of marriage, but she's not sure if it even matters. This time is different; it's Stefan. Caroline doesn't want to lose him to Elena. It would destroy her. Caroline always thought Stefan had a secret crush on Elena, but she could never bring herself to ask him because she was scared the answer would be yes, and even though she only wanted him to be her friend then she knew she'd lose him. If Elena and Stefan started dating, she'd wedge herself between Care and Stefan and their friendship wouldn't be the same. She'd still be losing him, just in a different way.

"Caroline," Stefan says for the third time, "Are you okay?" Finally, Caroline blinks and seems to have noticed he's trying to get her attention.

"Sorry," Caroline shrugs off her silly paranoid thoughts of Elena stealing Stefan from her and smiles brightly, "I was trying to remember if I turned off my hair straightener or not. I'm pretty sure I turned it off though." She shrugs and jokes, "Otherwise the bathroom might be on fire later."

Stefan chuckles and comments, "Cute. You're funny. But you're not a very good liar, Care. I know you're thinking about what Elena said."

Caroline peeks over at Stefan as they walk side-by-side down the sidewalk leading to the parking lot. "Why do you always do that? It's creepy. You shouldn't know what I'm thinking."

"I'm a Psych major," Stefan shrugs nonchalantly, and then continues, "And I've known you for almost seven years. Plus, you're very dramatic, so it's easy to read your emotions."

"Shut up," Caroline tries not to laugh as she swings her hand to smack Stefan on the chest. He grabs her hand though and laughs, lowering it to their sides and continuing to hold it. Caroline settles for bumping her hip against his lightly. "So, are we walking, or...where are we -?"

"Nice try," Stefan cuts in, "I'm not telling you. We're not walking though. My car is right over here."

"Okay, good," Caroline laughs, "I'm not a fan of walking too far."

"I know," Stefan smirks, squeezing her hand lightly. He leads her to his car and opens the passenger side door for her to get in. He gently closes the door once she's inside, and walks around to the other side of the car to hop in. He turns on the car and warm air immediately pours out from the vents since he made sure to warm it up on his way over. It is a cold night, almost freezing, so he's glad he decided on the indoor version of their activity tonight and not the outdoor. "Ready?" He asks Caroline.

"Yes," Caroline replies right away. "Wait. You're not going to blindfold me, are you? Because I don't think I could ride in the car with a blindfold on. I'll be picturing us crashing a thousand different ways in my head."

Stefan pretends not to notice that she is a bit flustered and off her game. She's normally pretty confident and forward with a guy, but he knew it would be different with him. They've known each other for too long, and in too different of a way, to treat each other like they would any other romantic interest. Caroline is nervous because she thinks he's going to change his mind about her, but he's not going to, and that's what he's trying to reassure Caroline about. "No, I'm not going to blindfold you. You won't know where we're going until we get there."

"How far is it?" Caroline wonders.

Stefan smiles in amusement as he replies, "We'll be there in twenty minutes." He reaches over and palms her cheek affectionately, advising gently, "Relax."

"Okay," Caroline says, blushing a little. He returns his hand to the steering wheel as he manuevers the car out of the parking lot and onto the road, and Caroline flicks on the radio to give herself a distraction. Stefan's right, She thinks, I need to relax. She searches the radio stations until a song she likes comes on and she leans back in the seat and looks over at Stefan, who is concentrating on the road. This is Stefan, Caroline continues her inner monologue, He's perfect; this night is going to be perfect.

By the time Stefan turns into the lot of their date venue, Caroline is feeling more like herself around him and she's excited. She's a little confused where they are though, the building has no lit-up signs that she can see, and there's only two other cars in the parking lot. There is a light on in front, but for a moment Caroline is sure wherever Stefan decided to take her is closed. He parks facing away from the building, and he gets out first so that he can open her door for her. Caroline appreciates the gentlemanly gesture; it's rare these days to find a guy like that, and Caroline always knew it was in Stefan's nature. He's watching her for a reaction as they walk towards the building, and she finally reads the sign 'Indoor Ice Rink'. She feels it slowly hit her that Stefan really did pull off a great surprise. It wasn't some big, grand gesture of his undying love for her, which would be a little weird, but it's so much more special. Caroline has never directly asked to go to the ice skaing rink, but she's had a desire to go for a very long time. Her dad used to take her when she was younger, and it was something they had together that was just for the two of them. When her mom and dad divorced, that tradition stopped, and Caroline has only been one time without him. Now, Stefan is taking her, and she is surprised that she almost wants to cry at the thought that he'd remember something so important to her.

"Stefan," Caroline's voice breaks slightly and she swallows, smiling even though she feels like she might cry, "I can't believe you'd do this for me. You-you remembered?" He gives her a look that she takes as 'of course I remembered, otherwise we wouldn't be here right now' and she giggles. "Thank you." She feels her stomach flutter with excitement and she tugs Stefan into the building, commenting, "This is going to be so much fun!"

"I've never been before," Stefan admits, feeling a little anxious now. He doesn't want to fall on his ass, but he's going to make a fool of himself if it makes Caroline happy. He and Caroline approach the vacant front desk, which is surrounded by posters of hockey match dates and ice skating lesson schedules, and the walls are lined with shelves of skates and hockey equipment. He wonders if anyone is even here, but he called earlier to check and a guy named Sam assured him he'd be there until 10PM.

"Never?" Caroline repeats, her blue eyes wide.

Stefan nods, "Am I going to regret this?"

"No," Caroline puts both her hands on the collar of his dark grey jacket and pulls him closer to her as she promises, "It's going to be fun. You will have fun, Stefan. And I won't let you fall."

Stefan finds it funny that Caroline thinks she'd be able to prevent the two of them from falling on the ice. All he can picture is him slipping, her trying to catch him, and both of them going down. "We're about to find out," Stefan says with a smirk as he waves towards the man who just emerged from a room beyond the front desk.

"Hey guys," Sam, as his tag reads, welcomes them warmly, "Here for the open skate?" Stefan nods. "All right, it's going to be sixteen dollars for the two of you. If you need skates, there's a room full of them just inside the blue doors, that way." He points. "And the bathrooms are right past that. We have hockey skates and figure skates, so take your pick. They're arranged by size, so please try and put them back where you found them. Open skate ends at 10. Have fun." He hands Stefan four dollars, change from his twenty, and smiles.

"Thanks," Stefan replies, already being pulled in the direction of the blue door that leads into the skating rink.

"So this is why you insisted I wear something warm," Caroline makes the connection as they pass through the door into the cold arena. It is about as cold in here as it was outside, but the only difference is that it's not windy, and there's zero chance it will start raining on them, or that the ice will crack underneath their feet. Caroline is a little paranoid of outdoor ice skating. "And why you rushed me, because we only have until 10.

"Yep," Stefan confirmed. "I told you it would all make sense when we got here."

They choose their skates while they talk and sit down on the bench next to each other to try them on. Caroline is visibly excited, and her happiness is contagious. Stefan really likes seeing her like this. Once they find skates that fit, they store their shoes under the bench and hobble over to the entrance of the rink. Caroline steps onto the ice first, feeling strangely at ease after nearly a decade off the ice. She spins around to watch Stefan, who carefully eases onto the ice with a hand on the railing. He is wobbly and Caroline tries to hide her smile behind her hand, but he catches her and narrows his eyes.

"Don't laugh," Stefan accuses, "You want me to fall, don't you?"

Caroline full out laughs now, skating back around and holding her hand out, "Come here."

"I don't know if I trust you," Stefan jokes, hesitating to grab her hand, but right before she changed her mind he takes it.

"I hope you're kidding about that," Caroline pouts.

"I was kidding," Stefan assures her. To prove it, he takes his right hand off the railing, leaving his only 'safety net' to be her hand holding his.

She beams brightly, "Good. Come on, it's easy. You just have to keep moving forward." She shows him the way she's moving her feet and he copies, gliding easily over the ice with her, still pretty slowly. "See?"

Once Stefan seems to have the hang of it, Caroline picks up the speed a little bit, and he does just fine. He even does it without her holding his hand for a minute, so that she can pull her phone out of her coat pocket and snap some pictures. Well, he does nearly crash into the wall, but Caroline warns him in time. It is nice that there are only a handful of other people on the ice with them. They have as much room as they need to keep Stefan from running over the three young children practicing their skating for hockey. Caroline feels exhilerated and free, and she's so happy Stefan is with her.

"So..." Stefan slides his hand into Caroline's again, after letting her twirl around by herself like an ice ballerina - well, a slightly wobbly but beautiful ballerina - and asks, "How did I do?"

Caroline compliments, "Well, you didn't fall, so I say you did pretty good."

Stefan chuckles, "I didn't mean my skating. I meant with the date."

"Oh," Caroline jerks them to a stop when she sees the serious and hopeful expression on his face. She didn't realize he was still worried about her expectations of their first date. She'd been too busy having fun to realize he'd want reassurances. She beams widely, "Do you really have to ask? You did perfect, Stefan. Really. This was the best date I've ever been on."

"You're just saying that."

Caroline spins herself to the side and takes hold of both Stefan's hands, pressing herself to his chest. She shakes her head as she insists, "No, I mean it. It's perfect and special and I'm never going to forget it was with you." She leans in to kiss him and he meets her half-way, and she's shocked at the explosion of butterfly wings flapping in her belly. She didn't think she'd get the nervous butterflies from Stefan, because he's so familiar, but this relationship is so new, and it makes everything exciting. "Thank you," She breathes against his lips as she pulls away.


Please Review! Lots to talk about;) What did you think of the advice Silas gave Stefan? Were you suprised/happy/angry at Katherine's appearance in the story? What do you think will happen with Damon now? And lastly, what did you think about Stefan and Caroline's first date? Would love to hear your opinions!:)

Until next time...

-MissCarolineForbes