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worn out places

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In the end, Caroline surprises everyone but herself by leaving. After all, she was the one who fought so hard and for so long to bring Bonnie and Damon back, and now they were here. She is supposed to mend fences with Stefan, and enjoy her victory. But . . . it's hard now, to look at him, to look at him and know he's capable of just leaving.

So she shrugs off the questions and the hurt looks at the party she planned specifically to let everyone know her plans. Yes, she actually elected to inform her friends that she was planning to leave town, which is what civilized people do, she thinks viciously.

The goodbyes are harder than she expected.

Bonnie is all support, along with demands to call or text every day. Caroline hugs her and it is the closest she comes to changing her mind.

Elena is all wounded concern, asking if she's sure and if it's anything she's done. Caroline smiles brightly and replies that she's always sure, ignoring the second question altogether.

Tyler and Matt are easy. She loves them both, but she left them both ages ago.

Damon is . . . strange. She wonders sometimes, if there's more to being sired by someone than she's ever been told, because sometimes she feels connected to Damon even when he isn't around. And when he was dead, she felt something missing. Maybe it's just that they've always been so much alike, so determined to be in control, to be loved, to be happy no matter what. Either way there's a pang when he lifts his glass to her.

Stefan smiles, although it doesn't reach his eyes. He tells her that if she ever needs anything, she can call him. He is tense when she hugs him, and he doesn't ask her to stay. Caroline doesn't know if it would make a difference.

She doesn't actually mean to go looking for Tom, not when she's leaving Mystic Falls and everyone she knows along with it. It just kind of happens.

She's sitting in a crappy diner in a crappy town in Georgia when she thinks of him, and on a whim decides to make a detour to Atlanta.

She only starts to second guess the impulse when she's knocking on his door. After all, they barely know each other. But . . . he'd been kind, if a bit confused, when Bonnie brought him back, and Caroline hasn't seen a familiar face since leaving home.

She was wrong to worry. He invites her in immediately, a familiar smile lighting up his face when he sees her. It's wrong, she knows, to compare him to Stefan, whose smiles always felt like a victory.

They aren't the same, she knows that. But right now that seems like a good thing, a traitorous voice in head reminding her that Tom hadn't even glanced at Elena when he came back from the Other Side.

She is not Damon or Stefan, and she is not going to turn Tom into Elena. But when he asks her to stick around for a few days, she says yes.