"You deserved so much more and so much better," Carmilla admitted painfully.
"Then tell me why I didn't get it," Elle snarled back, a lot less apologetic and a lot less gentle. She crossed her arms and scowled at her ex.
"Because of me," the ex admitted with another painful nod. "I did this to you. I ruined you. I lied to you, I betrayed you, I led you astray, and then I killed you..." even though it looked like torture, Carmilla dragged out every little last apology and confession that she ever owed to Elle.
"I abused your hospitality and trust. I used your own yearning heart against you. I used and abused you, manipulated and deceived you. And then because of me, you were killed. Your young and innocent life was unfairly ripped away from you, and it was all because of me..."
Carmilla's head continued to lower humbly before Elle's vengeful soul. Elle continued to watch her with a cold distaste. Although seeing Carmilla groveling at her feet for forgiveness was everything that she'd ever wanted, it still was not enough to make up for 150 years in Hell. Elle's vengeance was still not yet satisfied.
"I want my life back!" she continued to insist, plain and simple, glaring down her nose at the apologetic Carmilla.
"I'm afraid I can't give you that," Carmilla replied, clutching the brooch in her hand even tighter.
"And why not?" Elle's voice sharpened at Carmilla's continual refusal to see justice done and return that which she had stolen.
"Because this life is mine. I won it back fairly," she answered, even though she knew the reply would infuriate Elle. She was not disappointed.
"Then why am I not granted the same clemency?!" she snarled, looking ready to fight Carmilla again. It was a far cry from the meek little girl she used to be. Now she willingly attacked vampires if it meant that she would finally see justice done.
"I don't know," Carmilla admitted, taking a small step back as Elle got ready to fight.
"But you could give me your life nonetheless!" Elle tried again, taking a larger step forward. She wasn't about to let Carmilla get away so easily.
"I could," Carmilla agreed, then she swallowed painfully as she finally said what was truly on her mind. "But I don't want to. Even if I know that I owe it to you, and all of the other people that I've hurt across the centuries, I don't want to. I've finally found a life that I am happy with, a life that I am proud of, and I want to bask in it. I want to enjoy the life I've worked so hard to earn. I don't want to give it to you. I want to keep my life..."
"But what about me?!" Elle shot back, but for once, her whines only caused Carmilla to cringe in guilty pain, and not roll her eyes in irritation. As selfish and childish as it was of Elle, her desire for a new life was not a sin. How could Carmilla accuse her of greed when she, herself, had committed the same crime? How could Carmilla belittle Elle for wanting her life back when she, herself, was currently living it up right now? (Which essentially proved why Elle's desire for her life back was totally valid).
"I know you do," Carmilla murmured. "But I don't want to give mine up either."
"I didn't have a say in the matter when I lost my life!" Elle growled threateningly. "Why do you deserve a say in yours?"
"I don't," Carmilla tilted her head guiltily. "But I still want my life."
"So do I," Elle straightened her back, a clear challenge.
"But listen to me, Elle, even if you had my life, what would you do with it?" Carmilla pleaded. "I do not mean to sound cruel, but you have no way of supporting yourself on the outside. Even if all my friends were to help you, would you really feel happy?"
"Perhaps not at first, but at least I would finally have the chance to find happiness, as you did," Elle remarked balefully. "I could travel the world, do something new, create something worth remembering, become a hero, find true love... As you did..."
For a moment, Elle ceased to sound like a vengeful spirit and instead sounded like the sweet little dreamer she used to be. Childish hope, wonder and innocence returned to her ghastly, ghostly visage as she talked about all the things she would do with a new life, if she had it. It caused Carmilla's heart to twist painfully in her chest. This was the girl she had fallen in love with. This was the girl she deserved to die for. This was the girl she had thrown into Hell and then failed to rescue for 150 years. This was the girl forced to live in a nightmare while Carmilla was finally allowed to wake up. This was not a villain, it was a victim, Carmilla's victim, one whom she still had not yet repaid. Elle was right in her desire for vengeance, for vengeance was so easily intertwined with justice. All Elle wanted was to have her life back. She wanted a chance to have something she lost far too soon, and for reasons totally out of her control. She hadn't deserved to die. So didn't she deserve to live?
And even if she did have a darker secondary motive, punishing Carmilla, could Carmilla really blame her for that? Carmilla would've been the first to admit she was no saint, and that she had done some terrible things in the past. Was it really so wrong for any of her old victims to desire for her to pay for her sins? Sure, she was a changed person now, having even helped save the world a few years back, but that could not erase the suffering she'd already inflicted upon so many others. Even if saving the world had forgiven most of her debt, she still had a little left to pay off. In Carmilla's eyes, Elle's desire for justice and revenge were totally understandable, but Carmilla was a coward, and she still did not want to yield to those demands. Just like Elle, she wanted her life and she did not want to give it up, even if she deserved to lose it again.
As Carmilla continued to stare sadly at the girl she used to love, she couldn't help but feel as if she were looking in a mirror. She was seeing herself about five years ago, back in the fall of 2014 when she first met little Ms. Laura Hollis. Back then, Carmilla had been cold, cruel, bitter and brooding. She had been just like Elle was now: callous, rude, selfish, uncaring and dangerous. How could Carmilla call Elle an unredeemable villain when she, herself, had once been in the exact same boat? And that was just it. Carmilla had not repented and become a hero solely upon her own strength and merit. Some of it had been thanks to all the friends and family she managed to acquire across the years, the first one being Laura Hollis herself. Had it not been for Laura, Carmilla could easily still see herself in Elle's shoes, still so fixated upon bitterness, resentment, revenge and scorn. Even if Carmilla had saved and redeemed herself in the end, it had been Laura to help push her down that path.
But Elle didn't have a Laura. Elle didn't have a saving grace or a hero or an idol. She had no one. Except herself, and the figures that ruled her worst nightmares. But she had no outside help and she had no one to look up to or rely upon. Even in her darkest moments, Carmilla had had Laura. But who had Elle had? No one. Was it any wonder, then, why she was still so petty and evil? Even though Carmilla had suffered as well, she at least had been able to wake up from the nightmare eventually. Poor Elle had been forced to live through it for 150 years on end without any rest or peace or silence. Just torture in an endless round. At least Carmilla was able to escape her own tomb eventually. But what about Elle?
All Elle wanted was for Carmilla to pay for her crimes, but after all that Carmilla had done, was she really so wrong in wanting that? It was justice, was it not? It would finally give Elle true and full closure upon the matter, closure which she deserved but had not yet received. While Carmilla had at least been free to recover and heal and move on with life, Elle had been denied that freedom. Was it any wonder why she was still so dark and bitter? What Elle needed was someone to help her, to help heal her. What Elle needed was her own Laura Hollis, to teach her how to be good and kind and loving and compassionate again. But how could she achieve that if Carmilla sent her to her grave right now, still unsatisfied and unpaid? Life wasn't fair, but that didn't mean Carmilla had to accept it. And neither did Elle.
It was time for both of them to get their long-awaited, much-deserved closure. And that wouldn't happen as long as they both continued to think that only they were in the right. In order for true healing to occur, there needed to be compromise and empathy. They both needed to bow and to understand. Carmilla could no longer justify herself, but neither could Elle. If they wanted their healing, it was going to hurt, but love would always have its sacrifices, and there was never any sacrifice without blood. So if either of them wanted to get anywhere, this fight had to end and they had to be ready and willing to move forward together. It was their relationship that had started this chaotic battle, it was their relationship that was going to have to end it. Carmilla was finally ready to acknowledge this, she could only hope that Elle would follow suit...
"I think I have an idea," Carmilla said at last, and when Elle saw Carmilla's grip on the brooch loosen, she found herself at least willing to listen.
"One last deal," she said. "That's all I'm willing to listen to."
"That's just enough," Carmilla replied mysteriously, and then she put her crazy little plan into action.
Life was strange, especially for Carmilla and Elle. Even though they had started off as two normal girls, life decided to intervene and make them into the strangest duo imaginable: a ghost and a vampire, tossed back and forth between myth, mystery, magic and monster. Gods, prophecies, apocalypses, talismans, divine rituals, sacrifices, all of this weird stuff that wasn't supposed to actually exist had followed the duo around for their entire existences. Now, they were calling upon those strange and mystical forces one last time.
"Mattie, I have a favor to ask."
"Oh? And what is that, my dearest little sister?"
"You remember what happened to Inanna's lover, Dumuzid?"
"Yes, he got himself killed by her and then she went after him, trying to overthrow the entire Natural Order in the process!"
"But Ereshkigal, her sister and your mistress, would not allow her..."
"That is correct. She prevented anyone from crossing the bridges between life and death."
"But did she really? Don't you remember what happened to me and Laura a few years back?"
"That was a very rare exception. Ereshkigal was feeling generous and decided that the answer to a riddle would be payment enough for your little ball of sunshine's life. I don't know if I exactly agree with her decision, but I will not raise my voice against her..."
"Well, I was wondering if she would be up for one last deal."
"Another riddle? Don't expect me to start asking her for special favors for you. You can't go bringing back everyone you've ever lost."
"I won't. And I'm not just offering a riddle this time. I'm offering up something far more valuable, and I think both of you will enjoy it far more..."
As the summer rolled around again, Laura gave Carmilla a pained whimper.
"Do you really have to go?" she asked, tears in her eyes as she kissed her girlfriend goodbye.
"It will only be for six months," Carmilla replied, kissing Laura back just as sweetly, running her fingers through Laura's golden locks.
"Only," Laura echoed with a dry sob.
"Even if you get lonely, I will still be there," Carmilla tried to comfort her girlfriend. "And you know I will return to you. I always will."
"But it won't be the same!" Laura argued, tears starting to trickle down her face.
"I have to do this," Carmilla replied calmly. "For the sake of us all and for the sake of proper healing, I have to do this..."
"I know you do, and I hate you for it," Laura sniffled. "I hate you so much for finally becoming a true hero!"
"Love you too," Carmilla gave her a sad smile in return. The duo walked up to Elle's schloss and knocked on the door. Two faces greeted them. Mattie and Elle. Carmilla and Laura did not cross the threshold. At least not at first.
"Are you ready?" Mattie asked, an unusually gentle and loving note in her voice as she reached out to her beloved little sister. Carmilla was the only thing in the entire universe that she loved, and she loved the girl deeply.
"As I'll ever be," came the dry but slightly nervous reply. That was when Laura and Carmilla parted. Carmilla gently pulled her hand out of Laura's and stepped through the threshold into Elle's schloss once again. At the same time, Elle stepped out.
"Goodbye, Elle," Carmilla murmured as she and Elle passed each other by. "Sorry I lied to you and got you sacrificed to a giant fish monster."
"Sorry I got you buried in a coffin full of blood," Elle replied with a dry and almost sheepish grin. Already she was healing, already she was returning to the girl she used to be.
"Eh, it's all blood under the bridge," Carmilla gave Elle her first smile since 1872, and Elle actually responded with the softest and gentlest of laughs. It was laced with the bitter irony that infected all jaded and disillusioned people, but the laugh was sincere nonetheless, and was proof of just how far Elle was coming already.
Right underneath the threshold, both girls literally balancing between life and death, Elle and Carmilla paused to shake hands. Carmilla extended her hand first and Elle, with her first real smile since 1872, took it willingly and gave it a sincere shake. There was no more bitterness in her actions now. Then after exchanging one final smile, the two swapped places. While Elle took a spot outside beside the gently weeping Laura, Carmilla entered the schloss and took Mattie's eager and outstretched hand. Once the two were firmly in place, the schloss door swung shut and when it opened again, Mattie and Carmilla were gone.
AN: An alternate ending on the movie because, like I've said many times before, the original ending was so unsatisfying, especially for poor Elle. This AU draws off a deleted line in the movie where it sounds like Carmilla and Elle actually DO get to apologize to one another (which I will forever be mad that they cut) and the original story of Inanna's Descent to the Underworld where her lover (Dumuzid) ends up getting to return to her after all, by way of his sister offering to take his place in the underworld. They go in shifts, Dumuzid spending half the year with Inanna in Heaven and half in the underworld with Ereshkigal and vice versa for his sister. It's like the story of Hades, Persephone and Demeter, only in Sumerian, LOL. So in this case, Carmilla does give Elle her life back and she and Carmilla take it in shifts.