One night, he dreams.
Katherine is there, only she goes by another name, one he can't seem to remember once he's woken up.
She is beautiful and young. Not young in the way that she was when he knew her, but in the way that really means something, where he can look into her eyes and see none of the heartbreak she has yet to experience.
He holds her hand, this version of Katherine, and kisses her under moonlight, and lets her take him to his own bed.
In the dream, for maybe the first time ever, he is able to let go of the guilt that he now carries.
He wakes to the sound of Lexi making tea on the stove.
It wasn't real.
Just another dream.
"Up, up, up, sleepyhead," she coos, tossing a fully-packed duffel in his direction. "Road's waiting."
Stefan swallows hot tea and nibbles on the toast that Lexi puts in front of him at the table, unable to shake the hazy feeling from earlier.
"What's haunting you this morning?" Lexi asks, stealing a piece of it from his plate.
The question hangs in the air.
When he first sees the girl with her parents, before her life has been painfully and irreversibly altered, she is happy. In the true sense of the word.
He listens to them, picking up fragments of their conversation from a distance.
They call her Elena, and Stefan remembers a dream he had a very long time ago.
After Klaus has taken from him what feels like everything that he has ever loved, Katherine is there, reminding him that he hasn't truly lost everything.
Stefan lies, naked on his stomach, Katherine above him, her hair tickling its way up his back, her tongue at his shoulder blades.
"What's on your mind?" Katherine queries, though Stefan's not sure she really cares.
"Choices," Stefan says, turning over so that Katherine is now straddling his stomach. "Past, present, future..."
Katherine laughs, her chin lifting toward the ceiling for a moment before she leans down to capture his lips in hers.
"Silly rabbit," she whispers against his ear.
Stefan closes his eyes and grips her waist with a sharp tug.
Katherine squeals in delight.